Correct version of Anapanasati?

Namo Buddhaya,

My appreciation and gratitude to be able to share such topic with this community.

After having been familiar with many different approaches to meditation in the Buddhist tradition, whether through S.N Goenka’s Vipassana retreats, from monasteries in Myanmar with very specific focus and narrowed down instructions on mindfulness of breathing at the nostrils to Venerable Ñāṇamoli’s stance of the wrongness of focusing techniques ( and ) to what I’ve just now stumbled upon yet another interpretation claiming to be the correct way to practice anapanasati, stating that true anapanasati isn’t so much about the breath but “Let good thoughts grow, and discard bad thoughts. Very simple.”
" Now, if ānapāna means “breathing in and breathing out”, how can that lead to the completion of the four Satipaṭṭhānas, the seven bojjangas, removal of avijjā, and the attainment of Nibbāna? Can anyone seriously think that is possible?
Instead, ānapāna MEANS cultivating Satipaṭṭhāna, saptha bojjanga , etc., by “taking in morals” and “expelling immorals” as we discuss below."

Which now leads me further down the line of questionnements regarding the practice of anapanasati considering all the possible interpretations.
We have the precious teachings of the Buddha widely accessible but so many different ways of apprehending the Anapanasati sutta and practice it seems.
How to make sense within all of these possible interpretations so as not to practice wrongly and end up in wrong concentration and wrong release ?
Should one learn Pali and seek the answer for oneself ?

May you all be well and at peace,
With metta.


I find the suttas very complete and sufficient to instruct me how to develop mindfulness with breathing in a way it fulfills the aspects and principles that point towards lessening of my experience of suffering.

Have you ever given a try reading and reflecting on just these texts before reading and listening what others say about it?



Dear Gabriel_L,

Thank you for your answer.
Yes, I have indeed. Yet, even depending on the translation of the suttas the practice may have a completely different impact and end result . For instance, the simple instruction given in pali “parimukam” (place where mindfulness is meant to be established) may have various translations thus different meaning yet seems to be a fundamental element for the proper approach of anapanasati.
With metta.

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As Pa Auk Sayadaw would say -
this is exactly what happens when people don’t read the Commentaries.


But in fact, you don’t have to read Commentaries. Just read Abhidhamma, the original main text.

‘‘Parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā’’ti tattha katamā sati? Yā sati anussati paṭissati…pe… sammāsati – ayaṃ vuccati ‘‘sati’’. Ayaṃ sati upaṭṭhitā hoti supaṭṭhitā nāsikagge vā mukhanimitte vā. Tena vuccati ‘‘parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā’’ti. (Abhidhamma - Vibhanga 2. Jhānavibhaṅgo - Mātikā - Par.537)

It means that keeping attention at parimukha means being mindful of breath either at the tip of the nose or at the sign of mouth. The Commentaries explain that long-nosed people keep attention at the tip of the nose (apparently “looking” at the nose, without closing eyes, as we see e.g., in the Priest King statue from ancient times.) Those who have a short nose have to “imagine” (hence “sign,” nimitta) their upper lip and concentrate on that.

Again, this is not Commentary, it is from the main scripture, Abhidhamma.

The book Patisambhidamagga (which is officially included in the main text of Tipitaka and has its own Commentary) also mentions that “parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā” consists of three portions -

“Parīti pariggahaṭṭho. Mukhanti niyyānaṭṭho. Satīti upaṭṭhānaṭṭho. Tena vuccati – ‘‘parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā’’ti.”

