Breath this... Breath that...

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation
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mettafuture
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Breath this... Breath that...

Postby mettafuture » Wed Sep 01, 2010 1:41 am

Almost every meditation teacher and book I've come across presents breath meditation as the end all - be all, the one shoe that fits everyone. If this was the case, why can nearly 39 other meditation objects be found in the Tipitaka?

Perhaps the Buddha gave us such a variety of options because he knew, depending on the individual's personality, some meditation objects would work better than others.

I often hear dhamma teachers saying that they focus their lessons on Anapanasati (breath meditation) because it was the method the Buddha himself used to reach enlightenment, and that it can fulfill all 4 establishments of mindfulness at once. But maybe the breath is too subtle of an object for some people to start with? Maybe it would be better for them if they fulfilled the 4 establishments at a slower pace, using one of the other meditation objects?

Did you know that the earliest lay Buddhist communities probably didn't even do breath meditation? Their primary objects of contemplation were likely the 6 recollections (buddha, dhamma, sangha, morality, generosity, and the devas), with the first recollection on the buddha being the primary object.

If this is the case, why is it that I can barely find a book, a dhamma talk, ect on something OTHER than the breath? :evil:

I basically have 2 questions:
- Do you think dhamma teachers should go into more detail about the other meditation objects for those who may not be ready for breath meditation?
- If I wanted to buy a book, right now, on how to meditate on something other than the breath, which book should I get? Does one, other than the Visuddhimagga, even exist?

nameless
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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby nameless » Wed Sep 01, 2010 3:21 am

Breath meditation is very simple, it's unlikely that one would be "not ready" for breath meditation, and if so, what would make the others "easier"? The others involve some sort of visualization or meditation on abstract concepts. See http://www.hinduwebsite.com/buddhism/objectsofmeditation.asp

Anyway if you must have something different, metta (loving-kindness) meditation is pretty common. You might also want to look at the satipatthana http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/soma/wayof.html which provides instructions meditating on body, feelings, consciousness or mental objects, though they are often linked back with the breath and is a bit hard to understand.

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mettafuture
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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby mettafuture » Wed Sep 01, 2010 3:35 am

nameless wrote:Breath meditation is very simple,

For you, and some others, but not everyone.

it's unlikely that one would be "not ready" for breath meditation, and if so, what would make the others "easier"?

They aren't as subtle.

The others involve some sort of visualization or meditation on abstract concepts. See http://www.hinduwebsite.com/buddhism/objectsofmeditation.asp

Not all of them. For example: Contemplating the hindrances.

Anyway if you must have something different, metta (loving-kindness) meditation is pretty common.

It's one of my favorite meditations to do, hence my username.

You might also want to look at the satipatthana http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/soma/wayof.html which provides instructions meditating on body, feelings, consciousness or mental objects, though they are often linked back with the breath and is a bit hard to understand.

Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization by Analyo is another great resource, but it doesn't work as well as an instruction manual.

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legolas
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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby legolas » Wed Sep 01, 2010 4:59 am

mettafuture wrote:Almost every meditation teacher and book I've come across presents breath meditation as the end all - be all, the one shoe that fits everyone. If this was the case, why can nearly 39 other meditation objects be found in the Tipitaka?

Perhaps the Buddha gave us such a variety of options because he knew, depending on the individual's personality, some meditation objects would work better than others.

I often hear dhamma teachers saying that they focus their lessons on Anapanasati (breath meditation) because it was the method the Buddha himself used to reach enlightenment, and that it can fulfill all 4 establishments of mindfulness at once. But maybe the breath is too subtle of an object for some people to start with? Maybe it would be better for them if they fulfilled the 4 establishments at a slower pace, using one of the other meditation objects?

Did you know that the earliest lay Buddhist communities probably didn't even do breath meditation? Their primary objects of contemplation were likely the 6 recollections (buddha, dhamma, sangha, morality, generosity, and the devas), with the first recollection on the buddha being the primary object.

If this is the case, why is it that I can barely find a book, a dhamma talk, ect on something OTHER than the breath? :evil:

I basically have 2 questions:
- Do you think dhamma teachers should go into more detail about the other meditation objects for those who may not be ready for breath meditation?
- If I wanted to buy a book, right now, on how to meditate on something other than the breath, which book should I get? Does one, other than the Visuddhimagga, even exist?


