The body and the breath

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The body and the breath

Postby Coyote » Thu May 10, 2012 6:39 pm

I have been listening to a Dhamma talk by Thanissaro Bhukkhu on the Anapanasati Sutta (http://www.audiodharma.org/series/16/talk/1843/) and he talks about a "subtle" breath energy that is not taken in with the in-and-out breath and is taken in through the pores of the skin/though the whole body, and also a field of energy around the body, seeming to make reference to a non-physical/material element to the body, similar to an "astral body" - at least, this is my impression. Does anybody know if the abidhamma or commentaries, or even the Buddha himself talk about a non-physical field of energy? Sounds more like a Chinese or Tao idea to me. Also, maybe I have got the wrong end of the stick and he is talking about something else entirely, or this might be an idea unique to him. Is it possible that what he means by breath energy is the air element in the body, and that is what we are tuning into when we "breathe with the whole body"? I'd have to ask him to be sure, but I just wondered if anyone knowledgeable in abidhamma knew anything...

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Re: The body and the breath

Postby rowboat » Thu May 10, 2012 7:34 pm

Thanks for the link, Coyote. This sounds very interesting. I look forward to listening to this talk this evening. I don't know of any sutta or commentary that talks of subtle breath or fields of energy, but I have definitely experienced long periods where I was not breathing at all. It comes about when concentration is very stable and almost rock-like (but with no deadened or stagnant effect).
Rain soddens what is covered up,
It does not sodden what is open.
Therefore uncover what is covered
That the rain will not sodden it.
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Re: The body and the breath

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 10, 2012 7:42 pm

I haven't listened to those particular talks for a while, but I think what Ven Thanissaro is pointing to in, general terms, is developing a heightened awareness of all aspects of breathing, so that one notices all the subtle (in the small, not esoteric sense) things that are happening in the body.

If one builds up mindfulness and concentration pays careful attention to breathing, walking, etc, one sees that there is the rapid arising and passing away of all kinds of sensations, feelings, thoughts, etc, etc. Various teachers use different entry points to this observation, so the Goenka approach is to scan the body, the Mahasi approach to focus on a primary object (breath, movement of feet, etc), but be aware of other objects arising. The latter is somewhat similar to the general idea of Ven Thanissaro's instructions.

:anjali:
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Re: The body and the breath

Postby danieLion » Thu May 10, 2012 9:57 pm

Coyote wrote: Does anybody know if the abidhamma or commentaries, or even the Buddha himself talk about a non-physical field of energy?

What makes you think it's not physical?
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Re: The body and the breath

Postby danieLion » Thu May 10, 2012 9:59 pm

Coyote wrote: Does anybody know if the abidhamma or commentaries, or even the Buddha himself talk about a non-physical field of energy? Sounds more like a Chinese or Tao idea to me.

Here's a better question. Did the Buddha ever teach, "Thou shalt not mix my teachings with the Chinese or Taoists"?
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Re: The body and the breath

Postby danieLion » Thu May 10, 2012 10:10 pm

Coyote wrote:Also, maybe I have got the wrong end of the stick and he is talking about something else entirely, or this might be an idea unique to him.

According to this website
http://www.saburchill.com/chapters/chap0022.html

%2 of our oxygen comes through the skin

This link is to a study of oxygen and human dermis
http://jp.physoc.org/content/538/3/985.full.pdf
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Re: The body and the breath

Postby danieLion » Thu May 10, 2012 10:45 pm

Coyote wrote:Is it possible that what he means by breath energy is the air element in the body, and that is what we are tuning into when we "breathe with the whole body"?

No. Don't recall the Thanissaro sources off the top of my head, but he has specifically stated that he does not think the vāyo-dhātu ("air" element) is part of "...sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati. Sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī passasissāmīti sikkhati" (breathing in and out sensitive to/experiencing the entire/whole body').

Aside from Thanissaro, do you even know what the Buddha meant by, "...sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati. Sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī passasissāmīti sikkhati"?

Why are you limiting your self to metaphysical/ontological notions of "energy"? If you think of "breath energy" more in terms of modern physics you'll be less confused by Ven.'s comments. Plus, to do them justice, you need to reference them in their entire context (just like with the Buddha's teachings)--which is also good hermeneutics.

