The Quotable Thanissaro

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

Post by dhammapal » Mon Jun 26, 2017 5:46 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:To bring a total end to the mind’s self-inflicted stress and suffering requires a great deal of dedication, training, and skill. But the meditation technique taught in this book doesn’t give its benefits only to people who are ready to follow it all the way to the total cure of awakening. Even if you simply want help in managing pain or finding a little more peace and stability in your life, meditation has plenty to offer you. It can also strengthen the mind to deal with many of the problems of day-to-day life, because it develops qualities like mindfulness, alertness, concentration, and discernment that are useful in all activities, at home, at work, or wherever you are. These qualities are also helpful in dealing with some of the larger, more difficult issues of life. Addiction, trauma, loss, disappointment, illness, aging, and even death are a lot easier to handle when the mind has developed the skills fostered by meditation.

So even if you don’t make it all the way to total freedom from stress and suffering, meditation can help you to handle your sufferings more skillfully — in other words, with less harm to yourself and the people around you. This, in itself, is a worthwhile use of your time. If you then decide to pursue the meditation further, to see if it really can lead to total freedom, so much the better.
From: With Each & Every Breath: A Guide to Meditation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Jun 27, 2017 1:47 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Regardless of how rich or poor you may be, no matter what society may think of you, you have the ability to train your mind. And you can shape your world through that power. The teachings talk about becoming: It’s basically your sense of the world in which you live, and your identity within that world. That becoming is based on your actions. Your actions are the field in which a particular sense of the world can grow. You keep on doing things that you know are good, and that creates a good field. The possibilities in that field are always replenished. That’s something totally within your power. The world at large may have political strife, economic collapse — all kinds of negative things may be happening but in your world — but you’re creating a good world. And you’re not the only one benefiting from that.

So this is why we train the mind. Regardless of the situation outside, it’s through training the mind that we’re shaping the world — the world in which we live and the world in which the people around us live as well. So even though the mountains of aging, illness, and death may be moving in, we can still train the mind. Because as the Buddha pointed out, death is not the end. It’s one incident in a very long story. Poverty is not the end. Famine, the four horsemen, are not really the end. The four horsemen have been stampeding all over the world for who knows how long. But we can still do good.
From: In Charge of Your World by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Jun 28, 2017 4:24 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There are lots of ways that we can develop doubts and uncertainty about the path. So let’s look at how the Buddha said to deal with uncertainty. First, of course, you ask yourself: What are you being asked to believe? You’re being asked to believe that your actions have an impact. That the quality of the mind with which you act is going to have an impact on the results of that action. That it’s possible to learn from your mistakes. And that you do have freedom of choice. These are all fairly commonsensical propositions. Where the Buddha is asking you to take this a little bit further than normal common sense, of course, is that by following this principle you can go all the way to true happiness, a happiness that won’t change.
From: Strengthening Conviction by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Jun 29, 2017 11:10 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Mindfulness is to remind you that you can make choices, and that you want to learn to make them skillfully. You can learn how to breathe in a comfortable way, to think in a comfortable way, to fashion your thoughts and your perceptions so as to shape a greater sense of well-being. You don't have to invest any money. Just take time and use your powers of observation. That's what it all comes down to.
From: Wisdom for Dummies by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:53 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I was reading recently of some scholars complaining that the four noble truths are not really noble. After all, what’s noble about craving? What’s noble about suffering? They were claiming that the four noble truths aren’t even really true for anybody aside from those who have already become awakened, which is a very peculiar statement, After all, the Buddha teaches the truths as part of a path. They’re part of how you get there – to awakening.

You take them on as right view. In other words, you don’t know whether they’re actually true or not, but you’re going to test them. You’re going to apply them to your life, and the act of doing that is a noble act. Seeing craving not as a friend but as a cause of suffering – something to be abandoned – that, too, is a noble act. Seeing the act of clinging to the aggregates not as a source of happiness or a source of who you really want to be, but as suffering, something to be comprehended so that you can abandon its cause: That’s a noble act as well. When the mind has a good sense of the present moment and how to stay with the present moment without letting other things get in the way: Seeing that as something to be developed is a noble act, too.

