“My teaching is…

“My teaching is like a finger pointing to the moon. Do not mistake the finger for the moon.” – Buddha

Advertisements

The Sutra On The Mindfulness Of Breathing

To Ánanda: On Mindfulness of Breathing

Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

 

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s Park. Then Ven. Ánanda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, bowed down to him and sat to one side. As he was sitting there he addressed the Blessed One, saying, “Is there one quality that, when developed and pursued, brings four qualities to completion? And four qualities that, when developed and pursued, bring seven qualities to completion? And seven qualities that, when developed and pursued, bring two qualities to completion?” 

“Yes, Ánanda, there is one quality that, when developed and pursued, brings four qualities to completion; and four qualities that, when developed and pursued, bring seven qualities to completion; and seven qualities that, when developed and pursued, bring two qualities to completion. And what is the one quality that, when developed and pursued, brings four qualities to completion? What are the four qualities that, when developed and pursued, bring seven qualities to completion? What are the seven qualities that, when developed and pursued, bring two qualities to completion? 

“Mindfulness of in-and-out breathing, when developed and pursued, brings the four frames of reference (foundations of mindfulness) to completion. The four frames of reference, when developed and pursued, bring the seven factors for Awakening to completion. The seven factors for awakening, when developed and pursued, bring clear knowing and release to completion. 

 

Mindfulness of In-and-Out Breathing

“Now how is mindfulness of in-and-out breathing developed and pursued so as to bring the four frames of reference to their culmination? 

“There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting mindfulness to the fore. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out. 

[1] Breathing in long, he discerns that he is breathing in long; or breathing out long, he discerns that he is breathing out long. [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns that he is breathing in short; or breathing out short, he discerns that he is breathing out short. [3] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the entire body, and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body. [4] He trains himself to breathe in calming the bodily processes, and to breathe out calming the bodily processes. 

[5] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to rapture, and to breathe out sensitive to rapture. [6] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to pleasure, and to breathe out sensitive to pleasure. [7] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to mental processes, and to breathe out sensitive to mental processes. [8] He trains himself to breathe in calming mental processes, and to breathe out calming mental processes. 

[9] He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the mind, and to breathe out sensitive to the mind. [10] He trains himself to breathe in satisfying the mind, and to breathe out satisfying the mind. [11] He trains himself to breathe in steadying the mind, and to breathe out steadying the mind. [12] He trains himself to breathe in releasing the mind, and to breathe out releasing the mind.

[13] He trains himself to breathe in focusing on inconstancy, and to breathe out focusing on inconstancy. [14] He trains himself to breathe in focusing on dispassion [literally, fading], and to breathe out focusing on dispassion. [15] He trains himself to breathe in focusing on cessation, and to breathe out focusing on cessation. [16] He trains himself to breathe in focusing on relinquishment, and to breathe out focusing on relinquishment. 

 

The Four Frames of Reference

[1] Now, on whatever occasion a monk breathing in long discerns that he is breathing in long; or breathing out long, discerns that he is breathing out long; or breathing in short, discerns that he is breathing in short; or breathing out short, discerns that he is breathing out short; trains himself to breathe in… and… out sensitive to the entire body; trains himself to breathe in… and… out calming the bodily processes: On that occasion the monk remains focused on the body in and of itself — ardent, alert, and mindful — subduing greed and distress with reference to the world. I tell you that this — the in-and-out breath — is classed as a body among bodies, which is why the monk on that occasion remains focused on the body in and of itself — ardent, alert, and mindful — putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. 

[2] On whatever occasion a monk trains himself to breathe in… and… out sensitive to rapture; trains himself to breathe in… and… out sensitive to pleasure; trains himself to breathe in… and… out sensitive to mental processes; trains himself to breathe in… and… out calming mental processes: On that occasion the monk remains focused on feelings in and of themselves — ardent, alert, and mindful — subduing greed and distress with reference to the world. I tell you that this — close attention to in-and-out breaths — is classed as a feeling among feelings, which is why the monk on that occasion remains focused on feelings in and of themselves — ardent, alert, and mindful — putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. 

