The Quotable Thanissaro

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

Post by dhammapal » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:39 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We each experience suffering and the cause of suffering for ourselves alone, but the pattern of our suffering is something we have in common, which is why the path to the end of suffering is universal. It doesn't matter what country you come from, what your background, what your language. The path works across the board if you apply it in all fairness, if you realize that this is something that applies to you as much as it does to anyone else.

Most of us like to think of ourselves as exceptions to the rule. We like to think that it's going to be different for us somehow, especially when you hear of all the effort that the various ajaans put into the practice. We'd rather not have to do all that work. We think that maybe things should be easier for us because we're better educated, or maybe we know more in our culture. Well, no, we don't. Our problems are just the same as theirs. They may be dressed up a little bit differently in each case, but at their root they're all the same. Ajaan Fuang once quoted Ajaan Mun saying that people are all alike, but then if you look a little deeper you see that they're really not, but then when you look deeper still, you see that they really are. Ajaan Fuang's comment on that was: Take that and think about it for a while. There are some differences, but what we have in common is what's really important.
From: Universal Truths by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:49 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Realize that you don't have to straighten out the world before you're going to be able to gain Awakening or before you're going to be able to sit down and meditate. The principle of karma is at work here. 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.

And regardless of whether the world will actually ever get clean — which is pretty open to doubt — there's no doubt that you've got issues coming up in your mind right now. Those are the ones you have to deal with; that's your field for skillful work right now.
From: A Load of Straw by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Jan 13, 2018 6:14 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:It's our ability to remember lessons from the past that protects us. Because we remember from the past also to look to the future, that immediate gratification is not what life is all about. We're here for long-term happiness.

That's the mark of wisdom, when you want to find out what you need to do in order to find long-term welfare and happiness. The wisdom here is realizing, one, there is such a thing as long-term, and two, that it comes from your actions, and three, that it's a lot more important than immediate gratification.
From: Immediate Gratification by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Jan 14, 2018 7:19 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:When we're working with the breath, sometimes we feel we want to make it really comfortable and full of rapture and all these wonderful things, and for some reason it's just okay. And we drive ourselves crazy trying to make it really good. But you have to remember okay is okay. You're looking for a spot where you can settle down.
From: Pain is a Noble Truth by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:09 am

Question: Does the law of kamma guarantee that justice will always be done?

Thanissaro Bhikkhu: No. Remember that it deals only in tendencies — certain types of actions tend to lead to certain results — but that the larger field of each individual’s past kamma, plus his or her present kamma, can influence a particular kamma plant either to yield abundant fruit or hardly any fruit at all [MN 136]. This means that when you sow seed in your kamma field, you get the same kind of plant whose seed you sow, but the size of your harvest will vary in line with many other factors, some of which may not seem fair.

The suttas tell the story of a murderer, Angulimāla, who killed a large number of people but then had a massive change of heart, trained under the Buddha, and became an arahant. After he became an arahant, the result of his kamma from killing all those people was simply that people would throw rocks at him when he was on his almsround. You can imagine that the relatives of the people he killed would be unhappy that he didn’t suffer more than that, but if you put yourself in his place, you can see that it’s a good thing that justice isn’t always done. As the Buddha said, if we had to pay back all the bad kamma we’ve done in the past before reaching awakening, no one would ever reach awakening [AN 3:101]. His main purpose in teaching was to help us put an end to suffering, regardless of whether that suffering is “deserved” or not.
From: The Karma of Mindfulness: The Buddha's Teachings on Sati & Kamma by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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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
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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

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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
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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

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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

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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
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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

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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
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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

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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

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