I’ve been thinking for some months on the possibility of buying the new book written by Ven. Analayo on Mindfulness of Breathing. In its Amazon page, it has few reviews, but I’d love to hear some more thoughts on the book.
Have any of you bought it yet?
If so, what do you think about it?
For some context, I really like Analayo’s writing style and I’ve learnt a lot from reading his other books. I have one of his last books on Satipatthana, whose main focus is on the practical side, unlike his other books on the matter. I like both styles: scholar and practical.
I have almost no experience in meditation as taught in the EBTs. I’ve only practiced Zen meditation for a short period, but nothing more.
Do you recommend this book to introduce myself into the practice of Anapanasati?
There has been very little response to the Analayo Anapanasati book, and I’ve read one report that it’s too scholarly.
Thanissaro has a book named “Right Mindfulness,” but in fact it’s mainly based on the Anapanasati sutta (MN 118), which then leads to the Satipatthana sutta. It’s a good approach which is backed up by youtube videos. The book is difficult to read.
When I first sat zazen, I was told, “count your breaths.” So I did. Decades later, I’m still counting my breaths. It’s a core part of my practice. Even more so than my koan, which I often neglected just to count my breath.
MN118:15.1: Mendicants, when mindfulness of breathing is developed and cultivated it is very fruitful and beneficial.
Counting breaths is quite difficult. One loses count as mindfulness drifts and distractions arise. After some time we get to ten and that is success. And after more time we get to one hundred and that is high. In one of his books, Ajahn Brahm mentions counting hundreds…
Counting breaths provides one with a measure of mindfulness. If we can’t count well, we can’t practice the other stuff we read about, because our mindful awareness slips away so readily. The steadier our practice, the more we gain from reading about that practice. So the value of any book depends very much on the depth of our own practice.
I have read it. While I enjoyed and would enthusiastically recommend Ven. Anālayo’s satipaṭṭhāna practice guide, I found this book to be a bit too scholarly for my tastes. If you want get started with an ānāpānasati practice, I suggest Ven. Ṭhānissaro’s book With Each and Every Breath.
I highly recommend it. For me, it offers the best guide to working with the Anapanasati sutta that I’ve ever come across. Ven Analayo shows how anapanasati is a practice that covers both samatha and vipassana, and can in fact function to take one all the way to liberation. I found Ven Analayo’s aproach unique in showing how the awakening factors are an integral part of the practice.
Thanks to all of you for your wonderful answers!
It seems I’ll be buying the book, while also paying attention to Ven. Thanissaro’s instructions (I started reading With Each and Every Breath, and so far it has been very useful)
Thank you for starting this post and for asking about the new book; I wasn’t aware of it and I have also downloaded it. As you study the APS, if you have time, please consider taking a moment to look over the brief study guide I prepared on the APS. It is available here:
I would welcome any suggestions you have. I mostly drew from Larry Rosenberg’s book, as well as Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s work.
I’ll be teaching a free workshop on this at our Philadelphia Meditation Center on Feb 22 and 29, 2020, and will be using Canvas, which you can access here (even if you are not in Philadelphia): https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/1757894
(the modules will eventually contain guided meditations that I plan to upload in the next few days).
Having looked at the contents list of Anapanasati by Analayo without having read the book, but with a background of having studied his Satipatthana, I would find the theme of treating the factors of awakening as two groups of opposing dynamics (samatha and vipassana) to be brought to balance interesting (SN 46.53), as also would be his recognition of the breath as the wind (air) element. This elemental aspect is not found in Thanissaro’s work.
However Thanissaro’s rigorous analysis of the tetrads, for example the development of perception of the sensations of the body and feelings from tetrads one and two which forms the basis of his approach, would be more extensive.
This work to cultivate joyful feelings in the second tetrad begins the mandatory replacement operation stipulated in MN 14:
“Even though a disciple of the noble ones has clearly seen as it actually is with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, still — if he has not attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that — he can be tempted by sensuality. But when he has clearly seen as it actually is with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, and he has attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that, he cannot be tempted by sensuality.”
