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Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing

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Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing

 

Anapanasati Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya, 118
Translated by Thich Nhat Hanh

I

            I heard these words of the Buddha one time when he was staying in Savatthi in the Eastern Park, with many well-known and ac­com­plished disci­ples, including Shariputra, Mahamog­gallana, Ma­hakassapa, Mahakaccayana, Mahakotthita, Ma­hakappina, Mahacunda, Anuruddha, Rewata, and Ananda. The se­nior bhik­khus in the community were diligently in­structing bhikkhus who were new to the prac­tice—some instructing ten students, some twenty, some thirty, and some forty; and in this way the bhikkhus new to the practice gradu­ally made great progress.

            That night the moon was full, and the Pavarana Cer­e­mony was held to mark the end of the rainy-season retreat. Lord Buddha, the Awakened One, was sitting in the open air, and his disciples were gathered around him. After look­ing over the as­sembly, he began to speak:

            “O bhikkhus, I am pleased to observe the fruit you have attained in your practice. Yet I know you can make even more progress. What you have not yet attained, you can attain. What you have not yet re­al­ized, you can realize perfectly. [To encourage your efforts,] I will remain here until the next full moon day.”

            When they heard that the Lord Buddha was going to remain in Savatthi for another month, bhikkhus through­out the country began traveling there to study with him. The senior bhik­khus continued teaching the bhikkhus new to the prac­tice even more ardently. Some were instruct­ing ten  bhikkhus, some twenty, some thirty, and some forty. With this help, the newer bhikkhus were able, lit­tle by little, to continue their progress in under­stand­ing.

            When the next full moon day arrived, the Buddha, seated under the open sky, looked over the assem­bly of bhikkhus and began to speak:

            “O bhikkhus, our community is pure and good. At its heart, it is without useless and boastful talk, and therefore it deserves to receive offerings and be considered a field of merit. Such a commu­nity is rare, and any pilgrim who seeks it, no mat­ter how far he must travel, will find it wor­thy.

            “O bhikkhus, there are bhikkhus in this assembly who have realized the fruit of Arhatship, destroyed every root of affliction, laid aside every burden, and attained right understand­ing and emancipation. There are also bhikkhus who have cut off the first five internal formations and realized the fruit of never return­ing to the cycle of birth and death.

            “There are those who have thrown off the first three in­ternal formations and realized the fruit of re­turning once more. They have cut off the roots of greed, ha­tred, and ignorance, and will only need to re­turn to the cycle of birth and death one more time. There are those who have thrown off the three in­ternal formations and attained the fruit of stream enterer, coursing steadily to the Awak­ened State. There are those who practice the Four Establish­ments of Mind­ful­ness. There are those who prac­tice the Four Right Efforts, and those who prac­tice the Four Bases of Success. There are those who practice the Five Faculties, those who prac­tice the Five Powers, those who practice the Seven Factors of Awaken­ing, and those who practice the Noble Eightfold Path. There are those who practice loving kindness, those who practice compassion, those who practice joy, and those who practice equa­nimity. There are those who practice the Nine Contempla­tions, and those who practice the Observation of Imperma­nence. There are also bhik­khus who are already practicing Full Awareness of Breathing.”

II

            “O bhikkhus, the method of being fully aware of breathing, if developed and practiced continuously, will have great rewards and bring great advantages. It will lead to success in practicing the Four Estab­lishments of Mindfulness. If the method of the Four Establishments of Mindfulness is developed and prac­ticed con­tinuously, it will lead to success in the prac­tice of the Seven Factors of Awakening. The Seven Factors of Awakening, if developed and practiced continu­ously, will give rise to under­standing and liberation of the mind.

            “What is the way to develop and practice continu­ously the method of Full Awareness of Breathing so that the practice will be rewarding and offer great benefit?

            “It is like this, bhikkhus: the practitioner goes into the forest or to the foot of a tree, or to any deserted place, sits stably in the lotus position, holding his or her body quite straight, and practices like this: ‘Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.’

            1. ‘Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breath­ing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.’

            2. ‘Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.’

            3. ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.’ He or she practices like this.

            4. ‘Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.’ He or she practices like this.

            5. ‘Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breath­ing out, I feel joyful.’ He or she prac­tices like this.

            6. ‘Breathing in, I feel happy. Breath­ing out, I feel happy.’ He or she practices like this.

            7. ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my mental formations. Breathing out, I am aware of my mental formations.’ He or she prac­tices like this.

            8. ‘Breathing in, I calm my mental formations. Breathing out, I calm my mental formations.’ He or she practices like this.

            9. ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my mind. Breathing out, I am aware of my mind.’ He or she prac­tices like this.

            10. ‘Breathing in, I make my mind happy. Breathing out, I make my mind happy.’ He or she practices like this.

            11. ‘Breathing in, I concentrate my mind. Breathing out, I concentrate my mind.’ He or she practices like this.

            12. ‘Breathing in, I liberate my mind. Breathing out, I liberate my mind.’ He or she practices like this.

            13. ‘Breathing in, I observe the imperma­nent nature of all dharmas. Breathing out, I observe the impermanent nature of all dhar­mas.’ He or she practices like this.

