This article which i have linked to at the bottom seems to contradict itself. It seems to be saying that the way vipassana is taught where you note what comes to your attention is incorrect. Im finding it confusing as I am trying to get clear about my practice but different people seem to say different things. I am getting to a point with Buddhism where I dont know who to listen to anymore and wait before you say "listen to yourself" I have been trying that for years and not really progressing hence the reason I am looking for some more clarity and riding such articles. My question is how do I figure out if I am practicing correctly? Some people even say that there is no such thing as "incorrect" meditation

"if one continually tries but cannot establish mindfulness on breathing, then he can practise other kinds of meditation for the time being."

but then goes on to say

"Most of the meditation practices that have become popular today are not in line with the Dhamma. Those practices are to note in your mind, “pain, pain”, when you feel pain in some part of your body during meditation, and this they say is vedananupassana – contemplation on feeling. If your mind goes somewhere, they say to note “going, going”, and this they say is cittanupassana – the contemplation of mind. If you feel sleepy, they say to note “sleepy, sleepy”. And, if a desire or agitation presents itself in the mind, they say to note “desire, desire”, or “agitation, agitation”, and this they say is dhammanupassana – the contemplation of mind objects. Those are the incorrect practices today that people are being taught as meditation."


4 Answers 4


Suzuki stresses in Zen Mind Beginner's Mind the importance of not having any gaining idea when practising zazen. Remember: the goal of Buddhism is not to attain enlightenment but to end suffering. Of course you cannot end suffering in any absolute sense but you must try. I think you might be worrying too hard about achieving something. Where is this enlightenment I seek?

This is attachment.

The ending of suffering (of you, me, the world etc.) doesn't depend on you attaining enlightenment but on the ending of suffering. We meditate to see and to understand. Right understanding leads to right speech and action. But really you don't need to understand. This is why traditional lay practise is based on the five precepts relating to speech and action. This is why you have apparently unintelligent people who are good at their jobs and apparently intelligent people who don't even have jobs.

But really you don't need to attain/obtain anything. Everything is temporal and comes into existence and goes out of existence in time. A thing has a beginning and an end. Depending then on any thing can only make you unhappy because by its nature it won't last.

A dog is made up of atoms. The word dog is made up of the three letters d-o-g, one sound from the larynx (vowel) and two sounds from restricting the sound via the mouth (consonants) at the beginning and the end. The word dog has entered the French language as "dogue" (mastiff). A physical dog will die. The idea of a dog will last longer but will still eventually die. Bears and dogs share a common ancestor. Once there were no dogs.

Everything changes. You cannot depend on the temporal.

And yet you have to.

You have to eat food and breathe air to provide that collection of attached particles you call "you" with energy so it can continue to hold together.

You need some attachments. To live is to suffer.

What can you do then?

Well, fewer constraints is better than more constraints. Freer is better than not free at all.

How do you find freedom?

Through choices.

How do you get choices?

Through being a source of something that others want/need. If you reduce their suffering they will be drawn to you. The more you are in demand, the more you will have choices. In such a scenario you are free to engage (bind/tie) or not to engage. They are happier because you have decreased their suffering. You are happier because you are freer.

Anyway, it all ends in tears so I wouldn't worry too much. Give the world what it is happier for having and take care of yourself. Don't worry about attaining enlightenment. Don't worry about correct meditation, just keep going and focus on ending suffering.

  • 1
    I like that answer. You have decreased my suffering a little. Thanks :)
    – Saddhā
    Feb 12, 2017 at 10:20

Anyone that uses the term "mindfulness of breathing" is practising & teaching in the wrong way; totally against what the Buddha taught. Yes, this includes nearly every famous translator & monk.

The Pali word 'sati' or 'mindfulness' means 'to remember'. The breathing that is active in the present moment is not something that can be remembered because the present moment breathing is a physical sensation and only mental phenomena can be remembered.

What the term 'anapanasati' really means is 'mindfulness with breathing' or 'mindfulness when breathing'.

What this means is the mind remembers to practise the 'teachings of the Buddha' while/when breathing in & when breathing out.

The 'teachings of the Buddha' are as described in the previous post from Suzuki's Zen Mind Beginners Mind, namely, remembering to keep the mind free from craving & thus free from suffering.

The purist meditation practise has only one goal, which is to remember to keep the mind free from craving; or free from covetousness & distress.

Greed or desire to watch the breathing is covetousness. Worry about not being able to watch the breathing is distress. Both covetousness & distress are not the practise of mindfulness.

Therefore, when sitting, the only focus should be on sitting without any craving & attachments.

The Pali suttas state:

One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness. MN 117

The monk remains...ardent, alert & mindful — putting aside covetousness & distress with reference to the world.

A monk develops mindfulness as a factor for awakening dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion (non-craving), dependent on cessation (of craving & suffering), resulting in relinquishment (giving up; letting go).

Anapanasati Sutta

There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, making it his object to let go (of craving), attains concentration, attains singleness of mind.