Think about all the "energy" that you couldn't see, barely understood, yet still trusted to make this post. Is it really that far fetched that your breathing might actually involve some energy? Isn't that part of the reason we usually translate viriya as energy (one of the seven awakening factors)? And what would Noble Right Effort be without viriya?
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Re: The body and the breath

Postby Coyote » Fri May 11, 2012 10:45 am

Thanks for all the replies. This is an interesting topic.


danieLion wrote:Here's a better question. Did the Buddha ever teach, "Thou shalt not mix my teachings with the Chinese or Taoists"?


I didn't say he did. It is just that if it is a Tao or Chinese idea, it wouldn't be present in the Abhidhamma or any of the commentaries.

danieLion wrote:According to this website:
http://www.saburchill.com/chapters/chap0022.html

%2 of our oxygen comes through the skin

This link is to a study of oxygen and human dermis
http://jp.physoc.org/content/538/3/985.full.pdf


Interesting! I had no idea. I haven't read the study yet, but an interesting question would be how someone could keep their body going at such low oxygen levels for long periods of time, considering that we would die in under a minute if the oxygen in the air is less than 3%

danieLion wrote:What makes you think it's not physical?


danieLion wrote:
Coyote wrote:Is it possible that what he means by breath energy is the air element in the body, and that is what we are tuning into when we "breathe with the whole body"?

No. Don't recall the Thanissaro sources off the top of my head, but he has specifically stated that he does not think the vāyo-dhātu ("air" element) is part of "...sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati. Sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī passasissāmīti sikkhati" (breathing in and out sensitive to/experiencing the entire/whole body').

Aside from Thanissaro, do you even know what the Buddha meant by, "...sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati. Sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī passasissāmīti sikkhati"?

Why are you limiting your self to metaphysical/ontological notions of "energy"? If you think of "breath energy" more in terms of modern physics you'll be less confused by Ven.'s comments. Plus, to do them justice, you need to reference them in their entire context (just like with the Buddha's teachings)--which is also good hermeneutics.

Think about all the "energy" that you couldn't see, barely understood, yet still trusted to make this post. Is it really that far fetched that your breathing might actually involve some energy? Isn't that part of the reason we usually translate viriya as energy (one of the seven awakening factors)? And what would Noble Right Effort be without viriya?


I only know what Ven. Thanissaro says about the 3rd step of anapanasati, which, if I have understood correctly, is experiencing the breath energy in the whole body - i.e not just in the lungs, but being sensitive to the way that the breath affects the whole body. If you don't mind could you tell me what you understand the Buddha meant by that?
I don't know much about modern physics, but I have heard the idea that matter=energy, is that what you mean? To not be constrained by the idea that the breath is a solid thing. I guess if you take it that way, what he says about out immediate experience of the body being energy makes a lot of sense.

If the breath energy is not the air element, then what exactly is the difference? I am not quite sure I understand.
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Re: The body and the breath

Postby danieLion » Sat May 12, 2012 1:17 am

Coyote,
I'll try my best to answer your important questions and respond to your well put points as soon as possible. I'm currently in a lot of pain and can't do much on the computer, but I'll get to it eventually. Just keep an eye on it.
thanks
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Re: The body and the breath

Postby Coyote » Sat May 12, 2012 1:17 pm

danieLion wrote:Coyote,
I'll try my best to answer your important questions and respond to your well put points as soon as possible. I'm currently in a lot of pain and can't do much on the computer, but I'll get to it eventually. Just keep an eye on it.
thanks


Daniel, I am sorry to hear you are in pain. I will remember you when doing my metta meditation today.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: The body and the breath

Postby danieLion » Thu May 17, 2012 7:09 pm

Coyote,
Let's back up a little.
Remember, "breath energy" is just a conceptual linguistic convention. It too is fabricated. Also remember, as Thanissaro constantly points out, to go with what's useful, and not to go with what's not useful. If you find it useful to conceptualize the breath in terms of the air element, do so. If not, experiment with something else. And also remember--again, as Thanissaro constantly points out--to use your ingenuity and imagination. Improvise. Thanissaro, like and by the example of the Buddha, is not postulating metaphysical realities but pragmatic aids to awakening experience.

The map is not the territory. The meal is not the menu. The model is not the muddle.

