EBTs which indicate the experience of the body disappears while meditating?

See my reply to B. Brahmali a few messages above detailing the context of “body among bodies.” In short, what that means is if you focus only on the breath, that’s allowable, because the breath is ONE type of body (among many), and is sufficient to be classified as kaya anupassana. It absolutely does not mean kaya means breath, to the exclusion of all other types of body/kaya previously elucidated in MN 10 and MN 119.

MN 62 gives a strong case that 16 APS can be concurrently practiced, mixed and matched with any of the other MN 10 and MN 119 kaya anupassana exericses.

I don’t know what you mean by the difference between

“whole” or “entire” as opposed to “all” or “every?”

do you mean including other beings outside your own internal body?

Furthermore, mendicant, going totally beyond perceptions of form, with the ending of perceptions of impingement, not focusing on perceptions of diversity, aware that ‘space is infinite’, they enter and remain in the dimension of infinite space.

Puna caparaṃ, gahapati, bhikkhu sabbaso rūpasaññānaṃ samatikkamā paṭighasaññānaṃatthaṅgamā nānattasaññānaṃ amanasikārā ‘ananto ākāso’ti ākāsānañcāyatanaṃ upasampajjaviharati.

I wonder what rupa perception you think isn’t being perceived any longer? Or maybe you think the rupa here is arupa of some sort.

Gotcha. That was pretty much my feeling, too.

Thanks for this one. Like I said, I was going based off Bhante Sujato’s study, but it’s nice to have another piece of scriptural support, as well.

I mean一切always means “each and every individual unit,” I’ve never known it to mean an entire single mass–as I thought sabba similarly meant. But here everyone is translating it as “whole (body of breath).” I’ve just never understand why or how sabba could mean a singular whole. Anyway, it:s not important.

More to the point of this thread, what about the first two steps of the eight liberations as an example of a disappearing body? According to an article I recently read, internal/external in that context was held to mean self/other in the Sarvastivādin exegesis (as opposed to what I believe Pāli commentaries say). That would mean that in step two, the perception of one’s own rūpa from step one is given up, only that of another’s remains. That’s what the article seemed to say, anyway.

(I think it was an article on asubha bhavana by KL Dhammajoti. I’m not home right now, so I can’t quote.)

Did someone here say it was?

Jhana and boundlessness has, however, been considered a sort of fore-taste…

Yes. Each feeling in vedanānupassanā is included among feelings, just as the breath is included among bodies/groups. The plural kāyesu cannot refer to “physical bodies”, because it just doesn’t make sense. The only sensible way of understanding the term in this context is as “groups of phenomena”. Whether kāya refers back to the groups listed in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta or it refers to groups more generally is irrelevant. The point is that the breath is referred to as a separate group of phenomena.

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi clearly does.

Well, they are both modern commentators. If we are going to focus on the EBTs and not later Buddhism, then their opinions are of no more value than the ancient commentaries. And as you know, the ancient commentaries say that kāya in this context refers to the breath. The ancient commentators were learned. If there is a discrepancy between a modern commentator and the ancients, I tend to favour the ancients, unless there is good evidence not to.

Let’s review some of the evidence in favour of my interpretation:

  • The context is breath meditation. In the Ānāpānasati Sutta the Buddha specifically says that this is what he will teach: Kathaṃ bhāvitā ca, bhikkhave, ānāpānassati kathaṃ bahulīkatā mahapphalā hoti mahānisaṃsā, “And how, monks, is mindfulness of breathing developed and cultivated so that it is of great fruit and great benefit?” This is enough, in my opinion, to conclude that kāya cannot refer to the physical body.
  • As discussed above, in the phrase “kāyesu kāyaññatarāhaṃ, bhikkhave, evaṃ vadāmi yadidaṃ—assāsapassāsā”, kāya must refer to a group of phenomena, in this case the group of all breaths.
  • SĀ 810, which is the parallel to the Ānāpānasati Sutta in Chinese, reads the equivalent to sabbe kāyasaṅkhārā, “all bodily creation”, which is defined elsewhere as the breath.
  • The Pali commentary understands kāya as the breath in this context.

Perhaps the underlying problem is our different understanding of the word kāya. To me kāya, at root, means a group of phenomena. Which particular group of phenomena can only be grasped by the context.


