Here's the Basis of Meditation Techniques That Are Centered on Breathing Practices, or Pranayama

"When you watch your breath, you will reach cessation naturally. When your breathing stops, your mind will stop."

That's the basis of meditation methods based on breathing...

There are over 300 different breathing practices you can use in cultivation, called "pranayama" or "anapana" exercises. However, the basic principle behind all these techniques is that you calm your breath through meditation to the point where it seems as if your external breathing has ceased altogether.

That stage is called "kumbhaka" in yoga, and people first practice to attain it using forceful techniques, doing alternate nostril breathing and retention exercises, so that they can more easily later reach this state naturally without force.

As the Indian yoga master Patanjali said, "The cessation between the in-breath and out-breath is [true] pranayama." The Hindu Hatha Yoga Pradipika also says, "When the breath is irregular, then the mind will be unsteady, but when the breath is controlled, then the mind will also be controlled, calm and one-pointed."

Hence in the world's various breathing practices, focus on the ESSENTIAL. You must reach a stage of cultivation where your chi becomes so full, because your mind is empty and because of sexual restraint, that your breathing can cease naturally. Then you'll reach the state of cessation naturally.

BINGO! All the meditation methods of the world try to get you to achieve the same stages of kung-fu (gong-fu).

You must meditate by letting go of thoughts and giving your mind a rest and reach a state of relaxation wherein your coarse inhalations and exhalations have also ceased while you remain perfectly relaxed and totally aware. If you can reach this state, your true inner breath will ignite, thus initiating the state of "hsi" which signals the beginning of real chi, shakti or kundalini cultivation. That's when your body will really start to transform for the spiritual path.

Why is it possible to use breathing as a means of cultivation?

Because the thoughts and breath are related; consciousness (mind) and chi (the body's wind element) are linked. Since chi and thoughts are linked, you can calm/purify one to calm/purify the other. That's why you can attack meditation through the angle of breathing!

There are other ways to get to mental "no--thought" as well.

Specifically, mind rides on the breath just as a rider is carried by a horse, so if the breath ceases moving, then extraneous thoughts will die down. Just as salt dissolves in water and becomes one with it, so also there occurs the union of mind with the breath when the breath subsides and the mind becomes still; mind dissolves in breath and the two become one during "cessation".

This then, using the calming of the breath as a form of approach, is the basis behind many cultivation methods. They use the approach of cultivating the breathing, which cultivates your chi, to cultivate your mind because chi and consciousness are linked. Why start with breath, the wind element of the body? Because it's the easiest element to transform, that's all!

In normal activities, most people never realize they are breathing. If their breath and thought can combine, however, not only will individuals become clear about their breath, but they will also become extremely mindful of their other body sensations as well. The thoughts and breathing (Chi) can combine by letting go of the body and thoughts and just concentrating on the breath, and becoming one with it, without force. That's what we're doing here.

Since mindfulness is a cultivation method in itself, the principle of keeping the mind in tune with the breath while remaining relaxed, detached and aware, is found in many cultivation schools and techniques. But in this technique, you must not fall into sleepiness or torpor, and your thoughts mustn't remained scattered as in everyday activities. Remember, wandering thoughts are discriminative thinking, and you don't push them away or suppress them but pay them no heed and they'll die down.

Normally we're always in either of these two states--torpor or drowsiness, or the excitedness and restlessness of mental involvement. You try to abandon these two states when you're practicing the process of observing the breath. Remember, always cultivate clear AWARENESS. Torpor is not a state of clear awareness!

At the beginning of genuine anapana breathing exercises, one just watches their breath. After a very short while, the breath will calm down to become long and soft. As this external breathing dies down to a point of near cessation, the chi of your inner body will start to become activated.

However, this internal chi is not the same as the external wind used in respiration. Rather, it's the real chi of the body which has tremendous transformative power. This is the chi that will open up your chi channels.

