Ānāpāna and Satipatthāna – Fundamentals

January 30, 2019

1. Mahā Satipatthāna Sutta (DN 22) just describes in more detail the Ānapānasati bhāvanā that is in the Ānapānasati Sutta (MN 118).

2. One synonym for Nibbāna is “cooled state”, which means the mind is “permanently cooled down”. There can be no anger, greed, or ignorance can arise such a mind.

  • However, we start at a more basic state. When we start doing real Ānāpāna/Satipatthāna, we will start feeling a PERMANENT relief from our stressed minds.
  • On the other hand, “breath meditation” provides only a temporary relief.

3. We discussed how our thoughts can affect our minds in the previous post,”Breath Meditation Is Addictive and Harmful in the Long Run“.

  • When angry thoughts arise, one’s whole body becomes hot and agitated; blood pressure goes up; face becomes dark, because the blood becomes dark.
  • On the other hand, when one has compassionate thoughts in one’s mind, one’s mind feels joyful and it shows up in the face too.

4. Some people are more prone to generating angry thoughts; others are more like to generate compassionate thoughts. In other words, some people have “angry gati” while other have “compassionate gati“. Previously we discussed that there are a wide variation of gati ranging from very bad to very good.

  • Of course, these gati do not show up all the time. Even a person with “angry gati” must be provoked for such angry thoughts to arise.
  • In Buddha Dhamma’s language, a person with “angry gati” has “anger hiding in the mind” waiting for a trigger to come to the surface. These are called “anusaya” or “kilesa” (hidden defilements).
  • The key word gati (pronounced “gathI”) is related to one’s habits and character; see “The Law of Attraction, Habits, Character (Gati), and Cravings (Asavas)“.

5. We can take an analogy to clarify this. Anusaya can be compared to dirt at the bottom of a glass of water. If the glass is not disturbed, the dirt will settle at the bottom, and the water may look clean at the top.

  • If there is a lot of dirt at the bottom of the glass, only a slight disturbance can make the dirt come up and make the water dirty. But if it is only a little bit, most minor disturbances may not make the water dirty.
  • Just like that, the more anusaya (or corresponding defilements) one has, it will be easier for them to come to the surface. If one has “very angry gati“, that person would be easy to be angered.

6. On the other hand, if there is no dirt at the bottom of the glass, no matter what kind of disturbance it is, the water will remain pure.

  • The mind of an Arahant is like that. He/she can live totally unaffected surrounded by the world’s most tempting sense objects.
  • We have a long way to get to the Arahant stage. But we can start getting rid of these “bad gati” or “anusaya” or “defilements” by cultivating the correct Ānāpāna/Satipatthāna.
  • When one’s mind becomes purified, it will be hard to make that person agitated or depressed. One will have a relatively calm mindset even under normally stressful conditions.

7. Even though a glass of water has dirt in it, if the water is left undisturbed for a while, the dirt gets settled at the bottom and the water becomes relatively clear.

  • That is what happens with “breath meditation”. One focuses one’s mind on a neutral thought object for a while and all “agitations” subside. But they do not go away.
  • Breath meditation appears to provide relief. In particular, if one goes to a retreat and spends several days with one’s mind removed from “enticing” AND “angry” thoughts, one feels a high sense calmness.
  • However, when one comes back and gets into the usual “rat race”, with all kinds of enticing and aggravating inputs from the environment, all those anusaya” come back to the surface!

8. In real Ānāpāna/Satipatthāna, those anusaya or “hidden defilements” will be REMOVED gradually. The procedure involves the following:

  • Get rid of bad thoughts (such as anger) that may arise due to whatever reasons.
  • Let any “good thoughts” that may arise (such as compassion or just thoughts about dhamma concepts) to continue.
  • Deliberately contemplate on Dhamma concepts like dasa akusala, gati, anusaya, kilesa, kamma, kamma vipāka, Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path, Paticca Samuppāda, etc.
  • We will see in upcoming posts, how those “three components” are taken into account in the four types of Satipatthāna: kāyānupassanā, vedanānupassanā, cittānupassanā, and dhammānupassanā.

9. If a bad thought comes to the mind, one must think about the bad consequences of keeping such thoughts in one’s mind and forcefully remove them. For example, if someone says something to make one angry, one could count to ten in one’s mind (or just walk away) and not retaliate.

  • This is hard to do first. But with practice, one can see the benefits and one will be motivated to continue.
  • The nice thing is that the more one trains, the easier it becomes to control one’s impulsive reactions.

10. In order to get rid of any bad habit (which are related to gati), it will be VERY HELPFUL to see the bad consequences of such bad habits.

  • A smoker needs to convince himself that smoking can lead to various health problems, including cancer. That will be an incentive to get rid of smoking.
  • Taking drugs is even worse, one could die with many health problems if one becomes addicted to drugs.
  • Even eating too much is a bad habit. One should look at the statistics that clearly show the bad health consequences of over-eating.

11. Learning Dhamma is like learning the bad consequences of bad habits. When one is engaged in immoral activities, one will have bad consequences of those actions, speech, and thoughts in two ways:

  • Even if one is making a lot money doing immoral things, one WILL have a stressed mind even in this life.
  • The more important consequences may realize in future lives. Highly immoral activities lead to births in the four bad realms (animal realm is one).
  • Therefore, it is essential to learn true Buddha Dhamma, where one can begin to understand kamma and kamma vipāka.

12. Another way to say this is that one needs to see the difference between “dhamma” and “adhamma“. Dhamma are the “good, moral deeds” and adhamma are the “bad immoral deeds”.

  • Note that dhamma here is different from the Buddha Dhamma, even though they are related. Adhamma are opposite of dhamma.
  • As we have discussed before, adhamma lead to a stressed mind and dhamma lead to a calm mind at the very basic level.
  • At the next level, strong adhamma or “highly immoral deeds” have very bad consequences in the future, especially in future lives (rebirths in the lowest 4 realms). On the other hand, strong dhamma or “highly moral deeds” lead to good rebirths in the higher realms.
  • I have discussed them previously. It would be beneficial to review them.

How the Buddha Described the Chance of Rebirth in the Human Realm“.

Does the Hell (Niraya) Exist?“.

Dasa Akusala/Dasa Kusala – Basis of Buddha Dhamma“.

Gati to Bhava to Jāti – Ours to Control

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