SN 48.10

The Thai teacher Buddhadasa summed this up as follows:

As for samadhi (concentration), 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 (aggregates) 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

  • +1, but I'm not entirely sure if I agree that's completely right. The Buddha did teach for a very long time. It stands to reason that his pedagogy evolved over those 40 years. There's no reason not to think that he didn't add additional meditation methodologies. Not everyone is able to sit with a mind free from suffering from the get-go. They have to be eased into it. I think mindfulness of the breath is a very deliberate and effective scripturally based way of arriving there.
    – user698
    Feb 13, 2017 at 13:47
  • It is not possible to be mindful of the breath because mindfulness does not mean 'consciousness/awareness'. It is you and not the Buddha lost in pedagogy. Feb 13, 2017 at 18:36
  • Well, we are going to have to agree to disagree there. Every translation I've seen of sati has consciousness/awareness as one possible definition. Personally, I'm not fond of that reading - I think "bring into the mind's eye" is more accurate practically speaking (albeit a bit clumsier). With that rendering, memory and awareness can both be reconciled with the same word.
    – user698
    Feb 13, 2017 at 19:49
  • The translations are wrong. That is what i wrote in my post. SN 48.10 defines mindfulness & MN 117 in particular describes mindfulness. 'Sati' means 'recollection' or 'memory',i..e, to 'keep in mind'. Feb 13, 2017 at 19:56
  • I absolutely get what you're saying, but I still thing that mindfulness of breathing is a valid introductory practice. Call it anapanavicāra then! ;-)
    – user698
    Feb 13, 2017 at 20:11

In the Anguttara Nikaya (Sutta 4.180), the Buddha taught that when any monk taught that such and such were the teachings of the Buddha, we should, without scorning or welcoming his words, compare the words of the monk with the Suttas and the Vinaya (the texts containing the code of monastic discipline). If they are not in accordance with the Sutta-Vinaya, we should reject them. It is only in this way that we will be able to distinguish between a teacher who teaches the true Dhamma and another who has wrong views.

In the Girimananda Sutta, you will learn about some other types of meditations. For example we get to contemplate on the foulness in this body, in the four elements thatare there in any form, including our body. In Girimananda Sutta (AN 10.60) The Buddha tells Ananda:

“Herein, Ananda, a monk contemplates this body upward from the soles of the feet, downward from the top of the hair, enclosed in skin, as being full of many impurities. In this body there are hairs on the head, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, intestines, intestinal tract, stomach, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, nasal mucous, synovium (oil lubricating the joints), and urine. Thus he dwells contemplating foulness in this body. This, Ananda, is called contemplation of foulness.”

Once you have calmed your sense faculties, you can follow the instructions of this Girimananda Sutta to do breath meditation:

"[i] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [ii] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [iii] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [iv] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

"[v] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to rapture, and to breathe out sensitive to rapture. [vi] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to pleasure, and to breathe out sensitive to pleasure. [vii] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to mental processes, and to breathe out sensitive to mental processes. [viii] He trains himself to breathe in calming mental processes, and to breathe out calming mental processes.

"[ix] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the mind, and to breathe out sensitive to the mind. [x] He trains himself to breathe in satisfying the mind, and to breathe out satisfying the mind. [xi] He trains himself to breathe in steadying the mind, and to breathe out steadying the mind. [xii] He trains himself to breathe in releasing the mind, and to breathe out releasing the mind.

"[xiii] He trains himself to breathe in focusing on inconstancy, and to breathe out focusing on inconstancy. [xiv] He trains himself to breathe in focusing on dispassion,[1] and to breathe out focusing on dispassion. [xv] He trains himself to breathe in focusing on cessation, and to breathe out focusing on cessation. [xvi] He trains himself to breathe in focusing on relinquishment, and to breathe out focusing on relinquishment.
"This, Ananda, is called mindfulness of in-&-out breathing.”


My question is how do I figure out if I am practicing correctly?

You do not have to do this too often but see if your are progressing. There many measures of progress but them in would be equanimity towards sensations such that unwholesome roots do not arise. For more details see this answer and this answer.

Now having established what is progress, try to achieve it. Be equanimous in the towards sensations while noting their impermanence.

Now comes the question some times or some parts off the body you do not feel any sensations. For this you have to sharpen your awareness. For this look at your body part by part looking to see if you feel any sensation. If you are doing breathing meditation through in the initial stages it might be just enough to know the length of the breath and which nostril (left, right both) the air flows from as you you go on try to be in touch with sensations in the triangular area above the upper lip and top of the nose. If you start feeling the sensation after a while leave this spot and more to another and see if you feel the breath there. Do this narrowing the area also until you are in a small area. The hardest place is the centre of your upper lip for many. Practice until you feel sensations there. When you come to a state you can feel the whole in and out breath, also look at your body to see if it is sensitive nought to see sensation and any chosen location.

Now just keep looking at what is happening in the chosen spot. If the breath is there the breath also. Sometimes the sensation can be hot, itchy, pulsating, etc. Each of this sensation you will be itching and evaluation as desirable, undesirable and neutral resulting in the sensation being pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. For these sensations it is natural to be inclined to generate craving, aversion and ignorance. This reaction creates fabrication. Based on if the fabrication is born out of aversion, craving or ignorance they also will have some sensation associated with it. More effort you put into being equanimous and seeing impermanence the fabrication process also will become less. Keeping your attention at one point will reduce verbal fabrications.

To complement the above resource you might want to read: ANAPANASATI - MINDFULNESS WITH BREATHING: Unveiling the Secrets of Life: a Manual for Serious Beginners by BUDDHADASA BHIKKHU

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