When the expiration ceases and the mind quiets down, we arrive at shamatha. This is the state of "stopping" or "halting" but we got there by following the breath rather than thoughts. Same end target, different method to get there! We get there and then the real chi of the body, when the external respiration ceases, gets kick-started and ignited to start arising and circulating through the body's meridians.

If you continue relaxing the body and mind, and don't become frightened or tense up during this period of cessation, this inner breath will really come to life. Taoists call this the "internal embryo breathing", and it has a tremendous power to transform the physical body. So if you can stay in this state of internal breathing without worrying about the fact that external respiration has ceased, then you can transform the body quickly and enter into deep samadhi.

That's what you want.

We can therefore summarize this process as: calming the body and the breath until respiration ceases--perhaps from the process of counting the breaths--and then letting this cessation conjoin with mental emptiness (absence of discriminative thought). At this point the real chi of the body will arise, which is the precursor of kundalini, and one can enter into samadhi.

At the point you have reached cessation or shamatha or halting or stopping, you must begin to concentrate on cultivating the mind rather than the body. This is the stage of vipashyana, which means contemplating or letting prajna transcendental wisdom function.

In the Tien-tai school, these two stages of shamatha and vipashyana are called cessation and observation (contemplation), samadhi and wisdom, or chih and guan. In this initial stage, the workings of the mind slow down and seem to stop, like a glass filled with dirty water whose dirtiness settles; if you put the glass down, slowly the dirt and dust inside will sink and settle, and you'll get the clarity of samadhi. This is the Mahayana samadhi.

The stages of the four dhyana (Samadhi) of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Tantra and yoga are all included in this practice, but in progressing further you don't pay attention to these as they occur and you don't even think of stages of meditation but just let them be. Let the mind rest and it will naturally clean itself and become pure and clear.

This cessation is the correct cessation.

The Zen school describes this state as, "Everything is crystal clear, there are no wandering thoughts, no scattered thoughts; it's like 10,000 miles of clear sky empty of clouds." This is samadhi.

What is samadhi? It is that state which is not sunk in drowsiness, sleepiness, forgetfulness, lethargy or torpor such as when we're sleeping or "blanked out". It is also not restless or scattered, which is the state of excitedness or movement. The state of observation is very clear, crisp and aware and if you can maintain this state of open observation, then prajna wisdom will arise.

After you arrive at this stage of mental stability, or cessation, what do you observe? And at this stage of cessation, what is it that has stopped or ceased?

We can say you reach a realm at the edge of mind and matter because breathing and thoughts have both stopped, and you're moving into a stage of peace and quiet. The state of cessation, however, is still just another phenomena--it's just the result of being able to stop, but it is not that thing which enables you to stop.

It's a phenomenal state of emptiness and clarity, so it's still a phenomenon which exists in opposition to mental business.

That thing which CAN stop is the substance of mind, whereas this stage is just a function of the mind. It's not the mind itself, just one of its activities or projections. So at this point, you are still within the phenomena arising out of the mind.

This first step of cessation or shamatha is just the phenomenon of stopping miscellaneous thoughts which are like bubbles that arise and then burst, or disappear. So at this stage you stop blowing the bubbles any more--and at this stage you can see this process of creation and destruction all very clearly.

All your thoughts were originally empty, so they arise and then they're gone, returning to their original state. Hence after this first stage you'll finally know emptiness, so you start observing emptiness. You know the original nature of these thoughts is empty, and so you observe the state of thoughtless calm which we call "observing emptiness".

I hope this all makes more sense than just saying "breathing practice to reach emptiness."

Within this emptiness, there is still something that can be aware and know, and this is what gives rise to thoughts. Hence from within this clean purity you can produce all sorts of illusory things. They seem to exist but their existence is very illusory, so at this point we can know and clearly see emptiness, phenomena, and the emptiness of both of them.

At this point we know that all phenomena are false and yet in some sense they're also true. But in terms of cultivation, the big breakthrough is that we see their falsity, or emptiness. This is why the Hinayana Arhats, when they see that all phenomena are illusory, want nothing to do with them. They think, " I'd rather be in emptiness" and they don't want to help others in the world of phenomena, but just stay clean themselves.

