New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby reflection » Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:06 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
reflection wrote:Without reading the book fully, I think even if one would interpret sati as "just seeing what arises", that already incorporates an amount of memory or recollection. In the end, you have to remind yourself to see things just as they are. It's sati that comes in and says: "Oh wait, I'm getting dragged along here." How is that not memorizing what to do? So while I don't know each and every teachers perspective, from my personal practice, I think this division is generally a lot less present than Thanissaro makes it appear to be.


But this is where the whole present moment awareness concept becomes a problem, isn’t it? As one practitioner put it to me “Okay, I get to where I am present with things, now what?” But this is where knowledge of what is arising is to develop discernment of how the mind concocts and ruminates. This is where wisdom comes in.

Yes, I think there is truth in what you said. But in the minds of others, the instructions of certain teachers may develop further automatically.

I find it difficult to discuss certain meditation techniques very generally. In the end everybody is different, some techniques work well for some, others do not. It's up to the student to find out what works and upto the teacher to teach methods that suit the students. Maybe for 90% of the people teaching approach 1 works, while 10% needs to be taught approach 2. This will also depend on the point we are at our path.

Of course the Buddha had a certain way in mind, but still I think we can only let the students decide whether something works or not. In the end, it's our experience. Only we can determine if we really leave suffering behind or not. Only we can determine what is important for us in meditation and what is not. That's the main reason I liked the post of mikenz66.

Still I can appreciate the efforts of Thanissaro of course and I can see where he is coming from.
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Aug 15, 2012 7:35 pm

Hi cittaanurakkho,
cittaanurakkho wrote:Usage of terms and expressions are notoriously subject to change with time from one generation of writer to another. One may say Ven. Thanissaro is nit-picking. Well, Theravada monks are train to pay attention to detail. Furthermore, isn’t the usage of the word mindfulness precisely what is worthy of nit-picking criticism considering the paramount importance of mindfulness for those who are using it to travel the path to the ending of suffering? If terms and expressions are not important, it would not have ended up as aphorism on somebody’s mom refrigerator door.

I agree, but you seem to have overlooked part of what I was saying here: viewtopic.php?f=41&t=13538&start=20#p201464
possibly because I was less than clear.

I don't have Joseph Goldstein's book, but I have read other books of his, and listened to many of his talks, so I commented:
Leaving out the next sentence in the book... and presumably much that is in the rest of the book...

In the case of Bhante G, I quoted some material from further on in the chapter where the quotation came from:
(a) Mindfulness reminds you of what you are supposed to be doing . In meditation, you put your attention on one item. When your mind wanders from this focus, it is Mindfulness that reminds you that your mind is wandering and what you are supposed to be doing. It is Mindfulness that brings your mind back to the object of meditation.

which appeared to me to be much closer to Ven Thanissaro's definition. Certainly these authors are not always being as precise as they could be, but in Bhante G's case he has written an instruction manual for beginners that doesn't pretend to be a scholarly exposition.

As for:
cittaanurakkho wrote:As indicated in the Intro of the book (p.7), there are two aspects of “bare attention” (BA) Ven. Thanissaro is criticizing: the expression BA as a synonym for mindfulness and BA as the path leading to the end of suffering. Ven. Thanissaro retained the term mindfulness to render sati (p.15) and I also do. I would like to discuss the first criticism.

While the first criticism might in some cases have some technical substance, it is clear from their published work that neither Goldstein nor Bhante G (or anyone I can think of who I have paid any attention to) are advocating the second.

:anjali:
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby ancientbuddhism » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:43 pm

What Does Mindfulness Really Mean? A Canonical Perspective, by Bhikkhu Bodhi

I have posted this article by B. Bodhi as recommended reading on other threads. This is an excellent essay and may help inform this discussion with reference to the meanings of the pāḷi sati (p. 22), ‘clear comprehension’ (sampajañña) (p.33) and how terms like ‘mindfulness’ and ‘bare attention’ (p.27) have come to be used and understood in contemporary practice.
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby dhammapal » Thu Aug 16, 2012 9:50 am

Hi,

Mahasi Sayadaw on Right Mindfulness:
Mahasi Sayadaw wrote:Right Mindfulness

Opposed to wrong mindfulness is right mindfulness, or recollection of wholesome things concerning alms-giving, morality, and mental development. One recalls how one did certain skilful things at some former time — wholesome deeds such as offering kathina robes and almsfood, keeping precepts on Uposatha days, etc. This recollection of wholesome things is right mindfulness. It is the kind of mindfulness that goes along with wholesome consciousness. It is involved in every arising of wholesome consciousness such as alms-giving, devotion before the Buddha image, doing service to one’s elders, observing the moral precepts, practising mental development, etc.

