Anapanasati Sutta

The "Anapanasati Sutta" (Pāli: "Breath-Mindfulness Discourse") is a discourse ("sutta") that details the Buddha's instruction on using the breath ("anapana") as a focus for mindfulness ("sati") meditation. The discourse lists sixteen objects on which one may meditate in order to bear insight and understanding into the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (IAST|Satipaṭṭhāna), the Seven Factors of Awakening (Bojjhangas), and ultimately Nibbana.

The "Anapanasati Sutta" is a celebrated text among Theravada Buddhists. [For instance, in Southeast Asian countries, "Anapanasati Day" is the full-moon sabbath ("uposatha") day in the eighth lunar month of Kattika (usually in November) (e.g., see [ Bullitt, 2005).] ] In the Theravada Pali Canon, this discourse is the 118th discourse in the Majjhima Nikaya (MN) and is thus frequently represented as MN 118. [A Romanized Pali version of this sutta can be found at (SLTP, "n.d."). Examples of English translations are Nanamoli (1998), Nanamoli & Bodhi (2001), Nhat Hanh (1988) and Thanissaro (2006a).] In addition, in the Pali Text Society edition of the Pali Canon, this discourse is in the Majjhima Nikaya (M)'s third volume, starting on the 78th page and is thus sometimes referenced as M iii 78.

Discourse summary


The Buddha states that mindfulness of the breath, "developed and repeatedly practiced, is of great fruit, great benefit." [Nanamoli (1998), p. 5, translation. See also Thanissaro (2006a) for similar wording.] Ultimately, it can lead to "perfect clear vision and deliverance." [Nanamoli (1998), p. 5, translation. The Pali phrase being translated here as "perfect clear vision and deliverance" is: "IAST|vijjā-vimuttiṃ."] The path by which this occurs is that:
* Breath mindfulness (Pali: "anapanasati") development leads to the perfection of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness ("satipatthana"). [The Pali is: "IAST|Ānāpānasati bhikkhave bhāvitā bahulīkatā cattāro satipaṭṭhāne paripūreti." Interestingly, SN 54.13 states: "IAST|Ānāpānasatisamādhi kho ānanda, eko dhammo bhāvito bahulīkato cattāro satipaṭṭhāne paripūreti" (underscore added). That is, the latter discourse identifies that it is the concentration ("samādhi") associated with anapanasati practice that leads to fulfillment of the four satipatthana.]
* The Four Foundations of Mindfulness development leads to the perfection of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment ("bojjhanga").
* The Seven Foundations of Enlightenment development leads to perfect clear vision and deliverance.

Preparatory instructions

Prior to enumerating the 16 objects, the Buddha provides the following preparatory advice (which the Chinese version of this sutta includes as part of the first object): [The preparatory and core instructions are also detailed in the "Arittha Sutta" ("To Arittha," SN 44.6) [] .]

#seek a secluded space (in a forest or at the foot of a tree or in an empty place)
#sit down
#cross your legs
#keep your body erect
#establish mindfulness in front ("parimukham")

Core instructions

Next, the 16 objects or instructions are listed, generally broken into four tetrads, as follows: [This enumeration of the core instructions is largely based on Thanissaro (2006a) and Nanamoli (1998). The basis for mapping each of the tetrads to one of the four "satipatthana" is that, in the Anapanasati Sutta, after what is here identified as the "core instructions," the Buddha explicitly identifies each tetrad as related to a particular "satipatthana".]

#First Tetrad: Contemplation of the Body ("kaya")
##Discerning long breaths
##Discerning short breaths
##Experiencing the whole body ("sabbakaya")
##Calming bodily formations
#Second Tetrad: Contemplation of the Feeling ("vedana")
##Being sensitive to rapture ("pīti") [The arising of "pīti" suggests the arising of the first jhanic state.]
##Being sensitive to pleasure ("sukha")
##Being sensitive to mental fabrication ("citta-IAST|saṃskāra")
##Calming mental fabrication
#Third Tetrad: Contemplation of the Mind ("citta")
##Being sensitive to the mind
##Satisfying the mind
##Steadying the mind
##Releasing the mind
#Fourth Tetrad: Contemplation of the Mental Objects ("dhamma")
##Focusing on impermanence
##Focusing on dispassion
##Focusing on cessation
##Focusing on relinquishment

Related canonical discourses

Breath mindfulness, in general, and this discourse's core instructions, in particular, can be found throughout the Pali Canon, including in the "Code of Ethics" (that is, in the "Vinaya Pitaka"'s "Parajika") [Vin.iii,70 (e.g., see Buddhaghosa, 1999, p. 259, VIII.145).] as well as in each of the "Discourse Basket" ("Sutta Pitaka") collections ("nikaya"). From these other texts, clarifying metaphors, instructional elaborations and contextual information can be gleaned.