            14. ‘Breathing in, I observe the disappearance of desire. Breathing out, I observe the disappearance of desire.’ He or she practices like this.

            15. ‘Breathing in, I observe cessa­tion. Breathing out, I observe cessa­tion.’ He or she practices like this.

            16. ‘Breathing in, I observe letting go. Breathing out, I observe letting go.’ He or she practices like this.

            “The Full Awareness of Breathing, if developed and practiced continuously according to these instruc­tions, will be rewarding and of great benefit.”

III

            “In what way does one develop and continuously practice the Full Awareness of Breathing, in order to succeed in the practice of the Four Establish­ments of Mindfulness?

            “When the practitioner breathes in or out a long or a short breath, aware of his breath or his whole body, or aware that he is making his whole body calm and at peace, he abides peacefully in the observation of the body in the body, persevering, fully awake, clearly understanding his state, gone beyond all attachment and aversion to this life. These exercises of breathing with Full Awareness belong to the First Establishment of Mind­fulness, the body.

            “When the practitioner breathes in or out aware of joy or happiness, of the mental formations, or to make the mental formations peaceful, he abides peacefully in the observation of the feelings in the feelings, persevering, fully awake, clearly under­standing his state, gone be­yond all at­tachment and aversion to this life. These exercises of breathing with Full Aware­ness belong to the Second Establish­ment of Mindfulness, the feelings.

            “When the practitioner breathes in or out with the awareness of the mind, or to make the mind happy, to collect the mind in concentra­tion, or to free and liberate the mind, he abides peacefully in the observation of the mind in the mind, persevering, fully awake, clearly under­standing his state, gone beyond all at­tachment and aversion to this life. These exercises of breathing with Full Awareness belong to the Third Establishment of Mindfulness, the mind. Without Full Awareness of Breathing, there can be no develop­ment of medi­tative stability and under­standing.

            “When the practitioner breathes in or breathes out and contemplates the essential impermanence or the essential disappearance of desire or cessation or letting go, he abides peace­fully in the observations of the objects of mind in the objects of mind, persevering, fully awake, clearly un­der­standing his state, gone be­yond all at­tachment and aversion to this life. These exercises of breathing with Full Awareness belong to the Fourth Establishment of Mindfulness, the objects of mind.

            “The practice of Full Awareness of Breathing, if de­veloped and practiced continuously, will lead to per­fect accomplishment of the Four Establish­ments of Mindfulness.”

IV

            “Moreover, if they are developed and continuously practiced, the Four Establishments of Mindfulness will lead to perfect abiding in the Seven Factors of Awak­ening. How is this so?

            “When the practitioner can maintain, without dis­traction, the practice of observing the body in the body, the feelings in the feelings, the mind in the mind, and the objects of mind in the objects of mind, persevering, fully awake, clearly under­standing his state, gone beyond all attachment and aversion to this life, with unwavering, steadfast, imperturbable meditative stability, he will attain the First Factor of Awakening, namely mindfulness. When this fac­tor is developed, it will come to perfection.

            “When the practitioner can abide in meditative sta­bility without being distracted and can investi­gate every dharma, every object of mind that arises, then the Second Factor of Awakening will be born and de­veloped in him, the factor of inves­tigating dharmas. When this factor is developed, it will come to perfec­tion.

            “When the practitioner can observe and investigate every dharma in a sustained, persevering, and steadfast way, without being distracted, the Third Factor of Awakening will be born and developed in him, the factor of energy. When this factor is de­vel­oped, it will come to perfection.

            “When the practitioner has reached a stable, im­per­turb­able abiding in the stream of practice, the Fourth Factor of Awakening will be born and de­veloped in him, the factor of joy. When this fac­tor is developed, it will come to perfection.

            “When the practitioner can abide undistractedly in the state of joy, he will feel his body and mind light and at peace. At this point the Fifth Factor of Awakening will be born and developed, the factor of ease. When this factor is de­veloped, it will come to perfection.

            “When both body and mind are at ease, the practi­tioner can easily enter into concentra­tion. At this point the Sixth Factor of Awakening will be born and developed in him, the factor of concentra­tion. When this factor is developed, it will come to per­fection.

            “When the practitioner is abiding in concentration with deep calm, he will cease discriminating and comparing. At this point the Seventh Factor of Awaken­ing is released, born, and developed in him, the factor of letting go. When this factor is de­veloped, it will come to perfection.

            “This is how the Four Establishments of Mindful­ness, if developed and practiced continuously, will lead to perfect abiding in the Seven Factors of Awaken­ing.”

V

            “How will the Seven Factors of Awakening, if de­vel­oped and practiced continuously, lead to the per­fect accomplishment of true understanding and com­plete liberation?

            “If the practitioner follows the path of the Seven Factors of Awakening, living in quiet seclusion, ob­serving and contemplating the disappearance of desire, he will develop the capacity of letting go. This will be a result of following the path of the Seven Factors of Awakening and will lead to the perfect accomplishment of true understanding and com­plete liberation.”

VI

            This is what the Lord, the Awakened One, said; and everyone in the assembly felt gratitude and delight at having heard his teachings.

 

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