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The devout are respected everywhere
He who is full of confidence and virtue, possessed of fame and wealth, he is honoured everywhere in whatever land he sojourns.
Pakinnaka Vagga - The Dhammapada

The Anapanasati Sutta - Theravada tradition



1. The meditator is ready to commence bhavana, but the five hindrances (nivarana) are yet able to influence his mind, and he therefore has to first eliminate them, by constant and consistent effort.

2. He continues anapana meditation after eliminating the nirvana (at least temporarily) from his mind.

3. Meditator experiences the four jhana.

4. He develops Samadhi.

5. Meditator continues bhavana with one-pointed (ekaggata) concentration. Now insights commence to flow in, revealing the inner message of anicca, dukkha and anatta, via the Four Noble Truths, sufficient for self attainment, thus freeing him for ever from the bonds of samsara.

The Anapanasati Sutta: The Theravada commentaries state that understanding and comprehending with insight this sutta is possible, only if the course of his practice, the meditator is first able to enter the four material jhanas. This essentially is what separates it from the Mahayana version.

There are many recent texts explaining the Theravada version of this sutta, of which the author has selected two discussions for comment.

The first is that of the much-respected Vajiranana Mahathera, as elaborated in his doctoral thesis entitled "Buddhist Meditation in Theory and Practice" 1962, and the other is a still more recent one by Ven. U. Wimalasiri. Since this latter presentation is not easily available, its contents were paraphrased by me in BPS. Wheel (Nos 458-460, 2004. In the present discussion, the sutta as explicated by Vajiranana Maha Thera is presented below.

Introduction to the sutta

The first four exercises, i.e. the first tetrad, could be considered as the preliminary but essential course of training, and particularly appropriate for beginners who have not as yet sufficiently developed their meditation skills to the extent necessary to reach total concentration leading to the jhanas.

They would thus be persons yet disturbed by the hindrances (nivarana) of sensory desires, malice (hatred), sloth and torpor, distraction and remorse, and finally perplexity. Thus, the main Object of the first four exercises is the establishment of mindfulness, the essential preliminary to attainment of full knowledge.

When a beginning meditator perceives that these five hindrances (explained in the article on the Jhanas published in the CDN of June 28th, July 5th and 12th), are expelled from within him, exultation arises, and with it joy is born in him.

When his mind experiences this joy, his body becomes serene. Serenity in turn gives rise to happiness, and with this feeling of happiness, his mind arrives at concentration or one-pointedness. This is the beginning of Samadhi, which leads the meditator to the stages of jhana in the course of further development. The first stage of jhana is reached as soon as the meditator's mind is truly free from the five hindrances.

The first tetrad - exercises i-iv

(i) Breathing in long (duration) he understands: "I breathe in long.' Breathing out long (duration) he understands: 'I breathe out long.'

(ii) Breathing in short (duration) he understands: 'I breathe in short.' Breathing out short (duration), he understands: 'I breathe out short.'

This is the actual beginning of the practice. It recognizes and distinguishes between two activities involved in breathing, the comprehension of which is important for his further progress. The meditator should practice in the following manner, fully aware of what he is doing. He breaths in a long breath, he breathes out a long breath. He breathes in and out long breaths. In doing so he feels that his breathing is gradually becoming more and more peaceful and tranquil.

Now, the desire to continue arises in him. With this wish, he breathes in, he breathes out, he breathes in and out, each being a long breath until he finds that his breath becoming more and more tranquil. He now becomes joyful that his concentration is becoming firmer and firmer. With the mind full of joy, he breathes in, breathes out.

He then continues to breathe long breaths, which now become absolutely peaceful and subtle. Now the mind is established in equanimity, and he now practices in exactly the same way with the short breath.

Thus the meditator, knowing the two kinds of breathing in two ways (long and short) has successfully established himself in mindfulness. This is the conducive to and leads to the material jhana by the path of concentration. All such jhana states are based on merely four activities that take place at the tip of the nose, namely, breathing in long and short and breathing out long and short respectively.

(iii). "Experiencing the whole body (i.e., the volume of the breath), I shall breathe in. Experiencing the whole body (of breath), I shall breathe out.' Thus he trains himself." In this exercise the meditator has to do three things (1) to note at the tip of the nose, the breath as it is inhaled and exhaled, (2) to identify the three sections of the breath, namely the beginning, the middle and the end, and (3) to train his mind.

When he does so with clear understanding, he breathes in and out, whilst the mind is associated with the knowledge based on the perception of the whole volume (kaya) of respiration.

All of this finds expression mentally as, "Experiencing the whole body...out." He therefore makes an effort to school his mind in this higher training to comprehend all three divisions of each breath alike. This is what is meant by the expression "he trains himself."

(iv) "Calming (tranquillizing) the bodily element I shall breathe in... shall breathe out.' Thus he trains himself."

The meditator has now come to the final stage of complete and one-pointed concentration, and resulting there-from, he experiences complete tranquillity of body and mind. I should be noted that, in-and-out breathing is caused by the mind, but cannot exist without the body.

