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The Anapanasati Sutta
-- A Practical Guide to Mindfulness of Breathing and Tranquil Wisdom Meditation
Ven. U Vimalaramsi
1- Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Savatthi in the Eastern Park, in the Palace of Migara's Mother, together with many very well-known elder disciples -- the Venerable Sariputta, the Venerable Maha-Moggallana, the Venerable Maha Kassapa, the Venerable Maha Kaccana, the Venerable Maha Kotthita, the Venerable Maha Kappina, the Venerable Cunda, the Venerable Anuruddha, the Venerable Revata, the Venerable Ananda, and other very well known elder disciples.
2- Now on that occasion elder Bhikkhus had been teaching and instructing new Bhikkhus; some elder Bhikkhus had been teaching and instructing ten new Bhikkhus, some elder Bhikkhus had been teaching and instructing twenty... thirty... forty new Bhikkhus. And the new Bhikkhus, taught and instructed by the elder Bhikkhus, had achieved successive stages of high distinction.
3- On that occasion -- the Uposatha day of the fifteenth, on the full-moon night of the Pavarana ceremony, The Blessed One was seated in the open surrounded by the Sangha of Bhikkhus. Then, surveying the silent Sangha of Bhikkhus, he addressed them thus:
4- "Bhikkhus, I am content with this progress. My mind is content with this progress. So arouse still more energy to attain the unattained, to achieve the unachieved, to realize the unrealized. I shall wait here at Sivatthi for the Komudi full moon of the fourth month."
The Bhikkhus can still practice their meditation or make new robes and prepare to go out wandering or teaching the Dhamma to other monks and layperson during this extra month. The Kathina Ceremony is also held during this month. This is the time for laymen and laywomen to make extra merit by practicing their generosity by giving robes and other requisites to the Sangha members.
5- The Bhikkhus of the countryside heard: "The Blessed One will wait there at Savatthi for the Komudi full moon of the fourth month." And the Bhikkhus of the countryside left in due course for Savatthi to see the Blessed One.
6- And the elder Bhikkhus still more intensively taught and instructed new Bhikkhus; some elder Bhikkhus taught and instructed ten new Bhikkhus, some elder Bhikkhus taught and instructed twenty... thirty... forty new Bhikkhus. And the new Bhikkhus, taught and instructed by the elder Bhikkhus, achieved successive stages of high distinction.
7- On that occasion -- the Uposatha day of the fifteenth, the full-moon night of the Komudi full moon of the fourth month -- the Blessed One was seated in the open surrounded by the Sangha of Bhikkhus. Then, surveying the silent Sangha of Bhikkhus, he addressed them thus:
8- "Bhikkhus, this assembly is free from prattle, this assembly is free from chatter. It consists purely of heartwood. Such is this Sangha of Bhikkhus, such is this assembly. Such an assembly as is worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, an incomparable field of merit for the world -- Such is this assembly. Such an assembly that a small gift given to it becomes great and a great gift becomes greater -- such is this Sangha of Bhikkhus, such is this assembly. Such an assembly as is rare for the world to see -- such is this Sangha of Bhikkhus, such is this assembly. Such an assembly as would be worthy journeying many leagues with a travel-bag to see -- such is this Sangha of Bhikkhus, such is this assembly.
9- "In this Sangha of Bhikkhus, there are Bhikkhus who are arahats with taints destroyed, who have lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached the true goal, destroyed the fetters of being, and are completely liberated through final knowledge -- such Bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of Bhikkhus.
This is the stage where all of the fetters are destroyed such that they will not even arise anymore. The ten fetters are: 1. Belief in permanent self or soul, 2. doubt in the correct path, 3. Belief that chanting, or rites and rituals lead one to Nibbana, 4. lust or greed, 5. hatred or aversion, 6. greed for fine-material existence or immaterial existence, 7. conceit or pride, 8. sloth and torpor or sleepiness or dullness of mind, 9. restlessness or agitation of mind, 10. ignorance. (In PaIi, they are 1. Sakkayaditthi, 2. Vicikiccha, 3. Silabbataparamasa, 4. Kanasmaraga, 5. Patigha, 6. Ruparaga, Aruparaga, 7. Mana, 8. Middha, 9. Uddhacca, 10. Avijja.) The final stage of Arahatta is described as follows: "They are the ones who have lived the Holy Life, laid down the burden, reached the true goal, destroyed the fetters of being, and are completely liberated through final knowledge, they have done their work with diligence; they are no longer capable of being negligent" (Taken from the Majjhima Nikaya sutta number 70 section 12.)
10- "In this Sangha of Bhikkhus there are Bhikkhus who, with the destruction of the five lower fetters, are due to reappear spontaneously (in the pure abodes) and there attain final Nibbana, without ever returning from that world -- such Bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of Bhikkhus.
This stage of sainthood is called Anagami where lust and hate no longer even arise in one's mind. The five lower fetters have been destroyed but there is still work to be done.
11- "In this Sangha of Bhikkhus there are Bhikkhus who, with the destruction of three fetters and with the attenuation of lust, hate and delusion, are once-returners, returning once to this world to make an end of suffering -- such Bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of Bhikkhus.
This stage of sainthood is called being a Sakadagami or once-returner. They have given up the belief in a permanent self, belief that one can attain enlightenment by chanting and practicing rites and rituals, and they have given up doubt in the path. Also, the person who has attained this stage has tremendously weakened lust and hatred, together with all of the other fetters.
12- "In this Sangha of Bhikkhus there are Bhikkhus who, with the destruction of the three fetters, are stream-enterers, no longer subject to perdition, bound [for deliverance], headed for enlightenment -- such Bhikkhus are there in this sangha of Bhikkhus.
The person who has attained this stage of enlightenment is called a Sotapanna or stream-enterer. They have given up the three lower fetters mentioned above, they are never going to be reborn in a low existence again. Their lowest rebirth will be as a human being, and the most lives that they will experience before attaining final Nibbana, is seven.
13- "In this Sangha of Bhikkhus there are Bhikkhus who abide devoted to the development of the four foundations of mindfulness  -- such Bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of Bhikkhus. In this Sangha of Bhikkhus there are Bhikkhus who abide devoted to the four right kinds of strivings (efforts)... of the four bases for spiritual power... of the five faculties... of the five powers... of the seven enlightenment factors... of the Noble Eightfold Path -- such Bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of Bhikkhus
The four right kinds of strivings, the four bases for spiritual power, the five faculties, the five powers, the seven enlightenment factors and the Noble Eightfold Path are described in Mahasakuludayi Sutta, Sutta Number 77, Section 16 of the Majjhima Nikaya as ways to develop wholesome states. (This sutta describes the qualities of Lord Buddha which his disciples honour, respect, revere and venerate him and live in dependence on him.) We will now look into the meanings of these terms. The four Foundations of Mindfulness, the Seven Enlightenment Factors and the Noble Eightfold Path will be discussed later in the sutta.
Besides zeal, the Pali word chanda also means joyful interest or enthusiasm. A mind which points towards a wholesome object like joy has this quality of joyful interest. Thus, the first right kind of striving is to cultivate a mind that has joyful interest and enthusiasm so that the mind becomes clear and free from unwholesome states. Joy grows when the mind is smiling and happy during our daily life as well as during meditation. As a result, the mind will be uplifted and wholesome at that time. Nowadays, these four kinds of striving are usually called the four right efforts. Some meditation teachers request the meditator to put out strenuous effort to note what is happening in the present moment. But the sutta here clearly shows that this is not that kind of mindfulness.
The mindfulness of joyful interest and enthusiasm, i.e., having a smiling mind leads to a mind which is light, open, accepting and without any tension. This is the proper definition of right effort and according to the sutta, it actually has nothing to do with noting phenomena until it goes away.
The second right kind of strivings teaches one to abandon heavy emotional states like anger, sadness, jealousy, anxiety, stress, depression, fear, etc., and replace them with a smiling mind which relaxes away even the subtlest tension. This is the wholesome state of joyful interest and enthusiasm. By cultivating such a smiling mind, one overcomes the ego-identification with these states as being "Mine". A good sense of humor about oneself is a skillful tool to develop when trodding the spiritual path.
This means seeing that the mind brings up joyful interest and enthusiasm when these wholesome states are not in the mind. In other words, the cultivation of mindfulness means cultivating joy and a smiling mind. Even when there is a neutral mind that is merely thinking this and that, this is the time to practice smiling in the mind and experiencing joyful interest and enthusiasm.
The fourth right kind of striving refers to a continuous practice, not only during the formal practice of meditation but also during the daily activities. At one time the author was approached by some students asking: "How can one attain Nibbana by practicing smiling and having joyful interest?" They thought that they have made a very profound statement because they thought Nibbana is attained by looking at pain and suffering all of the time. These students are not practicing how to be light and happy as taught by the Lord Buddha. The author replied them by asking some cross questions: "How can you get to Nibbana without smiling and having joyful interest in your mind? Isn't joy one of the enlightenment factors? Didn't the Lord Buddha said 'We are the Happy Ones?'"
Here one can see the importance of developing a mind that smiles and has joyful interest. There arises a true change of perspective in one's mind when they have joyful interest and a smile. One is not so heavy and grumpy when things become difficult. This is because there is not so much ego-attachment and the meditator can see a situation clearly. When the mind do not smile and has no joyful interest, everything becomes heavy and all mental states and thoughts becomes depressing. The mind becomes over serious and takes everything negatively.
For example, let's say that you are very happy and I come along and give you a rose. You might take that rose and admire the color, the shape and the fragrance. You think, "What a beautiful flower! Just seeing it makes me even more happy". But, if you are in a depressing or angry mood and I come along and give you that same rose, your mind would see the thorns instead. You might even think, "Ugh! This rose is so ugly. I hate it!" At that time, all that is seen is the thorns. But, in actual fact, the rose is the same. The only difference is your mood. Joyful interest and smiling helps to make the world around you a better place to live. This, however, is not to say that we won't go through trials and tribulations. We will! However, the perspective of having joy in the mind changes a big problem into a small one.
The first spiritual power refers to joy. It is as explained above.
This is the second spiritual power energy. One cannot slack or becomes lazy when they are on the Lord Buddha's Path. It takes a lot of energy to stay on the path especially when one realizes that this is a lifetime practice! This is talking about the energy that it takes to recognize when one's mind is tight and tense, followed by the energy to let go of the thinking and relax the tightness in the head and mind, before coming back to the breath.
