Do EBTs explain piti arising from calming the breath in anapanasati?

Hi again, I’ve been reading the Mn 118 sutta and I was wondering how calming the kayasankhārā (the breath) can lead to experience “piti” (joy) in the mind ? What is the relationship between calming the breath and piti?
How piti arise?
I’ll be glad to see your answers ,if you know suttas about the topic send them… Please don’t use vissidhimagga or abhidhamma, just EBTs.


Hi @DavidCeballos , I have modified slightly the topic title to make it aligned with your opening post (OP) which seeks EBT references for the process. :anjal:


Thanks, I don’t know how a forum works at all hehe… metta :slight_smile:


Steps 3 & 4 in the first tetrad of the Anapanasati sutta (MN 118) say:

[3] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.’[2] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.’ [4] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.’[3] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.’

In Step 3 the body becomes the focus with the breath in the background and this is a preparation for the second tetrad where joy is aroused. In Step 3 the practitioner investigates the energies in the body such as the elemental properties (MN 140). This active process is then followed by calming in Step 4, as a means of developing control. Steps 3 & 4 are the foundation of insight and serenity respectively.
In the second tetrad, the skill of being sensitized to body energies is applied in the development of joy. This is a crucial step:

“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[4] — 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.”—MN 14

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Hi @paul1 , do you know of any EBT passage which actually explains why and how calming the body makes room for this “rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities”?

I think this is the question @DavidCeballos is bringing to the group.

From the practical perspective I dont disagree with the linkage the sutta presents, and have confirmed myself, albeit still definetely not to its full potential, that whenever I bring my attention to this feedback loop between a lighter and more relaxed breathing and a lighter experience of my body, I occasionaly have a glimpse of some rapture and gladness.

But still, I cannot recall a specific sutta which explores and expands exactly how one thing lead to another…

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What does calming the breath mean to you ?

Can you post the pali ?

The breath is an aspect of the body and…

It’s when a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world. As they meditate observing an aspect of the body, based on the body there arises physical tension, or mental sluggishness, or the mind is externally scattered. That mendicant should direct their mind towards an inspiring foundation. As they do so, joy springs up. Being joyful, rapture springs up. When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil. When the body is tranquil, one feels bliss. And when blissful, the mind becomes immersed in samādhi. Then they reflect: ‘I have accomplished the goal for which I directed my mind. Let me now pull back.’ They pull back, and neither place the mind nor keep it connected. They understand: ‘I’m neither placing the mind nor keeping it connected. Mindful within myself, I’m happy.’


“Calming the breath” for me means that, going futher in meditation the breath itsefl will be more subtle ,tranquil , peaceful.

Here in pali

‘passambhayaṁ kāyasaṅkhāraṁ assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, ‘passambhayaṁ kāyasaṅkhāraṁ passasissāmī’ti sikkhati.

‘Pītipaṭisaṁvedī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, ‘pītipaṭisaṁvedī passasissāmī’ti sikkhati;

Piti always arises from pamojja (gladness, joy), there are many pamojja triggers but the main pamojja trigger is overcoming the 5 hindrances.

The breath itself is just an object, it’s the mind that matters. The breath is a body conditioner, and feelings are a mind conditioner. By calming the breath you calm the body and mind, you then overcome the 5 Hindrances, this leads to pamojja which results in piti (rapture of the mind) which in turn results in sukha (pleasure of body).

So the real cause of piti is sati and dhamma vicaya (analyzing the mind for unwholesome mental qualities aka 5 Hindrances)

From anapanasati sutta, satta sambojjjangha section

"[1] On whatever occasion the monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world, on that occasion his mindfulness is steady & without lapse. When his mindfulness is steady & without lapse, then mindfulness as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

"[2] Remaining mindful in this way, he examines, analyzes, & comes to a comprehension of that quality with discernment. When he remains mindful in this way, examining, analyzing, & coming to a comprehension of that quality with discernment, then analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

"[4] In one whose persistence is aroused, a rapture not-of-the-flesh arises. When a rapture not-of-the-flesh arises in one whose persistence is aroused, then rapture as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

"[5] For one enraptured at heart, the body grows calm and the mind grows calm. When the body & mind of a monk enraptured at heart grow calm, then serenity as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

overcoming 5 Hindrances → pamojja → piti (mind) → body tranquility (passadhi) → sukha (body) → samadhi → upekkha

So the key is overcoming 5 Hindrances


The breath is only one method of many at attempting at subduing unwholesome thoughts and emotions. It’s not the breath itself that causes piti to arise, but the subduing of unwholesome mental qualities (see my post above this one).

