Sunlun Buddhist Vipassana Meditation FAQ

Chinese / 中文

Under the guidance of the Venerable Sunlun Sayadaw AShin Vinaya, the Abbot of the Kaba-Aye Sunlun Monastery, Yangon(Rangoon), Myanmar(Burma), Dr. Myo Thaw, (Sunlun) Dr. Thynn Thynn and Ms. Susan Lee answer Questions on the Sunlun way of Buddhist Vipassana Meditation.

Q. 1.

Sunlun suggests strong breathing – in order to get a better idea of what is meant by strong breathing, how many breaths a minute on average is suggested ?

A. 1.

Initially, for a beginner, you may breathe quickly and strongly, around 50 to 70 times per minute, trying to be mindful of the touch of air around the nostril at each and every breath. Later, when you have mastered the rhythm, it is quite common for a Sunlun yogi to breath around 100 to 200 breaths a minute.

By breathing faster and with mindful effort, there is much less chance of your mind to wander off in your thoughts, or to doze off. The most important thing is to put in effort to be truly mindful of the touch of breath, which is building up pure concentration. Only after you have built up a strong concentration of mind you will be able to handle the strong sensation that will come in the later period.

Back …

Q. 2.

After some time, the breathing is to be stopped and the most prominent sensation focused on with bated breath – how does one proceeds afterwards – with new bated breaths and continued focus on the sensation and then for how long ?

A. 2.

When the breathing is stopped, you hold your breath for a few seconds, about 5 –7 seconds, and shift your focus from the touch of breath to the most prominent sensation in your body. The aim of holding your breath for a while is to enhance your mind with more support and strength in concentration.

Then you proceed being mindful of that sensation, that is, observing the sensation without any thoughts whatsoever or any reaction in connection to the sensation. For a while, you would be able to follow it very calmly. But some time later, when the sensation intensifies, you may not be able to stay put. Physically, you may want to move, change position, become restless; mentally, thoughts come in, you would come to react with frustration, irritation, doubts, etc.

So, you need to fortify your mind with new bated breaths while trying not to move at all, both physically and mentally and continue focussing on the most prominent sensation until the sensation is consumed, shed, extinguished completely, it snaps, comes to an end, tapers off gradually - whatever way the sensation takes it course, you follow it with intense mindfulness until there is no more.

That is a full cycle of a sensation and if you had done the full cycle you would definitely come to know the factor of impermanence in a very deep level. That no matter how colossal the sensation is there is always an end to it. That nothing is permanent, either good or bad or neutral.


Q. 3.

In the rapid deep breathing phase is it acceptable to breath with an open mouth ? Of course, this would be while paying attention to the touch of the breath.

When I breath with an open mouth, my mouth can get dry, or saliva can drip from my mouth or there can be a sensation of saliva collecting in my throat. Can I stop the rapid deep breathing to wet my mouth, dry off the saliva or clear my throat ?

A. 3.

It is advisable to breath with your mouth closed for the obvious reasons that you had already encountered – your mouth getting dry, saliva may drip from your mouth or get collected in your throat. And if you stop the rapid mindful breathing for whatever reason, you will be disrupting the process of getting your mind concentrated.


Q. 4.

I prefer breathing with an open mouth because it brings me more quickly to a relaxed state. Does the shape of my open mouth matter ? I’m aware of an open mouthed smile shape and a fish mouth shape.

A. 4.

The objective of the Sunlun Vipassana Meditation is not to get to a relaxed state but to get pure concentration of your mind ( by mindful breathing ) and then using that concentrated mind to achieve Insight by being mindful of the bodily sensation. With your mouth closed and your mind being mindful of only the touch of breath, the shape of your mouth will be irrelevant. In any case, you shouldn’t be having any thoughts whatsoever.


Q. 5.

When focusing on sensation, am I supposed to shift focus from sensation to sensation as each sensation calls to me, or do I stay focused on one sensation; and if I need to stay focused on one sensation then when do I shift focus?

