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I have been meditation using Mindfulness of Breathing mediation. I will continue for a while, while increasing the duration.

When can I say that I "master" a type of meditation?

Are there a natural next type of meditation after Mindfulness of Breathing?

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Very interesting question. However IMHO i don't think one would ever master mindfulness of breathing. Well after 7 years I certainly am nowhere near it and i don't think ever will be really. –  Crab Bucket Aug 6 at 11:24

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Meditation should be perceived as a tool to achieve some goal. We don't meditate to be good at meditation, rather, we use it because we want some results.

Buddhist practice is based on three pillars - Right View, Meditation and Action. We need to know some Buddha's teachings, we need to meditate and finally, we need to apply the results of the practice into our daily life. What is the point of meditating for hours if straight after the session we harm our friends by our inconsiderate behaviour?

It is always good to ask or remind ourselves why we meditate. If we want peace of mind, we keep checking whether we are able to remain calm in stressful situations. If we want to get rid of our ego - we check how we react when people offend or criticize us.

Personally, I never did a regular breathing practice on its own. I met Mahayana/Vajrayana masters and got attracted to the possibility of realising our Buddha Nature by applying certain methods. So I use those methods to realise my full potential in order to help other beings (Bodhisattva vow). In everyday life I keep checking (among others) whether I remain stable and joyful in difficult situations and whether I can feel compassion to all the beings no matter what they do.

Some may say that the next stage after Breathing meditation is insight meditation (Vipassana). However, before starting a new practice, you should very honestly check your motivation and goals - what exactly do you want to realise? Also make sure the new practice can indeed bring you closer to your goals. In general, keep checking whether your current meditation practice brings some positive changes into your everyday life and if you feel that there is something more you want to realise - try to find a new practice that will help you achieve that.

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I practice with the Triratna Buddhist Community. Alongside Mindfulness of Breathing practice we also do a Metta Bhavana practice (kindly awareness practice). In this we bring to mind ourselves, a good friend, a neutral person and a person we are finding difficult and wish them well. It's not easy.

I have had periods of solely doing mindfulness of breathing meditation in order to become 'better' at it. Honestly, for me, that was counterproductive and it the end my meditations become pretty arid. I personally need a compassion based practice to run alongside whatever practice I'm doing just to keep me emotionally connected. I don't find it obvious where compassion comes out of the mindfulness of breathing (it's my own personal koan) so an explicit compassion type visualisation fits well.

As far as vipassana goes then perhaps a just sitting style practice (zazen) might be useful. Again it's what I do (if that is any recommendation at all). However I really think the Mindfulness of Breathing and Metta Bhavana practices can be a rich field for insight. Generally I wouldn't be too quick to declare any practice mastered. I've alway been a believer of pick one (or a small number) of practices and stick to them. If you get bored of them - great that probably shows that something is happening. Stick with it and see what it is.

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I agree with @Rabbit -- what to do next depends on what you are trying to achieve (and what you already have achieved). For example, while doing mindfulness of breathing, how well developed has your concentration become? Have you attained the state known as access concentration, or even the first of the four samatha jhanas?

Assuming you have attained at least access concentration, what do you want to happen next? More tranquility, tighter focus, more one-pointedness? Or something else? If you're specifically pursuing a Buddhist approach then I'm guessing you're looking for something more than just tranquility/samadhi.

In that case, I'd suggest, if you haven't already done so, to at least have a look at the instructional writings of Mahasi Sayadaw for guidance on next steps. For example:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/mahasi/progress.html http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/mahasit1.pdf

Also, look at Yuttadhammo's book (AFAIK he's from the Mahasi "lineage"): http://www.sirimangalo.org/teachings/how-to-meditate/

Of course your answer to the "what do you want" question may be "I dunno yet", in which case I'd suggest you keep your meditation simple (e.g. just stick with breathing) for a bit longer, and while you're doing that broaden your reading so you can see where Buddhist practice can take you and thereby what your options are.

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According to the Anapanasati Sutta, mindfulness of breath alone leads to full liberation.

Mindfulness of in-&-out breathing, when developed & pursued, is of great fruit, of great benefit. Mindfulness of in-&-out breathing, when developed & pursued, brings the four frames of reference to their culmination. The four frames of reference, when developed & pursued, bring the seven factors for awakening to their culmination. The seven factors for awakening, when developed & pursued, bring clear knowing & release to their culmination.

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It depends on individual temperament and circumstances. If it is working for you then there is no need to look for another as this will take you to the final goal but generally if you are a lay person with a lot of responsibilities or not reaching concentration through Anapana it is best to which to Satipatthana meditation.

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