Thus although the breathing is set in motion by the mind, it is called "Kaya-sankhara", which means 'body complex' or 'bodily element'. The meditator will observe that if the body and mind are distressed or are uncontrolled, this kaya-sankhara is gross and heavy, and becomes rapid and labored.

On the other hand, when the breathing is under control, it becomes calm and so quiet that it is almost imperceptible. It is by the dedicated application of oneself to this exercise, that a meditator brings his previous restless mind to a state of equilibrium and steadiness.

This could be compared to an athlete running a fast spring followed by his slowly calming down his breathing by taking a number of deep breaths and then resting awhile till his breath reaches a normal steady rhythm.

In like manner, the meditator, by the aforesaid exercise of meditation is able to calm and tranquillize his previously restless body. His 'monkey' mind now becomes tranquillized and the previous grossness of breathing gradually subsides.

It now assumes a steady and gentle rhythm that induces physical repose and stirs the mind to calm and smooth functioning. He now continues in this steady manner until he attains to the jhana. It is with a view to attaining this state that "he practises mindfulness of breathing in and out." Hence the formula "Calming the bodily element I shall breath in... shall breathe out. Thus he trains himself".

The second tetrad. exercises v-viii.

The second tetrad explains the jhanic method of developing insight (vipassana). (v)"Experiencing joy (rapture), I shall breathe in... breathes out. Thus he trains himself."

This refers to the meditator's experiences arising by his attaining to the first two jhana. There are two ways in which the meditator experiences joy or rapture, while attending to the mindfulness of respiration.

Firstly, when he enters the first two jhana he experiences joy owing to the success of concentrating the mind.

Secondly, rising from the two jhana wherein joy is present, he contemplates this joy and realizes by insight (vipassana) that it is transient and impermanent. He now lets go of this joy and as a result, the mind becomes tranquil and peaceful.

(iv) "Experiencing pleasure, I shall breathe in... breathes out. Thus he trains himself." This exercise refers to the practice of in-and-out breathing while in the first three jhana, wherein the meditator experiences the pleasure induced by the object of mindfulness of in-and-out breathing and the clarity of his mental vision."

To be Continued

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Lotus Sutra focused on common people



A Buddhist painting from Tibet

Lotus Sutra: 'The Value of Life' does not lie in the number of years but in the use you make of them. Whether you have lived enough depends on your will, not on the number of years' - Michael de Montaigue 1553-1592.

The term 'Buddha', according to Sakymuni or Gautama Buddha, applies to an "Enlightened one" who correctly perceives the true nature of all phenomena and leads others to attain Buddhahood or development of mind. According to Buddhism, the Buddha nature exists in all beings and is characterised by the qualities of wisdom, courage, compassion and life force.

Out of all the Sakyamuni's discourses during His sojourn on earth, the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra or Lotus Sutra (the penultimate to Parinibbana Sutra) delivered to Bodhisatvas on earth, devotees and millions of people from the Eagle Peak or Gijja Kuta Parwatha, is regarded as Gautama Buddha's the most absolute sermon encasing what Sakymuni had preached before.

The term Saddharma refers to the comprehensive nature of life while Pundarika suggests the Lotus flower with a deep rooted meaning - i.e. The Lotus flower blooms and produces seeds at the same time, and thus represents the simultaneity of cause and effect, which is one expression of the Mystic Law. In addition, the lotus grows and blooms in a muddy pond, which symbolises the emergence of Buddhahood from within the life of a common mortal.

Sakymuni prophesied that His philosophy would be greatly appreciated and absorbed by laity during the first thousand years but would decline during the second thousand years and further after 2500 years.

At this point Sakymuni greeted Bodhisatva of the earth or Vishishta Chaaritra who was present at the discourse and bestowed upon him to takeover the responsibility to execute the responsibility of upholding His Dharma. Sakymuni predicted "Vishishta Chaaritra would be reborn in the Eastern part of the world at the opportune moment for this purpose."

As envisioned, Vishishta Chaaritra was reborn on 16 February, 1221 in Japan and given the name Sen Nichi Maro. Young Sen Nichi Maro travelled to the ancient temple in Nara and found The Lotus Sutra, studied it meticulously, acquired a profound knowledge and understanding of the essence of Buddhism and spiritually elevated to Buddhahood or Enlightenment, the highest saintly level a human being can move up to on earth.

The Lotus Sutra defined the Buddhism is for the happiness and welfare of common man but not for selected people, which has been the practice of the time. He then adopted the sanctified name as Nichiren Daishonin. The name Nichiren in Japanese means sun lotus, and Daishonin is an honorific title meaning great sage. Nichiren Daishonin (1222-1283) became the founder of Daishonin Buddhism.

Three elements in Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism are Faith, Practice and Study. Faith means to have expectation from the Gohonzon (Dharma Datu), which is the true object of worship for all people of the Latter Day ("fifth five hundred years" after the death of Gautama or the present time period) of the law.