No wholesome consciousness is possible without right mindfulness. However, it is not apparent in ordinary wholesome consciousness. It is evident in the practice of mental development especially in the practice of insight meditation. Hence, in the Tipitaka the elaboration of right mindfulness is to be found in the discourse on the four foundations of mindfulness. It is right mindfulness to be attentive to all bodily activities and postures, to all pleasant and unpleasant feelings, to all states of consciousness and to all mental phenomena or mind-objects.
From: A Discourse on the Sallekha Sutta by Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby robertk » Fri Aug 17, 2012 11:06 am

here is an old post(below) I wrote about knowing the present moment- and which I think would be along the lines of what ven. Thanissaro is criticizing. I stand by it, brief though it is.
While some posts say the book is setting up a cartoon/strawman/out of context critique, I think he understands what is being said but simply disagrees: kudos to him for being controversial/ pointing out what he believes to be wrong.

Robert: Every moment is exactly as it must be. If there
weren't the conditions for this moment to arise then it couldn't arise.
However, because of delusion and tanha, all the time we are looking for
some other reality than what is now- and that innate wanting is brought
into all Dhamma activities. Thus one starts off on the wrong path and
continues on and on, hoping that one has got it right. If one doesn't see
that it is wrong then one will remain confused the entire life. But this too
is understandable, after all avijja and tanha run deep and the path of
the Dhamma is refined and sublime.


also
Sujin Boriharnwaket: If one thinks that one should rather have objects other than the
present one, since these appear to be more wholesome, one will never
study the object which appears now. And how can one know their true
nature when there is no study, no awareness of them? So it must be
the present object, only what appears now. This is more difficult
because it is not the object of desire. If desire can move one away to
another object, that object satisfies one's desire. Desire is there all the
time. If there is no understanding of lobha as lobha, how can it be
eradicated? One has to understand different degrees of realities, also
lobha which is more subtle, otherwise one does not know when there is
lobha. Seeing things as they are. Lobha is lobha. Usually one does not
see the subtle lobha which moves one away from developing right
understanding of the present object."endquote
.
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby dhammapal » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:48 pm

Hi,

I found this sutta quote (ignore the rest of the sutta) which will help me appreciate that although the Buddha pointed to the road we have to learn all along the way.
MN12 transl.Ñanamoli Thera & Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:Now suppose that I had four disciples with a hundred years' lifespan, perfect in mindfulness, retentiveness, memory and lucidity of wisdom.[21] Just as a skilled archer, trained, practiced and tested, could easily shoot a light arrow across the shadow of a palm tree, suppose that they were even to that extent perfect in mindfulness, retentiveness, [83] memory and lucidity of wisdom. Suppose that they continuously asked me about the four foundations of mindfulness and that I answered them when asked and that they remembered each answer of mine and never asked a subsidiary question or paused except to eat, drink, consume food, taste, urinate, defecate and rest in order to remove sleepiness and tiredness. Still the Tathagata's exposition of the Dhamma, his explanations of factors of the Dhamma, and his replies to questions would not yet come to an end, but meanwhile those four disciples of mine with their hundred years' lifespan would have died at the end of those hundred years.
From: Maha-sihanada Sutta: The Great Discourse on the Lion's Roar
translated from the Pali by Ñanamoli Thera & Bhikkhu Bodhi

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Dmytro » Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:59 pm

Hi,

The term 'mindfulness' nowadays has several meanings.

