What is the difference between "feeling" and "knowing"?


In the book “Practicing the jhanas”, it is said that one should not simply “concentrate on the breath by feeling it” but that one should “concentrate on the breath knowing it”.

But I don’t understand what is the difference between the two. Indeed, I have the impression that when one concentrates strongly on feeling the breath, one is necessarily knowing the breath. I don’t see how one could “concentrate on the feeling of the breath” without “knowing the breath”.
This worries me because I may have misunderstood the practice.

The method taught in the book is that of Pa Auk.

Here are two excerpts from the book talking about meditation through the knowledge of the breath:

1/ FIRST EXTRACT : << Another method to develop concentrated awareness is to notice the length of the breath, long or short. This is not a mental evaluation but an aware knowing. It is also not “noting,” as in associating a word to the knowing. Simply, upon the in-breath, you know whether it is long or short. Upon the out-breath, you know whether it is long or short. As with counting, this can be dropped once concentration develops. >> ;

2/ SECOND EXTRACT : << We must remember that the actual instruction is to know the breath at the ānāpāna spot, not just to feel it. >>

My problem is that I feel that when we focus on feeling the breath, we are necessarily knowing the breath. So I don’t see what the book is getting at by saying that we need to “know the breath, not just feel it”.

Thanks in advance for your help.

For the sake of all beings.

Hello. Welcome. I can only guess/speculate the book is concerned with/worried about practitioners “feeling” the breathing to the point they really start to enjoy it and wallow in the pleasant or calm or tranquilizing feeling of it (which can also potentially develop the hindrance of sloth & torpor/sleepiness). Therefore, if becoming obssessed with “feeling” the breathing, the practitioner does not discern or “know” (“pajānāti” per MN 118) the characteristics of the breathing, such as length, quality (smooth-rough), effect of the state of mind upon the breathing, effect upon the body & mind of the state of breathing, etc.

The above is confusing to me. It seems there is not really much to “know” at the so-called “ānāpāna spot”. At this stage, it is mostly “feeling” occurring. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Feeling and knowing refer to two sequential stages in concentration. Feeling means just being aware in a detached way. Knowing is a much deeper experience, where one pointed concentration on the breath is achieved. “Practicing the Jhanas” is what it says, meditation primarily to obtain jhana, not breath meditation as described in the Anapanasati sutta. So the book is at an advanced level, and unless the aim is to obtain jhana, it would be better to abandon it and take up breath meditation with a teacher like Thanissaro and begin at the beginning. There attaining jhana will be part of the path, which is the way it should be seen.

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Thank you for your answer

Thank you very much !

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