How to Continue to Breathe?

I’ve read and examined the 16 steps of breath-meditation (MN 118). In the fourth “passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ assasissāmīti … passasissāmīti sikkhati” (meant s/he trains thus: 'I’ll breathe in/out tranquillising the breath), if a meditator’s breath is tranquillized, how will s/he continues to breathe for the next steps "pītipatisamvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati…

With Mettā

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It’s not tranquilised permanently. It starts up again in a few seconds!

With metta

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Step 4 can take one all the way to 4th jhana. Prior to that, even not in jhana, it can simply be calming bodily-processes (kaya-sankhara) to be more calm than it is. The breath is one type of bodily-process, among others.

I highly recommend studying SN 54 (anapana samyutta), which contains 20 suttas, instead of studying MN 118. SN 54.2 in particular is important. It shows the versatility of the 16 steps, and it doesn’t have to be done sequentially, or only in groups of 4.

AN 4.38, AN 10.20, DN 33.13, DN 34.11
:diamonds: “kathañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu passaddhakāyasaṅkhāro hoti? idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sukhassa ca pahānā dukkhassa ca pahānā pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamā adukkhamasukhaṃ upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṃ catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu passaddhakāyasaṅkhāro hoti.

“And how has a bhikkhu tranquilized bodily activity? Here, with the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and dejection, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the fourth jhāna, neither painful nor pleasant, which has purification of mindfulness by equanimity. It is in this way that a bhikkhu has tranquilized bodily activity.707


Good question!

The steps are generally sequential, but not 100% linear. In this case, the breath is tranquilized to some degree before rapture and bliss arise. But the process of tranquilizing is not yet complete: it continues to get more and more subtle, culminating as frankk said in the fourth jhana.

If you feel like the breath has stopped, and are not sure about it, don’t worry. You won’t die! (And anyway, if you do, it’s a cool way to go. :wink: ) Just relax, be patient, and let the process take its course.


I would like to say thanks to all of you for the answers!

I’m so interested that you are all talking about jhāna within the 16 steps of anapanasati-kammatthana. I wanna know more explanations.
I have read and seen 2 kinds of belief in the 16-breath-step one saying rūpajjhāna completes at the step 4 (sambhayam kayasankaram) of 16 step-breath-meditation and another saying it completes at the step 12 (vimocayam cittam). I want to be clear about that.
Moreover fourth jhāna is believed no breath (kayasankhara), no vitakka, no vicara (vacisankara) and no pitisukha. During attaining fourth jhana in the step 4/12, without piti/sukha, how can he go to step 5/6 (pitipatisamvedi/ suhkapatisamvedi) or if he doesn’t need such Samantha steps anymore, without breath, how can he breathe in the next 13-16 steps of vipassana: aniccanupassi assasissamiti … sikkhati?

With metta
Please be patient with my English! smile:


Hi again,

Well, I’m not sure that we can map the jhanas very specifically against the stages of anapanassati. There is a general correlation, to be sure, but these things are more like signposts or indications rather than definitive and distinct steps.

Nevertheless, the factors of jhana itself, starting with rapture and bliss, only really get going in the second tetrad, and up until the end of the third tetrad the terms are still mostly concerned with deepening and purifying the mind’s samadhi. So I would say that it’s best to see the process through the first tetrad as the path into jhana, the second and third tetrad as getting into jhana and developing it, and the final tetrad as dealing with insight.

As for how one is to breath when doing insight after fourth jhana, the mind is at a somewhat looser though still very clear state as it is “extended” towards insight at such stages. The breath comes back, although it’s still extremely subtle.