Mindfulness of Breathing
(Anapanasati)

Buddhist texts from the Pali Canon and Commentaries

Book Publication No: 502S


 

Part IV

Passages From Other Suttas

From Vinaya Suttavibha.nga, Paaraajika III[1]

At one time, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One, was living at Vesaalii in the Hall of the Gabled House in the Great Wood. At that time the Blessed One talked to the bhikkhus in many discourses on the foul.[2] He spoke in praise of the foul, he spoke variously in praise of attainment through the foul. Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus, “I wish, bhikkhus, to go into retreat for a half-month. Let no one approach me except whoever brings almsfood.”

“Even so, venerable sir,” the bhikkhus replied to the Blessed One, and accordingly no one approached the Blessed One except whoever brought almsfood. Then, (thinking on what the Blessed One had said regarding the foul), those bhikkhus dwelt devoted to the practice of meditation on the foul in its many different aspects.

They became horrified by their own bodies, humiliated and revolted by them. Just as a woman or man—young, youthful, fond of ornaments, with head washed—would be horrified, humiliated, and revolted at having hung round her neck the carcase of a snake or a dog or a human being, so were those bhikkhus horrified, humiliated, and revolted by their own bodies. And they both took their own lives and took each other’s lives.

Approaching Migala.n.dika the sham recluse, they said, “It would be good, friend, if you would take our lives; then this bowl and robe would become yours.” Then Migala.n.dika the sham recluse, when he had taken the lives of many bhikkhus for the payment of a bowl and robe, came to the banks of the River Vaggumudaa, carrying a blood-stained knife. Then, while Migala.n.dika the sham recluse was washing the blood-stained knife, he became sorry and repentant, “Alas, for me that was loss and no gain; alas, for me that was wrongly and not rightly come by; indeed, much demerit attaches to me because I took the lives of bhikkhus who were virtuous and well-conducted.”

Then a certain deity of Maara’s retinue came without cleaving the water, and said to Migala.n.dika the sham recluse, “Well done, well done, good man; for you that was gain; for you that was rightly come by; much merit attaches to you because you brought across those who had not crossed.”

The Migala.n.dika the sham recluse (thought), “It is said that it is gain for me; that it is rightly come by for me; that much merit attaches to me because I brought across those who had not crossed”; and taking a sharp knife and going from monastery to monastery and from cell to cell, he said, “Who has not crossed? Whom do I bring across?” Thereupon those bhikkhus who were not rid of passion were paralysed with fear at that time, and their hair stood on end. But those bhikkhus who were rid of passion were not paralysed by fear at that time, nor did their hair stand on end. Then Migala.n.dika the sham recluse, on a single day, took the life of one bhikkhu, on a single day took the lives of two … three … four … five … ten … twenty … thirty … forty … fifty … sixty bhikkhus.

Now, the Blessed One, on rising from his retreat at the end of the half-month, addressed the Venerable Aananda thus, “Why, Aananda, has the Order of bhikkhus become so reduced in number?”

“It is, venerable sir, because the Blessed One talked to the bhikkhus in many discourses on the foul, spoke in praise of the foul, spoke in praise of meditation on the foul, spoke variously in praise of attainment through the foul. Then, venerable sir, (thinking on what the Blessed One has said regarding the foul), those bhikkhus dwelt devoted to the practice of meditation on the foul in its many different aspects. They became horrified by their own bodies, humiliated and revolted by them (and he related all that had taken place). It would be good, venerable sir, for the Blessed One to expound another discourse such that the Order of bhikkhus, knowing it, may become settled.”

“Then, Aananda, call together in the assembly hall as many bhikkhus as dwell near Vesaalii.”

“Even so, venerable sir,” replied the Venerable Aananda to the Blessed One. And then, when he had called together in the assembly hall as many bhikkhus as dwelt near Vesaalii, he approached the Blessed One and said, “Venerable sir, the Order of bhikkhus is assembled; now is the time, venerable one, for the Blessed One to do as he thinks fit.”

Then the Blessed One came to the assembly hall and sat down on the appointed seat. Having done so, the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus:

“This respiration-mindfulness concentration, bhikkhus, developed and repeatedly practised, is both peaceful and sublime, unadulterated and of happy life; it causes to vanish at once and suppresses evil and unprofitable thoughts as soon as they arise.

