The Quotable Thanissaro

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Nov 01, 2016 7:49 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I was reading a translation of Ajaan Chah, a Dhamma talk where I was trying to decide whether it deserved to be translated anew. Things were going along well for a couple of pages. Then all of a sudden, there was a passage where, in the original, Ajaan Chah talks about how important it is to understand the truth about dukkha, stress or suffering, and the cause of dukkha, so that you can learn how to stop the cause and, in that way, stop suffering. But the translation said you want to learn about dukkha because that, in and of itself, would stop the suffering. The activity of doing something to stop the cause was dropped entirely. This is so typical of Western Dhamma.
From: Choosing Sides by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Nov 02, 2016 8:03 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I was talking recently to someone who had given a gift to a lay-run meditation center last year. He came back this year to find that it had disappeared. When he asked the people at the center about it, they said, “Well, that’s impermanence,” which is not the Dhamma of the Buddha.

There’s a danger in trying to boil the Dhamma down to just a few principles – like the idea that all the Dhamma teachings come down to the three characteristics, that you just have to accept that things are impermanent, stressful, not self, and let it go at that. The Buddha didn’t teach that way. That was a particular teaching to be applied in particular circumstances. But he also taught much larger frameworks that encompass a much larger picture. He actually taught Dhamma and Vinaya – and we tend to forget that.

The Vinaya is not just rules. It also includes protocols, patterns for behaviour. It’s through the Vinaya that you get a sense of how the Buddha would apply some of the more abstract principles to specific situations. A lot of the protocols have to do with learning how to look after the people around you, learning how to look after the things around you. This is an important part of the practice.
From: Sensitivity Through Generosity by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Nov 03, 2016 6:37 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Yet right and wrong have gotten a bad rap in Western Buddhist circles, largely because of the ways in which we have seen right and wrong abused in our own culture — as when one person tries to impose arbitrary standards or mean-spirited punishments on others, or hypocritically demands that others obey standards that he himself does not.

To avoid these abuses, some people have recommended living by a non-dual vision that transcends attachment to right and wrong. This vision, however, is open to abuse as well. In communities where it is espoused, irresponsible members can use the rhetoric of non-duality and non-attachment to excuse genuinely harmful behavior; their victims are left adrift, with no commonly accepted standards on which to base their appeals for redress. Even the act of forgiveness is suspect in such a context, for what right do the victims have to judge actions as requiring forgiveness or not? All too often, the victims are the ones held at fault for imposing their standards on others and not being able to rise above dualistic views.

This means that right and wrong have not really been transcended in such a community. They've simply been realigned: If you can claim a non-dual perspective, you're in the right no matter what you've done. If you complain about another person's behavior, you're in the wrong. And because this realignment is not openly acknowledged as such, it creates an atmosphere of hypocrisy in which genuine reconciliation is impossible.

So the solution lies not in abandoning right and wrong, but in learning how to use them wisely. Thus the Buddha backed up his methods for reconciliation with a culture of values whereby right and wrong become aids rather than hindrances to reconciliation. To prevent those in the right from abusing their position, he counseled that they reflect on themselves before they accuse another of wrongdoing. The checklist of questions he recommended boils down to this: "Am I free from unreconciled offenses of my own? Am I motivated by kindness, rather than vengeance? Am I really clear on our mutual standards?" Only if they can answer "yes" to these questions should they bring up the issue. Furthermore, the Buddha recommended that they determine to speak only words that are true, timely, gentle, to the point, and prompted by kindness. Their motivation should be compassion, solicitude for the welfare of all parties involved, and the desire to see the wrong-doer rehabilitated, together with an overriding desire to hold to fair principles of right and wrong.

To encourage a wrongdoer to see reconciliation as a winning rather than a losing proposition, the Buddha praised the honest acceptance of blame as an honorable rather than a shameful act: not just a means, but the means for progress in spiritual practice. As he told his son, Rahula, the ability to recognize one's mistakes and admit them to others is the essential factor in achieving purity in thought, word, and deed [MN 61]. Or as he said in the Dhammapada, people who recognize their own mistakes and change their ways "illumine the world like the moon when freed from a cloud" [Dhp 173].
From: Reconciliation, Right & Wrong by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Nov 04, 2016 1:58 am

Question: Wasn’t the Buddha a joyous and light person?

