The Quotable Thanissaro

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

Post by dhammapal » Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:15 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:As you gain more conviction in the Buddha’s awakening and see in particular the results of holding to the principle of action, the principle of karma, you do what you can to encourage others to do that, too. Now, you don’t become an unpleasant proselytizer. You’re not an evangelist here. But in cases where you see that people are open and are receptive, you want to share with them the benefits of your practice. Say, “This works for me. It might work for you.” The same with wisdom and discernment: It’s good to be able to share what you’ve got, to encourage other people to develop their wisdom and their discernment as well.
From: Can All Beings Be Happy? by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Oct 14, 2017 5:57 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We talk about the mind clinging, the mind hanging on to things, but it doesn't have hands to cling. When it "clings to something" it just keeps thinking about it over and over and over again, it keeps wanting it over and over and over again. To let go of the clinging means that you just let it stop. And the only way you can let it stop is to get out of it and see it simply as an event in the mind.
From: Cherish Your Friends by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Oct 15, 2017 2:45 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Generosity is what opens the heart, makes you realize that you have a lot that you can share with others and that once you’ve shared something it really becomes yours. As the Buddha said, if beings of the world knew the rewards of generosity the way he did, they wouldn’t eat without sharing, even if it were their last meal. As long as there was somebody there to share it with, they would share. And you don’t have to think about the rewards in another lifetime. You can think of the rewards right now: the quality of heart that goes with the fact that “I can give this to somebody, I don’t need to hoard it all for myself.” The hoarder’s mind is very narrow and what happens as a result of hoarding, as the Buddha said, is the very thing that hoarders are afraid of: poverty.
From: Life in the Context of the Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:58 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:It's important to reflect on what true happiness is and where it can be found. A moment's reflection will show that you can't find it in the past or the future. The past is gone and your memory of it is undependable. The future is a blank uncertainty. So the only place we can really find happiness is in the present. But even here you have to know where to look. If you try to base your happiness on things that change — sights, sounds, sensations in general, people and things outside — you're setting yourself up for disappointment, like building your house on a cliff where there have been repeated landslides in the past. So true happiness has to be sought within. Meditation is thus like a treasure hunt: to find what has solid and unchanging worth in the mind, something that even death cannot touch.
From: Basic Breath Meditation Instructions by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Oct 18, 2017 6:58 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The fourth quality of an admirable friend is discernment. You really do understand how the mind creates suffering. You can see it in action, so that you can avoid it. This is the attitude that makes you a genuine friend to yourself, because the mind wants happiness. Everything we do is for the sake of happiness. And yet we always turn around and find that, while some of the things we’ve done have actually created happiness, a lot of the things we’ve done have not. They created just the opposite. Why was that? Because we had no discernment. We were ignorant of what we were doing, ignorant of the effects, ignorant of the motivation going on inside our minds. Things we should be very clear about — right here in our own minds — we tend to be muddled about because we’re paying attention to things far away. This is where we’re not really a friend to ourselves.

To be truly a friend to yourself, you have to look carefully at your actions. Before you do something, ask yourself, “What are the consequences going to be?” You don’t do something just because you feel like doing it. You do it because you think it’s going to have a good impact. If you see that it’s going to have a bad impact, then no matter how much you want to do it, you learn how to say No. That’s an aspect of discernment right there: learning how to say No to yourself when you have to, and making it stick.

While you’re doing something, watch the results that are actually arising. If you notice that even though you meant well, your actions are not having a good impact, stop. If you don’t see anything harmful happening, you can continue with the action. When you’re done, reflect on the long-term consequences. If the action actually did cause trouble, talk it over with somebody. Don’t be too embarrassed. Point out to them: “I did this, and these were the consequences.” That way, you learn from other people’s wisdom. The fool is someone who thinks he can figure out everything on his own. We’ve had who knows how many generations of people practicing the Dhamma now. There are bound to be people who’ve learned how to avoid mistakes and how to avoid things that may seem okay but are actually going to cause trouble down the line.