In the true object of worship or Gohonzon, Go means worthy of honour and Honzon means object of fundamental respect. The Lotus Sutra has 28 chapters in all. Nichiren Daishonin summarised these into five segments in Japanese calling it Nam-Myo-Ho-Renge-Kyo, or Gohonzon.

To the practitioners of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, the Gohonzon is the object of fundamental respect or the object, which they would hold in highest esteem.

The Gohonson embodies the Law of Nam-Myo-Ho-Renge-Kyo (The Ultimate Law or true essence of life permeating everything in the universe). Down the centre of the Gohonzon is written the stance "Nam-myoiho-renge-kyo-Nichiren", surrounded by characters representing Buddhist gods and the ten worlds -

1. Hell: a condition in which one feels totally trapped by one's circumstances.

2. Hunger: A condition characterised by insatiable desires.

3. Animality: A condition governed by instinct in which one has no sense of reason or morality and lives only for the present.

4. Anger: A condition dominated by the selfish ego, competitiveness, arrogance and the need to be superior in all things.

5. Humanity or Tranquillity: Calm state.

6. Heaven or Rapture: The pleasure felt when desires are fulfilled

7. Learning: A condition in which one seeks some skill, lasting truth or self reformation through the teachings of others,

8. Realisation or Absorption: A condition in which one discovers a partial truth through one's own observations and effort,

9. Bodhisatva: A State of Enlightenment of oneself and

10. Buddhahood: A true state, indestructible happiness, a condition of perfect and absolute freedom, characterised by boundless wisdom, courage, compassion and energy.

To be Continued

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Buddhism from the net

The waterfall

Waterfall: If you go to Japan and visit Eiheiji monastery, just before you enter you will see a small bridge called Hanshaku-kyo which means "half-dipper bridge." Whenever Dogen-zenji dipped water from the river, he used only half a dipperful returning the rest to the river again, without throwing it away.

That is why we call the bridge Hanshaku-kyo, "Half Dipper Bridge." At Eiheiji when we wash our face, we fill the basin to just seventy percent of its capacity. And after we wash, we empty the water towards, rather than away from, our body. This expresses respect for the water. This kind of practice is not based on any idea of being economical.

It may be difficult to understand why Dogen returned half of the water he dipped to the river. This kind of practice is beyond our thinking. When we feel the beauty of the river, when we are one with the water, we intuitively do it in Dogen's way. It is our true nature to do so. But if your true nature is covered by ideas of economy or efficiency, Dogen's way makes no sense.

I went to Yosemite National Park and I saw some huge waterfalls. The highest one there is 1,340 feet high, and from it the water comes down like a curtain thrown from the top of the mountain. It does not seem to come down swiftly, as you might expect; it seems to come down very slowly because of the distance.

And the water does not come down as one stream but is separated into many tiny streams. From a distance it looks like a curtain. And I thought it must be a very difficult experience for each drop of water to come down from the top of such a high mountain.

It takes time, you know, a long time, for the water finally to reach the bottom of the waterfall. And it seems to me that our human life may be like this. We have many difficult experiences in our life. But at the same time, I thought, the water was not originally separated, but was one whole river.

Only when it separated does it have some difficulty in falling. It is as if the water does not have any feeling when it is one whole river. Only when separated into many drops can it begin to have or to express some feeling.

When we see one whole river we do not feel the living activity of the water, but when we dip a part of the water into a dipper, we experience some feeling of the water, and we also feel the value of the person who uses the water. Feeling ourselves and the water in this way, we cannot use it in just a material way. It is a living thing.

Before we were born we had no feeling; we were one with the universe. This is called "mind-only," or "essence of mind," or "big mind." After we are separated by birth from this oneness, as the water falling from the waterfall is separated by the wind and rocks, then we have feeling.

You have difficulty because you have feeling. You attach to the feeling you have without knowing just how this kind of feeling is created. When you do not realize that you are one with the river, or one with the universe, you have fear.

Whether it is separated into drops or not, water is water. Our life and death are the same thing. When we realize this fact, we have no fear of death anymore and we have no actual difficulty in our life.

When the water returns to its original oneness with the river, it no longer has any individual feeling to it; it resumes its own nature, and finds composure. How very glad the water must be to come back to the original river! If this is so, what feeling will we have when we die? I think we are like the water in the dipper.

We will have composure then, perfect composure. It may be too perfect for us, just now, because we are so much attached to our own feeling, to our individual existence. From us, just now we have some fear of death, but after we resume our true original nature, there is Nirvana.

That is why we say, "To attain Nirvana is to pass away." "To pass away" is not a very adequate expression. Perhaps "to pass on," or "to go on," or "to join" would be better. Will you try to find some better expression for death? When you find it, you will have quite a new interpretation of your life. It will be like my experience when I saw the water in the big waterfall. Imagine! It was 1,340 feet high!

We say, "Everything comes out of emptiness." One whole river or one whole mind is emptiness. When we reach this understanding we find the true meaning of our life. When we reach this understanding we can see the beauty of human life.

Before we realize this fact, everything that we see is just delusion. Sometimes we overestimate the beauty; sometimes we underestimate or ignore the beauty because our small mind is not in accordance with reality.

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