Thanissaro Bhikkhu: Yes, after his awakening. Before his awakening, it was a different matter. As he once said, there were two qualities that allowed him to become awakened. The first was not being content with the level of skill he had reached. In other words, if he realized that there was something better, a more skillful way to act, he would go for it. The second quality was his determination that if he saw any unskillful qualities in his mind he would put them out, just as he would put out a fire on his head. Ajaan Suwat used to make a comparison with eating. When you are finished a meal, you can sit back and relax. But as long as you’re hungry, you have to do everything that you can to get food.
From: The Karma of Mindfulness: The Buddha's Teachings on Sati & Kamma by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Nov 05, 2016 3:15 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:For most of us, our emotional feeding is on other people. This is the aspect of our relationships that the Buddha says leads to suffering: If our happiness feeds on things that are subject to aging, illness, and death, then our happiness is going to age, grow ill, and die as well. This is why we have to look elsewhere for our true happiness. It's why we train the mind to develop qualities inside that can provide a happiness that's more secure.

Now, this doesn't mean we don't continue to feel love, affection, and compassion for people outside; simply that we don't have to feed on them anymore, which is actually a benefit for both sides if the feeding has been a burden for both. On the one hand, the Buddha has us develop compassion for everybody. It's one of the brahma-viharas: unlimited compassion, realizing that there are people who are suffering and you'd like to do what you can to relieve their suffering. You'd also like them to act in ways that can help eliminate suffering. That's an aspect of compassion that's often missed. It's not simply a floating-around kind of wish for people to be happy. It also requires an understanding of why people are unhappy. Their unhappiness comes from their actions: maybe past actions, maybe present actions. So you want to think of them doing things that are skillful. If their past actions make it difficult to avoid physical pain right now, at least you hope they'll be able to find a way of dealing with the pain so they don't have to suffer from it. And you also wish for them to do things that will prevent future suffering as well.

There's also a more particular kind compassion. It comes out of gratitude. The Buddha recognizes that we have special connections with other people, especially with our parents, but also with anyone who has been helpful to us in this lifetime. Those connections call for gratitude, which means that these are people to whom you want to give some special help.
From: Attachment vs. Affection by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sun Nov 06, 2016 1:58 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Sometimes you hear mindfulness sold as a way of enjoying your pleasures more. The more mindful you are, they say, the more pleasure you find in simple physical sensations. This idea is especially common when they practice eating raisins as a mindfulness practice: You find there’s a lot more flavor to the raisin when you savour it slowly. There’s a lot more pleasure in the experience of drinking tea when you sip it slowly: enjoying the warmth of the cup in your hand, that kind of thing. Yet there was a psychology professor writing about positive psychology, who pointed out the fact that, of various approaches to pleasure and happiness in life — such as mastering a skill or devoting yourself to a higher purpose — the lowest is trying to enjoy sensual pleasures. All he knew about Buddhism was the Raisin Mindfulness School. When he described Buddhism, he was trying to write about it in a respectful way, but he couldn’t help but place Buddhism at the very lowest end of the various approaches to happiness in the world.

This is what happens when you try to sell Buddhism in a way that you think is going to appeal to people — teaching them that if you practice mindfulness, you can squeeze a lot more happiness out of consuming the pleasures in life. So there is that understanding about Buddhism going around out there, but it’s not what the Buddha taught.