In this way, you take your happiness seriously. That’s what discernment is all about: realizing that as long as you have the power to act, you might as well use it well for genuine happiness, and doing what you can to learn. In this way, you cause less trouble for other people, and you set a good example. You’re a friend to them and a friend to yourself.
From: How to Be an Admirable Friend by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:24 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Sometimes we read the passages in the Satipatthana Sutta about how you can gain Awakening in seven days if you're really dedicated, and we come away with unrealistic ideas about how quickly we should see results in order to deem our practice successful. This is not to say that it's not possible, but just that most of the people who could get results in seven days have already gotten results and gone to nibbana. That leaves the rest of us here muddling along — which doesn't mean we should be any less dedicated in our practice. We should just realize that it's going to take time.
From: Patience by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Oct 23, 2017 2:59 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Think about it: Why would you want anyone else to suffer? You might think about the evil or cruel things they've done in the past, but even then why would you want them to suffer? To learn a lesson? Well, they're going to learn their lesson because the principle of karma is going to take care of that — that's why the teaching on equanimity is there — so you don't have to go out and be God's vengeful sword to make sure that everyone gets their just punishments. Your only job is to make sure there are no limits on your goodwill. When people have done horrible things, you don't have to like them; you don't have to condone their behavior. That's not what goodwill means. Goodwill means that you don't wish anyone harm. If they're doing horrible things, you have every right to stop them if you can — after all, in doing horrible things, they're creating bad karma, more suffering for themselves. Just make sure that you don't harm them in trying to stop them.
From: The Sublime Attitudes by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Oct 25, 2017 5:45 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Often, when people have made up their minds to straighten out the world, the things they do to straighten out the world tend to get very unskillful and they end up making things worse. They don't like other people's greed, anger, and delusion, yet in the course of trying to straighten them out, they inflict them with their own greed, anger, and delusion. They simply compound the problem.

So your only responsibility to the world is to focus on doing what's skillful. That's all you have to take care of. As for the working out of everybody else's karma, that will work out on its own without your having to get involved. Just make sure that your own present karma is skillful.

One thing you can do that's skillful right now is to allow the mind to settle down with the breath. There's no unfinished business with other people that you've got to take care of right now. Your unfinished business is to see how skillful you can be in the way you direct your mind, for if you want true happiness this is what you've got to do. You're not going to find true happiness by straightening out the world, but you can find true happiness by straightening out the mind. Doing skillful things, saying skillful things, thinking skillful things: This is how your world is going to become a better world.

And this is not a small or narrow minded idea. You may have read that these poor Hinayanists, all they can think about is their own individual liberation, while other Buddhists have nobler, broader aspirations: They want to save all sentient beings from suffering. Now if suffering were a thing — like a house — that you could clean up, then it would be possible to go around cleaning up other people's houses for them. But it's not a thing. It's a pattern of unskillful behavior. Each person is suffering because of his or her own lack of skill. So each person has to clean up his or her own act. You can't make other people more skillful. You can't force them to choose to be more skillful. You can't clean up their act for them. You can show them by example, by cleaning up your own act. You can recommend that they clean up theirs, but your recommendations carry weight only if you can speak from experience in how you cleaned up your act, and you can show the actual example of your own behavior. But the actual cleaning is something that each person has to do for him or herself. Nobody can save anyone else. There's no other way that the world will get clean.
From: A Load of Straw by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Oct 27, 2017 7:33 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:When you’re wishing for other people’s happiness, one, you want it to be true happiness. And two, you realize that happiness, especially true happiness, has to come from understanding. People, to be happy, have to understand the causes of true happiness and be able to act on those causes.

You’re not saying, “Well, may this person who’s killing and stealing, etc., be happy killing and stealing.” You’re saying to yourself, “May they see the light, realize that the killing and stealing doesn’t lead to happiness so they can stop those things.”

So when you find it difficult to spread thoughts of goodwill to other people or try to make thoughts limitless, you really have to stop and work on your understanding of goodwill. Otherwise it becomes make-believe. You sit there sending out pink rays in all directions, but it doesn’t really mean that much. When the meditation is over, you go back to your old prejudices or your old likes and dislikes. And you find yourself really wishing that someone else would suffer. That doesn’t accomplish the purpose of goodwill. The purpose of goodwill is to establish a principle in the mind. The Buddha calls it a determination: that you’re going to have goodwill regardless.