As for the Pali term 'sati', there's a thread: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=4299

Best wishes, Dmytro
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby dhammapal » Sat Aug 18, 2012 12:04 am

From by a Thai scholar-monk:
Ven P.A. Payutto wrote:Another definition, which appears in the Abhidhamma texts, is as follows:

"What is sammasati? Sati means to bear in mind or bring to mind. Sati is the state of recollecting, the state of remembering, the state of non-fading, the state of non-forgetting. Sati means the sati that is a Spiritual Faculty, the sati that is a Spiritual Power, Sammasati, the Sati that is an Enlightenment Factor, that which is a Path Factor and that which is related to the Path. This is what is called sammasati." [Vbh.105, 286]

<snip>

Sati is most simply rendered as 'recollection', but such a translation may convey the idea that it is simply an aspect of memory. While memory is certainly a valid element of sati's function, it does not do full justice to the essential meaning of the term. For to speak in the negative vein, apart from its meaning of 'non-forgetting' (the direct counterpart of the positive term 'recollection'), sati also refers to 'non-carelessness', 'non-distraction', 'non-fuzziness and confusion'. These negatively expressed meanings of sati point to the positive qualities of care, circumspection, alertness to one's duties and the condition of being constantly present in the awareness of the various things which come into contact with one and responding to them appropriately.
From: Sammasati: An Exposition of Right Mindfulness by Ven P.A. Payutto

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Billymac29 » Sat Aug 18, 2012 9:37 pm

After reading the Venerable's book and also reading other writings he has done, I don't think what he is talking about is going against their (Joseph G and Bhante G) actual way of practicing. Thanissaro critiques the way they express what mindfulness is, or maybe their definition of mindfulness, but when looking at how Thanissaro defines mindfulness and others (alertness and ardency) it fits into the other "buddhist teacher's" actual practice.
Thanissaro:
"The term mindfulness means being able to remember, to keep something in mind. In the case of establishing the body as a frame of reference, it means being able to remember where you're supposed to be — with the body — and you don't let yourself forget. The second quality, alertness (sampajañña), means being aware of what is actually going on in the present. Are you with the body? Are you with the breath? Is the breath comfortable? Simply notice what's actually happening in the present moment. We tend to confuse mindfulness with alertness, but actually they are two separate things: mindfulness means being able to remember where you want to keep your awareness; alertness means being aware of what's actually happening. The third quality, ardency (atappa), means two things. One, if you realize that the mind has wandered off, you bring it right back. Immediately. You don't let it wander around, sniffing the flowers. Two, when the mind is with its proper frame of reference, ardency means trying to be as sensitive as possible to what's going on — not just drifting in the present moment, but really trying to penetrate more and more into the subtle details of what's actually happening with the breath or the mind."

Bhante G in mindulness in plain english:
"In spite of your concerted effort to keep the mind on your breathing, the mind may wander away. It may go to past experiences and suddenly you may find yourself remembering places you've visited, people you met, friends not seen for a long time, a book you read long ago, the taste of food you ate yesterday, and so on. As soon as you notice that your mind is no longer on your breath, mindfully bring it back to it and anchor it there."

There is not much going on differently there between the two Bhikkhus practice.
I know Joey G practices Mahasi style (like myself)... So again lets first look at Thanissaro:

"Just be with the body in and of itself, sitting right here. You close your eyes — what do you have? There's the sensation of "bodiness" that you're sitting with. That's your frame of reference. Try to stay with it. Keep bringing the mind back to this sense of the body until it gets the message and begins to settle down. In the beginning of the practice you find the mind going out to grasp this or that, so you note it enough to tell it to let go, return to the body, and hold on there. Then it goes out to grasp something else, so you tell it to let go, come back, and latch onto the body again. Eventually, though, you reach a point where you can actually grasp hold of the breath and you don't let go, okay? You keep holding onto it. From that point on, whatever else that happens to come into your awareness is like something coming up and brushing the back of your hand. You don't have to note it. You stay with the body as your basic frame of reference. Other things come and go, you're aware of them, but you don't drop the breath and go grasping after them. This is when you really have established the body as a solid frame of reference."

I've heard Joey G guide a meditation almost the exact same way. At times JG uses sound or the breath instead of just the body, but other then that; nothing different.

So from what I gather from the book, his main issue is the way certain teachers define mindfulness.. Because I have never heard either Joey G or Bhante G say "just let your mind wander freely"

with metta
"whatever one frequently thinks and ponders upon will be the inclination of one's mind"
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Kamran » Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:00 am

Thanks for the informative summary, Billymac29.

