Mahasi, the abdomen, and the lower dantian

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Mahasi, the abdomen, and the lower dantian

Postby dhamma_newb » Wed Feb 01, 2012 1:56 pm

I find it interesting that in Masahi style Vipassana meditation the primary object is on the abdomen area which in Chinese is where the lower dantian is located. Does anyone know the history of this technique? Where there other Buddhist meditation teachers besides Mahasi Sayadaw who taught students to focus on the abdomen as an anchor during Vipassana? Any info would be greatly appreciated. :anjali:

Don
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Re: Mahasi, the abdomen, and the lower dantian

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Feb 01, 2012 7:47 pm

I understood that Mahasi Sayadaw just experimented with his students and found that particular object was most effective. However, there are some knowledgeable people here who might be able to give a better history.

Specifically focussing where that link describes the lower dantian (also described as the hara in Zen practice http://www.mro.org/zmm/teachings/meditation.php) is not the area I see most strongly when following abdominal sensations/motion (which is up near the diaphragm), though of course there may be connections. The various ancient ways of working with the body can certainly work, and can be effective in arousing energy, relaxing, etc, and it may be that using abdominal motion as the primary object has the useful side effect of arousing more energy than working with the breath in the nasal region. However, I would be careful to not confuse those possible side effects with the point of the Mahasi, or other Buddhist, techniques, which is the arousing of insight.

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Re: Mahasi, the abdomen, and the lower dantian

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Feb 01, 2012 8:31 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I understood that Mahasi Sayadaw just experimented with his students and found that particular object was most effective. However, there are some knowledgeable people here who might be able to give a better history.


I downloaded a dhamma talk by Patrick Kearney a while ago that starts with quite an interesting history of the Mahasi technique, it's worth a listen. I think I got it from the BMIMC web site.
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Re: Mahasi, the abdomen, and the lower dantian

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:20 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I understood that Mahasi Sayadaw just experimented with his students and found that particular object was most effective. However, there are some knowledgeable people here who might be able to give a better history.


I downloaded a dhamma talk by Patrick Kearney a while ago that starts with quite an interesting history of the Mahasi technique, it's worth a listen. I think I got it from the BMIMC web site.


See:

viewtopic.php?f=35&t=8917&p=138647
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Re: Mahasi, the abdomen, and the lower dantian

Postby Fede » Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:22 pm

It's worth mentioning that the Passive Martial Arts (Tai Chi, Qi Gung, zham Zhong) all focus on the energy (Qi) which accumulates in the DanTien, and focus on its manifesting in all channels which transport Qi around the body.
I teach Qi Gong, and there is a particularly powerful standing Meditative visualisation I lead my students through....i always but always warn them that this is an extremely powerful exercise, and that at any first sign of light-headedness or unsteadiness, they should sit down, and even, if they feel like it, lie down quietly, and breathe deeply.....
This standing meditation focuses on distributing the Qi from the DanTien to important pivotal points in the body, and back....

in the past, i have had one lady faint,one gentleman begin to weep, and a third gentleman perspired so profusely, he was utterly soaked by the end of the session.
And I do mean, drenched.

The lady who fainted was absolutely stunned by the effect (she bore no ill-will whatsoever) and was flabbergasted that such a simple exercise could produce such a movement of energy.
The gentleman who began to weep declared that the exercise must have brought up some extremely profound and hitherto buried emotions, and was glad of the experience..... but chose to share nothing more, quite understandably. I know he was pretty overwhelmed by it all, too.....
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Re: Mahasi, the abdomen, and the lower dantian

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:35 pm

The technique was taught by Theelon Sayādaw, a renowned meditation master during the reign of King Mindon (i.e. about 1850 A.D ). The Mingun Jetavan Sayādaw was his disciple, and the teacher of Venerable Mahāsi Sayādaw (Source: Five Qualities of a Meditator, Sayādaw U Jatila) (ed.)