“Bhikkhus, live contemplating the foulness of the body. Let mindfulness of breathing be inwardly well established before you. Live contemplating the impermanence of all formations.

“For those who live contemplating foulness in the body, the tendency to lust with regard to the element of beauty is abandoned. When mindfulness of breathing is inwardly well established before one, the tendencies of extraneous thoughts to produce vexation of mind remain no more. For those who live contemplating the impermanence of all formations, ignorance is abandoned and knowledge arises.”

  • iti85

So different methods subdue different parts of the mind.

You could subdue the mind alone with just brahma viharas and attain piti, but this won’t lead to fetter destruction (removing ignorance), as to reduce ignorance you need to also contemplate impermanence, hence in MN 64 it says one first enters jhanas and then contemplates the Impermanence of the 5 aggregates.

But to get piti alone without reducing ignorance, all you need to do is calm the mind from unwholesome qualities (5 hindrances).

Ven Punnaji explains here the importance of calming the mind first to attain wisdom


I think these kinda questions is best to ask your meditation teacher, not suttas. EBT by themselves cannot be a substitute for a living meditation linage. I recommend Ajahn Brahm’s youtube on his meditation retreats.

Below is roughly what I learnt from his retreats.

The joy and happiness arises from the mind not having to be busy with the other senses, so it can calm down and still to one object. Instead of answering 6 telephones all the time, the mind is only answering 1 telephone, so joy arises. Also, another is the happiness of letting go of the 5 senses.

Important to note that one cannot will/force/crave the joy to arise, just sit and do nothing, just know, make peace, be kind, be gentle. It arises on its own.


I think ajahn chah is much better than ajahn brahm, ajahn chah is ajahn brahm’s teacher we can refer to his biography here

This is what ajahn chah teach about piti

If we know the nature of the mind like this then we let go, just like letting the water flow by. Vicara becomes more and more subtle. Perhaps the mind inclines to contemplating the body, or death for instance, or some other theme of Dhamma. When the theme of contemplation is right there will arise a feeling of well-being. What is that well-being? It is piti (rapture). Piti, well-being, arises. It may manifest as goose-pimples, coolness or lightness. The mind is enrapt. This is called piti. There are also pleasures, sukha, the coming and going of various sensations; and the state of ekaggatarammana, or one-pointedness.

Now if we talk in terms of the first stage of concentration it must be like this: vitakka, vicara, piti, sukha, ekaggata. So what is the second stage like? As the mind becomes progressively more subtle, vitakka and vicara become comparatively coarser, so that they are discarded, leaving only piti, sukha, and ekaggata. This is something that the mind does of itself, we don’t have to conjecture about it, just to know things as they are.

As the mind becomes more refined, piti is eventually thrown off, leaving only sukha and ekaggata, and so we take note of that. Where does piti go to? It doesn’t go anywhere, it’s just that the mind becomes increasingly more subtle so that it throws off those qualities that are too coarse for it. Whatever’s too coarse it throws out, and it keeps throwing off like this until it reaches the peak of subtlety, known in the books as the Fourth Jhana, the highest level of absorption. Here the mind has progressively discarded whatever becomes too coarse for it, until there remain only ekaggata and upekkha, equanimity. There’s nothing further, this is the limit.


