How to practice Anapanasati (the 16 steps, original sutta version, taught by the historical Buddha )

Thanks for your explanation indeed.
But I have to say the instructions are entirely a Theravada teaching, and not really useful and practical as indicated in the SN suttas, such as SN 54.1 for Anapanasati, and SN 47.2 for Satipatthana.

Regarding the steps in the Anapanasati (MN 118) and Satipatthana (MN 10) suttas, this extract from an interview shows how feeling (second step) is an intermediary between body and mind (mind=third and fourth steps), and how it is easier to access the body and feelings than the mind, and this is the reason teachers focus on those two areas as indicated in my previous post, and of course the reason the body is the first step in the suttas.

Q. Lay teachers often emphasize the importance of knowing the direct or “felt” sense of an experience rather than having a concept of it. Thus, we say, “the body feels like this,” “knee pain feels like this,” “a mind that’s restless feels like this.” Would you say that the body is the easiest place to first experience the felt sense?

Bh. Analayo: Yes, and I would clarify this felt sense as vedana. I think what you’re saying is very important. It is precisely why we don’t just have body contemplation being followed by contemplation of mind states, but in between these two we have the second Satipatthana, vedana. So working with the felt sense is precisely what to my mind is the rationale underlying the progression from body to feeling. Then, as feeling is not confined to the body aspect but also takes in the mental aspect, it becomes natural to move on to the mind. That is a beautiful progression.

It should also be remembered that the other groups of four in the teaching, such as the 4 noble truths are capable of forming an overall unity while at the same time being initally learned as steps. This two part process is just a normal procedure, such as how one might learn to play a musical instrument. So seeing the steps in the Anapanasati sutta as individual exercises is an elementary view which precedes their integration as a matter of experience in practice.


It seems the “steps” theory is needed for the expanded versions of sati (MN118, MN 10), if one follows the Anapanasati MN 118 and Satipatthana MN 10 suttas.

But if one follows closely SN 54.1 Anapanasati and SN 47.2 Satipatthana suttas, it seems the “steps” theory is not really useful and practical. In the SN suttas, body and mind are naturally interconnected in a practical sense. One simply cannot manage and know well about mental activities without physical awareness, including keeping silence. In Anapanasati (SN 54.1), it moves from the practice of mindfully knowing the bodily breathing in seated meditation, through calming of bodily and mental activities, to observing anicca and so on. In Satipatthana (SN 47.2), awareness/manfulness is applied in all bodily and mental activities (body, feeling, mind, phenomena) at the present moment.

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Thank you. If I understand you correctly, the Buddha wants us to practice what we feel most comfortable with.

There are two aspects to meditation, serenity and insight. When developing tranquillity it is certainly necessary to have comfortable conditions regarding the food, climate, and posture. But in the case of insight, it is necessary to go against the flow of samsara:

"And who is the individual who goes against the flow? There is the case where an individual doesn’t indulge in sensual passions and doesn’t do evil deeds. Even though it may be with pain, even though it may be with sorrow, even though he may be crying, his face in tears, he lives the holy life that is perfect & pure. This is called the individual who goes against the flow.”—-AN 4.5


Practicing the well-known buddhist five precepts

  1. Abstain from killing e.g. kill animals and fish and eat their flesh

  2. Abstain from stealing

  3. Abstain from lying

  4. Abstain from sensuous misconduct

  5. Abstain from intoxicants e.g. drugs and alcohol

And follow a vegetarian / vegan diet will provide the conditions necessary to practice well. It takes practice to prevent the mind from wandering around.

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Yes, for tranquillity meditation and there are 40 meditation subjects divided into groups. Choosing a subject which is suitable for one’s temperament makes concentration much easier. The groups are physical objects, social attitudes, impermanence of the body, breath which includes the body, feelings and mind, recollections of the achievements of the Buddha and other recollections, space, and the four elements.
Insight meditation is more like a contemplation where the mind is not fixed on one point but investigating phenomena in the light of impermanence.

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There are 84,000 meditation methods.

In the greater vehicle maybe, but in the lesser vehicle Theravada the wisdom of the elders, there are two, with fewer suttas and a different goal, simply the ending of suffering via understanding the four noble truths (4) accomplished by following the noble eightfold path (8).

