Sunlun Sayadaw method

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Javi
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Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Javi » Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:59 pm

Lately I have become interested in the Sunlun method, particularly the fast sharp breathing used to develop a sense of vigor and a sharpness of attention. Just thought I would share some videos I found which demonstrate the practice:

Here is a video of a talk by Sayadaw U Wara on the Sunlun Method. I believe this is at Kaba-Aye Sunlun Monastery, Yangon (Rangoon). About 25 minutes into this video he begins talking about the breathing technique:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQRE2C-Y2DE

This shorter video also shows various laypersons and monks practicing the breathing method:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfBMwnpZPp0


Text material on the Sunlun method:
http://www.sunlun-meditation.net/ebooks/SLVENG.pdf
http://www.sunlun.com/smme.html

I have done a little of this before my usual natural breathing anapana and it seems to be helpful in establishing mindfulness. I thought I would mention it seems similar to the Indian Bhastrika pranayama exercise.

Has anyone else tried this method?
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

Saengnapha
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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Saengnapha » Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:23 am

Javi wrote:
Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:59 pm
Lately I have become interested in the Sunlun method, particularly the fast sharp breathing used to develop a sense of vigor and a sharpness of attention. Just thought I would share some videos I found which demonstrate the practice:

Here is a video of a talk by Sayadaw U Wara on the Sunlun Method. I believe this is at Kaba-Aye Sunlun Monastery, Yangon (Rangoon). About 25 minutes into this video he begins talking about the breathing technique:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQRE2C-Y2DE

This shorter video also shows various laypersons and monks practicing the breathing method:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfBMwnpZPp0


Text material on the Sunlun method:
http://www.sunlun-meditation.net/ebooks/SLVENG.pdf
http://www.sunlun.com/smme.html

I have done a little of this before my usual natural breathing anapana and it seems to be helpful in establishing mindfulness. I thought I would mention it seems similar to the Indian Bhastrika pranayama exercise.

Has anyone else tried this method?
Definitely Indian in origin. The quick breathing video is quite humorous to watch. All this seems so unnecessary, IMO.

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Mr Man
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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Mr Man » Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:09 am

I remember getting Jack Kornfield's book "Living Buddhist Masters" many moons ago. I was immediately drawn to Sunlun Sayadaw. I guess those who have read that book would probably know why. :)
Last edited by Mr Man on Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Zom » Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:28 pm

Has anyone else tried this method?
It seems to go quite far from Buddhism. Looks more like holotropic breathwork - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breathwork

To me it sounds like intoxicating your body with excessive oxygen which alters you normal mental state. You may have experienced that if you inflate balloons.

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by aflatun » Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:08 pm

Javi wrote:
Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:59 pm
Lately I have become interested in the Sunlun method, particularly the fast sharp breathing used to develop a sense of vigor and a sharpness of attention. Just thought I would share some videos I found which demonstrate the practice:

Here is a video of a talk by Sayadaw U Wara on the Sunlun Method. I believe this is at Kaba-Aye Sunlun Monastery, Yangon (Rangoon). About 25 minutes into this video he begins talking about the breathing technique:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQRE2C-Y2DE

This shorter video also shows various laypersons and monks practicing the breathing method:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfBMwnpZPp0


Text material on the Sunlun method:
http://www.sunlun-meditation.net/ebooks/SLVENG.pdf
http://www.sunlun.com/smme.html

I have done a little of this before my usual natural breathing anapana and it seems to be helpful in establishing mindfulness. I thought I would mention it seems similar to the Indian Bhastrika pranayama exercise.

Has anyone else tried this method?
Thanks for this Javi, I have not tried this method but I do work with the breath at times, I will check it out. Your efforts to share the many interesting things you're tuned into with the forum are greatly appreciated :thumbsup:
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Javi
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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Javi » Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:59 pm

Zom wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:28 pm
Has anyone else tried this method?
It seems to go quite far from Buddhism. Looks more like holotropic breathwork - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breathwork

To me it sounds like intoxicating your body with excessive oxygen which alters you normal mental state. You may have experienced that if you inflate balloons.
I am not sure why you seem to think it goes quite far from Buddhism. If it is a practice which helps arouse sati and viriya, why would it be so?
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by cjmacie » Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:40 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:23 am
...
Definitely Indian in origin. The quick breathing video is quite humorous to watch. All this seems so unnecessary, IMO.
And the Chinese would most likely claim ownership of this technique in certain supposedly ancient Taoist practices.