To a certain extent I agree. It seems the mahayana/tantra looked really hard at the six recollections and came up with all sorts of wierd & wonderful (some not so wonderful) meditations. I consider myself as a Theravada with a small t, I to have looked askance at the lack of modern teachers who teach alternative ways, other than the breath (which I personally find ok). I have read the Visuddhimagga treatment of the recollections and if they can inspire joy in someone, great but they left me deadly cold. One or two teachers have presented alternatives like Ayya Khema and Bhante Vimalaramsi, even Thanissaro Bhikhu presents breath meditation in an upbeat joyful way. I to would love to hear of a book that deals with the six recollections in an upbeat fashion. It is really important that we can arouse enthusiasm in our meditation object/subject.

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:19 am

Obviously you haven't heard of the two most popular vipassana techniques in the west, the Mahasi technique, and the body sweeping technique taught by Goenka.

Both use the breath somewhat, but in both cases the breath isn't the main thing.

Anapanasati is the best entry level technique I think, so if you are attending a retreats with a lot of beginners you're likely to get Anapanasati instructions. It's easy to do but difficult to master so if you are feeling a lot of restlessness and boredom as a result of the technique then it's working, best to face up to the restlessness and boredom before thinking about changing technique.

I can recommend http://sayadawutejaniya.org/ for a technique that doesn't use the breath.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby legolas » Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:25 am

Goofaholix wrote:Obviously you haven't heard of the two most popular vipassana techniques in the west, the Mahasi technique, and the body sweeping technique taught by Goenka.

Both use the breath somewhat, but in both cases the breath isn't the main thing.

Anapanasati is the best entry level technique I think, so if you are attending a retreats with a lot of beginners you're likely to get Anapanasati instructions. It's easy to do but difficult to master so if you are feeling a lot of restlessness and boredom as a result of the technique then it's working, best to face up to the restlessness and boredom before thinking about changing technique.

I can recommend http://sayadawutejaniya.org/ for a technique that doesn't use the breath.


Yep, heard of them.

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mettafuture
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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby mettafuture » Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:50 am

Goofaholix wrote:Obviously you haven't heard of the two most popular vipassana techniques in the west, the Mahasi technique, and the body sweeping technique taught by Goenka.

I've heard of them too.

Both use the breath somewhat,

Exactly.

but in both cases the breath isn't the main thing.

It kind of is.

Anapanasati is the best entry level technique I think

It's great for those who don't have respiratory problems.

so if you are attending a retreats with a lot of beginners you're likely to get Anapanasati instructions.

I know...

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:54 am

mettafuture wrote:It kind of is.


Then you're kind of doing it wrong.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby mettafuture » Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:15 am

Goofaholix wrote:
mettafuture wrote:It kind of is.


Then you're kind of doing it wrong.

Does the Mahasi technique not tell you to follow your breath at the abdomen, note thoughts and hindrances as they arise, and then return to the breath after those thoughts have been noted?

http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/issues/2 ... /mind.html

Don't try to be a smart ass with me.

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:41 am

mettafuture wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:
mettafuture wrote:It kind of is.


Then you're kind of doing it wrong.

Does the Mahasi technique not tell you to follow your breath at the abdomen, note thoughts and hindrances as they arise, and then return to the breath after those thoughts have been noted?

http://www.thebuddhadharma.com/issues/2 ... /mind.html

Don't try to be a smart ass with me.


The noting is the main thing, the breath is just something you can go back to when you get lost. A lot of people find they spend too much time on the breath, I did when I practised this technique, but that's just lazy practice not the intent of the technique.

Your last comment strikes me as unnecessary.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby mettafuture » Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:53 am

Goofaholix wrote:The noting is the main thing, the breath is just something you can go back to when you get lost.

The breath is still the primary meditation object. You're only asked to turn a thought into an object if it persists after being noted.

Your last comment strikes me as unnecessary.

:rolleye:

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby legolas » Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:59 am

Ahem :thinking: Back to subject...........I would still love to hear of a book that deals with the six recollections in an upbeat fashion. It is really important that we can arouse enthusiasm in our meditation object/subject.

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby Kenshou » Wed Sep 01, 2010 8:15 am

Anapanasati is a good basic meditation and though it may not fit every foot it seems to fit many. So they teach it a lot. There's nothing stopping you from doing something else, though, go for it.

I'd think that any of the satipatthana would be a fine stand-alone technique. Whatever works.

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Sep 01, 2010 8:17 am

mettafuture wrote:The breath is still the primary meditation object. You're only asked to turn a thought into an object if it persists after being noted.


That's not how I was taught. I was taught that everything one experiences should be noticed or noted and the breath is only an anchor, something for you to return to whenever you need to so that you don't get lost.