“Established mindfulness in front of him (parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā) : pari has the sense of embracing; mukhaṃ (lit. mouth) has the sense of outlet; sati (mindfulness) has the sense of establishment (foundation). Hence 'parimukhaṃ satiṃ upaṭṭhapetvā ‘established mindfulness in front of him’ is said.(Footnote 14)”

(Endnote no.14) “‘Has the sense of embracing’ is in the sense of being embraced. What is embraced? The outlet. What outlet? Concentration based on mindfulness of breathing is itself the outlet, right up to the arahant path. Hence ‘has the sense of outlet’ is said. The meaning of ‘outlet from the round of rebirths’ is expressed by the meaning of the word mukha (mouth) as foremost (front). ‘Has the sense of establishing’ is in the sense of individual essence. The meaning expressed by all these words is: Having made mindfulness an embraced outlet. But some say that ‘has the sense of embracing’ stands for ‘embracing as the meaning of mindfulness’, and that ‘has the sense of outlet’ stands for ‘door of entry and exit as the meaning of in-breaths and out-breaths’. Then what is meant is: Having established mindfulness as the embraced outlet of the in-breaths and out-breaths’ (PsA 350-1)”

(Copied from Paṭisambhidāmagga, The Path of Discrimination, translation by venerable Ñāṇamoli, p.177 and note 14 from p.206)

The Buddha however didn’t teach just observing the breath for concentration on the body, but also observing one’s postures, actions, 32 parts of the physical body, and four elements. The fact that anapanassati is “breath” and not kusalā akusalā dhammā (skillful and unskillful phenomena) is clear from the fact that this practice is included in the Kāyānupassanā chapter of Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. Kāyānupassanā means observing the body. (Skillful and unskillful is then to be observed as practices in Dhammānupassanā, e.g., in observing the six senses and sense-objects mentioned in the Ayatanapabba sub-chapter of Satipatthana Sutta).

But you don’t need to concentrate on the breath to attain Enlightenment. There are nine other options for you. Including breath, each of the ten is “the one thing” that can take you to Enlightenment. See them here - SuttaCentral .



This shows understanding of the basic structure of the Anapanasati sutta (MN 118), so one should hold onto that then study Analayo’s “Satipatthana,” which includes quite a bit of information on Anapanasati, that way you avoid the different interpretations of Anapanasati and will be able to see the relationship between the two (Anapanasati and Satipatthana) better. The Anapanasati sutta contains a set of 16 simple exercises in preparation for the more advanced skills. For example the first tetrad begins with familiarization with the breath, then expands to awareness of the energies in the body, then ends by calming the body, in the format one would find with any learning exercise. It shouldn’t be over-complicated. The name ‘breath meditation’ can be misleading as the subjects are more accurately body, feelings and mind. Understanding how this relates to awakening is a bit more advanced and involves the integration of the fourth tetrad with the previous three once they have been throughly known. The Satipatthana theme “subdues greed and distress with reference to the world” doesn’t figure in the four tetrads due to their elementary nature. It is in Satipatthana (MN 10) that the work of purification begins, and in its fourth foundation is found the seven factors of awakening and the five hindrances and other groups, all under the overarching framework of the four noble truths.


The teachings on the website appear to be based on back-reading modern Sinhala meanings into Pali. Here is a critique by Ven Dhammanando:
The teachings of Ven. Waharaka Abhayaratanalankara Thero - Page 4 - Dhamma Wheel

And some other threads:


I think you may just follow closely and directly the teachings according to Anapana Samyutta of SN/SA, e.g. SN 54.1 and its corresponding Chinese version SA 803. The earliest version of Anapanasati is found in the SN/SA. See pp. 225-227, and 11, in Choong Mun-keat, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism. The SN/SA sutta (e.g. SN 54.1) is very clear and practical for individuals to practise Anapanasati .


Thanks for the resources.

Please note that the Waharaka group is considered to be extremist content on this forum, and it is banned. This is because of a long history demonstrating that the followers of this group embrace an anti-factual viewpoint and show a chronic inability to engage in rational conversation.


Thank you Bhante for your clarifying answer, Sādhu Sādhu Sādhu.

Thank you all immensely, bhantes and others, for your kind and helpful answers, may you all be well, with metta.