The third spiritual power refers to the purity of mind which is developed when one stays on the object of meditation as much as possible. Whenever a hindrance arises and knocks one out of the meditation, then they simply allow the hindrance to be, without getting involved with the thinking mind, relax the tightness in the head caused by the hindrance, then gently redirect their attention back to the meditation object i.e., the breath and tranquilizing and expanding the mind. It doesn't matter how many times the mind goes back to that distraction or hindrance. One simply repeats allowing, relaxing and coming back to the breath. This is the method to purify the mind of all defilements and hindrances. Remember, meditation is not about thinking, but expanding one's mind and awareness into the present moment and then going beyond that, to the true expression of loving acceptance. Meditation is the silence when thoughts -- with all its images and words has entirely ceased. But meditation is not 'concentration'. 'Concentration' contracts the mind and is a form of exclusion, a type of cutting off, a suppression of hindrances, a resistance. It is also a kind of conflict. A meditative mind can be very still and composed, and yet, not have exclusion or suppression, nor resistance in it. A concentrated mind cannot meditate according to the Buddhist practice.
The habit of investigating one's experience is a very important aspect of one's spiritual growth. When one is caught by a hindrance, or pain, or any distraction, they must he able to see how the mind reacts to that particular situation. For example, sleepiness arises while one is meditating. The way to overcome sleepiness is by staying more attentively, with joyful interest, on the object of meditation. One must try to see directly how their mind slips back to the sleepiness. In other words, one must put more effort and energy into the practice. When one notices how the mind first starts to be caught by the hindrance, they will let go of it more quickly and not he caught for too long a time. However, when one is totally caught by the sleepiness, it may take a while to overcome this hindrance, because this is the last thing the mind wants to do! Thus, the mind may 'ping pong' back and forth from the meditation object back to the sleepiness. The more light and joyful interest towards how the mind works, the more quickly one will let go of the hindrance and begin to meditate again.
Similarly, when pain arises, one does not direct the mind into the pain. One can see how the mind has resistance to that sensation only when their attention is pulled to the pain. If one starts to think about the pain, it will get bigger and more intense. Thus, one first lets go of the thinking mind, which verbalizes about these distraction (pain, hindrance, heavy emotion etc.). Next, relaxes the mind and releases the tight mental knot around the sensation, relaxes the tightness in the head, calms the mind and then, redirect one's attention back to the object of meditation. This is done continually until the pain doesn't pull the mind to it again.
This is decidedly different from some other meditations instructions where the meditators put their attention into the middle of the pain and note it as 'pain... pain... pain'. All the while, they are trying to see its true nature and watch its changes. But pain by nature, is repulsive and thus, the meditators have the tendency to tighten and harden the mind so that they can continue watching the pain. The hardening of the mind is never noted by the meditators, nor is it ever seen clearly whenever it arises. The meditators will eventually develop enough concentration (fixed attention) to be able to overcome the pain. However, this is achieved by repressing and tightening the mind.
One can clearly observe that the spiritual base of investigation of one's experience is to purify the mind by allowing everything that happens in the present moment to he there without trying to fight, control, or even disturb it in any way. Loving-acceptance and patience (which is defined in the English dictionary as meaning non-aversion) of the present moment is the way to attain Nibbana. It is not attained by concentration, tightness, suppression and repression.
The faculty of faith is also called the faculty of confidence. As one becomes interested in letting go of the pain of living, one's curiosity becomes stronger. And thus, they begin to look for a meditation teacher. If one is fortunate enough to learn from a competent teacher, they will begin to see some slight changes in the way they perceive the world. As one begins to see this through direct practice, their confidence begin to grow. As a result, their enthusiasm towards the practice increases such that one would want to practice more!
When one's confidence grows, they will naturally put more energy into their practice. One begins to sit a little longer and the mind becomes a little clearer. For the beginner it is recommended to sit not less than 45 minutes at a time. But when a sitting is good, please stay with that sitting for as long as it lasts. A good sifting might last for one hour or one hour-ten minutes, or longer. It is good to sit for progressively longer periods of time and not worry about becoming attached to the sitting. The only way one becomes attached is by the thinking about and not doing the meditation in the correct manner. There is nothing wrong in sitting for long periods of time as long as one does not hurt themselves physically and they have enough exercise. Sitting for one or two or three hours is fine only when one is ready to sit comfortably for such long hours. If one sits in a same way which causes pain to arise every time, then they are causing themselves unnecessary physical discomfort. This is not a wise thing to do, because the sitting posture should be comfortable. It is alright if the meditator uses a stool or chair, as long as they do not lean on anything. Leaning is good for sleeping and dullness, not meditating!
And thus, the more confidence one has, the more energy they put into their practice. One's enthusiasm will naturally increase too.
As one's energy improves, their awareness and mindfulness will naturally become stronger. This is a very natural "non-forced" process. Let's take a look at the mind of an ordinary person, a person like you or me. What one finds is a grasshopper mind, a butterfly mind, or one could also say, a mad monkey mind. It is ever-moving, ever-jumping around. It changes its fantasies and impulses every moment. The mind is a prey of stimuli and its own emotional reaction to them. This is actually a reaction that is mostly re-acting to conditions the way one always acts when a certain stimuli arises. It is a chain of linked associations, hopes, fears, memories, fantasies, regrets, streaming constantly through the mind, triggered by memories of the outside world. The mind is blindly, never-stopping, never-satisfied in its search for pleasure and satisfaction. It is no wonder that the mind becomes so crazy and filled with unsatisfactoriness and was described as a restless mad monkey swinging from branch to branch in the quest for satisfying fruit through the endless jungle of conditional events.
Thus, when one first begins to meditate, the mind naturally runs all over the place and stays away from the object of meditation for a long time. Sometimes it even takes two or three minutes before one is able to recognize, they then gently let it go, relax the tension in the head, calm the mind and re-direct the attention back to the breath. This is only natural, because the mind is used to running wherever it likes. But as one's practice develops and they are able to recognize and let go more quickly, their mindfulness gradually becomes sharper. The mind might only stay away from the breath for one minute, before recognizing that it is not on the breath. It then lets go, relaxes the mind, and comes back to the breath. At this time the mind begins to stay on the breath for longer periods of time, perhaps, as long as thirty seconds, before it goes off again. However, one is now becoming better at seeing when the mind goes away. Their mindfulness becomes sharper and they are able to recognize what the mind is doing. Thus, when one's confidence becomes better, their energy improves and as a result, the alertness of mind naturally develops.
When one's mindfulness of the present moment improves, the mind will naturally stay on the object of meditation for much longer periods of time. Most people would describe this as 'concentration' but this is not an accurate description. The mind is not absorbed into or fixed onto the object of meditation. Instead, it is very still, relaxed, composed and stays on the breath very well. At this time a strong feeling of joy arises and the body becomes very light and feels like floating. When the joy fades away, a powerful feeling of tranquility, equanimity and comfortableness arises. Due to one's sharp awareness, they do not become involved with these feelings. But if one begins to think or internally verbalize about how nice this state is and how much they like it, they will lose that state and sleepiness very often comes into the mind. This is because one is caught by the attachment to those feelings and slip off without coming back to the breath. Mindfulness fades away when one starts to think or internally verbalize about things and becomes involved in wanting to control these things and thoughts. This also happens when one craves for the experience of joy and tranquility to arise. This desire makes the mind to try too hard and as a result restlessness and dissatisfaction arise These combination of hindrances will stop all spiritual practice from occurring because the wanting for things to be in a particular way makes all the spiritual development fade away. Therefore, one must be more mindful of the thoughts about these pleasant abiding. And thus, as confidence increases, one's energy grows. This improves our mindfulness which enables the composure and stillness of mind to become stronger and lasts longer.
As one's mind becomes more calm and still, they are able to see the true nature of things. This development of wisdom or intelligence is gained by seeing things arise and pass away by themselves. Even while one is sitting in a jhana [a meditation stage] they see how, for instance, joy arises. It is there for a while then fades away. They see how tranquility and happiness arise. They are there for a while and then they fade away. One is able to see the true nature of impermanence, even in the beginning of their practice, by observing thoughts arising and passing away. One observes feelings and emotions arising and passing away. They also notice that these things that arise and pass away are unsatisfactory and these feelings and emotions are a form of suffering, especially when they don't behave in the way one wants them to. When one sees how truly unsatisfactory this process is, they clearly see that it is an impersonal process. There is no one who can control the appearance and disappearance of these things. Even while in jhana [a meditation stage] one has no real control over the joy arising because joy arises when the conditions are right for it to come up. At the same time, one simply cannot force joy to stay because it will fade away when the conditions are right. And this causes more unsatisfactoriness to arise, because joy is such a nice feeling! Thus, one is able to see the characteristics of existence very clearly, i.e. anicca (impermanence), dukkha (suffering), and not-self (anatta). This is the way to develop wisdom which gradually leads one to the seeing of Dependent Origination both forwards and backwards (that is, seeing and realizing The Four Noble Truths). An interesting observation is that one can see the three characteristics of existence without ever seeing Dependent Origination, but they can never see Dependent Origination without seeing the three characteristics of existence (i.e., impermanence, suffering and not-self nature) at the same time. We will discuss this in more detail at a later time.
These are the same as the five faculties mentioned above. They are called powers because of their ability to purify the mind and make it wholesome and clean.
We will now continue with the Anapanasati. Sutta.
14- "In this Sangha of Bhikkhus there are Bhikkhus who abide devoted to the development of loving-kindness... of compassion... of appreciative joy... of equanimity... of the meditation of foulness... of the perception of impermanence - - such Bhikkhus are there in this Sangha of Bhikkhus. In this Sangha of Bhikkhus there are Bhikkhus who abide devoted to the development of mindfulness of breathing.
Loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity are known as the Four "Brahma Viharas" or the Four Boundless states of mind, or the Limitless states of mind. This is because there is no boundary or limitations to one's mind when they are in these meditative states.
The meditation of foulness is suitable for those who have a strong affinity for lust arising in their minds. It is practiced by reflecting on the element and the disgusting nature of one's body parts. For example, when one looks at a beautiful person and thoughts of lust arise, they can imagine how desirable that person would be are if all of their body parts where to be turned inside-out! Will one's mind think, "Oh! what a lovely intestine or liver !" or "Wow! What beautiful bile, pus and phlegm that person has!" How much lust is there in the mind at that time? Thus, this meditation helps people with lustful personality to he more in balance.
The perception of impermanence does not actually refers to sitting down and thinking about how everything changes. (Remember, "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation" is about seeing with a silent and spacious mind.) It is referring to the meditation states of infinite space and infinite consciousness where the mind sees just how fleeting these mental and physical phenomenon truly are.
We will now proceed to the next section of the sutta which speaks about the Mindfulness of Breathing.
