Anapanasati is a meditation method that leads to the knowledge of one's essence through the practice of mindfulness of breathing. The name comes from the language of ancient India, Pali: "Sati" means mindfulness, "Anapana" means the process of breathing, inhaling, and exhaling.

Woman meditating under a tree

The origin

The Anapanasati method of meditation was revived on this earth by the teacher of gods and men, the Buddha, a being who incarnated to impart the knowledge – the Dharma.

This knowledge is the greatest gift. Those who contact with it, if they previously had a connection with this teaching, are able to go beyond the limitations of that view of reality, which is called "samsara", and see the reality clearly. These limitations are the involvement and perception of only a fragment, whereas a certain liberation is not the perception of a fragment, but of the Whole.

Primary sources

You can know more about Anapanasati steps in the following texts:

  1. The main written source of the technique — is the Anapanasati Sutta (pali) or Anapanasmriti Sutra (Sanskrit): Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing. «Majjhima Nikāya», 118.
  2. The second sutra is called the Satipatthana Sutta — the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
    Thich Nhat Hanh: «These sutras are the fundamental texts about the meditation that was studied and practiced during the time of the Buddha. If you understand the essence of these sutras, you will understand of the Mahayana sutras deeper. The same way, after seeing the roots and trunk of a tree, we better understand the essence of its leaves and branches».
  3. Other sutras that contain recommendations for the Anapanasati practice:
    • «Icchānaṅgala sutta».
    • «Maha-Rahulovada Sutta» — The Great Exhortation to Rahula.
    • «Saṃyutta Nikāya» — Anapanasamyutta, «Girimananda sutta».
    • «Maha-satipatthana Sutta» — The Great Frames of Reference.
    • «Kayagata-sati Sutta» — Mindfulness Immersed in the Body.
  4. Comments on the practice of awareness of breathing:
    • Mahamana — Patisambhidamagga (The Path of Steadfastness).
    • Upatissa — Vimuthimagga (The Path of Liberation).
    • Buddhaghosa — Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification).

In Theravada Buddhism, monks have a tradition of memorizing the Anapanasati Sutta by heart. They believe that this particular sutra is the most important for practice. This concise text is a guiding map for the path of practice.

Buddha statue, books

Tathāgata dwelling

The Buddha defines the Great Eightfold Path to Liberation:

  • right view,
  • right aspiration,
  • right speech,
  • right action,
  • right method of work,
  • right effort,
  • right mindfulness,
  • and righteous concentration.

The righteous concentration is the Anapanasati meditation.

It is believed that the Buddha himself remained in the concentration of mindfulness to breathing before and after Enlightenment. When the Buddha went into seclusion, he also practiced this practice. It is this practice that the Buddha taught as a method of liberation from obscurations and gaining a state of realization.

Then the Blessed One, having emerged from seclusion after the passing of three months, addressed the bhikkhus: “Bhikkhus, if adherents of other sects ask you, ‘How did Buddha Gotama spend the rains residence?’ You should answer them in this way: ‘It was with ānāpānasati samādhi that the Blessed One dwelled.
One can call that pleasant abiding of the Buddha a Noble dwelling, Tathāgata dwelling. The Ānāpānasati samādhi can be rightly called a Noble dwelling, Tathāgata dwelling.

Icchānaṅgala sutta

Tathagata is a Pali and Sanskrit word, the epithet of the state of the Buddha and the other celestial buddhas.

All living beings carry the Tathagata within them.

Tathāgatagarbha Sūtra

According to this sutra, all living beings essentially possess the luminous Buddha nature. Meditation — is a way to clear the mind of obscurations and discover this nature through temporary categories, and then be able to stay in it.

Buddha-nature — the enlightened nature of the mind — is inherently present in all beings as the cause and potential of Enlightenment. In the sutras, the Buddha says that all living beings, without exception, have an enlightened nature. It is the very essence of the mind; we not only work with it in meditation, it is at the heart of all our experience

Kalu Rinpoche
Buddha statue in the temple

How to practice Anapanasati Meditation

Meditation — is a way to expand your understanding of reality.