The new Ānāpānasati book has much the same general practice-oriented structure and style as that book (for about the first 60% anyway). Its subtitle is “a practice guide and translations”. The final 40% is a rather nice collection of breath-related translations from the Agamas.
Rather like the earlier book’s progressive stepping through of the satipatthanas (seven spokes in Analayo’s “wheel of satipatthana” scheme), this book progressively steps through the anapanasati tetrads. There are actually six main practice chapters/steps in his scheme, preliminary practice, then progressing through the four tetrads proper, building to a chapter on “contemplation of dharmas” and finally a full chapter on the awakening factors and their cultivation (much as in the previous book).
It’s illustrated in a similar way to the earlier book (Analayo makes use of a series of condor metaphors/images for the different stages in his scheme in the current book). Again, there’s a similar freely-available audio series: https://www.windhorsepublications.com/mindfulness-of-breathing-audio/
If you’ve doubtful, maybe have a look at those first for a flavour (I think they’d be useful even without purchasing the book).
The new book is probably necessarily a bit more scholastic than the Satipaṭṭhāna practice guide book since Analayo already had two more scholastic satipaṭṭhāna books laying out in lots of detail his approach (he has to do a little bit more explaining of his anapanasati approach with reference to suttas in this book). However, I’d say the new book is only marginally more scholastic in content than the last practice guide (and deliberately doesn’t use footnotes). IMO it is still primarily practice-oriented, though again mixing in some of the EBTs; though I personally really like his interplay between practice and EBT scholarship.
I think the two satipaṭṭhāna and anapanasati practice books complement each other very well. Satipatthana practice can be more externally focused and practiced at a more shallow level too, e.g. I think it’s quite possible to do it while out on a walk as well as in formal sitting meditation. However, anapanasati, I think, is necessarily more internal (really has to been in sitting meditation; though are some suggestions in the book of how some parts of the practices could be incorporated into formal walking meditation). And there’s no chapter on the hindrances in the new book (working with hindrances seems a more satipaṭṭhāna practice; the assumption in the suttas for anapanasati practice appears to be that these are already reasonably well subdued prior to practice). So I think both approaches generally seem quite complementary.
This is incorrect, a back-to-front conception. In the Anapanasati sutta the four foundations of mindfulness follow the four tetrads:
“And how is mindfulness of in-&-out breathing developed & pursued so as to bring the four establishings of mindfulness to their culmination?”—MN 118
The hindrances are dealt with in the Satipatthana sutta because they occupy one of the five groups in the fourth foundation. The elementary Anapanasati sutta is a preliminary to the Satipatthana sutta.
But like other path structures (Noble Eightfold Path, MN 117) Anapanasati can function in two manifestations relating to levels of practice (or different mental states in the same practitioner)- a simple form where it develops foundational skills, and an advanced where it and the foundations of mindfulness are integrated in a working relationship.
“Incorrect” sounds too strong to me. I don’t always agree with all of Analayo’s arguments, but, anyway, I’m going to quote some of what he says in the book on this issue:
Parallel versions to the description of the preliminaries in the Ānāpānasati-sutta explicitly mention the need to overcome the hindrances before engaging in the sixteen steps of mindfulness of breathing (see here). The same perspective also appears to be implicit in the fact that the sixteen steps themselves do not show any concern with the removal of the hindrances but appear to set in at a stage when these are temporarily absent, a topic to which I will return in the next chapter (see here and also here). Understood in this sense, the topic of seclusion can be invested with both a bodily and a mental dimension.
