Report: A. Wimoak on Anapanasati, Feb 2010

Last night we invited Ajahn Wimoak (also spelled Vimoak, or Vimokkha) Mettanando to give the dhamma talk at Ariyasom.

At this period we are inbetween the big events – last one was Sayadaw U JOtika and then the Two Abbots Ajahns Pasanno and Amaro.

Part of the intention of our Little Bangkok Sangha is to meet more socially and in a friendly atmosphere, for smaller gatherings, as well as the big events (which take a lot of work and PR).

Ajahn Wimoak is a regular teacher at Ariyasom and other places, including Singapore and Malaysia. Mostly he teaches in Thai and he has a regular group of his own meeting at several places around Bangkok, Pathum Thanee and Rayong. He has been a monk for about 9 years, but is well established as a genuine meditator. He has been meditating for a long time, formerly with a group of Jhana experts as a layman.

Last night we gave him the topic ‘Attachment and Detachment’. This question had come up during the YBAT retreat in January, and gladly the two ladies who asked about it were also able to join. They asked, very reasonably, why ‘Detachment’ is a good thing. Because it does sound a little cold philosophically.

Ajahn Wimoak turned the question into a topic of meditation. In fact, though doing a PhD in Buddhist Studies, his only real interest is in meditation and putting the teachings to work in a real way. So it is to be expected that every time he talks it will be relating directly to meditation itself.

His focus was the Anapanasati Sutta. This sutta is a famous meditation sutta, and is the basis of many schools of meditation, especially Wat Suan Mokh (we’ll be posting a review of Suan Mokh monthly 10 day retreat soon). There are 16 stages of insight in this sutta, that are not very clear when read from the sutta directly, and they need a good teacher to bring them alive and make it relevant. Ajahn Buddhadasa was one such teacher, and his exposition of the sutta remain one of the best.

Ananpanasati sutta in raw translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu’s classic on the Anapanasati sutta (PDF)

Here’s a longer, and sharper interpretation of the sutta for the very keen

There are 16 insights to be observed in the sutta, which is why Ajahn Wimoak kept saying ’16 into ONE only’. He was showing how the sutta takes you step by step into the ‘inner breath’. If you can connect with this inner breath, that is very sweet and enriching, then the 16 steps all come together. If you were not familiar with the sutta then it may have been unclear why he was saying ’16 into ONE’.

The ‘inner breath’ then, is the soft breath where one bring s the heart inside the body. In Thai the word ‘Heart’ and ‘Mind’ are the same – since some might think that their ‘heart’ is already inside the body. We can say Heart/Mind – which means moving the attention from the external body we can feel, including the breathing as it is felt by the external bodily sense at the nose and nasal passage, to the inside of the body. This kind of breath Ajahn was describing as a ‘Refuge’. His accent was not clear on this word and it may have taken some people a while to grasp it.

A ‘refuge’ in Buddhism is called a Sarana. When we bow to the Buddha statue, we are taking ‘refuge’. Ultimately only nibbana is a true refuge. But since this Super-Mundane refuge is beyond most regular people at the beginning, we take refuge in more ‘mundane’ things, such as the fine inner breathing. Bit by bit detachment grows as one is able to let go and take refuge in the inner breath. At the beginning and end of the talk Ajahn Wimaok suggested that we do meditation as an activity (which means an exercise) and then later you can connect to it more in daily life. Especially as a brief exercise just before you do anything, such as eating, drinking, or going out. Stop for a moment, recall the inner breath, and then go do what you have to do.

It  might be added that even if you cannot connect easily to the inner breath, due to your attachments in fact, just trying, or remembering it, is enough. This will still work to develop calm and insight.

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About Cittasamvaro

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4 Responses to Report: A. Wimoak on Anapanasati, Feb 2010

  1. Steven Parmenter says:

    Sorry I missed it. Sounds like an interesting and helpful topic.

    • Cittasamvaro says:

      Actually, of all the teachers we invite, and the other teachers I know personally and call ‘mentors’ I actually find Ajahn Wimoak the most useful and helpful to my own practise. For some not so familiar with the technical terms of Buddhism he might be difficult to follow sometimes. For example he described an experience of ‘being without mind formations’. In the Pali this is the mind free from Sankhara. Not a common experience – but one listed in various suttas alongside cetovimutthi – liberation of the mind. We’ll be inviting him again.

  2. holly says:

    Buddhadhasa’s Mindfulness with Breathing, based on the anapanasati, was one of the first books I found when I came to Bangkok and it really helped me in my practice/practise. But reading it is not as good as actually hearing it from A. Wimoak and feeling it with his guidance. One reaction I noticed was that I sat perfectly still, no twitching or switching, unlike the week before when I was seriously worried that I might never be able to sit still.
    Thank you, Bante Pandit, for putting his teaching in context and giving us references for more.

  3. Steven Parmenter says:

    Buddhadasa really attacks empty ritualistic practises in his opening chapter on the Preliminaries and reminds us that habitual practise of ceremonial processes is potentially vacuous and meaningless, or worse. It is refreshing and inspiring to read material that comes from such a well-grounded and reliable starting point. Wonderful.

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