And it’s important to think about it in those terms. This is a determination that you’re going to act on goodwill regardless of how the other person is acting or speaking or thinking. You’re going to keep in the back of your mind the thought, “I want that person to understand the causes for true happiness.” That then becomes a part of your intention as you deal with that person.
From: Goodwill for Bad People by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:30 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There are passages where the Buddha describes monks who win out over lust, comparing them to soldiers who are brave and victorious in battle. The ones who give in to lust are the cowards — which, of course, goes against a lot of what our society teaches us about being macho, about gaining the object of your lust and gaining the object of your desire, beating out other people, as somehow a kind of a victory. And I’m sure that attitude existed in Indian culture as well. That’s why the Buddha had to make the point very clear that when you win out over your lust, you’re a brave soldier and not just a weakling who couldn’t make it with somebody.
From: Victory by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Oct 30, 2017 2:10 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I was reading a book a while back on analyzing people who had started out their adult lives in really bad shape psychologically, and yet they were able to pull themselves together. Tolstoy was an example. As a young person he looked pretty hopeless, and then he somehow pulled it all together and became a great novelist, an inspiration to a lot of peacemakers. In the book I was reading — it was basically psychotherapy applied to history or psychoanalysis applied to history, which often is a pretty sordid affair. Usually they want to ferret out who had strange sexual desires, and who had strange psychological problems, and just leave it at that. But in this case the analysis was meant to derive lessons on how is it that some people who start out in really bad shape manage to get it together? That’s psychoanalysis applied to history with a real point.

The conclusions were not anything really surprising, but it’s important to remember that some of the basic facts of life, the most important ones, are things we tend to overlook. The conclusions here pointed out basically two things: First, in each case the person found someone who really believed in him or her and encouraged him or her to develop skillful qualities. Second, that person had a belief system that emphasized that it really was important to make something of yourself, something of more than just ordinary value.

This is what we have in the Dharma and the Sangha. For the Sangha, you’ve got people who believe in the worthwhile endeavor, the value of developing skillful qualities and encouraging other people to develop skillful qualities. It creates the right social environment for learning how to mature. And then second, there’s the system — the belief system or the values of the Dhamma — that if you develop skillful qualities in your mind, it really does make a difference not only for yourself, but for all the people around you. There is a value to learning how to will, or to intend things in a skillful way. It really does make a difference.
From: Truths of the Will by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:53 pm

Question: Does karma shape everything you experience?

Thanissaro Bhikkhu: The Buddha used the teaching on karma to explain only three things: 1) your experience of pleasure and pain; 2) the level of rebirth you take after death, in terms of such things as your wisdom or lack of wisdom, wealth or lack of wealth, and the length of your lifespan; and 3) what to do to get out of the cycle of rebirth. The noble eightfold path is this last type of karma: the karma that puts an end to karma. Beyond that, he said that if you tried to work out all the implications of the results of karma, you’d go crazy. Because his teaching deals simply with suffering and the end of suffering, that’s as far as he took the issue.
From: The Seeds of Karma: 21 Questions on Karma & Rebirth by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:54 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I received a phone call this evening from someone who asked, “How do I stick with the breath throughout the day? Do I just not care about other people? Do I not take in what they’re saying?” I said, “No, that’s not the case at all.” When you’re with the breath, you’re giving yourself a solid place to stand as you take on your other responsibilities. And you’re actually more able to be sensitive to other people when the basis of your attention is your breath, rather than what it normally is: your moods, your preoccupations.

So you look for whatever opportunity there is to practice. There’s a common phrase that you try to bring your practice into your life. Actually, it should be the other way around. You try to bring your life into the practice. In other words, the practice is the container. Your awareness of the breath should be the container for the day.
From: Harmlessness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Nov 05, 2017 1:44 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 needs 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 » Mon Nov 06, 2017 8:22 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The more you’re able to step back from either your pride around your body or your shame around your body, the more you realize that neither is a helpful attitude to bring to the practice. When you can step away from these things, you’re that much closer to freedom, to finding a happiness that’s independent from both the body and the events in your mind.

It’s not like we’re saying the body is bad and the mind is good. There’s something deeper than even the mind that we’re after. As the Buddha says, this “something” can be touched by the mind and it’s touched and seen at the body. The potential opening to it is always right here in the present moment where the mind and the body meet. Where you have an experience of the body right now: That’s where the experience of the deathless will come. As long as the mind has these issues around liking or disliking the body, it’s not going to be able to settle into the spot where it can touch and see that other dimension.

