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.
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.