Foundation of All Practice
Commentary on the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing
in Awakening of the Heart (p. 15-19). Parallax Press.
In the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, in Pali the Anapanasati Sutta, the Buddha shows us how to transform our fear, despair, anger, and craving. Breathing is a means of awakening and maintaining full attention in order to look carefully, long, and deeply, see the nature of all things, and arrive at liberation. The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing is the Buddha’s way to help us remember to breathe and to enjoy our breath.
When you breathe in slowly, mindfully, you can enjoy your in-breath. Just breathing in can make you very happy. Allow yourself to be happy while breathing in. You know that many people have stuffy noses. They don’t enjoy their in-breath very much. So if you’re able to breathe freely, that’s already something good. You know that breathing out freely helps release toxins and that is something wonderful and healthy. For those of us who enjoy breathing in and out, this is already the practice of peace and happiness. Peace and happiness are already there inside of you and around you. We all have the tendency to run away from suffering. But the fact is that without suffering, there is no way to cultivate understanding and compassion. I don’t want to send my friends and children to a place without suffering, because a place without suffering is a place without understanding and compassion. Without understanding and compassion, there can be no happiness. In Plum Village, where I live, we have a lotus pond. A lotus can never grow without mud. We cannot plant a lotus in a bowl of marbles. So just as the mud plays a very vital role in bringing out the lotus, suffering plays a vital role in bringing out understanding and compassion. When we embrace our suffering and look deeply into it, we can learn a lot. In Buddhism, we often speak of taking refuge in the Buddha. The Buddha is not a person outside of us, but the energy of mindfulness, concentration, and insight in us. We have the seeds of compassion in us. There are times when we are capable of understanding and capable of being compassionate. The energy of understanding and compassion can be generated from within us. That is the energy of the Buddha inside. The Buddha is always there within you, and you can touch the Buddha at any time you like. One of the ways to reach the Buddha, anytime and anywhere, is through your breath.