Discourses including the core instructions

In addition to being in the "Anapanasati Sutta", all four of the aforementioned core instructional tetrads can also be found in the following canonical discourses:
* the "Greater Exhortation to Rahula Discourse" ("Maha-Rahulovada Sutta", MN 62); [ [ Thanissaro (2006d)] ]
* sixteen discourses of the Samyutta Nikaya's (SN) chapter 54 ("Anapana-samyutta"): SN 54.1, SN 54.3–SN 54.16, SN 54.20; [For this entire chapter (SN 54), see Bodhi, 2000, pp. 1765-1787. For a few of this chapter's individual discourses, see SN 54.6 [ (Thanissaro, 2006b),] SN 54.8 [ (Thanissaro, 2006c)] and SN 54.13 [ (Thanissaro, 1995).] ]
* the "To Girimananda Discourse" ("Girimananda Sutta", AN 10.60); and, [ [ Piyadassi (1999).] ]
* the Khuddaka Nikaya's Patisambhidamagga's section on the breath, "Anapanakatha". [See, for instance, Nanamoli (1998), Part III.]

The "first" tetrad identified above (relating to bodily mindfulness) can also be found in the following discourses:
* the "Great Mindfulness Arousing Discourse" ("Mahasatipatthana Sutta", DN 22) [See, e.g., [ Thanissaro (2000).] ] and, similarly, the "Mindfulness Arousing Discourse" ("Satipatthana Sutta", MN 10), [ [ Nyanasatta (1994).] ] in the section on Body Contemplation; and,
* the "Mindfulness concerning the Body Discourse" ("Kayagata Sutta", MN 119) as the first type of body-centered meditation described. [ [ Thanissaro (1997).] ]


Hot-season rain cloud

In a discourse variously entitled "At Vesali Discourse" ["IAST|Vesālīsuttaṃ", in the Burmese IAST|Chaṭṭha Saṇgayana edition of the Pali Canon (see This edition is the basis for Bodhi (2000), pp. 1773-74.] and "Foulness Discourse" ["IAST|Asubhasuttaṃ", in the Sinhala Sri Lanka Tripitaka Project (SLTP) edition of the Pali Canon (see The basis for this SLTP title is that it starts with the Buddha providing a talk about meditating on "foulness" ("asubha", e.g., see Patikulamanasikara). (Traditionally, the intent of such a meditation is primarily to diminish one's attachment to their own or another's body.)] (SN 54.9), the Buddha describes "concentration by mindfulness of breathing" ("ānāpānassatisamādhi") [In the Samyutta Nikaya (SN) chapter on breath-mindfulness, over half the discourses (SN 54.7 to 54.20) emphasize the concentration ("samādhi") resulting from breath-mindfulness over breath-mindfulness "per se". This is consistent with several enumeratons of Enlightenment factors (i.e., Five Faculties, Five Powers, Seven Factors of Enlightenment and Noble Eightfold Path) where the factor of mindfulness precedes that of concentration (Bodhi, 2000, pp. 1516-17).] in the following manner::"Just as, bhikkhus, in the last month of the hot season, when a mass of dust and dirt has swirled up, a great rain cloud out of season disperses it and quells it on the spot, so too concentration by mindfulness of breathing, when developed and cultivated, is peaceful and sublime, an ambrosial pleasant dwelling, and it disperses and quells on the spot evil unwholesome states whenever they arise...." [Bodhi (2000), p. 1774.] After stating this, the Buddha states that such an "ambrosial pleasant dwelling" is achieved by pursuing the sixteen core instructions identifed famously in the Anapanasati Sutta.