In the Mahayana school, however, you know that things are illusory but they also exist, and yet their existence is subtle and illusory. Thus we say the world is a case of "false existence" because you know conventional reality isn't true, and at the same time we call it "miraculous existence" because its interlinked nature that is absent of reality somehow has some reality to it.

So during cessation you observe emptiness and existence--a set of dialectic opposites we call the real and non-real, reality and non-reality, truth and falsity, existence and non-existence, emptiness and phenomena.

That's what you observe. Before we said your thoughts, or breath, but later you observe anything and everything since all experiential realms are interdependent origination, without a self.

The final state of observation approaches the actual substance of mind where you observe that both existence and non-existence are not true, and yet both existence and non-existence are true. Emptiness (samadhi) and phenomena are both false, and emptiness and phenomena are also both valid.

This is Madhyamika, or the Middle Way, where you can say that emptiness and phenomena co-exist but you don't abide in either: you perceive both realms, but fall into neither.

Naturally, this is a stage of enlightenment, and I hope through these lessons (and my books and free articles on the website) to give you enough instructions for you to get there. But you need to know the way and the path, and this is it.

Yes, you rest your mental realm in the quiet of samadhi, and yes you allow the phenomenal world (including the physical body) to continually transform about you without your falling into clinging, but THAT which knows is freely born and doesn't abide in either of these states.

There's no affirmation or negation or arguing in this state, there's just the middle way. This is the true path of observation--observing emptiness and phenomena-- the middle way of prajna. And this is also philosophy, science, psychology, and the study of essence. But in our explanation, it's just the step of observation.

After you understand this, you proceed to another step called "returning", which means returning to one's original nature, or "original face". What are you returning to?

That return is the whole purpose of meditation. Sure you'll become prettier, get healthier, live longer, change your fortune for the better and so forth from meditation, but this is what we are ultimately after.

So there's still more lessons to come. For now, practice meditating by watching your breath as instructed. "When you watch your breath, you will reach cessation naturally. When your breathing stops, your mind will stop."

That's the basis of meditation methods based on breathing...

There are over 300 different breathing practices you can use in cultivation, called "pranayama" or "anapana" exercises. However, the basic principle behind all these techniques is that you calm your breath through meditation to the point where it seems as if your external breathing has ceased altogether.

That stage is called "kumbhaka" in yoga, and people first practice to attain it using forceful techniques, doing alternate nostril breathing and retention exercises, so that they can more easily later reach this state naturally without force.

As the Indian yoga master Patanjali said, "The cessation between the in-breath and out-breath is [true] pranayama." The Hindu Hatha Yoga Pradipika also says, "When the breath is irregular, then the mind will be unsteady, but when the breath is controlled, then the mind will also be controlled, calm and one-pointed."

Hence in the world's various breathing practices, focus on the ESSENTIAL. You must reach a stage of cultivation where your chi becomes so full, because your mind is empty and because of sexual restraint, that your breathing can cease naturally. Then you'll reach the state of cessation naturally.

BINGO! All the meditation methods of the world try to get you to achieve the same stages of kung-fu (gong-fu).

You must meditate by letting go of thoughts and giving your mind a rest and reach a state of relaxation wherein your coarse inhalations and exhalations have also ceased while you remain perfectly relaxed and totally aware. If you can reach this state, your true inner breath will ignite, thus initiating the state of "hsi" which signals the beginning of real chi, shakti or kundalini cultivation. That's when your body will really start to transform for the spiritual path.

Why is it possible to use breathing as a means of cultivation?

Because the thoughts and breath are related; consciousness (mind) and chi (the body's wind element) are linked. Since chi and thoughts are linked, you can calm/purify one to calm/purify the other. That's why you can attack meditation through the angle of breathing!

There are other ways to get to mental "no--thought" as well.

