Ānāpānassati: Samatha or Vipassanā?
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Ānāpānassati: — respiration meditation — is mentioned in the Visuddhimagga as samatha meditation. In the Visuddhimagga there are 40 subjects of samatha meditation. They are 10 kasiṇa, 10 asubha, 10 anussati, 4 Brahmavihāra, 4 formless spheres, perception of the loathsomeness of food, and analysis of the four elements. Ānāpānassati is one of them.
Kasiṇa means entirely or whole. In other words, when a kasiṇa is an object of meditation you have to focus the whole circle of kasiṇa in your mind; but with the eyes initially. One can use these kasiṇa as an object of samatha meditation; pathavī kasiṇa, earth; āpo kasiṇa, water; tejo kasiṇa, fire; vāyo kasiṇa, wind or air; aloka kasiṇa, light; lohita kasiṇa, red; nīla kasiṇa, blue; pīta kasiṇa, yellow; odāta kasiṇa, white; ākāsa kasiṇa, space. There are also 10 asubha: meditation on impurity; meditation on swollen corpse, discoloured corpse, dismembered corpse, skeleton and so on. Then there are 10 kinds of recollection. We call it anussati. The objects are: Buddhānussati, recollection of the attributes of the Buddha; Dhammānussati, recollection of the attributes of the Dhamma; Saṅghānussati, recollection of the attributes of the Saṅgha; Sīlānussati, recollection of the attributes of the precepts you are observing; Cāgānussati, recollection of the attributes and benefits of charity or offering you have done; Devatānussati, recollection of heavenly beings; Maraṇasati, mindfulness of death; Kāyagatasati, mindfulness of the body; ānāpānassati, mindfulness of breathing; and Upasamānussati, recollection of peace.
Ānāpānassati, recollection or mindfulness of breathing is one of the ten recollections. According to the Visuddhimagga, we take mindfulness of breathing, to be samatha meditation. However, in the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta, the Discourse on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, ānāpānassati is mentioned as an object of vipassanā meditation too. The Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta begins with mindfulness of breathing as the object of vipassanā meditation.
Some scholars get puzzled about this meditation — whether it is samatha or vipassanā meditation because in the Visuddhimagga it is classified as samatha, and the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta refers to it as vipassanā. In the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta the Buddha teaches us how to practise mindfulness of respiration. He mentions how a meditator sees the appearance and disappearance of the respiration and realises impermanence of respiration. So it is mentioned in Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta as vipassanā.
What we should know is that the object of samatha meditation can be either paññatti or paramattha. Paññatti means concept, paramattha means absolute or ultimate reality. The object of samatha meditation may be concept or ultimate reality. When we take a kasiṇa as the object of samatha meditation, the object is just concept, not absolute reality. How?
To use a red kasiṇa as the object of meditation, you have to draw a red circle about the size of a plate on a wall or tree, about two feet from the floor so that your eyes can look at it easily. That red must be pure without mixing any other colour. When you focus on the red circle, you have to focus on the whole red circle, not half or quarter of the circle. So it is called kasiṇa. Why? Because you want to concentrate on the form of the circle. You need not know the red, the colour. You need not know the texture. What you should do is concentrate on the form of the circle very well, very deeply. You have to look at the whole circle and focus your mind on it. Then when your concentration is good enough, though you close your eyes, you can see that red circle in your mind, that is the form of the circle. You concentrate on the red circle you see in your mind. The circle that you see in your mind is called the ‘Paṭibhāga Nimitta.’ It means the nimitta that is similar to the circle on the wall. Some scholars translate it as ‘counterpart sign.’ This is samatha meditation so you need not realise any physical or material processes of the circle.
What you need to do is to concentrate your mind on the whole circle and absorb the mind in it. That is why you see the red circle in your mind when your concentration is good enough. The red circle is a form, it is just a concept. The form is just concept, not ultimate reality. The circle you see in your mind is not absolute reality. it is just something which is created by your mind; so it is just a concept. In this case the object of samatha meditation is just concept, not ultimate reality.
