The Quotable Thanissaro

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:51 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I know some people who say, “Well, the path is something that’s impermanent. Concentration is impermanent. Even awakening is impermanent, so you’ve just got to accept impermanence and stop trying, relax.” That doesn’t accomplish anything. That attitude actually short-circuits the path.

As we meditate, we’re exploring to locate the line between what we can control and what we can’t control, and trying to make the most of what we can. That’s the attitude that the Buddha wants us to develop toward contentment. In other words, it’s not just a matter of sitting with whatever’s there; it’s learning how to make the best use of what you’ve got, both in terms of your outside surroundings and in terms of the mind. In that way, the principle of contentment and non-contentment becomes a single principle.
From: Exploring Contentment by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:51 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Recently I read someone saying that, “You know, if you’re preserving your precepts and, in doing so, you let other people get harmed by other people” — in other words, you don’t go out and kill the people who are harming them — “then you’re being selfish.” Which is wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to count them all.

First off, if you go out and kill, you’re creating an example that other people will take, and you have no idea how many other people may take that example down the line. You don’t really know how much evil you’ve prevented by killing a potentially evil person, but you do know that you’ve used your own body to kill, to do something evil. That much you do know, and you’ve been irresponsible. And you've set an evil example for the world.
From: Only One Person by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Jan 18, 2018 9:38 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The second way in which the delusions surrounding our fears promote unskillful actions: we react to genuine dangers in ways that, instead of ending the dangers, actually create new ones. We amass wealth to provide security, but wealth creates a high profile that excites jealousy in others. We build walls to keep out dangerous people, but those walls become our prisons. We stockpile weapons, but they can easily be turned against us.

The most unskillful response to fear is when, perceiving dangers to our own life or property, we believe that we can gain strength and security by destroying the lives and property of others. The delusion pervading our fear makes us lose perspective. If other people were to act in this way, we would know they were wrong. But somehow, when we feel threatened, our standards change, our perspective warps, so that wrong seems right as long as we're the ones doing it.

This is probably the most disconcerting human weakness of all: our inability to trust ourselves to do the right thing when the chips are down. If standards of right and wrong are meaningful only when we find them convenient, they have no real meaning at all.
From: Freedom From Fear by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Jan 19, 2018 1:06 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The idea of creating meditation retreats came basically in the late 19th or early 20th century, the same time when the assembly line was invented, breaking jobs down into little tiny parts that you do repetitively. This approach to physical work was efficient and effective, so it became the model for a lot of meditation retreats and for the methods taught on those retreats. You take one method and you just apply it again and again and again. But a lot gets left out in that approach. It's like exercising only one muscle in your body, so that the muscle gets strengthened all out of proportion to the rest of your body. And that can't be healthy.

It's better to think of meditation as a training for the whole mind, as exercise for the whole mind. You have to train the whole mind in all the virtues of maturity and heedfulness. In other words, you need to develop the ability to anticipate dangers, particularly dangers in your own behavior, and to figure out what you can do to prevent them.
From: Working at Home by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:27 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:For most of us renunciation seems to be a restriction — as when you're getting the mind to focus on the breath. Before you make up your mind to do that, the mind doesn't seem to be restricted, doesn't seem to have any violent wishes, or disorderliness or unruliness. But then all of a sudden, as soon as you tell it to stay with the breath, it finds all sorts of other places where it wants to go. It complains that it's being constricted, that it's being tied down. You have to learn not to listen to those complaints, because, as the Buddha explains, when the mind really does settle down with one object, it's freed from a lot of restrictions and burdens.
From: The Saints Don't Grieve by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:33 am

Question: Why are we on Earth?

Thanissaro Bhikkhu: Because we want to be. Each of us has different purposes for wanting to be here, and those purposes keep changing over time. You can look at that fact in a way that’s discouraging, but it can also be liberating: You can actually make up your mind to go for one good goal and you have the right to go for that goal. As Ajaan Fuang used to say, “Nobody hired us to be born.” So we have the right to do with our lives what we want.
From: The Five Faculties: Putting Wisdom in Charge of the Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Jan 22, 2018 12:26 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Buddha never said that life is suffering. He said there is suffering in life. That was his first noble truth. And he identified what that suffering is, but he went on to say that there is a cause for suffering that you can abandon, and there is a path to the end of suffering that you can develop, so that you can reach the end of suffering, all of which can be found in life.