Why not? The breath is a very powerful physical phenomenon which is closely connected to the mind. The genius of the Buddha is that he has us use this as a tool to explore the body and mind together, and bring them to a state of peace where we can observe the nature of things. If all things are impermanent and so forth, then this also applies to simple things like the breath, which, when closely attended to, can reveal the nature of “things as they are”.


I’m from the Caribbean where there is no Buddhism and I didn’t read books on the subject. I read suttas. And in my experience it was enough. Things are more simple than we think. Trust yourself. Trust that you have it in you to understand the sutta instruction. Keep it simple. One thing that helps also is eventually I think this happens to all of us as meditators. Just some earlier than others. There will come a time that it’s as if you understand already what to do in your practice.

But a key in unlocking this experience for me is going on retreat. (10 vipassana)

You will unlock the wisdom one day you already had in past life. Just be patient

As per most literature , focus should be there where the incoming and outgoing breath touches skin near the entrance of nostrils .
An Buddhist monk,Ven Webu Sayadaw prescribed only observing the breath. .He was believed by many to be an Arahat by only practicing anapana sati.
Read Ven Webu Sayadaw discourses and " the esential practice "Webu Sayadaw

We can have gratitude that different practices are described that can help different types of person at various times. :pray:

Welcome to the conversation Kantilal; :smiley: If you have any questions about posting please don’t hesitate to ask.

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Am not about the protocol to be followed while posting any comments.
Pls let me know if any guidelines on posting are there

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Than you for asking. :slight_smile: The Forum Guidelines are here.

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if any meditation practice is aimed only at one-pointed concentration - it is samadhi.

if any meditation practice includes awareness of any one of the tilakkhananas (anicca or dukkha or anatta) - it is vipassana. vipassana = cattaro satipatthana bhavana.

if anapanasati is merely awareness of the in-out breath (ven pa auk sayadaw tradition calls it ‘composite breath’) it is samadhi. but, if this awareness of the breath proceeds to aniccanupassana on kayasamphassaja vedana (body sensations) in accordance with the anapana pabbam of the mahasatipatthana sutta (as practiced in the sayagyi u ba khin / goenkaji tradition) it is vipassana.

and as the texts confirm - catunnam satipatthana ekena. all four satipatthanas are actually one and part of the same samma-sati. the four-fold division is only due to different arammana. the four satipatthanas, all together, actually represent the totality of nama-rupa (panca-khandas).

so, inevitably, the anapana pabbam of kayanupassana culminates in the same stage of anatta & nibbanic dip as any other sub-section or section of the mahasatipatthana sutta. so anapanasati (as vipassana) under anapana pabbam of mahasatipatthana when properly practiced (bhavito bahulikato) leads to the maturity (paripuri hoti) of all four satipatthanas leading to nibbana.

anapanasati as samadhi, practiced in accordance with visuddhimagga, leads upto the fourth rupa-jhana.


Here is explanation by Sun Lun Sayadaw:

Whatever you see, your vision is clouded by wrong perception. This wrong perception needs to be removed to see things truthfully. The Buddha teaches Anicca (Impermanence) which an ordinary worldling believes to be permanent because he is deceived by wrong perception. The Buddha teaches Dukkha, woefulness, which an ordinary worldling believes to be Sukha, happiness because he is deceived by wrong perception. The Buddha teaches Anatta (not-self) which an ordinary worldling believes to be Atta (self) because he is deceived by wrong perception. The Buddha teaches Asubha (ugliness) which an ordinary worldling believes to be Subha (beautiful) because he is deceived by wrong perception. In these ways, wrong perception deceives people who have to suffer endless misery.

This deception must be removed by the four methods of Steadfast Mindfulness or Satipatthāna taught by the Buddha. These four methods are: Mindfulness about the Body (Kāyā nupassanā Satipatthāna) clears away the wrong perception of beauty. Mindfulness about Sensation (Vedanā nupassanā Satipatthāna) clears away the wrong perception of happiness. Mindfulness about the Mind (Citta nupassanā Satipatthāna) clears away the wrong perception of permanence. Mindfulness about Mental Objects (Dhammā nupassanā Satipatthāna) clears away the wrong perception of self.

