Anapanasati: Some First Tetrad Questions

Nicholas Vincent Berardelli, modified 6 Years ago.

Anapanasati: Some First Tetrad Questions

Posts: 6 Join Date: 4/25/15 Recent Posts
Hey ya'll, I want to ask a few questions about the practice of the First Tetrad of Anapanasati, as laid out by the Buddha the Anapanasati Sutta (see link at bottom). 

Anapanasati has been my main meditation practice for sometime, as it is my understanding that the practice of Anapanasati can function as a complete practice that can lead all the way to Awakening, as it encompasses both samatha and vipassasa. As a relatively younger meditator, my practice has been focused on the First Tetrad, as I am still seeking to cultivate the sufficient amount of calm and concentration demanded by these stages. 

My question concerns the transition from Stages 1 & 2 to the last two stages of the First Tetrad. This will take a second to explain, so bear with me. The first two steps begin with the following formula: "Breathing in long/Breathing in short, he discerns". Teachers I've heard speak about this little phrase (also translated as, "he knows") often say something like, at this point of the practice the meditator is simply to recognize the current state of the breath, without trying to add anything to it. OK, cool, fair enough. 

This is where I start to get confused. The subsequent third and forth stages of the Tetrad and, in fact, all the following fourteen stages begin with the formula, "He trains himself......". The next two stages of Anapanasati instruct the meditator to sense the entire bodily fabrication, and then to calm the entire bodily fabrication. I have a sense of what this means and have heard various interpretations of it, ranging from the bodily formation being equated with mindfulness of all the parts of the breath (beginning, middle, and end), the bodily formation being the actual experience of the body, and a few others. In any case, the meditator is to expand their awareness to include this formation, and eventually calm it. 

My question is: how does the meditator move from Stages 1 & 2 to Stages 3 & 4? How am I to know when I should cease simply knowing the state of breath as it is in the present moment (stage 1 and 2), and shift to actively taking a role in the meditation (so to speak) and trying to in turn sense and calm the bodily fabrication (stages 3 and 4)? My only idea so far is that once a sufficient amount of concentration has been achieved through the practice of stages 1 & 2, then the meditator can turn their attention to the next stages. However, I'm not sure what may constitute a sufficient amount of concentration! I've been quite frustrated with this issue for sometime now, as I am without any sort of meditation teacher (which is why I turn to you!), so any advice is very much appreciated

Thanks and Metta. 


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html
thumbnail
katy steger, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Anapanasati: Some First Tetrad Questions

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Nicholaus,

If you are anything like me, when first starting out in anapanasati (exhale-inhale remembering), there's mind wandering and mind remembering lots of other stuff, but the breath.

So let's say we each are able to have our mind stay with one inhale and one exhale, all the time including the little natural pauses at the top and the bottom of the inhale and exhale: Okay, we know the breath.

Now we train to do that again. And maybe we stay with two breathes.

Breathing meditation is calming down a tense and or aggitated mind and anapanasati is specifically creating a positive mental cascade by which one comes to develop for themselves and have access to a very even keel mental condition: balance, equanimity, regardless of the formations that arise in our mind. 


So it is a positive way to train the mind to see itself, like having really four nice/safe teachers (jhanas).
Pål, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Anapanasati: Some First Tetrad Questions

Posts: 778 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
Nowhere in the sutta it is said to be 16 steps, but I go with that anyway just because so many teachers teach it that way. 
Step 3. is experiencing the whole body, not the bodily fabrication. I'm still not sure what it means, currently trying the two completely different approaches of Thanissaro vs Ajahm Brahm to see the difference in results.
Step 4. Is calming the bodily fabrication. According to several other suttas, bodily fabrication=the breath so step 4. is calming the breath. I've found that this happens by itself if you relax both body and mind.
Nicholas, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Anapanasati: Some First Tetrad Questions

Posts: 6 Join Date: 4/25/15 Recent Posts
[quote=]
Pål:
Nowhere in the sutta it is said to be 16 steps, but I go with that anyway just because so many teachers teach it that way. 

