I read the following comment on the internet:

A corpse has lost its life-force, hence a corpse, dead. A meditator has attainment would be free from disease, for the vibrant internal-breath kept one healthy.

Are there any suttas that distinguish between the life force and the breathing?

  • The comment wasn't about "breathing" but "internal-breath" which is Chinese -- the author of the comment said, "Indian called Prana, Chinese Xi".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 21:27
  • So the author was talking about non-Buddhist things? Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 21:29
  • They were referring to what they know of Chinese Buddhism ... but, have also been reluctant to answer questions about that in the past -- saying for example that relevant translations into English don't exist.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 21:33
  • An angel (deva) just appear to me and said the answer might be in MN 43. Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 21:34

2 Answers 2


Are there any suttas that distinguish between the life force and the breathing?

Breathing is just exchange of respiratory gases.

Life force isn't the breathing.

What if someone holds their breath and stops breathing temporarily, does the life force distinguish? No, right?

Life force is what keeps a person alive in the deep.


MN 44 defines the term "kāyasaṅkhārā" as the in & out breathing.

MN 43 says in the state of "cessation of perception & feeling" (saññāvedayitanirodhaṃ), which is compared to a corpse with life, the "kāyasaṅkhārā" ("breathing") ceases but heat (usmā) & life force/vitality (āyusaṅkhārā) remain.

When a mendicant has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, their physical, verbal, and mental processes have ceased and stilled. But their vitality is not spent; their warmth is not dissipated; and their faculties are very clear.

Yo cāyaṃ bhikkhu saññāvedayitanirodhaṃ samāpanno tassapi kāyasaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, vacīsaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, cittasaṅkhārā niruddhā paṭippassaddhā, āyu na parikkhīṇo, usmā avūpasantā, indriyāni vippasannāni.

MN 43

It follows, at least in Pali Buddhism, it seems the “life force” & the “breathing” are not the same thing.

  • 1
    I would also say that life force and breathing are not the same. In retreats I have experienced states without breath and heartbeat and am still alive. Nice to have a scriptural reference now.
    – user13579
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 10:51
  • @Dhammadatu Question for you: Since kāyasaṅkhārā is defined as 'in- and out breathing', wouldn't this mean that kāyanupassana is 'watching the breath meditation' instead of watching physical phenomena (heat, smoothness etc)? What then would anapanasati refer to?
    – user13579
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 10:56
  • 1
    The word "kāya" in "kāyasaṅkhārā" refers to the physical body. The breathing is the sankhara (conditioner) of the physical body because the breathing conditions the health & life of the physical body. Similar, thinking is the "vacisankhara" because thinking condtions speech (vaci). Thinking and speech are not the same thing; just as breathing & body are not the same thing; yet the body & speech are dependent upon breathing & thinking. Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 11:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .