Ānāpānasati - Help Needed

I was hoping my learned friends here could help me with an issue that has bugged me for some time. It relates to mindfulness of breathing. In the Visuddhimagga and commentaries it is taught that the completion of the 1st tetrad results in all 4 Jhāna. Breathing in with rapture and happiness refers to the first three Jhānas, whilst tranquilising perception & feeling is with the 4th Jhāna again. Following this there is experiencing the mind etc through the 4th Jhāna, then there is the stage of concentration and then liberating the mind. This is where I get confused. In the Visuddhimagga it is said that the meditator liberates the mind from the hindrances, but this has already been achieved in the earlier stages. Furthermore, since Buddhas practice mindfulness of breathing how can this stage mean liberation from the hindrances since they do not have them anymore? I’m also confused as to why concentration is here, when the mind has already been going into and leaving concentration since the 1st tetrad. Any explanations would be most welcome.

If you read the passage it is clear that liberation from hindrances is not the only liberation defined in the vism. but also liberation by insight. Also by reading the vism. I think it is also clear that the tetrads is not linear. Rather than focusing on the anapanasati tetrads it is better to follow the seven steps of purification. Use anapanasati to attain jhana then practice the rest 5 visuddhis.

  1. (xii) Liberating the [manner of] consciousness: he both
    breathes in and breathes out delivering, liberating, the mind
    from the hindrances by means of the first jhāna, from applied
    and sustained thought by means of the second, from happiness
    by means of the third, from pleasure and pain by means of the
    fourth. Or alternatively, when, having entered upon those jhānas
    and emerged from them, he comprehends with insight the con-
    sciousness associated with the jhāna as liable to destruction and
    to fall, then at the actual time of insight he delivers, liberates,
    the mind from the perception of permanence by means of the
    contemplation of impermanence, from the perception of pleasure
    by means of the contemplation of pain, from the perception of
    self by means of the contemplation of not self, from delight by
    means of the contemplation of dispassion, from greed by means
    of the contemplation of fading away, from arousing by means of
    the contemplation of cessation, from grasping by means of the
    contemplation of relinquishment. Hence it is said: [290] “He trains
    thus: ’I shall breathe in … shall breathe out liberating the [manner
    of] consciousness.[65] ’” So this tetrad should be understood to
    deal with contemplation of mind.
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After I posted this I re-read Ledi Sayādaw’s Ānāpāna Dīpanī, which suggests that it isn’t linear but more multifaceted.

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From vism. 277

  1. The first tetrad is set forth as a meditation subject for a
    beginner;[52] but the other three tetrads are [respectively] set forth
    as the contemplations of feeling, of [the manner of] consciousness,
    and of mental objects, for one who has already attained jhāna in
    this tetrad.
  • the first tetrad → develop the jhanas
  • the second tetrad → mindfulness on piti (jhana 1-2), sukha (jhana 1-3), and ends with upekkha (jhana 4)
  • the third tetrad → mindfulness on consciousness, gladdening, concentrating, and liberating seems to be the stages of jhana 1-4
  • the fourth tetrad → impermanence, fading away, and relinquishment

From this it seems that the first tetrad estrablish the jhana as foundation. The second and third tetrad is a loop where the meditator repeats the first jhana through the fourth jhana while being mindful to feeling and consciousness. The fourth tetrad is where the meditator practice insight to the impermanence of the aggregates.

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Good householder, the reasons for struggle need to be searched always on the base.Good would be to first straighten right view, metta, make virtue equal the Brahma-life, leaving the lower life, consume little, train in higher virtue (not taking on touches, given, on sense), giving by it first gross calming of will of bodily controlling. Then use the breath to go toward Satipatthana. The path wouldn’t develop before leaving home, not even the higher Dhamma heard/understood, when there is no faith in renouncing, therefore no rejoicing in renouncing arising. Going back is nevertheless garanted, when no success, so what else as not seeing Dukkha hinders actually?

Though I’m not sure the following sermon would address you issue, it is from a admirer of Ledi Sayādaw’s books. At least it would give knowledge about many aspects of Anapanasati practiced in a classical way.

Since there are less classical talks on Anapanasati in English, I thought to post it here.

Other Parts

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I’ve just read Venerable Ācariya Anuruddha’s presentation of Ānāpānasati in his work “Manual of Discerning Mind and Matter” (Nāmarūpapariccheda). I found it to be quite a succinct but good explanation of the traditional teaching on how to practice mindfulness of breathing. It has helped clear some confusion I had regarding the practice, allowing me to understand it better. Enjoy.

Disillusioned with regard to the inner
and detached with regard to the outer,
with growing alarm the yogī
leaves heedlessness behind

Freed from desire’s bonds,
grown wise, emerged from the unwholesome,
one witnesses and partakes
of the nectar of the deathless that is the holy life’s
[true essence]

A wise person, developing
the so-called “awareness of the in-coming and outgoing breath”,
praised by the rightly and fully Awakened One
as the sovereign king of meditation objects,

can easily attain
absorption as well as access;
discernment as well as tranquillity;
the transcendental as well as the mundane

And subtle, fine, and sharp,
mature and standing in full power,
the mental factors conducive to awakening
become purified to an exceptional extent.

And as such, herein,
eight divisions in the meditation-subject
are set forth in the canonical list.

  1. counting, 2) staying with,
  2. touching, 4) fixing,
  3. observing, and 6) turning away from;
  4. total purity, and, then,
  5. review of these

They are then divided into sixteen,
according to the (four) sati-'paṭṭhana-s,
and again split into thirty-two
by the dividing of in-breath and out-breath.

How should one fulfill that
and develop with this awareness
tranquillity and discernment (vipassana)
to the full extent of [this practice’s] greatness?

