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For these reasons, it seems best to interpret step 3 as including not only the ability to be sensitive to the entire body throughout the in-and-out breath—to prepare you for the full-body awareness developed in jhana—but also the ability to consciously adjust the breath in a way that allows you to do two things: to spread pleasure and rapture throughout the body in the first three jhanas, and to develop a more general sensitivity to how the breath is the primary bodily fabrication in its effect on the other properties of the body. (Thanissario, Right mindfulness p.91)
frank k wrote:So my question is, if elsewhere in the suttas kāyasaṅkhāra is defined to be "in and out breathing", why doesn't everyone just translate it as "calming the breath"? Wouldn't that be much easier for a mediator who's trying to follow the 16 steps of anapana to understand?
The commentaries insist that "body" here means the breath, but this is unlikely in this context, for the next step — without further explanation — refers to the breath as "bodily fabrication." If the Buddha were using two different terms to refer to the breath in such close proximity, he would have been careful to signal that he was redefining his terms (as he does below, when explaining that the first four steps in breath meditation correspond to the practice of focusing on the body in and of itself as a frame of reference). The step of breathing in and out sensitive to the entire body relates to the many similes in the suttas depicting jhana as a state of whole-body awareness (see MN 119).
Of course, this adjustment has to be developed as a skill. If you apply too much pressure or are too heavy-handed in your efforts to adjust the properties of the body, it will give rise to the “fevers” mentioned in SN 47:10. That will require you to step back from the breath and turn the mind to another theme for a while until you feel calmed enough to return to the breath.
The same point applies to step 4. If you apply too much force to calm the breath, it will play havoc with the properties of the body. The body will be
starved of breath energy, and again a “bodily fever” will result. At the same time, it’s important to remember—in line with MN 118’s explanation of the
relationship between rapture and calm as factors for awakening—that one of the most effective ways of calming bodily fabrication is first to breathe in a way that induces a sense of rapture to energize the body and mind. Otherwise, the act of calming bodily fabrication will have a stultifying effect, leading to one of the other problems mentioned in SN 47:10: a sluggishness or constriction in your awareness.
According to MN 28, three of these properties—water, fire, and wind—have the potential to become “provoked” (kuppa). In other words, when stimulated,
they can become quite volatile. So when you explore the ways in which the in-and-out breath fabricates the inner sense of the body, these are the three properties most directly responsive to influences from the breath. With regard to
the water property, this could mean breathing in such a way as to raise or lower the blood pressure, for example,or to change the flow of the blood through
different parts of the body: away from an area feeling excess pressure (as when you have a headache) or toward an area that has been injured and needs the
extra nourishment that a healthy blood flow would provide. With regard to the fire property, this could mean breathing in such a way as to feel warmer when
the weather is cold, or cooler when it’s hot. With regard to the wind property, this could mean breathing in ways that would regulate the flow of the energy already coursing through the different parts of the body.
When you’ve learned to maintain this sense of balanced stillness in the breath, you can focus on balancing the other properties of the body as well. First balance the heat and the cold. If the body feels too warm, notice where the coolest spot in the body is. Focus on the coolness there, and then allow it to spread, just as you’d spread the still breath. Similarly, if you feel too cold, find the warmest spot in the body. After you can maintain your focus on the warmth there, allow it to spread. See if you can then bring the coolness and warmth into balance, so that the body feels just right.
Similarly with the solidity of the body: Focus on the sensations that seem heaviest or most solid in the body. Then allow that solidity to spread through the body. If the body feels too heavy, then think of the still breath making it lighter. Try to find a balance so that you feel neither too heavy nor too light.
This exercise not only makes the body more comfortable as a basis for firmer
concentration, but also acquaints you with the properties that make up your inner sense of the body. As we noted in Part Two, being acquainted with these properties provides you with a useful set of tools for dealing with pain and out-of-body experiences. This exercise also gives you practice in seeing the power of your perceptions: Simply noticing and labeling a particular sensation can make it stronger. (With Each and Every Breath)
He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perceptions, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, a void, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.' (AN 9.36)
frank k wrote:Dmytro, are there sutta references (to support the Patisambhidamagga and commentary quotes) that also include these items as kaya sankhara:
Also, do the suttas also explicitly state (like your quotes) that passambhayam(calming) bodily formations to the point of stillness and 4th jhana?
The reason I'm being so nitpicky is it occurred to me that in my decades experience of practicing anapana i don't recall ever having encountered any monastic or lay teacher who uses the 16 steps of anapana as the main text. I'm wondering if a well translated 16 steps, in plain english, and explicit and clear on such points as what is bodily fabrications, could suffice as the primary text, just as in the good old days when the Buddha presumably passed those instructions to the monks, who then memorized it, and then went off into the wilderness to apply it.
My guess is the Buddha used "kaya sankhara" instead of "in and out breathing" in step 4 not so much because the other bodily fabrications were so important to include under the 16 steps of ananpanasati, but to include the word "kaya" as a way to facilitate memorizing the fact that it belongs in the first tetrad of satipatthana (kayaanupassi)
Samma wrote:There are teachers that use anapanasati and the 16 steps as their main teaching. Thanissaro being one. Bhante Vimalaramsi is living, certainly a different take. Buddhadasa Bhikku - A manual for serious beginners. Bhikkhu Nanamoli translation and commentary, as well as many shorter commentaries and instructions
As I mentioned above many of those based in commentary (eg Pa Auk) interpret kaya here to mean breath-body.
but no one that I'm aware of uses those 16 steps exactly as stated by the Buddha as their main text that they teach to new and old students, only as a supplemental resource.
In terms of detail, MN 118 lists sixteen steps in mindfulness of in-and-out
breathing, but many of those steps require extra explanation as to what, in
practice, they entail. At the same time, it gives no explicit indication of whether
the sixteen steps have to be practiced in the order in which they are listed. (Thanissaro, Right Mindfulness, p. 67)
Although the four tetrads constitute the Buddha’s most extensive instructions
on what to do when you sit down to meditate, they are still very terse. As one
writer has commented, they are more like a telegram than a full text. This should
come as no surprise, for—as we noted in the Introduction—these instructions
were never meant to stand on their own. They were embedded in a canon of
texts memorized by a community of practitioners who would use them simply
as memory aids, both for teachers and for students. This means that they had to
be long enough to convey the most important points—such as the fact that
breath meditation is a proactive process designed to give insight into the
processes of fabrication—but short enough to be easily memorized.
They also had to indicate, through inclusion, which aspects of the practice
held true across the board; and, through silence and exclusion, which aspects
allowed for variations from case to case. If everything were mentioned, the
sheer volume of instructions would have been unwieldy, making it difficult to
sort out which instructions were meant for everyone, and which for specific
cases. So the terseness of the instructions, instead of being a shortcoming, is
actually one of their strengths. (p.84)
"But what are bodily fabrications? What are verbal fabrications? What are mental fabrications?"
"In-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications. Directed thought & evaluation are verbal fabrications. Perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications."
"But why are in-&-out breaths bodily fabrications? Why are directed thought & evaluation verbal fabrications? Why are perceptions & feelings mental fabrications?"
"In-&-out breaths are bodily; these are things tied up with the body. That's why in-&-out breaths are bodily fabrications. Having first directed one's thoughts and made an evaluation, one then breaks out into speech. That's why directed thought & evaluation are verbal fabrications. Perceptions & feelings are mental; these are things tied up with the mind. That's why perceptions & feelings are mental fabrications."