A. 5.

Ideally, you are supposed to stay focused on one sensation and not shift from sensation to sensation. But there will be times when a sensation from some other area of your body become much stronger than the one you are focusing upon, so strong that your mind spontaneously shifted to it. It is like having an ant and a cow in front of you; your attention will automatically focus on the more obvious object, the cow.

But sometimes there will be many vigorous sensations all over the body and you might be at a loss on how to be mindful of all these. While staying perfectly still in both body and mind, beef up your physical and mental strength with a bated breath all the while being astutely mindful of a sensation and drawing all the other sensations into it. Eventually, you will find that all the sensations become fused into one with no notion of me or mine, that is no sense or illusion of “I”.


Q. 6.

About the Meditation Retreat, what are the dates ? What is the cost ? About how many people are expected?

A. 6.

The Annual Meditation Retreat is in Yangon, Myanmar held around every November at the Kaba-Aye Sunlun Monastery. For this year 2004, it will start on 12 Nov. Some people stay for one week, some for two, and a few others stay for about a month. Most people are from Hong Kong where there is a fully established Sunlun Vipassana Meditation Association. Generally there are about 30 to 40 people.

There is no fees to stay for Retreat at the monastery where the 91 year old Teacher, the Venerable Sayadaw AShin Vinaya is the Abbot. Generally, people who come for Retreat offer around US$ 100 a week but it is not a must. Two meals are offered, breakfast and vegetarian lunch. There are three meditation sessions, each lasting one and a half hours.

The address is :

Kaba-Aye Sunlun Meditation Monastery



7 Mile, Pyay Road, U Lun Maung Street


Mayangone Township, Yangon



Contact Person :

Venerable Sayadaw U Wara ( Assistant Abbot )

Contact Phone no :

95-1 – 660 860

Email address :


Q. 7.

I would say that my main challenge is that I don’t meditate consistently. Do you have any suggestions other than making a decision to meditate, perhaps at a specific time, every day and willpower?

A. 7.

To meditate consistently, once a day, you have to have a strong will power and determination. You have to form a habit, just like brushing your teeth and washing your face every morning. Once you form a habit, it will be like taking a bath every day, you will feel something is amiss if you don’t meditate on a certain day. You take a bath to clean yourself physically. People surely take great care of their physical hygiene. But what about mental hygiene ? You mind do get polluted with elements of greed, hatred and ignorance all day long. It does get hazy with all kinds of negative emotions. It will be like taking a spiritual bath, cleaning and clearing your mind with daily meditation.

This is how our Teacher, the Venerable Sayadaw AShin Vinaya, says to form the habit for daily meditation: “For a start, you make a pledge to yourself that you will meditate once a day every day for a week. When that ended, you start another week making another pledge “. This can go on for several weeks until you no longer need to make a pledge. It will certainly help to boost your will power and determination.

Regarding a specific time, it could be any time that suits your convenience. Some people prefer early morning when they feel freshest, but some have to rush for work so they meditate at night.


Q. 8.

Do I have to be a Buddhist to practice Sunlun Vipassana?

A. 8.

No, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to practice Sunlun Vipassana Meditation. In fact, there are many people of different faiths who have practiced and who are still practicing Sunlun Vipassana as they do not find Sunlun Vipassana in conflict with their religions.


Q. 9.

Should we learn to practice Sunlun Vipassana without a teacher?

A. 9.

No, you shouldn’t learn to practice Sunlun Vipassana meditation without a good teacher. Firstly, because you would need a good teacher to provide you guidance on the practical aspects of the proper method of Sunlun Vipassana Meditation. If you happen to acquire wrong technique of Sunlun method, either in posture, breathing or other practical aspects, it would take a longer time to correct them by a teacher if and when you happen to get guidance from a teacher at a later date.

Secondly, a good teacher would give you proper answers to your queries which would certainly arise with regard to this meditation method.

And thirdly, a good teacher would recommend you to a Retreat, either local or in Myanmar at the main Kaba-Aye Sunlun Meditation Monastery where you can expect to receive specific instructions, guidance and support.