As he actually said, the happiness lies in the actions — when you do something skillful, something noble. That’s where the real happiness lies: both because there’s a sense of well-being as you do the action — you realize that what you’re doing is not harming anybody — and in the sense that it’s going to produce happiness down the line, both for yourself and other people.
From: The Meaning of Happiness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Nov 07, 2016 12:21 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I was reading the other day someone commenting on how if you see aging, illness, and death as dangerous, it’s a sign that you’re attached, whereas instead you should just see aging, illness, and death as simply a part of this wonderful life we have, so you have to embrace it all. That’s not a Buddhist teaching. The Buddha says you’ve got to see danger in death, that it’s going to cut things off very quickly. It could happen at any time. A little clot of blood could get the wanderlust, start wandering around your system, and then get lodged someplace in the heart or in the brain, and that’s it. You don’t have time to say goodbye to anybody. You don’t have any time to give any last-minute instructions or requests. You’re just out. And you have no idea where you’re going.

And, unless the mind has been really well trained, you have no idea how you’re going to react at that point, whether you can trust the mind to make the right choices. If you can’t trust the mind to sit here, meditate for an hour, and settle down, it’s going to be really hard to trust it when an event like that occurs. So thinking about death gets you more focused on what you’ve got to do right now, which is to get your mind in shape. That can help to steady the mind.
From: Breath Meditation: The Third Tetrad by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Nov 07, 2016 11:03 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There's a lot to be covered in training the mind. It's not just a matter of mastering one single technique. I was once asked the question, "How does someone who's mastered meditation overcome the problem of pride?" After all, you've been able to master this technique; you're pretty sharp. Well, that happens mainly in places where everything is reduced to a meditation technique, in meditation centers where the people who meditate don't have anything else to do. Everything gets channeled into that one shoot at the end of the banana tree. Things may happen fast, but there's no shade. It's an incomplete training.

The complete training has to go all around. It has to deal with the way you treat other people, how you handle difficult situations. Your whole life is part of the training, and in the course of the whole-life aspect of the training, you need to learn how to see how you've been sloppy, how you've been stupid, how you've been ignorant, how you've been thoughtless and careless. If you don't see those things, you're not going to learn anything. The experience is chastening instead of pride-inducing. When the training is complete, every aspect of the mind has been trained, so that you're skilled at all kinds of activities, with an attitude nicely balanced between humility and pride.
From: Cleanliness is Next to Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Nov 11, 2016 4:14 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:This is why the Buddha listed virtue as one of a person's greatest treasures. Kings and thieves can steal your material belongings and even take your life, but they can't take your virtue. If it's uncompromising, your virtue protects you from any true danger from now until you reach nirvana.

Even if you're not ready to accept the teaching on karma and rebirth, the Buddha still recommended an absolute standard of virtue. As he told the Kalamas, if you decide to act skillfully at all times, harming no one, then even if it turned out that there was no life after death, you'd still come out ahead, for you would have been able to live and die with a clear conscience — something that no amount of money or political influence can buy.
From: Getting the Message by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Nov 14, 2016 12:25 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:As we noted in Chapter One, we in the West — beginning with the European Romantics and American Transcendentalists — have long assumed that cosmology is the rightful sphere of the physical sciences, while religion should limit itself to the care of the human psyche. But one of the central insights of the Buddha's awakening is that events on the micro scale in the mind actually shape experiences on the macro scale in time and space. If we can't question the clear line our culture draws between psychology and cosmology, we won't be in a position to appreciate the ways in which the Buddha's insight on this issue can actually help bring suffering to an end.
From: The Truth of Rebirth: And Why it Matters for Buddhist Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Nov 14, 2016 10:24 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There’s a passage in one of Ajaan Maha Boowa’s Dhamma talks where he’s saying to the monks, “Suppose the Buddha were able to see your defilements. Don’t you think he’d be disgusted?” I’ve heard people react to that, saying that the Buddha wouldn’t be disgusted with us. The Buddha would love us; he would be compassionate toward us. To say that is really to define yourself very intensely with your defilements. Our attitude is, “Love me, love my defilements.”

