The Quotable Thanissaro

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Oct 07, 2016 10:56 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The best way is to keep yourself on the path, keep yourself strong on the path, is not to weigh yourself down with unnecessary doubts about yourself, unnecessary complaints about how difficult things are. It’s always good to focus on where things are going well, and not to keep obsessing about the things that are difficult or wearisome. We may distrust the Pollyanna approach of always looking for the bright side, but it makes the practice a lot lighter to keep reminding yourself that there are a lot of positive things about being on this path. And you find that they give you energy. You can save your doubts for your defilements. Learn how to be skeptical about your defilements. In other words, you really look at them and question the assumptions that get in the way of the practice.
From: Success on the Path by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sun Oct 09, 2016 11:54 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The best-known metaphor for the goal is the name nibbāna (nirvāṇa), which means the extinguishing of a fire. Attempts to work out the implications of this metaphor have all too often taken it out of context. Some writers, drawing on modern, everyday notions of fire, come to the conclusion that nibbāna implies extinction, as we feel that a fire goes out of existence when extinguished. Others, however, note that the Vedas — ancient Indian religious texts that predate Buddhism by many thousands of years — describe fire as immortal: Even when extinguished it simply goes into hiding, in a latent, diffused state, only to be reborn when a new fire is lit. These writers then assume that the Buddha accepted the Vedic theory in its entirety, and so maintain that nibbāna implies eternal existence.

The weakness of both these interpretations is that they do not take into account the way the Pali Canon describes (1) the workings of fire, (2) the limits beyond which no phenomenon may be described, and (3) the precise implications that the Buddha himself drew from his metaphor in light of (1) & (2). The purpose of this essay is to place this metaphor in its original context to show what it was and was not meant to imply.
From: The Mind Like Fire Unbound: An Image in the Early Buddhist Discourses by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Oct 11, 2016 5:17 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So as you shape the present, you’re not only shaping the present, but also highlighting different things in your past. So why not highlight the good things? If you find yourself focusing on the bad ones, remind yourself, "At least I had some good qualities in the past and those are the ones that eventually won out. At least they are winning out right now." If a part of your mind retorts, "While you may be winning out right now, you’re going to lose out further down the line," you respond, "I don’t care about further down the line. I’m not responsible for further down the line right now. I want to make sure that at least right now I make the right choice." So at least there is a little uptick in the general line of your life.
From: Views & Vision by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Oct 11, 2016 7:31 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Even when they try to make a science out of happiness — they ask people to measure their happiness on a scale of zero to ten. Well, happiness doesn’t come with little numbers like that. It’s all very subjective. It’s not really a science at all. So on the one hand, you can’t really measure how much someone else is suffering, and two, it’s really irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is how much suffering are you creating right now? And how can you learn to create less? That’s the only issue that matters.
From: Thoughts with Fangs by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Oct 12, 2016 10:43 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Ask yourself: “What are we here for?” There’s got to be a purpose to what you’re doing. Sometimes we hear that meditation is all about having no agendas and not trying to change anything at all. But I’ve never seen the Buddha describe it that way.

You’ve got to have a purpose. Think about the four noble truths. Where in the four noble truths is your purpose today? When you see the Buddha’s definition of ignorance, it doesn’t mean having preconceived notions. It doesn’t mean trying to change things. Ignorance means not seeing things in terms of the four noble truths.

For most of us, that describes the state of our mind. We’re thinking about other issues, other problems, usually based around our sense of who we are and what we need to keep who we are going — or around the people, the relationships we love, to keep them going as well. Those kinds of issues, those kinds of questions the Buddha said, are ignorance from the point of view of trying to put an end to suffering.

So even though you may have responsibilities in the world, at least for the time being, put them aside. The mind will be a lot stronger if you can. And you also find that there are areas within you where you’re creating a lot of unnecessary suffering. That suffering is weighing you down. When you’re weighed down, you’re less able to deal with your responsibilities. So putting the issues of the world aside is not an irresponsible act.

That’s one of your first agendas. It’s written into the basic refrain for right mindfulness: subduing greed and distress with reference to the world. All the issues you have about what you want in the world or how you’re upset about the world, you just want to put those aside. If they come up in the mind, you put them aside.

I’ve been reading different books on mindfulness and one of the strangest things I’ve found was in one book where the author said that the Buddha tells you never to interfere with anything that’s happening in the mind. But that right there conflicts with the basic formula: putting aside greed and distress, or subduing greed and distress with reference to the world.

