16 steps of breathing meditation from the Majjhima Nikaya

I have been very inspired by reading Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s book, Right Mindfulness, as you can see from my last few posts. I have started using the material for guidance in my sitting practice. As more posts are likely to follow that use this framework, I thought it would be a good idea to pop this section out of the book for easy reference.  This is a set of 16 steps, arranged in four tetrads, or sections of 4 steps called the “first, second, third and fourth establishing of mindfulness”. As TB says, “this procession through the levels of concentration all the way to the cessation of perception and feeling is one of the ways in which awakening is achieved. “

From the Majjhima Nikaya:

The steps developing the first establishing of mindfulness:

 

“[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’; or breathing out long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out long.’ [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in short’; or breathing out short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out short.’ [3] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.’ [4] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.’

 

The steps developing the second establishing of mindfulness:

 

“[5] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.’ [6] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.’ [7] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to mental fabrication.’ [8] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.’

 

The steps developing the third establishing of mindfulness:

 

“[9] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the mind.’ [10] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in gladdening the mind.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out gladdening the mind.’ [11] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in steadying the mind.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out steadying the mind. [12] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in releasing the mind.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out releasing the mind.’

 

The steps developing the fourth establishing of mindfulness:

 

“[13] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in focusing on inconstancy.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out focusing on inconstancy.’ [14] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in focusing on dispassion [literally, fading].’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out focusing on dispassion.’ [15] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in focusing on cessation.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out focusing on cessation.’ [16] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out focusing on relinquishment.’” — MN 118

 This text comes directly from:

Right Mindfulness
MEMORY & ARDENCY ON THE BUDDHIST PATH
THANISSARO BHIKKHU
(GEOFFREY DeGRAFF)

I will again thank Thanissaro Bhikkhu for providing this text and also point out how beautifully he follows the Buddhist principle of making the dharma available free of charge. His wonderful book is offered with this permission included:

Copyright © Thanissaro Bhikkhu 2012

This book may be copied or reprinted for free distribution without permission from the publisher. Otherwise all rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “16 steps of breathing meditation from the Majjhima Nikaya

  1. So helpful. Thannisaro is a great author. Right mindfulness is not only well written, but so detail oriented. It is helping my mediation. I wish I had his email so that I can ask directly to him about my meditation practice – I don’t have a teacher.

    • Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to read the post and leave a comment. Please feel free to browse other posts and communicate through the comments section.

      If you are analytically minded, which you seem to be if you enjoy Thannisaro’s style of writing, you might also enjoy reading this (and don’t miss the link to the talks!!): http://pranna.com/blog/2013/06/satipatthana-sutta-book-and-dharmatalks/

      If you are not able to connect to a teacher in your area, there are other resources available these days to some excellent teachers. Buddhist Geeks is experimenting with offering ‘life retreats’ which can be facilitated at a distance. Shinzen Young is a wonderful vipassana teacher who offers a “Home Practice Program” at http://www.basicmindfulness.com and of course there are many places you can go on retreat if you are able to travel. Some are listed on the sidebar of this site.

      I hope you are able to find the support you are seeking. It’s important to get some support not only to clarify questions that might arise, but also to keep your practice on track in terms of momentum.

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