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

Ok that’s fine, I respect your opinion. But I think it’s important to not treat Mahasi meditation as ‘less than’ because it is (in your opinion) not based on the suttas.

I’m not arguing that you can’t have a differing opinion of other practices, just that if you vocalize your opinions to do so respectfully. This is something that Bhante Sujato and Ajahn Brahmali are tremendously good at – when they disagree they do so respectfully and kindly.

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From: https://sujato.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/a-brief-history-of-mindfulness/

Modern teachings on mindfulness are almost exclusively derived from a peculiar 20th century interpretation of one text, the Pali
Satipatthana Sutta.

Or from others:

D. The Meditation Centre Model. Here the Buddhist Institution is transformed into a centre for “meditation” under the guidance of a self-proclaimed “teacher”. The meditation practiced is a simplified form of the first foundation of satipatthana ignoring all the preconditions which the Buddha was careful to lay down for the correct practice of this technique of mindfulness.
Dr. Gunasekara argues that models A and B are appropriate modes in following the teachings of Buddha whereas models C and D are departures from the teachings

This is the same opinion that I have. The opinion that mahasi and the “meditation center buddhism/vipassana buddhism” popular in the west has nothing to do with anapanasanti meditation and is a corruption, a twisting of interpretation from 19th century that completely misses the point. And as I have previously explained, the technical mechanism on witch it is based is Hindu. And this is why in such teachings about mindfulness you will never find anything mentioned about the last 14 of the 16 steps of anapanasanti.

This is why such topics about Anapanasanti are important. Many mistaken the 16 step anapanasanti sutta to be the same with the 19th century Mahasi invention. It is impossible to have a topic about EBT based anapanasanti without clearly making this distinction between it and the Mahasi/Goenka or other modern inventions that are popular in the west and mistaken to be the same as sutta based anapanasanti.

I definitely agree with Bhante Sujato that the Mahasi method is an interpretation of the Satipatthana Sutta, but I don’t think it is, as you say, a ‘corruption.’

I understand where you’re coming from, but because I think the Mahasi method is an interpretation/extension of the Satipatthana Sutta, the correlation between the Satipatthana Sutta and the Ānā­pā­nassa­ti­ Sutta (MN18) makes sense to me. Thus, I can understand why people might “mistaken the 16 step anapanasanti sutta to be the same with the 19th century Mahasi invention,” because mindfulness of breathing is part of the first Satipatthana.

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I don’t agree at all with the way you phrase almost anything, @dxm_dxm, but your title reminded me of a story of the BBC contacting a famous bhikkhu, I don’t remember which one, but a very famous bhikkhu, back in the 60s I think, it might have been someone like Ajahn Chah (as in, “that” level of fame), but I am not sure at all.

When the Ajahn learned that the BBC wanted him to talk about anapanasanti apparently he laughed (the implication being that he was surprised they asked him for something so simple).

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Lol. That really is how I feel too. I have decided to not read any famous bhikkhus, not even sutta following ones until I finish reading the whole 4 nikayas. All that I think, I think by myself. And it has taken me a remarkable long period to make sense of that sutta due to my “mahasi way of thinking” or “mahasi angle of looking”. I remember how there was a period after starting reading the nikayas when I came up with some funky idea about jhana and meditation every couple of days, at least 10 funky ideas in total.

And now it looks quite simple. As I’ve said in OP:

The way to practice anapanasanti is quite simple. The sutta is very clear and straighforward. That’s why no other explanations are given about it in the whole 10.000 pag of suttas. It is so simple and straightforward it’s actually pretty strange not to understand it.

It is like a guy trying for months to make sense of a ciggarete lighter expecting it’s some form of supercomputer. And the more he fails to make sense of it due to wrong expectations, the more convinced he is that it’s actually an even more complicated supercomputer that he expected. And I’ve seen many people being in the same situation as that. The sutta really is pretty simple and Buddha did not even give any further instructions on such a simple thing because he was dealing with normal people who never heard of buddhism, he was not dealing with people that have a million ideas about meditation before learning it.

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Hi DD
Could you give some examples where you think Mahasi teaching not aligned with Sutta?

