What to attend to while practicing Ānāpānasati

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:27 pm

What to attend to while practicing Ānāpānasati

Post by h1234 »

Ajahn Sona has a wonderful (and relatively short) essay which can be accessed here:
https://birken.ca/wp-content/uploads/20 ... imitta.pdf

that is about Ānāpānasati. The first part of the essay discusses the commentaries' interpretations of the "signs" and why these are likely mistaken. The second part is titled Location, Location, Location: A Small Related Matter. I would like to compare the position he takes in the second section with the position taken by other teachers. In particular, I would like to compare his interpretation, which reads,
"Some modern teachers have suggested that it doesn’t matter where the breath contact is located,
probably in response to the phrase which occurs later on in the sutta,"

with Thanissaro Bhikkhu's interpretation. I believe that both Ajahn Sona and Thanissaro Bhikkhu would be in agreement on the first part of Ajahn Sona's essay; namely, that the description given in the commentaries and the emphasis given on the "signs" was not originally emphasized by the Buddha. They would be in disagreement on the second part though. To be clear, Thanissaro Bhikkhu is one of those "modern teachers" who encourages focus on the breath in various spots of the body, and he actually emphasizes trying not to let your awareness shrink, but instead one should maintain a "whole body awareness." Ajahn Sona, on the other hand, believes that you should focus your attention "at the entrance."

The argument that Ajahn Sona gives can be accessed at the essay linked above. Thanissaro Bhikhu's arguments can be found at:
https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/MN/MN118.html (scroll down to the "notes" at the bottom).

I have been primarily following Thanissaro Bhikkhu's instructions, and to me the idea of trying to maintain a whole body awareness makes more "intuitive sense." I don't see why the nose/mouth (or any one body part) should have special importance, and trying to extend your awareness to encapsulate the whole body seems like a more holistic and less arbitrary endeavor. But I would like to see what other readers think, so please discuss!
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