Anapana is the first step in the practice of Vipassana meditation. Anapana means observation of natural, normal respiration, as it comes in and as it goes out. It is an easy to learn, objective and scientific technique that helps develop concentration of the mind.
Observation of the breath is the ideal object for meditation because it is always available and it is completely non-sectarian. Anapana is very different from techniques that are based on the artificial regulation of breath. There are no rites or rituals involved in the practice or presentation of Anapana.
Anapana provides a tool to deal with the fears, anxieties and pressures across all age groups, especially children. Besides helping to calm and concentrate the mind, Anapana help people to understand themselves better and gives them an insight into the workings of their own minds. Because of its simplicity, the technique is easy to understand and practice.
The goal of Vipassana meditation is not the concentration of the mind but to purify the mind completely, by eradicating all mental impurities such as anger, hatred, passion, fear. Vipassana is the analytical study of the mind and body (matter). To achieve this, one must gain complete knowledge of the body, of the mind and of the mental impurities at the experiential level, which is done with the help of respiration. Respiration acts like a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious mind and between voluntary and involuntary processes of the body.
The first step of this technique is to develop awareness of the present reality. Life can really be lived only in the present.When one observes respiration, one begins to understand the nature of the mind. The mind is very fleeting, very fickle - this reality becomes very clear. It never stays in the present, constantly tries to escape into a past or future that is unattainable. The past moment is gone forever. Even in return for all the wealth in the world, one cannot bring back that moment. Similarly, one cannot live in the future. When the future becomes the present, only then can one live in it. One has not learned how to live - one has not learned the Art of living. By observing natural respiration, we slowly train our mind to live in present.
Another reason for adopting natural incoming and outgoing breath as the object of concentration is that the rhythm of our respiration has an intimate natural connection with the negativities of the mind. When the mind is polluted and overpowered by any harmful negativity such as anger, fear, lust, envy or any other, we see that the rhythm of our respiration naturally becomes rapid and gross. When these negativities stop polluting the mind, the rhythm of respiration becomes slow and subtle.
Observing the natural breath is a universal practice. Breath is breath, not a Hindu breath, a Muslim breath or a Christian breath. Thus, Anapana becomes universal.
The goal of Vipassana is to purify the mind of all impurities whereas the goal of Anapana is concentration of mind.
Vipassana means "to see things as they really are"; it is a logical process of mental purification through self-observation. For self-observation, one penetrates one's entire physical and mental structure with the clarity of insight. For this, we need a medium, a tool, which will lead us to the root level of the mind, from where the negativities and impurities arise - that medium is the breath. Observing the breath is called Anapana.
Anapana meditation is a way through which the restless fleeting mind can be drawn back to a particular object or base, thus bringing the mind under control. Just as an untamed calf must be tied to a stake to prevent it from wandering away, so also the mind must be tied down to the “stake” (the base of the nose) by the “rope” (the knowing of each incoming and outgoing breath) to make it calm and steady. Anapana meditation has its own immense benefits, but it is the means, not the end. It helps us to concentrate the mind, so that mind is calmer and more focused, thereby, better able to undertake the practice of Vipassana itself.
Initially, Anapana meditation was taught only as a part of the 10-day Vipassana course. However, Mr. S. N. Goenka, principal teacher of Vipassana meditation, decided to open the doors of Anapana to everybody, so that people can start taking initial steps on the path of Dhamma till the time they are ready to learn Vipassana, by attending a 10-day course.
At present, Anapana can be learnt through one of the following ways:
1. Children's Courses
The ideal time to take the first steps of this mental training is in childhood. Besides helping children to calm and concentrate their minds, Anapana helps them to understand themselves better and gives them an insight into the workings of their own mind. They develop an inner strength which helps them to choose between right and wrong actions, and gain mastery over their own minds. Anapana provides them with a tool to deal with the fears, anxieties and pressures during childhood and adolescence. Because of its simplicity, children find the technique easy to understand and practice.
Vipassana International Academy holds regular Anapana courses at permanent Vipassana centers and rented sites in different countries for children between 8 to 16 years. Generally, separate courses are organized for the age groups, 8 to 12 years and 13 to 16 years. The duration of courses is 1 day. However, 2-3 days residential courses are also available to provide better continuity of practice.
For more information on Children courses, please click here.
2.Anapana in Schools under MITRA Upakram (Project)
MITRA Upakram is an initiative of the Government of Maharashtra in association with Vipassana Research Institute to facilitate wholesome mental growth of school children. MITRA, which stands for MIND IN TRAINING for RIGHT AWARENESS also means DOST in Hindi or FRIEND in English.
Under MITRA Upakram, schools in co-ordination with VRI arranges for its students to get initial training of 70 minutes of Anapana, through audio/video instructions of Mr. S. N. Goenka. After the initial training, the school children practice this technique daily for 10 minutes twice - before their first class, and after their last class.
Instructions for playing 70-minutes and 20-minutes anapana sessions:
This is to be played in a quiet hall or room suitable for meditation.
Participants must agree to stay for the entire time of the session, observing noble silence and should maintain segregation of males and females with no physical contact.
Participants can be anyone above the age of 10 years.
The only instructions should be Goenkaji’s Mini Anapana recording. Neither the person hosting the session nor anyone else should give any other instructions, either live or recorded
There should be no charge whatsoever for attending a Mini Anapana session.
Note: Please note that someone who has learnt Anapana from any of the above sources, will not be considered as an "Old Student" in this tradition. They can't participate in any program designated "Only for Old Students".
After learning the Anapana meditation from anyone of the above ways, it is essential to practice Anapana for a short period of atleast 10-15 minutes each day, morning and evening, to get the true benefits of the technique.