Q. 10.

How can I be sure I am capable of doing the meditation?

A. 10.

A good teacher would certainly let you know of your capability of doing this meditation.


Q. 11.

Is there anyone who should not participate in the practice?

A. 11.

Apart from anyone who is acutely ill or acutely infectious, anyone may participate in the group practice. He/she may join in after the sickness has been cured.


Q. 12.

Can Vipassana practice cure physical or mental diseases?

A. 12.

Vipassana practice has the possibilities to cure or at least reduce physical or mental diseases but it depends on a meditator’s karma as well. It also depends very much on the type, intensity and extent of the disease a meditator is suffering from. And it also depends very much indeed on the quality, quantity and the extent of the meditation practice of that particular meditator. It is highly recommended that he/she seeks appropriate treatment available in the modern world for his/her disease and at the same time, take up the practice as well.


Q. 13.

How about mood disorders like depression? Does Vipassana practice cure that?

A. 13.

Vipassana practice has the possibility of curing or at least reducing the symptoms of mood disorders like depression. But it is certainly and highly recommended that meditators with mood disorders be treated seriously with proper treatment available while taking up the Vipassana practice as well.


Q. 14.

Can Vipassana practice make people mentally unbalanced?

A. 14.

Vipassana practice would not make people mentally unbalanced. At the same time, it is essential to practice under the proper guidance of a good teacher.


Q. 15.

I can't sit cross legged. Can I meditate?

A. 15.

Yes, you can. People who are not used to sitting cross legged all their lives, especially Westerners, encounter lots of difficulty initially in sitting that way. But in time, their bodies, muscles and tendons get used to the posture and eventually would be able to sit cross legged. You may do a yoga or some exercise that relax the lower musculature before sitting for the meditation. The purpose of sitting cross legged is that this position is the most appropriate body posture to sit without moving for a long period of time.


Q. 16.

Can pregnant women practice?

A. 16.

Yes, pregnant women can practice Vipassana. In fact, there are many pregnant ladies who continue their daily meditation at the Kaba-Aye Sunlun Meditation Monastery in Myanmar till before their delivery time. The mindful breathing (Anapana) indeed helps the circulation of both the mother and the baby in the womb.


Q. 17.

I am practicing other forms of meditation. Shall I stop them in order to practice Sunlun Vipassana?

A. 17.

Yes, you should stop practicing other forms of meditation altogether if you intend to take up Sunlun Vipassana so as other methods of meditation you have been practicing do not get you confused or interfere with regards to the proper method of Sunlun Meditation.


Q. 18.

Why should we breathe so fast and strong instead of softly and at our own pace?

A. 18.

Sunlun Vipassana practice calls for fast and strong breathing to enhance mindfulness (of touch of breath at the nostril tip or upper lip). The fast and strong breathing wards off external noises, helps to control the mind, quickly removes any kind of thoughts, rapidly establishes concentration and enables the yogi (with both physical and mental strength) to cope with the unpleasant sensations which may arise later.

If we breathe softly and at our own pace, we would be prone to get sleepy instead of being mindful, lethargic instead of being alert, and thoughts would very easily enter which would disrupt your mindfulness.


Q. 19.

Is it okay if I breathe fast and softly?

A. 19.

You need to breathe fast but if your breathing is too soft, the sense of touch (of breath at the nostril tip) might not be strong enough for you to be mindful of the touch of breath. Some meditators, especially men with strong musculature tend to take up fast, robust and vigorous breathing, while ladies especially with delicate musculature tend to have fast, soft but intent breathing without making strong noise.

The emphasis is always on mindfulness and by breathing fast and with intentness, it would strengthen and maintain the earnest mindfulness.


Q. 20.

How do we know we are breathing well in the first part?

A. 20.

The breathing should be fast, intent, and most of all mindful (of the touch of breath) with a balance between inhalation and exhalation so as not to have fatigue. It should be smooth, effortless, self-compelled rhythmic breathing with the touch of breath continuous like the touch of saw against wood.

The meditation teacher would assess whether you are breathing well in the first part. With repeated practice, you would come to know to assess yourself.