15- "Bhikkhus, when mindfulness of breathing is developed and cultivated, it is of great fruit and great benefit. When Mindfulness of Breathing is developed and cultivated, it fulfills the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. When the Four Foundations of Mindfulness are developed and cultivated, they fulfill the Seven Enlightenment Factors. When the Seven Enlightenment Factors are developed and cultivated, they fulfill true knowledge and deliverance.
One observes that the Four Foundations of Mindfulness is in this sutta and they are fulfilled through the practice of jhana or tranquil and wise meditative states of mind. This is decidedly different from the current theory that one can't attain the Four Foundations of Mindfulness while experiencing jhanas [meditative stages]. The Lord Buddha only taught one kind of meditation and that is samatha or tranquility or one can say he taught samadhi -- tranquil 'wisdom meditation.
16- And how, Bhikkhus, is mindfulness of breathing developed and cultivated, so that it is of great fruit and great benefit?
17- "Here a Bhikkhu, gone to the forest or to the root of a tree or an empty hut, sits down; having folded his legs crosswise, set his body erect, and established mindfulness in front of him, ever mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out.
The phrase "gone to the forest or to the root of a tree or an empty hut" means that one goes to a reasonably quiet place where there will be few distractions. A suitable location will be one that is away from road noises, loud and persistent music or sounds, people as well as animals.
During the time of the Lord Buddha most people sat on floors. Hence, the phrase "sits down; having folded his legs crosswise, set his body erect" But today, sifting on the floor can be a very trying and painful experience as people mostly sit on chairs, stools, or couches. If one wants to sit on floors, it may help if they sit on cushions. In actual fact, it is far more important to observe what is happening in the mind than to sit with uncomfortable or painful sensations. Remember that there is no magic in sitting on the floor. The magic comes from a clear, calm mind that is at ease, as much as possible. Thus, if sitting on the floor is a very painful experience, then it is alright to sit on a stool or a chair. There is however, an extremely important factor if the meditator sits on a chair. They must sit without leaning against the chair. Leaning is good for sleeping but not for meditation! "Set his body erect" means sit with a nicely straight back which is not rigid and uncomfortable. A nicely straight back has all of the vertebrae stacked one upon another. This is to ensure that energy can flow up and down the back without any blockages. Leaning stops the energy flow and causes sleepiness to arise. Thus, please do not lean against anything. When one first start out, their backs are not used to being straight and some of the muscles can rebel and complain. However, with patience and perseverance, these unused muscles will gradually adjust and strengthen.
There is another important aspect to sitting meditation. One must sit without moving the body for any reason. Please do not wriggle the toes or fingers or move the hands to rub or scratch or change the posture in any way until after the sitting is over. Any movement breaks the continuity of the practice and this causes the meditator to start all over again. Some meditation teachers tell their students that it is quite alright to move as long as they are "mindful". But if the students are truly mindful, they would be able to watch the mind and its dislike of the sensations and then, relax the mind around them. Thus, there would be no reason to move! Mindfulness means to lovingly-accept what is happening in the present moment, without trying to control, resist or change it. To be truly mindful means to open up and allow whatever to present itself in the present moment. Moving while sifting means that the meditator is not being mindful at all. The meditator is giving in to the desire to move, and is identifying with that desire. Thus, when one is ready and begins to meditate, they must remain still and keep tranquilizing the mind whenever there is a distraction. To sit as still as a Buddha image is the best! Actually the only allowable movement during meditation is to straighten the back when it starts to curve or slump, as long as it is not done too often.
The phrase "establishing mindfulness in front of him" means that one puts aside all other worldly affairs and involvement with sensual pleasures. One softly closes the eyes and whenever there is a distracting sound, smell, taste or sensation, or thought, they are aware of that and simply let it go. One then relaxes the tightness in the head and redirects the attention back to the object of meditation.
"Ever mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out" tells us the way to practice mindfulness of breathing. Being aware of the breath means to know when one is experiencing the in-breath and to know when one is experiencing the out-breath. It simply means to open up one's awareness and to be attentive to the breath as much as possible and at the same time, relax the tightness in the head (this will be explained more thoroughly in a little while).
18- "Breathing in long, he understands: 'I breathe in long'; or breathing out long, he understands: 'I breathe out long.' Breathing in short, he understands: 'I breathe in short'; or breathing out short he understands 'I breathe out short'.
The words "he understands" are emphasized to show that one does not focus with strong attention on the breath to the exclusion of everything else. One merely understands what the breath is doing in the present moment. That's all there is to this! One simply knows when they breathe in long or short! There is no controlling of the breath at any time. Instead, there is only understanding of what one is doing in the present moment. If one tries to "over-focus" or "concentrate" on the breath to the exclusion of anything else, they will develop a headache due to the "wrong concentration". Whenever a meditator holds tightly onto the meditation object and tries to force the mind to "concentrate" or bumps any distractions away, the head will develop a very tight and painful tension. This tightness or tension on the head also occurs when the meditator attempts to control the sitting by throwing down any distracting thoughts and feelings and quickly rush back to the meditation object. This happens with 'momentary concentration' as well as any other kind of 'concentration' technique.
Many meditation teachers tell their students to put their attention right in the middle of the sensation and see its true nature. This will cause a few different things to occur. Firstly, the students will develop a stronger pain and this becomes a distraction instead. It is because these meditation teachers tell their students to stay with that pain until it goes away. Unfortunately, this can take an unbelievably long time. In addition, the students need to tighten and toughen the mind in order to observe the tension. Actually, this tightening and toughening of the mind is not being mindful. The students begins to develop a mind that hardens itself when pain arises. It is only natural that this happens as it take a lot of courage and fortitude to watch pain in this way. A type of aversion is naturally developed at that time, and this hardening of mind is not being noticed as anicca, dukkha, anatta. Consequently, even when one is not meditating, this suppression can cause personality hardening, and that causes true problems to arise. The mind has a tendency to become critical and judgmental and the personality development of the meditator becomes hard. Many people say they need to do a loving-kindness retreat after doing other types of meditation because they discovered that they do and say things which are not so nice to other people. When this happens, there appears a question, "Is this really a type of meditation technique which leads to my happiness and to the happiness of others? If the answer is yes, then why do I need to practice another form of meditation to balance my thinking?"
Eventually one is able to suppress this aversion by practicing 'concentration', which is taught to be the "correct method" by most meditation teachers. But the method taught by the Lord Buddha was to never suppress anything. His method was to open and expand the mind and to allow everything that arises in the present moment. Thus, whenever a pain arises in the body, one first recognizes that the mind has gone to that sensation, lets go of any thoughts about that sensation, opens the mind and lets go of the tight mental fist that is wrapped around the sensation, or by letting the sensation be there by itself without any mental resistance or aversion to it. This is done by telling themselves, "Never mind it is alright for this pain to be there." Next, relax the tightness which is in the head ... feel the mind expand and become calm ... then re-direct the attention back to the object of meditation i.e. the breath.
If one gets caught in the thinking about the sensation or pain, the sensation will get bigger and become more intense. Eventually, they can't stand it any more and feel that they have to move. This thinking or internally verbalizing about the sensation and wishing it would go away, is the 'ego identification' with the painful sensation. This getting involved with, ... trying to control, ... fighting with the sensation, ... resisting the sensation etc., is only fighting with the Dhamma (Truth of the Present Moment). Whenever anyone fights and tries to control or hardens the mind to the Dhamma of the present moment, they cause themselves undue suffering and pain. Another way of fighting the Dhamma is by taking the sensation personally. This worsens the pain and as a result, it hurts even more. Thus, one must learn to open and lovingly-accept the present moment without that 'ego-identification' and the thinking or internally verbalization about, or taking it as "I am that". This is how one gains calmness and composure of mind, as well as, equanimity, full awareness, and mindfulness.
The Lord Buddha taught us three kinds of actions while meditating or during our daily activities. They are, "Love Where We Are At, Love What We Are Doing in the Present Moment, and Love Who We Are With". These simple explanations allow one to be completely accepting of the present moment. "To Love where We Are At" means to accept the fact that when one is sifting in meditation, things are not always like they want them to he. "To Love What We Are Doing" means to open up the mind and allow whatever arises in the present moment, to present itself without our getting attached to it. A good acronym for this is "DROPS" which means "Don't Resist Or Push. Soften". Whatever arises, one does not resist or push. Just soften into it, open the mind and accept it. In other words to "Love What We Are Doing". "To Love Who We Are With", means to love oneself enough so that they see and let go of all kinds of attachments which causes pain to arise in their body and mind. The recognition that one causes their own suffering is a major realization. When one truly loves themselves, they will see the pain and sorrow and lovingly let it go. This is done by letting go of the thinking about. Thus, they let go of the attachment and the ego identification with it.
He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body [of breath]'; he trains thus 'I shall breatheout experiencing the whole body [of breath]';
This part of the sutta means that the meditator knows when the breath is starting and stopping on the in-breath. One also knows when the breath is starting and stopping on the out-breath. The meditator doesn't have to over-focus the mind or 'concentrate' on the breath, or take this breathing as the object of extreme concentration'. One simply knows what the breath is doing in the present moment. Their mindfulness is sharp enough to know what the breath is doing at all times, without controlling the breath in any way. Just let the breath and the awareness be a natural process.
He trains thus: 'I shall breath in tranquilizing the bodily formation'; he trains thus: 'I shall breath out tranquilizing the bodily formation'.
This simple statement is the most important part of the meditation instructions. It instructs one to notice the tightness which arises in the head with every arising of a consciousness, and let that tightness go, while on the in-breath and out-breath. Then one feels their mind open up, expand, relax and become tranquil. Everytime they see that the mind is distracted away from the breath, they simply let go of the distraction, relax the tightness in the head by letting go of the tightness, feel the mind become open, expanded, relaxed, calm and clean. Next, one softly re-directs the mind back to the breath, on the in-breath relaxes, expands and calms the tightness in the head and mind ... on the out-breath relaxes, expands and calms the tension in the head and mind. For example, when a thought arises, just let the thought go. Don't continue thinking, even if one is in mid-sentence. Just softly let the thought go. If the distraction is a sensation, firstly open the mind and let go of the aversion to the sensation, then open and expand the mind before re-directing one's attention back to the breath.
This opening up, expanding and letting go of the tightness in the head is actually letting go of the subtle 'ego identification' which attaches itself to everything as it arises. Thus, when one lets go of this tension, they are actually letting go of all ignorance which causes rebirth.