When you practise Buddhānussati, it is recollection of the chief attributes of the Buddha such as Arahaṃ, Sammāsambuddho, Vijjācaraṇa sampanno, Sugato, Lokavidū, Anuttaro purisadamma sārathi, Sattha devamanussānaṃ, Buddho, Bhavagā. Here the object is reality, paramattha. Say you reflect on the attribute, ‘Arahaṃ.’ It means the Buddha is worthy of honour because he has totally destroyed all mental defilements. So to destroy these mental defilements he has the fourth stage of enlightenment, Arahatta Magga and Sabbaññutā, that is Omniscience. Then you have to concentrate on those qualities of the Buddha which destroy all mental defilements. These qualities are enlightenment and omniscience; so they are absolute realities, not concepts. If you repeatedly concentrate on these attributes, whenever the mind goes out you bring it back and reflect on these attributes. Then gradually you get concentrated. In this case, absolute reality, paramattha, is the object of samatha meditation.
However in vipassanā meditation every object of meditation must be absolute reality, ultimate reality, paramattha. In vipassanā meditation no concept can be the object of meditation. Concept cannot be the object of vipassanā meditation because vipassanā meditators need to realise the specific characteristics and general characteristics of mental and physical phenomena, which are absolute realities. So the object must be either mental or physical processes which are ultimate realities. If concept is the object of vipassanā meditation, vipassanā meditators cannot realise any characteristics of mental and physical processes because you cannot find any real characteristics in concepts. Concepts are created by the mind.
Say your name is Paññānanda. Even though you might have died, if I memorise your name as Paññānanda, the name is there in my mind (though the actual Paññānanda has gone). Why? Because my mind memorises it, and makes it exist. This shows that a name is just a concept because it is created, memorised or made to exist by the mind. So concepts are not realities. They are things made up by the mind, so they do not have any characteristics to realise.
If the red circle is the object of meditation, we see the form of the circle in our mind and concentrate on it. Gradually our mind becomes more and more concentrated on the red circle that we see in our mind. When the mind is totally absorbed in that circle, then we say we have attained jhāna. However, that red circle is not reality, because the mind makes the object; so it is just a concept. It hasn’t any characteristics to realise. Even though you concentrate your mind on it for a hundred years continuously, you cannot realise any characteristics; because it is not an absolute reality, it is a mind-made thing — just a concept.
Then as to respiration meditation (ānāpānassati), in the Visuddhimagga it is mentioned as samatha meditation, concentration meditation. In the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta it is mentioned as vipassanā meditation. Then how can we distinguish it between the vipassanā aspect of respiration and the samatha aspect of respiration? If we are mindful of the absolute reality of respiration, that will be vipassanā meditation. If we are mindful of the concept regarding respiration, then it will be samatha meditation.
So the Visuddhimagga mentions the method of concentrating on the touching sensation whenever you breathe in and breathe out. When you concentrate your mind on the coming in and going out of the breath, then it is samatha meditation because you have to concentrate on the coming in and going out, not on the wind or air. When it is coming in you note ‘in’; when it is going out you note, ‘out.’ ‘In, out, in, out.’ Your mind is not on the breathing air but on the ‘coming-in’ and the ‘going-out.’ ‘Coming-in’ and ‘going-out’ are not ultimate realities.
Say you come into the room through the door and go out of the room through the door. We may ask, “What is this coming in and going out?” it is neither you, nor a person. It is just ‘coming-in’ and ‘going-out.’ It is just concept. In the same way, when you concentrate on the coming in and going out of the breath, it is just a concept. Since concept is the object of meditation, it is samatha meditation. You cannot realise any specific characteristics or general characteristics of ‘coming-in’ and ‘going-out’ because they are not realities, just concepts, so that’s samatha meditation.
However, if you focus your mind on the point where the breath touches whenever it comes in or goes out, it touches the nostrils. When you observe this touching sensation and are mindful of it, then it is (ultimate) reality. That touching point is composed of the four primary material elements: pathavī dhātu, hard or soft; āpo dhātu, liquidity or cohesion; tejo dhātu, hot or cold; vāyo dhātu, movement or vibration. These four elements are there whenever you focus your mind on the touching sensation. So the object is absolute reality. What can we call it — samatha or vipassanā meditation? It is vipassanā.
