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In Maha-Rahulovada Sutta monk Rahula asks the Buddha for instructions on developing Anapanasati. The Buddha didn't directly give instructions to him of Anapanasaati but instead, gives instructions on developing Anatta on the earth property, the water property, the fire property, the wind property, & the space property.

"Rahula, {any form whatsoever that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near: every form is to be seen as it actually is with right discernment as: 'This is not mine. This is not my self. This is not what I am.' There are these five properties, Rahula. Which five? The earth property, the water property, the fire property, the wind property, & the space property."

It also states developing the four Brahma Viharas, the perception of Unattractiveness and Impermanence.

After that only the Buddha gives instructions on Anapanasati.

I also have heard that for the people who are untrained in Anapanasati, they may meditate on the elements and then go to Anapanasati. (Some say it is better to do this way since not doing Anapanasati properly can lead to difficulties in the mind)

PS - I tried the above approach and it was somewhat smoother than directly going into Anapanasati.

Q1. Is doing Dhatu manasikara first and doing Anapanasati afterward a smoother and an effective way of doing Anapanasati?

Q2. Also, can I know the simple explanation of what these actually mean

I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.

I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.

I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.

I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication

I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.

I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.

I will breathe in satisfying the mind

I will breathe in steadying the mind

I will breathe in releasing the mind

I will breathe in focusing on inconstancy.

I will breathe in focusing on dispassion.

I will breathe in focusing on cessation.

I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.

What do these mean and how to achieve this is Anapanasati?

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Q1. Is doing Dhatu manasikara first and doing Anapanasati afterward a smoother and an effective way of doing Anapanasati?

Certainly. MN 62 is a very powerful sutta for establishing an ideal attitude towards meditation. I used to use MN 62 for guided meditation when I was working on meditation retreats, years ago.

Firstly, the meditation on the five elements:

  1. Generates a grounded balanced open awareness of the physical body. We should follow the sutta exactly by viewing/picturing each bodily part that relates to each of the five elements, as written. Let the mind naturally feel the breathing while it scans & views all of those body parts.

  2. Reduces thoughts of self, craving & hindrances.

  3. Allows the sixth element of consciousness to become clear, bright & distinguished from the other five elements, as stated in MN 140:

There remains only consciousness: pure & bright. MN 140


Then MN 62 gives a very powerful analogy, which helps the mind: (i) remain grounded in the physical elements of the body (including the breathing) and; (ii) remain non-attached, non-craving & non-judgmental. It states for each of the five elements:

Rahula, develop the meditation in tune with earth. For when you are developing the meditation in tune with earth, agreeable & disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind. Just as when people throw what is clean or unclean on the earth — feces, urine, saliva, pus or blood — the earth is not horrified, humiliated or disgusted by it; in the same way, when you are developing the meditation in tune with earth, agreeable & disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind.

This is very important because the primary instruction in Anapanasati & Satipatthana is:

The monk on that occasion remains... ardent, alert & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.

  • Excellent. I will take these into an account and practice it. Thank you very much. – Akila Hettiarachchi Jun 16 '17 at 9:30
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Q2. Also, can I know the simple explanation of what these actually mean


I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.

This is a mistranslation. It should be 'body fabricator'. The body fabricator is defined in MN 44 as the in & out breathing.

The breathing is the body fabricator because when the breathing is calm, the body is calm; if the breathing is agitated, the body is stressed.; if the breathing is unhealthy, the body is unhealthy. If the breathing ends, the body dies. If the breathing starts, the body lives.

This calming the breathing is achieved by having a quiet non-attached mind, which unifies itself with the breathing.

I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.

When the breathing & body calm sufficiently, rapture will arise to be the predominant object of meditation. It generally takes at least 60 to 75 minutes of calming the breathing constantly for rapture to arise.

Remember, the mind must be non-attached & in the present moment rather than craving for results & thinking about the future.

I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.

If the mind remains non-attached & concentrated, the rapture will calm and pleasure or happiness will appear, which is a more refined pleasant feeling than rapture. Rapture (piti) is very vibrant, bubbly, agitating & seductive where as happiness (sukha) is more subtle, calm & soothing.

I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication

This again is a mistranslation. It should be 'mind fabricator'. Rapture & happiness are the mind fabricator (citta sankhara) because they seduce the mind and, if the mind is not mindful, rapture & happiness will fabricate craving, greed, love, attachment in the mind. This is why they are called the mind fabricator because they fabricate or condition defilment in the mind.

I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.

Just like when the breathing is calmed, by remaining non-attached & equanimous towards rapture & happiness, they will calm.

I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.

When rapture & happiness cease, the mind-heart (citta) itself becomes the object of meditation. Here, the mind has concentration. The mind is not thinking.

