Ānāpānasati Sutta

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The Ānāpānasati Sutta (Pāli; Skt. Ānāpānasmṛti Sūtra), "Discourse on Mindfulness of Breathing," is a discourse from the Pali Canon in which the Buddha describes a meditation technique based on remaining mindful of the process of breathing in and breathing out (anapanasati).

According Thanissaro Bhikkhu, this sutta contains the most detailed meditation instructions in the Pali Canon.[1]

For details on the practice of anapanasati meditation, see anapanasati.


Pali Canon

This sutta is included the the Majjhima Nikaya (MN 118).

SuttaCentral identifies parallel sections of text within other suttas of the Pali Canon.[2]

Chinese Canon

SuttaCentral identifies several parallel texts within the Chinese Canon.[2]

There is a version of the Ānāpānasmṛti Sutra in the Ekottara Āgama; this version also teaches about the four dhyānas, recalling past lives, and the Divine Eye. A translation of this text is available here:

According to scholar Tang Yijie, the earliest translation of Ānāpānasmṛti instructions, however, was by An Shigao as a separate sutra (T602) in the 2nd century CE.[3] It is not part of the Sarvastivada Madhyama Āgama, but is instead an isolated text, although the sixteen steps are found elsewhere in the Madhyama and Samyukta Āgamas.[4] The versions preserved in the Samyukta Agama are SA 815, SA 803, SA 810–812 and these three sutras have been translated into English by Thich Nhat Hanh.[5]

Related discourses

The core instructions of this text can be found throughout the Pali Canon, and also throughout the Chinese Agamas.

Pali canon

In addition to the Anapanasati Sutta, the core instructions on mindfulness of breathing can also be found in the following discourses:

  • the "Greater Exhortation to Rahula Discourse" (Maha-Rahulovada Sutta, MN 62);[6]
  • sixteen discourses of the Samyutta Nikaya's (SN) chapter 54 (Anapana-samyutta): SN 54.1, SN 54.3–SN 54.16, SN 54.20;[7]
  • the "To Girimananda Discourse" (Girimananda Sutta, AN 10.60); and,[8]
  • the Khuddaka Nikaya's Patisambhidamagga's section on the breath, Anapanakatha.[9]

Chinese canon

The Samyukta Agama contains a section titled Ānāpānasmṛti Saṃyukta (安那般那念相應) which contains various sutras on the theme of anapanasati including the sixteen steps.[10]

Traditional commentaries

Pali commentaries

In traditional Pali literature, the 5th-century 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.[11]

The earlier Vimuttimagga also provides a commentary on Anapanasati, as does the Pali Patisambhidamagga.

Sanskrit commentaries

The Śrāvakabhūmi chapter of the Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra and Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakośa both contain expositions on the practice outlined in the Anapanasmrti sutta.

Chinese commentaries

The Chinese Buddhist monk An Shigao translated a version of the Ānāpānasmṛti Sūtra into Chinese (148-170 CE) known as the Anban shouyi jing (安般守意經, Scripture on the ānāpānasmŗti) as well as other works dealing with Anapanasati. The practice was a central feature of his teaching and that of his students who wrote various commentaries on the sutra.[12]

One work which survives from the tradition of An Shigao is the Da anban shouyi jing (佛說大安般守意經, Taishō Tripitaka No.602) which seems to include the translated sutra of anapanasmrti as well as original added commentary amalgamated within the translation.[12]

Contemporary commentaries

See also


  1. Thanissaro Bhikkhu. The Steps of Breath Meditation. November, 2002
  2. 2.0 2.1 SuttaCentral icon square 170px.png Mindfulness of Breathing, SuttaCentral; click down-arrow to view "parallel texts"
  3. "The Relationships Between Traditional And Imported Thought And Culture In China: From The Standpoint of The Importation Of Buddhism" by Tang Yijie. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 15 (1988) pp.415-424
  4. A History of Mindfulness: How Insight Worsted Tranquillity in the Satipatthana Sutta by Ajahn Sujato pg 148[1]
  5. Nhat Hanh, Awakening of the Heart: Essential Buddhist Sutras and Commentaries.
  6. Thanissaro (2006d)
  7. 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).
  8. Piyadassi (1999).
  9. See, for instance, Nanamoli (1998), Part III.
  10. Ānāpānasmṛti in the Chinese Āgamas, https://lapislazulitexts.com/articles/anapanasmrti_in_the_agamas
  11. Nanamoli (1998), p. 13.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Stefano Zacchetti. Translation or commentary? On the Nature of the Da anban shouyi jing (大安般守意經) T 602, Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia, Dipartimento di studi sull’Asia Orientale


External links

Online translations

Contemporary instruction

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