Q. 21.

Is it okay if I practice with a relaxed body posture while keeping the back straight?

A. 21.

A relaxed body posture is not very conducive for alertness of the mind and in dealing with the strong sensations which may arise later. You need to assume a posture which will enable you to gather all your resources, both physical and mental.

A suitable posture is to sit with legs crossed, the back straight, arms held close against the side of the body, and with the right fist held in the left hand to facilitate the clenching of the fist as you draw your strength in overcoming the unpleasant sensations which may arise in the later part of the meditation. This posture provides a firm base, its circuit closed and the meditator alert, ready to gather and employ all of your resources.


Q. 22.

What shall I do if I have running nose during breathing? Shall I stop to clear up the nose and start again?

A. 22.

If you have running nose during breathing in the first part, the best thing is to let it run and not try to wipe it with a hanky or tissue paper. If you wipe it every now and then, you tend to get into the habit of wiping or blowing the nose whenever there is running nose and that certainly will disturb the flow of fast breathing and the mindfulness on the touch of air at the nostril tip.

The teacher or the supervisor at the meditation session may help you blow your nose if there is too much nasal discharge coming out, but even this still disturbs the flow of concentration. You may have a napkin or a disposable kitchen towel spread on your lap to let the nasal discharge drip on it.


Q. 23.

What are the reasons that we stop at the end of the first part with an in-breath? How long shall we hold the breath?

A. 23.

The reason that we end the first part with an in-breath is to collect and strengthen our concentration and effort even further before shifting the concentrated mind to the most pronounced sensation in the body. The analogy is like when we put a thread into a needle hole, we generally hold our breath to gather more concentration to get the task done. If we end the first part with an out-breath, the body as well as the mind would be relaxed and that would tend to lessen the level of concentration to focus on to the most pronounced sensation at the commencement of the second part.

You need only a few seconds to hold your inhaled breath to end the first part (the fast and strong breathing). The objective is not to test how long you can hold your breath but to facilitate in gathering yourself and your concentration to the fullest before you let out the exhaled air very slowly, deliberately and mindfully while you are shifting your focus from the touch of breath to the most pronounced bodily sensation.


Q. 24.

What should I do if I cannot feel any sensations in the second part?

A. 24.

If you cannot feel any sensations in the second part, you should try to be mindful of the touch of your body (buttocks or legs) with the floor.


Q. 25.

What should I do if I have more than one equally strong unpleasant sensations in the second part?

A. 25.

If you have more than one equally strong unpleasant sensations in the second part, first, try to take only one sensation and watch it with your concentrated mind which has to be developed deeper. But if you cannot overcome it (because other equally strong unpleasant sensations are distracting your concentration), then you should gather up all the unpleasant sensations and observe them as a whole.

Whether there is only a single excruciating sensation or multiple excruciating sensations in the second part, you have to call upon your physical and mental reserves to overcome them. You collect your body and mind together keeping both perfectly still. You gather up all the sensations present at that moment and try to watch them as a whole, mustering all your effort firstly with a bated breath to enable you to have more rigorous mindfulness.

If this isn’t enough to overcome the excruciating sensations, secondly, you tense and stiffen your body to support the mind to get more concentrated all the while keeping rigorously mindful of the sensations as a whole.

If this still cannot override it, then thirdly, you brace your mind against it, that is, applying your mind to the unpleasant sensation strongly and firmly.

Even with these you still cannot conquer, fourthly, you should pit the resources of your breath, body and mind against the sensation. With bated breath, tensed body and fortified mind you should exert pressure against the pressure of the sensation until you are able to penetrate it, to dwell in it, watching it, without reacting to it, without any thoughts whatsoever but keeping your mind and body totally still (one-pointedness) till finally the sensation is completely consumed or ended.


Q. 26.

How do I know whether I am doing well in watching the sensations in the second part?

A. 26.

If you are sitting still without moving whatsoever, with your mind totally focused on watching the sensations, you should be doing well in the second part. If you are in doubt, you should discuss your sitting with the meditation teacher.


