Anapana Meditation

Front from left to right: Mother Sayamagyi, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, Sayagyi U Tint Yee and Sayagyi U Chit Tin

Front from left to right: Mother Sayamagyi, Sayagyi U Ba Khin, Sayagyi U Tint Yee and Sayagyi U Chit Tin


Only the teachings of the Buddha can give you real happiness—in the present and in the remainder of continued existence (samsara). The teachings of the Buddha are enshrined in the Three Collections of the canon (Tipitaka). The Tipitaka are very extensive. If we take the essence out of the Tipitaka, we shall find the thirty-seven Factors of Awakening (Bodhipakkhiya-dhamma). The essence of the thirty-seven Factors of Awakening is the eight constituents of the Noble Eightfold Path (maggangas). The essence of the Noble Eightfold Path is the threefold training (sikkha): higher morality, higher mindfulness, and higher wisdom (adhisila, adhicitta, and adhipañña). The essence of the threefold training is the unique Universal Law (Eko Dhammo).

When your body and mind are under control, as they are now, there can be no roughness of physical or verbal action. This is adhisila or Perfect Morality.

When adhisila becomes strong, the mind will become peaceful and tranquil and lose its harshness. This is called adhicitta.

When adhicitta (samadhi) becomes strong and the mind stays one-pointed for a long period, then you will realize that in a split second matter arises and dissolves billions and billions of times. If mind (nama) knows matter (rupa), it knows that matter becomes and disintegrates billions and billions of times in the wink of an eye. This knowledge of arising and disintegration is called adhipañña.

Whenever we breathe in or out, the in-coming and the out-going air touches somewhere in or near the nostrils. The sensitive matter (kayapasada) registers the touch of air. In this process, the entities touching are matter and the entity knowing the touch is mind. So don’t go around asking others about mind and matter; observe your breathing and you will find out about them for yourselves.

When the air comes in, it will touch. When the air goes out, it will touch. If you know this touch continuously, then wanting (lobha), dislike (dosa), and delusion (moha) don’t have the opportunity to arise and the fires of greed, anger, and delusion will subside.

You cannot know the touch of air before it actually occurs. After it has gone, you cannot know it any more. Only while the air moves in or out can you feel the sensation of touch. This we call the present moment.

While we feel the touch of air, we know that there are only mind and matter. We know for ourselves that there is no “I,” no other person, no man and woman, and we realize for ourselves that what the Buddha said is indeed true. We needn’t ask others. While we know in-breath and out-breath, there is no “I” or atta.

When we know this, our view is pure; it is right view. We know in that moment that there is nothing but nama and rupa, mind and matter. We also know that mind and matter are two different entities. If we in this way know to distinguish between nama and rupa, we have attained to the ability to distinguish between mind and matter (nama-rupa-pariccheda-ñana).

If we know the touch of air as and when it occurs, our mind is pure and we get the benefits thereof. Don’t think that the benefits you get in this way, even in a split second, are few. Don’t think that those who meditate don’t get any advantages from their practice. Now that you are born in a happy plane and encounter the teachings of a Buddha, you can obtain great benefits. Don’t worry about eating and drinking, but make all the effort you can."

Anapana is the meditation practised by all the Buddhas and their major disciples. The Buddha has said that it is very refined, subtle, and powerful. It requires calmness of mind and good intelligence and as such is not suitable for those without calmness of mind and low intelligence. Just as a very fine, high quality cloth requires a very fine needle, and a still finer awl is required to bore a hole in the needle, so also in Anapana, which is like a fine, high quality cloth, calmness of mind and a fine intelligence commensurate with that calmness of mind are required.