But it’s because the Buddha has compassion for us that he points out that the mind has defilements and that they can be removed. That’s the important point: The fact that there’s a defilement doesn’t mean there’s a permanent stain on the mind. It’s not like grape juice or blood stains you can’t wash out. But always recognize that these things do cause suffering, and they certainly do obscure the mind. If we want real peace and happiness, we really have to let them go.
From: Love Me, Love My Defilements by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Nov 15, 2016 9:54 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Then there will be part of the mind that says, "I don't want to think about [the Dhamma right now] because it means I've been acting unskillfully in the past, and it just hurts too much to think about that." That's where the Buddha recommends developing the right attitude toward your past mistakes. It's not inevitable that you're going to have to suffer a lot from your past mistakes. As the Buddha said, if you can develop an attitude of limitless goodwill, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity, that'll mitigate the results of your past bad actions. If you can train yourself so that the mind isn't overcome by pleasure, isn't overcome by pain — in other words, you don't let these feelings get in the way of your seeing what's actually going on — then again, the mind is immune, or at least the results of your past mistakes will be mitigated.

<snip>

So when you've lowered the walls, you can see back into the past and ahead into the future. You can start seeing the connections between actions and their results.
From: How to Feed Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Nov 16, 2016 10:00 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:When I was up in Bellingham this last weekend, I was out walking after the meal. A guy looked at me and asked, "Buddhist?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Why are there so many religions in the world?" I answered, "Because the different religions ask different questions." "So what's the Buddha's question?" "His question is: 'Why are we suffering and what can we do to put an end to it?'" "Don't you just hate that question?" he said. I said, "No, I think it's a pretty good question." The fact that there's suffering is something you might not like, and it's natural not to like it, but it would be strange to hate the question of why it happens and how you can put an end to it. We should regard this as the most important question to try to answer because it's the most useful, most fruitful question we can explore. It's a privilege to be able to ask this question and answer it. That's why one of the duties with regard to the four noble truths is to develop the path, the way out of suffering. This is what we're doing here right now.
From: Establishing Priorities by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Nov 18, 2016 11:50 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Even though we may be sitting here with our eyes closed, we don’t blind ourselves, we don’t close our eyes to what’s going on in our lives. We close our eyes so we can look more carefully, look more fully into the mind.
From: Breaking Old Habits by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Nov 19, 2016 10:15 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:so many people misunderstand the Buddha’s attitude toward happiness and suffering. Just this last weekend, I heard someone saying that the Buddha’s basic teachings are that all things are inconstant and all things are suffering. That’s not the case, either. As the Buddha once said, if there were no pleasure in the five aggregates, we wouldn’t be attached to them. They do offer pleasure. And we need to understand the different kinds of pleasure they offer, so we can use that pleasure as a means to the highest happiness or the highest pleasure: nibbana.
From: A Connoisseur of Happiness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Nov 22, 2016 5:22 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There's nothing in the world we're attached to more than our own bodies. That's why people have so many excuses for not focusing right here.

If you don't focus right here, what's going to happen? You're going to maintain your deep attachment to the body. It's not going to go away on its own. Some people think they can short circuit the process of attachment by going straight to their sense of self, thinking that by cutting out the sense of self they won't have to work on contemplation of the body because the work they're doing goes deeper, straight to the root. But attachment is like a vine: You can't find the root until you take hold of the nearest branch and trace it back. You can't really get to the root of your attachment to self until you've looked at where your most blatant day-to-day, moment-to-moment attachment is: right here at the body. The least little thing happens to your body and you can't stand it. A little bit of hunger, a little bit of thirst, too much heat, too much cold sets you running off. A little bit of illness and you go running for medicine. If that's not attachment, what is?

So it's important that we look right here. Otherwise we stay attached to the suffering the body is going to bring us....
From: Contemplation of the Body by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Nov 23, 2016 8:19 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Finally, there’s clinging around ideas of who you are: that you have this kind of self or that kind of self; a separate self; an infinite, connected self — or maybe you don’t have any self at all. There’s a lot of clinging in each of these cases. Clinging to the idea of no self, in fact, can be especially strong. It’s happened that when I explain to people that the Buddha never said that there was a self or there wasn’t a self, someone gets upset and accuses me of depriving him of the solace he found in thinking he had no self. By having no self, he didn’t have to be responsible for anything. So whether the idea is “I have a self” or “I have no self,” the clinging and suffering can go very deep.
From: The First Noble Truth by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Nov 25, 2016 3:50 am

Question 15: Didn’t the Buddha simply pick up his ideas on karma and rebirth from the culture around him?

