Author Topic: Whole 'body' breathing awareness - The Ajahn Brahm method vs Thanissaro Bhikku  (Read 24963 times)

Billymac629

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What's the deal when Thanissaro says you can stop breathing and your skin will suffice for respiration because I don't recall that being covered at medical school. Is it a metaphor, to be taken literally or the end of the conception of duality?
I believe he only speculates this..  He said in a talk that he can't claim this to be true.  But he said the idea helps with full body awareness.
Nothing in this world is to be clung to as I, me, or mine...

Alexander

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Ah glad to hear it, thank you.

Nicky

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The methods:

Ajahn Brahm:

He describes the words 'breathing in-out sensitive to the entire body' and 'breathing in-out calming the body fabrications' in this book. He says that here is meant with the body the breath-body and not the entire body. He gives for explanations that the Buddha called the breath a body among bodies and that in the first couple steps of Anapanasati the object of meditation (the breath) is simplified (from knowing the breath as long or short to just knowing you are breathing) and that it would be illogical to make it more complicated in step 3 or 4 in the Anapanasati to suddenly be sensitive to the entire body. He also explains that 'calming bodily fabrications' means calming the breath-body, and the rest of the body will follow.

My opinion:  :angel:

Ajahn Brahm has quoted the sutta correctly but translates & interprets it incorrectly. Only Ajahn Buddhadasa has translated & explained it correctly. The Pali is 'sabbe kaya', which means 'all bodies'. The word 'sabbe' means 'all', such as in the phrases: "Sabbe satta sukita hontu" and "sabbe dhamma anatta" (may all beings be happy; all things are not-self). 'All bodies' refers to the breath as a body & the physical body as a body. It can also refer to the mind as a body (kaya), such as in the term 'nama kaya'.

The Pali 'sankhara' does not necessarily mean 'fabrication'. In fact, in this context, it means 'fabricator'. Therefore, the breathing in & out is the body fabricator because it fabricates or conditions the physical body.

For example, when the breath is long, fine, smooth & calm, the physical body will feel at ease. When the breath is coarse, short, rough & agitated, the physical body will feel uncomfortable & distressed.

At the 3rd step, what should be comprehended is the relationship between the 3 kaya. Insight (vipassana) should occur here into cause & effect. What should be comprehended is the relationship between the mind, the breath & the body, which is:

"When the mind is like this, the breath becomes like this & the body becomes like this. When the mind is like that, the breath becomes like that & the body becomes like that".

This is the meaning of the 3rd step of experiencing all bodies (sabbe kaya).


Quote
Thanissaro Bhikku:

He is talking about the whole body. So 'breathing in-out sensitive to the entire body' and 'breathing in-out calming the body fabrications' means sensitive to the entire body, and not only the breath. 'Calming bodily fabrications' means literally calming all of the bodily stress-points and be sensitive to the entire body. This method also includes visualizing the breath coming out of every pore in the body, and in his book he describes more of these visualizing stuff. I am sceptible about this because I have the feeling visualizing stuff (an example is that he describes visualizing the words from someone else floating around you instead of coming towards you in an aggressive communication) is not experiencing things as they really are.

Best to reflect with reason & intelligence. Can the mind be aware of the whole body, such as the little finger, the little toe & every hair on the head?

However, strangely, Thanissaro Bhikku has discussed the 'kaya sankhara' (body fabricator) correctly in his essay: 'Shape of Suffering', as follows:
Quote
2) Fabrication: the process of intentionally shaping states of body and mind.

These processes are of three sorts:
a) bodily fabrication: the in-and-out breath,
b) verbal fabrication: directed thought and evaluation, and
c) mental fabrication: feeling (feeling tones of pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain) and perception (the mental labels applied to the objects of the senses for the purpose of memory and recognition).

As you walk to the door of your parents’ house, thinking about the situation (2b—verbal fabrication), you pull up memories of things your uncle has done in the past (2c—mental fabrication). This provokes anger, causing your breathing to become labored and tight (2a—bodily fabrication). This makes you uncomfortable (2c—mental fabrication), and you are aware of how uncomfortable you feel (3—consciousness). Hormones are released into your bloodstream (4 f through 4i—Form).

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/shapeofsuffering.pdf

Hopefully we can start a nice discussion here. I use the Ajahn Brahm method at the moment, but I'm trying to find out which one is the 'right' method and what are the pros and cons for each method. I am also very interested in which method you use, and why you think this one is better than the other etc.

In my opinion, Ajahn Brahm has the 'right' method, particularly his emphasis upon letting go as the basis for developing samadhi.

However, only Ajahn Buddhadasa has explained the fruition of practise correctly (here).

Best wishes  :angel:

As for the Pali, it is quite clear. The Pali is 'kāyasaṅkhāraṃ', which refers to the 'breathing in & out'.

