"I Walk the Line" Cankama Sutta

AN 5.29 Cankama Sutta gives us this vibrant view of walking meditation:

“Bhikkhus, there are these five benefits of walking meditation. What five? One becomes capable of journeys; one becomes capable of striving; one becomes healthy; what one has eaten, drunk, consumed, and tasted is properly digested; the concentration attained through walking meditation is long lasting. These are the five benefits of walking meditation.”

Do we know of any suggestion in the Suttas as to the speed or modality of walking meditation? I’ve watched a youtube of Ajahn Brahm doing a very mindful walking meditation outside. I’ve seen from “Fearless Mountain” an Anagarika walking, at a rather quick pace on a short path. I watched with great interest this senior Bhikkhu at Wat Umong walking in the building built for walking meditation: Upāsaka Michael - Wat Umong has a lovely walking... | Facebook

I recall a story of Ajahn Chah chiding some retreatants doing very slow motion, ultramindful walking on an English lawn, commenting that they looked like residents of a mental health sanitarium…

So, my question is: is there guidance in the Suttas for the pace or mode of walking meditation? Or, is it something that we experiment with, as we might do with other forms of Sutta informed bhavana? I’d be interested to hear perspectives from those interested in responding.

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I consider it a “tuned instrument” sort of thing, where each individual is going to have to find a rhythm that suits their effort. Maybe a natural pacing stride is suitable, or maybe it leads to daydreaming. Maybe slow stepping with a small stride is better for the attention of one person, where another finds it distracting and unsuitable.

:guitar:

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[quote=“Anagarika, post:1, topic:3168”]
…the concentration attained through walking meditation is long lasting…[/quote]
The above may be true however I think the quality of meditation/concentration is generally established in/determined by sitting meditation. What is practised in sitting meditation then becomes the basis for what is practised in walking meditation.

If the sitting meditation technique is regimented & contrived then the walking technique will be regimented & contrived (thus slower). If the sitting meditation technique is more free & abandoned then the walking meditation technique will be more free & abandoned (thus more natural).

Therefore, dependent upon the sitting meditation technique, some walking meditation practitioners focus on the feet & walking; others on the breathing; & others only on the (free) mind.

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I think it depends how you practice. For me, it’s the other way around - walking establishes the mindfulness/concentration (especially as it naturally slows) and sitting continues it, and allows the examination of more subtle phenomena.

But that’s just the way I happen to practice, when I started I was told that walking was just as importatnt as sitting, so that’s how it turned out… I don’t see anything it the suttas that specifies one way or another or one speed or another.

In fact, I’ve seen it suggested (but can’t remember where) that this vagueness is deliberate and gives a lot of space for teachers and practitioners to tune the approach to suit the individual.

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What about this?

There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting mindfulness to the fore. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.

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Yes, that’s a particular possibility. But in MN 10, and other suttas there are a number of other possibilities.

Furthermore, monastics, when a monastic is walking they clearly know ‘I am walking’; when standing they clearly know ‘I am standing’; when sitting they clearly know ‘I am sitting’; and when lying down they clearly know ‘I am lying down’. Whatever posture their body is in, they clearly know it.

In this way they meditate by observing an aspect of the body inside; they meditate by observing an aspect of the body outside; they meditate by observing an aspect of the body inside and outside.
https://suttacentral.net/en/mn10/22-

[quote=“mikenz66, post:6, topic:3168”]
clearly know ‘I am walking’; when standing they clearly know ‘I am standing’; when sitting they clearly know ‘I am sitting’; and when lying down they clearly know ‘I am lying down’. Whatever posture their body is in, they clearly know it.[/quote]
Will this lead to the fruition/maturity of samadhi (including jhana), samatha & vipassana? It seems quite obvious sitting is the primary posture in Buddhist practise.

Thus have I heard. At one time the Lord was staying at Uruvela, beside the river Nerañjara at the foot of the Bodhi Tree, having just realized full enlightenment. At that time the Lord sat cross-legged for seven days experiencing the bliss of liberation. Ud 1.1

Even in your very own reply, the view of sitting being the ‘leader’ was inferred when you posted:

This thread is about walking meditation techniques & all I essentially suggested here was if something really works for you in sitting meditation you will generally carry that skilful means into walking meditation.