I would like to kindly suggest we avoid off-topic and parallel threads in the same topic. Having that in mind I created another topic:

:anjal:

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This is my ‘proof of concept’ essay on making EBT anapanasati accessible as a form of daily meditation practice. The sutta references are in . Some of them are not complete as I did not have time to research the suttas for this essay. I have utilized a recent draft translation of the anapanasati sutta by Ajhan Sujato, with some modifications I have denoted in { } . My comments in the sutta body itself is in italics. I hope @sujato wont mind me using his work in this manner. :anjal: I’m happy to use another translation if need be.

And what is mindfulness of breathing? It’s when a monk has gone to a wilderness, or to the root of a tree, or to an empty hut. They {sit down for meditation}, with their body held erect, and establish mindfulness {‘in front of the opening’ (parimukham) i.e.- in the vicinity of the nostrils.}

Place: Any suitably quiet place and time can be used to meditate. Quietness is not only in the environment but in the mind as well. So find a time when there is time to practice when the mind is expressing the five hindrances to a minimum (not too drowsy, not too tired, when energetic, not distracted etc -some prefer mornings, some afternoon) .

Posture: upper body held erect, but not stiffly (‘holding a wet noodle…’)

Establish mindfulness near the nostrils. The meditator has to only be aware of whether they are breathing in or out. A strong focus on where the breath touches the skin on the nostril is not desirable as this is not a pure samatha method, but incorporates clear comprehension as well to know about the breath (whether it is impermanent etc). Establishing mindfulness at the nostrils will allow for one-pointedness to develop quicker, rather than following the breath internally.
Counting the breath etc. may not be required if the hindrances a managed well before starting anapanasati (see above). Walking meditation is practiced in the first half of the night and the last half of the night and removing defilements is done while performing this meditation . Suttas do not say how many times to do anapanasati but expects the meditator to be practicing the four foundations of mindfulness throughout the day . If a person is mindful throughout the day, sitting meditation will progress quicker for them than for a person who is not, as mindfulness leads to Samadhi . Progress can be made by doing the meditation once, or more times during the day. Each sitting can vary from 10 minutes to 6 hours or more depending on the experience of the meditator.

The 16 steps below are aspects that are experienced when the meditation progresses. They are natural developments of anapanasati. To use a similie they are landmarks along the way in journey and cannot be prematurely practiced. Specific acts that are mentioned in these steps wont have the same effect when performed outside of their specific place in 16 step structure of practice. So while it would be possible to do some of them even at the start, the deepening of Samadhi experience when doing them within the structure will not be apparent.

Ever mindful, they breathe in. Mindful, they breathe out.
[so satova assasati, sato passasati.]
-the meditator becomes aware whether they are breathing in or breathing out.

Breathing in long they know: ‘I’m breathing in {long}.’
Or breathing out long they know: ‘I’m breathing out {long}.’
[Dīghaṃ vā assasanto dīghaṃ assasāmīti pajānāti. Dīghaṃ vā passasanto dīghaṃ passasāmīti pajānāti]
-with the body (and mind) relaxing the breath becomes slower, and longer. The meditator becomes aware of this.

Breathing in short they know: ‘I’m breathing in {short}.’
Or breathing out short they know: ‘I’m breathing out {short}.’
[Rassaṃ vā assasanto rassaṃ assasāmīti pajānāti. Rassaṃ vā passasanto rassaṃ passasāmīti pajānāti.]
-when the body relaxes even more the breath becomes short (and shallow). The meditator is aware this happens.

They practice breathing in experiencing the whole body {of the breath}.
They practice breathing out experiencing the whole body {of the breath}.
[Sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati. Sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
With a short breath the entire ‘body’ of the breath (‘the breath is yet another body’) can be easily experienced without moving the area of focus too much. This has to be practiced intentionally unlike the first two steps, which take place due to development of samadhi.

They practice breathing in stilling the {breath} body’s motion.
They practice breathing out stilling the {breath} body’s motion.
[Passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ assasissāmīti sikkhati. Passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
By intentionally relaxing the body, or the breath, the breath can be calmed further. This helps to deepen Samadhi.

They practice breathing in experiencing rapture.
They practice breathing out experiencing rapture.
[Pītipaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati. Pītipaṭisaṃvedī passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
-Rapture will be felt when the practice deepens, but the awanress should remain with the breath and incorporate the rapture with the experience fo the breath (ie. the breath should not be abandoned)

They practice breathing in experiencing bliss.
They practice breathing out experiencing bliss.
[Sukhapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati. Sukhapaṭisaṃvedī passasissāmīti sikkhati.]