Quote
sikkhati, ‘passambhayaṃ kāyasaṅkhāraṃ passasissāmī’ti sikkhati

He trains himself: calming the body-conditioner I shall breathe in. He trains himself: calming the body-conditioner I shall breathe out.

MN 118

Quote
Assāsapassāsā kho, āvuso visākha, kāyasaṅkhāro

Friend Visakha, in-&-out breaths are the bodily saṅkhāro

MN 44
« Last Edit: July 25, 2014, 09:56:42 PM by Nicky »

Nicky

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What is this 'breath body'? It sounds like a fabricated idea to me.

MN 118, which A.B. has quoted, states:
Quote
Kāyesu kāyaññatarāhaṃ, bhikkhave, evaṃ vadāmi yadidaṃ – assāsapassāsā.

I tell you, monks, that this — the in-&-out breath — is classed as a body among bodies...

Obol

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Thanissaro advises to imagine the breath in whatever way leads to greater mindfulness, alertness and concentration. All meditation techniques use fabrication, because everything short of Nibbana is a fabrication.

If imagining breathing through your pores or nerves or whatever is helpful, do it. Mindfulness of the parts of the body involves being mindful of the hairs on the head - which have no nerves in them. But if the technique helps you to become more mindful and sensitive, why not use it?

Admittedly I dont know Ajahn Brahms methods, but Thanissaro is relentlessly pragmatic. If it helped your mindfulness and concentration to imagine that you were a watermelon, he would say to give it a go.

ommanipadmehum

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One breath in is half a circle.  One breath out is the other half of the circle.  Together they make a body of breath, 'a body' being a round, a cycle.
"A little bit of insight brings a little bit of calm, and a little bit of calm brings a little bit of insight."
 --Ayya Khema

Matthew

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Thanissaro advises to imagine the breath in whatever way leads to greater mindfulness, alertness and concentration. All meditation techniques use fabrication, because everything short of Nibbana is a fabrication.

The core of Practice is experiencing things for real, not imagining. Following the actual sensations of the body whilst breathing does not involve fabrication or imagination.

It may be true that all Meditation techniques use fabrication but this does not mean that everything experienced in Meditation is fabricated. When your abdomen rises and falls, when your chest expands - these are not fabrications but facts that can be directly experienced with no need for any fabricated image of what is occurring.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

ommanipadmehum

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This is the distinction of pannatti vs paramattha dhammas.
"A little bit of insight brings a little bit of calm, and a little bit of calm brings a little bit of insight."
 --Ayya Khema

Dharmic Tui

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I wonder how much different the results are depending on which Dhamma you follow.

alaber

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The simile for the 1st Jhana is as follows: "suppose a skilled bath attendant or his apprentice were to pour soap-powder into a metal basin, sprinkle it with water, and knead it into a ball, so that the ball of soap-powder be pervaded by moisture, encompassed by moisture, suffused with moisture inside and out, yet would not trickle. In the same way, Kevaṭṭa, the monk drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with the rapture and happiness born of seclusion, so that there is no part of his entire body which is not suffused by this rapture and happiness."

My question: how can you suffuse your whole body with Piti and Sukha is you are focusing only on the breath and let go of the body?
Thanissaro method is more compatible with the simile.

Matthew

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..
My question: how can you suffuse your whole body with Piti and Sukha is you are focusing only on the breath and let go of the body?
Thanissaro method is more compatible with the simile.

Question: How can you feel your breath except with the body?

Answer: You can't, ever, in any way: your only experience of focusing on the breath is through bodily sensations created by the process of breathing. The body is not let go.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

alaber

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The 1st four Jhanas as rupa Jhanas which means experienced with the body. They were not called "breath Jhanas" by the Buddha.
The four similes for the four rupa Jhanas clearly imply these Jhanas are experienced by the physical body (as well as the mind of course).

To me steps 2 to 4 of Anapanasati are about the physical body not the so called "breath body".

Matthew

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The 1st four Jhanas as rupa Jhanas which means experienced with the body. They were not called "breath Jhanas" by the Buddha.

Nor were they called breath Jhanas by me.

To me steps 2 to 4 of Anapanasati are about the physical body not the so called "breath body".

I'm not sure what you refer to as steps 2 to 4 without knowing the text you are using. However, I have also never used the expression " breath body" - as far as I can see it is a fabrication, it does not exist at all. When the Buddha spoke thus:

Quote
the in-&-out breath — is classed as a body among bodies

He was, as he so very often did, using these words metaphorically. Specifically I suspect he is referring to use of mindfulness of breathing (which can only be achieved through physical body sense organs) as a most efficacious vehicle for transformation.

As I wrote before:

Question: How can you feel your breath except with the body?

Answer: You can't, ever, in any way: your only experience of focusing on the breath is through bodily sensations created by the process of breathing. The body is not let go.

The above is quite clear: breath can only be experienced through contact with bodily sense organs. Anapana has everything to do with the body.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2015, 10:38:46 PM by Matthew »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

 

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