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Javi
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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Javi » Fri Oct 06, 2017 10:47 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:23 am
Javi wrote:
Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:59 pm
Lately I have become interested in the Sunlun method, particularly the fast sharp breathing used to develop a sense of vigor and a sharpness of attention. Just thought I would share some videos I found which demonstrate the practice:

Here is a video of a talk by Sayadaw U Wara on the Sunlun Method. I believe this is at Kaba-Aye Sunlun Monastery, Yangon (Rangoon). About 25 minutes into this video he begins talking about the breathing technique:



This shorter video also shows various laypersons and monks practicing the breathing method:




Text material on the Sunlun method:
http://www.sunlun-meditation.net/ebooks/SLVENG.pdf
http://www.sunlun.com/smme.html

I have done a little of this before my usual natural breathing anapana and it seems to be helpful in establishing mindfulness. I thought I would mention it seems similar to the Indian Bhastrika pranayama exercise.

Has anyone else tried this method?
Definitely Indian in origin. The quick breathing video is quite humorous to watch. All this seems so unnecessary, IMO.
Actually, Sunlun Sayadaw taught himself to practice, with little instructions, which is probably why he developed a style which is atypical. Even though it is similar to some forms of Indian pranayama, the evidence points to being something he came up with himself. Either way, its obviously not for everyone, but it seems to have been helpful for him and many others since he became quite a popular teacher.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Zom » Sat Oct 07, 2017 1:16 am

I am not sure why you seem to think it goes quite far from Buddhism. If it is a practice which helps arouse sati and viriya, why would it be so?
It simply goes against canonical texts, including, of course, the major one - anapanasati sutta, which speaks about calming the breath (and calming other things as well), not forcing it.

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Javi » Sat Oct 07, 2017 3:24 am

Zom wrote:
Sat Oct 07, 2017 1:16 am
I am not sure why you seem to think it goes quite far from Buddhism. If it is a practice which helps arouse sati and viriya, why would it be so?
It simply goes against canonical texts, including, of course, the major one - anapanasati sutta, which speaks about calming the breath (and calming other things as well), not forcing it.
That's only one part of the sutta. It also speaks of arousing mindfulness and energy (viriya) - and it doesn't really explain how, this is just as good a method as any other to arouse vigor.

Also, this is only the first part of the practice, after the breathing, they sit still for an hour or two doing vedanussati.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Javi
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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Javi » Sat Oct 07, 2017 4:06 am

He also seems to teach a form of breath holding technique which seems quite similar to Indian kumbhaka and Tibetan "vase breathing":
First, in being mindful of unpleasant sensation, collect the body and mind together and keep both perfectly still. Watch the unpleasant sensation with bated breath. Hold the breath as long as you can easily hold it. This is not an exercise in breath retention. It is just the normal practice effected in carrying out the common duties of life. Whenever something is done with great attention the breath is naturally held back. For example, in putting a thread through a needle hole, the operator normally holds his breath till the task is accomplished. In like manner, the meditator should watch unpleasant sensation with bated breath. This will enable him to exercise greater awareness and more rigorous mindfulness. If the unpleasant sensation is too intense for proper attention with bated breath the meditator should stiffen himself against it. He tenses his whole body against the sensation to support the work of the mind. He holds his arms tighter against the sides of his body, he closes his fists, he stiffens his neck and clenches his teeth. He puts forth energy as he would in a physical struggle against a strong opponent. All the time he keeps rigorously mindful of the sensation.
This is from the book Living Dharma by Kornfield
http://www.gospodini.com/pdf/download/i ... ype=stream