The skillful turner

In the "Great Mindfulness Arousing Discourse" ("Mahasatipatthana Sutta", DN 22) and the "Mindfulness Arousing Discourse" ("Satipatthana Sutta", MN 10), the Buddha uses the following metaphor for elaborating upon the first two core instructions:

:Just as a skillful turner [The Pali word translated as "turner" here is "bhamakāro", literally, "one who makes spin," usually refering to the spinning of a wheel (see, e.g., Rhys Davids & Stede, 1921-25, p. 498, entry for "Bhamati" at, retrieved 2007-11-08). In addition, the Pali word translated here as "turn" is "añchanto", whose definition includes "to turn on a lathe" (see, e.g., Rhys Davids & Stede, 1921-25, p. 13, entry for "Añchati" at, retrieved 2007-11-08).] or turner's apprentice, making a long turn, knows, "I am making a long turn," or making a short turn, knows, "I am making a short turn," just so the monk, breathing in a long breath, knows, "I am breathing in a long breath"; breathing out a long breath, he knows, "I am breathing out a long breath"; breathing in a short breath, he knows, "I am breathing in a short breath"; breathing out a short breath, he knows, "I am breathing out a short breath." ["Satipatthana Sutta" (MN 10) [ (Nyanasatta, 1994).] ]

Expanded contexts

Great fruit, great benefit

The Anapanasati Sutta refers to sixteenfold breath-mindfulness as being of "great fruit" ("mahapphalo") and "great benefit" ("mahānisaṃso"). "The Simile of the Lamp Discourse" (SN 54.8) states this as well and expands on the various fruits and benefits, including:
* unlike with other meditation subjects, with the breath ones body and eyes do not tire and ones mind, through non-clinging, becomes free of taints [According to the Samyutta Nikaya post-canonical commentary, other meditation subjects such as the four elements fatigue the body, while still others, such as kasina objects, strain the eyes (Bodhi, 2000, p. 1950, "n". 296).]
* householder memories and aspirations are abandoned [This benefit, the abandoning of householder memories and aspirations, is identified as common to each type of body-centered-mindfulness meditation identified in the "Kayagata-sati Sutta" (MN 119) [ (Thanissaro, 1997).] ]
* one dwells with equanimity towards repulsive and unrepulsive objects
* one enters and dwells in the four material absorptions ("rupajhana") and the four immaterial absorptions ("arupajhana")
* all feelings ("vedana") are seen as impermanent, are detached from and, upon the death of the body, "will become cool right here." [Bodhi (2000), pp. 1770-73.]

Pali commentaries

In traditional Pali literature, the 5th c. CE commentary ("atthakatha") for this discourse can be found in two works, both attributed to Ven. Buddhaghosa:
*the Visuddhimagga provides commentary on the four tetrads.
*the "Papañcasūdanī" provides commentary on the remainder of this discourse. [Nanamoli (1998), p. 13.]


Different traditions (such as Sri Lankan practitioners who follow the Visuddhimagga versus Thai forest monks) interpret a number of aspects of this sutta in different ways. Below are some of the matters that have multiple interpretations:

*Are the 16 core instructions to be followed sequentially or concurrently (Bodhi, 2000, p. 1516; Rosenberg, 2004)?
*Must one have reached the first jhana before (or in tandem with) pursuing the second tetrad (Rosenberg, 2004)?
*In the preparatory instructions, does the word "parimukham" mean: around the mouth (as favored by Goenka, 1998, p. 28), in the chest area (as supported by a use of the word in the Vinaya), in the forefront of one's mind (as favored at times by Thanissaro) or simply "sets up mindfulness "before" him" (per Bodhi in Wallace & Bodhi, 2006, p. 5) or "to the fore" ( [ Thanissaro, 2006d] ) or "mindfulness alive" [ (Piyadassi, 1999)] ?
*In the first tetrad's third instruction, does the word "sabbakaya" mean: the whole "breath body" (as indicated in the sutta itself [Nanamoli, 1998, p. 7: "I say that this, bhikkhus, is a certain body among the bodies, namely, respiration."] , as perhaps supported by the Patisambhidamagga [Nanamoli, 1998, p. 75] , the Visuddhimagga [1991, pp. 266-267] and Nyanaponika [1965, pp. 109-110] ) or the whole "flesh body" (as supported by Bhikkhu Bodhi's revised second translation of the sutta [in Nanamoli & Bodhi, 2001, see relevant footnote to MN 118] , Buddhadasa [1988, p. 57] , Goenka [1988, pp. 29-30] , Nhat Hanh [1988, p. 26] and Rosenberg [1998, pp. 40, 43] )?