When the meditation instructions here are followed closely, there will be no 'sign or nimitta' arising in the mind (i.e., no lights or other kinds of mind-made objects, which arise in the mind when one is practicing 'concentration meditation'). The mind naturally becomes calm and tranquil. One need not try to force the mind to stay on the object of meditation through strong concentration' which causes tension and pain in the head. One begins to realize the true nature of all phenomenon as being impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha), and not-self (anatta).
Thus, when one practices "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation", they are aware of the in-breath and at the same time, the relaxation of the tightness in the head and the mind. They are also aware of the out-breath and again, at the same time, the relaxation of the tightness in the head and mind. It is alright if one happens to miss one in-breath or one out-breath at first. They should not put unnecessary pressure on themselves which might cause them to think how difficult this practice is. This is actually an incredibly easy practice and a simple way to develop the mind. Thus, if one occasionally misses the in-breath or out-breath, just let it go and catch the next in-breath or out-breath. Simple and easy, isn't it? At first, the breath may seem to be very fast and difficult to notice. However, as one continues with their practice, the meditation becomes easier and they will not miss the in-breath or out-breath that much. After all, this is a gradual training. There is no need to put undue pressure on oneself. Simply relax into the meditation.
When one practices "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation", the breath does not become subtle and difficult to observe. If this happens, then the meditator is 'concentrating' too much on the breath. Also, the tightness in the head is not relaxed enough. If the breath seems to disappear again, the meditator is focusing their 'concentration' and not tranquilizing the mind enough. The jhanas (meditation stages) will appear by themselves as the mind becomes calm and peaceful. The meditator does not have to push, force or 'concentrate with a fixed mind'. Actually, the Lord Buddha taught a most natural form of meditation that works for every type of personality or individual.
19- "He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in experiencing joy'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out experiencing joy'.
This refers to the attainment of the first two jhanas (meditation stages). The description of these stages is a set formula that is repeated many times in the suttas. We will now look into the description of these first two jhanas:
When one starts their meditation session, they first close their eyes. This is being secluded from the sensual pleasure of seeing. When a sound distracts the mind, the instructions are to let the sound be there by itself, without thinking about whether one likes the sound or not. Simply let the sound go... let go of the mental fist around the sound... relax the tightness in the head, feel the mind become calm and at ease... redirect the attention back to the object of meditation, i.e., the breath. Relax the tightness in the head, feel the mind open up, expand and become tranquil on the in-breath, relax the tightness in the head on the out-breath, feel the mind become open, peaceful and calm. One stays with the breath and relaxes the tension and mind until the next distraction appears by itself.
One does this with smelling, tasting, bodily sensations, and thoughts or any kind of sensual pleasure which distracts the mind away from the breath. Whenever there is a distraction of the sense-doors one must let it go, relax that mental fist around the distraction ... loosen the tightness in the head, open and expand the mind,... redirect the attention back to the breath again. It doesn't matter how many times the sensual pleasure arises. One has to allow it to be there everytime it arises. Just remember to let it go... loosen the tightness in the head, feel the mind expand and come back to the breath.
When the mind is distracted from the breath and begins to think about feelings that arise, there is a tendency for the mind to like or dislike that feeling. This thinking about and trying to control feelings by thinking about them, causes the feeling to get bigger and more intense. Thus, more pain arises. This mind/body process is made up of five different aggregates which are affected by clinging. The meditator has a physical body, feelings (both mental and physical), perception (recognition}, volition or thoughts or free will and consciousness. By seeing this, one can clearly observe that feelings are one thing and thoughts are another. Unfortunately, all of us has developed the habit of trying to think our feelings away. This only makes the feelings bigger and more intense. As a result, more pain and suffering arise.
When one practices the Lord Buddha's meditation method, they must understand and let go this old habit of thinking. Thus, when a feeling arises, no matter whether it is physical or emotional, first, let go of that tight mental fist around the feeling... now relax the tightness in the head... feel the mind expand, then become calm and tranquil... next redirect the attention back to the breath. When one does this, they are seeing the true nature of that feeling: It wasn't there... now it arose by itself, i.e. change or impermanence. One certainly does not request for this incredibly painful sensation to arise, nor do they ask at that time to feel angry, sad, fearful, depressed, doubtful or whatever the catch of the day happens to be. These feelings arise by themselves, without one's desire for them to arise. They last as long as they last. The more one tries to control, fight, or push away these feelings, the more they stay and become very much bigger and extra intense. This is because whenever one wants to control the feeling, they are identifying with that sensation or emotion as being theirs personally. One tends to think about -- how much it hurts, where did it come from, why does it have to bother them now, "Oh! I hate that feeling and want it to go away".
Every thought about the feeling is the ego-identification with that feeling. Everytime one tries to resist what is happening in the present moment, they are fighting with the Dhamma of the Present Moment. When a painful or even a pleasant feeling arises, the Truth is -- it is there. Any resistance, trying to control, wishing it away with thoughts, or fighting that feeling in any way, only causes more suffering to arise. Actually whenever a feeling arises, one opens the mind ... lets go of the want to control ... lovingly-accepts the fact that this feeling is there, and allows it to be there by itself. Don't Resist Or Push. Soften... This DROPS is the key to having an accepting and open mind which leads to the development of equanimity. Any slightest resistance or tightness means that there is some ego-identification still attached to it.
Let's say that a friend came up and scolded you in the early morning after you went to work. What happened to your mind? If you were like most people you scolded them back because you were angry and fighting. When the friend went away, what did you think about? What you said... what your friend said... what you should have said... I'm right for feeling the way I do and for what I said... they are wrong for what they said and did... And so it went. This feeling of anger is strong and there are thoughts which are attached to that feeling.
After a little while you distract yourself with some other activities. But the anger is still there and if someone comes to talk to you, chances are good that you will complain about your other friend who scolded you. Thus, at that time you are giving your dissatisfaction and anger to someone else and that affects them in a negative way. At different times during the day, these feelings and the thoughts that you are attached to them, arise. As a matter of fact, these thoughts are just like they were recorded on a cassette tape. They come back in the same order and with exactly the same words. After the end of the day you would have distracted yourself such that this feeling doesn't come up so often. Then comes the time to sit in meditation and purify the mind. But what arises? This feeling of anger, and the associate thoughts! Thus, here we go again. But this time, as you let go of getting involved with those feelings and thoughts, you begin to let them go. Seeing that these thoughts cause the feeling to grow, the meditator begins to soften the mind. Never mind, it just isn't that important"... Soften... "Let it be"... open the mind and let go of that tight mental knot around these thoughts... let go of the aversion to the feeling... feel the mind begin to expand then relax... now loosen the tightness in the head... feel the mind become calm, what relief! Now gently go back to the breath... on the in-breath loosen the tightness in the head... on the out-breath relax the tightness in the head... always feeling the mind open up, expand, and become tranquil.
Then the anger comes up again, and so, again you do the same thing... let it be there by itself without getting involved with the thinking about it... open and relax the mental hold of it... loosen the tightness in the head... softly redirect the attention back to the breath again. It doesn't matter how many times the mind goes back to that feeling of anger. It is treated in the same way everytime. One is not taking that feeling personally when they let the feeling be there by itself. Thus, there is no ego-identification with that feeling. This is seeing the true nature of that feeling, isn't it? The feeling wasn't there before, but now it is. This is seeing impermanence. When that feeling arises, it takes away the tranquility and peace. That is definitely painful, a true form of suffering. When one allows the feeling to be there by itself without getting involved or thinking about it, open their mind and relax the tightness away, they are experiencing the not-self nature at that time. Thus, when one practices "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation", they do experience the three characteristics of existence: impermanence, suffering, and not-self.
As one continues to loosen the mind and let go of any distraction, the attachment becomes smaller and weaker. Finally it doesn't have enough strength to arise any more. When this happens, the mind becomes filled with relief and joy. This letting go of attachment is being secluded from unwholesome states. When one lets go and the joy arises, it lasts for a period of time. As a result, the mind becomes very tranquil and peaceful. The meditator experiences a mind which stays on the object of meditation very easily. When this is done repeatedly, the mind will naturally become calm and composed by itself. At that time, one begins to develop some equanimity and balance of mind.
All of these different factors make up what is commonly called the first jhana (meditation stage). At that time there can still exists some very little wandering thoughts. If the mind wanders away from the breath and the meditator relaxes the mind, the wandering thoughts are noticed very quickly. Simply let go... relax the tightness before coming back to the breath. Some meditation teachers call this access concentration. But actually they are looking at things from the viewpoint of "concentration meditation" and not "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation".
Applied and Sustained Thought are descriptions of the thinking mind and discursive thinking (wandering thought). Some translations call initial and sustained thought as thinking and pondering. There can still be directed thoughts in each one of the different jhanas (meditation stages). The difference between directed thought and wandering thoughts is: With wandering thoughts, one thinks about what happened in the past or what will happen in the future, or daydream about what they would like to see. Directed thought is about what is happening in the present moment. These are observation thoughts i.e., mind feels very happy right now, or mind is very calm, or body feels very still and peaceful right now, etc. There is also another way of looking at Applied and Sustained Thought. Applied Thought is the mind that notices when the mind is distracted and brings the attention back to the breath. Sustained Thought is the mind that stays on the breath without slipping away again.
When the mind begins to stay on the object of meditation for longer and longer periods of time, the relief and joy will become quite strong. One will naturally feel like smiling because the joy is such a pleasurable feeling in both the mind and body. At that time, the body and mind feels very light until it is almost like floating. This is quite a nice and pleasant experience. Some meditation teachers tell their students that when joy arises, "Don't Be Attached!" Thus, these students become fearful of that joy and try to push it away so that they won't possibly have the chance to become attached. However, this is not the correct thing to do because it doesn't matter what kind of feeling that arises, either pleasurable or unpleasurable or neutral, their job is to see that the mind stays on the breath and opening then relaxing their mind.
If the mind is pulled away by a feeling, simply let it be there by itself and relax the tightness in the head, feel the mind open and expand, then go back to the breath. Attachment or craving comes from getting involved with liking or disliking what arises in the present moment whereas clinging is the thinking about it. One will not become attached when they allow whatever arises to be there by itself, then come back to the object of meditation. After the joy fades away, the mind will become very calm, peaceful and comfortable. It is this comfortable and tranquil feeling that is called happiness born of seclusion. At first, one can sit in this stage of meditation for ten or fifteen minutes and longer with practice. This is the first jhana (meditation stage) and it will arise when one has let go of sensual pleasure for a period of time, and have also let go of unwholesome habits or states of mind which stops the meditator from having a mind without distractions in it.