As an example, the suttas state (somewhere) that when the Venerable Sariputta entered, abided & emerged from jhana (while sitting), the thoughts never arose in the mind of Sariputta that: “I am entering jhana; I am abiding in jhana; I am emerging from jhana”. This is because, as reported in MN 151, the mind of Sariputta abided often in voidness (sunnata) of “I am”, which is the abiding of a great man. Therefore, given the mind of Sariputta knew directly the liberation of mind (citta vimutti) from voidness (sunnata, as he described in MN 43), it would be expected of the Venerable Sariputta to have practised walking meditation with a mind of voidness (sunnata) as the primary object. Therefore, the Venerable Sariputta would probably not have practised walking meditation, with the thoughts or object that: “I am walking”, as you seem to be inferring, since the mind of Sariputta was free from the view of “I am”, i.e., free from “I-making” & “my-making”.

In your situation, you appear to be not taking the fruits of sitting meditation (namely, examination of more subtle phenomena) into your walking meditation. If I personally was in your position, I would seek to rectify this because we do not have much time left. If we don’t reach arahantship (or a heavenly rebirth of a lower Ariya Puggala) while living with the optimal conditions we currently live in, we might be reborn on this planet Earth in another time with evil totalitarian Soviet-style governments and the opportunity to practise Buddha-Dhamma may not arise and it will be billions more eons in samsara for us.

The Buddha urged:

Here are the roots of trees. Here are empty places. Sit down and meditate. Don’t be lazy. Don’t become one who is later remorseful. This is my instruction to you.

~~

Here, Sāriputta, when a bhikkhu has returned from his almsround, after his meal, he sits down, folds his legs crosswise, sets his body erect, and establishing mindfulness in front of him, resolves: ‘I shall not break this sitting position until through not clinging my mind is liberated from the taints.’ That kind of bhikkhu could illuminate this Gosinga Sālatree Wood.”

That is what the Blessed One said. Those venerable ones were satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One’s words. MN 32

If my previous post was not clear, take as another example the methods of Burmese Vipassana Dura (which do not appear to exist in the suttas). Say meditation practise is based on the method of mental noting, such as “rising, falling, rising, falling”, “imagining”, “intending”, " arriving", “speaking”, “arguing”, “seeing”, “swallowing”, “bending”, “straightening”, “rising”, “falling”, etc.

It would generally be expected walking meditation would follow the same technique, with the mental noting of “lifting”, “pushing”, “dropping”, “touching”, etc.

But in MN 19, the Buddha said:

If I think and ponder upon this (wholesome) thought even for a night, even for a day, even for a night and day, I see nothing to fear from it. But with excessive thinking and pondering I might tire my body, and when the body is tired, the mind becomes strained, and when the mind is strained, it is far from concentration.’ So I steadied my mind internally, quieted it, brought it to singleness, and concentrated it. Why is that? So that my mind should not be strained.

In MN 19, the Buddha also said:

Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination (nati; namati) of his mind.

So if the mind manifests the sitting meditation of non-thinking, as described in MN 19, is it expected in walking meditation that mind will incline to practise the mental noting of “lifting”, “pushing”, “dropping”, “touching”, etc? Certainly not, I would suggest.

Or if the mind manifests the sitting meditation of jhana, it is expected in walking meditation it will incline to practise noting of “lifting”, “pushing”, “dropping”, “touching”, etc, rather than near-jhana walking, including long periods of standing meditation, which can come close to jhana?

Or, as previously suggested, if the mind touches the voidness element (sunnata dhatu) or the Nibbana element (Nibbana dhatu) in stream-enterering or higher, would the mind incline to the perception of: “I am walking; I am standing; I am sitting; I am lying”, as written at the very beginning level practises in the Satipatthana Sutta? That is doubtful, I would suggest.

For a practitioner intent on stream entry, I would suggest instead of practising the perception: “I am walking”; there would be established the perception: “The body walks, the mind meditates” (rather than “I am walking” or “I am practising walking meditation”).

The above reasoning describes why I originally suggested that in the suttas there is no systematic instruction on walking meditation because at least I would expect that the method used in walking meditation would generally follow the method used/established in sitting meditation.

Hi Deeele,

Thanks for your input, but I’m not sure exactly what you are getting at.

The original post asked whether there was anything in the suttas about how fast to walk. There isn’t. Te suttas don’t give details like that. This lack of detail gives plenty of scope for practitioners and teachers to work out the way that works for them.

You’ve demonstrated this quite well in the last couple of posts by presenting your ideas about practice.

I know my posts well demonstrated the scope for walking meditation. I was well aware of my deliberate intention. I don’t see the necessity of you needing to affirm that. Instead, you offered very limited scope from the Satipatthana Sutta, quoting something that seems to be more for general self-awareness rather than a specific instruction for walking meditation.

Regards

Well, as I said, there are various ways of interpreting such instructions. Thank you aga for your opinion.

