Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby twelph » Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:33 pm

marc108 wrote:http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part3-d
The first two steps of breath meditation [§151] involve simple tasks of directed thought and evaluation: directing one's thoughts and attention to the breath in and of itself, in the present, at the same time evaluating it as one begins to discern variations in the length of the breath. Some modern teachers maintain that the factor of evaluation here also includes taking one's observations of short and long breathing as a basis for adjusting the rhythm of the breath to make it as comfortable as possible. Because the first level of jhāna must be based on a sense of pleasure [§238], this advice is very practical.

The remaining steps are willed or determined: One "trains oneself," first by manipulating one's sense of conscious awareness, making it sensitive to the body as a whole.Then one can begin manipulating the bodily sensations of which one is aware, reducing them to a single sensation of calm by letting "bodily fabrication" — the breath — grow calm so as to create an easeful sense of rapture and pleasure.[i] A comparison between the stages of breath meditation and the graphic analogies for jhāna[/i]


Thanks, this quote makes much more sense to me.
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:58 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Thanks for sharing the quotes. I have a couple of quick questions with reference to what you've highlighted...

With regards to the first red highlighted quote, I've heard about some insight practitioners (I forget their lineage) who deliberately cultivate physical pain in order to give them physical sensations to work with. Have you heard of this practice, and if so, do you know of any quotes/texts etc. from the vipassana traditions that explain that practice of deliberately cultivating physical pain, juxtaposed against the need to make sure our body is at peace? I'm curious as to how the two things might be resolved.

No. What you may be referring to is the usual statements from just about any Dhamma teacher you could name that whatever arises is an opportunity to learn, and expecting to only ever have pleasant experiences isn't helpful.
You could probably pull like "pain is an opportunity to learn" from some Dhamma talk, remove the context ( such as: "it's inevitable, so when it arises look at it as an opportunity, not a threat"), and misinterpret it.
retrofuturist wrote:With regards to the second highlight, I was just curious as to your logic behind choosing only to highlight number five? You introduce the full quote by saying it's regarding "fabrication of one's meditation practice", but to me, point 1-9 all pertain to fabrication of one's meditation practice. Did you call out #5 because it seems to correlate with Thanissaro Bhikkhu's "learn what works for you" mode of teaching, or is it something else?

Only because it was the one that most explicitly said "fabrication" ("recreate those conditions"). But of course, I agree. There's nothing particularly special about a Dhamma teacher talking about fabricating the path to liberation, since that's just what the Buddha said...

:namaste:
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:07 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:What you may be referring to is the usual statements from just about any Dhamma teacher you could name that whatever arises is an opportunity to learn, and expecting to only ever have pleasant experiences isn't helpful.
You could probably pull like "pain is an opportunity to learn" from some Dhamma talk, remove the context ( such as: "it's inevitable, so when it arises look at it as an opportunity, not a threat"), and misinterpret it.

No... in whatever context I heard it from, it was definitely intentionally cultivated unpleasant vedana. I think it was by "crushing" (not literally) the legs, for the purpose of giving rise to stronger vedana which could be experienced and observed more vividly. Either way, in the context it appeared, it seemed as if the activity was being valorized. I'll have a poke around and see if I can find anything. Until that point, feel free to disregard... I assumed such practices were more commonly known.

Thanks for the clarification on the other point.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:07 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:What you may be referring to is the usual statements from just about any Dhamma teacher you could name that whatever arises is an opportunity to learn, and expecting to only ever have pleasant experiences isn't helpful.
You could probably pull like "pain is an opportunity to learn" from some Dhamma talk, remove the context ( such as: "it's inevitable, so when it arises look at it as an opportunity, not a threat"), and misinterpret it.