When something touches your body at the physical door, you become aware of the touch: if you keep mindful of the awareness, all the above four methods or modes of Steadfast Mindfulness are present. How? Being mindful of the bare awareness of the touch is called Mindfulness about the Body (Kāyā nupassanā Satipatthāna).); touch means contact, Phassa which causes sensation.
> When you are mindful of that sensation it is called Mindfulness about Sensation (Vedanā nupassanā Satipatthāna). Being mindful of bare awareness is called Mindfulness about Mind (Cittā nupassanā Satipatthāna). Being mindful of the nature of the mind when all the hindrances or Nivaranas are absent is called Mindfulness about Mental Objects (Dhammā nupassanā Satipatthāna). This is how you do away with wrong perception. Then you understand Anicca as truly Anicca (Impermanance), you understand Dukkha as truly Dukkha (Suffering), you understand Anatta as truly Anatta (Not-Self), you understand Asubha as truly Asubha (Ugliness). When you see things in their reality, you are no longer a vain person with vain thoughts, trying to look better than what you are. This sense of vanity, this sense of false pride, is actually due to Ignorance, Avijjā.

the correct version of Anapanasati has only two feelings: rapture & happiness. Refer to MN 118.

The Suttas say the Buddha taught Anapanasati. How Anapanasati leads to Dhamma seems very simple:

  1. By continuously observing breathing, the mind learns the result of merely observing, without unwholesome states, leads to calm & purity. Lesson 1. Immediately, the Noble Truths are realized; stream entry level.

  2. By continuously observing breathing, the breathing & body will become so calm & so pure, that the body breaks out into rapture & happiness. When rapture & happiness become the dominant sense object (even though the in & out breathing can still be discerned) this is the 2nd satipatthana, namely, vedanupassana.

  3. By the time rapture & happiness calm, the mind becomes much more pure & it can see itself very clearly, including any residues of defilements that may remain towards rapture & its fading. When the mind itself becomes the dominant sense object (even though the breathing in & out remains as a meditation object), this is the 3rd satipatthana.

  4. When the mind becomes very very pure & free from observing itself & the breathing, then the impermanence of any object is clearly seen. Even though the breathing in & out remains as a meditation object, this is the 4th satipatthana.

In summary, the impression is some of the Burmese gurus have departed from the breathing prematurely (too early). Therefore, in their devotion to MN 10, DN 22 and particularly to painful feelings, it seems they never actually experienced rapture, happiness, all of the 16 steps of anapanasati or even jhana. :dizzy:

Learning Pali probably won’t help. Similar to oil & water, it seems the Satipatthana Suttas (MN 10; DN 22) & the Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118) do not mix very well together. The Digha Nikaya seems also to be part of the problem. Whatever is called “Great” (“Maha”) in the Digha Nikaya (such as DN 15 & DN 22; rather “Mediocre”) many Burmese seem to believe means “The Greatest”. :sunny:


When focussed on the breath the mind establishes contact with the respiratory organs. With practice a relationship is established. If not focussed there, it may be accentuating other systems such as the digestive process prone to abuse, and fed by the elements earth and water (food). So by comparison anapanasati and breathing is an inherently moral process in the body, attending to the element air. In Majhima Nikaya 64 the order of elements is earth, water, fire, air, space, showing air is a higher entity followed by space, (and then consciousness as a meditation subject). When the practitioner breathes in and out they should value the elevated nature of air in relation to the three other elements literally below it not only on the earth formation (water is above earth), but in their arrangement in the body ( lungs are above stomach).
Tree as lungs

Through global warming we are in the process of relearning this truth, which will take centuries, perhaps painfully, to reestablish in human consciousness. We are beginning to find out how much suffering will be involved.