Thanks @daverupa , @mikenz66 and @Deeele for your thoughtful input and responses. Perhaps as we don’t have direct counsel from the Buddha on the step-by-step practice of walking meditation, all of you have well demonstrated how personal and nuanced the practice can be to the meditator, much like sitting bhavana. I take from the Cankama Sutta the idea that as the samadhi or absorption (walking jhanas?..I’d fall into a deep well…) from walking is “long lasting,” that the practice of walking meditation is equivalent to a good sitting meditation, and perhaps is as calm, deliberate and mindful as the establishment of preliminary access to the jhanas while doing anapanasati. I appreciate the time taken with all of your responses.

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Following on the subject of walking meditation, I stumbled across this youtube this morning, wherein Bhikkhu Bodhi mentions walking meditation as part of the Buddha’s morning. Also wonderful is the Sutta Nipata view of the Buddha’s day beginning with expansive Metta, and a “scan” of his environment for people in his community that are in need of his teaching and assistance. I found this brief talk very inspiring today. https://youtu.be/7J17nzlmPnE

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“I” think that some advice that Ajahn Brahm once gave would apply towards walking mediation. It shouldn’t be “thinky thinky, but feely, feely.” In other words, feel whatever speed and/or technique that brings you the most benefit. If it doesn’t work, move on to something else. It seems to be that rigidly adhering to any form of knowledge is potentially harmful, so keeping an open mind is the key to progress on the path, rather than worrying what the Lord Buddha or anyone else is doing. My apologies if this seems to be stating the obvious, but I find that it helps to remind myself to avoid ideological/spiritual materialism regularly. It is one of those things that can creep in at any time, and can sometimes be hard to spot.

With utmost Metta,

:anjal:

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Hi Anagarika,

Note that AN 5.29 says that the samādhi from walking is long-lasting, not the jhana from walking. AN 4.41 lists four types of samādhibhāvanā. The first is the four jhanas, but the others are not, so clearly samādhi is not a synonym for “the four jhanas” (quite apart from jhana in some suttas seeming to be a more general term than “the four jhanas”).

The most relevant part of AN 4.41 for walking would seem to be (replacing “concentration” by samādhi):

“And what is the development of samādhi that, when developed & pursued, leads to mindfulness & alertness? There is the case where feelings are known to the monk as they arise, known as they persist, known as they subside. Perceptions are known to him as they arise, known as they persist, known as they subside. Thoughts are known to him as they arise, known as they persist, known as they subside. This is the development of samādhi that, when developed & pursued, leads to mindfulness & alertness.
https://suttacentral.net/en/an4.41/4

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Hi, Mike and yes, I agree with you…my reference to “walking jhanas” was an attempt at humor, which didn’t quite come off in my post. Or, it may be that my attempts at humor are generally lacking…:slight_smile: I’d have to think that jhanas would be impossible while walking as there are so many physical inputs with walking, nevermind that one’s eyes would need to be open. In any case, I’m intrigued by the practice of Cankama bhavana and resultant samadhi, and I am again thankful that so many of the wise SC kalyana mitta weighed in on this issue. This practice is known as part of the Buddha’s daily routine, and I need to make it part of mine. Metta. A. Michael

It is generally much easier to develop samadhi when sitting. This appears to be shown in one of your original posts about ‘self-awareness-walking’ or ‘I am walking’, when it was said:

[quote=“mikenz66, post:4, topic:3168”]
…walking establishes the mindfulness/concentration (especially as it naturally slows) and sitting continues it, and allows the examination of more subtle phenomena.[/quote]

Where as, when AN 5.29 states: “samādhi from walking is long-lasting”; I would suggest this means developing samadhi by walking meditation is more difficult than by sitting meditation therefore those that are adept or skilled at developing samadhi with walking meditation (such as ‘void-mind-walking’ or ‘sunnata-walking’) have a longer-lasting-more-adept-more-nimble samadhi.

For example, the bhikkhus that walked long distances by day in the Buddha’s time were probably able to walk those entire long distances with samadhi. Such long-lasting-samadhi is probably difficult to develop using Visuddhimagga style techniques of ‘following’, ‘fixing’, ‘guarding’, etc, or Burmese Vipassana Dura. Instead, like the Venerable Sariputta, those long-walking-bhikkhus would have most likely been adept at ‘void-mind-sunnata-non-I-making-my-making-walking’.

Once upon a time, in a far away land, there was a scholar monk who said about ‘samadhi’:

As for samadhi, an empty mind is the supreme samadhi, the supremely focused firmness of mind. The straining and striving sort of samadhi isn’t the real thing and the samadhi which aims at anything other than non-clinging to the five khandas is micchasamadhi (wrong or perverted samadhi). You should be aware that there is both micchasamadhi and sammasamadhi (right or correct samadhi). Only the mind that is empty of grasping at and clinging to ‘I’ and ‘mine’ can have the true and perfect stability of sammasamadhi. One who has an empty mind has correct samadhi.