That part of the formula means that you’ve got to put aside anything that gets in the way of your seeing things simply in terms of the four noble truths. That takes a lot of effort. Sometimes the effort requires a lot of ingenuity on your part and sometimes it’s just a matter of watching things, allowing them to subside on their own. This is an individual matter. But even just watching things has an agenda. You’re doing it because you want to understand them, or you’ve found that that’s the most effective way of dealing with that particular problem, that particular distraction. We deal with these things because we’re here to figure out why we’re creating unnecessary suffering and what we can do about it. Part of what we can do about it, of course, is to develop the path.
From: A Clear Agenda by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Oct 13, 2016 2:33 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If you want to strengthen a muscle, you need to know where it is and what it moves if you're going to understand the exercises that target it. Only then can you perform them efficiently. In the same way, you have to understand the anatomy of the mind's suffering if you want to understand how meditation is supposed to work. Read up on what the Buddha had to say on the topic, and don't settle for books that put you at the far end of a game of telephone. Go straight to the source. You'll find, for instance, that the Buddha explained how ignorance shapes the way you breathe, and how that in turn can add to your suffering. This is why most meditation regimens start with the breath, and why the Buddha's own regimen takes the breath all the way to nirvana. So read up to understand how and why.
From: Strength Training for the Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Oct 13, 2016 10:58 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Then there’s the flood of views. Number one is, “What are you doing here, sitting here, just doing nothing with your mind? Can’t you be doing something more creative?” Okay, what about the creations? What do they accomplish? And what is this voice? Where is it pushing? where is it coming from? There are lots of views that could get you to give up the practice, especially if you’re born in the West. Lots of our cultural values push us away from the Dhamma, push us away from really trying to look deeply into ourselves. We’ve got a lot of those voices within us that we identify with, and they’ve got lots of clever arguments. But don’t think that people raised in Buddhist countries don’t have similar problems. They’ve just got difference voices — different ways of getting pulled away from the practice based on views of one kind or another.

So you’ve got to have good arguments against them. If they’re going to be stubborn, you have to be stubborn, too. Sometimes they refuse to divulge why they want you to do something. They simply adopt a threatening or a seductive tone and insist that you’ve got to do it. You say, “Well, I’m not going to listen to you until you give me a good reason.” They’ll try to push you. They’ll yell at you, they’ll get into your breath, and from there they’ll get into the hormones of the body and make it seem like you can’t stand to sit here. As they say in Thai, those voices will put a squeeze on your nerves. But you’ve just got to be stubborn. “I need a good reason for why I should stop meditating.” And when they finally offer a reason, ask yourself: Is this going to take you any place you’ve never been before? The meditation promises to take you all the way to the other side of the river where you’ve never been. And the people who stand there, beckoning you: They’re reliable people.
From: Murderers, Vipers, & Floods, Oh My! by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Oct 15, 2016 8:33 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Buddha offered these teachings to people seeking advice on how to find true happiness. That's why he was able to avoid any coercion of others: His teachings assumed that his listeners were already involved in a search. When we understand his views on what it means to search — why people search, and what they're searching for — we can understand his advice on how to use faith and empiricism in a successful search. The best way to do this is to examine five of his similes illustrating how a search should be conducted.

The first simile illustrates search in its most raw and unfocused form:

Two strong men have grabbed another man by the arms and are dragging him to a pit of burning embers. The Buddha notes, "Wouldn't the man twist his body this way and that?"

The twisting of his body stands for the way we react to suffering. We don't bother to ask if our suffering is predetermined or our actions have any hope of success. We simply put up a struggle and do what we can to escape. It's our natural reaction.

The Buddha taught that this reaction is twofold: We're bewildered — "Why is this happening to me?" — and we search for a way to put an end to the suffering. When he stated that all he taught was suffering and the end of suffering, he was responding to these two reactions, providing an explanation of suffering and its end so as to do away with our bewilderment, at the same time showing the way to the end of suffering as a way of satisfying our search.

He had no use for the idea — often advanced by later writers in the Buddhist tradition — that our suffering comes from our struggle to resist suffering; that the search for an end to suffering is precisely what keeps us from seeing the peace already there. In the light of the above simile, simply relaxing into a total acceptance of the moment means relaxing into the prospect of being burned alive. The present keeps morphing into the future, and you can't turn a blind eye to where it's taking you.

This simile also explains why the idea of a Buddhism without faith holds little appeal for people suffering from serious illness, oppression, poverty, or racism: Their experience has shown that the only way to overcome these obstacles is to pursue truths of the will, which require faith as their rock-solid foundation.
From: Faith in Awakening by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sun Oct 16, 2016 12:03 am

Question: The title of your new book is With Each and Every Breath: A Guide to Meditation. Why not the far more popular “mindfulness”?

