Is there text (e.g. suttas, and/or articles by modern authors) which describes "non-attachment" as an object of meditation? Specifically, how is "non-attachment" an "object"?

I'm asking partly because of this answer which says:

In the correct practise of Anapanasati, the meditation object is non-attachment. The resultant awareness of breathing is merely a sign (nimitta) that the mind is correctly non-attached.

I previously found texts reference more palpable meditation "objects", e.g. Kasinas or breathing.

I once found something which seemed like it might be a meditation on non-attachment, towards the end of the Atthi Raga Sutta (SN 12.64):

Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows on the north, the south, or the east. When the sun rises, and a ray has entered by way of the window, where does it land?"

"On the western wall, lord."

"And if there is no western wall, where does it land?"

"On the ground, lord."

"And if there is no ground, where does it land?"

"On the water, lord."

"And if there is no water, where does it land?"

"It does not land, lord."

"In the same way, where there is no passion for the nutriment of physical food... contact... intellectual intention... consciousness, where there is no delight, no craving, then consciousness does not land there or increase.

However, literally, that's presented more as if it's a simile than as an object or type of meditation.

In the context of "meditation on non-attachment", is awareness of breathing a symptom of attachment to (i.e. contact with) form and perception (or if not, why not)?

Have I misunderstood what's meant by "the meditation object is non-attachment" -- perhaps it means the "the meditation goal, ambition, or purpose is non-attachment", but not "the meditation focus or contact is non-attachment"?

4 Answers 4


I think all these descriptions - meditation on non-attachment, meditation with no goal, "just sitting", Diamond Samadhi etc. all refer to the type of meditation where your goal is to learn to be at peace with whatever happens in your phenomenal field - without either suppressing it or getting carried away by it.

One metaphor I heard to describe this, is the touch-and-go practice of the airplane pilots. You let the free-floating thoughts/emotions emerge and take shape just enough to get a flavor of each, but not to take over your awareness completely. You don't get attached to either the thoughtless state, or to any individual thought (or emotion) hence meditation on non-attachment.

  • "to be at peace with whatever happens in your phenomenal field"? Then what should you do when attachment comes to your phenomenal field? To be at peace with it and let the attachment develop?
    – chang zhao
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 3:44
  • no, I don't think we have to be too mechanical with our logic here)
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 14:22
  • Actually it seems to be a question worth some exploration. We could either (1) just watch, in a non-attached way, how the delusion develops. It could help to realize the mental processes through direct experience. Or, we could (2) dissolve the development of delusions somehow. ...Or (3) - maybe we should combine those two methods, in accordance with particular circumstances? Maybe I will ask this as a separate question.
    – chang zhao
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 20:40
  • Posted: buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/21826/…
    – chang zhao
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 20:57

We can meditate on the awareness that doesn't develop attachments.

Phenomena come and go - freely, "not landing anywhere".

It can be described as the practice of Letting Go

With practice, we realize:

... When only concentration remains and there is no environment and no body, at that point there is still one thought left. The final step is to let go of even that one thought. And that would be letting go of the mind.

Anything that appears - consciously appears as empty.

The fourth of Bodhidharma's practices, "union with the Dharma," is a basic tenet of Buddhism that all phenomena are impermanent and do not have an intrinsic self. In the practice of union with the Dharma, we try to personally experience this impermanence and selflessness through direct contemplation of emptiness. This is the highest practice of Ch'an, and it leads to the highest attainment. It is the practice that allows us to reach the point of "entry through principle" that we talked about earlier.


Compare this with "Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva’s Method of Complete Penetration Through the Sense Organ of Hearing", described in Shurangama sutra.

For more details, see Charles Luk. The Secrets of Chinese meditation.

In my practice I used this method:

  1. First you contemplate the sounds.
  2. At some point, you shift the awareness to the sensory field where sounds appear. So you contemplate "the canvas of sound", rather than individual sounds.
  3. Then at some point you move to the contemplation of feeling of hearing.

Then senses work very clearly, but without specific focusing on phenomena, no attachment arises.

Thus from the contemplation not attaching to phenomena we explore and develop non-attached awareness. And then we can let go even the contemplation.

Naturally not abiding, without loss of awareness, without generation of attachments.


Focusing on non-attachment for practitioner is daydreaming. It is like people daydream about money but never work to get any money. No one can get the effect before they will make the clause of that effect, similarly, no one can take non-attachment before they completely developed their meditation.