Heartwood From The Bo-Tree

In your case, your posts gives the impression of using walking back-&-forth to calm down mental sankharas (nirvarana), such as restlessness (uddhacca) prior to sitting. If that is so, this appears to be the opposite of what is written in AN 5.29, which seems to refer to a superior walking samadhi .

No, it is not. Any of the samadhibhavana (apart from jhana) can be developed when walking, particularly the 4th. For example, a Sutta Nipata “scan” of his environment for people in his community that are in need of his teaching and assistance required the ‘Divine Eye’ or ‘Knowing-&-Seeing’ (ñāṇadassana), which is the 2nd samadhi-bhavana.

I am not sure what the relevance of the ‘jhana’ discussion was? How is jhana related to walking meditation? Minds that can enter jhana can probably come close to jhana when walking & particularly when doing standing meditation but sitting is generally required for abiding in jhana.

That said, I wish to reiterate, that most relevant part of AN 4.41 for walking would seem to be:

And what is the development of [mind using] concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents? There is the case where a monk remains focused on arising & falling away with reference to the five-clung-to-aggregates: ‘Such is form, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is feeling, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is perception, such its origination, such its passing away. Such are fabrications, such their origination, such their passing away. Such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.’ This is the development of [mind using] concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents.

Why is this so? It is so because during walking meditation, the mind can be both highly void & highly open/clear/lucid/awake. Unlike sitting meditation, minor lethargy from tranquility does not exist, nor the tendency to converge into one-pointedness. Thus, when doing walking meditation, both the voidness (sunnata) and arising & passing (aniccata) of consciousness & its sense objects can be readily discerned.

[quote=“mikenz66, post:15, topic:3168”]
AN 4.41… (replacing “concentration” by samādhi)…what is the development of samādhi…[/quote]
The term ‘samādhibhāvanā’ in AN 4.41 probably does not mean ‘development of samādhi’. How could it when the fruits of the four respective developments (bhavana) are not samadhi but other _dhamma_s?

Bhavana’ in general refers to the development of mind. Thus, the term ‘samādhibhāvanā’ probably means ‘bhāvanā using samādhi’ rather than 'bhāvanā of samādhi (just as the term ‘anapanasati’ probably does not mean ‘minfulnesss of breathing’ but ‘mindfulness-with-when-while-breathing’).

“I keep a close watch on this mind of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep sati out for the tie that binds
Because I’m mine, I walk the line”

Great title and topic @Anagarika, I might have to steal it for a talk one day! I was originally told years ago that the Buddha never gave specific instructions regarding walking, and I’ve not seen anything in my sutta studies so far(I’ve read all the nikayas except the Anguttara, close to half way with it now) that contradicts that original statement. I would love for someone like Bhante Sujato who has much more experience with the suttas to chime in and tell us if there is anything.

I have been taught multiple methods, and I have searched out multiple methods. i consider myself a bit of a walking meditation connoisseur, because of how important it was to my practice and my love of it since. I’m not sure there is a method I’ve not tried yet, at least that exists in Theravada.

I literally would not be where I am in my practice, nor be a monastic, if it were not for the monastic who taught me walking meditation over half a decade ago. So as you can tell the subject of walking meditation is one I take seriously and put a lot of stock in.

When I teach walking meditation I give them two methods, the normal walking pace method I was taught, the the more vipassana-like method of very slow walking, which I dislike and find little benefit in for my own practice, but which can be helpful to some. I think it’s important that people find their own way and see what works best for them then stick with it.

I’ve also done some attempts at bringing the four establishments of mindfulness into walking meditation into a codified logical practice, but I’m still learning and seeing what works with that.

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Bhante, could you maybe recommend resources that pragmatically describe the different walking meditation approaches? That’s a part of the practice that I haven’t managed to get a good understanding of.

  • I know the Mahasi instructions of lifting, pushing, putting etc. as in here for example

  • I think I read in a Thai teacher book the version to continue just the same practice as in sitting, i.e mantra or breath

  • LP Liem’s ‘Walking with Awareness’ is a very lovely approach, practicing release, letting go and kindness

Are there nice descriptions of very different approaches? Thanks!

I don’t know of any, and actually Its a semi-long term goal of mine (within the next few years) to create a sort of comprehensive walking meditation book.

written sources that go into detail about each specific traditions approach are quite rare, let alone comparing and contrasting them. Most of what I know is because I asked various people how they are taught walking meditation.