Thanissaro Bhikkhu: Probably because I’m a contrarian! Really, though, I wanted to put meditation in its larger context, and mindfulness is just one aspect of meditation. It’s not just about getting along better in your daily life; it’s also about your life as a whole. What’s really important to you? What’s not important to you? I’m teaching meditation as way to train the mind to find happiness in all situations and beyond all situations, to think about the higher levels of happiness that meditation can bring.
From: The Committee: Thai forest monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu visits Tricycle, September 16, 2013

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sun Oct 16, 2016 5:16 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:As the Buddha says, the duty of mindfulness is not just to watch things arise and pass away. Its actual duty is to actively give rise to things that are skillful and to help unskillful things pass away more quickly. This is what you’ve got to remember. Right mindfulness deals with the things you need to keep in mind as you try to develop skillful qualities and abandon unskillful ones. So if something skillful comes up in the mind, you don’t just simply watch it come and go and say, “Well, that’s change.” You remember to do your best to make it arise. When it’s there, you remember to do your best to keep it coming, to keep it in place, and to let it grow. As for unskillful things, you remember to do your best to get rid of them. Once you’re rid of them, you remember to make sure they don’t come back.
From: Intelligent about Change by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Oct 17, 2016 10:10 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So an important part of wisdom is developing compassion, taking other people’s happiness into consideration. But how far can you do that?

I was reading recently someone saying that Buddhism is going to have to change, that nibbana is no longer good enough for us, it no longer meets our needs. We need a more compassionate teaching that straightens out the world first before we all go off to nibbana.

Well, one of the problems of the world, of course, is that everybody is trying to straighten everyone else out. But the Buddha’s realization is that we have to straighten ourselves out.
From: Good Fundamentals by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Oct 18, 2016 6:41 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Which means that the uses of these [different] truths are what’s important. The ultimate use is finding out how we create a lot of unnecessary stress and suffering for ourselves in spite of ourselves, and how we can put an end to it. That’s why we train the mind.

To see this clearly, we have to get the mind still. Get the mind with one object, so it can settle down and have a good solid foundation that doesn’t shift around all the time. The more you shift around, the less you see. You might think that the more territory you cover, the more sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations you’ll see. But you don’t see them clearly. And the memory of what you do see is very impermanent. When you try to gather up that kind of wealth — the wealth of memories and experiences — you find that it doesn’t stay with you.

It’s like buying a huge shipload of lettuce, thinking it’ll supply you with all the lettuce you’ll need for the rest of your life. And, of course, the lettuce begins to rot pretty fast and after a while you can’t use it. You then have the burden of trying to throw it away.

So you need to get a different kind of knowledge, the kind of knowledge that doesn’t change. You find that it doesn’t require you to know a lot of things outside, but it does require you to know your mind very thoroughly. How does your mind process things? That’s where the stress and suffering come from.
From: Less is More by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Oct 19, 2016 6:31 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:....people say they don’t have the time to look at their own actions. They’ve got too many other things to worry about. That’s got everything all mixed up. The world out there says that the important things happening in the world are things that the politicians are doing, the businessman are doing, the movie stars are doing, someplace else, some other time, and we allow ourselves to get deluded by that kind of thinking. But the things that really shape your life are the things you’re doing right here, right now. This is why right here, right now and your actions right here, right now, your thoughts, your words, and deeds right here, right now, are the important things in your life. If you don’t have time to look at those, what are you going to look at? Who’s minding the store?
From: This Body, Too by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Oct 20, 2016 6:47 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The fence of virtue is really important. As Ajaan Maha Boowa says, “Anything in your mind that would have you break any of the precepts, you have to recognize as a defilement. In fact, anything that goes against the Dhamma: Recognize that as a defilement.” And a good place to start is with the precepts. It’s so easy to come up with excuses, saying, “Well, things are complex and I have these other obligations and this precept is a little bit too tight or tense.” Those are all defilements. One of the tricks of the defilements is that they try to make things complex so that you can’t figure out which way is right and which way is wrong.

The precepts are short and clear so as to cut through a lot of that complexity. You might say, “Well, I have obligations to my relatives,” or “I’m going to lose the wealth if I follow the precepts. I have to help my children or somebody else. It might be bad for my health.” But the Buddha says to recognize that losses in those three areas — relatives, wealth, and health — are nothing compared to the loss of your virtue and your loss of right view. So he does recognize that there are complexities, but he also recognizes that the complexities are largely the work of your defilements — the things you want to hold onto — and you can come up with all kinds of excuses for them, as we see everywhere around us.

But if you really want the protection of the precepts, you have to make it all around. As the Buddha said, when you adhere to the precepts without exception, then you’re giving universal safety to the world. Now, the beings of the world may not be safe from other people, but at the very least everybody in the world is safe from you. Once you give that kind of safety, then you have a share in it too. It’s your protection.
From: Good Fences All Around You by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Oct 21, 2016 9:18 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Years back, when I was a lay person in Thailand, I was visiting a family in Central Thailand, and they took me to a monastery where there was an old monk who made protective talismans, little clay birds that were called protecting birds. You’d get one and you’d put it up under the eaves or someplace else high up in the house to protect everybody in the house, to keep the house peaceful. The monk was very old and quite sick, but he sat up to receive us and was very kindly. As we left, I happened to notice scrawled in chalk on one of the walls, in English, the words: “Don’t love.” I was very surprised.