However, there will be some residual defilements in the mind such as greed, anger & confusion that subtly arose in response to the rapture. For example, sometimes the mind does not like rapture because the rapture disturbed the mind when it was peacefully watching breathing.

At stage 9, any residual defilements (kilesa) of the mind are observed & calmed.

I will breathe in satisfying the mind

When the defilements are calmed, the mind feels joy due to the cleansing of the defilements. This joy are more refined & subtle than rapture & happiness because the mind is now much more pure.

I will breathe in steadying the mind

When the joy calms, the mind concentrates deeply, in a one-pointed manner because it is pure.

I will breathe in releasing the mind

The mind (automatically) purifies itself of the one-pointedness of concentration & becomes open, bright & perfectly non-attached.

I will breathe in focusing on inconstancy.

At the previous stage the mind became liberated, open & non-attached.

Now, the impermanence of whatever subtle sense objects come to the mind is seen very clearly.

Here, the impermanence is so predominant that the mind sees mostly impermanence (rather than specific objects of impermanence). It is like watching a movie at very fast speed.

I will breathe in focusing on dispassion.

In seeing the crazy impermanence, craving is destroyed more because the impermanence makes sense objects look ugly, unattractive & undesirable.

I will breathe in focusing on cessation.

As craving is crushed or suspended, a taste of nirodha/Nibbana/no suffering/perfect peace occurs.

I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.

The mind now fully knows all the experiences & things are not-self. It gives up holding anything as self.

The above is the fulfillment of stream-entry on the level of neighbourhood concentration. It is not jhana. It might take a few continuous meditation retreats to achieve this if the mind has no hindrances because reaching stage 9 in a very clear way can be difficult. However, one meditation retreat should be enough to reach stage 8 (if there are no hindrances).

Reading here: Buddhadasa: Mindfulness With Breathing Secrets of Life

  • Thank you for the explanation. It makes more sense now. Also Anything on doing Datumansikara followed by Anapanasati as mentioned in the question? – Akila Hettiarachchi Jun 16 '17 at 6:36
  • Good analysis, Dhammadhatu. – SarathW Jun 16 '17 at 7:50
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    The Datumansikara are not found in MN 118 although the other preliminary practises (metta, asuba, perception of impermance) are. The Datumansikara was given specifically to Rahula because he clung to the aggregates of himself & Buddha as 'self'. This said, MN 62 gives a very powerful teachings not only about the elements being not-self but about meditating "like earth, like water, like space" so the mind does not judge, attach to or crave anything. I think this is the most powerful teaching in MN 62. Regards – Dhammadhatu Jun 16 '17 at 9:01
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After the 1st triad in Anapanasati Sutta:

  1. First Tetrad: Contemplation of the Body (kāya)
    1. Discerning the in and out breathing
    2. Discerning long or short breaths
    3. Experiencing the whole body (sabbakāaya)
    4. Calming bodily formations

In the Maha Satipatthana Sutta other forms a Body Contemplations are mentioned.

"There are in this body

(1) the earth-element,

(2) the water-element,

(3) the fire-element,

(4) the air-element."

So build up until the 1st triad of breath meditation and switch to the 4 elements meditation. (Dhātu Vibhaṅga Sutta mentions 6 elements.)

Elaborating all the stages of breath meditation in this format is difficult. Best is to read: ANAPANASATI - MINDFULNESS WITH BREATHING: Unveiling the Secrets of Life: a Manual for Serious Beginners by BUDDHADASA BHIKKHU.

Awareness of the breath is also to establish mindfulness and there is a lot of overlap hence you want to read on this subject also: The Satipaṭṭhāna Suttas: An introduction by Piya Tan and also Satipaṭṭhāna, the Direct Path to Realization by Bhikkhu Analayo. Again is is very long to give it as an answer here.

Also Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw teaches mindfulness of breath followed by 4 elements meditation. More on this see: Mindfulness of Breathing and Four Elements Meditation by Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw and Knowing and Seeing by Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw.

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There is relation between Anapanasati and four Satipathanas.

ānāpānasati & the first satipaṭṭhāna "[1] Now, on whatever occasion a monk breathing in long discerns that he is breathing in long; or breathing out long, discerns that he is breathing out long; or breathing in short, discerns that he is breathing in short; or breathing out short, discerns that he is breathing out short; trains himself to breathe in... &... out sensitive to the entire body; trains himself to breathe in... &... out calming the bodily processes: On that occasion the monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. I tell you that this — the in-&-out breath — is classed as a body among bodies, which is why the monk on that occasion remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.

https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/what-is-the-difference-between-satipa-hana-and-anapanasati/4796/2

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