When one has experienced this state of calm, they begin to realize the reasons that they are meditating. At that time, the mind, is nicely composed and happy with very few distractions. There is more peace of mind than has ever been experienced before. Thus, after that experience, one becomes enthusiastic and wants it to happen every time they sit. BUT, that very desire to have those calm states of mind is the very thing which stops them from arising! They then try even harder and put in more effort. Unfortunately, the mind only becomes more and more restless and unsettled. This is due to the desire for something to happen in a particular way. When it doesn't happen that way, one pushes harder and tries to force things to be calm and tranquil.
As a result, one can't experience this calm stage of meditation due to the attachment of wanting things to occur as they want. This desire causes one to lean out of the present moment and to try to make the next present moment the way they want it to be. When that present moment isn't right, they try even harder. However, this calm state of mind will occur when it occurs. Just relax and let go of that strong desire, calm down and stop expecting things to work according to one's own desires and attachments. After the first experience of jhana (a meditation stage), the mind may become quite active the next lime one sits in meditation. But, their mindfulness is sharp and is able to recognize when the mind goes away quickly. Then they let it go, open the mind up, and return the attention back to the breath. Calming and opening on the in-breath, calming and loosening the mind on the out-breath... Before long, the mind will settle down again and the joy will arise again. When it fades away, one will again experience that comfortable happy feeling, as well as a mind that is still and at ease.
At this time, one still has the experience of all the five aggregates affected by clinging. They can still hear things, or have feelings arise in the body. For example, they would know when a mosquito lands on them. One may have some thoughts about that mosquito, but they quickly recognize that this is a distraction and let it go... loosen the tension in the head and mind, then softly come back to the breath.
As one continues to open and calm the mind on the in and out breath, eventually they will arrive at a stage where there are no more wandering thoughts. The joy is a little stronger, and lasts a little longer. When it fades away, the comfortable feeling of happiness is stronger and the calm mind goes deeper into the breath. This state is described as:
The stilling of applied and sustained thought means that at that time, the mind becomes very still and stays on the object of meditation quite nicely. There is no discursive thinking about the past or future. However, there can still be observation thoughts. Remember that true meditation is silent, open observation. There is still feeling in the body as all of the sense doors are working. But, for example, if a sound arises, it doesn't make the mind shake of move. One knows where they are and what they are doing. The self-confidence mentioned in the sutta, comes from the confidence one gains when they see clearly for themselves how well the meditation works. The self-confidence not only arises when one is sitting in meditation but, also during the daily activities too. The singleness of mind means that the mind is very calm and doesn't run around. It is contented to stay on the breath and keep opening and loosening on the in and out breaths. These are the description of the first two jhanas (meditation stages).
We now return to the Anapanasati Sutta.
He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in experiencing Happiness'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out experiencing happiness.'
As one continues onwards with their practice and keep calming and opening the mind, eventually they reach a stage where the feeling of joy becomes too coarse and it naturally won't arise any more. This is always a rather comical time for the teacher because the meditator comes to the teacher and says:
Student: 'There's something wrong with my
The joy fades away by itself, and a very strong sense of balance and calm becomes quite apparent. One can still hear sounds, and even though the body seems to disappear, at times one would know if someone were to touch them during their sitting meditation. However, the mind does not get distracted by it. This is what it means when the sutta says the meditator has full awareness. It is described as:
With the description above, one can plainly see that being in the third jhana (meditation stage), the mind is very clear, alert and balanced. They are aware of what is happening around them, but the mind stays on the object of meditation easily and comfortably. Being alert (being mindful) and having equanimity in the mind is an unusual thing to experience because this state of meditation is the highest and best feeling that they have ever experienced in their whole life. Furthermore, one is not attached to it due to the strong equanimity.
At the same time, the body and mind is exceptionally relaxed and at ease. what a nice state to be in! This is why this state is praised by noble ones. Besides this easing of the tightness in the head, the body looses tension and the feeling of sensations begins to disappear. This is because the tightness in the mind causes tension in the body. But now, the mind is so comfortable and tension free that the tension in the sensation of the body goes away too. When this happens, the body becomes so soft and comfortable that there is nothing to feel. However, one is aware if anyone were to touch them. This is the meaning of being mindful and fully aware. The mind knows what is happening around it but it just does not shake or becomes disturbed.
This is what one calls experiencing happiness on the in and out breath. Some "Fixed Concentration Meditation" teachers say that when one is in this state of jhana, the meditator can no longer experience the body or any of the sense doors. They claim that the meditator will not know if someone were to hit them with a stick or someone were to change their positions of their hands and feet. This is because their mind is so deeply absorbed into the object that they can't be fully aware. This is clearly not true if one were to read the suttas or when practicing "Tranquil Wisdom Meditation".
He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in experiencing the mental formation'; he trains thus: 'I shall breathe out experiencing the mental formation'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in tranquilizing the mental formation.' He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out tranquilizing the mental formation.'
As one continues calming, expanding and relaxing the mind, it naturally begins to go deeper. Finally the feeling of pleasure in the body/mind becomes too coarse and the mind experiences exceptional equanimity and balance of mind. It is described thus in the suttas:
When the mind becomes very calm and still, one experiences deep tranquility and equanimity of mind. They can still hear sounds and feel sensations with the body, but these things do not shake or move mind at all. Another description of this stage of meditation (jhana) is:
This gives the serious meditator an idea of what to expect when one attains this stage. The mind is exceptionally clear, bright and alert. The mind can even see when a distraction begins to arise, then let it go and open up, expand and calm down again before coming back to the breath. The abandoning of pain and pleasure does not mean that occasionally pain or pleasure won't arise. They will arise, but the mind is in such a state of balance that it won't shake or become involved with the distractions. At that time the mind is very aware when pain or pleasure arises but the equanimity and mindfulness is so strong that it does not become concerned with it.
With the previous disappearance of joy and grief means one's mind has let go of the lower emotional states of liking and disliking. All of the stages of the lower jhanas (meditation states) involves letting go of emotional states of mind. At first, when one begins to learn about meditation, they let go of very low coarse states which frequently moves the mind. After they begin to learn how to calm the mind, they can sit for longer periods of time without any distractions arising. One then experiences the initial and sustained applications of mind and the other jhana factors. When the mind settles deeper, the initial and sustain application of the mind disappears. The joy becomes stronger for a while but gradually it becomes too coarse and the mind has too much movement in it. Thus, the mind will naturally go even deeper into the object of meditation and the joy fades away by itself. At this time there is equanimity, happiness, mindfulness and full awareness in the mind. All these states of mind are very pleasant experiences. But eventually, the happiness is too coarse a feeling and so, the mind goes deeper into the breath and at the same time, continues opening, expanding and relaxing. At this point the breath and the relaxing of the mind begin to arise together. Then the happiness fades away and all that remains in the mind is strong equanimity, exceptional mindfulness, and composure of mind. This is how one experiences and tranquilizes the mental formations. As Krishnamurti describes the true meditative state, "A meditative mind is silent. It is not the silence which thoughts can conceive of; it is not the silence of a still evening; it is the silence when thoughts, with all its images, its words and perceptions have entirely ceased. This meditative mind is the religious mind -- the religion that is not touched by the church, the temples or by chants."
20- "He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in experiencing the mind'; he trains thus 'I shall breathe out experiencing the mind.'
At this time, one's mind become very calm and any slightest disturbances is noticed and is let go quickly and easily. First, the mind lets go of tightness... now it goes back to the breath... opening, expanding and calming on the in-breath... loosening, stretching out and relaxing the mind on the out-breath.
"He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in gladdening the mind'; he trains thus: 'I shall breathe out gladdening the mind.'
When one reach this stage of meditation, they begin to experience a finer and more exalted type of joy, which is described as the Joy (Pharana Piti) Enlightenment Factor. The mind becomes very peacefully happy and at ease like never before. This is called gladdening the mind because it is such a pleasurable state to be in. At that time, the mind is exceptionally uplifted, very clear and the mindfulness is sharper than ever before. The equanimity is even more balanced and composed.
"He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in stilling the mind'; he trains thus: 'I shall breathe out stilling the mind.'
At this time, the mind becomes more subtle and calm, with very few distractions. When they do arise, they are quickly noticed, let go of, calm the mind and return back to the breath. Naturally, the breath and the calming of the mind becomes easier and more serene. They happen together naturally at the same time.
"He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in liberating the mind'; he trains thus: '1 shall breathe out liberating the mind.'
Liberating the mind means that one stays on the breath with enough joyful interest such that when the mind begins to move or go away from the breath, they are aware and let the distractions go without any identifying. One then relaxes the mind before coming back to the breath. When a hindrance arises, one sees it quickly and let it go without hesitation. At this point sloth and torpor, or restlessness and anxiety, are the biggest obstacles to one's practice. Whenever a hindrance arises, it will knock one out of the jhana and can cause all kinds of disturbances. The phrase liberating the mind also means to let go of the lower jhanas (meditation stages) and all of the jhana factors by not being attached (thinking about and identifying with) them in any way.
"He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in contemplating impermanence'; he trains thus: 'I shall breathe out contemplating impermanence.'
As one continues with their practice of meditation on the breath, plus calming and expanding the mind, eventually the mind becomes very deep and then they begin to notice that the mind is expanding and getting bigger. Silence and spaciousness of mind go together. The immensity of silence is the immensity of the mind in which a center does not exist; actually speaking at this time, there is no center and there is no outer edges. It continually grows and expands. One begins to see that there are no boundaries, and space and mind are infinite. The Anupada Sutta, Sutta Number 111 in Majjhima Nikiya, described this as;
Passing beyond perceptions of form, means that even though one knows that they have a body at that time, this awareness would not readily pull our mind towards it. In this state of jhana (meditation stage), they are very aware of the mind and what it is doing. The disappearance of all sense resistance and non-attraction to the perceptions of change means even though a pain arises in the body, one knows it but does not get involved with that sensation. They feel the mind growing, changing and expanding but, they are not distracted from the breath or the relaxing of the mind. The meditator's mind is continually moving and expanding but their mind accepts this as it truly is. Seeing impermanence and how one's mind changes and expands, one realizes that this phenomena is part of an impersonal process which they have no control.
As one continues on with the practice of opening and calming the mind on the in-breath and the out-breath, they will eventually start to see consciousness arising and passing away. It is continually coming up and going away, arising and passing away, without a break! The consciousness keeps coming into being, then vanishing in all the sense doors. This is described in the Anupada Sutta as:
When one is in this state of infinite consciousness, there can still arise some hindrances like torpor or dullness of mind, or restlessness. These hindrances arise because the energy that they put into their practice isn't quite correct. When there is too little energy, one experiences dullness (rarely does the meditator have sleepiness at this time). On the other hand, if they try too hard or put too much energy into the practice, restlessness will arise. Both of these hindrances will knock one out of the jhana while they are present in the mind. When one is in this state, they see change happen so rapidly and continually, that it becomes very tiresome. They begin to see just how much unsatisfactoriness arises with each consciousness.