Its really impressive the amount of resources Thanissaro pumps out, and unlike many others, he provides them totally free :) To me that says a lot.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Aug 19, 2012 7:19 am

Greetings Billymac,

Yes, thank you for that.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby dhammapal » Sun Aug 19, 2012 10:07 am

Hi,

I found this concise explanation:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:...be very clear about what you're keeping in mind, which is the meaning of mindfulness. To have a purpose in mind, what you're planning to do, and then your ability to remember that: That's mindfulness. As for actually watching what's going on, that's called alertness. You need both qualities, but it helps to know which is which.
From: On the Path of the Breath by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby dhammapal » Fri Aug 24, 2012 9:26 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So it's not the case that people can just walk in off the street, sit down, and develop mindfulness. It takes the ability to look at your life and make some decisions about how you're going to live, and how you understand the best way of living. That's when mindfulness has a chance.
From: How to Feed Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Billymac29 » Fri Aug 24, 2012 2:26 pm

Here is the Venerable Yuttadhammo's position on mindfulness. Bhante Yuttadhammo is of the Mahasi Sayadaw's lineage (as is Goldstein)
An excerpt:

"The first step in our progress, the first factor of enlightenment, is called “sati”. “sati” is a word that should be familiar to most Buddhists; unfortunately, however, it is often understood quite loosely, even incorrectly. Generally translated as “mindfulness”, it is usually taken to mean “awareness” or “alertness”, both of which are ostensibly positive qualities of mind. “sati”, however, means neither.

The word “sati” comes from a root (sara) that means to remember, or recollect. This root is used in the standard form of “going for refuge” to the Buddha, his teachings and his enlightened followers, for example: “buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi” – “I go to the Buddha as a saraṇa”. The word “saraṇa” is generally translated as “refuge”, which it can indeed mean. The word also means, however, “object of recollection”, i.e. something to recollect in times of difficulty.

Indeed, this is exactly what the Buddha encouraged us to do when we are in distress. He said, “maṃ anussareyyātha” – “you should recollect me”, because thoughts on the perfection of the Buddha would console us in times of despair. Similar practices exist in many of the world’s religions to bring faith and courage in times of difficulty, there is nothing particularly Buddhist in it.

From this explanation, though, we can see that the word “sati”, the very basis on which we are to build our practice, has something to do with calling to mind, or keeping in mind. The word sati is sometimes used to refer to recollecting about things that have happened in the past or future as well. In the context of the factors of enlightenment, however, it refers only to recollection of the present moment. What it really means is to call to mind the objective nature of the experience, eschewing all projection, extrapolation or judgement about the object.

According to the Abhidhamma, sati arises based on fortified recognition (thīra-saññā). Whereas ordinary recognition (saññā) is not enough to keep the mind in objective awareness, once we fortify or reaffirm this recognition, not letting the mind move beyond simple awareness of the object for what it is, our minds will penetrate the nature of the object to the core, dispelling all doubt as its essential nature as something worth clinging to or not.

So, sati would be better translated as “recognition”, and this is how it has been referred to throughout this chapter. It is deliberate and sustained recognition that in turn allows us to see the objects of experience as they truly are.

This explanation, which may seem a bit dry to some readers, is necessary to help us understand what the Buddha really meant in the Satipaṭṭḥāna Sutta, when he said, as quoted earlier, “when walking, one fully comprehends: ‘I am walking’.” It is clear that he did not mean that we should be aware that we are walking, since awareness is common to animals and ordinary people alike. Simply recognizing that we are walking is something that requires no meditative training whatsoever.

To “fully comprehend” (pajānāti), one must cultivate the mental quality of “sati” or fortified recognition (thīra-saññā) by reminding oneself of the essential nature of the experience, as in “walking”. Reminding oneself of what one already recognizes in this way is equivalent to arresting the mind’s natural progression into projecting, judging, clinging, seeking, building up, and finally suffering.

Another way of understanding this activity of fortifying one’s recognition is as a mantra, a traditional meditative tool that has been used for millennia by meditators both Buddhist and non. A mantra is used to focus the mind on an object, arresting the mind’s natural inclination to jump from object to object. It is traditionally used to focus on a conceptual object, something a meditator conjures up in the mind, a picture or a spiritual object like a god or angel.

A mantra can, however, be used in much the same way in order to fix the mind on a real object as well, be it a physical sensation, a feeling, a thought, or an emotion. This is one way of understanding the word “sati” in the context of the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta; it is the use of a mantra to stabilize and fortify one’s bare recognition of an experience for what it is, allowing one to see clearly without prejudice or projection and thus remove any misapprehensions based on delusion or ignorance.

