Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

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ngoonera
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Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by ngoonera » Sat Aug 11, 2018 1:05 am

Perhaps you have had situations where your meditation practice was not going as expected? I’ve found it difficult to progress in my practice when following general mindfulness guidelines which emphasized observing the breath. It seemed rather unstructured and it was hard to know if I was making progress…

When I read the Anapanasati Sutta, though, I realized that the Buddha had laid out a very helpful, concise, step-by-step approach that had clear goals and landmarks. He also articulated the joy and happiness that can come from meditation, which was a real surprise. However, perhaps because of its brevity, at times it was confusing. When reading the Buddha’s similes, fortunately, many items became more clear, and I was able to find one for most of the 16 Anapanasati contemplations.

Recently, we received a small donation to make an Anapanasati sutta app in memory of my brother, Sarnaka, and some software programmers were willing to take up the project to make this as a free (no ads, etc.) iPhone app, with plans for an Android app in the future. The iPhone frame will be ready by Sept 1, but before hard-coding the text into the app, we felt that it would greatly benefit from the advice of the Dhamma Wheel community; the link is available below. Any comments you have would be much appreciated!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/17dE ... vP3eM/edit

SarathW
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Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by SarathW » Sat Aug 11, 2018 2:07 am

Thanks.
Welcome to Dhammawheel.
:group:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

paul
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Location: Vietnam

Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by paul » Sat Aug 11, 2018 4:44 am

“One leads naturally to the other, like stepping stones on a path”—-Anapanasati Sutta Study Guide.

The linear approach presented in the text is simplistic and wrong, along with the assumption that the sutta leads primarily to serenity. While it may benefit beginners developing serenity, there should be a statement in the introduction that it is entry-level information intended to lay a foundation for a more sophisticated understanding of the Anapanasati sutta.

“So instead of being a linear guide to meditation, the four tetrads deal with
processes of breath meditation that occur simultaneously, offering you the
choice of where to focus attention so as to develop both tranquility and insight
while fostering stronger states of concentration. In other words, when focused
on the breath, you can see how feelings and mind states—along with the mental
qualities involved in keeping distractions at bay—are functioning or
malfunctioning. This allows you to direct your efforts toward correcting any lack
or imbalance. When concentration is fully mastered, you can use the same
fourfold perspective to develop the dispassion needed for cessation and total
letting go.”—-“Right Mindfulness”, Thanissaro.

along with the mental qualities involved in keeping distractions at bay= fourth tetrad
Last edited by paul on Sat Aug 11, 2018 4:57 am, edited 2 times in total.

SarathW
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Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by SarathW » Sat Aug 11, 2018 4:53 am

The linear approach in the text is simplistic
Good point.
It is like a jug of muddy water settles down when you do not disturb it.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

ngoonera
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Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by ngoonera » Sun Aug 12, 2018 8:30 pm

I think for someone with experience practicing the anapanasati sutta, it becomes a non-linear process. But for someone who is just starting, it is clearly difficult to meaningfully reflect on the fourth tetrad if you still cannot follow your breathing. I think for someone just starting out (which is the target audience), taking a linear approach is a good way to begin. I found a non-linear approach confusing because it was so vague and hard to know if I was making progress. In the past two months, trying a more linear approach has really been wonderful for my personal practice and has allowed me to progress more than a decade of primarily observing the breath/feelings. I'll add the following phrase (if you have any suggestions regarding phrasing, please feel free to offer them): "This step-by-step, linear practice should be viewed as an introductory approach intended to lay a foundation for a more sophisticated understanding of the Anapanasati sutta which may be more non-linear." I'll also add the Thanisarro Bhikkhu citation you kindly provided which I had read as part of my background reading.

SarathW
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Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by SarathW » Sun Aug 12, 2018 9:46 pm

"This step-by-step, linear practice should be viewed as an introductory approach intended to lay a foundation for a more sophisticated understanding of the Anapanasati sutta which may be more non-linear.
I see your point.
I think the Sutta's are written in a linear fashion though you realise non-linear nature later.
Shouldn't we mention to the new comer?
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

ngoonera
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Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by ngoonera » Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:10 am

SarathW wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 9:46 pm
I think the Sutta's are written in a linear fashion though you realise non-linear nature later.
Shouldn't we mention to the new comer?
I've also added this phrase to the first paragraph: "As your practice matures, you may take a non-linear approach, such as starting with the first tetrad, then moving onto the third or fourth (1)" and cite Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Is there anything else you think I should add? Please take a look at the Google Doc available here and feel free to comment directly on it.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/17dE ... P3eM/edit#

I'll also check to see if anyone else has discussed whether the Anapanasati Sutta should be approached in a linear fashion or not. If this has not been discussed, I may create a new thread.

SarathW
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Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by SarathW » Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:33 am

I may create a new thread.
Please create one.
I can't recall we have discuss this before.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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DooDoot
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Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by DooDoot » Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:40 am

ngoonera wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 8:30 pm
I'll also add the Thanissaro Bhikkhu citation you kindly provided which I had read as part of my background reading.
Thanissaro's personal opinion sounds questionable. Personally, I would not cling to it. MN 118 sounds obviously linear in its fruition because the various stages sound more & more refined; until the final stages of fading away, cessation & relinquishment.