Having thoroughly learned the [theory of the]
anapana [meditation-subject],
going into seclusion, in solitude,
one should first of all count,
seated at ease in a sitting posture.

One should not count to less than five,
or take one’s count higher than ten;
One should count (them) one by one,
without any break (in awareness).

Without allowing (the awareness) to scatter
(going) inside or outside, again and again,
one should keep the attention with (the breath)
upon the spot it touches, maintaining this

And then, having placed his attention
on the upper lip at the tip of the nose,
for the yogī constantly adverting
to the contact of the in-breath,

either broad or long,
or round or spread-out,
[some sort of] a “nimitta” ([counterpart-]sign)
arises there
in the form of a star or so forth.

The mind becomes concentrated
with proximity concentration (upacara-samadhi)
with concentration approximating absorption
and mental defilements subside
when the counterpart[-sign] arises

Fixing the mind on the sign,
one then makes it attain absorption (appaṇa)
This, proceeding via the five jhanas,
is the methodology of development with reference
to tranquillity (samatha)

The other (methodology), again, having begun
inhering [in the present] in the in-breath and outbreath.
[Having seen with insight] internally and
and then, following from that,

having seen with insight, now mature,
the dhamma-s that constitute the grounds (of
insight), as they are,
one enters into transcendental jhana (attaining
this is the purity of insight.

How was the methodology related in its sixteenfold form
by way of the one cultivating
attainment in anapana
and making it the basis for higher attainment?

Firstly, one apprehends
the in- and out-breath that is long –
or be it short – “as being long or short”,
maintaining this awareness, and this knowledge.

And likewise making it [continuously] known
at its beginning, middle, and end,
becoming concentrated, he trains himself
to be “one who experiences the [breath’s] whole

And thence, stilling those very formations
one after another,
he is said to be one who trains himself
to be “one stilling bodily sankhara-s”.

apanassati (“Awareness of the in- and outbreath”),
grounded thus in bodily sankhara-s,
as the [sati-'paṭṭhana] “observation of body”
is also spoken of as fourfold:

Making 1) the joy (piti) in his samatha[-jhana]
to his discernment (vipassana) by [making it its]
conjoined with knowledge (naṇa),
and [after that] 2) the pleasure (sukha)

One is said to train oneself
experiencing the joy (piti), and so forth, [ i.e.,
sukha & citta-sankhara]
pertaining to 3. the mental sankhara-s
reckoned as sensation (vedana) and [its associated]
perception (sanna).

And training oneself to still
those sankhara-s that are gross,
one is said to train oneself
4. “stilling mental sankhara”

Directed here to these respective objects,
especially for bringing it about,
the observation of sensation [sati-'paṭṭhana]
is referred to in these four ways.

Entering [jhana-s] and reviewing [their associated
mental factors],
as one awakens and causes consciousness
to be revealed
one trains 1) “experiencing consciousness”

As one uplifts that consciousness
through one’s joy-filled concentration,
one is said to train
2) “uplifting consciousness”

And so causing that (consciousness) to converge
with absorption and proximity [to absorption]
the yogī is described as training
3) “concentrating consciousness”

And likewise liberating it
from the contrary (factors)
via their (temporary) suspension or (permanent)
he is said to train 4) “liberating consciousness”.

Proceeding accordingly from
the meditation-subject anapana,
this is the fourfold development of the
“observation of consciousness” [sati-'paṭṭhana].

And owing to discernment’s (vipassana) inhering
to an especial extent in “anicca”,
discerning (this in them) the wise one trains

  1. “observing as ‘impermanent’”.

And then 2) “observing dispassion”
as, becoming disenchantment, he makes his
craving fade,
and so 3) “observing cessation”
as he makes the dhammas that constitute the
ground come to an end.

And by way of letting go, via [consciousness’s]
leaping [into the unconditioned] and releasing [the
he is said to train
as one 4) “observing letting go”.

Vipassana on the dhamma-s that constitute the
initiated via anapana
is what’s referred to as “the observation of
dhamma-s” [satipaṭṭhana]
and is said to be comprised, like this, of these four

And thus, it also fulfills
the cultivation of the “foundations of awareness”
(satipaṭṭhana-s), in all four parts,
with its sixteen aspects,
founded on the triple training (in sila, samadhi, and

And one taking up awareness (sati),
and applying himself to discernment (vipassana) in
this way,
is called a “satokari” (doing so mindfully).
by way of the classifications of the thirty-two

And thus having cultivated tranquillity
by way of 1) counting and so on [ 2) anubandhana,
3) phusana, & 4) ṭhapana]
and thence done 5) observation (sallakkhaṇa)
which here designates insight (vipassana),

and attained the 6) turning away, i.e. the path,
established in the 7) purity, i.e. the fruit,
he reaches the recollective viewing
reckoned 8) review.

Anapanassati (the awareness of in-breath and outbreath)
brought to complete fulfillment thus,
is said to be developed
with every aspect and every part.

Developing this, the incomparable concentration of
anapana, the Buddha’s chief advice,
which washes away depravity and defilement’s
dust, and in the guise of ease puts out dukkha’s
those who conquer distraction with bountiful sati
and sampajanna,
attain to higher still, the highest seat of the
deathless, comprising bodhi in all three forms.

This awareness (sati) that, applied upon
the Buddha and the Dhamma, and the celebrated
and pure sīla, and one’s dana;
and deities of dhammic virtue, quiescent peace, and
and the body, and the in-breath and the out –
for the arising of the path to awakening
is the conduit to true dhamma, with its most
auspicious virtues,
should be made use of with the deepest of respect.

So ends the ninth chapter in the Manual of
Discerning Mind and Matter, named
(the section on) “The Ten Recollections”