Author Topic: Vipassana vs anapanasati?  (Read 12148 times)

Tomontheway

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Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« on: February 28, 2013, 09:53:58 AM »
Hi

Some say to develop concentration first(anapana?) before you start observing freely where the mind wanders( vipassana?).

To say the least I'm confused on this and have been for the last 10 years meditating on and off, switching between various meditation techniques.

Focusing on the breath, counting, soon creates so much resistance in me that it overides any such wisdom of sticking with it. On the other hand freely observing sensations in the body soon leads to confusion and a deep sense that this is not working and that I should switch back to concentration meditation( anapana).

I need some help. I feel trapped inbetween urges to follow what I consider different approaches. Does anyone recognise this description and gotten past this stage?

Thank you

Matthew

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2013, 02:15:25 PM »
Hi Tom,

There are so many differing instructions and altered versions of the Buddha's teachings that this sort of confusion is not uncommon.

Going back to the roots of the teachings using the Maha-anapanasati Sutta can be helpful. This describes the first two aspects one is cultivating through repeated use of the wording "breathing in aware of bodily sensations and calming the body, breathing out aware of bodily sensations and calming the body".

So here you are establishing concentration through awareness of the sensations in the body that the breathing creates as your primary object of meditation/awareness.

This is not restricted to sensations in the nose, toes or belly and does not include counting. It is just sitting, breathing, feeling the physical sensations that process creates and calming any tensions one becomes aware of in the body.

It forms a strong foundation of a calm, relaxed yet aware and concentrated bodymind which is then able to a) direct focus for insight more effectively and b) deal with equanimity with whatever arises therefrom.

The technique is described in some more detail in the "Introduction to Shamatha" article linked on the homepage here.

Many people from many schools have told me that after applying this technique it has been a great help to them in establishing practice that works. Maybe you would be prepared to investigate for yourself? Put aside all the other teachings for a month and try it?

The important thing is not to rationalise what one is sensing, just keep going back to the sensate feelings of the body breathing and when thinking does interrupt gently welcome your awareness of that and return to those sensate feelings in the body without self criticism or guilt.

Gaining a steady mind is surely a prerequisite for applying that mind to insight techniques in a positive way.

Kind regards,

Matthew
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garyblackhouse

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2013, 05:45:42 PM »
I've been thinking about this question also lately. Thanks for your post Tom and Matthew.

Allow me to ask a related question. I'm curious, how focused must you be on breathing when practicing insight? It's important to keep stable and concentrated when practicing insight. I find myself coming back to my breath often during Vipassana. I worry about mixing the two to a certain extent. Is it common to go back and fourth between the two (during sits) until one is more established in insight? In other words, is it just a matter of building up to the point where you can focus on sensations without being aware of the breath, or is the breath simply and effectively a part of insight?

Peace.

Tomontheway

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2013, 06:56:47 PM »
I appreciate your help Matthew. I shall try.

Hi Gary

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2013, 07:57:54 PM »
I agree with Matthew, logically it makes sense to develop concentration on sensations before tackling the mind. You’ll be more relaxed, and you’ll be more able to observe the mind instead of wind yourself up in rumination. 

Allow me to ask a related question. I'm curious, how focused must you be on breathing when practicing insight? It's important to keep stable and concentrated when practicing insight. I find myself coming back to my breath often during Vipassana. I worry about mixing the two to a certain extent. Is it common to go back and fourth between the two (during sits) until one is more established in insight? In other words, is it just a matter of building up to the point where you can focus on sensations without being aware of the breath, or is the breath simply and effectively a part of insight?

Peace.
The breath is a common focus point for insight meditation for the simple reason it’s ever present, and ever changing. It’s an anchor you’re able to come back to at any point when the mind wanders. For me they lead into each other, concentrating on the breath relaxes me which leads to a more relaxed approach towards my mind which leads to even more relaxed, deeper attention on my breath. With time I am led to believe the breath (and all other bodily sensation) will pass to be replaced by pure awareness.

garyblackhouse

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2013, 08:44:49 PM »
The breath is a common focus point for insight meditation for the simple reason it’s ever present, and ever changing. It’s an anchor you’re able to come back to at any point when the mind wanders. For me they lead into each other, concentrating on the breath relaxes me which leads to a more relaxed approach towards my mind which leads to even more relaxed, deeper attention on my breath. With time I am led to believe the breath (and all other bodily sensation) will pass to be replaced by pure awareness.