So the truths really are noble. Ajaan Suwat often said to regard the suffering of the mind as a noble truth, something that’s really worth paying close attention to, trying to really understand it. That’s another thing that’s noble about the truth. It deserves your full attention.
From: Noble & True by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Jul 03, 2017 9:11 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:To begin with, the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed. Even the theoretical or philosophical aspects of the Buddha’s teachings are there to be used as tools in aiding in the escape from all suffering and stress. It’s because of this fact that the Buddha’s primary metaphor for his teachings was a path: the noble eightfold path, composed of all the “right” factors mentioned above. It’s also why right view, the theory behind the path, is part of the path, and doesn’t stand outside it.

Also, because right view serves as a guide to action, it doesn’t present a full picture of reality, just as a fire-escape map posted on a hotel door doesn’t give complete information about the construction of the hotel. If it did, you’d have trouble figuring out which parts of the map would be useful in the event of a fire. That, in turn, would actually prevent you from making a quick escape. It’s for this reason that right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering.

At the same time, right view labels some attitudes about suffering and its end as definitely wrong, just as certain wrong attitudes about fires and escapes would leave you trapped in a burning hotel. Suppose, for instance, that you found messages posted on the hotel room door saying that, in the case of a fire, there is no escape, or that you should wait in your room until a heavenly being saved you, that the fire won’t burn you if you accept and embrace it, or maybe fire isn’t really fire. You’d be wise to distrust those messages, even if they were signed by the hotel management. In the same way, if you’re heedful of the dangers of the fires of the mind, you’d be wise not to fall for messages — even within the Buddhist tradition — that are at odds with the message that it is possible to escape from the suffering that the mind creates for itself, that you can reach this escape through your own efforts, and that it’s the most worthwhile thing you can do in life.
From: On the Path: An Anthology on the Noble Eightfold Path drawn from the Pali Canon by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2017, 463 pages)

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Jul 06, 2017 7:53 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Again, regardless of whether you’re going to [pick up things of the world] after the meditation or not, for the time being create a little freedom in here. It’s almost like you’re erasing your history, erasing any lines of communication or lines of connection with anything outside at all. It’s important that the mind have this space that’s really its own space, even though it may just be part of the day, where it can let go of all the responsibilities and worries and cares of the rest of the day. Remember that time, right now, is either a memory or anticipation. It’s just like regarding the world as just sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, ideas. Try to reduce things to a very minimal terms like this, so they’re easier to let go of. If you allow there to be long complicated stories or very elaborate theories about who you are, what kind of person you are, or what troubles you have, you just weigh the mind down. Even if you can’t sort out or solve your problems right now, at the very least you can put them down for the time being. Just allow there to be the awareness of the breath energy, right here, right now.
From: Free for the Time Being by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Jul 08, 2017 7:42 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Our culture is a funny one: It tends to distrust people who try to get away from sensual attachments — partly because the economy would collapse and partly because of the old Judaic-Protestant prejudice that people who try to abandon sensual attachments must be weird. The truth of the matter, though, is that there's a part of the mind that flourishes when it's not burdened with sensual attachments. When it's really secluded from sensual attachments, it blossoms. And part of the practice is learning to appreciate that very still center of the mind, the sense of wellbeing that comes from dropping all those attachments. Even though we're not yet letting go of them for good, we at least drop them for the time being.
From: Rites of Passage by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Jul 12, 2017 7:47 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:These sublime attitudes [goodwill, compassion, empathetic joy, equanimity] are measuring sticks against which you can measure what's actually going on in your mind. In other words, you're not just smothering all the unskillful thoughts in your mind with these nice warm fuzzy clouds of goodwill. You're using these skillful thoughts as measuring sticks. These are the attitudes that put people into jhana. These are the attitudes that brahmas, who live in jhana, actually dwell in. This is why they're able to stay in jhana. So how do your attitudes measure up against theirs? If you find that your attitudes don't measure up, try to reason with yourself until they do. You can't force yourself without reasoning.
From: A Load of Straw by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:06 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Someone was asking why it is that we keep focusing on the problems inside. Aren’t there problems outside? Of course there are problems outside, but the reason why your mind is weighed down is because of the problems inside. And those are problems you can do something about. If you haven’t straightened out the problems inside, you probably have a pretty messy idea of how to straighten out things outside. Sometimes, in your efforts to straighten out outside things, you make them worse. So you want to be confident that you’re coming from a good place: a place of strength, a position of strength, a position of well-being. That’s why we look inside to see where there’s stress and what can be done about it. Then all the good parts of the mind become strong.
From: Strength for Stillness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:57 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Reflection on other people’s mind states is also a good reflection for fairness. When you see other people acting on their unskillful mind states, it gives you a chance to see what you look like when you act on yours. It’s not a pretty sight. For example, we all have a tendency to want to straighten other people out. We want this person to be that way and that person to be this way. But when other people try to straighten you out, how do you feel? The Thais call this putting other people’s heart in your heart, and your heart in theirs: in other words, realizing that what you feel is what other people feel. If you ever want to straighten anything out, well, you’ve got your heart here that need straightening out, first. And so focus right here — because this is where you really can do the work.
From: Bodies & Minds Outside by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Jul 18, 2017 9:56 am