Thus, one sees from first hand, impermanence, suffering, and they know that they have no control over these events. They happen by themselves. As a result, one sees the not-self nature of this psycho-physical process. This is how one contemplates impermanence. It is not done by thinking about it, but by realizing it through their own personal experience.
We return to the Anapanasati Sutta.
21- "He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in contemplating fading away'; he trains thus: 'I shall breathe out contemplating fading away.'
As one continues on with their practice on the in-breath, letting go and calming the mind, and on the out-breath, letting go and calming the mind. Now the mind naturally lets go of all consciousness which were so readily seen before. The mind then gets into the realm of 'nothingness'. This is when there is no external thing for the mind to see. There is mind looking at nothing outside of itself. The Anupada Sutta say this:
As odd as this may sound, it is an exceptionally interesting state to be in. There are still many things to watch and observe although there is nothing to see outside of mind and mental factors. One still has the five aggregates affected by clinging, and some of the hindrances can still pop-up whenever one becomes either too lax or too energetic. It is here that the Seven Enlightenment Factors become very important. They can be seen one by one as they occur. When torpor arises, one must put the mind back into balance by arousing the enlightenment factor of mindfulness, investigation of one's experience, energy, and joy. If restlessness arises, one must arouse the enlightenment factors of mindfulness, tranquility, stillness, and equanimity. (More will be discussed later.) At this time, the mind becomes very subtle and tricky. It becomes very interesting to see the subtle ways it distracts one from meditation. However, one s mindfulness is quite strong and these tricks can be seen very easily.
He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in contemplating cessation'; he trains thus: 'I shall breathe out contemplating cessation.'
One still continues on calming the mind on the in and out breath. At this time, the mind begins to get smaller and it seems to shrink. The mind becomes very subtle and still. This is described in the Anupada Sutta as:
The mind becomes so small and has such little movement, that it is sometimes difficult to know whether there is a mind or not. It is also difficult to know if there is perception of a mind. This extremely fine state of mind is not easy to attain, yet it is attainable if one continues on with their practice of calming and expanding the mind when they know that mind is present. At this time, one cannot see the breath any longer, but there are still some feelings which arise. This is when one begins to sit for long periods of time. At this time, the meditation is the total tranquilizing and releasing of all energy. Also one must be innocent of time, the longer one sits the better. One begins to sit for three, four or five hours and this can be extended during retreats or at home with one's daily practice. This is because it is such an interesting state to be in! At this time, they can still experience an occasional feeling in the body. As one continues on with their practice and keep opening, expanding and calming their mind, the subtly becomes very fine and the mind does not move at all. Eventually one experiences the state called 'Nirodha Samapatti' or the cessation of both perception and feeling.
"He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in contemplating relinquishment'; he trains thus: 'I shall breath out contemplating relinquishment.'
This state of meditation is not the experience of the Supramundane Nibbana yet, but it is very close at that time. One experiences the Supramundane Nibbana when the meditator sees all of the twelve links of Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppada) both forwards and backwards. This happens after the perception and feeling comes back and is noticed. With the seeing of the final ignorance, there is a change in the mind. It becomes dispassionate, and completely lets go of the belief in a permanent unchanging self or soul. This is the only way one can experience the supramundane state of nibbana, that is by seeing directly all of the links of Dependent Origination. This is why it is called the 'Doctrine of Awakening'. The Anupada Sutta description is as follows:
When one is in the state of the cessation of perception and feeling, they will not know that they are in it. Why? It is because they do not have any perception or feeling at all! It is like all the lights were turned off on a very dark night. At that time one can not see anything at all, not even if they were to put their hands in front of their faces. This state is similar as there is no perception or feeling at all. One may sit in this state for a period of time. When the perception and feeling comes back, and if their mindfulness is sharp enough, they will see directly the Second Noble Truth or the cause of suffering (i.e., the cause and effect relationship of dependent origination). When one has seen all of them then, they will see directly the Third Noble Truth or the cessation of suffering (i.e., how all of these links cease to be and how letting go of one leads directly to the letting go of another). This is automatically seen by the meditator. It does not matter whether they have studied dependent origination or not. This is direct knowledge, not memorized or studied knowledge. The statement: 'And his taints are destroyed by his seeing with wisdom' means seeing and realizing all of the Noble Truths directly. It was said, "if one sees dependent origination, they see the Second and Third Noble Truth." But in order to see the origin of suffering one has to know what suffering is! Thus, if one sees the ceasing of the suffering i.e., the Third Noble Truth, they naturally see the Fourth Noble Truth. One must practice the way leading to the cessation of the suffering in order to see the other three Noble Truths. And this is the Fourth Noble Truth. Thus, seeing Dependent Origination directly, means that one sees and realizes all of the Noble Truths. This is how one contemplates relinquishment.
22- "Bhikkhus, that is how mindfulness of breathing is developed and cultivated, so that it is of great fruit and great benefit"
23- "And how, Bhikkhus, does mindfulness of breathing, developed and cultivated, fulfill the Four Foundations of Mindfulness?
24- "Bhikkhus, on whatever occasion a Bhikkhu, breathing in long, understands: 'I breathe in long,' or breathing out long understands: 'I breathe out long'; Breathing in short, understands: '1 breathe in short,' or breathing out short, understands: 'I breathe out short':
The 'on whatever occasion', is very interesting and has far reaching implications. 'On whatever occasion' does not mean only while sitting in meditation, but, all of the time. During one's daily activities, when the mind becomes heavy and full of thoughts, one notices it, simply lets go of the thoughts, calms and loosens the tightness in the mind, feels the mind expand and becomes tranquil then goes back to the breath for one or two breaths. This will help greatly in calming the mind and to improve our mindfulness during one's daily activities. This is definitely a practical way to practice one's daily activities and improve their awareness of states of consciousness. Everytime one does this during their daily activities, it brings a kind of awareness and perspective into their lives. It becomes easier to see the three characteristics of existence, impermanence, suffering, and not-self nature, even while working or playing.
The statement, 'On whatever occasion', extends into one's walking meditation as well. Instead of putting the attention on one's feet, (as some meditation teachers recommend), they can still keep their attention on the mind, relaxing on the in and out breath, while walking. This is mindfulness of body (the breath body) and can even extend into other activities. The mindfulness of mind objects is a very important aspect to be aware of and is much easier to watch than the physical body. It is easy to tell when the mind is tight and tense. At that time one can relax, loosen the tightness in the head then come back to the breath for one or two breaths, if they do not have time to do more right then. Remember that the first and second verses in the Dhammapada, "Mind is the forerunner of all (good and bad) states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they." Everything follows the mind, be it happiness or suffering. By trying to follow all the movements of the body, one cannot see the mind clearly enough to realize the tightness caused by that movement and consciousness. Thus, directly being aware of the mind and all of its movements and tendencies to tighten was what the Lord Buddha intended, when he said "On any occasion".
He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body (of breath)'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out experiencing the whole body (of breath)'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in tranquilizing the bodily formation'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out tranquilizing the bodily formation' -- On that occasion a Bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. I say that this is a certain body among the bodies, namely, in-breathing and out-breathing. That is why on that occasion a Bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.
The statements about experiencing the whole body [of breath], and the tranquilizing of the bodily formations have already been discussed. Thus, we won't repeat that section here. Contemplating the body as a body is self explanatory about the breath. Being ardent means working hard, or being ever alert. Fully aware and mindful, is pertaining to the alertness of the mind when it is in the jhanas (meditation stages) as well as during the daily activities. When one is in the "Tranquility jhanas", they are very aware of what is happening around them and their mindfulness is sharp and clear. One is able to observe all of the mind states, feelings, sensation, or distraction as well as the jhana factors when they arise in the mind, i.e., the joy, happiness, equanimity, stillness of mind, the calm composure of mind etc.
Having put away covetousness and grief for the world, means the mind has gone beyond the simple liking and disliking of distractions, emotions, painful feelings, pleasant feelings, happy feelings, and the thinking about them. It means to let go of attachment to things which cause suffering to arise. The rest of the paragraph is just repeating that the breath meditation is part of the mindfulness of breathing, and that it conforms with the First Foundation of Mindfulness of the Body.
25- "Bhikkhus, on whatever occasion, a Bhikkhu trains thus: 'I shall breathe in experiencing joy'; he trains thus: 'I shall breathe out experiencing joy'; He trains thus "I shall breathe in experiencing happiness'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out experiencing happiness'; He trains thus: '1 shall breathe in experiencing the mental formation'; he trains thus: 'I shall breathe out experiencing the mental formation'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in tranquilizing the mental formation'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out tranquilizing the mental formation' -
This is again a repetition of the previous statement, and thus, we will continue without further delay.
On that occasion a Bhikkhu abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. I say that this is a certain feeling among feelings, namely, giving close attention to the in-breathing and out-breathing. That is why on that occasion a Bhikkhu abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, fully aware and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.
This describes all kinds of feelings which occurs when one is in the meditation stages of the first four jhanas (meditation stages). It also says that the most important feeling among these feelings is the in and out breath. This is because one gets to experience the different stages of meditation. If they stop being attentive to the feeling of the breath, their meditation progress stops as well. The importance of staying with the feeling of the breath cannot be understated. And this is how the Second Foundation of Mindfulness of the Feeling is fulfilled.
26- "Bhikkhus, on whatever occasion a Bhikkhu trains thus: 'I shall breathe in experiencing the mind'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out experiencing the mind'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in gladdening the mind'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out gladdening the mind'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in stilling the mind'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out stilling the mind'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in liberating the mind'; He trains -thus: 'I shall breathe out liberating the mind'. -
This is again a repetitive material. Please refer back to the other section for explanation.
On that occasion a Bhikkhu abides contemplating mind as mind, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. I do not say that there is development of mindfulness of breathing for one who is forgetful, who is not fully aware. That is why on that occasion a Bhikkhu abides contemplating mind as mind, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.
The statement, "I do not say there is development of mindfulness of breathing for one who is forgetful, who is not fully aware" is one of the strongest statements made in this sutta. The function of mindfulness is to remember .To remember what? To remember to stay with the meditation object with joyful interest, and clear comprehension. When one is in the "Tranquility jhanas" (meditation stages) their mind becomes extraordinarily clear, bright, and alert. As one goes higher and higher along the path, more profound states of mind present themselves. The mindfulness and full awareness becomes so refined that even the slightest movement of the mind can be observed and let go of. The mind becomes looser, more expanded and spacious, free from tension and the breath becomes clearer and easier to watch. One's attention begins to be unwavering and the mind develops more composure than ever before. This is how the Third Foundation Of Mindfulness of Consciousness is fulfilled.