SarathW
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Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by SarathW » Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:53 am

MN 118 sounds obviously linear in its fruition because the various stages sound more & more refined
Can you sit for University entrance without passing grade one (Prep)?
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

paul
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Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by paul » Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:51 pm

ngoonera wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 8:30 pm
"This step-by-step, linear practice should be viewed as an introductory approach intended to lay a foundation for a more sophisticated understanding of the Anapanasati sutta which may be more non-linear." I'll also add the Thanisarro Bhikkhu citation you kindly provided which I had read as part of my background reading.
That addittion is necessary, and I think the following extract would also be helpful as it gives practical instruction on how to employ the non-linear method:

“For example, there are times when you find it most helpful to focus on how
the breath is giving rise to feelings of rapture and pleasure; to the way these
feelings (as mental fabrications, along with the perceptions you’re employing
around the breath) are influencing the mind; and to how you can calm that
influence. This would be an example of focusing on the second tetrad while
simultaneously remaining focused on the first. At other times, you’ll find it more
useful to see which ways the mind is in or out of balance—too sluggish, for
instance, or too scattered—and then use the breath to bring it more into balance.
This would be an example of focusing on the third tetrad while still focused on
the first. And at other times, you will want to observe how you can develop the
dispassion that will enable you to let go of any external preoccupations that
threaten to pull you away from the breath. This would turn attention to the
fourth tetrad while staying focused on the first.”—-“Right Mindfulness”, Thanissaro.

ngoonera
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Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by ngoonera » Tue Aug 14, 2018 3:13 am

I'm glad you brought this up. I actually find it challenging to do what Thanissaro Bhikkhu suggests when he wrote "This would be an example of focusing on the second tetrad while simultaneously remaining focused on the first." Instead, I tend to find it more helpful to take the approach mentioned by Bhikkhu Analayo in "Early Buddhist Meditation Studies". Perhaps I misunderstood, but he appears to describe on page 40-42 the concept of having an "embodied form of mindfulness" that is a "somatic [body] anchor" which "counters the tendency to distraction". In practical terms, this means that the breath recedes into the background while one is contemplating feelings in the second tetrad (such as experiencing the joy of the fifth contemplation, the first component of the second tetrad). I personally find it difficult to focus on the breath AND on joy/rapture (piti). However, if I lose focus on the piti, then I can use the breath to help me return to the concentrated state I need (i.e., a somatic anchor). It is possible that an advanced meditator such as Thanissaro Bhikkhu can focus on both aspects (breath and rapture), while a novice such as myself finds it easier to focus on one contemplation at a time.

paul
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Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by paul » Tue Aug 14, 2018 10:37 pm

It’s critically important that the practitioner experiences pleasant feeling, as it replaces feelings of the flesh, simultaneous perception of the breath is not the issue.

“Even though a disciple of the noble ones has clearly seen as it has come
to be with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much
despair, & greater drawbacks, still—if he has not attained a rapture &
pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful qualities, or
something more peaceful than that—he can be tempted by sensuality. But
when he has clearly seen as it has come to be with right discernment that
sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, and he
has attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from
unskillful qualities, or something more peaceful than that, he cannot be
tempted by sensuality.” — MN 14

Feeling is one of the seven primary factors associated with all consciousness whatever and every thought has an associated feeling tone, but the practitioner may not be aware of the feeling unless they have made the perception of feeling a dedicated foundation of mindfulness and practised it. Whether this awareness is innate depends on temperament. With experience, feeling is just a different aspect or dimension of what they’re already doing. For beginners, it is normal practice in anything to remain focussed on developing awareness of one factor at a time, as the app suggests.

ngoonera
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Re: Advice request: text for Anapanasati Sutta self-study app

Post by ngoonera » Wed Aug 15, 2018 2:09 am

I agree with you that it is important to experience pleasant feelings during meditation. What I find interesting, though, is that this is not really discussed much in most contemporary mindfulness practices. When I was at a retreat at Insight Meditation Society many, many years ago, I don't recall anyone telling me that I would experience joy and rapture during meditation. I was just supposed to observe/accept the feelings/thoughts/sensations I experienced while meditating. Frankly, I found the experience boring and left after five days. It took me almost two decades to return to meditation. I don't think my story is unique.

On the other hand, I am also aware of the danger/temptation of meditative rapture. There is the understandable risk that one simply seeks this state and abides there, without moving onto the dhamma tetrad contemplations that offer insight. What I really appreciate about APS is that it is clearly telling us that rapture is part of the process, but we shouldn't stop there--we should keep going. The Buddha has put joy/rapture early in the APS contemplations because of the power of this contemplation to motivate us. He then moves us to the more challenging feelings and mind, returning to "gladdness" in the second contemplation of the citta (mind) tetrad.

Of note, some would argue that the joy/rapture in the fifth contemplation is the second jhana state (Buddhadasa Bhikkhu mentions that the fourth contemplation is the first jhana state). Would you agree with that?

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