concentration on the breath

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
Post Reply
dudette
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:13 am

concentration on the breath

Post by dudette » Wed Oct 09, 2019 7:43 pm

Ok this thread might appear stupid for some, but it is because I have only access to Goenka's and Zazen's traditions.

So lately, I have been talking to two teachers on the vipassana course, and they said that in Goenka's tradition, they concentrate on a chosen spot such as the upper lip while the breath goes in and out.
Later I talked to one zazen teacher, and he said that in his tradition they concentrate on the whole breath, and no specific spot is chosen.
The vipassana's teachers argue that this technique is supposed to make the mind more sharp while the zazen teacher argues that his technique is supposed to make the mind more aware.

So my question is whether it is possible that different techniques of anapana are practiced to make mind more sharp or more aware in different theravada's traditions, or is it possible that one of the techniques is not used within theravada (goenka's technique is unusual or is it the most often used)?

Laurens
Posts: 669
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2009 5:56 pm
Location: Norfolk, England

Re: concentration on the breath

Post by Laurens » Wed Oct 09, 2019 7:59 pm

dudette wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 7:43 pm
Ok this thread might appear stupid for some, but it is because I have only access to Goenka's and Zazen's traditions.

So lately, I have been talking to two teachers on the vipassana course, and they said that in Goenka's tradition, they concentrate on a chosen spot such as the upper lip while the breath goes in and out.
Later I talked to one zazen teacher, and he said that in his tradition they concentrate on the whole breath, and no specific spot is chosen.
The vipassana's teachers argue that this technique is supposed to make the mind more sharp while the zazen teacher argues that his technique is supposed to make the mind more aware.

So my question is whether it is possible that different techniques of anapana are practiced to make mind more sharp or more aware in different theravada's traditions, or is it possible that one of the techniques is not used within theravada (goenka's technique is unusual or is it the most often used)?
I have personally encountered different approaches to breath meditation within the Theravada tradition. Some emphasise focusing on a particular spot, others emphasise a broader awareness.

The main scripture that breath meditation is based on is called the Anapanasati Sutta there are elaborations and derivations from this in commentaries such as the Visuddhimagga. Some focus more primarily on the suttas as these are believed to be closer to what the Buddha actually taught, whereas some focus more on what is instructed in the commentaries.

The main issue with both approaches is that written word is very much subject to interpretation, so it's difficult to say who is more correct. The specific details of the method taught by the Buddha may very well be lost in the mists of time. That is not to say however that there is no hope; many people find great benefit from the many different variations on breath meditation that get taught. Perhaps the main thing is to find one that works for you personally, that arouses faith in the technique and stick with that.

TLDR: Theravada teaches both broad awareness of the whole breath, and narrow focused awareness on one spot depending on who your teacher is, and there is debate over the exact specifics of the approach the Buddha himself taught.
"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

dudette
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:13 am

Re: concentration on the breath

Post by dudette » Wed Oct 09, 2019 8:10 pm

Laurens wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 7:59 pm
dudette wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 7:43 pm
Ok this thread might appear stupid for some, but it is because I have only access to Goenka's and Zazen's traditions.

So lately, I have been talking to two teachers on the vipassana course, and they said that in Goenka's tradition, they concentrate on a chosen spot such as the upper lip while the breath goes in and out.
Later I talked to one zazen teacher, and he said that in his tradition they concentrate on the whole breath, and no specific spot is chosen.
The vipassana's teachers argue that this technique is supposed to make the mind more sharp while the zazen teacher argues that his technique is supposed to make the mind more aware.

So my question is whether it is possible that different techniques of anapana are practiced to make mind more sharp or more aware in different theravada's traditions, or is it possible that one of the techniques is not used within theravada (goenka's technique is unusual or is it the most often used)?
I have personally encountered different approaches to breath meditation within the Theravada tradition. Some emphasise focusing on a particular spot, others emphasise a broader awareness.

The main scripture that breath meditation is based on is called the Anapanasati Sutta there are elaborations and derivations from this in commentaries such as the Visuddhimagga. Some focus more primarily on the suttas as these are believed to be closer to what the Buddha actually taught, whereas some focus more on what is instructed in the commentaries.

The main issue with both approaches is that written word is very much subject to interpretation, so it's difficult to say who is more correct. The specific details of the method taught by the Buddha may very well be lost in the mists of time. That is not to say however that there is no hope; many people find great benefit from the many different variations on breath meditation that get taught. Perhaps the main thing is to find one that works for you personally, that arouses faith in the technique and stick with that.