No... in whatever context I heard it from, it was definitely intentionally cultivated unpleasant vedana. I think it was by "crushing" (not literally) the legs, for the purpose of giving rise to stronger vedana which could be experienced and observed more vividly. Either way, in the context it appeared, it seemed as if the activity was being valorized. I'll have a poke around and see if I can find anything. Until that point, feel free to disregard... I assumed such practices were more commonly known.

Thanks for the clarification on the other point.

Metta,
Retro. :)

I have heard this also, but I think it was to do with misguided students rather than an actual practice recommended by the teacher.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 17, 2012 6:22 am

I've been listening to this series of talks (actually I think for the second time, but I forget things easily...):
http://www.audiodharma.org/series/1/talk/1839/
Mindfulness and Concentration
Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, together with Right Effort, form the concentration-aggregate of the noble eightfold path. Although these factors are often discussed separately, the Pali discourses show that the Buddha meant for them to form a unified practice. This course through talks, readings, discussions, and meditation explored what these factors means and how they can be brought together in a mutually supportive and nourishing way.

You might like to work through the 30 minute guided meditation at the start if you want to see how his approach is implemented.

In talking about concentration he mentions that in the end one has to realise that even the most pleasant, concentrated, state is impermanent and should not be clung to (as mentioned in various suttas). His particular spin is that it is very powerful to realise that something that one is so attached to is impermanent and ultimately unsatisfactory.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
There is the case where a monk, secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, 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.

I can't find exactly what he says in the transcribed talks on Access to Insight, but here's some more from Ven Thanissaro, commenting about attachment, or not, to pleasant experiences:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tml#gotcha
In this way, the pursuit of happiness through developing strong concentration for the pursuit of total freedom is not a selfish thing. As long as your concentration is imbued with the other factors of the path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness — it's perfectly safe. They sometimes talk about getting stuck on concentration or becoming a concentration junkie, but those are cases where the concentration lacks the other elements of the path. Your understanding of why there's suffering in the world is skewed, or your understanding of why you're suffering is skewed. You spend all your time just focusing on your breath and not wanting to do anything for anyone else anywhere, not wanting to be bothered by the world.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... eightening
This is especially important when really strong experiences come in the meditation. You don't jump to any conclusions. Again, you lift the mind above them and watch. Hopefully by that time the habit has become built-in enough so that you realize you can't allow yourself to get attached to anything, even the really amazing experiences. Lift yourself up rung by rung by rung along the ladder. You go from one attachment to a higher one to a higher one. Finally, though, there comes a point where you have to let go and just watch what happens. Only when you've developed this habit of lifting the mind up can you get through some of these experiences that waylay everyone else along the meditation path.


And here's Sayadaw U Pandita spin on the pleasant experiences:
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pan ... hanas.html
If you have extraordinary experiences, please make it a point to note and label them. Be clearly aware that rapture, faith, tranquility and so forth are no more than mental states. If, while noting them, you realize that you are attached to them, cut the attachment immediately and return your attention to the primary object at the abdomen. Only then will your progress continue, and it will bring you even sweeter fruit.

Meditation teachers have to be tactful in dealing with students who are in this stage of practice. The students are so excited by their experiences that they tend to rebel if the teacher is too deflating. Instead, one might gently say, “Your practice is not bad. These are natural things which arise in practice, but there are many other experiences which are much better than what you have now. So why don’t you note all these things so you can experience the better ones?”

Paying heed to these instructions, the yogi returns to sitting and carefully notes the lights, faith, rapture, happiness, tranquility and comfort. It dawns on him or her that this simple noting actually is the correct path of practice. Thus oriented, he or she can proceed with great confidence.

:anjali:
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Feb 17, 2012 6:36 am

retrofuturist wrote: Either way, in the context it appeared, it seemed as if the activity was being valorized. I'll have a poke around and see if I can find anything.
It will be interesting to see the actuial statement and the actual context.