“Just as, bhikkhus, in the last month of the hot season, the dirt and dust blow about, and then, out of season, a great rain cloud causes them to vanish at once and suppresses them; so, indeed, bhikkhus, respiration-mindfulness concentration, developed and repeatedly practised, is both peaceful and sublime, unadulterated and of happy life; it causes to vanish at once and suppresses evil and unprofitable thoughts as soon as they arise.”

(Here follow the four tetrads as in MN 118, in Part I of this book.)

From Majjhima Nikaaya, Sutta 62

“When, Raahula, respiration-mindfulness is thus developed, thus repeatedly practised, the final in-breaths and out-breaths, too, (are) known (when) they cease, not unknown.”

From Sa.myutta Nikaaya 54 No. 4  Fruits I

“From respiration-mindfulness, bhikkhus, thus developed, thus repeatedly practised, one of two fruits is to be expected: final knowledge here and now, or, if there is some remainder of clinging, the state of non-return.”

No. 5 Fruits II

“From respiration-mindfulness, bhikkhus, thus developed, thus repeatedly practised, seven fruits, seven benefits, are to be expected. What seven fruits, seven benefits?

            (i)         One attains to final knowledge here and now, in the course of life.

            (ii)        If one does not attain to final knowledge here and now, in the course of life, then one attains to final knowledge at the time of death.

            (iii)       If one does not attain to final knowledge at the time of death, then, having destroyed the five lower fetters, (as a non-returner) one attains Nibbaana during (one’s term of life in some particular heaven).

            (iv)       If one does not … one attains Nibbaana after reducing (the number of rebirths).

            (v)        … one attains Nibbaana without exertion.

            (vi)       … one attains Nibbaana by exertion.

            (vii)      … one goes upstream, destined for the highest gods.”

No. 6 Ari.t.tha

Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was living at Saavatthii, in Jeta’s Grove, Anaathapi.n.dika’s Park. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus.”

“Venerable sir,” the bhikkhus replied to the Blessed One. The Blessed One said this: “Do you, bhikkhus, practise respiration-mindfulness?”

When he had spoken thus, the Venerable Ari.t.tha said to the Blessed One: “I, venerable sir, practise respiration-mindfulness?”

“And how, Ari.t.tha, do you practise respiration-mindfulness?”

“In me, venerable sir, greed for past sense pleasures is abandoned; in me, greed for future sense pleasures is departed; in me, perception of aversion concerning things internal and external is entirely put away.[3] Mindful I shall breathe in, mindful I shall breathe out. Thus, venerable one, do I practise respiration-mindfulness.”

“This respiration-mindfulness, Ari.t.tha, exists; it is not non-existent, I say. Moreover, Ari.t.tha, hear how this respiration-mindfulness is fulfilled in detail, and attend carefully to what I shall say.” (Here follow the four tetrads.)

No. 7 Kappina

Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was living at Saavatthii, in Jeta’s Grove, Anaathapi.n.dika’s Park.

At that time the Venerable Mahaa-Kappina was seated not far off, having folded his legs crosswise, set his body erect, and established mindfulness in front of him.

Then the Blessed One, seeing the Venerable Mahaa-Kappina thus seated, addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Have you, bhikkhus, observed any wavering or trembling of body in this bhikkhu?”

“Whenever we have seen him, venerable sir, whether seated amid the Order, or seated alone and secluded, we have never observed any wavering or trembling of body in that venerable one.”

“That concentration, bhikkhus, from the development and the repeated practice of which there comes to be neither wavering nor trembling of body, nor wavering nor trembling of mind—that bhikkhu is one who obtains such concentration at will, without difficulty, and in full.

“And from the development, bhikkhus, from the repeated practice, of what concentration does there come to be neither wavering nor trembling of body, nor wavering nor trembling of mind? From the development, from the repeated practice, of respiration-mindfulness concentration, there comes to be neither wavering nor trembling of body, nor wavering nor trembling of mind.”

No. 8 The Lamp

Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was living at Saavatthii, in Jeta’s Grove, Anaathapi.n.dika’s Park. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus.”

“Venerable sir,” the bhikkhus replied to the Blessed One. The Blessed One said this: “Respiration-mindfulness concentration, bhikkhus, developed and repeatedly practised, is of great fruit, of great benefit. And how developed, bhikkhus, how repeatedly practised, is respiration-mindfulness concentration of great fruit, of great benefit?