I have to correct myself. There’s only one meditation method which is Tetra or the Anapanasati. People change the method based on their own needs or suits their own needs.
Thank you.

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The four tetrads of the Anapanasati sutta. Yes there are two different stages to practising the Anapanasati sutta, the initial stage where the steps are practised individually, and the integrated stage. The initial stage develops skills according to the content of each tetrad, later the integrated stage applies the insight factors of the fourth to the domains of the preceding three. Within the sutta there are interwoven preliminary themes of both serenity and insight, first familiarization (steps 1&2), then activation (training) (step 3), then calming (step 4).

" [1] Breathing in long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’; or breathing out long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out long.’ [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in short’; or breathing out short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out short.’ [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.’—MN 118

Step 3 is awareness of the impact of the breath on bodily energy circuits. That leads to the suffusion of joy at the heart of the second tetrad. But as well as stimulating, there needs to be practice in the ability to calm these sensations otherwise agitation can result. On the other hand, too much calming results in sluggishness:

“As he remains thus focused on the body in & of itself, a fever based on the body arises within his body, or there is sluggishness in his awareness, or his mind becomes scattered externally. He should then direct his mind to any inspiring theme.”—SN 47.10

It’s not against the 5 precepts to eat meat. Eating meat will not effect one’s practice, unless it’s gluttony.

The “steps” theory obviously is an interpretation, unsupported by SN 54.1 Anapanasati and SN 47.2 Satipatthana.

In SN 54.1 Anapanasati, it moves from the practice of mindfully knowing the bodily breathing in seated meditation, through calming of bodily and mental activities, to observing anicca and so on. In SN 47.2 Satipatthana, awareness/manfulness is applied in all bodily and mental activities (body, feeling, mind, phenomena) at the present moment. Body and mind are naturally interconnected in a practical sense. One simply cannot manage and know well about mental activities without physical awareness, including keeping silence, according to the SN suttas.

The last two stages of the killing process is to buy and eat meat and fish. Any sentient being no matter how small, that has eyes and moves, has consciousness. Any sentient being has the right to live. Many studies done by researchers have proven that animals have the same feelings and emotions as human beings, except they cannot talk. They cry when their babies are taking away from them to be slaughtered. Many videos have been posted on YouTube and FB on this.
Thou shall not kill has deeper meaning.

But the Buddha is not a vegetarian!

Hey y’all, we’ve had the vegetarian debate before and it will probably never be fully resolved. Don’t derail the thread over it :slight_smile:


The Buddha is practicing nonviolence (ahimsa) in his alms bowl. Nonviolence provides inner peace.

Yes, but not if you think about it too much. MN 19 shows how harmlessness must be balanced with calmness. Before he became enlightened the Buddha discovered that thinking too much about insight subjects caused fatigue. This is an important lesson for westerners who tend to live too much in the mind:

"And as I remained thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, thinking imbued with harmlessness arose in me. I discerned that ‘Thinking imbued with harmlessness has arisen in me; and that leads neither to my own affliction, nor to the affliction of others, nor to the affliction of both. It fosters discernment, promotes lack of vexation, & leads to Unbinding. If I were to think & ponder in line with that even for a night… even for a day… even for a day & night, I do not envision any danger that would come from it, except that thinking & pondering a long time would tire the body. When the body is tired, the mind is disturbed; and a disturbed mind is far from concentration.’ So I steadied my mind right within, settled, unified, & concentrated it. Why is that? So that my mind would not be disturbed.”—-MN 19

That principle is also in the first tetrad of the Anapanasati sutta where an active exercise, discerning the energy flows in the body (Step 3), is balanced by training in calming (Step 4).

Later the Buddha developed the germinal factors in MN 19 into the noble eightfold path.

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After reading MN62, a Discourse on ānāpānasati given to Rahula, I came to this understanding that ānāpānasati is a practice to see non-self in the five aggregates. See link below.

Actually Mahasi has something to do with the Anapasati Sutta.

When people has reach the’Breathing The Whole Body’ stage, he or she know. At the beginning stage, he or she just focussing in 1 point, ie. observing the abdomen part. Correct it is not the beginning part. But, it is not the end part, too. It is just a part in the middle of our breathing process. It is just a point of so many parts of the body touched by the air inhale or exhale.

I would suggest not to look for difference. Looking for similarities will give a clear look at the already divided teaching.