Non-attachment = wholesome consciousness & resultant consciousness & arahanta consciousness & nibbāna.

Ārammaṇa = object = stuff is sensed or imagined by consciousness.

Ekāyano maggo = various paths that lead to just the same one destination (one destination of vipassanā = nibbāna).

Destination of samatha-meditation = 5 hindrances avoiding, not destroy. Samatha-meditation develop consciousness to focus on single object of samādhi consciousness, instead of various objects of uddaccha-hindrances consciousness. However, 5 hindrances still can arise after stop samatha-meditation.

Process of samatha-meditation = just focus on samatha-object (and the way to develop that focusing), but overlook other objects.

Object of samatha-meditation = breathe for ānāpānassati, 32 organs for kāyagatāsati, happiness living being for mettā, etc.

Destination of vipassana-meditation = destroy roots (avijjā&taṇhā) of causes and effects (paṭiccasamuppāda).

Process of vipassana-meditation = After practitioners have gotten jhāna, then they leave jhāna, and focus on whole suffering to clearly comprehend suffering in the past, present, and future, as alike as it is. What suffering is? Suffering is anicca, dukkha, and anatta, that arising and vanishing by roots, so they are anicca, dukkha, and anattā. This clear comprehension about suffering will destroy roots (samudaya,avijjā&taṇhā), that ignores suffering, attaches suffering, and being clause of kamma that make the suffering, the whole khandha. (This is paṭiccasamuppāda and ariyasacca)

Object of vipassanā-meditation = 5 khandha, that are clauses and effects so they have 3 characterizes, that make we know 5 khandha is "suffering". And the roots/main clauses of 5 khandha's arising and vanishing (avijjā taṇhā kamma āhāra phassa nāmarūpa).

Every wholesome consciousness are non-attachments (kusalamūla is not akusalamūla).

So practitioner who getting anapanassati nimitta, has not attaching in nimitta. Because they just focus on breathe to pause their nivarana, 5 hindrances in 5 kāmaguṇa, the objects of the five physical senses.

If the practitioner attach nimitta, he having kāmachānda-hindrances. So his anapanassati nimitta, that appear because of wholesome consciousness, will lost. Then the meditation will not develop.


At the end of the Maha-Rahulovada Sutta (MN 62) and in the Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118) there's a description of several types (or objects) of mindfulness, which lists "sixteen steps" (grouped into four tetrads) to be mindful of (or, it says that "he trains himself") during in-and-out breathing.

In Chapter 8 ("Other Recollections as Meditation Subjects") of the Visuddhimagga are two dozen pages of commentary which explain the above in more detail. This commentary says, in summary:

  • The first four ("tetrad") are to calm the body. There's also restraint (of senses), with an analogy of a wild ox tethered (to the breathing) until the ox lies down and stops trying to roam wildly.
  • The second four are associated with the first two jhanas (which are associated with rapture). The reasons for happiness are the object, and non-delusion.

    To explain what it means by "the object", it gives a simile which says that if a man is looking for a snake, and finds the snake's home, then the snake itself is easy to find (similarly, I suppose, this is the abode in which happiness can be found).

    The last steps of this tetrad (bliss and mental fabrication) are associated with the third and fourth jhanas.

    It's understood that happiness is conditioned (associated with the jhana), therefore temporary; so there's non-confusion about that characteristic.

  • The third tetrad seems similar to the second; except that it's about "consciousness" rather than "feeling".

    The four jhanas deliver or liberate the mind: the first jhana liberates the mind from hindrances; the second liberates from applied and sustained thought; the third liberates from happiness; and the fourth from pleasure and pain.

  • The fourth tetrad is focus on (contemplation of) impermanence, dispassion, cessation, relinquishment (with details that I won't try to summarize here).

Getting back to the phrase question in the OP, "the meditation object is non-attachment", and comparing that phrase with the commentary n the Visuddhimagga, it seems that phrase is a good summary of "correct practise of Anapanasati":

  • Beginning: it starts with going to a secluded place, and awareness of breathing ... instead of awareness of other things (so that's a detachment from mundane pursuits)
  • Middle: there's awareness of impermanence in the first three tetrads, and replacing earlier jhanas with later ones
  • End: contemplation of impermanence and cessation (nibanna)

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