Enlightenment by mindful breathing (sutra)

Ven. Sujato (trans.), SuttaCentral.net (MN 118) edited by Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī at the Eastern Monastery in the stilt longhouse of Migāra’s mother, together with several well-known senior disciples.
Present were such disciples as the venerables Sāriputta, Mahā Moggallāna, Mahā Kassapa, Mahā Kaccāna, Mahā Koṭṭhita, Mahā Kappina, Mahā Cunda, Anuruddha, Revata, Ānanda, and others.
Now at that time the senior monastics were advising and instructing the junior monastics. Some senior monastics instructed ten monastics, while some instructed 20, 30, or 40.
Being instructed by the senior monastics, the junior monastics realized a higher distinction than they had before [reached a higher stage of enlightenment].
Now, at that time it was the sabbath (uposatha) — the full moon on the 15th day of the month — and the Buddha was sitting surrounded by the saṅgha (community) of monastics for an invitation to advise them. Then the Buddha looked around at the saṅgha of monastics, who were very silent, and addressed them:
“I am satisfied, monastics, with this practice. My heart is satisfied with this practice. So rouse up even more energy for attaining the not-yet-attained, achieving the not-yet-achieved, and realizing the not-yet-realized. I will wait here in Sāvatthī for the Komudi full moon of the fourth month.”
Monastics from around the country heard about this and came to Sāvatthī to see the Buddha.
And those senior monastics instructed the junior monastics even more. Some senior monastics instructed 10 monastics, while some instructed 20, 30, or 40. Being instructed by the senior monastics, the junior monastics realized a higher distinction than they had before.
Later
Now, at that time it was the sabbath — the Komudi full moon on the 15th day of the fourth month — and the Buddha was sitting in the open surrounded by the saṅgha of monastics. Then the Buddha looked around at the community, who were very silent, and addressed them:
“This assembly has no nonsense, monastics. It’s free of nonsense. It consists purely of the essential core [heartwood free of bark]. Such is this saṅgha of monastics, such is this assembly! An assembly such as this is worthy of offerings [a direct reference to their status as enlightened, as “noble ones"] dedicated to the devas, worthy of hospitality, worthy of donations, worthy of greetings with joined palms [anjali mudra]. It is the supreme field of merit for the world. Such is this saṅgha of monastics, such is this assembly!
“Even a small gift to an assembly such as this is fruitful, while giving more is even more fruitful. Such is this saṅgha of monastics, such is this assembly!
“An assembly such as this is rarely seen in the world. Such is this saṅgha of monastics, such is this assembly! An assembly such as this is worth traveling many leagues to see, even if one had to carry one's own provisions in a shoulder bag.
“For in this saṅgha there are perfected [fully enlightened] monastics, who have put an end to the defilements, completed the spiritual journey, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, achieved their own summit, utterly put an end to the fetters that bind beings to rebirth, and are rightly freed through awakening (enlightenment). There are such monastics in this saṅgha.
“In this saṅgha there are monastics who, by putting an end to the five lower fetters are reborn spontaneously [without the mediation of parents]. They are cooled [nirvanered] there and are not liable to return from that world [back to this one]. There are such monastics in this saṅgha.
“In this saṅgha there are monastics who, by putting to an end three fetters and with the weakening of greed, hatred, and delusion [attraction, aversion, and wrong views], are once-returners.
“They come back to this world at most only once then make an end of all suffering. There are such monastics in this saṅgha.
“In this saṅgha there are monastics who, by putting an end to the three fetters are stream-enterers [first stage of enlightenment], not liable to be reborn anywhere below the human world, bound for  full awakening. There are such monastics in this saṅgha.
“In this saṅgha there are monastics who are committed to developing [the 37 Requisites of Enlightenment, namely:]
“There are such monastics in this saṅgha. In this saṅgha there are monastics who are committed to developing the meditation on
  • love (metta)…
  • compassion…
  • rejoicing…
  • equanimity…
  • ugliness (asubha)…
  • impermanence.
“There are such monastics in this saṅgha. In this saṅgha there are monastics who are committed to developing the meditation on mindfulness of breathing.
“Monastics, when mindfulness of breathing is developed and cultivated, it is very fruitful and beneficial.
“Mindfulness of breathing, when developed and cultivated, fulfills the four kinds of mindfulness meditation. The four kinds of mindfulness meditation, when developed and cultivated, fulfill the seven factors of enlightenment. And the seven factors of enlightenment, when developed and cultivated, fulfill knowledge and [complete] freedom.
Breathing
“And how is mindfulness of breathing developed and cultivated to be very fruitful and beneficial?
“It’s when a meditator has gone to a wilderness, or to the foot of a tree, or to an empty hut. That person sits down cross-legged, with body straight, and establishes mindfulness right there [before one, in front]. Just mindful, one breathes in. Mindful, one breathes out.
“When breathing in heavily one is aware: ‘I’m breathing in heavily.’ When breathing out heavily one knows: ‘I’m breathing out heavily.’ When breathing in lightly one knows: ‘I’m breathing in lightly.’
“When breathing out lightly one knows: ‘I’m breathing out lightly.’ One practices breathing in experiencing the whole body [of the breath]. One practices breathing out experiencing the whole body. One practices breathing in stilling the body’s motion. One practices breathing out stilling the body’s motion.
Nuns (bhikkhunis) are "monastics," too.