They practice breathing in experiencing {and identifying} of these emotions.
They practice breathing out experiencing {and identifying} these emotions.
[Cittasaṅkhārapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmīti sikkhati. Cittasaṅkhārapaṭisaṃvedī passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
The pali term here is ‘mano-sankhara’ ie feelings (vedana) and perception (sanna). Bliss and rapture can be experienced and known, thereby accounting for this stage.

They practice breathing in stilling these emotions.
They practice breathing out stilling these emotions.
[Passambhayaṃ cittasaṅkhāraṃ assasissāmīti sikkhati. Passambhayaṃ cittasaṅkhāraṃ passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
When the practice deepens the rapture and bliss fade away. Focusing intently on the breath alone will assist this at this stage.

They practice breathing in experiencing the mind.
They practice breathing out experiencing the mind.
[Cittapaṭisaṃvedi assasissāmīti sikkhati. Cittapaṭisaṃvedī passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
At this point of the practice, the meditator experiences a movement towards the ‘mind’ as if ‘fusing with the mind’.

They practice breathing in gladdening the mind.
They practice breathing out gladdening the mind.
[Abhippamodayaṃ cittaṃ assasissāmīti sikkhati. Abhippamodayaṃ cittaṃ passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
The meditator will experience an almost perfect, hindrance free, pleasant state of mind with the knowledge they are progressing in their practice. The happiness can be incorporated to the breath awareness to deepen the practice further.

They practice breathing in converging the mind.
They practice breathing out converging the mind.
[Samādahaṃ cittaṃ assasissāmīti sikkhati. Samādahaṃ cittaṃ passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
The practitioner brings the attention to a narrower focus, allowing the practice to deepen further.

They practice breathing in freeing the mind.
They practice breathing out freeing the mind.
[Vimocayaṃ cittaṃ assasissāmīti sikkhati. Vimocayaṃ cittaṃ passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
This refers to ‘ceto-vimutti’ or the first jhana. When practicing in this structured way it is possible to attain into jhana under one’s control (otherwise you may not know what is happening to one’s mind- cow lost in the mountain pastures similie [ ]). The first jhana is said to be adequate to attain arahanthood [ ]. If the practitioner wishes they can go onto develop high jhana, especially the first four form jhana, which is considered as Right unfication of mind.

They practice breathing in observing impermanence.
They practice breathing out observing impermanence.
[Aniccānupassī assasissāmīti sikkhati. Aniccānupassī passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
-The practitioner notes the in-breath is ending, and the out breath is ending

They practice breathing in feeling dispassion.
They practice breathing out feeling dispassion.
[Virāgānupassī assasissāmīti sikkhati. Virāgānupassī passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
-the breath’s impermanence is used to infer the impermanence of all dhammas. When all dhammas are seen as impermanent, (their dukkha is seen) and they are seen to be not worth clinging to. The five aggregates (‘of the breath’) arising and passing away can be understood inferentially. Seeing the five aggregates directly would be, however, preferable []. A feeling of detachment develops, on its own when the three marks (tilakkhana) and especially impermanence is continually observed. Intentionally taking the sign of impermanence (anicca sanna) is expected in this step. Some may experience an intermediate step of repulsion to phenomena (nibbida) [ ].

They practice breathing in observing cessation.
They practice breathing out observing cessation.
[Nirodhānupassī assasissāmīti sikkhati. Nirodhānupassī passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
-Cessation (nirodha) is the cessation of the Dependent origination (‘cessation, cessation’), following the removal of ignorance (avijja) by seeing the three marks (yatabhutanana). Fading of all phenomena (as DO includes contact, sense bases and consciousness) would be experienced. This is an unusual occurrence which happens only rarely, therefore do not expect this step to happen routinely. ‘Cessation is to be realised’ [ ]

They practice breathing in observing letting go.
They practice breathing out observing letting go.
[Paṭinissaggānupassī assasissāmīti sikkhati. Paṭinissaggānupassī passasissāmīti sikkhati.]
-this refers to letting go of subtle defilements of the mind that remain after cessation is completed ie defilements that persist until arahanthship is achieved. Therefore this sutta describes the complete path to full enlightenment, using the mindfulness of in-and-out breath. This sutta [ ] describes how the seven factors of enlightenment develop when performing the mindful of breath meditation.