Of course instructions for beginners probably emphasise the breath more as there is a need to establish a basic level of concentration.

In this technique I think of the breath as training wheels.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby legolas » Wed Sep 01, 2010 8:48 am

Goofaholix wrote:
mettafuture wrote:The breath is still the primary meditation object. You're only asked to turn a thought into an object if it persists after being noted.


That's not how I was taught. I was taught that everything one experiences should be noticed or noted and the breath is only an anchor, something for you to return to whenever you need to so that you don't get lost.

Of course instructions for beginners probably emphasise the breath more as there is a need to establish a basic level of concentration.

In this technique I think of the breath as training wheels.


"Beginner", "Training wheels"? Surely not.

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Sep 01, 2010 9:31 am

legolas wrote:"Beginner", "Training wheels"? Surely not.

I think Goofaholix was referring to the Mahasi approach, where, technically, one uses the motion of the abdomen, not the breath, when sitting and the motion of the feet when walking (i.e. in both cases one is trying to focus on wind (motion) element). Walking is half the formal meditation time on the retreats I do. If the abdomen motion becomes too fine I note the tension of sitting up and the touching as the primary objects. And, of course, it's the other objects that come up that are ultimately the important thing in this method. How your mind reacts to what arises, and so on.

Mike

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby bodom » Wed Sep 01, 2010 10:27 am

mettafuture wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:The noting is the main thing, the breath is just something you can go back to when you get lost.

The breath is still the primary meditation object. You're only asked to turn a thought into an object if it persists after being noted.


Mahasi made clear his technique is not an anapanasati practice. The abdomen rising and falling due to the elements is the basis of Mahasi's technique. It is contemplation of the four elements.

: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: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby Goedert » Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:16 am

mettafuture wrote:Almost every meditation teacher and book I've come across presents breath meditation as the end all - be all, the one shoe that fits everyone. If this was the case, why can nearly 39 other meditation objects be found in the Tipitaka?

Perhaps the Buddha gave us such a variety of options because he knew, depending on the individual's personality, some meditation objects would work better than others.

I often hear dhamma teachers saying that they focus their lessons on Anapanasati (breath meditation) because it was the method the Buddha himself used to reach enlightenment, and that it can fulfill all 4 establishments of mindfulness at once. But maybe the breath is too subtle of an object for some people to start with? Maybe it would be better for them if they fulfilled the 4 establishments at a slower pace, using one of the other meditation objects?

Did you know that the earliest lay Buddhist communities probably didn't even do breath meditation? Their primary objects of contemplation were likely the 6 recollections (buddha, dhamma, sangha, morality, generosity, and the devas), with the first recollection on the buddha being the primary object.

If this is the case, why is it that I can barely find a book, a dhamma talk, ect on something OTHER than the breath? :evil:

I basically have 2 questions:
- Do you think dhamma teachers should go into more detail about the other meditation objects for those who may not be ready for breath meditation?
- If I wanted to buy a book, right now, on how to meditate on something other than the breath, which book should I get? Does one, other than the Visuddhimagga, even exist?


You can try:

1st - "Refuge: An Introduction to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha", by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, June 5, 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... efuge.html
2nd - "The Path to Freedom: A Self-guided Tour of the Buddha's Teachings", edited by John T. Bullitt. Access to Insight, May 26, 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/index.html
3rd - "Wings to Awakening: An Anthology from the Pali Canon", by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff). Access to Insight, August 8, 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... index.html
4th - "Stream Entry: Part 1: The Way to Stream-entry", by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, June 8, 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/stream.html
5th - "Stream Entry: Part 2: Stream-entry and After", by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, June 8, 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/stream2.html

They are all good sources for textual learning. I wold recommed you supplement your study with oral instructions, there is such sources:
http://www.dhammatalks.org/
http://www.bhavanasociety.org/
http://www.audiodharma.org/

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby chownah » Wed Sep 01, 2010 2:29 pm

mettafuture wrote:Don't try to be a smart ass with me.

Why not?
chownah

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Re: Breath this... Breath that...

Postby Vepacitta » Wed Sep 01, 2010 8:41 pm

Because there's enough 'smart-ass-ism' on this board as it is Chownah.

Metta - as to your question - there are other forms of mediations - the kasina meditations - one uses the kasina object - usually a large circle of colour - blue - green - red - etc. These are used for jhana mediation - although - the breath is also considered the way to enter into Jhana as well. I'd have to ask around to see about detailed instructions for jhana mediation and kasina objects - although doubtless you could do some googling.

Sorry to hear about your respiratory issues and hope you feel better.

V.
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