“One practices breathing in experiencing rapture. One practices breathing out experiencing rapture. One practices breathing in experiencing bliss. One practices breathing out experiencing bliss.
“One practices breathing in experiencing these sensations. One practices breathing out experiencing these sensations. One practices breathing in stilling these sensations. One practices breathing out stilling these sensations.
“One practices breathing in experiencing the mind. One practices breathing out experiencing the mind. One practices breathing in gladdening the mind. One practices breathing out gladdening the mind. One practices breathing in immersing the mind in samādhi(unification, mental coherence).
“One practices breathing out immersing the mind in samādhi. One practices breathing in freeing the mind. One practices breathing out freeing the mind.
“One practices breathing in observing impermanence. One practices breathing out observing impermanence. One practices breathing in observing fading away [the passing, the ending, impermanence]. One practices breathing out observing fading away.
“One practices breathing in observing cessation. One practices breathing out observing cessation. One practices breathing in observing letting go. One practices breathing out observing letting go.
“Mindfulness of breathing, when developed and cultivated in this way, is indeed very fruitful and beneficial.
“And how is mindfulness of breathing developed and cultivated so as to fulfill the four kinds of mindfulness meditation?
“Whenever a meditator knows that s/he breathes heavily, or lightly, or experiencing the whole body, or stilling the body’s motion — at that time one is meditating by observing an aspect of the body — keen, aware, and mindful, free of desire and aversion [hankering and dejection, greed and grief] for the world.
“For I say that the in-breaths and out-breaths are an aspect of the body. That is why at that time a meditator is meditating by observing an aspect of the body — keen, aware, and mindful, free of desire and aversion for the world.
“Whenever a meditator practices breathing while experiencing rapture, or experiencing bliss, or experiencing these sensations, or stilling these sensations — at that time one meditates observing an aspect of feelings — keen, aware, and mindful, free of desire and aversion for the world.
“For I say that close attention to the in-breaths and out-breaths is an aspect of feelings. That is why at that time a meditator is meditating by observing an aspect of feelings — keen, aware, and mindful, free of desire and aversion for the world.
“Whenever a meditator practices breathing while experiencing the mind, or gladdening the mind, or immersing the mind in samādhi, or freeing the mind — at that time one meditates observing an aspect of the mind — keen, aware, and mindful, free of desire and aversion for the world.
“There is no development of mindfulness of breathing for someone who is unmindful and lacks awareness, I say.
“That is why at that time a meditator is meditating by observing an aspect of the mind — keen, aware, and mindful, free of desire and aversion for the world.
“Whenever a meditator practices breathing while observing impermanence, or observing fading away, or observing cessation, or observing letting go — at that time one meditates observing an aspect of mind object (dhammas, things, phenomena) — keen, aware, and mindful, free of desire and aversion for the world.
“Having seen with wisdom the giving up of desire and aversion, one watches over closely [looks on free of bias, detached, dispassionate] with equanimity. That us why at that time a meditator is meditating by observing an aspect of mind object (dhammas) — keen, aware, and mindful, free of desire and aversion for the world.
“That is how mindfulness of breathing, when developed and cultivated, fulfills the four kinds of mindfulness meditation.
“And how are the four kinds of mindfulness meditation developed and cultivated so as to fulfill the seven factors of enlightenment?
“Whenever a meditator meditates by observing an aspect of the body, at that time one’s mindfulness is established and lucid. At such a time a meditator has activated the enlightenment factor of mindfulness; one develops it and perfects it.
“As one lives mindfully in this way one investigates, explores, and inquires into that principle (dhamma) with wisdom. At such a time a meditator has activated the enlightenment factor of investigation of dhammas; one develops it and perfects it.
“As one investigates mind objects with wisdom (discernment) in this way one’s energy is roused up and does not flag. At such a time a meditator has activated the enlightenment factor of energy; one develops it and perfects it.
“When one is energetic, spiritual rapture arises. At such a time, a mendicant has activated the awakening factor of rapture; they develop it and perfect it.
“When the mind is full of rapture, the body and mind become tranquil. At such a time a meditator has activated the enlightenment factor of tranquility; one develops it and perfects it.
“When the body is tranquil and one feels bliss, the mind becomes immersed in samādhi. At such a time a meditator has activated the enlightenment factor of immersion; one develops it and perfects it.
“One closely watches over that mind immersed in samādhi. At such a time a meditator has activated the enlightenment factor of equanimity; one develops it and perfects it.
“Whenever a meditator meditates by observing an aspect of feelings… mind… mind objects (dhammas), at that time one’s mindfulness is established and lucid. At such a time a meditator has activated the [seven] enlightenment factor[s] of:
  1. mindfulness…
  2. investigation of mind objects…
  3. energy…
  4. rapture…
  5. tranquility…
  6. immersion (samadhi, unification)…
  7. equanimity.
“That is how the four kinds of mindfulness meditation, when developed and cultivated, fulfill the seven factors of enlightenment.
“And how are the seven factors of enlightenment developed and cultivated so as to fulfill knowledge and freedom?
“It is when a meditator develops the enlightenment factors of mindfulness, investigation of mind objects, energy, rapture, tranquility, immersion, and equanimity, which rely on seclusion (mental withdrawal), fading away, and cessation, and ripen as letting go.
“That is how the seven factors of enlightenment, when developed and cultivated, fulfill knowledge and freedom.”
That is what the Buddha said. Satisfied, the monastics were happy with what the Buddha had said.


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