“Let no one deceive another
or despise anyone anywhere,
or through anger or resistance
wish for another to suffer.” — the Buddha (Khp 9)


Thanissaro Bhikkhu: So if you’re using visualization as part of your good will practice, don’t visualize people simply as smiling, surrounded willy-nilly by wealth and sensual pleasures. Visualize them acting, speaking, and thinking skillfully. If they’re currently acting on unskillful intentions, visualize them changing their ways. Then act to realize those visualizations if you can.
From: Head & Heart Together: Bringing Wisdom to the Brahmaviharas by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Jul 22, 2017 6:20 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Even though the Buddha talks a lot about suffering and stress, the unattractiveness of the body, the lack of control you have over things, it's not for a negative or pessimistic purpose. It's to focus your desire for happiness in another direction. In effect he says, "Look, you can't find true happiness in these places. You've got to look someplace else." This is the theme underlying all of his teachings: that true happiness really does matter. It's important. It's worth giving yourself over to. The desire for true happiness is worth taking seriously because it actually leads to true happiness if you follow through with it skillfully.

So although sometimes we may resist his teachings — because they seem to threaten our ideas about what we need to do and to believe in order to be happy — it's good to step back and question our assumptions. There are many, many people who have followed the Buddha's way and found that, yes, it does lead to a true happiness — and that the happiness you get from following other paths doesn't nearly compare.