That is what the Venerable Mahāsi Sayādaw wrote about the distinction between the samatha and vipassanā aspects of respiration meditation. I appreciate it very much. So then we can say respiration meditation is vipassanā meditation in accordance with the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta. We can also say that respiration meditation is samatha in accordance with the Visuddhimagga. It is very subtle and profound to differentiate between these two aspects of respiration meditation, but I think those who have practised meditation very well can differentiate between these two aspects
Sometimes we have to concentrate on the coming in and going out of the breath as the object of meditation when the mind is too distracted; when we have a lot of thoughts. The Buddha said that when you have a lot of distractions and thoughts, you should practise respiration meditation as samatha meditation because respiration or breathing is, so to say, ever present as long as you are alive. So it is easy for you to concentrate on it. That’s why the Buddha teaches us to practise respiration meditation as samatha meditation when there are many thoughts.
However, in my experience, Buddhānussati and Metta are the best for my meditators to concentrate on when they have a lot of thoughts. So I teach them either Buddhānussati or Metta Bhāvanā. Buddhānussati is somewhat difficult for those who have no knowledge of the Buddha’s attributes. Metta meditation is very easy; every meditator can do it. When they can concentrate by Metta, their mind becomes calm and tranquil. Then very easily they can switch to vipassanā meditation.
That’s how you can differentiate between the two aspects of respiration meditation. May all of you be able to differentiate between the two aspects of respiration meditation, practise your meditation accordingly and achieve the goal.
First of all we should know the difference between samatha and vipassanā meditation. Unless we are able to understand the difference between these two types of meditation, no one can practise any type of meditation very well because they get confused. So in Buddhism there are two types of meditation; one is samatha meditation and the other is vipassanā meditation.
Samatha here means concentration or the mental states that make the mind calm. When the mind is concentrated on a single object it is called concentration of mind. So to obtain a higher degree of concentration, samatha is practised. The purpose of samatha meditation is to attain the higher degree of concentration which is called jhāna or appanā. This jhāna is called Zhan in Burmese, Chan in Chinese and Zen in Japanese. Zen here means concentration but some of the Buddhist scholars translated Zen into meditation. Here jhāna is deep concentration or higher degree of concentration. When you practise samatha meditation you can attain the higher degree of concentration of concentration which is known as jhāna. To attain deep concentration of mind you have to concentrate your mind on a single object of meditation such as respiration, devices of kasiṇa, asubha, and so on.
Most Buddhists practise the meditation on respiration. Respiration meditation is known as ānāpānassati in Pāḷi. When you start this samatha meditation taking respiration as the object of meditation then you have to focus your mind on the in-breathing and out-breathing. The mind should be focused on the nostrils. When you breathe in, the air touches at the nostril; then you observe it, making a mental note, ‘in’ or ‘breathe in.’ When the air goes out or when you breathe out, the air touches the nostril, then you observe it making a mental note, ‘out.’ In this way ‘in, out, in, out,’ focusing the mind at the nostril.
Then the mind doesn’t stay with the in-breathing and out-breathing. It goes out and wanders and thinks about something else, about your family, about your friends, about your school or university, about your education and so on. When the mind goes out and thinks about something else you bring the mind back to the object of meditation, that is at the nostril. Bring the mind back and focus it at the nostril and note ‘in, out, in, out.’ Though you focus the mind at the nostril it doesn’t stay there for long. In the beginning of the practice it very often goes out and wanders. Then you bring it back to the nostril and focus it there, making mental note, ‘in, out, in, out.’ In this way you gradually come to concentrate your mind on in-breathing and out-breathing to a certain extent. Then you proceed with your practice.