“While in a literate culture in which systematic thought is highly prized the lack of such a text with a unifying function might be viewed as a defect, in an entirely oral culture—as was the culture in which the Buddha lived and moved—the lack of a descriptive key to the Dhamma would hardly be considered significant. Within this culture neither teacher nor student aimed at conceptual completeness. The teacher did not intend to present a complete system of ideas; his pupils did not aspire to learn a complete system of ideas. The aim that united them in the process of learning—the process of transmission—was that of practical training, self-transformation, the realization of truth, and unshakable liberation of the mind.”—Bikkhu Bodhi

The Anapanasati sutta (MN 118) exemplifes the above perhaps more than any other. This is because it encompasses the elementary level where its exercises are single skill development and as such do not have an immediate outcome. This is indicated by the instruction “trains himself,” which is particularly evident in the version of the Satipatthana sutta which constitutes Part B of the Anapanasati sutta. The Anapanasati sutta provides a series of questions to which the learner must provide an answer.

For more information it is necessary to go to the more advanced Satipatthana sutta where the second foundation describes the differentiation between feelings of the flesh and feelings not of the flesh. The latter means jhana or any preliminary sense of joy such as the joy in the dhamma described in AN 11.12. So it can be seen how the development of the induction of joy as a skill through the first and second tetrads is essential to the ability to experience the joy necessary in the second foundation. These links are not spelled out in the suttas, the student is expected to learn them. This touches on the difference between the verbal level and untranslated sense impressions (feelings) which form the inner language of the adept- the meditation suttas are trying to discourage verbal thinking:

“Name has weighed down everything;
Nothing is more extensive than name.
Name is the one thing that has
All under its control.”—SN 1.61

The sense of peace upon which the second foundation is based was crucial to the Buddha’s awakening:

“I thought: ‘So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?’ I thought: 'I am no longer afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities,”—MN 36

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For the excerpt from SN 47.10, I’ll just add that this sequence is given the same way for each base of mindfulness: the body, feelings, mind, and dharmas. So nothing too specific to the body itself. It’s using the 5 steps towards samadhi: gladness, joy, pliancy, bliss, samadhi. Some other practices leading to this sequence:

For SN 47.10, Bhante Sujato has “inspiring foundation.” Bhikkhu Bodhi has “inspiring sign.” The Chinese parallel SA 615 uses something like giving rise to “pure faith” (淨信), and grasping hold of a “pure sign” (淨相). Maybe a slightly different interpretation of some terms.


But the buddha said that his teaching is complete that he didn’t hide anything from his student so sutta and vinaya is enough there’s no need to go to commentary unless you don’t know some words and how they mean then commentary and sub commentary can help

This is rapture/joy that happens due to mental contact not bodily contact so how can you call this rapture of the flesh ?

Or do you argue that dhamma is a bodily contact instead of mental contact ?

This is seclusion born rapture not immersion born rapture that’s why the rapture predates the immersion instead of otherwise or do you argue that hindrances still exist at that time ?


In the seven factors of awakening rapture precedes tranquillity, that is rapture causes calming of the mind and body (" In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm"—AN 11.12). The Anapanasati tetrad exercises are skill development, and there calming of the body and rapture are developed as separate preparatory skills. SN 47.40 explains how there is an “establishment” phase of the foundations of mindfulness, followed by “development.” Establishment means familiarization with skills independently, and development means combining them. These stages apply to all structures of the path including the Anapanasati sutta, and it is developed through the four foundations of mindfulness and the seven factors of awakening which are included in the sutta.


In my limited experience piti/sukha arises when the meditator attains their aim: the mind becomes unified with the object and there is decrease in disturbance - the mind doesn’t go out to the senses and stays ‘snug’ with the breath. In terms of the first and second tetrad of Anapansati sutta there is a corresponding calming of both the feelings and body. That happens simultaneously. The tetrads are simply different aspects of the same process of calming. Later in the same sutta the Buddha says that any of the tetrads are sufficient for release by describing how each tetrad develops and brings to completion the four foundations of mindfulness and the seven factors of awakening. This make a perfect sense when it’s understood that each tetras are different ways of seeing the same process.


Not downplaying the importance of tranquillity, but calming is only one theme in the Anapanasati sutta, interwoven with it is insight. This is shown in the first tetrad where step 3 sensitivity to the entire body, is an investigative and active process related to the second factor of awakening. The very fact that “the meditator attains their aim” and joy is experienced indicates a search involving effort has been underway.