The paradox is that for this expansion, narrowing is first necessary — unidirectional concentration.

In the Anapanasati meditation technique, there is a basic object of concentration — breathing.

Slow breathing, recommended in practice, affects the state of mind, It is a method of calming the mind. When the mind becomes stable, it becomes possible to observe more closely the thoughts that arise in that mind. It's like recognizing seeds. The seeds can grow into beautiful flowering trees, fragrant gardens, or they can grow into vines harmful to other trees. Thoughts are like seeds, the practice of meditation is the regular maintenance of the garden of the inner world.

In Buddhism, there is a detailed consideration of human nature. What is a human being? There is a theory about the interdependence of all phenomena in the world, according to which personality is a combination of certain parameters.

The Apanasati meditation technique is inner illumination of each component of the personality. These components are called «skandhas», there are five main ones.

Five skandhas:

  1. form (or material image, impression) («rupa»);
  2. sensations (or feelings, received from form) («vedana»);
  3. perceptions («samjna»);
  4. mental activity or influences of a previous life («sanskara»);
  5. consciousness («vijnana»).
Five skandhas

Personality — is the connrction of all five. Consciousness — is the basis of all categories.

What is the way to develop and practice continuously the method of Full Awareness of Breathing so that the practice will be rewarding and offer great benefit? It is like this, bhikkhus: the practitioner goes into the forest or to the foot of a tree, or to any deserted place, sits stably in the lotus position, holding his or her body quite straight, and practices like this: «Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

  1. Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.
  2. Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.
  3. Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.
  4. Breathing in, I calm the whole body. Breathing out, I calm the whole body.
  5. Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful.
  6. Breathing in, I feel peace. Breathing out, I feel peace.
  7. Breathing in, I am aware of my mental formations. Breathing out, I am aware of my mental formations.
  8. Breathing in, I calm the mental formations. Breathing out, I calm the mental formations.
  9. Breathing in, I am aware of mind. Breathing out, I am aware of mind.
  10. Breathing in, I make the mind peaceful. Breathing out, I make the mind peaceful.
  11. Breathing in, I concentrate the mind. Breathing out, I concentrate the mind.
  12. Breathing in, I liberate the mind. Breathing out, I liberate the mind.
  13. Breathing in, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas. Breathing out, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas.
  14. Breathing in, I observe the disappearance of desire. Breathing out, I observe the disappearance of desire.
  15. Breathing in, I observe the no-birth, no-death nature of all phenomena. Breathing out, I observe the no-birth, no-death nature of all phenomena.
  16. Breathing in, I observe letting go. Breathing out, I observe letting go».

Anapanasati Sutta

The Full Awareness of Breathing, if developed and practiced continuously according to these instructions, will be rewarding and of great benefit.

Since each person, teacher, and spiritual school will understand this or that phenomenon in different ways, the same recommendations can be implemented in different ways. Observing these differences, it is beneficial not to fix the mind on them in an attempt to understand what is a more "true", more authentic way, but to "combine" in practice those moments that are more responsive to your inner world.

In addition, it is believed, if some part of method has a more profoundly effect on you, then perhaps you practiced such way in your past lives. So when you continue to practice in the present life, gradually the knowledge is coming out from your previous experience.

Benefits of Anapanasati meditation

The results of the practice will vary depending on the goals. In general, the results can be classified into two categories: positive changes in this life and results for the next incarnations.

Man meditating in the mountains

How meditation can change your life and mind

Potential benefits include improved focus, the development of awareness and calmness, positive changes for the psyche and body, the ability to see reality more wisely, make rational solutions, correct behaviors and reactions.

The best way to know the positive effects of meditation is your own experience, careful observation of the processes taking place in your inner world.

The result for the future incarnations

There is an opinion, that meditation — is the purification of the inner world during life, so that during the transition between incarnations, this inner world "does not burden" the impressions accumulated in the subconscious and unconscious tendencies.