Then after, say a week or ten days, the mind gradually becomes more and more concentrated on the breathing and become better and deeper. When you spend about say, two or three months on your meditation, your mind may be deeply concentrated on in-breathing and out-breathing at the nostril to a great extent. The mind may stay with the breath for about ten or fifteen minutes. As you strive to have deeper concentration at the nostril on in-breathing and out-breathing, your mind becomes fully absorbed into the object, that is in-breathing and out-breathing.
Then you haven’t any hindrances in your mind. It means that while your mind is well and deeply concentrated on in-breathing and out-breathing at the nostril, it has no disturbances, no irritation. It doesn’t get annoyed. Those mental states such as sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and remorse, and sceptical doubts are called hindrances. These hindrances are not in a concentrated mind because the mind is deeply concentrated on the object of meditation, that is in-breathing and out-breathing. So none of these hindrances could come to the mind because the mind is deeply concentrated on the object. It means the deep concentration of mind removes those mental defilements. Mental hindrances do not come into the concentrated mind. So as long as the mind is deeply concentrated on in-breathing and out-breathing, you don’t have any of these mental hindrances in your mind.
Then the mind becomes calm, quiet, tranquil and serene. You enjoy peacefulness as long as the mind is deeply concentrated on in-breathing and out-breathing. It is called jhāna or absorption. The mind is well fixed on the object of meditation that is in-breathing and out-breathing. Though your mind is absolutely concentrated on the object of meditation, it doesn’t realise any mental states or physical process in their true nature. Samatha meditation is concentration meditation, not realisation meditation.
Another type of meditation is vipassanā meditation. Vipassanā here means realisation of the three characteristics of existence or mental and physical phenomena. What are the three characteristics? They are impermanence, suffering, and impersonal or no soul, no self nature of phenomena. Therefore you have to observe any mental states or physical processes which are arising at that moment as it really occurs so that you realise these three characteristics of those mental states or physical process.
These three characteristics, impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha), impersonal nature (anatta) of phenomena must be thoroughly realised by a meditator so that he or she can destroy all mental hindrances or defilements such as greed, lust, craving, attachment, desire, ill will, ignorance, conceit, jealousy and so on. If a meditator has realised impermanence, suffering, and impersonal nature of these mental and physical phenomena which constitute a so-called person, a being, an ‘I’ or a ‘you’ then he or she doesn’t take any of the mental states or physical processes to be a person, a being, an ‘I’ or a ‘you.’ Then he or she has removed the concept of personality, individuality, self or soul which is the seed of all mental defilements and mental hindrances. When the concept of a person or a being has been destroyed, there won’t arise any mental defilements or hindrances such as greed, hatred, etc., then you feel happy and peaceful. You can live in peace and happiness. That is vipassanā meditation.
Vipassanā is translated as ‘insight.’ The insight knowledge that penetrates into the true nature of mental and physical phenomena is called vipassanā-ñāṇa. Vipassanā or insight meditation is practised to realise bodily and mental phenomena in their true nature or the three characteristics of mental and physical phenomena as they really are. To realise the true nature of bodily and mental phenomena you need some degree of concentration. To obtain some degree of concentration, you have to be mindful of whatever arises in your body and mind as it really occurs. Because you want to realise the true nature of bodily and mental phenomena as they really are you have to be mindful of any mental state or physical process as it really occurs. You should not think about the mental state or physical process. You should not analyse it. You should not criticise it.
In vipassanā meditation there is no room for analysing, thinking about, criticising, intellectual reasoning, logical thinking and preconception. What you should do is to just pay bare attention to what is happening to your body and mind as it really occurs. You mustn’t have any reaction regarding the object. You mustn’t get involved into the object, either mental state or physical process. You mustn’t judge whether the object is good or bad. What you should do is just be aware of it as it really occurs. Just observe it as it is. Just be mindful of it as it really occurs, without getting involved in it, without reaction, without judgement. Watch it as it is. Watch any mental state or physical process as it really occurs, that’s all. Be mindful of it as it really occurs. Then when your mindfulness becomes gradually constant, continuous, and powerful, your mind would be concentrated to a certain extent. Then you begin to realise the true nature of the mental state or physical process which is observed as it is. So this meditation is known as mindfulness meditation, insight meditation, or vipassanā meditation.
