Mindfulness of Breathing I

Meditation on Perception (pp. 87-99)

“And what, Ananda, is mindfulness of breathing? Here, a bhikkhu, having gone to the forest, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty hut, sits down. Having folded his legs crosswise, straightened his body, and established mindfulness in front of him, just mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out. “Breathing in long, he knows: ‘I breathe in long’; or breathing out long, he knows: ‘I breathe out long.’ Breathing in short, he knows: ‘I breathe in short’; or breathing out short, he knows: ‘I breathe out short.’ He trains thus: ‘Experiencing the whole body, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Experiencing the whole body, I will breathe out.’ He trains thus: ‘Tranquilizing the bodily activity, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Tranquilizing the bodily activity, I will breathe out.’ “He trains thus: ‘Experiencing rapture, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Experiencing rapture, I will breathe out.’ He trains thus: ‘Experiencing happiness, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Experiencing happiness, I will breathe out.’ He trains thus: ‘Experiencing the mental activity, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Experiencing the mental activity, I will breathe out.’ He trains thus: ‘Tranquilizing the mental activity, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Tranquilizing the mental activity, I will breathe out.’ “He trains thus: ‘Experiencing the mind, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Experiencing the mind, I will breathe out.’ He trains thus: ‘Gladdening the mind, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Gladdening the mind, I will breathe out. He trains thus: ‘Concentrating the mind, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Concentrating the mind, I will breathe out.’ He trains thus: ‘Liberating the mind, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Liberating the mind, I will breathe out.’ “He trains thus: ‘Contemplating impermanence, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Contemplating impermanence, I will breathe out.’ He trains thus: ‘Contemplating fading away, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Contemplating fading away, I will breathe out.’ He trains thus: ‘Contemplating cessation, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Contemplating cessation, I will breathe out.’ He trains thus: ‘Contemplating relinquishment, I will breathe in’; he trains thus: ‘Contemplating relinquishment, I will breathe out.’ “This is called mindfulness of breathing. “If, Ananda, you visit the bhikkhu Girimananda and speak to him about these ten perceptions, it is possible that on hearing about them he will immediately recover from his affliction.” Then, when the Venerable Ananda had learned these ten perceptions from the Blessed One, he went to the Venerable Girimananda and spoke to him about them. When the Venerable Girimananda heard about these ten perceptions, his affliction immediately subsided. The Venerable Girimananda recovered from that affliction, and that is how he was cured of his affliction. —(tr. Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Pure Perception of the Pure Breath

To purify our perception, we use the breath because nothing can distort it. Other benefits of focusing on the breath include calming of the mind, relaxing of the body, and increasing our ability to heal the body. We also increase our proficiency in concentration and mindfulness.

The Breath and the Four Foundations of Mindfulness

This section of the Girimananda Sutta is similar to Section 2 of the Anapanasati Sutta (Mindfulness of Breathing). With the sixteen exercises with the breath, the Buddha describes the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (The Sattipatthana Sutta). The four tetrads are summarized as follows: Mindfulness of the Body: long breath, short breath, aware of whole body, calming of the whole body Mindfulness of Feelings: rapture, happiness, aware of mental activity, tranquilizing of mental activity Mindfulness of the Mind: aware of the mind, making the mind happy, concentrating the mind, liberating the mind Mindfulness of Mental Objects: contemplating impermanence, dispassion, cessation, relinquishment By meditating on the breath with these exercises, we can reap the benefits noted above.

Reflection

  • Reread this talk and reflect on it.

Meditation

  • When you meditate, try meditating on the first tetrad of mindfulness of breath.
  • Mindfulness of Breathing Handout
  • Then move on to the other tetrads at other meditation sittings.  Do you experience any of the benefits as noted in the Pure Perception of the Pure Breath above?

Next: Mindfulness of Breathing II
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