In Buddhism, there is a concept of the six worlds of samsara, wh ere sentient beings reincarnate based on the state of consciousness, karma. There are more and less positive worlds. Perhaps the places of reincarnation are much wider than the six described. Anyway, if something is heavier "by weight", it moves "down" into heavier worlds. If something is more "light" in weight, it can move "up" to more blissful worlds.

A sentient being is able to enter the Light of varying degrees of intensity, but the ability to do this is directly related to a certain spiritual "preparation" carried out during life in the body. Meditation is such preparation, because meditation is the purification of the inner world. Just as information uploaded to the inner world can influence what is visible in a dream, so this information can influence what is visible in the state between incarnations — the «bardo».

Everything that concerns the invisible level of phenomena is a very subtle topic. If you want to understand this, it makes sense to study the literature on this topic, as well as to make the practice of meditation regular, so that answers to important questions can come from your inner world.

The practice of meditation helps to be aware of the information uploaded into the inner world and, as a result, the tendencies of the mind that create karma, which determines both this life and the further path. Of course, not only the practice of meditation is important here, but life in general: ethics, virtue, the altruistic actions for the world around.

The spiritual practice and altruism — are two wings of the same bird.

The Wheel of Samsara

Liberation of the mind

O bhikkhus, the Full Awareness of Breathing, if developed and practiced continuously, will be rewarding and bring great advantages. It will lead to success in practicing the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. If the method of the Four Establishments of Mindfulness is developed and practiced continuously, it will lead to success in the practice of the Seven Factors of Awakening. The Seven Factors of Awakening, if developed and practiced continuously, will give rise to understanding and liberation of the mind.

Anapanasati Sutra

Seven Factors of Awakening

  1. mindfulness;
  2. investigating dharmas;
  3. energy;
  4. delight, beyond this world;
  5. lightness and fullness of the world;
  6. concentration;
  7. equality.

These factors lead to what is called the Liberation of the Mind.

7 awakening factors

The goal of all the practices, techniques and methods of the Buddha's Teaching is to dissolve the four levels of confusion and obscurations of the mind:

  • basic ignorance,
  • dualistic clinging,
  • mixed feelings,
  • and karma.

When all obscurations are removed, the true nature of the mind, unlimited in nothing, manifests unhindered. This liberation from all the negative, interfering and limiting factors of the mind, and the full disclosure of the incredible qualities of the mind that are revealed in this case — is the state of the Buddha.
Buddhahood — is a perfect awakening in which omniscience and the ability to see all aspects of reality are realized.

Kalu Rinpoche
Buddha and the monks

Meditation study

When you meet any self-development technique, you should remember, that its description usually contains general recommendations saved in books. But the important moment is the fact that every practice has an “open” and a “more closed” component. In order to learn the second, you need to learn from the master. The master is one who had an experience in this technique, whom you can treat as an authority. Due to training, your practice can open up more deeply.

In the east, there is a concept of «receiving a transmission». Thanks to this action, in addition to a theoretical explanation, you get the opportunity to open the door, the key of which is practice. Having experienced a taste of a certain state through practice with a teacher, in the future it will be necessary to develop your own ability to open this door. There is such a metaphor: no matter how much you knock on the door, everything can be in vain until it opens from the inside. So the teacher can help open the door from the inside.

It is believed that the first seven days after the Enlightenment of the Buddha are called Pallanka Sattaha — «a week on the throne».

In «Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra», there is a legend about how sage Vimalakirti transferred magnificent thrones from another dimension for the disciples of the Buddha. These thrones were majestic and decorated with all possible jewels. But at the same time, these thrones were so high that the disciples were not able to place the bodies on them. Then Vimalakirti advised them to thank those who created these thrones. Having done so, all the disciples sat on these thrones.

It is correct to start your practice with prior gratitude to those who have given you this knowledge.

So, with gratitude to the Tathagatas and all enlightened teachers, to all who manifest knowledge and wisdom for countless beings, we wish you to experience and practice the Anapanasati meditation method — the key to the gate of the luminous nature.


  1. The Sutras of the Pali Canon.
  2. Kalu Rinpoche «The Nature of Mind».
  3. Thích Nhất Hạnh «Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing», «The Miracle of Mindfulness».