So life isn’t just suffering. It’s important to underline that point, because so many people misunderstand the Buddha’s attitude toward happiness and suffering. Just this last weekend, I heard someone saying that the Buddha’s basic teachings are that all things are inconstant and all things are suffering. That’s not the case, either. As the Buddha once said, if there were no pleasure in the five aggregates, we wouldn’t be attached to them. They do offer pleasure. And we need to understand the different kinds of pleasure they offer, so we can use that pleasure as a means to the highest happiness or the highest pleasure: nibbana.
From: A Connoisseur of Happiness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Jan 23, 2018 6:03 am

Question: When we think of the fact that so few people in the world meditate, does it put us in the position where we risk becoming elitist or proud?

Thanissaro Bhikkhu: That thought is useful when you’re feeling very depressed about yourself. If you’re already feeling proud about yourself, then think of all the people who are meditating better than you are. In other words, try to use a thought that is useful for bringing balance into your particular situation right now. Your thinking, like your speech, should have a sense of the right time and place.
From: The Karma of Mindfulness: The Buddha's Teachings on Sati & Kamma by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Jan 24, 2018 9:55 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There’s no one meditation technique that’s going to do the work for you. That’s a common misunderstanding: that all that’s needed is to do as you’re told, and the meditation will do the work. All you have to do is put in the effort. But discernment doesn’t arise that way. Discernment comes from being a genius — from learning how to phrase new questions, questions that didn’t occur to you before. You see this in the Buddha; you see this in the teachings of all the great masters. The Buddha came to his meditation with a question that was different from other people’s questions. Other people were asking, “Where is my true self?” And they came up with all kinds of answers to that question, but they didn’t solve the problem. The Buddha, though, didn’t ask that question. He asked a different question: “Where is the suffering? What’s causing it? And what can I do to put an end to it?"
From: Nimble with Your Questions by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Jan 28, 2018 5:15 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So when the Dhamma requires that you give things up, remember that it's a tradeoff in giving up a lesser happiness for a greater one. You're giving up the habit of scattering your energy around in exchange for a better habit, one of focusing on the qualities of the mind that will see you through every situation and take you beyond situations.

This is why it's so important to strip things down to the essentials and stay with the essentials. The essentials cover everything. They take care of everything. They can provide you with all of the refuge you need.

So even though it may seem simple-minded, we're sitting here focusing on what? The breath coming in and out. It may not seem all that profound or intellectually stimulating, but it's one of the essentials. Not only the breath in and of itself, but the habits we develop as we keep the mind focused on the breath: mindfulness, alertness, persistence, clarity of mind. These skills are basic to all skills in life, so make sure that you really have them mastered. Whatever you have to give up in terms of time devoted to other things in order to master these skills, it's a wise trade, a trade that leaves you with something far more valuable than whatever has been abandoned. That's something you can depend on, because these are qualities that teach you how to depend on yourself. There's that passage, "The self is its own refuge." It means that ultimately you have to be your own refuge, and that you can be your own refuge only if you develop these qualities that make you dependable. If you depend on them, ultimately you find that they allow you to depend on yourself. That's a promise that comes with a 2,600 year old guarantee.
From: Simplify by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Jan 30, 2018 5:00 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If you think of goodwill as lovingkindness and you’re there like the mother protecting her only child, as some people believe that passage in the Karaniya Metta Sutta says, it becomes pretty oppressive — and very inflated. How are you going to go running around protecting everybody the way a mother would protect her child? It’s hard enough to protect one child, much less all beings. But actually, the Buddha’s saying in that passage that you’ve got to protect your goodwill, both for yourself and for others, as a mother would protect her child. That’s something you can actually do.
From: Goodwill in Action by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Feb 02, 2018 2:29 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Those who demand immediate return for specific services and goods will always require a monetary system. Sincere Buddhist lay people, however, have the chance to play an amphibious role, engaging in the monetary economy in order to maintain their livelihood, and contributing to the economy of gifts whenever they feel so inclined. In this way they can maintain direct contact with teachers, insuring the best possible instruction for their own practice, in an atmosphere where mutual compassion and concern are the medium of exchange; and purity of heart, the bottom line.
From: The Economy of Gifts by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Feb 03, 2018 3:42 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:You have these capabilities. And this confidence is what allows you to take on bigger and bigger enemies, and to admit that they’re there. This is an important part of looking into the mind. We see a desire, and often we’re afraid of really looking carefully at the desire, afraid of what’s behind it. It’s only when we have a firm foundation of confidence and solidity that we can begin to admit, “Oh, there is that unskillful emotion there. There’s some jealousy in there that I didn’t think was there. There are some other unpleasant emotions that I didn’t want to admit to myself.” It’s easier to admit those things to yourself when you also see that you’ve got positive qualities, so that the picture isn’t totally bleak. This is one of the reasons we work on concentration.
From: Fear of the Truth by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Feb 04, 2018 5:40 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There’re some areas with very clear dos-and-don’ts. For example, as the Buddha pointed out, killing is never skillful. Stealing is never skillful. Illicit sex is never skillful. Lying is never skillful.