He also quotes from his Agama translation of SĀ 803 at the back of the book. Here’s an excerpt:
THE SIXTEEN STEPS (SĀ 803)
Here suppose a monastic dwells in dependence on a 〈hamlet〉 or town. In the morning, [having] put on the robes and taken the bowl, one enters the village to beg for food with the body guarded well, the doors of the faculties controlled, and keeping the mind well guarded. Having begged for food, one returns to one’s lodgings. Having put away robes and bowl, and washed the feet, one enters a forest or an empty hut, or [goes to] the root of a tree or vacant open ground. Seated properly with the body kept straight and keeping mindfulness to the fore, one abandons lustful cravings in the world and becomes purified by removing sensuality, ill-will, sloth-and-torpor, restlessness-and-worry, and doubt, crossing over all perplexity. The mind gains certainty in wholesome states and is far removed from the five hindrances that afflict the mind, that cause a weakening of the power of wisdom, that partake of being obstructive, and that do not lead to Nirvāṇa. One is mindful of the breath coming in, training well to keep being mindful of it, and one is mindful of the breath going out, training well to keep being mindful of it.One trains well to keep being mindful of breathing in long [… continuing with the anapanasati steps]
It does seem to be a preliminary step at least in this parallel.
I’m not sure your quote above necessarily has to be interpreted as implying a sequential move, with anapanasati as preliminary to satipatthana meditation. It seems to me that this paragraph more likely is describing just how the earlier anapanasati steps fulfill the four establishments of mindfulness. There’s also reference in that section to how one is contemplating “having put away covetousness and grief for the world”, which sounds like the first two hindrances at least have been set aside. With regard to the fourth satipatthana, it says:
That is why on that occasion a bhikkhu abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.
It’s hard to see how hindrances (at least the first two anyway) are being contemplated here as part of the dhammas if they have already been put aside.
Anyway, these things can be interpreted in many ways. I think the sequence can profitably flow both ways. I do think there is a reasonable argument that satipatthana practice is perhaps more closely associated with working with and contemplating the hindrances than anapanasati.
I believe the absence of any reference to the removal of the hindrances in the four tetrads is precisely an indication that the Buddha intended mindfulness of breathing to initially function as an exercise open to beginners, and that Analayo’s preoccupation with Mahayana texts has led him into a significant blunder in this case, ignoring the precedence and intention of the original Pali text. This scholastic distraction is why the book has lacked public acclamation.
In the generally overlooked introduction to the Anapanasati sutta the Buddha provides a hierarchical list of practices and attainments. At the beginning of the practices is mindfulness of in-&-out breathing, and at the end the four establishings of mindfulness. The list then goes on to describe the four stages of holiness, which can be related to the preceeding three groups of ascending practices.
It’s abundantly clear that the Buddha intended the practice of anapanasati to apply to beginners:
"In this community of monks there are monks who remain devoted to mindfulness of in-&-out breathing.
"Mindfulness of in-&-out breathing, when developed & pursued, is of great fruit, of great benefit. Mindfulness of in-&-out breathing, when developed & pursued, brings the four frames of reference to their culmination. The four frames of reference, when developed & pursued, bring the seven factors for awakening to their culmination. The seven factors for awakening, when developed & pursued, bring clear knowing & release to their culmination.”—-MN 118
In the Anapanasati sutta, both the fourth tetrad and the fourth foundation of mindfulness (as distinct from the fourth foundation in the Satipatthana sutta), emphasize the sequence of impermanence, dispassion, cessation and relinquishment as their content, with the fourth foundation going further to state that this practice leads to “subduing greed and distress with reference to the world,” and desire and anger being the two main hindrances, I accept the commentarial view that this is a reference to the five hindrances.
This means that in its elementary practice, the anapanasati fourth tetrad at the least is an exercise in familiarizing with the progression of events that arise following knowing impermanence. With the development of practice, this (knowing impermanence) would go on to be applied to the removal of the hindrances in the context of the four foundations of mindfulness. In this way the four tetrads do contain a reference to removal of the hindrances which Analayo has missed.