When you see fear in your practice, remember: There is skillful fear and unskillful fear. Skillful fear focuses on the harm and suffering that comes from doing unskillful things. Unskillful fear comes from holding onto things that you know are going to change. Once you understand this, you can work on refining your sense of self and ultimately learn to adopt the teaching on not-self as well. When you learn how to use these teachings skillfully — at their appropriate times, in the appropriate places — and you find they really are conducive to happiness, then you see that there's nothing to criticize in the Buddha's teachings. They're there to help us find the happiness we want. He's not forcing them on anybody. There's no power play involved here at all. He offers his teachings out of compassion. He's found that these practices work for him, and they work for other people as well. It's simply a question of whether we understand them properly and learn how to use them skillfully. When we do, there are no more issues.
From: Strategies for Happiness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Jul 24, 2017 6:41 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Try to be sensitive to what you’re doing and the results that you’re getting. Understand that you’re not here waiting for the future or anticipating things in the future to come, but paying very careful attention to what you’re doing right now. If you lose that focus, then you’ve lost the focus of the meditation. If you’re sitting and anticipating, remember that right anticipation is not one of the factors of the path — it’s certainly not one of the factors of concentration. Just focus on what you’ve already got.
From: The Four Bases of Success by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Jul 25, 2017 3:01 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So learn how to be a good storyteller, telling yourself the right stories, stories that will bring you into the present with a sense of confidence in your own abilities, with a sense of wellbeing, a sense of the importance of stilling the mind. No matter what the stories are — no matter what other people have done, no matter what you've done — there's a way of looking at them that can put the mind at rest. To try to find that way: This is what all the teachings on kamma, all the teachings on the sublime attitudes, are about.
From: The Story-telling Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Jul 27, 2017 4:40 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I’ve been counseling some people in a Dharma study program. And their experience with retreats up to this point had been that you go in, you don’t talk to anybody, and you go home. So as you’re sitting there in the retreat hall meditating, everybody else looks so calm and still, and yet you’re fighting with your hindrances, with your defilements. You seem to be the only person who is suffering that way. But when these people come on a study retreat, they get a chance to talk with one another and they discover that everybody goes through the same thing. Everybody has the same problems. And instead of being discouraging, it’s actually encouraging. You realize that even though things may take a lot longer than you had hoped, the fact that they take long doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. It’s the common pattern throughout the world.
From: Goodwill First & Last by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:05 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Samvega is when you see how disillusioned you are in life and you also have a sense of being trapped. You want something better than this but you can’t see any way out. That’s because there are still things there in the world that you’re feeding on or that you’d like to feed on, in terms of relationships, in terms of power, whatever: the things we emotionally feed on in terms of other people, other things. The reason we feel trapped is because part of us is still in there and we can’t let it go.

It’s like that famous monkey trap where they put a hole in a coconut and then into the coconut they put a little bit of fruit that the monkey wants. It can reach its hand in through the hole, but once it has its hand wrapped around the fruit, it can’t get its hand out. It’s trapped by its own greed.

That’s samvega. You look around and there’s nowhere in the world that you can see any way out. Everybody’s fighting over what little bit of food there is, emotional or physical. The Buddha’s image was of fish fighting over that last gulp of water in a dwindling puddle before they’re all going to die. And it’s terrifying.

That’s what samvega literally means: terror. It’s sometimes translated as dismay, sometimes as urgency, but the word originally comes from a sense of terror. You’re trapped. You need a way out.
From: Samvega vs. Dispassion by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Aug 01, 2017 1:25 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:You may have money in your pocket, but it's not really yours. It's printed by the government. You look at the money and see: Does it have your name written on it? Well, no, it's got other people's names. Even with a credit card that does have your name on it: The bank's name is also on it, and the bank's name is bigger. It's in charge of what you can and can't do with the card. As for the value of the money, the government and the banks can change it whenever they want. If they wanted to call it back, they could do it. In the meantime, while you've got it, you use it. And you try to use it as wisely as possible, with the realization that it's not really yours to keep; it's a part of the world.
From: A Well-Thatched Roof by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Aug 04, 2017 7:19 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If thinking weren’t involved in the practice, if your views weren’t important in the practice, Dhamma talks wouldn’t serve any function. You’d have to teach by example by not saying anything at all. But meditation doesn’t work that way. You have to learn how to think in the right way as you come to meditation. This is a thinking cure.
From: The Thinking Cure by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Aug 06, 2017 1:03 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Sometimes we fall into an ironclad notion that only certain kinds of awareness count as mindfulness. We feel that we’re strapped there and can’t function. There are reports of people who go for long retreats where they’ve been working on only one kind of mindfulness for three months and when they come out they can’t function. It takes them a couple of days to readjust to being in the outside world. Well, the Buddha didn’t have us practice so that we couldn’t function, couldn’t adjust, couldn’t adapt. He simply wants you to be conscious and deliberate about the way you adapt: the different levels, the different layers, the different frequencies you‘re tuning in to. If you can shift levels mindfully, you’re okay.
From: Varieties of Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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