Sathipatthana –(Mindfulness in Breathing)
In Buddhist teaching the mind plays the pivotal role in our whole existence. It is the level or the degree of advancement of mind that differentiates humans from animals and also determines various categories of the humans themselves with regard to their nature. A weaker and an unstable mind may lead to many misgivings. The mind needs to be fine-tuned constantly. Lord Buddha preached meditation to be the most effective method in mind training. It is called ‘sathipatthana’ – a way of awakening the mind to realize its true nature.
Among the many forms of mediation we may engage in, ‘anapanasathi’ is one of the basic yet one of the most effective and successful type of meditation. It is a way of maintaining mindfulness with the concentration upon breathing. Venerable Mankadawala Sudassana thero Chief Meditation Master of Labunoruwakanda Forest Monastery at Muriyakadawela, Galenbindunuweva, Sri Lanka explains the perfect practice of ‘anapanasathi’ as follows.
Mankadawala Sudassana Thero at Labunoruwakanda Forest Monastery, Sri Lanka
The success of meditation first falls on the position we do it in. For ‘anapanasathi’ the ideal position is to be seated cross-legged (known as the lotus position) with a straight back. Although we can mediate in various manners, this position of the body helps mindfulness much more, because when the spine is at its correct form, it helps better function of the brain. Even modern science recommends it. Once you are settled in and relaxed, begin to obtain ‘sathi’ or mindfulness.
To begin with, it is necessary to lead your mind to focus on a given point. Here, we focus on the tip of the nose or the edge of the lips. It prevents the mind from wondering into the surrounding. Keeping the mind halted at the tip of the nose or the edge of the lips, begin to reflect on your inhaling and exhaling. Now the concentration is on one point and yet you are aware of the breath that goes in and out. Be mindful about both your focus and reflecting. To culture the exact ‘anapanasathi’ both the concentration and the awareness have to go hand in hand. When the focus is at a given point, it won’t let your mind move along your breathing.
In fact the ‘anapanasathi’ is very much similar to a gate-keeper who does not move away from his security point, but watches and knows everyone who goes through the gate, both in and out.
It may be difficult at start to be thus mindful for long. Often your mind breaks away from it. Each time it happens, you must bring the mind back into the same attention. When you practice it for some time the mind will gradually become trained to it. And when you have perfected it, you realize that your mind is free from the outside world and is still and balanced. That is ‘sathipatthana’ or gaining mindfulness.
Effect of anapanasathi on the mind
In general we recognize two elements of the mind, calling them inner and outer minds. But Buddhism rejects this concept. There are actually just two ways in which the mind operates.
1) Being conscious of the surrounding world
2) Reflecting upon various things
The ‘anapanasathi’ meditation makes the mind get detached from these two systems. With the focus at the tip of the nose or the edge of the lips, the mind stops running into the surrounding. With the awareness on breath, the mind refrains from thinking on other issues. So with ‘anapanasathi’, your mind remains still, calm and totally detached from anything that can lead to feelings and emotions which causes various actions. Then you will begin to understand that when the mind is closed to such contaminations, it can be directed towards a much higher understanding of life itself.
This is ‘sathipatthana’ as described in the Tripitaka, where Lord Buddha’s true teachings can be found.
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Refer: Aloko Udhapathi – Bikshu Deshana by Mankadawala Sudassana Thero – 2016. Distributed by Nivan Maga (Page 101-106)
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