The Quotable Thanissaro

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

Post by dhammapal » Mon May 14, 2018 4:08 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We saw all that insanity after 9/11, where people were willing to throw morality out the window because they were so scared. There was even that Buddhist teacher who said, “This principle that hatred is never appeased by hatred, that it’s only appeased by non-hatred, i.e. goodwill,” was totally useless. Didn’t have any practical application when things were so uncertain.

Actually, though, that principle was designed for times when people really are seething with hatred, when they have to be reminded that you can’t put aside your principles in a situation like that. When life is in danger, your first impulse may be not your best impulse at all. You need clear-cut precepts to keep reminding you that under no circumstances would you kill, steal, have illicit sex, lie, or take intoxicants. That’s why the precepts are so simple, to be easy to remember in difficult situations.
From: The Ennobling Path by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed May 16, 2018 8:01 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Our idea of truth is pretty sketchy. How could you possibly know the total truth of the situation in which you’re located? It would require a knowledge down to the sub-atomic particles and out to the edge of the universe — maybe even beyond the edge of the universe. That would be impossible. So to deal with possibilities, the mind lives by its sketches. Recognizing this fact is a useful step. “This sketch that I’m living with: Is it a useful sketch? Is it helpful?” It may have certain true details here and there, but you have to realize that no idea of your surroundings is going to be a totally adequate representation of what those surroundings are. The best you can do is ask if your sketch is adequate to your needs, your healthy needs, and in particular to your desire to put an end to suffering.
From: Moving Between Thought Worlds by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun May 20, 2018 8:18 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Ajaan Fuang once said that if we could force our way into nirvana, everybody would have arrived there a long time ago. But it’s not something you can do by force. You ultimately get there only through discernment. And discernment starts with learning how to think in the right way. It doesn’t cost anything, doesn’t require a lot of energy: just allowing yourself to think in skillful ways. That can turn you around right there, and head you in the right direction. So before you stop thinking, learn how to think in ways that are really helpful, allow yourself to think in ways that are really helpful, and it will make all the difference in your practice.
From: The Thinking Cure by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri May 25, 2018 3:42 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:You’re passing judgment on your actions, not on yourself. Your intentions in the past may have been unskillful, or the actions may have been unskillful, but you’re not stuck there. Just because you’ve had unskillful intentions doesn’t mean that you’re always going to have unskillful intentions. You can change your mind. You can change your habits.

The skillful or healthy sense of shame comes in here and says, “What I did in the past is nothing to be proud of, but I don’t have to repeat that mistake.” This is what your powers of judgment are good for.
From: Shame & Acceptance by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun May 27, 2018 2:44 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There’s a really obnoxious story told by one of Ajaan Chah’s Western students who’s now a lay teacher. One time he and Ajaan Chah were taking a really rough ride in part of the back country there in Ubon. The driver was pretty careless and he was rushing down this road, which was really bumpy. And Ajaan Chah was holding on tight — to the point where his knuckles were white.

And the Western student saw this and said to himself, “Ah, Ajaan Chah has fear.” He thought he’d caught Ajaan Chah in a defilement, that he wasn’t perfectly equanimous. Well, Ajaan Chah had the good sense to hold on tight. You ride a rough ride like that, you’ve got to hold on. I mean, it’s stupid to die or let yourself get injured when it’s avoidable.
From: Escape Routes in the Present by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue May 29, 2018 1:00 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So when the Buddha’s teaching karma, it’s not solely for the purpose of making you feel bad about you’ve done in the past. He always emphasizes the fact that you have to realize you’ve made mistakes in the past, but you can resolve not to do them again. Then you develop an expansive mind: a mind of goodwill, a mind of compassion and empathy, a mind of equanimity. A mind that is trained not to be overcome by pleasure or by pain. A mind developed in virtue and discernment. These qualities expand your mind, so what comes in from the past doesn’t have to make you suffer.