Q. 27.

How do I know whether my practice is progressing, improving or bearing fruits?

A. 27.

A good teacher would assess whether your practice is progressing, improving or bearing fruits. For your own part, you may assess yourself with your everyday feelings and emotions. Whether the elements of your negative emotions like greed, anger, illwill, enmity, conceit, cruelty, selfishness, frustrations, despair and the like have lessened and to what extent. And whether the elements of your positive emotions like patience, forbearance, equanimity, loving kindness, compassion, generosity, empathy, forgiveness, etc. have strengthened and to what extent.


Q. 28.

When could we practice alone without the supervision of a meditation teacher?

A. 28.

A good teacher would let you know when you could practice alone without the supervision of a meditation teacher. He/she would also encourage you to come and discuss every now and then of your progress, difficulties, etc. in your practice alone and would give you further guidance if needed.


Q. 29.

When I take up the meditation practice, I cannot go beyond 30 minutes;my legs get numbed resulting in intense pain in them, which makes me terminate the meditation session after 30 mins. If I go on meditating regardless of the pain,will there be any medical consequences? Actually my main problem is the benumbing of legs and subsequent pain.Could you please tell me how to overcome this.

A. 29.

Thank you for your interest in practicing the Sunlun Buddhist Vipassana Meditation and your inquiry. The strongest sensation is impermanent and could be pleasant, neutral or unpleasant. Paying attention to it with the one pointed concentration without any judgement, attachment, aversion, labeling and concept would be important. Please observe it as it is in the present moment without attaching the sensation to the body. When there is numbness or unpleasant sensation in a limb, the limb does not feel the numbness, it is the mind that interprets and often feels sorry for the self. Observe the sensation as you are seeing it through a microscope with detachment. Observe how impermanent it is and let go of your aversions, attachments and judgements. In our group practice sessions, we meditate one and half hour in total with 45 minutes of strong and fast breathing first in being mindful on the awareness of touch of air at the tip of the nose or upper lip and the second 45 minutes in being mindful on the strongest sensation arises in our bodies. Did you have a chance to read the book written by Sayadaw Ah Shin Vinaya: The Buddhist Vipassana Meditation, The Sunlun Way? The method is described fully in the book so I would not go into it here. If you have numbness or unpleasant sensation during the first part, you breath(breathe) stronger to keep your mindfulness on the touch of air at the nose tip or upper lip. If the numbness or unpleasant sensation becomes very strong during the second part, you can take a deep breath and gather the concentration and your physical strength with the arms close to the side of your body to penetrate into the sensation until it snaps. When you read the book, you would also have more details of the above. It is better for you to continue the meditation after the 30 minutes until the numbness or unpleasant sensation disappears. Then you could choose to be mindful on the next strongest sensation or stop and stretch mindfully before standing up. Meditation practices usually would not cause medical consequences unless you have existing injury that might require you to meditate in a chair with legs at 90 degrees and back not touching the back of the chair, force your limbs to half or full lotus positions when there is not enough flexibilities for the limbs and hip joints to do so or stand up too fast when the legs and feet are still numb. I trust you would be exercising your common sense and mindfulness to be responsible for your well being. Sunlun Vipassana Meditation practices require curiosities, determinations, disciplines, commitments and efforts. You can experience the impermanence of sensations, the monkey mind, the no-self, the emptiness, the attachments, the aversions etc. to develop our own understanding and insights. Please do your best and not to give up. You can go beyond to 45 minutes or more.

Afterthought Supplement: You must apply energetic efforts with convictions. It is important to abide by Sunlun Sayadaw's Motto of keeping the mind and body still and alert with no resting when tired, no scratching when itchy and no shifting when cramped. The uncomfortable truly is the norm; the comfortable will set us all adrift in the currents of samsara. If you could not meditate for one and half hours, please do your best to meditate one hour and increase gradually to one and half hours or more. It is most beneficial to join a Sunlun meditation group led by an experienced teacher for the learning, encouragement and support, in addition to practicing diligently on your own.