Once we cultivate sati, our minds will naturally incline towards observing the nature of phenomena; just as how a person who sees a tiger also sees its stripes, observation of the characteristics of every object of one’s experience will become unavoidable. One will be forced to see clearly the true nature of everything one clings to, as well as the result of such clinging. One will see that the objects of experience are universally impermanent, unsatisfying, and uncontrollable; one will see that clinging to such entities is akin to banging one’s head off of a wall – painful and utterly without purpose. "


Do you see any distinctions between the this and Thanissaro's work?

BTW: Bhante uses the word mantra to describe the labeling technique used in some forms of vipassana. :)

:anjali:
"whatever one frequently thinks and ponders upon will be the inclination of one's mind"
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby dhammapal » Fri Aug 24, 2012 7:39 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:In other words, as we look for happiness, we focus first on actions that don't constitute ultimate happiness but can be used as the path: things like mindfulness, persistence, and concentration. At that stage, the Buddha doesn't have us focus too much on these three characteristics. He has us focus primarily on the doing. As part of the doing, we hold on to other perceptions: the perception of breath, say, or the perception of whatever our meditation object is. We make that prominent. And we try to push that perception into a state of solid concentration — which means that we're pushing it in the direction of making it constant and easeful, and getting it under our control.

In this way, we're actually fighting the three characteristics as we try to bring the mind into concentration. We push to see how far we can find a happiness based on conditioned things. One reason for this is that if you don't push at a truth until it pushes back, you won't know how strong it is. Another reason is that we're going to need that conditioned happiness, that sense of relatively solid wellbeing, to put ourselves in a position where we can look at things very carefully as they come to be. That phrase, "as they come to be," comes into play when we're no longer pushing. But we've got to push first.
From: Three Perceptions by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby Billymac29 » Sat Aug 25, 2012 2:40 am

So does anybody see any distinctions between Yuttadhammo and Thanissaro?
"whatever one frequently thinks and ponders upon will be the inclination of one's mind"
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby twelph » Sat Aug 25, 2012 6:02 am

Billymac29 wrote:So does anybody see any distinctions between Yuttadhammo and Thanissaro?


Yes. Yuttadhammo believes in there being no judgments placed upon the objects(thoughts). He talks about "pure awareness". Thanisarro maintains that discernment is necessary, and that we are always having perceptions of these objects. In the book he questions the notion of this pure awareness and has several arguments against it's existence.

This book was very revealing for me, and cleared up several issues I have had in the past. A list of things that really helped me out:

1) He establishes that all four foundations of mindfulness can and should be seen while maintaining a solid grounding in the breathe.
2) Anapanasati is not sequential.
3) The first jhanna can be maintained all day except when talking and going to sleep (very important!)
4) Rapture is neither a pleasant or unpleasant feeling. He has stopped using the word pleasure to describe the energy that is felt through rapture. This is also noticeable in his most recent dhamma talks.
5) Explanations as to why he believes the suttas supports breathe manipulation.

I recommend reading this book even if you have issues with the introduction.

Edit: It also doesn't hurt that this book gives some of the clearest and concise meditation instructions I have ever witnessed, all while constantly referencing the suttas. Yes this may just be one translator's interpretation , but he provides very well reasoned justifications and references.
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Aug 25, 2012 6:46 am

twelph wrote:
. . . It also doesn't hurt that this book gives some of the clearest and concise meditation instructions I have ever witnessed, all while constantly referencing the suttas. Yes this may just be one translator's interpretation , but he provides very well reasoned justifications and references.
Maybe, or he is expressing his interpretation of things, which is okay, but it is his interpretation of things.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby twelph » Sat Aug 25, 2012 6:58 am

tiltbillings wrote:
twelph wrote:
. . . It also doesn't hurt that this book gives some of the clearest and concise meditation instructions I have ever witnessed, all while constantly referencing the suttas. Yes this may just be one translator's interpretation , but he provides very well reasoned justifications and references.
Maybe, or he is expressing his interpretation of things, which is okay, but it is his interpretation of things.


I believe we just stated the same thing...
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Re: New Book on Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:03 am

twelph wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
twelph wrote:
. . . It also doesn't hurt that this book gives some of the clearest and concise meditation instructions I have ever witnessed, all while constantly referencing the suttas. Yes this may just be one translator's interpretation , but he provides very well reasoned justifications and references.
Maybe, or he is expressing his interpretation of things, which is okay, but it is his interpretation of things.


I believe we just stated the same thing...
Except that I would not say that he gave the clearest and concise meditation instruction, etc.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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