(Repeat the four tetrads.)

“Thus developed, bhikkhus, thus repeatedly practised, respiration-mindfulness concentration is of great fruit, of great benefit.

“Before my enlightenment, bhikkhus, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, I too dwelt much in this way of life. Dwelling much in this way of life, neither my body nor my eyes became fatigued[4] and through not clinging, my mind was freed from the cankers.

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘May neither my body nor my eyes become fatigued and through not clinging may my mind be freed from the cankers,’ let him reflect well upon this respiration-mindfulness concentration.

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘Whatever my memories and thoughts based on the household life, may they be abandoned,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘May I dwell perceiving the repugnant in the unrepugnant,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘May I dwell perceiving the unrepugnant in the repugnant,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘May I dwell perceiving the repugnant in the unrepugnant and the repugnant,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘May I dwell perceiving the unrepugnant in the repugnant and the unrepugnant,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘Avoiding both the unrepugnant and the repugnant, may I dwell indifferent, mindful, clearly comprehending,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘Aloof from sense-desires, aloof from unprofitable thoughts, having entered upon the first jhaana, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought and is filled with rapture and bliss born of seclusion, may I dwell therein,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘Through the subsiding of applied and sustained thought, having entered upon the second jhaana, which is possessed of internal calm and singleness of mind, and is without applied thought and without sustained thought, and is filled with rapture and bliss born of concentration, may I dwell therein,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘Through the fading away of rapture may I dwell indifferent, mindful and clearly comprehending, and experience through the mental faculties that bliss of which the noble ones say, “He who is indifferent and mindful dwells happily,” having entered upon the third jhaana, may I dwell therein,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘Through the abandoning of bodily bliss and the abandoning of bodily pain, and through the disappearance of previous joy and grief, having entered upon the fourth jhaana which is neither painful nor pleasant and is possessed of mindfulness purified by indifference, may I abide therein,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘From the complete surmounting of perceptions of materiality, from the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, from non-attention to perceptions of variety, (aware that) “boundless is space,” having entered upon the sphere of boundless space, may I dwell therein,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘From the complete surmounting of the sphere of boundless space, (aware that) “boundless is consciousness,” having entered upon the sphere of boundless consciousness, may I dwell therein,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘From the complete surmounting of the sphere of boundless consciousness, (aware that) “there is nothing,” having entered upon the sphere of nothingness, may I dwell therein,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘From the complete surmounting of the sphere of nothingness, having entered upon the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, may I dwell therein,’ let him …

“Therefore, bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu should desire, ‘From the entire overcoming of the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, having entered upon the cessation of perception and feeling, may I dwell therein,’ let him reflect well upon this respiration-mindfulness concentration.

“When respiration-mindfulness concentration is thus developed, thus repeatedly practised, if he experiences a pleasant feeling, he understands, ‘That is impermanent’; he understands ‘That is not seized upon’; he understands, ‘That is not assimilated.’ If he experiences a painful feeling, he understands, ‘That is impermanent’; he understands, ‘That is not seized upon’; he understands, ‘That is not assimilated.’ If he experiences a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling, he understands, ‘That is impermanent’; he understands, ‘That is not seized upon’; he understands, ‘That is not assimilated.’

“If he experiences a pleasant feeling, he experiences it as one dissociated from it. If he experiences a painful feeling, he experiences it as one dissociated from it. If he experiences a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling, he experiences it as one dissociated from it.

“Experiencing a feeling of the body coming to its end, he understands, ‘I experience a feeling of the body coming to its end.’ Experiencing a feeling of life coming to its end, he understands, ‘I experience a feeling of life coming to its end.’ He understands, ‘On the breakup of the body, after the end of life, all experiences, from being not assimilated, will grow cold.’

