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Breath Meditation: A Sudden Enlightened Zen

24/10/201112:33(Xem: 3214)
Breath Meditation: A Sudden Enlightened Zen


Breath Meditation: A Sudden Enlightened Zen

Phổ Nguyệt, 2007

* *


In all meditations and The Four Foundations of Mindfulness, The Breath Meditation is the superiority over the dhamma. It is a sudden Enlightened Zen by contemplating directly the human heart with a clear awareness and without open hole that enters the spread of false thoughts. The breath is the liasion base from the Manas (Afflicted Consciousness) and Alaya (Foundation Consciousness)to continue the life impacting into the cause and effect of birth and death of the beings. Therefore, correct breath can not only make the body and mind stable but release from the erroneous consciousness with chaining Samsara, the cycle of births and deaths (birth, death, and rebirth: reincarnation) by the karma. What is the karma?

I. Karma (skt)-Kamma (p)

a). The meanings of Karma:

Karma is one of the fundamental doctrines of Buddhism. Everything that we encounter in this life, good or bad, sweet or bitter, is a result of what we did in the past or from what we have done recently in this life. Good karma produces happiness; bad karma produces pain and suffering. So, what is karma? Karma is a Sanskrit word, literally means a deed or an action and a reaction, the continuing process of cause and effect. Moral or any good or bad action (however, the word ‘karma’ is usually used in the sense of evil bent or mind resulting from past wrongful actions) taken while living which causes corresponding future retribution, either good or evil transmigration (action and reaction, the continuing process of cause and effect)-Our present life is formed and created through our actions and thoughts in our previous lives. Our present life and circumstances are the product of our past thoughts and actions, and in the same way our deeds in this life will fashion our future mode of existence. A karma can by created by body, speech, or mind. There are good karma, evil karma, and indifferent karma. All kinds of karma are accumulated by the Alayavijnana and Manas. Karma can be cultivated through religious practice (good), and uncultivated. For Sentient being has lived through inumerable reincarnations, each has boundless karma. Whatever kind of karma is, a result would be followed accordingly, sooner or later. No one can escape the result of his own karma.

b). Karmas and Recompenses:

As mentioned above, karma is a product of body, speech and mind; while recompense is a product or result of karma. Karma is like a seed sown, and recompense is like a tree grown with fruits. When the body does good things, the mouth speaks good words, the mind thinks of good ideas, then the karma is a good seed. In the contrary, the karma is an evil seed. Thus the Buddha taught: “To lead a good life, you Buddhists should make every effort to control the activities of your body, speech, and mind. Do not let these activities hurt you and others.” Recompense corresponds Karma without any exception. Naturally, good seed will produce a healthy tree and delicious fruits, while bad seed gives worse tree and fruits. Therefore, unless we clearly understand and diligently cultivate the laws of cause and effect, or karma and result, we cannot control our lives and experience a life the way we wish to. According to the Buddha-Dharma, no gods, nor heavenly deities, nor demons can assert their powers on us, we are totally free to build our lives the way we wish. If we accumulate good karma, the result will surely be happy and joyous. No demons can harm us. In the contrary, if we create evil karma, no matter how much and earnestly we pray for help, the result will surely be bitter and painful, no gods can save us.

c). How does karma enter the Alaya-vijnana?:

When we act, either good or bad, we see our own actions, like an outsider who witnesses. The pictures of these actions will automatically imprint in our Alaya-vijnana (subconscious mind); the seed of these actions are sown there, and await for enough conditions to spring up its tree and fruits. Similarly, the effect in the alaya-vijnana (subconscious mind) of the one who has received our actions. The seed of either love or hate has been sown there, waiting for enough conditions to spring up its tree and fruits.

d). How do we eliminate karma?:

The Buddha taught: “If someone give us something, but we refuse to accept. Naturally, that person will have to keep what they plan to give. This means our pocket is still empty.” Similarly, if we clearly understand that karmas or our own actions will be stored in the alaya-vijnana (subconscious mind) for us to carry over to the next lives, we will surely refuse to store any more karma in the ‘subconscious mind’ pocket. When the ‘subconscious mind’ pocket is empty, there is nothing for us to carry over. That means we don’t have any result of either happiness or suffering. As a result, the cycle of birth and death comes to an end, the goal of liberation is reached. (BDVE)

II. Breath Contemplation Is a Sudden Enlightened Zen.

The stream of consciousness or karma is accumulated in the unconsciousness (Alaya-vijnana, Manas) from generation to generation. Unconscious activities include the movement of the liver, kidney, heart, lung, etc..., specially heart and breath are clearly known. Breath meditation is the best purification of all false thoughts.