This sutta shows how the body of the breath arises and how it ceases, how the feelings (vedana) arise and how they cease, how the mind arises and how it ‘ceases’, and how all phenomena (dhammas) arise and cease. This shows the how the meditator is mindful of the four foundations and how they develop. The first three foundations here use a samatha mode of ceasing, while the fourth foundation shows how insight is used to show ceasing.

I think the next step might be for someone to try and this and see if it if effective for them.

with metta

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Just a few comments to help refine your article:

What does the wet noodle part mean? Is that a counter example to “stiffly”? Or is the meditator grabbing a wet noodle too tightly?

You quote B.Sujato here, are the square brackets part of his translation, or your own comments? “[of the breath]”

The part about walking in the late evening and in the morning, gives the impression just those times are suitable for walking.
From AN 3.16, my impression is its much more open ended and depends on one’s personal circumstance. That is, in any meditation time one can sit, stand, walk according to need. For example, if drowsiness or sloth and torpor is a problem one can’t shake off, switching to walking would be prudent instead of always forcing a sit during “normal appropriate sitting times.”

There’s nothing wrong with treating the 16 steps as one gradual long sequence, but SN 54.2 and SN 54.6 make it clear there are many ways one can interpret the 16 steps. SN 54.2 in particular makes the 16 steps very powerful by stating one can combine 7sb (satta bojjhanga awakening factors) and 16APS (anpanasati) in any way that works.

In some of the agama parallels, one can see they use the last tetrad, traditioanlly looked upon as “vipassana”, as the way to subdue hindrances. Also MN 118 makes it clear one can take any tetrad and use it in isolation.

To reiterate my point, nothing wrong with talking about using all 16 steps as one connected gradual sequence, but it’s important to note the EBT supports many ways of interpreting 16APS legitimately, and one should be careful not to give the impression there is just one correct way.

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I don’t think there’s a problem with the substance of what you’re saying, you just need to slow down as you type, use a more gentle tone and voice. I’m not happy with corruption in the Dhamma either, but no one wants to listen to angry shouting with an antagonistic tone. It’s self defeating in many ways. Not only harm to ourselves but it defeats the purpose of communicating important ideas to effect positive change. I was going to private message that to you, but it applies to myself and others as well. In the spirit of being mutual kalyana mitta.

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Take a deep breath in, in a way that will straighten/erect the upper body and let the breath out, but keeping the shape of the straightened spine intact. It should feel like the upper torso is ‘dangling from the head’, hence the wet noodle’ description! This will lead to a relaxed but erect posture.[quote=“frankk, post:29, topic:5431”]
The part about walking in the late evening and in the morning, gives the impression just those times are suitable for walking.
From AN 3.16, my impression is its much more open ended and depends on one’s personal circumstance. That is, in any meditation time one can sit, stand, walk according to need. For example, if drowsiness or sloth and torpor is a problem one can’t shake off, switching to walking would be prudent instead of always forcing a sit during “normal appropriate sitting times.”
[/quote]

Correct. How to manage the five hindrances as and when they arise, should be part of this description. Some teachers suggest alternating sitting and walking repeatedly, which has its own benefits. The twice daily practice is directly from the suttas and I think those times have particular benefits. I am trying to stay true to the suttas as much possible so a lot of the practical instructions which of quite valid are left out here. To be clear this is not a document for practical instruction. That would have more detail, not found in EBT.

with metta

What is most important is to understand the mechanism, the way this meditation is supposed to work and how that is achieved. It has different goals and the way it works is very different than modern meditation based on Hindu meditation.

As long as we don’t understand the way this meditation taught by the historical Buddha works and also do not understand it’s goal, we will never understand how to practice it well, why it is better than Hindu meditation popular in the west and why the buddhist jhanas are different than the hindu jhanas or the so called “12 vipassana jhanas”

True. This seems to be a samatha and vipassana combined method (yuganaddha).

That’s interesting. Considering that the 4 tetrads are supposed to fulfill samatha and vipassana, vipassana needs to be represented somewhere in the 16 steps. Also nirodha (cessation) is specific to vipassana and doesn’t arise from samatha.

