Agama version of Anapanasati: differences between Theravada and Zen

I was wondering if the the differences regarding Anapanasati practice between Theravada and Zen ( where the awareness is placed at the Hara/lower dantien ) come from differences between the Anapanasati Pali Sutta and the respective Chinese Agama.

Regarding the Theravada way to do it, let us not discuss on whether nostrils of other points is the correct interpretation, as this would be a different discussion, about interpretations of the Anapanasati Pali Sutta.
Any Theravada interpretation I’m aware of does not involve the Hara/lower danten and the question is on whether the non-Hara vs Hara focus comes from Anapanasati Pali Sutta vs Anapanasati Chinese Agama.

I haven’t read the Agama, as there’s no published collection of translated Agamas, and therefore have neither read any commentaries on the Agama. Thus I’ve never made this comparative study.

If someone knows more on this, feel free to share !

p.s.: if you are aware of a good translation of the Agama with translated commentary coming from the era when the practices were standardized e.g. in Ch’an, a link to the translation & commentary would be greatly appreciated.

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There’s definitely been quite a lot of work on this, although I don’t have the references to hand. I know Vens Analayo, and also I think Thich Nath Hahn have written on this topic.


Ven. Analayo has written a few books that may interest you. His mindfulness of breathing: practice guide and translations has a great section going over parallells. Although, I don’t recall any material in the book about Zen traditions, there are mentions of some Chinese meditation manuals lodged in footnotes. His perspectives on Satipatthana book is another good one.

Happy researching!

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I remember from Thay’s book a major difference being that in his interpretation, Anapanasati does not involve Jhana states at all. In fact he explicitly discusses that the text doesn’t mention Jhanas, therefore Jhanas are something unrelated to Anapanasati.

If my memory doesn’t fail me ( read it some time ago ), in his book there wasn’t a discussion about awareness being at the Hara, which is typically the case in Japanese Zen for breathing meditations.
I recall he discussed the Anapanasati Pali Sutta, can’t recall if he discusses the Chinese Agama in his book.

Thanks!, Analayo’s book is on my to-read list, so this sounds great !

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There are quite a few Agama parallels to MN118 on SuttaCentral:
Here is one that has a translation in English:


The focus on the hara may be due to an influence from traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts, where it is considered a

reservoir of vital or source energy



Is Hara the same as Chinese Dan Tian (‘elixir field’?) Or is it more just the belly?

The Wikipedia entry on “Hara” suggests this is the case.

It is and @osamu makes a very valid point. This is considered energetics is Zen ( as is eg tongue to the roof of the mouth during Zazen )

This is one view, there’s also the other that Ch’an Buddhists also influenced Taoism.
Then it becomes a question of who influenced who per topic, where as usual scholars and practitioners disagree with themselves and with each other.
I don’t have a view on the historical evolution and interchanges, to the extent that there’s no consensus it’s hard to say and haven’t spent time doing research on this topic.

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Fantastic, thanks for this