Specifically, mind rides on the breath just as a rider is carried by a horse, so if the breath ceases moving, then extraneous thoughts will die down. Just as salt dissolves in water and becomes one with it, so also there occurs the union of mind with the breath when the breath subsides and the mind becomes still; mind dissolves in breath and the two become one during "cessation".

This then, using the calming of the breath as a form of approach, is the basis behind many cultivation methods. They use the approach of cultivating the breathing, which cultivates your chi, to cultivate your mind because chi and consciousness are linked. Why start with breath, the wind element of the body? Because it's the easiest element to transform, that's all!

In normal activities, most people never realize they are breathing. If their breath and thought can combine, however, not only will individuals become clear about their breath, but they will also become extremely mindful of their other body sensations as well. The thoughts and breathing (Chi) can combine by letting go of the body and thoughts and just concentrating on the breath, and becoming one with it, without force. That's what we're doing here.

Since mindfulness is a cultivation method in itself, the principle of keeping the mind in tune with the breath while remaining relaxed, detached and aware, is found in many cultivation schools and techniques. But in this technique, you must not fall into sleepiness or torpor, and your thoughts mustn't remained scattered as in everyday activities. Remember, wandering thoughts are discriminative thinking, and you don't push them away or suppress them but pay them no heed and they'll die down.

Normally we're always in either of these two states--torpor or drowsiness, or the excitedness and restlessness of mental involvement. You try to abandon these two states when you're practicing the process of observing the breath. Remember, always cultivate clear AWARENESS. Torpor is not a state of clear awareness!

At the beginning of genuine anapana breathing exercises, one just watches their breath. After a very short while, the breath will calm down to become long and soft. As this external breathing dies down to a point of near cessation, the chi of your inner body will start to become activated.

However, this internal chi is not the same as the external wind used in respiration. Rather, it's the real chi of the body which has tremendous transformative power. This is the chi that will open up your chi channels.

When the expiration ceases and the mind quiets down, we arrive at shamatha. This is the state of "stopping" or "halting" but we got there by following the breath rather than thoughts. Same end target, different method to get there! We get there and then the real chi of the body, when the external respiration ceases, gets kick-started and ignited to start arising and circulating through the body's meridians.

If you continue relaxing the body and mind, and don't become frightened or tense up during this period of cessation, this inner breath will really come to life. Taoists call this the "internal embryo breathing", and it has a tremendous power to transform the physical body. So if you can stay in this state of internal breathing without worrying about the fact that external respiration has ceased, then you can transform the body quickly and enter into deep samadhi.

That's what you want.

We can therefore summarize this process as: calming the body and the breath until respiration ceases--perhaps from the process of counting the breaths--and then letting this cessation conjoin with mental emptiness (absence of discriminative thought). At this point the real chi of the body will arise, which is the precursor of kundalini, and one can enter into samadhi.

At the point you have reached cessation or shamatha or halting or stopping, you must begin to concentrate on cultivating the mind rather than the body. This is the stage of vipashyana, which means contemplating or letting prajna transcendental wisdom function.

In the Tien-tai school, these two stages of shamatha and vipashyana are called cessation and observation (contemplation), samadhi and wisdom, or chih and guan. In this initial stage, the workings of the mind slow down and seem to stop, like a glass filled with dirty water whose dirtiness settles; if you put the glass down, slowly the dirt and dust inside will sink and settle, and you'll get the clarity of samadhi. This is the Mahayana samadhi.

The stages of the four dhyana (Samadhi) of Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Tantra and yoga are all included in this practice, but in progressing further you don't pay attention to these as they occur and you don't even think of stages of meditation but just let them be. Let the mind rest and it will naturally clean itself and become pure and clear.

This cessation is the correct cessation.

The Zen school describes this state as, "Everything is crystal clear, there are no wandering thoughts, no scattered thoughts; it's like 10,000 miles of clear sky empty of clouds." This is samadhi.