The method of body contemplation (Kāyānupassanā Satipaṭṭhāna) analysing the four elements (dhātumanisakāra), was taught by the Buddha in the Satipatṭṭhāna Sutta. Though the abdominal movements are related to the breathing, contemplating the air element (vāyodhātu) is not mindfulness of respiration, but analysis of the four elements. The abdominal movements are a convenient place to find the element of motion, as it is always present. Other objects are equally important to the practice of mindfulness meditation, but one must start somewhere so the abdominal movements are taken as one of several primary objects — sitting and touching being others.
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Re: Mahasi, the abdomen, and the lower dantian

Postby dhamma_newb » Thu Feb 02, 2012 1:18 am

Thanks everyone for sharing your knowledge. :anjali:

Thanks for the link tilt! I downloaded Patrick Kearney's talks and I'm really enjoying them. His first Dhamma talk about the Buddha as a shaman and other details of his life prior to his Enlightenment is very interesting! :thumbsup: The way he teaches the history and practice of Mahasi's methods are clear and easy to understand. Excellent talk.
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Re: Mahasi, the abdomen, and the lower dantian

Postby danieLion » Thu Feb 02, 2012 1:26 am

dhamma_newb wrote:I find it interesting that in Masahi style Vipassana meditation the primary object is on the abdomen area which in Chinese is where the lower dantian is located. Does anyone know the history of this technique? Where there other Buddhist meditation teachers besides Mahasi Sayadaw who taught students to focus on the abdomen as an anchor during Vipassana? Any info would be greatly appreciated. :anjali:

Don

Great topic, Don.
Before I get specific, my general sense is that experiencing any "meditation object" is very individualistic. That being said, there are also many useful ways to conceptualize abdominal breathing sensations; but what I've found most helpful is to experiment as you go. I learned anapanasati/samatha/vipassana from a Mahasi student, Gil Fronsdal, and at the time was reading Kenneth Cohen's book on Qigong (and some others). I too was struck by how well these methods aligned. (I had also worked with what some call "the solar plexus" and had a background in pranayama/yoga breathing). But what really made all of this fit together in a coherent way was Ajaan Lee's Keeping the Breathe in Mind supplemented by Ajaan Geoff's (he speaks of Qigong hear and there and does Small Heavenly Circulation) and Ajaan Fuang's teachings on breath meditation. I constantly run all this by my acupuncturist who has a Ph.D in Oriental Medicine and is a certified Qigong teacher/healing practitioner. The wonderful thing about both active and sitting Qigong is that it is, IMO, anapanasati. I've also found a nice fit between Qigong visualizations (inner beam of light, heart as over-flowing waterfall, small heavenly circulation [meridian work], etc...) and Ajaan Lee's method (which he developed in concert yogis while in India). Finally, Shinzen Young teaches some similar techniques in his chronic pain literature/audio, which I still employ occasionally.

I cant' recommend it for everyone, but I like having an arsenal of methods like this at my disposal because I never know what's going to arise before I sit. I do, however, keep it as simple and as consistent from session to session as possible and refrain from jumping all over the place. And I basically agree with Ajaan Geoff that you need to innovate when necessary, and, most importantly, keep training yourself to ask the right questions in the right way. E.g., what does the breathe need right now? what does the mind need right now, which is a function of developing the jhana factors.

I've investigated the history of Qigong a bit and am also struck by how old it is--so old, it's "origin" is accepted to be unknown, and wouldn't be surprised if there was cross pollination between the Buddha's culture and Qigong practice.
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Last edited by danieLion on Thu Feb 02, 2012 1:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mahasi, the abdomen, and the lower dantian

Postby danieLion » Thu Feb 02, 2012 1:30 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Though the abdominal movements are related to the breathing, contemplating the air element (vāyodhātu) is not mindfulness of respiration, but analysis of the four elements.

Hi Bhikkhu Pesala :anjali:
True, but Qigong in not just mere dhatu work. Like I said, IMO, it is anapanasati (and by extension, satipatthana).
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