What the Buddha does emphasize when he introduces the topic of karma is the need to be responsible and to focus your attention on your present karma, and not to worry about the past. Your focus on the present moment is not simply for the purpose of being fully present to everything in the present. It’s for the purpose of looking closely at the choices you’re making, and the results they get. What are you doing right now? What’s happening as a result.
From: The Lessons of Good Karma by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Jun 01, 2018 11:51 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Like the Buddha: He left his family, and many people get upset about that, thinking he was a deadbeat dad. But you have to remember that one of the ways that a husband or father could provide for his family in those days was to go out on an expedition, go out exploring, and to come back with a treasure. Sometimes it would take years. In this case, the Buddha came back with a really great treasure: the treasure of the deathless. So even though he had to isolate himself from his family — and it did cause them some grief; he himself found it hard to leave them — still, he knew that he had to. And when he came back, he had something that more than compensated for those six or seven years.
From: Responsible for Your Goodness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:03 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There's also the problem that, if the aggregates were what you are, then — because nibbāna is the ending of the aggregates — that would mean that when you attain nibbāna you would be annihilated. The Buddha, however, denied that nibbāna was annihilation. At the same time, what good would be the end of suffering if it meant total annihilation? Only people who hate themselves or hate all experience would go for it.
From: Talk 2: Out of the Thicket and Onto the Path from "Selves & Not-self: The Buddhist Teaching on Anatta" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:03 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:It's important to understand what mindfulness is: It's the act of keeping something in mind. The word sati is related to the verb sarati, which means to remember. You focus your attention on one particular thing and then keep reminding yourself to stay there. This is how concentration is developed. But concentration is not just a question of memory. To be a part of the path, it has to be alert as well. We're not trying to put ourselves into a trance. We simply want to stay focused on an aspect of the present moment that's going to be helpful. Mindfulness is what reminds us to stay at that present sensation or present occurrence; alertness is what allows us to see what's going on.
From: A Magic Set of Tools by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Jun 11, 2018 1:28 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The practice unfolds in the context of our friendships, which means that you have to choose your friends well: the people you hang around with, the people whose values you agree with. The problem is that we often pick up the values of the people around us through a process of osmosis, hardly even aware of what we’re doing. We live in a society where everything is measured in terms of monetary worth. It seems normal. We forget how abnormal it can be. How can money be the worth of a person? The worth of a person lies in qualities of mind, the goodness of the heart, the goodness of that person’s actions. There are lots of worthwhile things in the world that really shouldn’t have a price on them.
From: A Refuge from Modern Values by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:54 am

Question: Why is it that Theravāda is considered, with a certain amount of irony, as the small vehicle, whereas Mahāyānists call themselves the great vehicle, which carries its name because they’re more generous? — their goal being, always, the love of others, whereas for Theravāda it’s said to be first the love of yourself?


Thanissaro Bhikkhu: It’s not that Theravādins don’t have any concern about other people. It’s more that we have a different sense of what we’re able to do for other people. We can teach other people how to gain awakening and we can set them a good example, but we can’t actually awaken other people. And it’s also not true that in Theravāda practice you don’t do good for other people. Generosity and virtue are large parts of the path. Even your mindfulness practice is good for others: The Buddha says it’s like being part of an acrobatic team. If you can maintain your balance at all times, it makes it easier for other people on the team to maintain theirs.

And even though arahants leave saṁsāra entirely, they leave a lot of good things behind. Think of the case of Ajaan Mun. Without him, I don’t know where I would be. The forest tradition would not have existed, and Thailand probably would have become Communist — because many of the Communists in Thailand said the reason that they still wanted to hold to Buddhism, instead of rejecting religion, was because they saw the example of the forest monks. So the good that Ajaan Mun did is still living with us.
From: The Five Faculties: Putting Wisdom in Charge of the Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:25 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The early Buddhists said that this point was the one where the Buddha’s teaching differed most radically from everything else that was available at the time: pointing to what you’re doing right now and the effects that it has right now. And also to the possibility for change. You don’t have to create that suffering for yourself.

But first you have to see yourself doing it. Otherwise, it simply seems to be a part of what you’re receiving. Actually, a lot of what we experience in the present moment is what we’re doing right now. And yet we see it as something happening to us. As a result, we don’t see the opportunity for change.

So when you look at experience, try to see that element of what you’re doing.
From: Hope by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Jun 22, 2018 11:04 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:As you’re focusing on the breath, put aside any sensual passions. There’s the phrase in the description of jhana, “secluded from sensuality.” Some people interpret that as meaning totally cut off from any input from the physical senses. Some interpret it as meaning secluded from sensual pleasures, so that you have to meditate in a place that’s unpleasant or a place that’s very boring. But neither of those interpretations is what the Buddha means. Sensuality, in his sense of the word, is your passion for your sensual thoughts and plans; the extent to which you love to obsess about those things. So in being secluded from sensuality you’re not trying to close off any contact with outside senses and you’re not trying to put yourself in a dull, boring place. You’re trying to develop a more internal seclusion: If you see any sensual passion coming up, you sidestep it. You put it aside.
From: Right Concentration by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Jun 26, 2018 12:12 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Suppose you have a feeling of deep spiritual contentment, of oneness and connectedness with all the universe. To what extent is that feeling meaningful? Is it a sign that you've attained a heightened spiritual state? Are you in touch with some transcendent reality? Or is it simply a sign that you had a nice dinner and you feel rested, physically satisfied? This is an important question for people who want to read deep meanings into their feelings. They want to believe that their feelings constitute their true identity, and that their feelings tell the truth. But feelings can lie. A warm sense of interconnectedness may indicate simply that your digestion is good, and physically you're well provided for.
From: The Reality of Emotions by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Jun 29, 2018 6:08 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Change can be nice when it’s well handled, but, when you think of all the beautiful music in the world, think of all the lousy music, too. People actually make an effort to write lousy music. Not that they intend it to be lousy, but it’s very difficult to write good music, create good art, write great literature. If change were a good thing in and of itself, good literature would be easy to write, good paintings easy to paint. But these things are hard. It takes an awful lot of skill to make change happy.
From: The World is Swept Away by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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