Breathing Regulation in Zen Buddhism

  • Tadashi Chihara
Conference paper


Sākyamuni eventually denied Appāna-kajhāna (No-breathing Zen), a practice of hindering breathing, of inhaling and exhaling, through one’s mouth and nose. He instead taught a special state for concentrating and giving deep attention to inhalation (āna) and exhalation (apāna) of breath, or Ānāpāna-sati, when calming and purifying one’s mind, then entering meditation. There are six stages to Ānāpāna-sati, which T’ien-t’ai Chih-i (538-597) named “Lu Miao Fa Meng (the six entrances of enlightenment)”. The sage classified breathing into four ways, of which he considered “Hsi” the correct one, concluding, “It is important for the regulation of breath to be natural.” Zen master Dogen (1200-1253) said inhalation and exhalation are neither long nor short. It is (the method of) the Greater Vehicle, but it is different from the Lesser Vehicle; it is not the Lesser Vehicle, but is different from the Greater Vehicle, he said. Rather, transcending such matter, he mentions his view with regards to “sloughing off body and mind naturally” and “No-thinking” Respiratory changes during zazen through breathing regulation indicate a lowered metabolism. The practice of zazen consists of three subjects: Chō-shin (regulation of the body); Chō-soku (regulation of breathing); and Chō-jin (regulation of the mind). These three subjects are very closely related to each other. “No-thinking” harmonizes the body, breathing and mind to form a harmonious whole, whereby we are able to contemplate the real existence of changeful things. Such is the significance of Ānāpāna-sati.

Key words

Ānāpāna-sati T’ien-T’ai Breathing regulation Zazen Innate breathing 


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tadashi Chihara
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyKomazawa UniversityTokyoJapan

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