In fact, the breath is a string joined from unconsciousness to consciousness. From the Alaya-vijnana, the spread of lies or false ideas are carried away, or the current of erroneous consciousness is transferred to be very clear and straight-minded. Breath meditation is a dhamma of the sudden enlightened zen since the primitive period. In the Great Six Sense-media Discourse (Maha-salayatanika Sutta), Buddhda taught, "However, knowing & seeing the eye as it actually is present, knowing & seeing forms... consciousness at the eye... contact at the eye as they actually are present, knowing & seeing whatever arises conditioned through contact at the eye - experienced as pleasure, pain, or neither-pleasure-nor-pain - as it actually is present, one is not infatuated with the eye... forms... consciousness at the eye... contact at the eye... whatever arises conditioned by contact at the eye and is experienced as pleasure, pain, or neither-pleasure-nor-pain."

That is, perception and cognition are like a real eyes, real ear, nose...or clear sense organs, clear objects and clear consciousness, etc...

We need to remind the structure of perception and cognition

a) Sensations and Perceptions.

The characteristics of sensation are common to all.. First, the indvidual sensory organs are stimilated by a specific and different form of external or internal energy: vision (eyes + material shapes = visual consciousness) is stimulated by electromagnetic energy (or light); hearing (ear + sounds = auditory consciousness), by sound waves; smell (nose + smells = olfactorey consciousness) by new stimuli olfactory system; taste (tongue + tastes = gustatory consciousness by papillae; touch (body + tangibes = tactile consciousness) by a stimulus of the skin or body; and feeling (mind menal + objects = mental consciousness) whereby the brain interprets the sensations it receives, giving them order and meaning. All perceptions are conscious ones and people are aware of things they are perceiving and how they interpret them. Perceptions are limited from senses. "Sensation is essentially the process whereby stimulation of receptor cells in various parts of the body (the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and surface of skin) sends nerve impulses to the brain, where these impulses register as a touch, a sound, a taste, a plash of color, and so forth. Perception, in contrast, is the process whereby the brain interprrets the sensations it receives, giving them order and meaning" (Psychology, Wortman and Loftus, 1981). All perceptions are conscious ones and people are aware of things they are
perceiving and how they interpret them. Perceptions are limited from senses.

b) Cognition.

When we took a cognive perspective, we would offer insight. Cognitive involves the formation of the concepts, schemas, theoris, and other mental abstractions. When we cognize a part of six senses (sensations), we get a cognition. The cognitions are not limited. They are empty, broad, spacious, and with space-time.
Subject + Object = Perception. Perception + cognition + Space-Time = Thought, Concept, Intellectualism, Imagination, etc. For example, When I see a girl (eyes see image of a girl: a sensation, conscious of a name of girl: a perception), I cognize that I perceive the girl: a cognition. I say, "When I see a girl, I can say I am aware that I see the girl, that is I cognize the perception (I cognize that I perceive a girl). When I am thinking, I am aware of thinking, so on.

" Perceive a part of senses (sensation) to get a perception.
Cognize the perception to get a cognition." (Pho Nguyet)

I can know that there are two kinds of the cognition: Usual Cognition and Pure Cognition, and two kinds of Mind: Common Mind and True Mind. The Usual Cognition is combined by a complex objects such as created and uncreated objects with space and the Pure Cognition is with a pure perception, that is, with the uncreated or inattentive objects and spaceless. The Usual Mind is a contemlpation with time while the True Mind is to cognize immediately and without time. The cognition to the common Mind is
with space-time. The Pure Cognition to the True Mind is sudden state without space-time.

c) Pure Cognition.

