Is short breath "better" for Jhana than long breath?

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Is short breath "better" for Jhana than long breath?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Sat Aug 11, 2012 1:17 am

I have recently come across some who argue that the Buddha recommended short breaths instead of long breaths for anapanasati, or that he claimed long breaths would give way to short breaths as concentration deepened. I find the opposite with myself; as I calm down, my breath becomes incredibly slow and subtle. Is this appropriate, or should I try and go for short, subtle breaths? Does the scheme of the anapanasati tetrads imply that one should move from long to short breaths or simply that both styles should be known when and if they occur?

Thanks!
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Is short breath "better" for Jhana than long breath?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Aug 11, 2012 1:27 am

Worrying about your length of breatn will never get you to jhana. Just breathe and pay attention.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Is short breath "better" for Jhana than long breath?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Aug 11, 2012 2:35 am

Hi LY,

Trying to deduce such details from the suttas strikes me as futile. These things can be interpreted in many ways.

What is actually meant by "short" and "long"? Consider the simile in the Satipatthana Sutta:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .soma.html
"Just as a clever turner or a turner's apprentice, turning long, understands: 'I turn long'; or turning short, understands: 'I turn short'; just so, indeed, O bhikkhus, a bhikkhu, when he breathes in long, understands: 'I breathe in long'; or, when he breathes out long, understands: 'I breathe out long'; or, when he breathes in short, he understands: 'I breathe in short';

From this simile, I would guess that "short" actually means "shallow" (not "short time") and, indeed, shallowness is what tends to happen as one becomes more concentrated, as you say.

:anjali:
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Re: Is short breath "better" for Jhana than long breath?

Postby James the Giant » Sat Aug 11, 2012 2:46 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:I have recently come across some who argue .... ... long breaths would give way to short breaths as concentration deepened.

Yes, in my experience this is what happens.
LonesomeYogurt wrote:... should I try and go for short, subtle breaths?

No. See below. There are traditions that play around with forcing the breath and varying the breath deliberately, but from what I have read they are not supported by sutta.
But, that said, Pa-Auk Sayadaw has his monks do deliberately vigorous breathing for long times, and he's very respected and has attainments.
LonesomeYogurt wrote: ...simply that both styles should be known when and if they occur?

Yes. The Satipatthana Sutta reference that MikeNZ gave is a really good illustration of this.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
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Re: Is short breath "better" for Jhana than long breath?

Postby marc108 » Sat Aug 11, 2012 6:59 am

mikenz66 wrote: I would guess that "short" actually means "shallow" (not "short time") and, indeed, shallowness is what tends to happen as one becomes more concentrated, as you say.


this is my understanding as well. that its not long and short in length of time, but full or shallow, gross or subtle.

LonesomeYogurt wrote: should I try and go for short, subtle breaths? Does the scheme of the anapanasati tetrads imply that one should move from long to short breaths or simply that both styles should be known when and if they occur?

Thanks!


in my interpretation, "he discerns(knows,notes)" of the first 2 steps implies a more passive observation, vs the latter "he trains" which implies more input. again my interpretation is that until the breath is very shallow and subtle you just observe the breath mindfully.

i have found purposeful long breathing at the beginning to be conducive of settling down and getting mindfulness up... it's actually quite effective, maybe 10 breaths or so. purposefully constricting the breath doesn't really work for me, because the body isn't quite ready to breath so shallow. it sends up feelings anxiety and restlessness, re: lack of air.
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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