“Suppose, bhikkhus, a lamp were burning because of oil and a wick, but if the oil and the wick came to an end, the lamp would go out through lack of nutriment, so, indeed, bhikkhus, (when) a bhikkhu experiences a feeling of the body coming to its end, he understands, ‘I experience a feeling of the body coming to its end.’ Experiencing a feeling of life coming to its end, he understands, ‘I experience a feeling of life coming to its end.’ He understands, ‘On the breakup of the body, after the end of life, all experiences, from being not assimilated, will grow cold.’ “

No. 10 Kimbila

“Suppose, Aananda, there were a large heap of rubbish at the four crossroads, and a cart or carriage came from an easterly … or a westerly … or a northerly … or a southerly direction, it would demolish that heap of rubbish. So, indeed, Aananda, a bhikkhu who dwells contemplating the body in the body … the feelings in the feelings … the mind in the mind … mental objects in mental objects, demolishes evil, unprofitable thoughts.”

No. 11 At Icchaanangala

Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was living at Icchaanangala in the Forest Grove of Icchaanangala.

Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus, “I wish, bhikkhus, to go into retreat for three months. Let no one approach me except whoever brings almsfood.”

“Even so, venerable sir,” the bhikkhus replied to the Blessed One. And accordingly no one approached the Blessed One except whoever brought almsfood.

Then the Blessed One, on rising from his retreat at the end of the three months, addressed the bhikkhus:

“If, bhikkhus, the wandering ascetics of other sects ask you thus: ‘In what way of life, friend, does the recluse Gotama mainly dwell during the residence of the rains?’, you, bhikkhus, being questioned thus, should reply to those wandering ascetics of other sects thus: ‘In respiration-mindfulness concentration, friends, does the recluse Gotama mainly dwell during the residence of the rains.’

(Here follow the four tetrads, but in the first person.)

“Were it, bhikkhus, rightly speaking to be said of anything, ‘This is the life of the noble ones, this is the life of purity, this is the life of the Tathaagata,’ it is of respiration-mindfulness concentration, indeed, that rightly speaking it should be said, ‘This is that (kind of) life.’

“Those bhikkhus who as trainees dwell with their ideal as yet unattained, aspiring to the supreme surcease of bondage, for them respiration-mindfulness concentration, developed and repeatedly practised, leads to the destruction of the cankers. And those bhikkhus who are arahats, in whom the cankers are destroyed, who have lived the life, done what is to be done, laid down the burden, reached the highest good, destroyed the fetters of becoming, who knowing rightly are delivered, for them respiration-mindfulness concentration, developed and repeatedly practised, leads to a happy life here and now and to mindfulness and clear comprehension.

“Were it, bhikkhus, rightly speaking to be said of anything, ‘This is the life of the noble ones, this is the life of purity, this is the life of the Tathaagata’; it is of respiration-mindfulness concentration, indeed, that rightly speaking it should be said, ‘This is that (kind of) life.’ “

No. 17

“Respiration-mindfulness concentration, bhikkhus, developed and repeatedly practised, leads to the abandoning of the fetters.”

No. 18

“… leads to the abolishing of the inherent tendencies.

No. 19

“ … leads to knowledge of the life-term.”

No. 20

“ … leads to the destruction of the cankers.”

 

From A.nguttara Nikaaya

Ekaka Nipaata, 16

“One thing, bhikkhus, developed and repeatedly practised, leads to complete revulsion, to fading away, to cessation, to pacification, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbaana. What is this one thing? Respiration-mindfulness.”

Pa.tcaka Nipaata, 96

“Possessed, bhikkhus, of five things, a bhikkhu practising respiration-mindfulness penetrates the immovable after no long time. Which five?

“Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu: (i) undertakes little, has few duties, is easily supported, well contented with the necessities of life; (ii) he takes little food, is not addicted to filling his stomach; (iii) he is not torpid, and is devoted to wakefulness; (iv) he is well versed and remembers what he has learned and as to those things that are good in the beginning, good in the middle, good in the end, and that with the meaning and the letter set forth the life of purity which is quite perfected and purified—those things he learns well, bears in mind, recites verbally, considers with his mind, and thoroughly penetrates with vision; (v) he reviews his mind as to how far it is liberated.

“Possessed, bhikkhus, of these five things, a bhikkhu practising respiration-mindfulness penetrates the immovable in no long time.”

No. 97

(Repeat the foregoing, substituting for (iv) the ten kinds of talk in A.nguttara, Navaka Nipaata 1, second paragraph—see p.105).

No. 98

(Repeat the foregoing, substituting for (iv): “he is one who lives in the forest and maintains a secluded abode.”)