My recent experience with anapanasati is that it is not a meditation on the breath but a meditation WITH the breath. The meditator is using the breath as an anchor to help focusing on sixteen different things. The first four are associated with the body, then vedana which involves also the body then the mind then some mind-objects. In all these steps the meditator is fully aware of his body thanks to the constant contact with the breath.


I think this is a good point. Ānāpānasati is not exclusively about the breath, especially in steps 5-8 and 9-12 where other aspects of experience are specifically said to be present. But the breath is in all cases part of the experience.

In steps 1, 2, and 4 nothing is mentioned apart from the breathing. It is the sole focus of attention. In step 3 we then have the choice - depending on our interpretation - of whether the sole focus of attention is the breath or the physical body in a general sense. The natural progression of meditation, leading to increasingly refined states of mind, suggests to me that broadening the attention to include the whole physical body makes little sense at this stage.

But in the end, if anyone is able to make progress by focusing on the whole body and then coming back to breath later, then I cannot see any reason not to do so. If it works, it’s good. Still, from a textual perspective I think kāya here must refer to the breath.


I’d like to just offer an interpretation that works with both. The sensation of the breath in the whole physical body could be a gradation more subtle than the breaths we are normally aware of. It is still the breath; and it is in the body (or at least that is the experience).

This would also work with the 4th step. As it would be the stilling of these subtle bodily movements.

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In conclusion there is no EBTs that specifically says that one has to make the body disappear.

Instead I see many suttas that talk about sati immersed in the body such as:

  • AN 1.575–615 Kāyagatāsati Vagga with:
    “anyone who has developed and cultivated mindfulness of the body includes all of the skillful qualities that play a part in realisation” such as:
    “leads to the realization of the fruit of stream-entry … once-return … non-return … perfection”

  • MN 119 Mindfulness of body. It includes all body related practices from anapanasati to 1st satipatthana to the four jhanas to ten advantages (including knowledge of the destruction of the taints).

I now contemplate the idea that the dhamma is a body-centered practice towards liberation from dukkha.


A ‘body’ could mean mean a body in the abstract- like a body of water even in Pali. However the breath is filed under body contemplation, while other potential aggregations are filed under vedananupassana, cittanupassana and dhammanupassana. This broader context means we must seriously consider the breath as an amalgamation of body sensations in and around the nose just like the ‘actual body’ is a collection of multiple body sensations. Otherwise if we consider the breath a ‘body in the abstract’ the risk is run of satisfying the abhidhamma and not the entirety of the EBT.

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It is true; there are to the best of my readings no suttas that prescribe that one has to MAKE the body disappear.

But how is framing the issue as such relevant to the question of whether the sense data cognisable by the physical body is contacted in an absorption? Even if one did not wish/desire (but see *) for the disappearance of contacts at the 5 physical senses, how is the absence of such a wish/desire relevant to the issue of such contacts disappearing or otherwise?

(* MN 44 does suggest that the yearning for the supreme liberations (plural vimokkhas, suggestive of the jhānas) gives rise to grief, but such yearning does not cause paṭighānusaya to anuseti.)

As far as I can tell, the Buddha does not seem to be recorded as making it an imperative to make the physical body disappear because He set the bar much, much higher. The Dhamma is for the transcendence of all 3 types of Existence (bhava), and one starts with the escape from kāmā (kāmānaṃ nissaraṇaṃ). In one’s escape from kāmā , one escapes not only the cognitive content of the kāmaloka, but importantly, one escapes also the kāmadhātu , vyāpādadhātu, and vihiṃsādhātu.

The problem with that reading is that it pre-supposes that jhānic pleasure (sukha) is exclusively physical. If the mind-base were incapable of experiencing sukha as a kāyika phenomenon, that must mean that the mind-base is limited solely to experiencing the affective sequel of cetasika feelings. Two problems with this reading -

  1. it violates suttas such as MN 148, which clearly describes mind-contact giving rise to kāyika feelings (see DN 10 for the definition, using pain as valence being distinguised from grief as the affective sequel) ; and
  2. if the mind’s only resort is cetasika feelings, then there is no possibility of Awakening, since the anusayas will always anuseti (see again MN 148).