The impermanence-dispassion-cessation-relinquishment sequence is taken in western Theravada to only mean the steps to nibbana (characteristically focussing on the goal rather than the path), but ‘relinquishment’ also applies to the less high profile process by which a hindrance is overcome, but nevertheless results in the mind being a little more oriented towards the unconditioned.
Interesting. Why do you think its absence indicates the practice is for beginners? Is it because you think anapanasati practice would be done fairly early on prior to any real work with the hindrances (so no need for any mention of them)?
Analayo’s quoting of the SĀ 803 agama seems a reasonable enough line of argument to me. OK, one parallel does not make a bullet-proof argument. Also I don’t understand the “Mahayana” point. Do you think his point is weaker because you consider the Agama source to be Mahayana?
Personally, I rather like his mix of “scholastic distraction” and practice (public acclaim or none )!
I don’t follow your point here. I don’t see where you are getting the hierarchical structure. Has it something to do with how the practice lists in the introduction are ordered? For example, I see a listing of the 37 enlightenment factors. However, these are just listed in the typical numerical order: sets of 4 first, then sets of 5, set of 7 awakening factors, then finally the 8-fold path.
I’m not really seeing strong evidence for this statement!
OK, we have the sequence here: mindfulness of breathing -> 4 establishments of mindfulness -> 7 awakening factors -> clear knowing & release.
But couldn’t this be as easily read to imply that anapanasati is one way of practicing the four establishments and cultivating the 7 awakening factors? Are you reading this to imply a strictly sequential progression: first anapanasati practice, then one moves onto separate satipatthana practice, then one moves onto awakening factor practice etc.? To me, it seems this passage is saying they are just all inextricably bound up together, and anapanasati is just another way of practicing the 4 establishments and 7 awakening factors. That’s why I’m puzzled when you say anapanasati is just a beginner’s practice. Isn’t any practice (either MN10 or MN118 based) that cultivates the awakening factors potentially an advanced practice?
Sure, they may be different levels. MN 10 explicitly has a part where the mediator inspects the presence or otherwise of the hindrances in the mind, so seems compatible with a practice of trying to subdue the hindrances, but equally with a more advanced practice where they have already been laid aside.
OK, I’m not going to quibble too much over whether contemplation of hindrances is or isn’t in anapanasati. There’s a fair of uncertainty in these things and scope for different interpretations. That’s a reasonable argument you make there.
However, I’m not so sure about your point that “the Buddha intended the practice of anapanasati to apply to beginners”!
What is meant is anapanasati has a range which is suitable for beginning meditators, but also the potential for the highest application. Like the learning process in any secular activity, the elementary practice reads the tetrads in a linear sequence, and becomes familiar with terminology and basic skills, but intermediate to advanced practice enloys a cyclic understanding, where the fourth tetrad would be applied in an intervention with any of the preceding ones, or where anapanasati and the four foundations interact. In this discussion I am referring to the first case, the linear. The cyclic application is another discussion, but for example the seven factors of awakening are divided into three active and three passive (vipassana and samatha respectively, SN 46.53) which then become the basis for balancing activities. Following the threefold division of the NEP where sila begins in the middle and is therefore non-linear, MN 117 is perhaps the best description of the cyclic operation.
The practitioner’s transition between a linear and a cyclic conception occurs on a time scale calibrated in decades, and by ‘beginner’ I mean one who has not transcended a linear view of path structures.
This is what is meant in SN 48.53 where the learner understands the terminology of the five spiritual faculties, but they have not experienced them. The adept though has understood the dynamics of the faculty group and employed them in life situations and therefore experiences them.
Balancing the five spiritual faculties:
“49. Strong mindfulness, however, is needed in all instances; for mindfulness
protects the mind from lapsing into agitation through faith, energy and
understanding, which favour agitation, and from lapsing into idleness through
concentration, which favours idleness”—Vism IV. 49
The fear harboured by lay practitioners (with a linear conception) towards the Visuddhimagga derives from it requiring actual implementation of dynamic elements.