Unless I'm mistaken, within the Anapanasati Sutta, their are 16 stages delineated by the Buddha. Although, it is possible the numerical organization of this Mindfulness of Breath teaching was added in later to make the organization more apparent (but of course we can never know who added what, or if anything in the Suttas was actually said by the Buddha). 


And to the both of you, yes, I suppose cultivating equanimity and a sense of balance are the most important things to keep in mind. I've been starting to notice lately how concentration established on the breath, after a while, starts to smooth and calm the breath. With this calming, the body and mind cannot but surely follow. And I think you mentioned an important point about trying out different interpretations of the stages (like the Thanisaaro vs. Ajahm Brahm methods); a little experimentation is sure to yield good results, as I will eventually find what works (hopefully!). 

Thanks for the comments!
thumbnail
Nicky, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Anapanasati: Some First Tetrad Questions

Posts: 484 Join Date: 8/2/14 Recent Posts
Nicholas:
Pål:
Nowhere in the sutta it is said to be 16 steps, but I go with that anyway just because so many teachers teach it that way. 

Unless I'm mistaken, within the Anapanasati Sutta, their are 16 stages delineated by the Buddha. Although, it is possible the numerical organization of this Mindfulness of Breath teaching was added in later to make the organization more apparent (but of course we can never know who added what, or if anything in the Suttas was actually said by the Buddha). 


And to the both of you, yes, I suppose cultivating equanimity and a sense of balance are the most important things to keep in mind. I've been starting to notice lately how concentration established on the breath, after a while, starts to smooth and calm the breath. With this calming, the body and mind cannot but surely follow. And I think you mentioned an important point about trying out different interpretations of the stages (like the Thanisaaro vs. Ajahm Brahm methods); a little experimentation is sure to yield good results, as I will eventually find what works (hopefully!). 

Thanks for the comments!

It is important to not have doubt & uncertainty in the mind about the teachings.

The 1st two stages are preliminary, like when children use training wheels on their 1st bicycle. They do not actually form part of the real training, which is why the phrase: "He trains himself" is not included with them.

Essentially, Anapanasati has 14 stages, which occur sequentially one after another. The numerical organisation was made by the Buddha. It was not added later.

Cultivating equanimity and a sense of balance are the most important things to keep in mind because the instructions in the Anapanasati Sutta state: "He is ardent, clearly comprehends and is mindful to abandon/let go of covetousness/liking & distress /disliking in relation to the world".

It is correct that you have been starting to notice lately how concentration established on the breath, after a while, starts to smooth and calm the breath; that with this calming, the body and mind cannot but surely follow.

This is the practise of Steps 3 & 4, namely, you notice when the mind is calm/has equinimity/has abandoned craving-&-clinging, the breath becomes calm; when the breath becomes calm, the body becomes calm; then the mind becomes more calm; then the breath becomes more calm; then the body becomes more calm; then the mind becomes more calm;....on & on...until rapture (stage 5) naturally arises.

As I explained, the phrase: "sabba kaya" means "all bodies". The in & out breathing is a body (kaya), the physical body (rupa kaya) is also a body and the mind (nama kaya) is also a body.

When you experience 'all bodies', namely, how the mind, breathing & physical body affect/influence/interact with eachother in a cause & effect relationship pertaining to suffering & peace, this is the practice of stage 3.

Note: Both samatha (calming) & vipassana (insight of cause & effect and the 4NTs) are occuring in tandem.

All the best. May practise progress. emoticon

Kāyesu kāyaññatarāhaṃ, bhikkhave, evaṃ vadāmi yadidaṃ – assāsapassāsā

I tell you, monks, that this — the in-&-out breath — is classed as a body among bodies

MN 118
thumbnail
Nicky, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Anapanasati: Some First Tetrad Questions

Posts: 484 Join Date: 8/2/14 Recent Posts
Nicholas:

Thanks and Metta. 