From Chakka Nipaata, 115

“There are, bhikkhus, these three things. Which three? Unruly speech, bad friendship, distraction of the mind. These, bhikkhus, are the three things.

“For the abandoning, bhikkhus, of those three things, three things are to be developed. Which three?

“For the abandoning of unruly speech, gentle speech is to be developed. For the abandoning of bad friendship, good friendship is to be developed. For the abandoning of distraction of the mind, respiration-mindfulness is to be developed. For the abandoning, bhikkhus, of those three things, these three things are to be developed.”

From Navaka Nipaata, 1 (= Udaana, IV, 1)

“Of a bhikkhu, bhikkhus, who has a good friend, a good companion, a good intimate, this is to be expected: he will dwell possessed of virtue, possessed of the Paa.timokkharestraint, with good conduct as his domain; and seeing fear in the smallest fault, he will train himself by undertaking the precepts of training.

“Of a bhikkhu, bhikkhus, who has a good friend, a good companion, a good intimate, this is to be expected: such talk as is concerned with effacement, as favours the mind’s liberation—that is to say, talk on wanting little, on contentment, seclusion, aloofness from contact, strenuousness, virtuous conduct, concentration, understanding, deliverance, knowledge and vision concerning deliverance—he will be one who gains such talk at will, without difficulty and in full.

“Of a bhikkhu, bhikkhus, who has a good friend, a good companion, a good intimate, this is to be expected: he will live applying himself energetically to the giving up of whatever is bad, and to the taking hold of whatever is good; he will be firm and unwavering in his efforts, never laying aside the pursuit of the good.

“Of a bhikkhu, bhikkhus, who has a good friend, a good companion, a good intimate, this is to be expected: he will dwell possessed of understanding, endowed with the understanding that sees rise and fall, that is noble, penetrative, and leads to the entire destruction of suffering.

“But, bhikkhus, four things should be developed as well by the bhikkhu who has become established in these five things.[5] The foul is to be developed for the abandoning of lust; amity is to be developed for the abandoning of ill will; respiration-mindfulness is to be developed for the cutting off of thoughts; perception of impermanence is to be developed for the destruction of the pride that says ‘I am.’ For a bhikkhu who perceives impermanence, bhikkhus, perception of non-self is established; one who perceives non-self reaches the destruction of the pride that says ‘I am,’ that is, Nibbaana here and now.”

Itivuttaka 85

“Dwell, bhikkhus, contemplating the foul in the body, and let mindfulness of your own respiration be well established before you. Dwell contemplating impermanence in all formations. For those who dwell contemplating the foul in the body, the inherent tendency to lust regarding the element of beauty is abandoned. When mindfulness of one’s own respiration is well established before one, the habits of thought which tend to produce irritation are no more. For those who dwell contemplating impermanence in all formations, ignorance is abandoned and clear vision arises.

“In the body the foul discerning,
Mindful of breathing in and out,
Ever ardent, comprehending
Pacification of all formations.

Indeed, this bhikkhu rightly seeing
Is henceforth liberated here;
Armed with full knowledge and at peace
This sage has severed all bonds.”


Notes

Part IV: Passages from Other Suttas

[1]       SN 54:9 gives a shorter version.

[2]       Asubha: sometimes rendered as “the impure,” or the “unlovely.” There is no satisfactory English equivalent for this term which is used to refer to the contemplation of the 31 parts of the body or the 9 charnel ground contemplations as given in Majjhima Sutta 10. Contemplation of “the foul” has the elimination of lust as its principal aim.

[3]       “`Aversion … is entirely put away’ means that perception associated with aversion is entirely put away, quite cut off. Thereby he declares his attainment of the path of non-return. Then, indicating insight for the purpose of attaining Arahat Path, he said, `Mindful I shall breathe in,’ and so on.” (Saaratthappakaasinii)

[4]       “One who works on the elements as his meditation subject finds his body becomes racked like the distress felt on having been thrown into a machine. One who works on the kasi.nas (contemplation devices—see Vism Ch. IV) finds his eyes quiver and become tired as though they would drop out. But when one works on this meditation subject, neither does the body become tired nor do the eyes hurt. That is why the Blessed One spoke thus.” (Saaratthappakaasinii)

[5]       I.e., good friendship and the four things to be expected of it.

 


Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV


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