Divisive speech, coarse speech, idle chatter: There are a few cases in those three where you can engage in them, but you have to know a sense of moderation. This doesn’t mean that you do them a little bit. You engage in them only when you’re confident that your intention is skillful, when you have to speak harshly with somebody to get that person’s attention, when you have to warn people about someone who could take advantage of them, or when you have to engage in friendly chatter to keep the group going smoothly. But those are areas where you have to be very, very careful.
From: Between Either & Or by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Feb 05, 2018 1:30 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:It would be very useful if Buddhist groups would openly part ways with the prevailing amoral tenor of our culture and let it be known in a kindly way that they value goodheartedness and restraint among their members. In doing so, they would provide a healthy environment for the full-scale adoption of the Buddha's course of therapy: the practice of concentration and discernment in a life of virtuous action. Where we have such environments, we find that meditation needs no myth or make-believe to support it, because it is based on the reality of a well-lived life. You can look at the standards by which you live, and then breathe in and out comfortably — not as a flower or a mountain, but as a full-fledged, responsible human being. For that's what you are.
From: The Healing Power of the Precepts by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:20 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

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Feb 07, 2018 5:51 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The physical world may be made out of atoms, but the world of your experience is made out of little things like this — pleasures and pains. So use the techniques of the meditation to become more skillful in how you deal with the basic building blocks. Once the basic building blocks are well in hand, then the whole rest of your life gets rebuilt.
From: Pleasure & Pain by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Feb 08, 2018 7:47 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The word nibbida sometimes can be translated as disgust: the kind of disgust that comes not because things in and of themselves are disgusting, but simply because we were trying to feed on them. We haven’t really been paying careful attention to what we’ve been feeding on. We begin to see that the things we’ve been drawing nourishment from really don’t have the nourishment we thought they provided.

As Ajaan Lee once said, it’s as if most of the flavor comes from our own saliva, like a dog chewing on a bone. The only flavor the bone has to offer is the dog’s own saliva. That’s what we’ve been bringing to it. You see that it’s a futile process, and seeing that is what leads to dispassion.
From: Disenchantment by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Feb 11, 2018 4:04 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So you have to use some independent thinking with your [meditation] technique. You can’t hope that the technique is going to do all the work for you. That’d be like putting your brain through a factory, like hot dog factories, where basically whatever gets put into the factory comes out hot dog, whether it’s meat, or whatever body parts or insect parts or who knows what. It’s all hot dog in the end.

Enlightenment is not a hot dog. It’s the process of developing your own sensitivity. You can’t put the mind through a machine that’s going to make it one. You use the technique in the same way that you use a knife. You learn how to use your knife skillfully so that you don’t harm yourself, you don’t harm other people. That way, it becomes a beneficial tool. The knife sitting on its own is neither here nor there, neither good nor bad. It’s what you do with it. The same with meditation techniques. The technique itself is neutral. It’s how you understand the technique, it’s how you use it, that’s what makes all the difference in the world.
From: Enlightenment is Not a Hot Dog by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
Posts: 1706
Joined: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:23 am
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Feb 14, 2018 2:00 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:They sometimes talk about getting stuck on concentration or becoming a concentration junkie, but those are cases where the concentration lacks the other elements of the path. Your understanding of why there's suffering in the world is skewed, or your understanding of why you're suffering is skewed. You spend all your time just focusing on your breath and not wanting to do anything for anyone else anywhere, not wanting to be bothered by the world.

You have to realize that it's not the world that's bothering you; you're bothering the world with your demands. A weakness in your concentration and a weakness in your discernment make you think that way.
From: The Buddha Didn't Play Gotcha by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Post Reply