The first reason for my surprise, I guess, was because I came from a country where love was considered to be the highest religious emotion. The second reason was because I’d heard so much about the Buddha’s teachings on loving kindness. But as I got to know his teachings better, I realized that the word metta is not loving-kindness. It’s goodwill. The word for love, pema, is something else again.

The Buddha didn’t have much positive to say about pema, or love. There was a time when a group of Brahmans who had suddenly gotten faith in the Buddha came early one morning, getting ready to prepare food for the Buddha and the monks as they came out for their alms round. The Brahmans were making a huge racket, and the Buddha asked the monk, Nagita, who was attending him at the time, “Nagita, what’s making all that racket out there like a bunch of fish mongers?” And Nagita said, “Oh those are Brahmans who have new faith in the Buddha.” And the Buddha said, “I want nothing to do with them.”

I’ve forgotten Nagita’s precise words, but he said something to the effect of, “Please be kind. Their faith is new.”

And the Buddha said again, “I want nothing to do with them.” He added, “What do you get out of food? You get excrement. What do you get out of love? The mind gets altered and you suffer pain, sorrow, grief, and despair.”
From: Unsentimental Goodwill by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sun Oct 23, 2016 5:55 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:However, there are other desires that are not so obvious. You look at them and they don’t go away. Those are the ones you have to work against. The Buddha calls these the ones you have to “exert a fabrication” against. Later in the week, we will discuss what “exerting a fabrication” means. But for the time being, we can just remember that some causes of stress go away just by watching them, whereas others go away only when you work to counteract them. Bare awareness, in those cases, simply won’t work. This is one of the most important things you have to keep in mind.
From: The Karma of Mindfulness: The Buddha's Teachings on Sati & Kamma by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 23, 2016 8:15 pm

The previous paragraph to the above is also worth quoting:
As the Buddha pointed out, the causes of stress are of two sorts. With
some causes you simply look at them and they go away. For example, you may
have a desire that you know is stupid. The only reason it has power over the mind
is if you’re not paying much attention to it. If you give it your full attention, you
see how stupid it is, and it goes away. These are the causes of stress that go away
by simply fixing your level gaze on them.


:anjali:
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:51 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:This joyful attitude is a useful antidote to the more pessimistic attitudes that people often bring to meditation, which tend to fall into two extremes. On the one hand, there’s the belief that meditation is a series of dull and dreary exercises allowing no room for imagination and inquiry: Simply grit your teeth, and, at the end of the long haul, your mind will be processed into an awakened state. On the other hand there’s the belief that effort is counterproductive to happiness, so meditation should involve no exertion at all: Simply accept things as they are — it’s foolish to demand that they get any better — and relax into the moment.

While it’s true that both repetition and relaxation can bring results in meditation, when either is pursued to the exclusion of the other, it leads to a dead end. If, however, you can integrate them both into the larger skill of learning how to apply whatever level of effort the practice requires at any given moment, they can take you far. This larger skill requires strong powers of mindfulness, concentration, and discernment, but if you stick with it, it can lead you all the way to the Buddha’s ultimate aim in teaching meditation: nirvana, a happiness totally unconditioned, free from the constraints of space and time.
From: The Joy of Effort by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Oct 28, 2016 7:53 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Take an interest in the present moment, because this is the most interesting part of your life. We tend to measure our life in terms of our plans for the future and our memories of the past. But the way your mind is shaping your life is happening right now. This is the only place where you can watch it in action and make a difference in the choices it’s making. So you want to do your best to find something in the present that keeps you interested and keeps you anchored here, so that you can watch the processes of the mind and see what really is skillful and what’s not.
From: The Essence of the Dhamma by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Oct 28, 2016 10:10 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Unhealthy negative [body] images center around the idea that, "It’s just me who’s ugly. My body’s not beautiful like all those other people I see in the media." An unhealthy positive image is saying, "I’ve got this really cool body here. I’m pretty sharp. People find me attractive, so my body must make me better than other people." Both of those are unhealthy because they lead to unhealthy mind states.

A healthy positive image is that, "I’ve got a body that I can practice with." A healthy negative image is one that says, “We’re all equal in terms of what we’ve got in our bodies and none of the parts are really all that attractive when you take them out. So the value of the body doesn’t lie in its appearance. It lies in what you do with it.”
From: Pleasant Practice, Painful Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


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