The term 'assasissāmīti' in the Anapanasati Sutta

It is only recently the term ‘assasissāmīti’ in the Anapanasati Sutta was brought to my attention, which is translated as: ‘I will’, such as:

He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out focusing on relinquishment.’

There seems to be lots of ego here.

The suttas also contain the stock phrase:

When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations.

Is there a strong personal pronoun used in the later phrase?

Can anyone offer any insight into the language in both contexts?

Thank you

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Here the verb is first person future, so “I will” is correct. There is no explicit pronoun. This is common in Pali, as the verb form often makes a pronoun unnecessary.

The pronoun can be used as a form of emphasis, and in some contexts it is indeed used to emphasize the notion of “I am”, “I am a self”, and so on. But here it’s just a regular old usage, with no emphasis intended. I’m not sure how it could be rendered differently in English, though.

As for the second phrase, we find this in eg AN 8.11 in first person:

So evaṃ samāhite citte parisuddhe pariyodāte anaṅgaṇe viga­tū­pak­kilese mudubhūte kammaniye ṭhite āneñjappatte āsavānaṃ khayañāṇāya cittaṃ abhininnāmesiṃ.

Here, too, the pronoun is absent, the person being indicated by the past tense verb abhininnāmesiṃ.

However, the Pali does not do this for any particular philosophical reason, it’s just the normal idiom. In the passage following this, for example, it uses the personal pronoun:

Tassa me evaṃ jānato evaṃ passato kāmāsavāpi cittaṃ vimuccittha
Knowing and seeing thus, my mind was freed from the defilement of sensuality …

And again:

Ayaṃ kho me, brāhmaṇa, rattiyā pacchime yāme tatiyā vijjā adhigatā
I achieved this third knowledge in the last watch of the night.

The point here is that we should not overburden language with philosophy. Let language be used in the ordinary way; it is just the conventions of the world.

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Thank you Sujato. If both anapanasati & jhana/enlightenment are conventional language, that is fine. In language of ultimate truth, it could be:

Training the mind, ‘When breathing in, focusing on relinquishment’. Training the mind, ‘When breathing out focusing on relinquishment.’

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If there was such a thing …


Thank you for your post.
I had similar concerns and pleased to see that term is not in Pali Sutta.
Normally I use “There is pleasant feelings” instead of saying “I have a pleasant feeling”

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I sometimes find myself doing something similar. Usually when I have time to choose my words and realize I could throw some "I"s and "my"s out of the sentence without loosing what I’m trying to convey. Not quite sure if the people listening like it but I hope it conditions my thouht and speech patterns to be less egocentric and reinforces the perception of anatta a bit. But as this paragraph I just wrote clearly shows, it’s pretty hard to avoid them…especially in a foreign language.

I think it was Ajahn Brahm who once said something like “As soon as you put the truth into words, it’s not the truth anymore” (couldn’t find the quote or it’s original wording/author anywhere on the net…so “At Savatthi…” it is). I guess if the ultimate truth could be put into words, we would all be enlightened be just reading the suttas…


the Buddha gave quite elaborate principles of right speech, but i’m not aware he ever encouraged frugality in usage of personal pronouns or made connection between their usage and the state of mind of a speaker


… and furthermore, this sort of thing is a thoroughly odd focus; as though the fetter of conceit was somehow supposed to drop away from both language and thought at an early stage of the Path - but, it’s among the last of the fetters to drop away.

The Buddha used personal pronouns all the time: “My back hurts, I will rest it,” and so forth. He even said they were used without confusion - but they were used.


For me, this habit is more about finding little moments in everyday life to reflect on the nature of personality view and divide my inner experience into one of the 5 heaps. For example, if I’m about to say “…and that made me happy” and my mind should happen to move on to thoughts like “who is this me, who was made happy?” and “it’s just a feeling”. After that the words change automatically into something like “and a feeling of happiness came up” which I feel is closer to truth than the original sentence.

I don’t think it’s something terribly important but over the years these little things do seem to add up…

Sure, this will remove sakkaya-ditthi. But, the idea of asmi-mana will remain for a while, and it’s this which I very often hear receiving undue emphasis.

Yes I agree.
I try to avoid using “I” only in meditation.
As a side note, old Sri Lankans speak without pronouns.
I think Sri Lankans pick up " I" and "you " from westerners.
I may be wrong.

PS: See how many “I” in my reply

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Here was my meditation:

Disdain arises internally in the mind sphere; it congeals into language thus: “Removal of personal pronouns is a pretentious affectation.”

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What I am saying is that I like to see Dhamma as internal and external.

"And what is the earth property? The earth property can be either internal or external. Which is the internal earth property? Whatever internal, within oneself, is hard, solid, & sustained [by craving]: head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, contents of the stomach, feces, or whatever else internal, within oneself, is hard, solid, & sustained: This is called the internal earth property. Now both the internal earth property and the external earth property are simply earth property. And that should be seen as it actually is with right discernment: ‘This is not mine, this is not me, this is not my self.’ When one sees it thus as it actually is with right discernment, one becomes disenchanted with the earth property and makes the mind dispassionate toward the earth property.

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How about āna and apāna in the title?

In the instructions assasati and passasati are usually translated as in-breathing and out-breathing. Is this also the meaning of āna and apāna? In haṭha yoga texts (though perhaps also in earlier traditions/writings) there is a whole theory of different prāna (energies/life-forces) or vāyu (winds), one of which is aprāna (would guess this is apāna in the Pāḷi) which is the downward-going wind/energy. Regardless of the concept of energies, it does seem that experientially the breathing process can be observed as in and out OR up and down. Thoughts?

I would recommend you readings this magnificent article by Eisel Mazar. His style is of course as… erm… idiosyncratic in this article as in his other texts, but this is definitely of his better publications. I don’t really know how one should evaluate the conclusions drawn there, since such unusual claims require a little more evidence, I think. But at least you will have a good laugh.

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from the Wikipedia

Under the teaching of some Hindu Gurus, usage of the ‘I’ is considered as leading to Ahamkara and discouraged in favour of using the first person plural as a ‘humble I’

but no references

A post was split to a new topic: Finally, some fun meditation: mindfulness of farts