Posted by: Michael Rickicki | 01/28/2018

Buddho – Keeping the Breath in Mind

Sit in a half-lotus position, right leg on top of the left leg, your hands placed palm-up on your lap, right hand on top of the left. Keep your body straight and your mind on the task before you. Raise your hands in respect, palm-to-palm in front of the heart, and think of the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha: Buddho me natho — The Buddha is my mainstay. Dhammo me natho — The Dhamma is my mainstay. Sangho me natho — The Sangha is my mainstay. Then repeat in your mind, buddho, buddho; dhammo, dhammo; sangho, sangho. Return your hands to your lap and repeat one word, buddho,three times in your mind.

Then think of the in-and-out breath, counting the breaths in pairs. First think bud- with the in-breath, dho with the out, ten times. Then begin again, thinking buddho with the in-breath, buddho with the out, seven times. Then begin again: As the breath goes in and out once, think buddho once, five times. Then begin again: As the breath goes in and out once, think buddho three times. Do this for three in-and-out breaths.

Now you can stop counting the breaths, and simply think bud- with the in-breath and dhowith the out. Let the breath be relaxed and natural. Keep your mind perfectly still, focused on the breath as it comes in and out of the nostrils. When the breath goes out, don’t send the mind out after it. When the breath comes in, don’t let the mind follow it in. Let your awareness be broad, cheerful, and open. Don’t force the mind too much. Relax. Pretend that you’re breathing out in the wide open air. Keep the mind still, like a post at the edge of the sea. When the water rises, the post doesn’t rise with it; when the water ebbs, the post doesn’t sink.

When you’ve reached this level of stillness, you can stop thinking buddho. Simply be aware of the feeling of the breath.

Then slowly bring your attention inward, focusing it on the various aspects of the breath — the important aspects that can give rise to intuitive powers of various kinds: clairvoyance, clairaudience, the ability to know the minds of others, the ability to remember previous lives, the ability to know where different people and animals are reborn after death, and knowledge of the various elements or potentials that are connected with, and can be of use to, the body. These elements come from the bases of the breath.

The First Base: Center the mind on the tip of the nose and then slowly move it to the middle of the forehead;

The Second Base. Keep your awareness broad. Let the mind rest for a moment at the forehead and then bring it back to the nose. Keep moving it back and forth between the nose and the forehead — like a person climbing up and down a mountain — seven times. Then let it settle at the forehead. Don’t let it go back to the nose.

From here, let it move to The Third Base, the middle of the top of the head, and let it settle there for a moment. Keep your awareness broad. Inhale the breath at that spot, let it spread throughout the head for a moment, and then return the mind to the middle of the forehead. Move the mind back and forth between the forehead and the top of the head seven times, finally letting it rest on the top of the head.

Then bring it into The Fourth Base, the middle of the brain. Let it be still for a moment and then bring it back out to the top of the head. Keep moving it back and forth between these two spots, finally letting it settle in the middle of the brain. Keep your awareness broad. Let the refined breath in the brain spread to the lower parts of the body.

When you reach this point you may find that the breath starts giving rise to various signs (nimitta), such as seeing or feeling hot, cold, or tingling sensations in the head. You may see a pale, murky vapor or your own skull. Even so, don’t let yourself be affected by whatever appears. If you don’t want the nimitta to appear, breathe deep and long, down into the heart, and it will immediately go away.

When you see that a nimitta has appeared, mindfully focus your awareness on it — but be sure to focus on only one at a time, choosing whichever one is most comfortable. Once you’ve got hold of it, expand it so that it’s as large as your head. The bright white nimitta is useful to the body and mind: It’s a pure breath that can cleanse the blood in the body, reducing or eliminating feelings of physical pain.

When you have this white light as large as the head, bring it down to The Fifth Base, the center of the chest. Once it’s firmly settled, let it spread out to fill the chest. Make this breath as white and as bright as possible, and then let both the breath and the light spread throughout the body, out to every pore, until different parts of the body appear on their own as pictures. If you don’t want the pictures, take two or three long breaths and they’ll disappear. Keep your awareness still and expansive. Don’t let it latch onto or be affected by any nimitta that may happen to pass into the brightness of the breath. Keep careful watch over the mind. Keep it one. Keep it intent on a single preoccupation, the refined breath, letting this refined breath suffuse the entire body.