Until that point, feel free to disregard... I assumed such practices were more commonly known.
One does not need to deliberately manufacture pain to watch. The mind/body process does that all by itself without any need to add to it. Just sit unmoving for even a few minutes to see what arises.
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: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby Brizzy » Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:10 am

tiltbillings wrote:
retrofuturist wrote: Either way, in the context it appeared, it seemed as if the activity was being valorized. I'll have a poke around and see if I can find anything.
It will be interesting to see the actuial statement and the actual context.

Until that point, feel free to disregard... I assumed such practices were more commonly known.
One does not need to deliberately manufacture pain to watch. The mind/body process does that all by itself without any need to add to it. Just sit unmoving for even a few minutes to see what arises.


Is it possible that it is Sunlun Sayadaw to whom Retro is referring to as regards cultivating painful sensations.
As you say, you do not have to physically manufacture pain, one can manufacture pain with inappropriate attention & view.

Metta

:smile:
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:23 am

Brizzy wrote:Is it possible that it is Sunlun Sayadaw to whom Retro is referring to as regards cultivating painful sensations.
We shall await retro's response.

As you say, you do not have to physically manufacture pain, one can manufacture pain with inappropriate attention & view.
While that might be true, it is not what I said.
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: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:55 pm

Finished the series of talks while doing some gardening (finally we have a sunny day :)):
mikenz66 wrote:I've been listening to this series of talks (actually I think for the second time, but I forget things easily...):
http://www.audiodharma.org/series/1/talk/1839/
Mindfulness and Concentration

and sat through the guided meditation.

Ven Thanissaro has some very useful ways of viewing these topics and I got some good reminders of various things that are always good to have reminders about...


The way he describes meditation seems to me pretty much the same idea as the "primary object" concept that the Mahasi approach, and most "vipassana" teachers, use:
There’s no one-size-fits-all kind of meditation. Breath meditation
comes the closest to a universal object because, after all, we all have a
breath, and for all of us it’s an important part of our lives. Ajaan Lee
recommends taking it as your home base. It’s the safest of all
meditation objects. But there are times when you need to forage
around in other areas. You may find yourself way off in left field and
have to find your way back to home base.

ePublished Dhamma Talks (3)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... index.html

One thing I've not heard Ven Thanissaro discuss in detail is walking meditation. Are there any talks/writings where he discusses that? I mention this because I find that walking is excellent for discerning intention, which is a key component of the "fashioning" that he emphasises in many places.

:anjali:
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby bodom » Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:31 am

mikenz66 wrote:One thing I've not heard Ven Thanissaro discuss in detail is walking meditation. Are there any talks/writings where he discusses that?


Mindfulness: Walking Meditation: Stillness In Motion
http://dharmaseed.org/talks/audio_player/179/6068.html

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby marc108 » Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:46 am

bodom wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:One thing I've not heard Ven Thanissaro discuss in detail is walking meditation. Are there any talks/writings where he discusses that?


Mindfulness: Walking Meditation: Stillness In Motion
http://dharmaseed.org/talks/audio_player/179/6068.html

:anjali:


I believe that this is the same talk on paper:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#walking
"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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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:00 am

Thanks Bodom and Marc,

That was a nice accompaniment to mowing the lawn...

As he says in the talk, with walking it's easier to see certain types of movements of the mind because you are making grosser decisions than when sitting:
The other reason why it's important to develop this ability to stay centered in the midst of activity, is that while you're doing walking meditation, you begin to observe how the mind slips out. It's often the case that you gain insight into the movements of the mind a lot more easily while you're walking than while you're sitting, because when you're sitting, everything is supposed to be totally still. You don't have to pay attention to anything else at all. You can clamp down on everything and get very, very centered, very, very still. But while you're walking, you still have to watch; you still have to move; there are decisions to be made even in the simple matter of walking. Where you're going to place your eyes, where you're going to step, noticing how close you are to the end of the path: simple things, but they're movements of the mind. And when the mind moves that way, it's easy for other intentions to sneak into the movement to divert it to their own ends. If you're not careful, they'll pull you away. But if you get used to looking for them, you gain a sense of how the mind tends to flow out.