All in all I am quite fascinated by this Sunlun fellow, he seems to have developed his own anapana method which is a bit outside of the norm for Theravada. I understand that there are those who believe that this is totally wrong and unorthodox, however, I just see it as a useful technique for arousing energy, something which is often neglected by Western Theravada teachers who prefer to talk about relaxing, being very calm and light with our effort. This is nice, but sometimes one needs the opposite approach. I have done breath holding for a bit before practicing anapana (something which I learned from Tibetans) and I have also found it effective in arousing energy and getting one out of a dull or slothful mind state. I have never thought about using it for dealing with pain, I shall try this next time.

I honestly don't know why people would have a problem with Sunlun's style, there are just as many quotes from the suttas in which the Buddha says we should practice vigorously and energetically.

While there is a sutta which shows the Buddha rejecting holding the breath for a very long time (which apparently caused him headaches), that does not mean he would reject any technique which includes breath holding or similar practices. After all, he rejected extended fasting, but not 'intermittent fasting', allowing for a practice in which one just eats one meal. There are also suttas in which the Khecharividya, the practice of pressing the tongue against the palate, are promoted - a practice which the Buddha seems to have picked up from other teachers. So it is clear that the Buddha was not shy of taking methods which require a certain amount of vigorous effort and adopting it to the his Dhamma.

Either way, I think that as long as one does not overdo it, these techniques can be helpful aids, and are not against the middle way. After all, Sunlun here says "Hold the breath as long as you can easily hold it" and this makes all the difference. It is still not a form of "forceful" (Hatha) yoga.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Javi » Sat Oct 07, 2017 4:25 am

Interestingly enough, here's another Theravadin on holding the breath:
If you want to understand what the heart is, you can try an experiment. Breathe in deeply and hold your breath for a moment. At that point there won't be anything at all except for one thing: neutral awareness. That's the heart, or 'what knows.' But if you try to catch hold of the heart in this way, you can't hold on to it for very long — only as long as you can hold your breath — but you can give it a try just to see what the true heart is like.

(Holding the breath can help reduce physical pain. People who are suffering from great pain have to hold their breath as one way — fairly effective — of relieving their pain.)
Buddho by Phra Ajaan Thate Desaransi
translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... uddho.html
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

Saengnapha
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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Saengnapha » Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:36 am

cjmacie wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:40 pm
Saengnapha wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:23 am
...
Definitely Indian in origin. The quick breathing video is quite humorous to watch. All this seems so unnecessary, IMO.
And the Chinese would most likely claim ownership of this technique in certain supposedly ancient Taoist practices.
Many Daoist practices have their equivalents in Indian yogic techniques. The first time I came upon this practice of the breath was in the late 60's when a Sikh guru, Yogi Bajan, made the rounds of the world circuit with his breath of fire. I'm sure he didn't originate it, but it was new and novel at the time for westerners.

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Javi » Sat Oct 07, 2017 3:42 pm

Bhante Gunaratna also recommends breath holding as an antidote to drowsiness
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Oct 08, 2017 7:27 am

Hi Javi,

James Baraz mentions Sunlun in one of the talks here: viewtopic.php?t=25644 based on Jack's book and some of his own experience. That is an interesting series: he gives short guided meditation for each person he covers.

Patrick Kearney mentions the movement peripherally in some of his retreat talks. He recalls visiting a Sunlun-style monastery in Burma, and being urged to stay. By that time, people in Asia were realising the importance of having Western followers to boost their following, and the Sunlun followers didn't want to get left behind the Mahasi/Pa Auk/Chah/Buddhadasa/etc groups. However, after a day or so it was clear to Patrick that this method would probably be hard to sell in the West, and moved on...

I don't recall where he mentioned it. It was probably when he was comparing the styles of Sayadaws U Pandita and U Tejaniya, and he thew in Sunlun Sayadaw as something completely different again...

