The Quotable Thanissaro

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

Post by dhammapal » Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:25 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:You’ve got work to do. You’ve got this mind that keeps churning out intentions, so we’ve got to be very careful about what those intentions are, which ones we choose to follow, which ones we choose to let go. We’ve got to keep that in mind. It requires mindfulness, requires alertness. We’ve got to work on these qualities, we’ve got to exercise them. This is why we are sitting here meditating. These are qualities that need strengthening, they need to be made more and more consistent, more lasting.

So as you work with the breath, try to be as quick as possible in noticing when the mind slips off the breath. As soon as you sense that it’s slipping, then bring it right back. This is the work of the meditation.
From: Goodwill All Around by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Nov 23, 2017 5:45 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:When an intention comes up to do or say or think something, you want to know what that intention is. It's a teaching that the Buddha teaches his son Rahula, to look at his actions and look especially at his intentions before he does or says or thinks anything. Now I've heard a lot of people say, "Gee, that's an awful lot of attention to something like that," and they have so many other things they have to pay attention to. Well, it turns out that the other things you're paying attention to are the results many times of your own past actions. It's much better to start at the very beginning to make sure that the new intentions coming out are well-formed.
From: Straightened Intentions (3min mp3 audio) by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Nov 23, 2017 11:47 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There is a story of a Zen student. I think he was in Minnesota. He was going to come out here to Los Angeles, to try his luck at the entertainment industry. He went to say goodbye to his teacher, and his teacher asked him, “Suppose you get out there and your first job is a failure, what are you going to do?” The guy said, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to accept that.” The teacher said, “No, you don’t accept that kind of thing. You bounce back. Try again. Get knocked down again, you try again. Can’t let yourself give in to despair. You have to be able to bounce back.” In other words, you have to have confidence there is some way that this is going to work out. This is why conviction is one of the most basic qualities you have to bring to the path.
From: Being Right by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:21 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Many of us come to meditation because we’ve got particular problems that cause suffering in our lives. Something’s wrong, something’s lacking, something’s eating away at our hearts. We have a sense that meditation might be able to do something for that. That’s a perfectly fine motivation for coming. And when the Buddha taught the four noble truths, suffering was the first thing he talked about.

Some people come and they have a particular problem that’s been eating away; but once that problem gets solved, they stop meditating. We see some of that. But there are other cases: As you take care of that particular problem, you see there is a larger structure to the way we live our lives, the way we have bodies that age, grow ill and die. There are dangers out there, dangers in here. And the damage that those dangers can do doesn’t stop just in here. Even if it comes from in here, it can spread out. You begin to see there’s a larger issue here.

This is where your sense of what the practice is about begins to grow. Your sense of what constitutes well-being gets more and more refined.
From: Don't Underestimate Merit by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Nov 26, 2017 10:24 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Some people feel they don’t deserve happiness. Well, the issue of deserving and not deserving happiness never comes up in the Buddha’s teachings. There’s simply the issue of cause and effect. A good action, an action motivated by a skillful intention, leads to good results. It’s impersonal. Unskillful actions motivated by unskillful motivations lead to pain. Each of us has a lot of actions in the past, so there’s bound to be good mixed with bad. You don’t have to wear off the bad kamma before you can enjoy the good. You simply learn to make the best use of both pleasure and pain when they come along.

The Buddha never talks about having to wear off your old kamma before you can gain awakening. The idea that meditation is a purification that burns away your old kamma is actually a Jain teaching that he ridiculed. And you wonder what he would have said about a passage I read the other day in a Buddhist magazine — that if you can maintain equanimity during sex, that can also be a form of purification. The Buddha had no use for these ideas. You don’t have to burn off your old kamma. If you had to burn off your old kamma, he said, we’d never be done. As for the idea of burning off bad kamma by having sex, he would probably have shaken his head in disbelief. But while you’re meditating you can develop a good expansive state of mind — and empathetic joy is one way of developing that expansive state of mind — that helps to mitigate a lot of the results of your own past bad actions.

