The art of breathing
By Features Desk
The Nation Publication Date: 22-05-2006
THE TEACHER: Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikkhu made meditation a way of life
Mindfulness in breathing is not as easy as it sounds, but as the late Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikkhu preached, practice can begin at home
Meditation needs no introduction in these secular times. Millions of people around the world, from patients to prisoners, are practising it. But for many beginners, finding the right place to start is no easy task. Flick through the newspapers or surf the Web, and youll find a multitude of workshops led by different masters promising to help you awaken your mind and find your inner essence.
Try different techniques if you can and choose the one that suits you the best, advises Phra Maha Wudhichai Medhi, better known as W Vajiramedhi, the author of best-selling book and screenplay of the TV series Dhamma Tid Peak, renowned for his applied Dhamma preaching.
In Thai Buddhism, techniques that are widely practised include Samatha Vipassana taught by forest monk Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Mahatera, Vija Dhammakaya by Wat Pak Nams Luang Poh Sod, Dynamic Meditation by the Northeastern monk Luang Poh Tian Jittasubho and Buddhadasa Bhikkhus anapanasati.
To coincide with the celebrations marking the centenary of the birth of the late Venerable Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, the kingdoms renowned reformist monk, Sunday Style focuses on how beginners can practise anapanasati, the meditation mode Buddhadasa Bhikkhu advocated throughout his 67 years as a monk.
Why anapanasati, the mindfulness of in-and-out breathing?
There are more than 50 modes for meditating, but the reason anapanasati merits our interest is because it was the mode of meditation practised by the Buddha before his enlightenment.
It needs no external equipment or even saying Buddho, just your breath, said Buddhadasa Bhikkhu in a public sermon delivered in 1984, which was recently replayed at a meditation for beginners workshop held by Sukkapabjai Publishing, the ouse that has long been disseminating Buddhadasas original writings.
It can be done with any posture sitting, walking, or lying down and anywhere, even at home. Putting transcendental experience aside, deep relaxation and good memory, insomnia and stress-busting are the worldly benefits from which all of us can gain, the voice continues.
Buddhadasas ideas on ordination can be pursued at home following the preparations at the workshop, which was attended by a cross-section of people ranging from teenagers to retirees.
Find an opportunity, a suitable time and place. Get your mind ready by focusing on the present. Switch off all things, good or bad, you may have done yesterday.
Have faith in the meditation masters. Leave your ego, which often arises especially when you have learned other meditation modes.
Other obstacles to a calm mind include all things you cling to, from mobile phone calls to sleepiness. Dont be discouraged by pain when you are in a certain posture for a long time.
For more alertness, the most suitable posture is sitting cross-legged as in yogas lotus pose. Keep your eyes half open suggests a female practitioner from Dhamma Mata Hermitage. This ashram attached to Wat Suan Mokkh was set up in 1999 in accordance with Buddhadasas idea of allowing women to practise meditation by having female participants taught by female masters at a time when women were not allowed to be ordained.
At the beginners level, the monk suggested four steps, each of which you need to take time to practise and make sure you can be naturally mindful at every step before going on to the next.
Follow your inhalation and exhalation, from and to your nose and abdomen. Watch your in and out breaths at the tip of the nose. Visualise something at the tip of the nose. Enlarge and reduce the size or change the colour of the visualised thing at the nose.
Buddhadasa also counselled against clinging to favourite meditation masters. The key is not to rely on any masters but to let your actions teach you, he says on the tape, likening the experience to learning to ride a bicycle.
For more information on anapanasati (mindfulness with breathing) by Buddhadasa
Bhikkhu in English visit: www.suanmokkh.org/archive/aps/mwb-abc1.htm (translated
by Santikaro Bhikku)
www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/anapanasati.pdf (translated by Nagasena Bhikkhu)
Other useful links in Thai :
A handbook for the perfect form of Anapanasati Bhavana Meditation, Sukkapabjai Publishing House 2003, (translated by J RatanaNantho Bhikkhu), is also available.