27- "Bhikkhus, on whatever occasion a Bhikkhu trains thus: 'I shall breathe in contemplating impermanence'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out contemplating impermanence'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in contemplating fading away'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out contemplating fading away'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in contemplating cessation'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out contemplating cessation'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in contemplating relinquishment'; He trains thus: 'I shall breathe out contemplating relinquishment' -
This, again is referring to the immaterial jhanas (arupa jhanas, or meditation stages) and how one experiences the attainment of the Supramundane Nibbana. This sutta teaches one how to reach all of the meditation stages and to attain the highest bliss through the seeing of all of the Four Noble Truths and through the fulfillment of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and the Seven Enlightenment Factors.
On that occasion a Bhikkhu abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. Having seen with wisdom the abandoning of covetousness and grief, he closely looks on with equanimity. That is why on that occasion a Bhikkhu abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.
When one experiences the higher jhanas (meditation stages), their mind develops a finer and finer balance in it. One then experiences the 'abandoning of covetousness and grief, he closely looks on with equanimity'. One sees clearly how tricky the mind truly is, and they keep a sense of equanimity in it, even though some unpleasant things may arise. The true balance of meditation is learnt when one goes into the immaterial realms of mind. This is when there is a real letting go of mental concepts and attachments. The mind develops such a beautiful equanimity that even when the most unpleasant feelings arise, the mind will accept it without being disturbed. This is how the Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness of Mind-Objects is fulfilled.
28- "Bhikkhus, that is how Mindfulness of Breathing, developed and cultivated, fulfills the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
29- "And how, Bhikkhus, do the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, developed and cultivated, fulfill the Seven Enlightenment Factors?
30- "Bhikkhus, on whatever occasion a Bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world -- on that occasion unremitting mindfulness is established in him. On whatever occasion unremitting mindfulness is established in a Bhikkhu -- on that occasion the Mindfulness Enlightenment Factor is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development, it comes to fulfillment in him.
Let us use a description from the Satipatthana Sutta for more clarification. It says:
This is rather straight forward. It simply says that one knows when their mind is silent, sharp, clear and joyfully interested in the breath and the other things which arise. One also knows when the mindfulness is dull, not sharp, and mind tends to be a little bored or disinterested. When that happens, one knows that they must pick-up their interest and see how everything that arises is truly different. One then sees how every breath is different, never exactly the same. This is how the mindfulness enlightenment factor comes to fulfillment by development.
31- Abiding thus mindful, he investigates and examines that state with wisdom and embarks upon a full inquiry into it. On whatever occasion, abiding thus mindful, a Bhikkhu investigates and examines that state with wisdom and embarks upon a full inquiry into it -- on that occasion the investigation-of-states enlightenment factor is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.
It is a very important to be familiar with the factor of investigation of one's experience. This means whatever arises, whether it is any of the five hindrances, or an emotional state, or a physical feeling, they impersonally examine it with interest. This is done by not getting involved with thinking about that phenomenon, but only observing it, allowing it to be there, then letting it go mentally -- by opening up that tight mental fist which hardenly grabs it, relax, expand and allow that distraction to be there by itself without thinking about it ... loosening the tightness in the mind/head ... then redirecting the attention back to the breath. Everytime the mind is pulled, one tries to see the different aspects about that distraction. Then let it go, relax the mind and come back to the breath. In this way, they can become more familiar with the distraction and able to recognize it more quickly. This type of investigation is described in the Satipatthana Sutta as:
To enable to bring forth the enlightenment factor of investigation-of-experience, one has to take a strong interest in how everything works. The more one examines their experiences, the easier it is to recognize all of the different and unusual aspects about the hindrances and distractions due to pain or emotional upset. When one sees these things clearly, it is much easier to let go of them. It is also important to develop the perspective that this is an impersonal process which is unsatisfactory and is always changing. This perspective enables one's practice to progress without periods of unclarity.
32- "In one who investigates and examines that state with wisdom and embarks upon a full inquiry into it, tireless energy is aroused. On whatever occasion tireless energy is aroused in a Bhikkhu who investigates and examines that state with wisdom and embarks upon a full inquiry into it -- on that occasion the energy enlightenment factor is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.
It takes a lot of energy and effort when one takes sincere interest into what is happening in the present moment and examines it with care. As they use their energy and have a strong joyful interest, this causes even more energy to arise. This is described in the Satipatthana Suttas as:
33- "In one who has aroused energy, unworldly joy arises (Unworldly joy (Ubbega Piti) refers to joy that is experienced while in one of the first two jhanas [meditation stages]. There is also the finer and higher type of joy which is called the all-pervading joy (Pharana Piti) which can be felt in all of the higher jhanas [meditation stages]. These are called unworldly because it has nothing at all to do with any sense pleasures (that is, the eye, ear, nose, tongue, or body).) On whatever occasion unworldly joy arises in a Bhikkhu who has aroused energy -- on that occasion the joy enlightenment factor is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.
As one has more energy in staying on the breath, their mindfulness becomes sharper and their energy increases little by little. When this happens, the mind becomes quite happy and delights in staying on the breath and expanding the mind. This happy feeling has some excitement and is called uplifting joy (Ubbega Piti). There is another type of joy which arises in the higher meditation states and this is called the all-pervading joy (Pharana Piti). It doesn't have so much excitement and is very nice and cooling to the mind. These states of mind are not to be feared or pushed away. It is a natural process when one develops and progresses along with their practice of meditation. If they stay on the breath and open their minds with interest and do not get involved in enjoying the joy, no problems will arise. But, if one does happen to get involved with the joy, it will go away very quickly. As a result, they will most likely experience sleepiness or sloth and torpor The Satipatthana Sutta says:
These first four enlightenment factors are very important when one experiences sloth and torpor. Sloth means sleepiness and torpor means dullness of mind. When one gets into the fourth jhana and above, the two main hindrances which arise are restlessness and torpor. However, when one brings up the investigation factor of enlightenment and examines this torpor, they have to use more energy and this helps to overcome this dullness. When one gets into the higher jhanas they must learn to fine tune their practice little by little. By being familiar with these enlightenment factors, one will learn how to eventually balance all of the factors. This directly leads to the supramundane state of Nibbana.
The most important key for success in meditation is the first enlightenment factor of mindfulness. Without mindfulness, one cannot possibly reach any of these meditation stages. Mindfulness is the main key to overcome both sloth and torpor, and restlessness. Remember these hindrances can come at any time and knock the meditator right out of any of the meditation stages, even up to the realm of neither-perception nor non-perception. Thus, one must be very careful to recognize these enlightenment factors and skillful in learning how to use them when it is appropriate. The next three enlightenment factors are important to overcome restlessness.
34- "In one who is joyful, the body and the mind become tranquil. On whatever occasion the body and the mind become tranquil in a Bhikkhu who is joyful -- on that occasion the tranquillity enlightenment factor is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.
When joy arises in the mind, one feels very pleasant feelings in the body and mind. This is true, even in the higher stages of meditation, like the immaterial states of jhana (meditation stages). After a while, the joy fades a little and one's mind becomes exceptionally calm and peaceful. This state is called the enlightenment factor of tranquility. At that time, one's body and mind become extraordinarily peaceful and calm. The Satipatthana Sutta describes it thus:
Actually, the strongest part of the tranquility enlightenment factor is the bodily feeling. It is very nice, calm and with a feeling of strong peace. This is especially noticed when one is experiencing the first three immaterial jhanas (meditation stages) which are the realm of infinite space, the realm of infinite consciousness and the realm of nothingness.
35- "In one whose body is tranquil and who feels pleasure, the mind becomes still and composed. On whatever occasion the mind becomes still and composed in a Bhikkhu whose body is tranquil and who feels pleasure -- on that occasion the stillness enlightenment factor (This is frequently called the concentration enlightenment factor, but this term is too misunderstood. So the author prefers to use stillness enlightenment factor) is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.
As one's mind and body become more tranquil and at ease, the mind stays on the breath and the expanding mind more naturally, without any distractions. It is much easier to open and relax the mind with each in and out breath. The mind is definitely composed and unruffled by any external or internal distractions. There comes a time when mind prefers to stay still on the meditation object, without undue force or trying to concentrate. It stays on the breath for very long periods of time. Of course, at this time, there is very sharp mindfulness and full awareness. One still has full awareness even when they reach the realm of nothingness. The mind does not waver or move away from the breath even though one hears sounds or knows that a mosquito has landed on them. The mindfulness of breathing and stillness are very clear and sharp to observe. When one is in the realm of nothingness, they can explore and watch many different aspects of the mind. Their mind is also very clear, even though one is in the lower meditation stages. Since one's mind is still, they can observe things quite clearly, too. This can be called the action of silence. When the mind is absolutely silent, it is the blessing that everyone is seeking. In this silence, every quality of silence is perfection of the present moment. The Satipatthana Sutta describes this as:
36- "He closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus stilled and composed. On whatever occasion a Bhikkhu closely looks on with equanimity at the mind thus stilled and composed -- on that occasion the equanimity enlightenment factor is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.
The equanimity enlightenment factor is again, a very important factor to develop. It balances the mind when it becomes unsettled. The equanimity enlightenment factor is the only factor which allows the mind to lovingly-accept whatever arises in the present moment. For example, if there arise any kinds of pain (physical or emotional), it doesn't distract the meditator. The equanimity enlightenment factor is the factor which helps one to see things impersonally and without the ego-identification of getting involved with distractions. It is the seeing of what arises in the moment, then going beyond it with balance. The seeing of anatta (not-self) is the very thing which allows one to progress rapidly along the Lord Buddha's Path. But one must be somewhat careful with equanimity because it is often mistaken to be indifference. Indifference has some dissatisfaction and aversion in it, but not equanimity. Equanimity has only openness and complete acceptance of everything that arises in the present moment. Equanimity opens the mind totally. Indifference closes it, and tries to ignore what is happening in the moment. The Satipatthana Sutta describes it thus:
These last three enlightenment factors, tranquility, stillness, and equanimity factors, will greatly assist one when restlessness arises in the mind. Restlessness makes the mind think many thoughts and causes lots of unpleasant feelings to arise in the body. As a result, one feels like breaking their meditation and distracting themselves in one way or another. To say the least, it is a very hard mind that causes suffering to he more noticeable. The only way to overcome restlessness is by developing stillness of mind and tranquility of body. When the mind has restlessness in it, there is no balance of mind at all. Instead, there is a lot of ego-identification with that terrible feeling. Thus, to overcome this hindrance, one has to allow it to be there by itself and still the mind. By bringing forth the stillness, tranquility, and equanimity enlightenment factors and focusing the mind on these different factors, they will overcome the restlessness.