In other words, there are potentials for suffering coming from your past bad actions but there are also potentials for happiness coming from your past good actions. We all have a mixed bag. Or in the Buddha’s analogy, we each have a field full of seeds of different qualities. There are seeds that will grow bitter fruit, and there are seeds that grow sweet fruit. Just because we have bitter seeds in the field doesn’t mean that we deserve to eat nothing but bitter fruit. It means simply that those sorts of potentials are there. If we keep watering those particular seeds, the fruits are going to come. But we have the choice of which seeds we’re going to water. So you want the water of your mind to be an expansive attitude, one that can water sweet seeds or else sweeten the bitter fruit in such a way that it’s not so bitter.
From: Empathetic Joy by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Nov 28, 2017 9:46 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:It's good to appreciate the fact that there are people out there who want to do good, there are people out there who find happiness in doing good. And that should make us happy.
From: Appreciation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Nov 29, 2017 8:36 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Wisdom for dummies: the wisdom for people who recognize that they've been foolish and that they don't want to keep on being foolish. That means that they aren't fools; they simply see that they've been fools — an important difference. They're the kind of fools who aren't really dumb.

The real dummies are those who think that they're already smart, and that the only wisdom good enough for them has to be counterintuitive: hidden essences, mysterious teachings that don't make sense. But the Buddha didn't teach that way. He simply taught basic principles for people who want to wise up: The first principle is to realize that your actions are important, that they make a difference, that they come from your ideas and intentions, and that they can be changed for the better. Second, focus on what really is your responsibility, and let go of things that are not. Third, train your mind to develop better and better answers to the question that focuses on what you're really responsible for: what you can do that will lead to your long-term welfare and happiness. Then take advantage of the tools the Buddha offers so that it's easier to give up the things that you like doing that are harmful, and to get yourself to do the things that are difficult but will lead to the long-term happiness you want.
From: Wisdom for Dummies by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:09 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If views of determinism and total chaos were followed to their logical end, there would be no point in purposeful action, and yet the proponents of both theories continued to act in purposeful ways. If only physical acts bore consequences, there would be no point in teaching a proper understanding of the nature of action — for the mental act of understanding, right or wrong, would have no consequences — and yet all sides agreed that it was important to understand reality in the right way. The fact that each side insisted that the other used unskillful forms of observation and argumentation to advance its views implied that mental skills were crucial in determining the truth. Thus the Bodhisatta looked directly at skillful mental action in and of itself, followed its implications in developing knowledge itself as a skill — rather than as a body of facts — and found that those implications carried him all the way to release.
From: A Refuge in Skillful Action by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Dec 02, 2017 12:38 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Your need for the goodness of other people is [so] extreme. If all you can see is other people’s bad points, you’re going to lose your enthusiasm for treating them skillfully. You’ll say, “Well, everybody else is cheating, I might as well cheat as well.” That’s a very common attitude that you see throughout society. Again that kills your goodness. So you don’t want to steal other people’s bad traits. Think of their good traits. Think about the great ajaans, and think about Upasika Kee: people who gave their lives to the practice and have done so much for the world as a result. You can do that, too. There’s nothing about them that’s super-human. While you’re thinking about their good habits, maybe you can think about how they might have solved the problems you’re facing right now. That gives you energy.
From: Right Action by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:48 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Goodwill or mettā means a wish for happiness. In some cases it's translated as lovingkindness. But when you look at the way the Buddha actually expresses the thought in his teachings... I'll read you one passage here and let you decide whether it's lovingkindness or what:

"I have goodwill for footless beings (snakes, worms), goodwill for two-footed beings, goodwill for four-footed beings, goodwill for many-footed beings.
May all creatures, all living things, all beings each and every one meet with good fortune. May none of them come to any evil.
Limitless is the Buddha. Limitless is the Dhamma. Limitless is the Sangha.
There is a limit to creeping things: snakes, scorpions, centipedes, spiders, lizards and rats.
I've made this safeguard, I've made this protection. May the beings depart.”
i.e. go away guys.

So this is a chant for when you're out in the forest and you've got all these creeping things around. You say, "I've got goodwill for all of you. I don't mean you any harm. Go away. You live in your space, I'll live in my space and we'll be okay."

This is not so much lovingkindness as it is basic benevolence. Wishing people well, wishing that they be happy, that they meet with well-being. But you're not going to go out there and sort of pet them and stroke them and try to get into a nice, loving relationship with them.