Its certainly is possible to take any of the four foundations of mindfulness and practice them at any point. It is also possible to take for example ‘converging the mind’ and apply it to any point of anapanasati practice. However if applied to the particular point in the 16 step scheme, unlike at other times, converging the mind provides a deepening of practice. Hence its appearance at this step. It is possible to practice Anapanasati in others ways- for example the Patisambidhamagga anapanasati method. These are valid practices, but the value in what the Buddha taught is brought to life when practiced in its proper sequence (it does require some deviation from simply observing the breath to reap its benefits, however and may be somewhat unfamiliar). Just as there is a structured way into higher jhana (the mastery of jhana) and a non-structured way (‘cow lost in the mountains’ similie), this is a structured way into pre-jhana samadhi. Non-structured practice would make mastering this practice much quicker - so much so that one could say this result is due to hours of non-structured practice.

with metta

I would like to point out that despite my aggresive criticism, I do not consider the Mahasi or other Hindu based techniques to be a total waste of time. In my opinion, this little exercise of focusing on the breath is good for the reduction of one of the 5 hidrances, the restlesness and remorse one. I am certain that if a person will do this exercise long enough, he will cultivate calmness and reduce restlesness of mind.

Therefore, I totally support the promotion of this exercise to non-buddhist people in the west, especially since thanks to the money that can be made out of it, it has replaced antidepressants witch were in my opinion much more detrimental. It also has the potential to lead people towards buddhism. Probably most of us here initially got into buddhism thanks to the vipassana movement. The problem I have is with taking this little exercise of focusing on the breath with us even after becoming buddhist and even claiming it is actually the same as the 16 steps anapanasanti meditation taught by the historical Buddha.

But as I said I consider it beneficial for the reduction of one of the 5 hidrances. But the thing is, the anapanasanti meditation taught by the historical Buddha is also good at reducing this hidrance. So there is no benefit in doing it compared to the anapanasanti meditation. There are only things to lose and disapoinments to expect because one can only get the benefits promised by the historical Buddha by practicing the in the way taught by the historical Buddha himself, not by practicing in a way advised by other teachers.

For example the little exercise invented by Mahasi is incapable of leading one to jhana. And because of this, an idea has developed that we don’t need the 8th step of the 8foldpath to achieve enlightenment, that the path works even faster with just 7 steps. But if there were a shortcut to the 8thfold path, I am sure the Buddha would have taught us this shortcut. B. Sujato had wrote intensively on this subject so there is no need for me to say more. It is clearly and repeatedly stated in the suttas that non-returning can not be reached without jhana.

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From what I’ve understood from the suttas, there is no such thing as “vipassana meditation”. There is samatha and insight meditation. Samatha is done through the 16 step anapanasanti method. Insight meditation (actually named simply contemplation in the suttas, not “insight meditation”) means contemplation of the 3 characteristics.

Insight meditation can be done in a lot of different ways, for example as described in SN chapter 5 many times, the series on “the internal as suffering/no self/impermanent 3 times”, "the external as … " etc.

All other contemplations fall in a way into the method described in that chapter and all along the nikayas. For example contemplating you’re own death or how you’re own body is made out of skeleton, organs etc. means contemplating the internal. Or the “6 contemplations to be done by a stream enterer” also fall into insight meditation category.

As for the relation between samatha and insight meditation, indeed the 4th tetrad is the relation. Due to the development of a calm, concentrated, free of hidranes, free of conceit etc. mind - then the meditator uses this elevated state of mind to contemplate impermanence. In order to achieve non-returning, the person needs to achieve jhana and then see with this elevated state of mind that even this jhanic state itself is impermanent and dependently arisen. If there is still clinging to the dhamma, he will only achieve non-returning. If there is no clinging to the dhamma, he will achieve arahantship.

The term vipassana has been debated over here already. From the little I know, in the context of the suttas, vipassana refers to the insight one will gain due to contemplating in this elevated jhanic state of mind. “Vipassana” is the name of the result of practice, not a practice itself.

The term “vipassana” has been taken out of context and applied to the new Mahasi invention. But as I’ve explained, the Mahasi exercise is neither samatha neither so called “insight meditation” (witch is actually called simply contemplation in the suttas) - it is just a separate development that is not part of the training described by the historical Buddha in the 4 nikayas.

