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. 

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