Buddha-wisdom, innocent mind in all which is independent of birth and death, one of the three states of mind or consciousness mentioned in the Lankavatara Sutra. When we cognize a pure perception, we get a pure cognition. The pure cognition to the true mind is without space-time. It is empty, broad, wonderful, bright, real, absolute, and without space-time.

True Mind = Pure Cognition + spaceless-no time

"Perceive a first point of a sense to get a pure perception.
"Cognize the pure perception to get a pure cognition and separate it. It is a True Mind or an Absolute Entity."(Phổ Nguyệt)

d) How to transfer the Consciousness to the Cognition.

Spacethat contains a thing and the thing that occupies a volume in the space are packed-tight or coinciding with themselves; they are one. When we see an object, our eyes receive light from the surruonding object and translate it into nerve impulses that travels to the brain. Light arriving at the retina must pass through various other cells before striking the rods and cones, which cover it into nervous impulses. The impulses then pass through these other cells to be coded and organized before traveling over the optic nerve to the brain. I see the the object; in the true way, I see its light or image. The image is an emptiness on the retina and the character of the mind is the emptiness; they too are the emptiness, so we can see that object.

Time. When we see the object with a shortest period of time (ksana), that object becomes immediately inreal or It is not yet Itself; It has a ksan old (Time). When we see a first point of an object and we perceive it, we have a pure perception. When I cognize the pure perception, I have a pure cognition (without space-time). So, the true Mind is no time and the pure cognition is no space-time. The conception about these kinds of cognition and mind is used to distinguish between the Dhyanacontmplation and Sudden Enlightend Zen.

As the Abhidhamma Mulatika says, "only a dhamma that is an individual essence, with a definite beginning and a definite end in time, produced by conditions, and marked by the three salient characteristics of the conditioned existence, is positively produced". as two pannattis, another important characteristic of time and space is that they cannot be described either as sankhata (conditioned) or as asankhata (unconditioned), for to be so described they do not possess their own-nature...

Here "free from time" means that the three temporal distinctions as past, present, and future do not apply to them. That space is free from time is understandable. But how are we to understand that time is free from time, that is, free from the three temporal distinctions?

The answer to this question is that, according to the Abhidhamma, what we call the three temporal distinctions are not three phases of an absolute time but three conceptual constructs which we superimpose on the incessant flow of the dhammas. Past means the dhammas that have ceased to exist, present means the dhammas that exist, and future means the dhammas that are yet to originate." (Time and Space.The Abhidhamma perspective. Professor Y. Karunadasa)

III. Practice

Breath Meditation had been a sudden enlightened zen since the primitive time because the mind is perfectly purified and clear. "Purification of mind as understood in the Buddha's teaching is the sustained endeavor to cleanse the mind of defilements, those dark unwholesome mental forces which run beneath the surface stream of consciousness vitiating our thinking, values, attitudes, and actions. The chief among the defilements are the three that the Buddha has termed the "roots of evil" -- greed, hatred, and delusion -- from which emerge their numerous offshoots and variants: anger and cruelty, avarice and envy, conceit and arrogance, hypocrisy and vanity, the multitude of erroneous views." (Purification of Mind. Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Breath Meditaion, in the long run, is a pure cognition or a sudden enlightened method; it is perfectly clear, that is, it is never added or implicated in all kinds of moral as thinking or imagination like the other meditations. Breath Meditation contemplated from unconscious thoughts (from Alaya-vijnana) has its natural and automatic objects. These objects full of the defilements begin to give out, and the karma and consciousness in our five body aggregates become more empty and more clear. Only the Breath Meditation is the best doctrine because it permanently and naturally runs from the Alya- vijnana and it is real in the conscious activities. These objects are only used by our own force with the natural or automatic perception without involving the thoughts, imagination or with the other powers as outside or inner conditions, including that of a Buddha or Bodhisattva.

Therefore, after any ready meditation procedure, we begin to practice as follows:

When breathing in with perceiving breath in, the I cognize breath in. Because when breating is natural automatic by the sense organ (sensation) and I perceive breath in or I am conscious of breath in (perception, or consciousness), then I cognize breath in or I am aware of breath in (cognition and without time, that is pure cognition of the true mind). In sum,

* When breathing in with perceiving breath in, then I know or cognize (or aware of) breath in.