So goodwill is simply the desire for happiness: your happiness, happiness of other beings.
From: June 2009 Saskatoon weekend retreat on "Head & Heart Together: Bringing Wisdom to the Brahmaviharas" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Dec 04, 2017 4:52 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:You've probably heard the rumor that "Life is suffering" is Buddhism's first principle, the Buddha's first noble truth. It's a rumor with good credentials, spread by well-respected academics and Dharma teachers alike, but a rumor nonetheless. The truth about the noble truths is far more interesting. The Buddha taught four truths — not one — about life: There is suffering, there is a cause for suffering, there is an end of suffering, and there is a path of practice that puts an end to suffering. These truths, taken as a whole, are far from pessimistic. They're a practical, problem-solving approach — the way a doctor approaches an illness, or a mechanic a faulty engine. You identify a problem and look for its cause. You then put an end to the problem by eliminating the cause.

What's special about the Buddha's approach is that the problem he attacks is the whole of human suffering, and the solution he offers is something human beings can do for themselves. Just as a doctor with a surefire cure for measles isn't afraid of measles, the Buddha isn't afraid of any aspect of human suffering. And, having experienced a happiness totally unconditional, he's not afraid to point out the suffering and stress inherent in places where most of us would rather not see it — in the conditioned pleasures we cling to. He teaches us not to deny that suffering and stress or to run away from it, but to stand still and face up to it, to examine it carefully. That way — by understanding it — we can ferret out its cause and put an end to it. Totally. How confident can you get?
From: Life Isn't Just Suffering by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:25 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Goodwill is a more skillful feeling to have toward those who would react unskillfully to your lovingkindness. There are probably people you've harmed in the past who would rather not have anything to do with you ever again, so the intimacy of lovingkindness would actually be a source of pain for them, rather than joy. There are also people who, when they see that you want to express lovingkindness, would be quick to take advantage of it. And there are plenty of animals out there who would feel threatened by any overt expressions of love from a human being. In these cases, a more distant sense of goodwill — that you promise yourself never to harm those people or those beings — would be better for everyone involved.

This doesn't mean that lovingkindness is never an appropriate expression of goodwill. You simply have to know when it's appropriate and when it's not. If you truly feel metta for yourself and others, you can't let your desire for warm feelings of love and intimacy render you insensitive to what would actually be the most skillful way to promote true happiness for all.
From: Metta Means Goodwill by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:54 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Start with what you know. The breath is coming in. You know that? Yes, you know that. It's going out. You know that? Yes, you do. Okay, know just that much. Don't forget that. Is it comfortable or not? Well, you may not be sure. Could it be more comfortable? Experiment and see. Try to sensitize yourself to how the breathing feels. Without this level of sensitivity, the meditation becomes mechanical. When it's mechanical, it becomes a chore. And when it's a chore, the mind will rebel. So ask yourself: What really feels good when you're breathing right now? If you can't figure out what really feels good, hold your breath for a while until the mind comes to the point where it's screaming at you: "Breathe! You've got to breathe!" Then, when you breathe, notice what feels really good as you breathe in. Take that as a guide.
From: Start Out Small by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Dec 10, 2017 7:49 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:People used to say, "Buddhism is a religion that doesn’t require faith or belief or conviction. You give your assent to only what seems reasonable." If that’s as far as you going to go, simply giving or withholding assent, it doesn’t require much faith or conviction. But if you’re contemplating putting the teaching into practice, if you want to know that it’s true, you have put your heart into it with some conviction, because it asks a lot of you. You have to change the way you act, change the way you speak, change the way you think, change the way you relate to yourself and to other people. It’s a very thorough training.
From: Conviction & Truth by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:12 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:When asked point blank if there was a self or there was no self, [the Buddha] refused to answer, saying that if you hold to the idea that there is a self you get stuck in eternalism, which blocks the practice: You hold on to certain things as being the eternal you and you'll never be able to let them go. If you develop the idea that there is no self, that's annihilationism, which blocks the practice as well: Either you fear being annihilated or you have a neurotic desire to want to be annihilated, neither of which is helpful. So there comes a point where you have to put issues of self and not-self aside, and just look at where there's stress, and what activities are causing the stress, and how to stop them. That's why the teachings on the four noble truths trump every other teaching.
From: Levels of Addiction by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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