Hi Nicholas

Your theoretical ideas are mixed up in your post, such as "shifting" from stages 1 & 2 and then "actively" engaging in stages 3 & 4. In actual practise is the opposite. Stages 1 & 2 are "active" since they are the results of the clumsy & rough practise of a beginner. Where as stages 3 & 4 are subtle & sublime, born from increasing "non-activity". As for "shifting", there is no "shifting" anywhere from stage 3 to stage 16. Instead, the stages are a natural unfolding.

The phrase: "He trains himself" is exceptionally important because it is found in every stage of Anapanasati except stages 1 & 2. The phrase: "He trains himself" means the practitioner is equipped with the Three Trainings (Tri-Sikkha) of sila (morality), samadhi (collectedness) & panna (wisdom). The wisdom component is particularly central (as 'leader') because samadhi here is developed via wisdom, namely, the 'letting go' prescibed in the Four Noble Truths. Some quotes below:

~~And what is the faculty of concentration? There is the case where a monk, a noble disciple, making it his object to let go, attains concentration, attains singleness of mind.

SN 48.9 & 10

~~As for samadhi, an empty mind is the supreme samadhi, the supremely focused firmness of mind. The straining and striving sort of samadhi isn't the real thing and the samadhi which aims at anything other than non-clinging to the five khandas is micchasamadhi (wrong or perverted samadhi). You should be aware that there is both micchasamadhi and sammasamadhi (right or correct samadhi). Only the mind that is empty of grasping at and clinging to 'I' and 'mine' can have the true and perfect stability of sammasamadhi. One who has an empty mind has correct samadhi.

Bhikkhu Buddhadasa

Therefore, stages 3 & 4 are properly practised by using non-clinging & the abandoning of craving as the meditation object (rather than a direct mental intention to focus on the breathing). This is the meaning of the phrase: "He trains himself". 

Please also refer to MN 117, where it is explained the Noble Right Concentration has 7 supporting factors of which Right View is the leader.

emoticon
thumbnail
Nicky, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Anapanasati: Some First Tetrad Questions

Posts: 484 Join Date: 8/2/14 Recent Posts
Nicholas:
Thanks and Metta. 


The term is: "all bodies" (sabba kaya) rather than "entire body" and the term for the breathing (kaya sankhara) is "body fabricator" or "body conditioner" rather than "bodily fabrication" or "bodily condition".

MN 44 defines the kaya sankhara as the in & out breathing. MN 118 states in & out breathing is a body (kaya) among other bodies (kaya).

The terms 'fabricator' & 'conditioner' mean the breathing has a causal influence (sankhara) upon the physical body (kaya). The ancient people understood it is the breath that gives life to the physical body.

Therefore, experiencing/discerning "all bodies" means discerning how the quality of the breathing influences/conditions/fabricates the quality of the physical body.

It means experiencing a cause & effect relationship between the breathing & the physical body that is related to suffering & peace.

For example, when the breathing is calm, smooth, long & refined - the physical body is also calm & comfortable. Or conversely, when the breathing is short, rough & agitated - the physical body is also agitated & uncomfortable.

Try to comprehend how this explanation conforms with the fundamental principles of Buddhism, namely, the causes & effects that result in suffering or, otherwise, nibbana (peace).

Only Bhikkhu Buddhadasa has explained Stage 3 correctly, according to reality, here: http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books3/Bhikkhu_Buddhadasa_Anapanasati_Mindfulness_with_Breathing.htm

All the best. emoticon

~~Observe what influence the different breaths have upon the flesh-body. The breath has a great influence on the rest of the physical body and this influence needs to be seen clearly. Observe both sides of the relationship until it is obvious that they are interconnected and inseparable. See that the breath-body conditions and concocts the flesh-body.

Bhikkhu Buddhadasa

Breadcrumb