The two major hindrances that always seem to trouble meditators are torpor, or dullness of mind, and restlessness or over activity of mind. One had better become friends with these two hindrances, because they will stay around until one becomes an arahat. Thus, the sooner we drop all resistance to these states when they arise and begin to explore them with joyful interest, the faster we will be able to recognize them. As a result, we will be able to let them go faster and return into the jhana (meditation stage).
37- "Bhikkhus, on whatever occasion a Bhikkhu abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world... (this whole formula repeats itself again starting at section 30 and continuing on until section number 36) the equanimity enlightenment factor is arouse in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.
One must realize that they must use these enlightenment factors, whenever any hindrance or distraction arises. It does not matter if the hindrance arises during one's sitting meditation or during their daily activities. These factors put the mind in balance whenever it gets bumped by a distraction.
And so, this goes on through all of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. It shows one how to use the seven enlightenment factors at all times while practicing the Mindfulness of Breathing meditation. These enlightenment factors do arise one by one as they occur and not all at the same time. Also, it shows the importance of jhanas (meditation stages) to the development of the mind and how there is great fruit and great benefit to be enjoyed when we follow these simple instructions.
38- "Bhikkhus, on whatever occasion a Bhikkhu contemplates mind as mind, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world... (Again, this repeats from section 30 to section 36) the equanimity enlightenment factor is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.
39- "Bhikkhus, on whatever occasion a Bhikkhu abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief f6r the world... (repeat section 30 to 36) the equanimity enlightenment factor is aroused in him, and he develops it, and by development it comes to fulfillment in him.
40- "Bhikkhus, that is how the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, developed and cultivated, fulfill the Seven Enlightenment Factors.
When the seven enlightenment factors are in perfect balance, the possibility of attaining the Supramundane Nibbana occurs. As one goes higher and higher in the jhanas (meditation stages), the balance of the enlightenment factors becomes finer and much more subtle. This fine tuning of the mind becomes so interesting that one wants to naturally sit for much longer periods of time. This meditation is by far the best show in town!
Some meditators get up very early in the morning so that they have enough time to watch and learn the balance of mind and still go to work. This meditation turns out to be the most gratifying and fun exploration that anyone can ever experience, during any of one's activities.
41- "And how, Bhikkhus, do the Seven Enlightenment Factors, developed and cultivated, fulfill true knowledge and deliverance?
42- "Here, Bhikkhus, a Bhikkhu develops the mindfulness enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, and ripens in relinquishment.
The term "supported by seclusion" means that one must gain the lowest jhana (meditation stage). As was stated above, the description of the first jhana starts with "to be secluded from sensual pleasure, then to be secluded from unwholesome states". At that time, the mind is alert and stays on the object of meditation with clarity, i.e. no distractions. If a distraction begins to arise, the mindfulness recognizes that and lets it go. Next, the description says the happiness experienced comes about by being born of seclusion. This is how one's mindfulness enlightenment factor is supported by seclusion.
Dispassion means the mind is free from attachments and clinging, i.e., not thinking or analyzing. Gaining to the fourth jhana (meditation stage) means to reach a stage of having an imperturbable mind, or a mind that has such strong equanimity that it becomes dispassionate. This is how one's mindfulness enlightenment factor is supported by dispassion.
Cessation here means the ceasing of defilements and ego-identification with what arises.
Being mindful is a term that always had a kind of slippery meaning and it is not what most people think. Its meaning is very simple and precise when it is seen as observing mind, or attention, or alertness of attention. Being truly mindful means to see what the mind is doing at all times, then let go of the things that cause tension to arise in the head, relax and tranquilize both body and mind. It includes observing how this whole process works and allows it to be, without getting involved in the drama of things. Not getting involved with the drama of things means, to not identify with, or take personally this impersonal process or try to control the present moment.
Being mindful means to lovingly open one's mind and let go of all identification with that distraction, then relax the tension in the head and in the mind, so that one can see things clearly and calmly. Whenever one tries to resist or control what is happening in the present moment, they are at that time, fighting with the 'Dhamma' or 'Truth of the Present Moment.'
This fighting with the reality of the moment causes so much unsatisfactoriness and suffering to arise. However, when one is mindful and see clearly that this is just a phenomena arising and passing away, they can open up and accept it, without hardening their mind or resisting in any way. At this time, joyful interest is very important because when the mind has some joy in it there is no anger, jealousy, aversion, fear, or anxiety, etc. Joyful interest helps the meditator to have the proper perspective of seeing what happens in the moment impersonally. When the mind is uplifted, one sees that whatever arises is just part of a continuing process which they can learn from. Joy causes the mind to be uplifted, which is why it is an enlightenment factor and very important to one's practice. Also, when joy is in one's mind, they are pleasant to be around. Remember, the acronym that is very helpful to use is DROPS. It stands for Don't Resist Or Push, SMILE and Soften the mind and accept everything when it occurs, because that is the "Dhamma of the Moment".
When one continues on with their practice, their mind will eventually attain to the higher and more subtle stages of meditations (arupa jhanas). At that time, one's mind experiences the realm of 'nothingness'. This is what is called cessation. It is called this because there is nothing more to watch outside of the mind. When one experiences the realm of 'nothingness', their mind is watching nothing. But the mind is still there and the different enlightenment factors can arise along with the five aggregates which are affected by clinging. Also, some hindrances can still arise and knock one out of that exalted state. Thus, there is nothing for the mind to watch outside of itself, and yet, there is still lots to see. This is how one's mindfulness enlightenment factor is supported by cessation.
When one experiences the realm of neither-perception nor non-perception, and keeps opening and relaxing the mind, eventually they will experience the cessation of perception and feeling (Nirodha-Samapatti). During this occurrence, one will not know this turning off of consciousness because they have no perception or feeling at all! This is the only stage of meditation where this phenomena occurs. This meditation state is still mundane, it is not the Supramundane Nibbana yet. How can one know what is happening without perception or feeling? It is only when the perception and feeling come back, and if the mindfulness is sharp enough, will one sees directly, each and every link of dependent origination forwards, one by one as they occur. Even this is not the Supramundane State of Nibbana. The links are: When ignorance arises then formations arise, when formations arise then consciousness arises, when consciousness arises mentality-materiality arises, when mentality-materiality arises then the six-fold sense base arises, when the six-fold sense base arises contact arises, when contact arises feeling arises, when feeling arises craving arises, when craving arises then clinging arises, when clinging arises then being arises, when being arises birth arises, when birth arises then old age, death arises.
After this arising phenomenon ends, then one will experience the cessation of the dependent origination, which goes: When old age and death cease then birth ceases, when birth ceases then being ceases, when being ceases clinging ceases, when clinging ceases then craving ceases, when craving ceases feeling ceases, when feeling ceases then contact ceases, when contact ceases the six-fold sense base ceases, when the six-fold sense base ceases then mentality-materiality ceases, when mentality-materiality ceases then consciousness ceases, when consciousness ceases then formations cease, when formations cease then ignorance ceases.
The seeing of dependent origination both forwards and backwards leads the mind to the attainment of the 'Supramundane Nibbana'. This is where there is a major change in one's outlook. One's mind at that time, becomes dispassionate about the belief in a permanent everlasting ego or self. They see from first hand experiential knowledge, that this is just an impersonal process and there is no one controlling the way phenomena arise. These arise because conditions are right for them to arise. In Buddhist terms, this is called 'anatta' or not self nature of existence. One also realizes that no one can possibly attain sainthood by the practice of mere chanting words or phrases or suttas, or the practice of having rites and rituals done for them by someone else or by themselves. One has no more doubt about what is the correct path that leads to the higher stages of purity of mind towards arahatship. This is how one becomes a sotapanna and attains the true path of purification. There is no other way to attain these exalted stages of being. It is only through the realization of the Noble Truths by seeing Dependent Origination. Merely seeing the three characteristics will not now, nor ever be, the experience which leads to the 'Supramundane Nibbana'. This is why all of the Buddha's appear in the world, to show the way to realizing the Noble Truths.
He develops the investigation of experience enlightenment factor ... the energy enlightenment factor... the joy enlightenment factor... the tranquility enlightenment factor... the stillness enlightenment factor... the equanimity enlightenment factor, which is supported by seclusion, dispassion, and cessation, which ripens in relinquishment.
43- "Bhikkhus, that is how the Seven Enlightenment Factors, developed and cultivated, fulfill true knowledge and deliverance.
Since this sutta describes the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and the Seven Enlightenment Factors, the author will conclude with the last part of the Satipathana Sutta. This is taken from the Majjhima Nikaya Sutta number 10, sections 46 to 47. It says:
This means attaining to the state of being an anagami or non-returner
That is what the Blessed One said. The Bhikkhus were satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One's words.
This is a pretty big claim which is not made up by the author. He is only reporting what is in the suttas. When one is serious about the practice of developing their mind through the 'Tranquility' of the 'Mindfulness of Breathing', they can reach the final goal. When one reaches the first pleasant abiding (the first jhana) and if they continue on with their practice, they have the potential to attain either the stage of 'anagami' or 'arahat'. This is what the Lord Buddha said. If one is ardent, and continues without changing or stopping in their practice, then surely they will reach the goal which is described.
Again, remember that the only way to attain the Supramundane Nibbana is by realizing Dependent Origination both forwards and backwards. There is no other way because this is the seeing and realizing of the Four Noble Truths which forms the main teaching of the Lord Buddha. Great fruits and benefits befalls on those who practiced according to the instructions prescribed by the Lord Buddha.
If there are any mistakes in this book, the author takes full responsibility and requests that these mistakes be pointed out to him. The sincere wish of the author is that all who practices meditation, will continue on with their efforts until they reach the highest and best state possible, that is, the attainment of Final Liberation, the Supramundane Nibbana. May all those who are sincere, know and understand the Four Noble Truths, through direct knowledge, attain the highest goal. May all practitioners of the Lord Buddha's path, realize all of the links of Dependent Origination quickly, and easily; so that their suffering will soon be overcome.
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The author would like to share the merit accrued by the writing of this book with his parents, relatives, helpers and all beings so that they can eventually attain the highest Bliss and be free from all suffering
to English Index]
last updated: 13-03-2009