The Middle Length Discourses: MN 118 Mindfulness of Breathing, Anapanasati Sutta
Pages 941 – 948
Passages to read out loud: Sections 16 – 22
Like last month, at the beginning of this sutta the Buddha reviews the breadth of his teaching instructions as he is praising the good practice of his students during the extended rains retreat. Because he was so inspired by the quality of the practice he stayed on for an extra month. In sections 13 and 14 the Buddha ends this long list of practices that his disciples are engaged in by mentioning and then describing in detail the instructions on mindfulness of breathing.
This month we can take on with renewed vigor the practice of mindfulness of breathing. In particular, let’s reflect on difference between using breath meditation as an exclusive concentration technique versus following the instructions in this sutta and using mindfulness of breathing to open up the whole path of calm and insight. Let’s pay close attention to sections: 16 – 22. Consider committing them to memory in some fashion, or rewriting them in words that relate to your experience and understanding that can be reviewed before and after most sittings. Remember, the Buddha is offering us a map, this map is meant to be a skillful means in the sense that it can reveal insight into the nature of things that we have yet to see clearly. Without the map, we are less likely to see/know what we are not yet seeing/knowing.
Finally, instead of trying to make your experiences fit the instructions, see how the instructions might illuminate and clarify your actual experience. It is important not to strive, try to make things happen in meditation. This is an endlessly frustrating habit.