TLDR: Theravada teaches both broad awareness of the whole breath, and narrow focused awareness on one spot depending on who your teacher is, and there is debate over the exact specifics of the approach the Buddha himself taught.
thank you :D

User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 6198
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: concentration on the breath

Post by DooDoot » Wed Oct 09, 2019 9:41 pm

dudette wrote:
Wed Oct 09, 2019 7:43 pm
goenka's technique is unusual or is it the most often used
Hi. Goenka's technique is unrelated to Theravada. It is merely an invention of Goenka. Regards
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati

Caodemarte
Posts: 947
Joined: Fri May 01, 2015 3:21 pm

Re: concentration on the breath

Post by Caodemarte » Thu Oct 10, 2019 1:53 am

Different techniques are used with different people at different times. In the case of focus on breathing, various teachers even in the same tradition may use various centers of attention. These may also vary individually according to the student. In Pa Auk Sayadaw’s and Mahasi Sayadaw’s teaching, especially for beginners and as I understand them, the focus often works down from the nose area to the abdomen and steady abdominal breathing. The same area is usually focused on in Zen. However, this is usually kind of a stage to build the ability to have stable attention before other methods are used (zazen in the case of Zen). However, you can certainly use it as your main method.

chownah
Posts: 8380
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: concentration on the breath

Post by chownah » Thu Oct 10, 2019 3:51 am

I think the idea is to concentrate on the breath....whatever helps one to concentrate on the breath is to be encouraged. If one is concentrating on the breath and getting good results then it is a good method and conversely if one is not getting results then the method is a bad fit for that person and perhaps they should take a different approach.
chownah

pegembara
Posts: 1608
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:39 am

Re: concentration on the breath

Post by pegembara » Thu Oct 10, 2019 8:17 am

The general idea is to anchor one's attention to a present object so that the mind doesn't wander off in different directions into the past or future for example. One remains in the so-called present moment.
"Just as if a person, catching six animals of different ranges, of different habitats, were to bind them with a strong rope. Catching a snake, he would bind it with a strong rope. Catching a crocodile... a bird... a dog... a hyena... a monkey, he would bind it with a strong rope. Binding them all with a strong rope, he would tether them to a strong post or stake.[1]

"Then those six animals, of different ranges, of different habitats, would each pull toward its own range & habitat. The snake would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the anthill.' The crocodile would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the water.' The bird would pull, thinking, 'I'll fly up into the air.' The dog would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the village.' The hyena would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the charnel ground.' The monkey would pull, thinking, 'I'll go into the forest.' And when these six animals became internally exhausted, they would stand, sit, or lie down right there next to the post or stake. In the same way, when a monk whose mindfulness immersed in the body is developed & pursued, the eye does not pull toward pleasing forms, and unpleasing forms are not repellent. The ear does not pull toward pleasing sounds... The nose does not pull toward pleasing aromas... The tongue does not pull toward pleasing flavors... The body does not pull toward pleasing tactile sensations... The intellect does not pull toward pleasing ideas, and unpleasing ideas are not repellent. This, monks, is restraint.

"Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will develop mindfulness immersed in the [breath] body. We will pursue it, hand it the reins and take it as a basis, give it a grounding. We will steady it, consolidate it, and set about it properly.' That's how you should train yourselves."

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
"In-&-out breaths are bodily; these are things tied up with the body. That's why in-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

char101
Posts: 137
Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:21 am

Re: concentration on the breath

Post by char101 » Thu Oct 10, 2019 11:01 am

The basis for fixing on a single contact point is based on the anapanasati section of the patisambhidhamagga:
The Simile of the Saw
8. (§21).
Sign, in-breath, out-breath, are not object
Of a single consciousness;
By one who knows not these three things,
Development is not obtained.
Sign, in-breath, out-breath, are not object
Of a single consciousness;
By one who does know these three things,
Development will be obtained.
Mindfulness of Breathing
54
(§22). It is as though a man were to cut with a saw a tree
trunk placed on level ground. His mindfulness is established by
the teeth of the saw at the point where they come into contact
with the tree trunk, without his giving attention to the teeth of
the saw as they approach and recede, although he is not
unaware of these; and he manifests endeavour, accomplishes the
task, and achieves distinction.
As the tree trunk on the level ground, so the sign for the
binding (of mindfulness). 137 As the teeth of the saw, so the in- and
out-breaths. As the man’s mindfulness is established by the teeth
of the saw at the point where they come into contact with the tree
trunk, without his giving attention to the teeth of the saw as they
approach and recede, although he is not unaware of these, so he
manifests endeavour, accomplishes the task, and achieves
distinction—so, indeed, the bhikkhu sits, having established his
mindfulness at the nose-tip or on the upper lip, without giving
attention to the in- and out-breaths as they approach and recede,
although he is not unaware of these, and he manifests endeavour,
accomplishes the task, and achieves distinction.
The breath is not the sign (object of meditation). The sign is the contact point between the breath and the nose/lip.

User avatar
TLCD96
Posts: 56
Joined: Thu May 11, 2017 8:43 pm

Re: concentration on the breath

Post by TLCD96 » Thu Oct 10, 2019 9:49 pm

LP Pasanno has explained, when speaking to westerners, that it's helpful to focus on the abdomen to get the mind away from the head, where it seems that lots of our thinking occurs, and into the rest of the body; the movement of the abdomen helps in establishing a preliminary level of sustained attention whereas using the nose at first may result in constriction of the mind.

After such an explanation, he says that after a degree of mindfulness is established, it might be helpful to make the focus more "one-pointed" by directing the mind's attention towards a specific place where the breath feels strongest, or a place which is more interesting - for him, this is the nose, because it's more subtle; it doesn't move much and the sensation is quite light there.

So why can't it be both "sharp" and " more aware"? In having a "sharp awareness", aren't you "More aware" of "finer details"?
All of us are bound by birth, aging, and death.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Laurens and 73 guests