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Zom » Sun Oct 08, 2017 3:29 pm

That's only one part of the sutta. It also speaks of arousing mindfulness and energy (viriya) - and it doesn't really explain how, this is just as good a method as any other to arouse vigor.
These qualities are based entirely on faith (saddha), wisdom (pannya), rightviews (sammaditthi), and an urge to practise (samvega). Breath exercises have nothing to do with viriya or sati. Nowhere, neither in suttas nor in commentaries, you can find even a hint about forcing a breath. So, this is entirely speculative, non-buddhist thing.

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Javi » Sun Oct 08, 2017 4:33 pm

Zom wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 3:29 pm
That's only one part of the sutta. It also speaks of arousing mindfulness and energy (viriya) - and it doesn't really explain how, this is just as good a method as any other to arouse vigor.
These qualities are based entirely on faith (saddha), wisdom (pannya), rightviews (sammaditthi), and an urge to practise (samvega). Breath exercises have nothing to do with viriya or sati. Nowhere, neither in suttas nor in commentaries, you can find even a hint about forcing a breath. So, this is entirely speculative, non-buddhist thing.
Well, if we were to reject a teaching simply because it was not in the suttas, we'd have to reject a lot of modern Theravada and a lot of the teachings of many other Buddhist traditions. That's one approach and its fine, but you have no right to go around calling people non-Buddhist simply because they use a technique not spelled out in the suttas. That's what's called around these here parts "fundamentalism" :quote:
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Oct 08, 2017 6:59 pm

As I pointed out in the link I gave above, it is interesting to see the huge differences in practice instructions between different Asian teachers. One could speculate that which interpretations became well-known in the West was partly a matter of luck - which Asian monasteries and lay teachers were attractive to Westerners in the late 60s and early 70s. We have the extraordinarily success of Ajahn Chah's followers in estabishing themselves in the West, derivatives the Mahasi approach being extremely influential in modern lay circles, and so on. Some who spent time with Ajahn Buddhadasa were quite influential in some lay institutions. And there is, of course, interest in some of the newer teachers, such as Sayadaws Pa Auk, and U Tejaniya.

Of the other Thai approaches, Thanissaro Bhikkhu seems to have single handedly created interests in one strand (Ajahn Lee). There is some interest in Ajahn Maha Bua, and some of his teachings are available in English.

Interestingly, Thanissaro Bhikkhu is someone else whose approach is sometimes criticised as overly manipulative of the breath:
viewtopic.php?f=41&t=30312

Personally I agree with Javi. There are a variety of ways of using the suttas to build practice approaches, and it seems to me that rejecting everything that was not explicitly spelled out in the suttas would rule out almost all modern (and ancient) analysis and practice advice. I guess that's possible, but I'd rather follow the Buddha's instructions in the suttas, and get advice from teachers who have walked the path.

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Mike

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Oct 08, 2017 8:32 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 6:59 pm
Of the other Thai approaches, Thanissaro Bhikkhu seems to have single handedly created interests in one strand (Ajahn Lee).
Actually the interest in Ajahn Lee's approach had already been established to a certain extent during the pioneering days of the lay vipassanā movement in America. The person responsible was the veteran German monk Ven. Vimalo (now, as a layman, Vimalo Kulbarz). Although Vimalo's original training had been under Mahasi Sayadaw at Sasana Yeiktha, he later took up Ajahn Lee's practice using Thanissaro's translation of Keeping the Breath in Mind and was teaching it to Germans and Americans about two decades before Thanissaro himself returned to the States.

http://imsrc.dharmaseed.org/teacher/793/talk/43211/

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Re: Sunlun Sayadaw method

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Oct 08, 2017 8:56 pm

Thanks, Bhante,

That's interesting information.

I could also add that there are many, many, teachers and monastics (hundreds, or even thousands) out there who (like yourself) are not famous enough to get into various lists, but do great work in spreading the Dhamma. For me, the vast majority of detailed personal instruction that started me off, and kept me going, has come from non-famous teachers and companions. As I said, it seems partly a matter of luck that certain people became famous in the West.

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Mike

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