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Re: The body and the breath

Postby Dmytro » Fri May 18, 2012 6:30 am

Hi Coyote,

Coyote wrote:I have been listening to a Dhamma talk by Thanissaro Bhukkhu on the Anapanasati Sutta (http://www.audiodharma.org/series/16/talk/1843/) and he talks about a "subtle" breath energy that is not taken in with the in-and-out breath and is taken in through the pores of the skin/though the whole body, and also a field of energy around the body, seeming to make reference to a non-physical/material element to the body, similar to an "astral body" - at least, this is my impression. Does anybody know if the abidhamma or commentaries, or even the Buddha himself talk about a non-physical field of energy? Sounds more like a Chinese or Tao idea to me. Also, maybe I have got the wrong end of the stick and he is talking about something else entirely, or this might be an idea unique to him. Is it possible that what he means by breath energy is the air element in the body, and that is what we are tuning into when we "breathe with the whole body"? I'd have to ask him to be sure, but I just wondered if anyone knowledgeable in abidhamma knew anything...


Yes, the Dhammasangani-Atthakatha explains that jhana in Anapanasati is of the same type as in air kasina, i.e. based on the air element:

"But is this all the absorption belonging to the consciousness of the sphere of refined form, beginning with the earth kasiṇa and ending in the perception of the skeleton? Or is there anything else?"
"Yes, there is. There is ānāpāna jhāna and the development of kāyagatāsati, which have not been spoken of here."
"Why not?"
"Because ānāpāna jhāna is included in the air kasiṇa; the development of kāyagatāsati arisen by virtue of the fourfold and fivefold jhānas with reference to the hair etc., is included in the colour kasiṇas; the kāyagatāsati produced by virtue of the jhānas attending to the unattractiveness in the thirty-two parts of the body, and that of the jhāna attending to the colours of the nine kinds of corpses in the charnel grounds is included in the ten repulsive things. Thus all the absorptions of consciousness connected with the sphere of refined form have been included here."
(DhsA. 200)

This knowledge is largerly lost, but you still can find a good description of practice in Vimuttimagga chapter on Anapanasati.

http://www.archive.org/details/ArahantU ... reedom.pdf

AFAIK, Ven. Thanissaro doesn't know this, so he describes this selective recognition (sanna) of air, being spread over the whole body, in his own words.

His teacher, Acharn Lee Dhammadaro, described it somewhat better, as spreading the perceptual image (nimitta) of air all over the body. It is amazing how his description coincides with the description in Vimuttimagga, which he had never read.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html

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Re: The body and the breath

Postby Coyote » Fri May 18, 2012 7:24 pm

Sorry for the late reply, I have been quite busy with exams recently.
Just to say thanks to both of you.

Metta,
Coyote
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Re: The body and the breath

Postby Kamran » Sat May 19, 2012 6:04 am

It is physical.

He is speaking of the physical sensation, which seems like energy, that you feel when your awareness is on a body part or the entire body.

I also did not understand initially and had to imagine/visualize but became sensitive to the "breath energy" after a little while.

For example, move your awareness slowly from the back of your head, over your shoulders, and down your arms out to your fingers and you can feel a distinct energy sensation moving along with your awareness. You may need to just imagine this at first, but will become sensitive to it after a while.

Be aware of your fingers and they will start to tingle. Scan body part by body part like this for a while, and then with each in breath you feel a "breathing in" energy sensation through your whole body, through your skin, and a "breathing out" sensation through your legs, arms, etc. You focus on this and your breath at the same time.

While focusing on the breath and holding your awareness on the whole body at the same time blissful states frequently arise.

You may also feel that the mind is going to wander, in which case you should start to move your awareness/breath energy around the body again. This at least keeps your mind absorbed in the body, even if its not still, and prevents it from going into the past and the future.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: The body and the breath

Postby Namu Butsu » Mon May 21, 2012 1:25 am

Hello,

A lot of times when I put my attention to breathing and feeling my body I end up feeling what feels like energy or aliveness in parts of my body (Mainly i can feel it in my hands and feet) other times with breathing I can feel it in my belly. Is this feeling the body?
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http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma3/vegi.html (Meat eating and vegetarianism)
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Re: The body and the breath

Postby DarwidHalim » Mon May 21, 2012 4:59 am

This body is actually just another aspect of energy. Mountain is also just another aspect of energy.

This is proven in science.

If we see something, but we just see it as material, then we don't see it completely.

A mountain is not 50% material + 50% energy.
A mountain is 100% energy, which can be in seen from the perspective as a material or an energy.

Everything is the play of energy.

Breathing is energy. This meat is energy. All material is energy.

Deluded people like us will see thing as material alone.

One school of Buddhism actually teach the practitioners to see everything as the play of energy. By doing this, it easily cut through the boundary of this and that as an entity. Not only that, once this view is mature, you can change this body easily from one form to another form during lifetime.

Interestingly as well, Buddha actually talk about this inner energy in Pali. Just briefly, something like introductory. Not in great details.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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