* when breathing out, and perceiving breath out, then I cognize breath out.

Sometimes, I feel breath in long, short, or hard, I know it long, short or hard, long or fast..., specially, when I hear a noise, I kwow hearing a noise...

Continuing knowing each breath within the meditation period belongs to our time.

The Breath Medition is Sudden Enlightened Zen is a pure cognition to a true Mind during four forms of behavior with the clear awareness. We can use the simple practice of four Foundations of Mindfulness. When siiting, one must always keep the clear and rightneous mind. The Pure Cognition is used with all natural, inattentive, inexpected, or random Objects and the True Mind with the simple Clarity of Awareness without time. If there is time, it becomes Dhyajna- Cotemplation because the Consciousness (Common Mind with created, attentive, or expected Objects) and the Cognition with Time. Example, when I wash the dishes, I am aware that I wash a bowl; when the water runs, I am aware that the water runs; etc... I can not say "I
am aware of washing the dishes" because "washing" is a contunious time of arising and extinction (Utpadaniroddha: beginning and end). The True Mind is cognized by the pure perception with a shortest period of time (ksana). (Pho Nguyet)

IV. References

The opening Passage from the Mahaasatipa.t.thaana Sutta:

"This is the only way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and grief, for reaching the Noble Path, for the realization of Nibbaana, namely, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

"Herein (in this teaching) monks, a monk dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief in the world;

"he dwells contemplating the feeling in the feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief in the world;

"he dwells contemplating the consciousness in the consciousness, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief in the world;

"he dwells contemplating the dhamma in the dhammas, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, overcoming covetousness and grief in the world."

Teachings From Ancient Vietnamese Zen Masters are perceived as in some following areas:


Monks! Offering your best efforts to Buddha,
all learners only need to quit bad conduct.

Be mindful while you chant,
understand what you believe,
practice the teachings you hear,
and live in a quiet place near Dharma friends.

Speak peacefully, timely; have no fears.
Understand the meaning of Dharma, and get enlightenment;
quit the ignorance, and constantly be mindful;
be calm, and live with your mind unmoved.

See all things as impermanent, non-self, uncreated, unconditioned.
Thus learners are those who have no discrimination.
(1112 - 1175)

(COMMENT: See for yourself all things are impermanent, and non-self. Looking at the person you are now, you see it is different to millions of persons you were yesterday, and you see you are just a stream running swiftly, manifesting endlessly in different forms as waves rising and falling, as bubbles forming and popping. The waves and bubbles continuously appear large or small, high or low, hot or cold, clean or unclean; but at all times, water has no form, being unmoved, staying unconditioned. Just live like water, and you will catch a glimpse of Nirvana - the state of uncreated, unconditioned peace. After that insight, you easily act, speak, and think mindfully, without discrimination. Just advance on the way to liberation; don’t cling to this suffering world again, in this life or after.)


Breathing in, you feel you are breathing in;
breathing out, you feel you are breathing out.

Breathing in, you know you are breathing in;
breathing out, you know you are breathing out.

While you breathe, you feel; then, you know.

Feeling - that means you feel the breath long or short.
Knowing - that means you are aware of the breath rising and falling, rough or smooth, slow or fast.

(COMMENT: Breathing meditation helps calm the mind easily; it is also a part of mindfulness meditation. There are many ways in breathing meditation. Some teachers prefer to count or follow the breaths. You should also try this way: With eyes half open, don’t count, don’t follow, just feel the breaths; Be alert, and feel the breathing. Just be like a baby, and feel the breathing. A baby can not think, cannot count, cannot put her mind on the breaths, but she lives mostly with a sense of feeling and she will cry when the room is too hot, or when she is hungry. Just feel the breaths, don’t count or follow it. Remember that all methods of breathing meditation are helpful, and you can try many different ones. The Buddha said that breathing meditation cured many illness too.)


Learning the way of Buddha, you must have zeal;
to become a Buddha, you need wisdom.
Shooting an arrow to a target more than a hundred steps away, you must be strong;
to hit the mark, you need more than strength.

(COMMENT: Wisdom, insight, right view... Just follow the Buddha’s teachings, meditate for many years, and you will understand the Way.)

