Breathing

Breathing


The meditative practice most commonly shared by various religions is that of prayer with breath. This takes many simple or progressively complex forms. Let each breath become a prayer – this is an exhortation to all devotees.

The awareness of breath flow is the primary alphabet of meditation. It is part of the practice of mindfulness (satipatthana in Buddhism, smrtyupasthana  in the Yoga-sutras).

In the vipassana1 system no particular prayer word is permitted – that is the general impression. However, the author has met Thai monks in the Sukhothai forest who use a name of the Buddha in its Pali Language version, buddho. In Northern Buddhism, as in the yoga tradition, the use of a short mantra in synchrony with the breath is a common practice. Similar practices are included in the Jaina meditative tradition of prekshadhyana2.

One learns to breathe diaphragmatically; breathes slowly, gently, without a jerk, and without a sound in the breath; feels the flow and touch of the breath in the nostrils. One keeps the mantra or the prayer word flowing in the mind while sensing and observing the gentle breath flow.

This practice has many variations that are prescribed by the meditation guide to students of different capacities and psycho-spiritual personality profiles. For example, observing the breath flow form the navel and letting the word also flow; or, remembering the word in the cavity of the heart.

Buddhist and yoga meditation practices of breath meditation have identical parallels in the Sufi practice of Dhikr (Zikr).3 The Christian meditative tradition like hesycha4 includes exactly the same methods. Even St. Ignatius of Loyola includes prayer with breath rhythms in his Spiritual Excercises.

We read in the Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib:

Sasi sasi aradhe niramala soi Janu

Only one who worships in every breath becomes a pure person.

The practices of prayers and meditation with breath awareness are the most commonly shared ones among various religions.

1.Vipassana – ‘Mindulness’, ‘observation’, the practice of meditation as taught in the Southern Buddhist schools in Mynmar, Thailand, Laos etc. The Northern Buddhist (think Tibetan) includes the precepts of vipassana but also has a vast variety of other meditations not acceptable to Southern meditation guides.

2.Prekshadhyana. Meditation by mindfulness and observation as taught by the contemporary Jaina meditation guides.

3.Dhikr – Sufi mediation practices, including the remembrance of a name of God while feeling the flow of breath.

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