[3] On whatever occasion a monk trains himself to breathe in… and… out sensitive to the mind; trains himself to breathe in… and… out satisfying the mind; trains himself to breathe in… and… out steadying the mind; trains himself to breathe in… and… out releasing the mind: On that occasion the monk remains focused on the mind in and of itself — ardent, alert, and mindful — subduing greed and distress with reference to the world. I don’t say that there is mindfulness of in-and-out breathing in one of confused mindfulness and no alertness, which is why the monk on that occasion remains focused on the mind in and of itself — ardent, alert, and mindful — putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. 

[4] On whatever occasion a monk trains himself to breathe in… and… out focusing on inconstancy; trains himself to breathe in… and… out focusing on dispassion; trains himself to breathe in… and… out focusing on cessation; trains himself to breathe in… and… out focusing on relinquishment: On that occasion the monk remains focused on mental qualities in and of themselves — ardent, alert, and mindful — subduing greed and distress with reference to the world. He who sees clearly with discernment the abandoning of greed and distress is one who oversees with equanimity, which is why the monk on that occasion remains focused on mental qualities in and of themselves — ardent, alert, and mindful — putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. 

“This is how mindfulness of in-and-out breathing is developed and pursued so as to bring the four frames of reference to their culmination. 

 

The Seven Factors for Awakening

“And how are the four frames of reference developed and pursued so as to bring the seven factors for Awakening to their culmination? 

[1] On whatever occasion the monk remains focused on the body in and of itself — ardent, alert, and mindful — putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world, on that occasion his mindfulness is steady and without lapse. When his mindfulness is steady and without lapse, then mindfulness as a factor for Awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development. 

[2] Remaining mindful in this way, he examines, analyzes, and comes to a comprehension of that quality with discernment. When he remains mindful in this way, examining, analyzing, and coming to a comprehension of that quality with discernment, then analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development. 

[3] In one who examines, analyzes, and comes to a comprehension of that quality with discernment, unflagging persistence is aroused. When unflagging persistence is aroused in one who examines, analyzes, and comes to a comprehension of that quality with discernment, then persistence as a factor for Awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development. 

[4] In one whose persistence is aroused, a rapture not-of-the-flesh arises. When a rapture not-of-the-flesh arises in one whose persistence is aroused, then rapture as a factor for Awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development. 

[5] For one who is enraptured, the body grows calm and the mind grows calm. When the body and mind of an enraptured monk grow calm, then serenity as a factor for Awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development. 

[6] For one who is at ease — his body calmed — the mind becomes concentrated. When the mind of one who is at ease — his body calmed — becomes concentrated, then concentration as a factor for Awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development. 

[7] He oversees the mind thus concentrated with equanimity. When he oversees the mind thus concentrated with equanimity, equanimity as a factor for Awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development. 

Similarly with the other three frames of reference: feelings, mind, and mental qualities. 

“This is how the four frames of reference are developed and pursued so as to bring the seven factors for Awakening to their culmination. 

 

Clear Knowing and Release

“And how are the seven factors for Awakening developed and pursued so as to bring clear knowing and release to their culmination? There is the case where a monk develops mindfulness as a factor for awakening dependent on seclusion… dispassion… cessation, resulting in relinquishment. He develops analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening… persistence as a factor for Awakening… rapture as a factor for Awakening… serenity as a factor for Awakening… concentration as a factor for Awakening… equanimity as a factor for Awakening dependent on seclusion… dispassion… cessation, resulting in relinquishment. 

“This is how the seven factors for awakening, when developed and pursued, bring clear knowing and release to their culmination.” 

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Ven. Ánanda delighted in the Blessed One’s words. 

.