:anjali:
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby danieLion » Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:57 am

tiltbillings wrote:
farmer wrote:Tilt is asking a good, specific question and getting only vague answers. . . .
Thanks. I appreciate your catching what I was asking and I appreciate even more the time you took for your response. It was helpful.

Hi Tilt,
Just listen to any of Thanissaro's guided meditations available all over the internet. He gives detailed specifics in all his guided meditations that address your inquiry.

For instance:

http://www.audiodharma.org/talks/audio_player/300.html

http://dharmaseed.org/talks/audio_player/179/11013.html

http://dharmaseed.org/talks/audio_player/179/11004.html

http://dhammatalks.org/Archive/111228_R ... Breath.mp3

or, even more specifically, see:

http://dhammatalks.org/Archive/091102%2 ... %20Day.mp3

http://dhammatalks.org/Archive/111225_S ... Breath.mp3

The Breath: A Vehicle for Liberation found at
http://www.audiodharma.org/series/16/talk/1843/

Breathe Meditation Series
http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/179/talk/11023/

Exploring The Breath
http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/179/talk/11026/

good-will
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Feb 18, 2012 7:08 am

danieLion wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
farmer wrote:Tilt is asking a good, specific question and getting only vague answers. . . .
Thanks. I appreciate your catching what I was asking and I appreciate even more the time you took for your response. It was helpful.

Hi Tilt,
Just listen to any of Thanissaro's guided meditations available all over the internet. He gives detailed specifics in all his guided meditations that address your inquiry.

For instance:. . . .
Thanks. I'll listen to probably not all of them, but three or so should do.
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: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby danieLion » Sat Feb 18, 2012 7:11 am

Cool, Tilt.
:anjali:
Night, night.
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby squarepeg » Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:28 am

greetings,

I found this essay helpfull, i also find it relevent to the aim of the OP.

De-perception "After all, you're not meditating to get to the breath. You're meditating to understand the processes leading to suffering so that you can put an end to them. The way you relate to your perceptions is part of these processes, so that's what you want to see. You have to treat your experience of the breath, not as an end in itself, but as a tool for understanding the role of perception in creating suffering and stress."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/deperception.html

Thanks everyone for this thread, i found it very helpfull.

sp
"Yadisam vapate bijam tadisam harate phalam" — as we sow, so shall we reap
Maranam Bhavissati - "death will take place"
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby danieLion » Mon Feb 27, 2012 6:08 am

Thanissaro has also noted that although we think of breathing as involuntary, under analysis, we come to see it as all voluntary. He also claimes that the cessation of breathing is the hallmark of fourth jhana.

Re: ENERGY. The notion of the breath as energy is extremely optimistic. When scientists started thinking in terms of energy and not just "matter", the scientific world bloomed with new discoveries. As with the breath. When we think of it as energy, we are adopting a realistic attitude about breathing, and the discoveries start to blossom.
Goodwill
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 27, 2012 7:29 am

danieLion wrote:Thanissaro has also noted that although we think of breathing as involuntary, under analysis, we come to see it as all voluntary. He also claimes that the cessation of breathing is the hallmark of fourth jhana.
So, if I hold my breath I have attained 4th jhana? Is breath voluntary? Well, yes and no, but I would suggest if one thinks the answer is only yes, then spend a few minutes under water without any breathing apparatus.
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: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby Kenshou » Mon Feb 27, 2012 9:14 am

I find the literal interpretation of that to be a bit silly.

However, what can happen which is not so deadly or brain-damaging, is that the breath becomes so calm that it is effectively unnoticeable.
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 27, 2012 9:27 am

Kenshou wrote:I find the literal interpretation of that to be a bit silly.

However, what can happen which is not so deadly or brain-damaging, is that the breath becomes so calm that it is effectively unnoticeable.
Yes.
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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