When you’ve reached this point, knowledge will gradually begin to unfold. The body will be light, like fluff. The mind will be rested and refreshed — supple, solitary, and self-contained. There will be an extreme sense of physical pleasure and mental ease.

If you want to acquire knowledge and skill, practice these steps until you’re adept at entering, leaving, and staying in place. When you’ve mastered them, you’ll be able to give rise to the nimitta of the breath — the brilliantly white ball or lump of light — whenever you want. When you want knowledge, simply make the mind still and let go of all preoccupations, leaving just the brightness and emptiness. Think one or two times of whatever you want to know — of things inside or outside, concerning yourself or others — and the knowledge will arise or a mental picture will appear. To become thoroughly expert you should, if possible, study directly with someone who has practiced and is skilled in these matters, because knowledge of this sort can come only from the practice of centering the mind.

The knowledge that comes from centering the mind falls into two classes: mundane (lokiya) and transcendent (lokuttara). With mundane knowledge, you’re attached to your knowledge and views on the one hand, and to the things that appear and give rise to your knowledge on the other. Your knowledge and the things that give you knowledge through the power of your skill are composed of true and false mixed together — but the “true” here is true simply on the level of mental fabrication, and anything fabricated is by nature changeable, unstable, and inconstant.

So when you want to go on to the transcendent level, gather all the things you know and see into a single preoccupation — ekaggatarammana, the singleness of mental absorption — and see that they are all of the same nature. Take all your knowledge and awareness and gather it into the same point, until you can clearly see the truth: that all of these things, by their nature, simply arise and pass away. Don’t try to latch onto the things you know — your preoccupations — as yours. Don’t try to latch onto the knowledge that has come from within you as your own. Let these things be, in line with their own inherent nature. If you latch onto your pre-occupations, you’re latching onto stress and pain. If you hold onto your knowledge, it will turn into the cause of stress.

So: A mind centered and still gives rise to knowledge. This knowledge is the path. All of the things that come passing by for you to know are stress. Don’t let the mind fasten onto its knowledge. Don’t let it fasten onto the preoccupations that appear for you to know. Let them be, in line with their nature. Put your mind at ease. Don’t fasten onto the mind or suppose it to be this or that. As long as you suppose yourself, you’re suffering from obscured awareness (avijja). When you can truly know this, the transcendent will arise within you — the noblest good, the most exalted happiness a human being can know.

To summarize, the basic steps to practice are as follows:

1. Eliminate all bad preoccupations from the mind.2. Make the mind dwell on good preoccupations.

3. Gather all good preoccupations into one — the singleness of meditative absorption (jhana).

4. Consider this one preoccupation until you see how it is aniccam, inconstant; dukkham, stressful; and anatta, not yourself or anyone else — empty and void.

5. Let all good and bad preoccupations follow their own nature — because good and bad dwell together and are equal by nature. Let the mind follow its own nature. Let knowing follow its own nature. Knowing doesn’t arise, and it doesn’t fall away. This is santi-dhamma — the reality of peace. It knows goodness, but the knowing isn’t goodness, and goodness isn’t the knowing. It knows evil, but the knowing isn’t evil, and evil isn’t the knowing. In other words, knowing isn’t attached to knowledge or to the things known. Its nature is truly elemental — flawless and pure, like a drop of water on a lotus leaf. This is why it’s called asankhata-dhatu: the unfabricated property, a true element.

When you can follow these five steps, you’ll find marvels appearing in your heart, the skills and perfections that come from having practiced tranquillity and insight meditation. You’ll obtain the two types of results already mentioned:

mundane, providing for your own physical well-being and that of others throughout the world; andtranscendent, providing for the well-being of your heart, bringing happiness that is calm, cool, and blooming, leading all the way to Liberation (nibbana) — free from birth, aging, illness, and death.

This has been a brief explanation of the main principles of breath meditation. If you have any questions or encounter any difficulties in putting these principles into practice, and you wish to study directly with someone who teaches along these lines, I will be happy to help you to the best of my ability so that we can all attain the peace and well-being taught by the religion.


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