In this mindfulness meditation the most important thing is to be aware of whatever arises in your mind as it is. While you are meditating you may think about your family, your work or your friend. The mind goes out, wanders, thinks about something else. Sometimes you have a great deal of imagination or sometimes you plan for your future and so on. Then you must be mindful of these mental states, thoughts, thinking, planning or imagination by making a mental note, ‘thinking, thinking’ or ‘imagining, imagining.’ When you see any image in your mind, note it as ‘seeing, seeing,’ without analysing it, without thinking about it, without criticising it. So in this vipassanā meditation, mindfulness meditation, non-reacting awareness or non-judging mindfulness is the most important factor to be successful in this meditation. You mustn’t react.
You mustn’t have any reaction when you see any object; when you hear any sound or voice; when you smell any odour or scent; when you taste any food; when you touch any tangible thing; when you think about anything you mustn’t have any reaction from these objects. Not to have reaction you have to observe either the consciousness of seeing, the consciousness of tasting, the consciousness of touching or the mind which is thinking about something by making mental note ‘seeing,’ ‘hearing,’ ‘smelling,’ ‘tasting,’ ‘touching’ or ‘thinking’ as the case may be. When you are able to observe or to note any of these six consciousness, then you don’t have any reaction from it.
For example: Because of powerful mindfulness of the consciousness of seeing, the consciousness of seeing couldn’t see the object very well, so it is unable to judge whether the object is good or bad. When the consciousness of seeing couldn’t judge the object as good or bad then you don’t feel good or bad about the object. Then you don’t have any reaction from it. If you do not observe, if you are not mindful of the consciousness of seeing when you see something, then the consciousness of seeing sees the object for a very long time whereby it can judge whether the object is good or bad. When the consciousness of seeing judges the object to be good, you feel a pleasant sensation about the object. When the consciousness of seeing judges the object to be bad you feel an unpleasant sensation about the object. If you like it, you love it, you want to get it. You have a desire for this object because it is good, you feel. That desire is sort of reaction from the object which is not observed or noted. That desire is the cause of suffering, the cause of dukkha. The cause of dukkha, desire, arises because you are not able to observe the visible object, so you have a reaction. The reaction arises in the form of desire or love.
So not to have any reaction from the object, you have to be aware of it. You have to observe it. You have to note it, making a mental note, ‘seeing, seeing’ (or ‘hearing,’ ‘smelling,’ ‘tasting,’ ‘touching,’ or ‘thinking’ as the case may be). When you are able to observe any object, either mental states or physical processes, then you don’t have any reaction from it. Then you feel calm, quiet, and tranquil. That is why we call mindfulness meditation ‘non-reacting awareness, non-judging mindfulness.’ To practise insight meditation or mindfulness meditation what you need is just to be mindful of, just to be aware of what is happening to your body and mind as it really occurs, that’s all. You mustn’t use your preconception when you practise this meditation. If you allow the preconception to come into your mind when you are meditating then you cannot rightly understand the true nature of mental and physical phenomena which is observed. So the principle of vipassanā meditation, mindfulness meditation is to be mindful of whatever arises in your body and mind as it really occurs; to be aware of any mental states or physical processes in its true nature; to observe any activity of mind or body as it really occurs.
So the technique is not difficult. It is very easy and simple, but very effective if you perseveringly practise this meditation. You have to be patient before you have attained any higher stage of insight knowledge or enlightenment. Perseverance, patience, and strenuous efforts are essential qualities of a meditator succeed in meditation.
When we know that the principle of mindfulness meditation or vipassanā meditation is to observe any mental states or physical processes as it really occurs then we know from this fact that in vipassanā meditation we can have many varieties of objects of meditation; not just a single object of meditation, as in samatha meditation. What we should know about the difference between samatha and vipassanā meditation is that samatha meditation has only a single object of meditation such as respiration, but vipassanā meditation has many different objects of meditation because all mental states and all physical processes are the objects of meditation. Any mental state or physical process which is predominantly arising at that moment is the object of this meditation. You have to observe that mental state or physical process which is predominantly arising at that moment, making mental notes.