And this misuse of the term has lead to many confusions. It has lead some to think that maybe the Mahasi exercise is not the 16 step anapanasanti meditation that is used in order to attain jhana, but is actually the “insight meditation/ contemplation” described in the suttas. But it also has nothing in common with the instructions of “insight meditation” witch involve contemplating the internal as suffering, etc. There is no relationship that can be drawn between that exercise and sutta insight meditation. The only relation it has is to anapanasanti because they both include observance of the breath, even though it is done in different ways. And that is why some claim it is the same as anapanasanti, even without the 16 steps being present. But because of the inability to achieve jhana though it, it ended up claiming that it is both anapanasanti and both insight meditation at the same time, or some form of anapanasanti that is used for the development of insight without jhana - even though having almost nothing in common with any of these 2 types of meditation described in the 4 nikayas. What it really is, is an exercise good at reducing one of the 5 hidrances, the restlesness of mind one, an exercise invented in 19th century and not found in any early buddhist texts.

I’ve recently been reading this sutta and appreciate the directness of its guidance. In several of the phrases, we are asked to do a task while breathing. For example, the phrase "I shall breathe in tranquilizing the bodily formation’; ‘I shall breathe out tranquilizing the bodily formation.’ Do you interpret this to mean that the meditator is literally thinking “I shall breathe in tranquilizing the bodily formation” as they are breathing in (and thus they essentially repeat this exact phrase perhaps 300 times), or is the meditator supposed to identify a bodily sensation (such as an itch) and observe the itch mentally? The former seems very basic, while the later could lead to all kinds of mental ruminations/proliferations (when did the itch start, what caused it, when will it go away, what is its character, is it dull or throbbing, etc.). Any suggestions are appreciated–thanks!

The literal thinking is optional, and once you have the steps memorized and know what to do in the actual 16 APS practice thinking can be dropped. kaya-sankhara refers to not just the in and out breathing, but all the energetic bodily processes that we can sense, such as our posture, sensations of temperature, four elements, electrical and magnetic energetic flow in the whole physical body. This step 4 in 16 APS overlaps in duties with passaddhi-sambojjhanga, the pacification-awakening-factor (which includes pacification of physical body and mind). pacification of bodily formations would necessarily overlap with pacification of body, and it culminates in the breath ceasing in 4th jhana.

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I guess it’s not the most subtle interpretation, but I think mental repetition could be actually good - if we used a proper wording.

When we use language in general and even more when we use it in meditation or to express attitudes, hopes, expectations etc. (i.e. ‘self-talk’) the words we use connect our unconscious understanding of them, we dock to an auto-pilot system and can trust a part of our mind to execute the intention even if I just repeat the words. But it doesn’t work with neologisms, like ‘body-formation’ - at least I don’t think that is the language of normal people (and of the unconscious).

So I think literally repeating the thought “I shall breathe in tranquilizing the body” could be helpful, it’s worth a try if matras or japa work for you.

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Thank you both for these helpful suggestions. As you point out, repeating the phrase “tranquilizing the bodily formation” is like a mantra or japa. However, when I did a search of mantra and japa and I see that they generally are not used with insight meditation.

Perhaps the best approach, as you recommended, is to use the mental repetition as an aide along the gradual path, and once one has achieved adequate focus, to stop using the phrase since it is essentially a mental fabrication and thus a potential barrier to later stages of the path. In regards to relaxing bodily formations, one suggestion I read was to observe areas of tension in the body, then relax by letting go of any mental fabrications, such as craving or desire (either to continue a pleasant sensation or retreat from a painful one). While a pain may not necessarily go away, all the mental anguish around it can be relaxed.

I’m working with a group of students and our local Buddhist center to create a free anapanasati sutta self-study iPhone app that goes through the 16 core instructions; your guidance is helpful. If anyone has interest in contributing by commenting on the draft text, please let me know.

Dear Sir @ngoonera, it is important to understand meaning of breath as nimitta.
Nimitta is not cause. Nimitta is something to build upon, and measure across. This is definition of nimitta.
For example, car is nimitta of travel.
Cause is travel. But car is not cause of travel. Travel is built, and measured upon car.

Breath is nimitta of cattāro satipaṭṭhāne (four setting up of mindfulness).
Breath is medium to build cattāro satipaṭṭhāne, and measure it across process.

Cause is tranquilising bodily formations. Nimitta is breath. Breath is medium to build tranquilisation of bodily formations, and measure it across process.

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