Is there a specific reason why the breath is used as the object of anapanasati or to be more precise: Why did the Buddha chose the breath.

Does it mean then that in daily life our main object should also be the breath?

6 Answers 6


Seems that moderators are expecting a particular style in these answers, and so deleted my initial answer. I'll rephrase...

The reason that the breath is the most important meditation object is that unlike other objects they are always available. For example, you might forget your TM mantra or misplace your mandala. Other objects of meditation, such as decaying corpses, aren't usually freely available in the UK either :-)

  • Welcome to the site. Yes, thank you -- sorry I didn't understand your previous post as an answer. There is a bit of a particular style, notably (quoting from the Tour), "This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat. Just questions ... and answers." Within that there's a lot of variety, e.g. references are optional (it's said that a good answer would tend to be based on something, references or personal experience), short answers are OK -- just, it ought to be recognisable as an answer to the OP's question.
    – ChrisW
    Sep 12, 2019 at 12:49
  • Being friendly is fine too -- but as well as, not instead of, answering the question.
    – ChrisW
    Sep 12, 2019 at 12:50
  • I've worked with low ability learners for 40 years and have developed a style that avoids jargon and instead focuses on a more down to earth communication style. I also use humour as a tool. I originate from a London working class area, well known for this style - they call us Cockneys :-) I am very friendly Chris, having run a Newspaper comment section sometimes attended by ex-terrorists I've learnt to be as uncritical as possible.
    – Malcolm C
    Sep 12, 2019 at 13:02
  • My accent was called mid-Atlantic, i.e. from "over the Pond". I tend to be kind of humourless, unfortunately, for the sake of trying to be literal -- a software developer. Don't mind me though, i.e. there are plenty of other people on the site. Not that I want to be critical but I was asked to volunteer as moderator of this site, so I see it as my duty to preserve its basic format, which is something like, "mostly Q&A, minimise hostility, and avoid 'extended discussion' in comments".
    – ChrisW
    Sep 14, 2019 at 10:28
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    It's not only available, but it is touching, calling, hitting the practitioner every time. No other meditation act like this, so it is easiest meditation to achieve the concentration.
    – Bonn
    Sep 15, 2019 at 8:36

Does it mean then that in daily life our main object should also be the breath?

In the context of Buddhist meditation, there are 40 subjects of meditation (Kammaṭṭhāna). These are divided into

The Noble Eightfold Path has 3 subdivisions:

Anapanasati is one of the meditation techniques under Vipassanā to develop the 4 Satipatthana. Vipassanā is easier to develop in daily life as Samatha requires longer hours of meditation to develop concentration (Samadhi). Anapanasati helps develop both Samadhi and Paññā at the same time, but this is not the only technique at your disposal.


The Buddha did not chose the breath. Instead, the breath chose the Buddha.

When the mind surrenders or abandons craving, the sense organs/objects of sight, sound, smelling, tasting, external touching & pre-occupation with thinking disengage.

What remains, as the most coarse or gross sense object, is the breathing.

When the mind is quiet, empty & free, i.e., when "mindfulness is established to the fore", the breathing automatically, without choosing, becomes the natural object of meditation.

This is the meaning of Anapanasati, namely, 'mindfulness with breathing' rather than 'awareness of breathing'.

Those who attempt to practise 'awareness of breathing' may experience some samatha (calmness) but will not progress very far because the path of the Buddha is the path of abandoning craving.

  • So there is no volitional breathing involved? So is everyone teaching it wrongly? "When the mind is quiet, empty & free, i.e., when "mindfulness is established to the fore", the breathing automatically, without choosing, becomes the natural object of meditation." Mindfulness means Sati in Buddhism but what exactly is set to the fore? Sati is recollecting something
    – Val
    Mar 26, 2018 at 21:26
  • Not everyone is teaching it wrongly but maybe 99% are teaching it wrongly. What is set to the fore is a mind without craving. Sati recollects the teaching of the Buddha to abandon craving. Mindfulness recollects right view. Refer to MN 117. Mar 26, 2018 at 23:57
  • @Dhammadhatu Can you name some of that 1% who are teaching it correctly?
    – michau
    Apr 26, 2018 at 12:45
  • dhammaloka.org.au/files/pdf/… Apr 27, 2018 at 10:32

The first good thing about the breath is that while you are alive, it is always available. Another good thing is that it is internal, not an external object. The purpose of this kind of meditation is to train the mind to be able to focus single pointedly. Ultimately, this ability can be used to meditate on the emptiness of self and all phenomena, eventually resulting in a direct perception of emptiness, AKA, Nirvana.


It's simple. Breathing affects body, feeling (or sensations) and mind.

When you breath, your abdomen inflates or deflates, and your rib cage also moves.

When you breath, you can feel the sensation of the breath on your upper lip, nostril and/or nasal passage.

If you breath fast, your mind becomes agitated. If you breath slowly, your mind calms down.

So, anapanasati includes realistic observation of body, feeling and mind, whereas meditation on bright white light or a mantra would only include observation and manipulation of mental objects.

Realistic observation of body, feeling and mind is needed to gain understanding into the nature of the five aggregates (form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness) and dependent origination.


When I first started serious meditation in 1975, I heard the breath being called the maha mantra - 'the great mantra'. This was also a term used by Hare Krishna for a chant. At the time I was meditating on 4 objects/subjects: the breath, light, music and nectar. Breath was always my favourite :-)

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