ee also

*Breath Mindfulness (Anapanasati)
*Buddhist Meditation
*Four Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipatthana and Satipatthana Sutta)
*Seven Factors of Enlightenment (Bojjhanga)



*Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2000). "The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the IAST|Saṃyutta Nikāya". Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-331-1.

*Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (trans. by Santikaro Bhikkhu) (1988). "Mindfulness with Breathing: A Manual for Serious Beginners". Boston: Shambhala Publications. ISBN 0-86171-111-4.

* Buddhaghosa, Bhadantācariya (trans. from Pāli by IAST|Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli) (1999). "The Path of Purification: Visuddhimagga". Seattle, WA: BPS Pariyatti Editions. ISBN 1-928706-00-2.

* Bullitt, John T. (2005). "Uposatha Observance Days". Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at

* Goenka, S.N. (1988). "Satipatthana Sutta Discourses: Talks from a Course in Maha-Satipatthana Sutta". Seattle, WA: Vipassana Research Institute. ISBN 0-9649484-2-7.

* Nanamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) (1998). "Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapanasati): Buddhist Texts from the Pali Canon and Extracts from the Pali Commentaries". Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society. ISBN 955-24-0167-4.

*, Bhikkhu (trans.) & Bhikkhu Bodhi (ed.) (2001). "The Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya". Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-072-X.

* Nhat Hanh, Thich (trans. by Annabel Laity) (1988). "The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing". Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press. ISBN 0-938077-04-X.

* Nyanaponika Thera (1965). "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation: A Handbook of Mental Training based on the Buddha's Way of Mindfulness". York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser. ISBN 0-87728-073-8.

* Nyanasatta Thera (trans.) (1993/1994). "The Foundations of Mindfulness" (MN 10). Kandy, Sri Lanka: BPS (1993). Retrieved 2007-11-07 from "Access to Insight" (1994) at

* Piyadassi Thera (trans.) (1999). "Girimananda Sutta: Discourse to Girimananda Thera" (AN 10.60). Kandy, Sri Lanka: BPS. Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at

* Rhys Davids, T.W. & William Stede (eds.) (1921-5). "The Pali Text Society’s Pali–English Dictionary". Chipstead: Pali Text Society. A general on-line search engine for the PED is available at

* Rosenberg, Larry (2004). "Breath by Breath: The Liberating Practice of Insight Meditation". Shambhala. ISBN 1-59030-136-6.

* Sri Lanka Tripitaka Project (SLTP) ("n.d."). "Anapanasatisuttam" (MN 118). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "MettaNet" at

* Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1995). "Ananda Sutta: To Ananda (On Mindfulness of Breathing)" (SN 54.13). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at

*Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997). "Kayagata-sati Sutta: Mindfulness Immersed in the Body" (MN 119). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at

* Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2000). "Maha-satipatthana Sutta: The Great Frames of Reference" (DN 22). Retrieved from "Access to Insight" at

* Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2006a). "Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of Breathing" (MN 118). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at

* Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2006b). "Arittha Sutta: To Arittha (On Mindfulness of Breathing)" (SN 54.6). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at

* Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2006c). "Dipa Sutta: The Lamp" (SN 54.8). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at

* Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2006d). "Maha-Rahulovada Sutta: The Greater Exhortation to Rahula" (MN 62). Retrieved 2007-11-06 from "Access to Insight" at
*Wallace, B. Alan and Bhikkhu Bodhi (Winter 2006). "The Nature of Mindfulness and its Role in Buddhist Meditation: A Correspondence between B. Alan Wallace and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi".

External links

Contemporary instruction

* [ "Anapanasati: Meditation on the Breath,"] by Ajahn Pasanno (May 26, 2005).
* [ "Basic Breath Meditation Instructions,"] by Tan Geoff (Thanissaro Bhikkhu) (1993).

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