Awesome. Thank you.

Hi Tom.

Metta to all.

redalert

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2013, 12:28:24 AM »

Some say to develop concentration first(anapana?) before you start observing freely where the mind wanders( vipassana?).

vipassana is not observing where the mind wanders freely.


Focusing on the breath, counting, soon creates so much resistance in me that it overides any such wisdom of sticking with it. On the other hand freely observing sensations in the body soon leads to confusion and a deep sense that this is not working and that I should switch back to concentration meditation( anapana).

I need some help. I feel trapped inbetween urges to follow what I consider different approaches. Does anyone recognise this description and gotten past this stage?


Stick with anapana it usually takes 3 days of solid anapana meditation to calm the mind enough to practice vipassana at a deep enough level for insight to arise.
If your mind is wandering as you say then you need to develope concentration and sharpen the mind, the smaller the point of focus the sharper and more penetrative the mind will become. If you can use the area between the upper lip and base of nostrils to detect the touch of breath this is great, if not increase the area of awareness. Many sensations that you are normally unaware of will become aparent in this small area as concentration strengthens, when they become stable and the mind can remain at this point for a sufficient period of time without wandering away then you can shift your awareness to these sensations. At this point one is ready to practice vipassana.

With 10 years of meditation have you sat a retreat? If not you should really consider this as it will be beneficial.

Tomontheway

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2013, 10:51:48 AM »
I have never sat at a retreat, I've wanted to, but I would probably go mad. Illusion or not, my ego scares me.

Basically you and Matthew are recommending two differing approaches? Would you agree with me that after 10 years of on and off meditation never lasting more than 4 weeks, the best and most important thing would be to make it to say 6 weeks?

What I can do fairly successfully is to focus on the whole body including the breath all at once. It seems easier to focus on more than less. I'm starting to agree with a lot of the posts saying that it's best to let the mind be in the beginning and just practice being present.

Just a theory, but grappling with the ego before having any wisdom or stability of mind just seems to end in a violent mental chaos for me. Maybe it's best for me to befriend my thoughts and rather use them to guide and remind me of my focus. What do you think?

Matthew

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2013, 11:07:23 AM »
Tom,

red is referring to the Goenka school when he says to do anapana for three days.

My suspicion is that you need to take a different attitude to it. And more time. The aim is to relax and develop concentration in tandem, just breathing, sensing the body sensations created and relaxing whilst letting thoughts be.

This calms the mind and reconnects you to the wisdom of your body, but it is not achieved in three days, more like weeks or months depending on the time you can apply. It then becomes the foundation you can stand on to develop insight without the mind being dragged from here to there.

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Tomontheway

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2013, 11:35:43 AM »
I think you're right Matthew. I need to take a more relaxed approach. I have been haunted by a Jhana like experience I had 10 years ago. Suddenly everything made sense and it was right in front of me. All thoughts and emotions just came and left without taking things "personal".This is what has put me onto the right vs wrong view on things.

So relax, breath and observe.

redalert

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2013, 01:15:26 PM »


red is referring to the Goenka school when he says to do anapana for three days.

Yes, the goenka method is a very direct approach it is not as gentle as the shamatha method and is not for everyone if you feel you are not ready to be alone with your thoughts without any distractions then do not sign up for one of these courses. If you are ready to give it a try then it takes about 3 days of serious work in this strict environment to calm the mind and develope a level of concentration in which one can observe reality as it is.

My suspicion is that you need to take a different attitude to it. And more time. The aim is to relax and develop concentration in tandem, just breathing, sensing the body sensations created and relaxing whilst letting thoughts be.

Although the goal is the same, to develope right concentration, this technique is different than the goenka method, in the goenka method one practices anapana or vipassana. There may be a point where we go back and forth but when concentration stabalizes we place our awareness there and do not move it, if the mind wanders, the moment we are aware it has wandered we gently bring it back to the object of focus. Sustained concentration on a single object will sharpen the mind and allow one to penetrate to a level where one observes the creation of self at a subtle level. This is not easy as many gross unpleasant mental formations come to the surface in the beginning of this practice and it is not enjoyable.


This calms the mind and reconnects you to the wisdom of your body, but it is not achieved in three days, more like weeks or months depending on the time you can apply. It then becomes the foundation you can stand on to develop insight without the mind being dragged from here to there.

The time it takes to develope concentration that leads to liberation is dependent on your past stock of sankharas(mental formations) it could be done in three days but not likely. On average and this is the minimum tested over years of trials is that to practice vipassana at a level that will give some lasting benefits it takes on average three days of persistent anapana practice.

Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2013, 05:34:12 PM »
i would suggest attending a retreat if possible.

making a strong determination to give everything one got and attending a retreat is far more better than making a half hearted mind and losing interest in a month without achieving much results.

after attending a retreat its harder not to meditate for a month or so. 

Tomontheway

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2013, 05:17:22 PM »
I don't think half heartedness has been my problem, rather obsession. What does  moderation really mean? It must be somewhere inbetween 0 and 1, like a bit with a pause button or 0.5.

I think Matthew might be on to something. I should learn to relax and take the longer way around. Gain some stability of mind.


Matthew

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2013, 07:02:40 PM »
snip...

The time it takes to develope concentration that leads to liberation is dependent on your past stock of sankharas(mental formations) it could be done in three days but not likely. On average and this is the minimum tested over years of trials is that to practice vipassana at a level that will give some lasting benefits it takes on average three days of persistent anapana practice.

The time it takes is dependent on more than this one factor. The above is also completely contradictory: "it could be done in three days but not likely" ... "it takes on average three days".

It strikes me you have not spoken from personal experienced but merely repeated the dogma of the Goenka organisation.

It is untrue to say "this is the minimum tested over years of trials" - this is utterly false: The first course Goenka taught was 10 days long with three days of Anapana.

He's been riding the same horseburger ever since.
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garyblackhouse

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2013, 09:32:15 PM »
The time it takes is dependent on more than this one factor. The above is also completely contradictory: "it could be done in three days but not likely" ... "it takes on average three days".

It strikes me you have not spoken from personal experienced but merely repeated the dogma of the Goenka organisation.

It is untrue to say "this is the minimum tested over years of trials" - this is utterly false: The first course Goenka taught was 10 days long with three days of Anapana.

He's been riding the same horseburger ever since.

I can speak from personal experience in that 3 days of Anapanna was much needed and highly beneficial before insight. I tried practicing both in the months leading up to a course but to no avail, my mind was clustered and I had too many distractions. It's good to dive into a course in a pleasant and safe atmosphere. Furthermore, without it being on a donation basis, I wouldn't have been able to partake, and I'd still probably be depressed and confused to this day.

I'm certainly very grateful to the Goenka organization and the kindness of the people who run it and help out. It seems unfair to use Goenka and Dogma in the same sentence, though if this is the case I'm sure he'd be the first one to stand up and say this is not what he stands for nor intends as an outcome to his work.

Peace.

redalert

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Re: Vipassana vs anapanasati?
« Reply #15 on: March 04, 2013, 09:59:16 PM »

The time it takes is dependent on more than this one factor. The above is also completely contradictory: "it could be done in three days but not likely" ... "it takes on average three days".
I was talking about liberative wisdom arising in 3 days as not very likely although some just need to hear the dhamma and become liberated. It takes on average 3 days of consistent anapana practice to calm the mind enough to begin the practice of vipassana at a level that can give benefit. As taught in the Goenka tradition.

It strikes me you have not spoken from personal experienced but merely repeated the dogma of the Goenka organisation.
The general rule of practice at a retreat is 1/3 of the time should be dedicated to anapana the rest to vipassana. As I have only sat 10 day retreats I have not experienced what 6 or 10 or 15 days of anapana practice alone would generate, but it has been my experience that 3 days seems to be enough for me if I practice whole heartedly, to develope a level of concentration where I can remain focused on a single point for a length of time to recieve benefit from this.



It is untrue to say "this is the minimum tested over years of trials" - this is utterly false: The first course Goenka taught was 10 days long with three days of Anapana.

Not false at all my dear friend. The courses were originally if not mistaken 6 weeks long, when taught by U ba khin and his teachers, as the pace of life quickened people did not have the time to spent 6 weeks on retreat. Experimentation and trials were done with shorter courses they tried courses shorter than 10 days and found that people did not recieve a lasting benefit from this so it was determined that 10 days would be the minimum standard.


He's been riding the same horseburger ever since.
This must be an english expression as I don't know what this means.