To make it easy you have to start with the noting of the rising movement and falling movement of the abdomen. Contemplation of the rising and falling movements of the abdomen is not respiration meditation. It is called contemplation of material elements because we have to be aware of the four material elements: earth, water, fire, and wind or air element. We are mainly concerned with these four material elements at the beginning of the practice. To observe the rising and falling movements of the abdomen is called contemplation of material elements, Dhātumanasikāra in Pāḷi. It is not respiration meditation, even though the rising and falling movements of the abdomen is connected to in-breathing and out-breathing. It is not respiration, but just abdominal movement. The air or wind in the abdomen rises or falls, moves forward or backward, sometimes the air moves upward or downward. This upward movement and downward movement is observed; this outward and inward movements of the abdomen is observed, making mental note ‘rising, falling, rising, falling.’
So this is not respiration meditation, not breathing meditation. It is called Dhātumanasikāra. It is one of the chapters in the Discourse of the Four Foundations of mindfulness expounded by the Buddha. Because it is not respiration meditation, you must not cling to the abdominal movements as the only object of meditation, because in vipassanā meditation the abdominal movement is a kind of physical process, one of the many objects of meditation, not the single object of meditation. When you feel the rising movement or forward movement of the abdomen, you observe it, making a mental note ‘rising.’ When the abdomen falls or moves backward, you should note ‘falling.’ In this way, whenever the abdomen moves forward, observe it, making a mental note ‘rising.’ When it moves backward, observe it, being mindful of it and making a mental note ‘falling.’ Continually note, ‘rising, falling, rising, falling.’
While you are contemplating the rise and fall of the abdominal movement, the mind may go out — it wanders. In the beginning of the practice you are not aware of the mind wandering, but later you come to realise that the mind is going out, the mind is wandering, the mind is thinking about something. As soon as you realise that the mind is wandering, you must follow the mind that is wandering and observe it, note it, as it really occurs, making a mental note, ‘thinking, thinking,’ ‘wandering, wandering.’ After the wandering mind has stopped, the thinking mind has stopped, then return to the primary object, that is rising and falling movements of the abdomen, note as usual ‘rising, falling.’ When your mind goes out again you follow the mind and observe it ‘going out, going out’ or ‘wandering, wandering’ and when it has stopped, you return to the primary object and note as usual.
When you have sat for, say twenty or thirty minutes, you may feel pain in some part of your body. You may feel pain in the leg, you may feel pain in the ankle, you may feel pain in the back. That painful sensation is more distinct than the movement of the abdomen, then you should note the painful sensation because it is predominantly arising at that moment, making a mental note, ‘pain, pain, pain,’ observing it attentively, energetically, and intently. ‘Pain, pain, pain’ you observe it. The pain may become more severe. You must be patient with it and being mindful of it as it is, making a mental note, ‘pain, pain.’ When the painful sensation becomes unbearable, then you should get up and practise walking meditation. To practise walking meditation is better than to change the position. So to relieve the pain you must not change the position. You get up and practise walking meditation.
In the walking meditation you should observe the movement of the foot. When you make a left step, you should focus your mind on the movement of the left foot. When you make a right step you should focus your mind on the movement of the right foot, making a mental note, ‘right, left, right, left.’ Movement of the foot is vāyodhātu, wind or air element which must be thoroughly realised as it is.
When you are able to observe the movement of the right foot and the movement of the left foot very well, then you can observe two parts of a step: the lifting part and the dropping part. When you lift the foot, observe the lifting movement, making a mental note ‘lifting.’ When you drop the foot you observe it as dropping, making a mental note ‘dropping.’ When you feel the lifting movement of the other foot then make a mental note ‘lifting.’ When you drop the foot down then you should observe the movement of dropping, making a mental note ‘dropping.’ In this way ‘lifting, dropping, lifting, dropping.’