(Translated and Commented by Nguyen Giac)

An Outline of the Path to Enlightenment

a). The nature of the mind

Beings with mind are two: buddhas and sentient beings. Buddhas were once sentient beings, but through completing the practice of Dharma they fully purified their minds of both gross and subtle obscurations and attained enlightenment, or buddhahood.

Sentient beings are also two: those beyond cyclic existence (samsara) and those within. Those beyond cyclic existence (arhants) have purified their minds of the gross obscurations but not the subtle. Samsaric sentient beings are suffering from both levels of obscuration and are under the control of the disturbing negative minds (delusions) and their actions (karma).

The mind, or stream of consciousness, is formless-it has no shape or color. It is impermanent, that is changing from moment to moment. All impermanent phenomena are the products of causes, thus so is the mind-it does not arise from nothing. Furthermore, since effects must be similar in nature to their principal causes, the principal cause of the mind must also be formless and not some material substance such as the brain.

The mind proceeds from a previous state of mind; each thought moment is preceded by a prior thought moment and there has never been a first. Moreover, each mind comes from its own previous continuity and not from another mind such as some "cosmic consciousness" or the minds of one's parents. Hence, each individual's mind is beginningless. And just as physical energy never goes out of existence, disappearing into nothingness, so too does mental energy continue forever; only its state changes.

b). How is it possible to attain enlightenment?

The mind is different from empty space, which is also formless, in that it has clear light nature and the ability to perceive objects. Our minds are like mirrors smeared with filth-our minds' clear light nature is polluted by the delusions. However, just as the filth is not inextricably mixed with the potentially pure, clear mirror beneath, similarly the delusions are not one with the mind. An appropriate method such as washing with soap and water will clean the mirror; the right way to purify the mind of the delusions and their impressions, the subtle obscurations, is to practice Dharma. This results in the ultimate happiness of enlightenment and, since the minds of all sentient beings have clear light nature, all have the potential to become buddhas. The difficulty lies in finding the opportunity and the interest to practice Dharma. (The Nature of the Mind and How is it possible to attain enlightenment? Dr. Nick Ribush)

V. Conclusion.

Kowing how to purify the mind, we need to use the breath meditation making the clearest mind. It is a way to Awakened State (jagrati) to become to a true mind. We can practice the meditation by perceiving the objects and cognizing them without space-time.

Really the Breath Meditation, a Sudden Enlightened Zen, is the meditation of knowing the Pure Cognition to the True Mind. A Clarity of Awareness (Sampasjnanin) must be daily practiced in the four forms of behavior. "Cognize a Pure Perception to get a Pure Cognition, andthe Pure Cognition is the True Mind." The pure cognition is used by perceiving inattentive and natural objects (Spaceless), and the true Mind is a clear awareness and without time.

In conclusion, it is the most useful dharma by using this meditation with the fastest time because it is a direct and sudden enlightened thing to get the final road (End) of the shortest Buddhist method (Dharma). (Zen: A Cognition to the Mind. Pho Nguyet)


An Outline of the Path to Enlightenment. Dr. Nick Ribush, retreived at the website "Quang Duc": http://www.quangduc.com

BDVE. Buddhist Dictionary: Vietnamese- English. Thien Phuc, retreived at the website Tự Điển Quang Duc:

Maha-salayatanika Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya).The Great Six Sense-media Discourse Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, retreived at the Dieu Phap website: http://www.dieuphap.com

Purification of Mind. Bhikkhu Bodhi, retreived at the quang duc website. (Buddhist Meditation).

Teachings From Ancient Vietnamese Zen Masters. Translated and Commented by Nguyên Giac, retreived at the website Quảng Đức (Buddhist Meditation).

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Venerable Cayadaw U Sillaananda, retreived at the Qung Duc website.

Time and Space.The Abhidhamma perspective. Professor Y. Karunadasa, Former Director, Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, Lanka daily News, Aug 10, 2003, retreived at Quang Duc website.

The opening Passage from the Mahaasatipa.t.thaana Sutta, retreived at Quang Duc website.

Zen: A Cognition to the Mind. Pho Nguyet, retreived at the Tang Thu Phat Hoc website:


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