As for the saturation of the “body” with the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, it’s always conveniently overlooked that at the 4th absorption pericope, we have -

So imameva kāyaṃ parisuddhena cetasā pariyodātena pharitvā nisinno hoti; nāssa kiñcisabbāvato kāyassa parisuddhena cetasā pariyodātena apphuṭaṃ hoti

The “body” is saturated with the completely purified mind. If kāya in all 4 similes are to have the same meaning (ie tenor) and same meaning (ie vehicle), then you’d end with an interpretation that violates the MN 43 limitation of the 5 senses to their own resort. This “physical body” interpretation requires the physical body to experience the mind, which is not permitted by MN 43.

Good grief, how in the world did you end up translating the dative PLURAL kāmānaṃ into the dative SINGULAR noun “sensuality”?

I don’t know what bad kamma I’ve made in my past that I have to contact such poor reasoning, over and over again since 2011 in DW, and endure the pain of the effort to correct it. MN 43 proposes that the formless attainments can be known by a purified mind divorced from the 5 physical senses -

Nissaṭṭhena, āvuso, pañcahi indriyehi parisuddhena manoviññāṇena ‘ananto ākāso’ti ākāsānañcāyatanaṃ neyyaṃ, ‘anantaṃ viññāṇan’ti viññāṇañcāyatanaṃ neyyaṃ, ‘natthi kiñcī’ti ākiñcaññāyatanaṃ neyyan”ti.

Is it saying that a mind that divorced from the 5 senses is (A) a sufficient condition for knowing the formless attainments, or (B) that it is a necessary condition? I take the (B) interpretation, on account of DN 9’s basic premises that the cessation of kāmasaññā proceeds sahetū sappaccayā (the basic language of Dependant Origination).

If (B) were intended, the syllogism would be -

If the formless attainments are knowable, the mind was divorced from the 5 senses.

From (B), you cannot assert that because the absorptions are not mentioned, therefore the absorptions are not purified and divorced from the 5 senses. That is tantamount to asserting

If the formless attainments are not knowable, the mind was not purified and divorced from the 5 senses.

That is the fallacy of denying the antecedent.

We know parisuddha is the adjective employed for the 4th absorption. That’s one liberation. Does the meditator now need to access a different liberation to fulfill the requirement for seperation from the 5 senses? If both requisites are furnished by the 4th absorption, that indicates that the mind then is seperated from the 5 senses in the 4th absorption.

Oh look, this na sasaṅkhāraniggayhavāritagata concentration in which one is not percipient of the 5 sense objects is also mentioned in -

  1. AN 3.101, where it is right smack in between well-established satipaṭṭhāna and the psychic powers. Where else but the 4 absorptions? Its parallel SA 1246 is even more explicit, providing in the passage following the section on the 不為有行所持 concentration the standard 2nd absorption pericope re the fading away of vitakka and vicara, followed by the 3rd and 4th vide the 乃 至 peyyāla.

  2. DN 34 applies this appellation to Right Concentration. See also AN 5.27, throwing further doubt on Ven Thanissaro’s wretched translation that this concentration is accessible to arahants alone, when both suttas say that this concentration leads to both present and future pleasure (paccuppannasukho ceva āyatiñca sukhavipāko), which in MN 45 is identified with the absorptions. Wonderful! Arahants with a post-mortem destiny…

@alaber - a pop quiz for you. Do the suttas say anything about the formless beings having a kāya (“body”)? If you consider carefully the implications to the answer to this question, you are on the way to understanding the Middle-Indo Aryan conception of just what kāya means in different contexts. This is especially cogent when there is a clear correlation between the meditative attainments and the corresponding rebirths in the various types of bhava. Good luck.


That’s fine to have that opinion, but as the translator, whose translation may be read by millions of people, wouldn’t it be better if the translation is translated consistently, without bias?

In other words, kaya translated with the same word you use in step 3 of 16 APS the same as kaya in all the exercises in MN 119.

In that way, the scenario you describe quoted above is possible, people have choice in how they practice step 3 of 16 APS. As your translation stands now, they don’t have the freedom of choice. They can only practice step 3 as “whole breath”.

Here is a simile to make it clear what’s going on. Instead of kaya anupassana, body contemplation, as in MN 10 and MN 119 body contemplation exercises, in this simile we have vegetable-anupassana.

So MN 10 talks about a rich variety of delicious vegetable contemplation, carrots, celery, onions, basil, and so on.