So use this contemplation for its intended purpose. It’s not to hate the body, or to make you feel ashamed of yourself. It’s to free you from the body and from all the attitudes in the mind that get attached to the body and then either like it or dislike it because of the attachment. When you understand this contemplation, you find that it really is very helpful. It’s one of the kindest things the Buddha left behind.
From: The Kindness of Body Contemplation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Nov 07, 2017 9:29 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If there’s suffering, the cause is not outside. Just turn around and look in your mind. This is not for the purpose of laying the blame on you. It’s for the purpose of offering you a path out of the suffering. What people do outside often is totally outrageous. Sometimes people don’t even behave like people. They behave like beasts. And it’s true. We’re not denying that fact. But if you focus on them, that’s not going to solve the problem. We’re not here to assign who’s to blame and who’s not to blame for your suffering. We’re here to find a way out. And the way out is by looking into the mind. How do you shape things? When you go about looking and listening, thinking, what are you looking for? Can you look and listen in a different way? When you frame things in this way, it’s really empowering.
From: Two Things to Keep in Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:23 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:One of the big problems in living in the world is the values of the world are very much opposed to the values of the Dhamma. What people in general think is important, the Buddha says is actually pretty trivial. And what the world may think is trivial the Buddha says is actually the important aspect of life. Learning to be generous, learning to be virtuous: The world outside at large doesn’t put much stock in these things. To get ahead sometimes you have to be really grasping and really greedy. And the people who are really successful in the eyes of the world are often doing very immoral things. And yet the world exalts them. So you have to make sure that you don’t pick up those values, because they’re going to be detrimental to your mind, detrimental to your future.
From: Try This at Home by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:35 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I wrote a review about a book on positive psychology. I was asked to critique the book from a Buddhist point of view. And the thing I noticed was that the book said nothing about how your actions, or how your ideas about pursuing happiness, were going to have an impact on other people. It was all about how much happiness you were going to get for yourself, but there was no consideration of what your pursuit of happiness was going to do down the line in terms of the karmic consequences, in terms of the impact it would have on the people around you.

The author was actually trying to be “objective” in saying, “Well, we have to study even how thieves make themselves happy, so we can’t judge the morality of their actions.” In my review, I pointed out that from the Buddha’s point of view, this doesn’t work at all because that attitude doesn’t give you protection. If your pursuit of happiness doesn’t take into consideration how it’s going to affect other people, then it’s very shortsighted. I submitted the article, and the editors of the magazine were surprised that I had chosen to speak about karma in this context. Of course, I was surprised that they were surprised.
From: Noble & True by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Nov 17, 2017 2:35 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There’s a sutta [AN7:49] where the Buddha talks about different motivations for being generous. And the lowest one, of course, is, “I’ll get this back with interest.” But still that’s a good motivation. It’s better than saying, “I don’t see any need to be generous at all.” There’s too much of that out there. When people begin to realize that if they really want to have wealth that lasts for a while, if they want to have well-being that lasts for a while, they’ve got to share: That’s a meritorious motivation that should be encouraged.

As you work up the levels of motivation, you finally get to the ones where generosity is simply a natural expression of the mind. You say to yourself, “I give simply because it’s good to do this. The mind feels refreshed.” That, too, is a benefit you get from it.

So don’t look down on the idea that you’re going to get something out of this. Don’t think that it taints your merit or the goodness of your actions. It’s simply a matter of how refined you can make your sense of how you benefit from the generosity or how you benefit from the practice of virtue, how you benefit from the meditation. As your mind grows, it just 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 19, 2017 7:16 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We get into the present moment not because the present moment is a wonderful moment; after all, a lot of things that happen in the present are not wonderful at all. But the present moment is an important moment, because it’s where we’re making decisions that shape our life. Decisions that were made in the past are things you can’t change anymore. They are done. Decisions that you’re going to make in the future will depend a lot on what you’re doing right now. So this is the most important place to be.

The world tells us that things other people are doing on the other side of the world are the most important thing going on. But you don’t have to believe that, because your world is being shaped by your actions right now. You want to understand this process of acting.
From: Limitless Thoughts by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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