What is samadhi? It is that state which is not sunk in drowsiness, sleepiness, forgetfulness, lethargy or torpor such as when we're sleeping or "blanked out". It is also not restless or scattered, which is the state of excitedness or movement. The state of observation is very clear, crisp and aware and if you can maintain this state of open observation, then prajna wisdom will arise.

After you arrive at this stage of mental stability, or cessation, what do you observe? And at this stage of cessation, what is it that has stopped or ceased?

We can say you reach a realm at the edge of mind and matter because breathing and thoughts have both stopped, and you're moving into a stage of peace and quiet. The state of cessation, however, is still just another phenomena--it's just the result of being able to stop, but it is not that thing which enables you to stop.

It's a phenomenal state of emptiness and clarity, so it's still a phenomenon which exists in opposition to mental business.

That thing which CAN stop is the substance of mind, whereas this stage is just a function of the mind. It's not the mind itself, just one of its activities or projections. So at this point, you are still within the phenomena arising out of the mind.

This first step of cessation or shamatha is just the phenomenon of stopping miscellaneous thoughts which are like bubbles that arise and then burst, or disappear. So at this stage you stop blowing the bubbles any more--and at this stage you can see this process of creation and destruction all very clearly.

All your thoughts were originally empty, so they arise and then they're gone, returning to their original state. Hence after this first stage you'll finally know emptiness, so you start observing emptiness. You know the original nature of these thoughts is empty, and so you observe the state of thoughtless calm which we call "observing emptiness".

I hope this all makes more sense than just saying "breathing practice to reach emptiness."

Within this emptiness, there is still something that can be aware and know, and this is what gives rise to thoughts. Hence from within this clean purity you can produce all sorts of illusory things. They seem to exist but their existence is very illusory, so at this point we can know and clearly see emptiness, phenomena, and the emptiness of both of them.

At this point we know that all phenomena are false and yet in some sense they're also true. But in terms of cultivation, the big breakthrough is that we see their falsity, or emptiness. This is why the Hinayana Arhats, when they see that all phenomena are illusory, want nothing to do with them. They think, " I'd rather be in emptiness" and they don't want to help others in the world of phenomena, but just stay clean themselves.

In the Mahayana school, however, you know that things are illusory but they also exist, and yet their existence is subtle and illusory. Thus we say the world is a case of "false existence" because you know conventional reality isn't true, and at the same time we call it "miraculous existence" because its interlinked nature that is absent of reality somehow has some reality to it.

So during cessation you observe emptiness and existence--a set of dialectic opposites we call the real and non-real, reality and non-reality, truth and falsity, existence and non-existence, emptiness and phenomena.

That's what you observe. Before we said your thoughts, or breath, but later you observe anything and everything since all experiential realms are interdependent origination, without a self.

The final state of observation approaches the actual substance of mind where you observe that both existence and non-existence are not true, and yet both existence and non-existence are true. Emptiness (samadhi) and phenomena are both false, and emptiness and phenomena are also both valid.

This is Madhyamika, or the Middle Way, where you can say that emptiness and phenomena co-exist but you don't abide in either: you perceive both realms, but fall into neither.

Naturally, this is a stage of enlightenment, and I hope through these lessons (and my books and free articles on the website) to give you enough instructions for you to get there. But you need to know the way and the path, and this is it.

Yes, you rest your mental realm in the quiet of samadhi, and yes you allow the phenomenal world (including the physical body) to continually transform about you without your falling into clinging, but THAT which knows is freely born and doesn't abide in either of these states.

There's no affirmation or negation or arguing in this state, there's just the middle way. This is the true path of observation--observing emptiness and phenomena-- the middle way of prajna. And this is also philosophy, science, psychology, and the study of essence. But in our explanation, it's just the step of observation.

After you understand this, you proceed to another step called "returning", which means returning to one's original nature, or "original face". What are you returning to?

That return is the whole purpose of meditation. Sure you'll become prettier, get healthier, live longer, change your fortune for the better and so forth from meditation, but this is what we are ultimately after.

So there's still more lessons to come. For now, practice meditating by watching your breath as instructed.




 



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