Then Ajahn Brahm comes along, cherry picks a quote from MN 118 out of context, pointing to the quote:

“A bitter melon is a certain type of vegetable in vegetable-anupassana.”

Then he translates step 3 of 16 APS, based on that quote for justification, as

“he breathes in and out, contemplating and eating bitter melon, thus he trains.”

I hope you can see the difference. Before, the buddha said you can eat many kinds of delicious vegetables. Ajahn Brahm, by translating kaya as ‘breath’, has changed the instruction to be:

you can only eat and contemplate bitter melon.

quite a different practice.

Bhante, before I respond to this, do you have any corrections or amendments you’d like to add?

My response and evidence supporting my thoughts are quite detailed and long, and I don’t want to embark on this time consuming venture if much of that time and energy would be spent addressing things where you may have changed your position since the post.

In my heart I believe that we, especially B. Analayo, B. @sujato, and yourself all share the same common core tenets, such as efficacy of kamma, conviction in rebirth, importance of jhana in the gradual training, etc. It’s a shame, and not helpful to our common goals, that some of our differences in opinion, would be perceived as disharmony and fighting amongst the EBT, a minority of minority of minorities in the spiritual world.

I’m not interested in trying to convert anyone to my interpretation of EBT, but I do feel a duty to fight for an unbiased translation of the EBT where full freedom of interpreting EBT is possible, and not restricted and narrow, due to biased translation of certain important key terms.

There’s probably a range of interpretations where awareness of the physical body is possible in jhana.

I don’t see why that’s inevitable even from the sorts of ‘saturating the body’ passages I refer to. A lot of the remainder of your argument is against just a particular type of bodily awareness in jhana interpretation.

Also just because an interpretation seems to run up against some sutta or EBT passages doesn’t mean it has to fall. Are the EBTs even wholly consistent or clear-cut on this topic? Is there a jhana interpretation where some problematic sutta passages cannot be found?

I don’t also really follow your train of thought on MN43 on “the MN 43 limitation of the 5 senses to their own resort” (probably due to my lack of knowledge). I suspect it’s interesting, but could you explain this argument in simpler terms?

There is really no need for you to reply to my post. Whether kāya refers to the breath or the body in the third step of the Ānāpānasati Sutta is a relatively minor matter, which is unlikely to make much difference to anyone’s practice. I know people on both sides of this divide who have had success with mindfulness of breathing. I would suggest letting it be. If you do reply, I am unlikely to respond. I want to avoid spending so much time on matters of little practical importance.

What is important is the nature of the jhānas. I hope to get back to this later, but I can make no promise when that will be.


I would like this discussion to be closed by the people in charge of monitoring Discourse. Thank you in advance.

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"Quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, he entered and remained in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. Idha, bhikkhave, sāriputto vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃvivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati.

4.1 And he distinguished the phenomena in the first absorption one by one: placing and keeping and rapture and bliss and unification of mind; contact, feeling, perception, intention, mind, enthusiasm, decision, energy, mindfulness, equanimity, and attention. Ye ca paṭhame jhāne dhammā vitakko ca vicāro ca pīti ca sukhañca cittekaggatā ca, phassovedanā saññā cetanā cittaṃ chando adhimokkho vīriyaṃ sati upekkhā manasikāro—tyāssadhammā anupadavavatthitā honti.

4.2 He knew those phenomena as they arose, as they remained, and as they went away. Tyāssa dhammā viditā uppajjanti, viditā upaṭṭhahanti, viditā abbhatthaṃ gacchanti. MN111

To sense sukha as in the jhana similes the it must be spread everywhere in the body -this requires cetana as it’s not going to happen without it.

I agree with @Brahmali that this is minor issue as even the person with samadhi is just required to continue the practice even more.

In listening to the suttas while walking meditation on the same route everyday I find that I can eventually hear and recall where I am both physically in the world and within the sutta while just focusing on the breath. It is not so much an omniscient present awareness or focus as a sense of aware procession in a bounded space of world/body/mind/sutta pacing on and with the thread of breath. It’s as if I was just pacing out a “group of breath phenomena” comprising the physical path through the streets, the state of the body, the place in the sutta.

Thank you for the understanding of “group of breath phenomena”. This helped me collect my muddled experiences.

About to action your request.