Keeping The Breath In Mind & Lessons In Samādhi

Keeping the Breath in Mind Lessons in Samādhi


Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo

(Phra Suddhidhammaraṅsī


translated from the Thai by

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

(Geoffrey DeGraff)


copyright ṭhānissaro bhikkhu: first edition, 1979; seventh edition, revised, 2017

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Unported. To see a copy of this license visit “Commercial” shall mean any sale, whether for commercial or non-profit purposes or entities.

questions about this book may be addressed to

Metta Forest Monastery

Valley Center, CA 92082-1409


additional resources

More Dhamma talks, books and translations by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu are available to download in digital audio and various ebook formats at

printed copy

A paperback copy of this book is available free of charge. To request one, write to: Book Request, Metta Forest Monastery, PO Box 1409, Valley Center, CA 92082 USA.


  • Copyright
  • Translator’s Foreword
  • Keeping the Breath in Mind
    • Photo
    • Introduction
    • Preliminaries
    • Method 1
    • Method 2
    • Jhāna
  • Lessons in Samādhi
    • Photo
    • Groundwork
    • The Art of Letting Go
    • At the Tip of Your Nose
    • The Care & Feeding of the Mind
    • ‘Just Right’ Concentration
  • Appendix
  • Glossary
  • Dedication of Merit

Translator’s Foreword

THIS IS A ‘HOW TO’ BOOK. It teaches the liberation of the mind, not as a mind-boggling theory, but as a very basic skill that starts with keeping the breath in mind.

The teachings here are drawn from the works of Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo (1906-61), one of Thailand’s most renowned teachers of Buddhist meditation. Ajaan Lee was a forest monk—one who prefers to live in the seclusion of the forest and makes meditation the central theme of his practice—so his teachings grow out of personal, practical experience, although he also makes a point of relating them to standard Buddhist doctrine.

The book is in two parts: The first is a basic guide to the techniques of breath meditation—Ajaan Lee’s specialty—and gives two methods that he developed at separate points in his career. The second part consists of excerpts from five of his talks dealing with issues that tend to arise in the course of meditation.

If you want to begin your practice of meditation immediately and fill in the details later, turn to Method 2. Read over the seven basic steps until you have them firmly in mind and then start meditating. Take care, especially at the beginning, not to clutter your mind with extraneous ideas or information. Otherwise, you might spend too much time looking for things in your meditation and not see what is actually there. The rest of the book can wait until later, when you want help with a particular problem or—what is often the same thing—when you want an over-all perspective on what you are doing.

The purpose of this book is to suggest possibilities: to direct your attention to areas you may have overlooked, to suggest approaches that otherwise might not have occurred to you. What you actually see is purely an individual matter. Don’t try to force things. Don’t be worried if you have experiences that aren’t covered in the book. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t have experiences that are.

Signs and visions, for example: Some people experience them, others don’t. They are an individual matter, and not really essential to the meditation. If you experience them, learn how to use them wisely. If you don’t, learn how to use what you do experience. The important point is to keep the basics in mind and to stay observant.

Meditation, like carpentry, sailing, or any other skill, has its own vocabulary that to the beginner is bound to seem like a code. One of the challenges in using this book will be in breaking its code. Part of the difficulty is that some of the terms are literally foreign: They’re in Pali, the language of the oldest extant Buddhist texts, colored by shades of meaning they’ve picked up from Thai. This problem, though, is relatively minor. Most of these terms are explained in the text; the glossary at the back of the book gives definitions for any that aren’t, plus additional information on many that are.

A greater challenge lies in getting a feel for the author’s point of view. In meditation, we are dealing with the body and mind as experienced from the inside. Ajaan Lee practiced meditation most of his adult life. He had long experience in viewing the body and mind from that perspective, and so it is only natural that his choice of terms should reflect it.

For example, when he refers to the breath or breath sensations, he is speaking not only of the air going in and out of the lungs, but also of the way breathing feels, from the inside, throughout the entire body. Similarly, the ‘elements’ (dhātu) of the body are not the chemical elements. Instead, they are elementary feelings—energy, warmth, liquidity, solidity, emptiness, and consciousness—the way the body presents itself directly to inner awareness. The only way to get past the strangeness of this sort of terminology is to start exploring your own body and mind from the inside and to gain a sense of which terms apply to which of your own personal experiences. Only then will these terms fulfill their intended purpose—as tools for refining your inner sensitivities—for the truth of meditation lies, not in understanding the words, but in mastering the skill that leads to a direct understanding of awareness itself.

You might compare this book to a recipe. If you simply read the recipe, you can’t—even if you understand all the terms—get any flavor or nourishment from it. If you follow the first few steps and then give up when it starts getting difficult, you’ve wasted your time. But if you follow it all the way, you can then set it aside and simply enjoy the results of your own cooking.

My hope is that this book will be helpful in your personal exploration into the benefits that come from keeping the breath in mind.

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

(Geoffrey DeGraff)


PO BOX 1409


Dhamma Paññā

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