Thanissaro Bhikkhu: It’s true that the word “karma” already existed in his culture, but the questions of whether karma was real, whether it bore results, and whether you had any control over your karma were all hotly debated. Similarly with rebirth: Some people believed in it, others didn’t, and even those who did believe in it didn’t agree as to whether karma had any impact on it.

So given that there was no general agreement on these topics, we can’t say that the Buddha simply absorbed his teachings on them unthinkingly from his environment. Instead, he saw on the night of his awakening that people’s intentional actions did have an impact on their rebirth, and that if they didn’t believe in karma and rebirth, they tended to create bad karma that led to the suffering of bad rebirths. That’s why he taught karma and rebirth as the major points of basic right view.

Question 16: But how could a human mind possibly know these things?

Thanissaro Bhikkhu:There are two ways to answer this question: the typical way and the Buddha’s way. The typical way — which has been typical from ancient India until now — is to define what a human being is, or what the mind is, and from that definition to decide what a human mind can know. If, for instance, you define the mind as just a brain, and a brain is just a bunch of atoms, there’s not much that it can know for sure. But the Buddha’s approach was the other way around. As he said, if you define yourself, you place limitations on yourself. So, instead of starting out with a definition of the mind, he explored the skills that the mind could develop, to see what those skills could enable it to know. That’s how he learned that there was a lot more to the mind than he had originally thought, and that it was capable of knowing many things that he hadn’t imagined possible. By his example, he’s showing how to drop some of your own cultural baggage — such as materialistic, Romantic, or Judeo-Christian views of what you are — and to try on views that will allow you to test whether he was right: by developing the same skills he did.
From: The Seeds of Karma: 21 Questions on Karma & Rebirth by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Nov 25, 2016 9:59 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Many people in the modern world come to Buddhism suffering from their conceptual framework. They're raised in a materialist worldview whose basic concepts — that life comes from nothing and returns to nothing, with a brief chance to pursue pleasure in the interim — are pretty dismal. They believe that if they could free their minds from these concepts and simply dwell in the present with no thought of what happens at the end, they'd be happy. They'd be able to squeeze as much pleasure out of the present as they could before the inevitable hits.

So they look for a way to be free of all concepts. When they come here, though, they run into concepts. They see the Buddha's teachings on kamma and rebirth, and they say, "This is invalid; you can't make presuppositions about these things. Nobody knows anything about what happens before we're born. Nobody knows anything about what happens after we die. Doesn't the Buddha say that you have to prove things before you can accept them? All we know is that you can blot these issues out of the mind and be in the present moment without any concepts, and that's happiness." So that's what they want the Buddha's teachings to be. They don't realize that they're judging the Buddha's teachings by the very concepts that are making them miserable.

The idea that we can't know beyond our immediate sensory experience, so therefore we just try to heighten our immediate sensory experience: That's a concept itself, and although it may aim at going beyond concepts, it doesn't really get you there. The Buddha's concepts, though, actually give results. They're very open about the fact that you have to use concepts to get beyond concepts, and their idea of what's there when the path has freed you from concepts is more than just a pleasant oblivion in the present. It's another dimension entirely.
From: The Raft of Concepts by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1405
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Nov 26, 2016 11:49 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If you simply follow the steps that you’ve read in a book without applying this quality of attentiveness, you never develop your own discernment. Simply going through the motions doesn’t do it. You have to watch. You have to make the practice your practice through your quality of attention, intentness. You’re not here to learn about Buddhism, you’re here to learn about your own mind. Buddhism gives you the tools. It points you to places where you might see something interesting, but it’s up to you to see.
From: The Four Bases of Success by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


Return to “General Theravāda discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: dhammapal, WontonCarter, Yahoo [Bot] and 33 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine