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The Ānāpānasati Sutta (Pāli) or Ānāpānasmṛti Sūtra (Sanskrit), "Breath-Mindfulness Discourse," is a discourse that details the Buddha's instruction on using awareness of the breath (anapana) as an initial focus for meditation.
- 1 Versions of the text
- 2 Discourse summary
- 3 Related canonical discourses
- 4 Pali commentaries
- 5 Interpretations
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 Bibliography
- 9 External links
Versions of the text
In Theravada Buddhism
The Theravadin version of the Anapanasati Sutta lists sixteen steps to relax and compose the mind. According to Ajahn Sujato, the ultimate goal of Anapanasati is to bear insight and understanding into the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipaṭṭhāna), the Seven Factors of Awakening (Bojjhangas), and ultimately Nibbana.
The Anapanasati Sutta is a celebrated text among Theravada Buddhists. In the Theravada Pali Canon, this discourse is the 118th discourse in the Majjhima Nikaya (MN) and is thus frequently represented as "MN 118". In addition, in the Pali Text Society edition of the Pali Canon, this discourse is in the Majjhima Nikaya (M)'s third volume, starting on the 78th page and is thus sometimes referenced as "M iii 78".
In East Asian Buddhism
The Ānāpānasmṛti Sūtra, as the text was known to Sanskritic early Buddhist schools in India, exists in several forms. There is a version of the Ānāpānasmṛti Sutra in the Ekottara Āgama preserved in the Chinese Buddhist canon. This version also teaches about the Four Dhyānas, recalling past lives, and the Divine Eye. The earliest translation of Ānāpānasmṛti instructions, however, was by An Shigao as a separate sutra (T602) in the 2nd century CE. It is not part of the Sarvastivada Madhyama Āgama, but is instead an isolated text, although the sixteen steps are found elsewhere in the Madhyama and Samyukta Āgamas. The versions preserved in the Samyukta Agama are SA 815, SA 803, SA 810–812 and these three sutras have been translated into English by Thich Nhat Hanh.
The Buddha states that mindfulness of the breath, "developed and repeatedly practiced, is of great fruit, great benefit." Ultimately, it can lead to "clear vision and deliverance." The path by which this occurs is that:
- Breath mindfulness (Pali: anapanasati) development leads to the perfection of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (satipatthana).
- The Four Foundations of Mindfulness development leads to the perfection of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment (bojjhanga).
- The Seven Factors of Enlightenment development leads to clear vision and deliverance.
Prior to enumerating the 16 steps, the Buddha provides the following preparatory advice (which the Chinese version of this sutta includes as part of the first object):
- seek a secluded space (in a forest or at the foot of a tree or in an empty place)
- sit down
- cross your legs
- keep your body erect
- establish mindfulness in front (parimukham)
Next, the 16 objects or instructions are listed, generally broken into four tetrads, as follows:
- First Tetrad: Contemplation of the Body (kāya)
- Discerning the in and out breathing
- Discerning long or short breaths
- Experiencing the whole body (sabbakāaya)
- Calming bodily formations
- Second Tetrad: Contemplation of the Feeling (vedanā)
- Third Tetrad: Contemplation of the Mind (citta)
- Being sensitive to the mind
- Satisfying the mind
- Steadying the mind
- Releasing the mind
- Fourth Tetrad: Contemplation of the Mental Objects (dhammā)
- Dwelling on impermanence
- Dwelling on dispassion
- Dwelling on cessation
- Dwelling on relinquishment
Related canonical discourses
Breath mindfulness, in general, and this discourse's core instructions, in particular, can be found throughout the Pali Canon, including in the "Code of Ethics" (that is, in the Vinaya Pitaka's Parajika) as well as in each of the "Discourse Basket" (Sutta Pitaka) collections (nikaya). From these other texts, clarifying metaphors, instructional elaborations and contextual information can be gleaned.
Discourses including the core instructions
In addition to being in the Anapanasati Sutta, all four of the aforementioned core instructional tetrads can also be found in the following canonical discourses:
- the "Greater Exhortation to Rahula Discourse" (Maha-Rahulovada Sutta, MN 62);
- sixteen discourses of the Samyutta Nikaya's (SN) chapter 54 (Anapana-samyutta): SN 54.1, SN 54.3–SN 54.16, SN 54.20;
- the "To Girimananda Discourse" (Girimananda Sutta, AN 10.60); and,
- the Khuddaka Nikaya's Patisambhidamagga's section on the breath, Anapanakatha.
The first tetrad identified above (relating to bodily mindfulness) can also be found in the following discourses:
- the "Great Mindfulness Arousing Discourse" (Mahasatipatthana Sutta, DN 22) and, similarly, the "Mindfulness Arousing Discourse" (Satipatthana Sutta, MN 10), in the section on Body Contemplation; and,
- the "Mindfulness concerning the Body Discourse" (Kayagatasati Sutta, MN 119) as the first type of body-centered meditation described.
Hot-season rain cloud
In a discourse variously entitled "At Vesali Discourse" and "Foulness Discourse" (SN 54.9), the Buddha describes "concentration by mindfulness of breathing" (ānāpānassatisamādhi) in the following manner:
- "Just as, bhikkhus, in the last month of the hot season, when a mass of dust and dirt has swirled up, a great rain cloud out of season disperses it and quells it on the spot, so too concentration by mindfulness of breathing, when developed and cultivated, is peaceful and sublime, an ambrosial pleasant dwelling, and it disperses and quells on the spot evil unwholesome states whenever they arise...."
After stating this, the Buddha states that such an "ambrosial pleasant dwelling" is achieved by pursuing the sixteen core instructions identified famously in the Anapanasati Sutta.
The skillful turner
In the "Great Mindfulness Arousing Discourse" (Mahasatipatthana Sutta, DN 22) and the "Mindfulness Arousing Discourse" (Satipatthana Sutta, MN 10), the Buddha uses the following metaphor for elaborating upon the first two core instructions:
- Just as a skillful turner or turner's apprentice, making a long turn, knows, "I am making a long turn," or making a short turn, knows, "I am making a short turn," just so the monk, breathing in a long breath, knows, "I am breathing in a long breath"; breathing out a long breath, he knows, "I am breathing out a long breath"; breathing in a short breath, he knows, "I am breathing in a short breath"; breathing out a short breath, he knows, "I am breathing out a short breath."
Great fruit, great benefit
The Anapanasati Sutta refers to sixteenfold breath-mindfulness as being of "great fruit" (mahapphalo) and "great benefit" (mahānisaṃso). "The Simile of the Lamp Discourse" (SN 54.8) states this as well and expands on the various fruits and benefits, including:
- unlike with other meditation subjects, with the breath ones body and eyes do not tire and ones mind, through non-clinging, becomes free of taints
- householder memories and aspirations are abandoned
- one dwells with equanimity towards repulsive and unrepulsive objects
- one enters and dwells in the four material absorptions (rupajhana) and the four immaterial absorptions (arupajhana)
- all feelings (vedana) are seen as impermanent, are detached from and, upon the death of the body, "will become cool right here." 
- the Visuddhimagga provides commentary on the four tetrads.
- the Papañcasūdanī provides commentary on the remainder of this discourse.
Different traditions (such as Sri Lankan practitioners who follow the Visuddhimagga versus Thai forest monks) interpret a number of aspects of this sutta in different ways. Below are some of the matters that have multiple interpretations:
- Are the 16 core instructions to be followed sequentially or concurrently (Bodhi, 2000, p. 1516; Brahm, 2006, pp. 83–101; Rosenberg, 2004)?
- Must one have reached the first jhana before (or in tandem with) pursuing the second tetrad (Rosenberg, 2004)?
- In the preparatory instructions, does the word "parimukham" mean: around the mouth (as favored by Goenka, 1998, p. 28), in the chest area (as supported by a use of the word in the Vinaya), in the forefront of one's mind (as favored at times by Thanissaro) or simply "sets up mindfulness before him" (per Bodhi in Wallace & Bodhi, 2006, p. 5) or "to the fore" (Thanissaro, 2006d) or "mindfulness alive" (Piyadassi, 1999) ?
- In the first tetrad's third instruction, does the word "sabbakaya" mean: the whole "breath body" (as indicated in the sutta itself [Nanamoli, 1998, p. 7: "I say that this, bhikkhus, is a certain body among the bodies, namely, respiration."], as perhaps supported by the Patisambhidamagga [Nanamoli, 1998, p. 75], the Visuddhimagga [1991, pp. 266–267], Nyanaponika [1965, pp. 109–110], Buddhadasa [1988, p. 35], and Brahm [2006, p. 84]) or the whole "flesh body" (as supported by Bhikkhu Bodhi's revised second translation of the sutta [in Nanamoli & Bodhi, 2001, see relevant footnote to MN 118], Goenka [1988, pp. 29–30], Nhat Hanh [1988, p. 26] and Rosenberg [1998, pp. 40, 43]), and the commentary, which explains that the "body among bodies" refers to the wind element as opposed to other ways of relating to the body?
- Anapanasati (Breath Mindfulness)
- Bojjhanga (Seven Factors of Enlightenment)
- Buddhist Meditation
- Satipatthana Sutta (Four Foundations of Mindfulness)
- Satipatthana (Four Foundations of Mindfulness)
- A History of Mindfulness: How Insight Worsted Tranquillity in the Satipatthana Sutta by Ajahn Sujato pg 149
- For instance, in Southeast Asian countries, "Anapanasati Day" is the full-moon sabbath (uposatha) day in the eighth lunar month of Kattika (usually in November) (e.g., see Bullitt, 2005).
- A Romanized Pali version of this sutta can be found at www.metta.lk (SLTP, n.d.). Examples of English translations are Nanamoli (1998), Nanamoli & Bodhi (2001), Nhat Hanh (1988) and Thanissaro (2006a).
- "The Relationships Between Traditional And Imported Thought And Culture In China: From The Standpoint of The Importation Of Buddhism" by Tang Yijie. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 15 (1988) pp.415-424
- A History of Mindfulness: How Insight Worsted Tranquillity in the Satipatthana Sutta by Ajahn Sujato pg 148
- Nhat Hanh, Awakening of the Heart: Essential Buddhist Sutras and Commentaries.
- Nanamoli (1998), p. 5, translation. See also Thanissaro (2006a) for similar wording.
- Nanamoli (1998), p. 5, translation. The Pali phrase being translated here as "clear vision and deliverance" is: vijjā-vimuttiṃ. Vijja is the literal Pali antonym for avijja, traditionally translated as "ignorance" or "delusion" and canonically identified as the root of suffering (dukkha, cf. "Twelve Nidānas").
- The Pali is: Ānāpānasati bhikkhave bhāvitā bahulīkatā cattāro satipaṭṭhāne paripūreti. Interestingly, SN 54.13 states: Ānāpānasatisamādhi kho ānanda, eko dhammo bhāvito bahulīkato cattāro satipaṭṭhāne paripūreti (underscore added). That is, the latter discourse identifies that it is the concentration (samādhi) associated with anapanasati practice that leads to fulfillment of the four satipatthana.
- The preparatory and core instructions are also detailed in the "Arittha Sutta" ("To Arittha," SN 44.6).
- This enumeration of the core instructions is largely based on Thanissaro (2006a) and Nanamoli (1998). The basis for mapping each of the tetrads to one of the four satipatthana is that, in the Anapanasati Sutta, after what is here identified as the "core instructions," the Buddha explicitly identifies each tetrad as related to a particular satipatthana.
- The arising of pīti suggests the arising of the first jhanic state.
- Vin.iii,70 (e.g., see Buddhaghosa, 1999, p. 259, VIII.145).
- Thanissaro (2006d)
- For this entire chapter (SN 54), see Bodhi, 2000, pp. 1765-1787. For a few of this chapter's individual discourses, see SN 54.6 (Thanissaro, 2006b), SN 54.8 (Thanissaro, 2006c) and SN 54.13 (Thanissaro, 1995).
- Piyadassi (1999).
- See, for instance, Nanamoli (1998), Part III.
- See, e.g., Thanissaro (2000).
- Nyanasatta (1994).
- Thanissaro (1997).
- Vesālīsuttaṃ, in the Burmese Chaṭṭha Saṇgayana edition of the Pali Canon (see http://www.tipitaka.org/romn/cscd/s0305m.mul9.xml). This edition is the basis for Bodhi (2000), pp. 1773-74.
- Asubhasuttaṃ, in the Sinhala Sri Lanka Tripitaka Project (SLTP) edition of the Pali Canon (see http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/3Samyutta-Nikaya/Samyutta5/53-Anapana-Samyutta/01-Ekadhammavaggo-p.html). The basis for this SLTP title is that it starts with the Buddha providing a talk about meditating on "foulness" (asubha, e.g., see Patikulamanasikara). (Traditionally, the intent of such a meditation is primarily to diminish one's attachment to their own or another's body.)
- In the Samyutta Nikaya (SN) chapter on breath-mindfulness, over half the discourses (SN 54.7 to 54.20) emphasize the concentration (samādhi) resulting from breath-mindfulness over breath-mindfulness per se. This is consistent with several enumeratons of Enlightenment factors (i.e., Five Faculties, Five Powers, Seven Factors of Enlightenment and Noble Eightfold Path) where the factor of mindfulness precedes that of concentration (Bodhi, 2000, pp. 1516-17).
- Bodhi (2000), p. 1774.
- The Pali word translated as "turner" here is bhamakāro, literally, "one who makes spin," usually referring to the spinning of a wheel (see, e.g., Rhys Davids & Stede, 1921-25, p. 498, entry for "Bhamati" at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.2:1:3491.pali, retrieved 2007-11-08). In addition, the Pali word translated here as "turn" is añchanto, whose definition includes "to turn on a lathe" (see, e.g., Rhys Davids & Stede, 1921-25, p. 13, entry for "Añchati" at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.0:1:285.pali, retrieved 2007-11-08).
- Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10) (Nyanasatta, 1994).
- According to the Samyutta Nikaya post-canonical commentary, other meditation subjects such as the four elements fatigue the body, while still others, such as kasina objects, strain the eyes (Bodhi, 2000, p. 1950, n. 296).
- This benefit, the abandoning of householder memories and aspirations, is identified as common to each type of body-centered-mindfulness meditation identified in the Kayagata-sati Sutta (MN 119) (Thanissaro, 1997).
- Bodhi (2000), pp. 1770-73.
- Nanamoli (1998), p. 13.
- Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Saṃyutta Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-331-1.
- Brahm, Ajahn (2006). Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-275-7.
- Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (trans. by Santikaro Bhikkhu) (1988). Mindfulness with Breathing: A Manual for Serious Beginners. Boston: Shambhala Publications. ISBN 0-86171-111-4.
- Buddhaghosa, Bhadantācariya (trans. from Pāli by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli) (1999). The Path of Purification: Visuddhimagga. Seattle, WA: BPS Pariyatti Editions. ISBN 1-928706-00-2.
- Bullitt, John T. (2005). Uposatha Observance Days. Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sila/uposatha.html.
- Goenka, S.N. (1988). Satipatthana Sutta Discourses: Talks from a Course in Maha-Satipatthana Sutta. Seattle, WA: Vipassana Research Institute. ISBN 0-9649484-2-7.
- Nanamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) (1998). Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapanasati): Buddhist Texts from the Pali Canon and Extracts from the Pali Commentaries. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society. ISBN 955-24-0167-4.
- Ñāṇamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) & Bhikkhu Bodhi (ed.) (2001). The Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-072-X.
- Nhat Hanh, Thich (trans. by Annabel Laity) (1988). The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press. ISBN 0-938077-04-X.
- Nyanaponika Thera (1965). The Heart of Buddhist Meditation: A Handbook of Mental Training based on the Buddha's Way of Mindfulness. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser. ISBN 0-87728-073-8.
- Nyanasatta Thera (trans.) (1993/1994). The Foundations of Mindfulness (MN 10). Kandy, Sri Lanka: BPS (1993). Retrieved 2007-11-07 from "Access to Insight" (1994) at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.010.nysa.html.
- Piyadassi Thera (trans.) (1999). Girimananda Sutta: Discourse to Girimananda Thera (AN 10.60). Kandy, Sri Lanka: BPS. Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.060.piya.html.
- Rhys Davids, T.W. & William Stede (eds.) (1921-5). The Pali Text Society’s Pali–English Dictionary. Chipstead: Pali Text Society. A general on-line search engine for the PED is available at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/pali/.
- Rosenberg, Larry (2004). Breath by Breath: The Liberating Practice of Insight Meditation. Shambhala. ISBN 1-59030-136-6.
- Sri Lanka Tripitaka Project (SLTP) (n.d.). Anapanasatisuttam (MN 118). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "MettaNet" at http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/2Majjhima-Nikaya/Majjhima3/118-anappanasati-p.html.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1995). Ananda Sutta: To Ananda (On Mindfulness of Breathing) (SN 54.13). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn54/sn54.013.than.html.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997). Kayagata-sati Sutta: Mindfulness Immersed in the Body (MN 119). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.119.than.html.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2000). Maha-satipatthana Sutta: The Great Frames of Reference (DN 22). Retrieved from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.22.0.than.html.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2006a). Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of Breathing (MN 118). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2006b). Arittha Sutta: To Arittha (On Mindfulness of Breathing) (SN 54.6). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn54/sn54.006.than.html.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2006c). Dipa Sutta: The Lamp (SN 54.8). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn54/sn54.008.than.html.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2006d). Maha-Rahulovada Sutta: The Greater Exhortation to Rahula (MN 62). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.062.than.html.
- Wallace, B. Alan and Bhikkhu Bodhi (Winter 2006). The Nature of Mindfulness and its Role in Buddhist Meditation: A Correspondence between B. Alan Wallace and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi.
- Wallis, Glenn (2005). "Present-moment Awareness with Breathing" and "How to Meditate," a translation of and commentary on the Anapanasati Sutta; in: Basic Teachings of the Buddha (New York: Random House, Modern Library, 2007). ISBN 978-0-8129-7523-9.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- "Anapanasatisuttam (MN 118): The Discourse about Mindfulness while Breathing," ed. & trans. by Anandajoti Bhikkhu (Sept. 2008) - includes both Pali (with notes on discrepancies between redactions) and English
- "Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapanasati): Buddhist texts from the Pali Canon and Commentaries," trans. by Nanamoli Bhikkhu [& Bhikkhu Bodhi ed.?] (1952; 2007) - includes translation of relevant Pali commentaries.
- "Ekottara Āgama 17.1: The Ānāpānasmṛti Sūtra"
- "Anapanasati: Meditation on the Breath," by Ajahn Pasanno (May 26, 2005).
- "Basic Breath Meditation Instructions," by Tan Geoff (Thanissaro Bhikkhu) (1993).