Interbeing and Interdependence

To meditate on Interbeing makes me smile. It chips away at the conditioning that led me to believe that it was me versus the world.  I like to reflect on a passage from Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘Miracle of Mindfulness”:

“Consider the example of a table. The table’s existence is possible due to the existence of things which we might call “the non-table world”: the forest where the wood grew and was cut, the carpenter, the iron ore which became the nails and screws, and countless other things which have relation to the table, the parents and the ancestors of the carpenter, the sun and rain which made it possible for the trees to grow. If you grasp the table’s reality then you see that in the table itself are present all those things which we normally think of as the non-table world. If you took any of those non-table elements and returned them to their sources – the nails back to the iron ore, the wood to the forest, the carpenter to his parents – the table would no longer exist.”

Mediating on this passage has had a profound impact on how I view the world and how I am connected to the things in it. If any of the experiences that I counted as “bad” or evil” in my life were to have never taken place, I would not be the person that I am today. Funerals, fights, and surgeries have shaped me as much as the birth of my children, my wedding, or going to college.

I am reminded of that morsel of Shakespearian truth “…there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

May you find peace in each moment today, friends.

Where You Is, Is Where You Is

All of the power that you have lies in the present moment. If you want to be effective, happy, or take control – now is all you have to work with. Let’s say for a moment that your toilet is broken; the only time that you can fix it is now. You can wish that you had fixed it in the past or think about fixing it in the future, but your thoughts and wishes are of no consequence. You may have heard of some “Secret”, but I promise you this: You are not about to manifest the repair to your toilet. You have to take some action, and the only point of power is in the present moment. Recognizing the bloom of each new moment is probably one of the kindest things you can do for yourself, and certainly something that will change your life.

Every Act As A Rite: How A Broken Dishwasher Led Me To Mindfulness

A broken dishwasher has become the ultimate mindfulness guru in my life. On one of the last few mild days before northern Wisconsin turned into an ice box, the dull and mindless whirr of my washing machine was replaced with some sick crunching and the smell of an electrical fire. Thankfully, my house didn’t burn down, but I knew immediately that this bad boy was headed to the appliance graveyard.

Then I came to terms with a difficult reality: I was going to have to do my dishes by hand. Oh, how I loathed the very idea. But with seven people eating at my house, and almost a week before repairing or replacing was a financially viable option, I was stuck. And in a real first-world fashion, I marched through the five stages of grief. I couldn’t believe that this newer-model washer would quit on me so early. I got angry and figured that a few kicks to it’s side might correct the issue. Then bargaining. Then depression.

And finally, I accepted my reality and began to scrub. Man, did I hate it. I wanted it to be over from the time that my spoiled fingers hit the water. I daydreamed about all of the things that I could be doing that afternoon. I begrudgingly washed and dried each dish until the job was complete. I stood back and admired my countertop with pride. And then I got dressed and left for work. When I returned, there was that God-awful pile of pots and pans again, as if I hadn’t done any work at all that morning. Remembering the sense of pride I’d gotten from completing the job earlier in the day, I gave very little thought to filling the sink once again and re-tackling the job. Again, my mind was everywhere but on the job in front of me. As I scrubbed, I thought about work, about the Packers game, my daughter’s homework, what I was going to wear tomorrow. Everything but the task at hand. Then the job was complete, the tedium over, and bed time on the horizon.

After breakfast the next morning, I began to run out of things to mull over as I completed my task. Soon, I started to focus on the dishes in front of me. The sting of the hot water on my hands. The smoothness of the plate under my fingers as I rinsed away the soft bubbles. The scratchy dish towel removing the leftover water. The feel of the dishes as I lowered them into the drying rack.

Then like a crack of thunder, it hit me: I was truly living while I was doing these dishes. I was in the only moment that I would ever be able to experience: the present one. I wasn’t at all living in the present moment when I was thinking of anything but the task at hand.

It wasn’t long before I was treating everything with the same romance I afforded the dishes. Soon, everything received my full attention. I realized that whatever I was doing *right now* was the most important thing. I understood that whichever person I was with was the most important person in the world. I knew that every act was a rite and deserved all of my attention, all of my strength, and all of my love.

I never did fix that dishwasher.