When you are able to note ‘lifting, dropping’ very well, then you should increase one more object to note: lifting movement, pushing movement, and dropping movement. After you have lifted your foot then you push it forward and drop it down; you have made one step. So one step must be observed in three parts: lifting part, pushing part, and dropping part. In this way ‘lifting, pushing, dropping.’ Then the other foot, ‘lifting, pushing, dropping.’ You mustn’t look around here and there while you are practising walking meditation. Your eyes should be half closed, looking at a place about six feet ahead of you, no nearer than that. Then the mind should be focused on each movement of the foot, ‘lifting, pushing, dropping; lifting, pushing, dropping.’ Slowly. If you walk quickly and fast, you are not able to be aware of each movement of the foot, so you have to slow down.
When you have reached the other end of the walk, then you should turn. When you are about to turn, you have wanting or intention to turn the body. Then you should note ‘wanting, wanting’ or ‘intending, intending,’ after which you note the turning movement of the body, slowly, ‘turning, turning.’ You may observe the movement of your foot too when you turn your body. The feet also turn one after the other. You can observe the movement of the foot too, making a mental note ‘turning, turning.’ When your face is in the direction you came from, stand still and observe the standing posture, ‘standing, standing’ about ten times. Then walk back to the other end of the walking path making a mental note ‘lifting, pushing, dropping.’
In this way you should practise walking meditation for at least one hour. For beginners it may be somewhat difficult to walk for one hour. So one should walk for about thirty minutes making a mental note, ‘lifting, pushing, dopping.’ When you have reached this end of the walk you do the same. First of all stand still, and note ‘standing,’ observing the erect posture of standing, the upright posture of the body. Then you note ‘intending, intending’ after which you turn your body, ‘turning, turning’ slowly, not quickly. In this way you should walk back and forth, up and down along the same line. Then you can concentrate your mind on the movement of the foot to a certain extent. That is concentration, samādhi in Pāḷi. This samādhi can be obtained by means of continuous mindfulness, powerful mindfulness. Walking meditation and sitting meditation should be practised alternately. Nonetheless every sitting meditation should be preceded by walking meditation.
After you have walked, you are about to walk to the place where you sit. The mindfulness and concentration you have attained in walking meditation should not be interrupted, should not be disrupted when you walk to the place where you sit for meditation. So after walking you have to be mindful of the movement of the foot , ‘lifting, pushing, dropping; lifting, pushing, dropping’ when you walk to the place where you sit so that your concentration is not disrupted. You have to be mindful of the movement of the foot until you have reached the place where you sit, and stand there and note, ‘standing, standing.’ Focus on the upright posture of the body. When you are about to sit down for meditation, you intend to sit down. That intention must be noted and observed, making a mental note ‘intending, intending.’ Then sit down slowly. The whole sitting down movement must be observed, making a mental note ‘sitting down, sitting down.’ When the body touches the seat or the mat note ‘touching, touching.’ When you arrange your legs and hands, all movements must be observed as they occur.
Sit crossed-legged or in any position you feel comfortable. Your spine must be straight and erect, but not stretched. Your neck and head should be straight. Then close your eyes and focus your mind on the rising and falling movements of the abdomen because it is the primary object. Focus the mind there. When the abdomen rises, observe the rising movement and note ‘rising.’ When it falls, note ‘falling.’ Observing rising movement, making mental note ‘rising,’ observing falling movement, making mental note ‘falling.’ In this way observe ‘rising, falling’ rising’ falling.’
Sitting and walking meditation must be alternate. If you change from sitting to walking meditation, then when you get up from the seat you have to be aware of all the movements of your hands, legs, and body as they occur. When you go to the place where you walk, you have to aware of the movement of the left foot and the right foot, making mental note ‘left, right, left, right.’ When you reach the place where you walk, then you stand still, observing standing posture, making a mental note ‘standing, standing.’ In this way you have to be mindful of whatever arises in your body and mind as it really is. This is mindfulness meditation, insight meditation. Its purpose is to realise all mental states and physical processes as they really occur. So may all of you rightly understand the technique of this mindfulness meditation, insight meditation, or vipassanā meditation and strive your best to achieve your goal.