I used to meditate before a few years.During meditation I used to focus my attention by imagining a candle flame in front of the eyes.Now, one of my friends suggested that a better way is to focus on the breath.Should I switch the method? i.e is the second method better than the first one.
There are four main ways to get the citta into samadhi: http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/anguttara/04/an04-041.html
THe most famous is the jhana, but today Puthujjanas prefer to speculate whether there are sounds in the jhana and they talk about access concentration and other concepts they have invented. Since most puthujjanas cling too much to kama, they do not know what ''being secluded form the senses'' mean, what ''renunciation'' means
The samadhi about light is the least detailed. he says tHis one is the one to get to know karma and rebirth.
THe samadhi form sati sampajanna is the most clear and easiest: clear directions and a puthujjana knows whether the training to get sati sampjana is correct or not. http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/anguttara/08/an08-009.html https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn47/sn47.035.than.html
THe samadhi about finding out the conditions of dukkha is of course the hardest.
THe buddha first get the citta into samadhi through sati sampjanna where he spend his time discriminating between 'thoughts of ill will and craving for kama'' and ''thoughts of good will and renunciation'', between pleasure of the 5 senses'' and ''pleasure of the citta''. That leads to samasamadhi, meaning the jhanas, once the citta in samadhi, he ''turned the citta'' to the knowledge of karma and rebirth. https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.019.than.html
THen he turned his citta to the ''arising & falling away with reference to the five clinging-aggregates'', ie yoniso manisakra, meaning the cessation of the asavas.
SO do just like him, discriminate between sensual pleasures and pleasures of seclusion, between thoughts of ill-will and thoughts of good will, and avoid lust for kama and thoughts of ill-will. Once you get good at knowing vedana, sanna and thoughts, and rejecting thoughts of ill will and craving for kama, you will get the samasamadhi and then you can ''turn your citta'' to the samadhis to end dukkha.
you can alternate the training to get the citta into samadhi with various contemplation, typically developing the perception of anatta, anicca, disgust and so on https://suttacentral.net/an4.169
If you want to do ''breath mediation'', then the task is to calm the 3 sankharas first, then destroy them with perception of anicca and so on https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.062.than.html
if you struggle already with sati and sampajanna, you must live around good people first, and avoid bad people https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.2.11.irel.html so that you will spend most your tie doing good actions https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.061.than.html
I would recommend going with the latter. Here are couple of reasons why and how it should help. But before I answer your question directly, I would like to share a little background on meditation.
Meditation is an act of allowing the mind-body to relax naturally. When the system relaxes, the prana/chi in the system rises, taking the mind to an even deeper state of rest. Raised Prana or Chi is quintessential for oneself to enter into a deep state of meditation.
Now when someone brings their attention on the breath following happens
- Attention of the mind moves from the outer world (Candle) to inner world (Which Patanjali, the propounder of Yoga describes as a precursor to meditation)
- Attention on breath leads to mind being in the present moment as the breath in always in the present moment
- Breath is a tangible tool in the system that is directly related to the state of mind. Breath affects the level of prana in the body which affects the state of mind (thoughts & emotions). When we take attention on breath allow it to settle down it actually settles the mind down as well leading to deeper meditation experience.
So in nutshell, having attention on the breath so much more powerful than on the candle