The Quotable Thanissaro

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

Post by dhammapal » Sat Jun 30, 2018 2:32 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:What we’re doing here is working on developing the qualities inside that will find that happiness in the midst of a lot of change and uncertainty outside. There’s work to be done. There are things to be attained.

It’s important to remember that, because there are so many teachings out there that tell you otherwise — that there’s nothing to be attained, there’s no you there anyhow, so just let things arise and pass away, arise and pass away. Just sit there being choiceless and you’ll be okay — just kind of float through things and at the very end, everything just disappears like a bubble bursting innocently in the sunny air. But that kind of thinking negates our desire for true happiness and it negates everything that the Buddha taught. After all, he taught four noble truths. If it was just a matter of letting go, letting go, all we’d need is one noble truth. That noble truth would be, there’s nothing, so any time anything arises and it looks like something, just let it go — and that’s it.
From: The Value of Effort by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:51 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:[The Buddha] says your consciousness can survive without the body. In the same way that a fire can go from one house to another based on the wind, your consciousness can leave this body and go to another body and it's based on craving and clinging.

And that's something that's under your control. If you had a something that got reborn, you wouldn't be responsible for it. But if it's a process that you see, "I'm actually doing this right now," then the question is, "Can I do it skillfully? What are the levels of skill?" So those are the kind of things the Buddha talks about when he talks about rebirth.
From: The Treasures of Spiritual Materialism (mp3 audio) by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Jul 08, 2018 11:10 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There is this tendency. We read one of these passages, say, about the awakened one who experiences just the sight, just the sound, without assuming any person seeing the sight or anything behind the sight, any object to be seen. We think, “Well, if I just get myself so fully in the present moment where there’s no division between subject and object, that should do it: a taste of awakening.” But it’s not. Even if you actually can achieve a oneness of consciousness, the Buddha noted that there’s still stress there, because it’s something that has to be maintained. It’s not the case that we’re suffering because we have a sense of separateness between subject and object, and we can end that suffering by bringing them back together again, glomming them together. Once they’re glommed, they don’t stay glommed. There’s the stress of having to keep them glommed. And there’s also the question: Could you function continually that way?
From: You Can't Clone Awakening by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Wed Aug 01, 2018 7:09 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Because mettā is essentially an impartial wish for happiness, it’s best translated as goodwill. When goodwill is developed in line with right view, it understands that beings will be happy only from understanding and acting on the causes of genuine happiness, rather than from winning special favor with you. In this way, when you extend thoughts of mettā to others, you’re not offering to make them happy, as you might in a loving relationship. Instead, you’re expressing the wish that they take responsibility for their happiness themselves.
From: The Sublime Attitudes: A Study Guide on the Brahmaviharas by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Aug 03, 2018 6:31 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Recently, while teaching a retreat sponsored by a vipassana group in Brazil, I happened to mention devas and rebirth. The response was swift. The next morning, as I was looking through the slips of paper left in the question box, two questions stood out. The first was a complaint: “Why do we have to listen to this supernatural stuff? I don’t believe in anything except for the natural world I can see with my own eyes.” The second was a complaint of a different sort: “Why are Western Buddhist teachers so afraid to talk about the supernatural side of the Buddhist tradition?”

To answer the second question, all I had to do was point to the first. “It’s because of questions like these. They scare teachers away from the topic.” I might have added that there’s an irony here. In an effort to be tolerant, the early generation of Western Buddhist teachers admitted dogmatic materialists into their ranks, but these materialists have proven very intolerant of the supernatural teachings attributed to the Buddha. If he was really awakened, they say, he wouldn’t have taught such things.

To answer the first question, though, I asked a question in return: “How do you know that the natural world is real? Maybe what you see with your eyes is all an illusion. What we do know, though, is that suffering is real. Some people have the kamma to experience supernatural events; others, the kamma to experience only natural events. But whatever the range of the world you experience, you can create real suffering around it, so that’s what the Buddha’s teaching focuses on. He’s got a cure for suffering regardless.”
From: Worlds & Their Cessation: The Buddha's Strategic View of the Cosmos by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Aug 10, 2018 1:12 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:[The Buddha] was in no position to impose his ideas on anyone who didn’t voluntarily accept them. And he didn’t seek to put himself in such a position. As the Pali Canon notes, the request for the Buddha to assume a position of sovereignty so that he could rule justly over others came, not from any of his followers, but from Māra (SN 4:20). There are several reasons why he refused Māra’s request — and why he advised others to refuse such requests as well.

To begin with, even if you tried to rule justly, there would always be people dissatisfied with your rule. As the Buddha commented to Māra, even two mountains of solid gold bullion wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the wants of any one person. No matter how well wealth and opportunities were distributed under your rule, there would always be those dissatisfied with their portions. As a result, there would always be those you’d have to fight in order to maintain your power. And, in trying to maintain power, you inevitably develop an attitude where the ends justify the means. Those means can involve violence and punishments, driving you further and further away from being able to admit the truth, or even wanting to know it (AN 3:70). Even the mere fact of being in a position of power means that you’re surrounded by sycophants and schemers, people determined to prevent you from knowing the truth about them (MN 90). As far as the Buddha was concerned, political power was so dangerous that he advised his monks to avoid, if possible, associating with a ruler — one of the dangers being that if the ruler formulated a disastrous policy, the policy might be blamed on the monk (Pc 83).
From: Wisdom over Justice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Aug 23, 2018 11:09 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Most Buddhists know that they will not gain full awakening in this lifetime, which means that they face the prospect of returning to the Earth that they have shaped during this lifetime through their actions. This belief in karma and rebirth, in fact, is one of Buddhism’s most potent arguments for the stewardship of the planet. And yet Buddhist Romanticism — like Herder and the early Romantics before them — have rejected belief in karma and rebirth, and have offered only a vague generality on interconnectedness and evolution in its place. But these vague notions of responsibility toward others whom we will never see don’t have half the emotional impact of a worldview in which we will be forced to return to clean up any messes we ourselves have made.

And the path actually fosters habits designed not to leave messes. To begin with, it teaches contentment with few material things, a quality that helps to slow the exploitation of the Earth’s resources. When people are content with only what they really need, they leave a small footprint behind.

Similarly, the path entails celibacy, which is certainly not responsible for the over-population of the earth. And, unlike bodhisattvas, who are committed to returning to the feeding chain of the Earth again and again, arahants remove themselves from the chain entirely, at the same time inspiring others to do likewise, so that that many mouths and that many fish will be removed from the dwindling pool.

So it’s hard to see that holding to unbinding as a transcendent goal encourages trashing the Earth. It’s actually an act of kindness — toward oneself, toward those who follow one’s example, and all forms of life who choose to remain behind. To choose an immanent goal over unbinding — and to urge others to keep returning to the pool — is actually an irresponsible and heartless act.
From: Buddhist Romanticism by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:13 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:It’s not that I take any joy in arguing with the Commentary. In fact, wherever possible, I have been happy to give it the benefit of the doubt, and on many points I am very much in its debt. Still, now that Buddhism is coming to the West, I feel it is time to stop and take stock of the commentarial tradition and to check it against the earliest sources. This is especially important in a way of thought and life that, from the very beginning, has appealed to reason and investigation rather than to blindly accepted authority. In doing this, I am simply following a pattern that has repeated itself through the history of the Theravādin tradition: that of returning to the original principles whenever the religion reaches an historic turning point.
From: Buddhist Monastic Code by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Sep 14, 2018 5:34 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We often think of kamma as something very diametrically opposed to goodwill. How can people be happy if they’ve got bad kamma and deserve to suffer? — that’s what we think, but that’s not what the Buddha taught. The teachings on kamma and goodwill go together. You realize the difference between suffering and non-suffering is a matter, not of past kamma, but of present kamma: your skill in the present moment. The same principle applies to other people as well.

And as for the potentials coming from their past, you can’t see them, but you can see your own. If you sense that something is potentially skillful, focus in on that. And try to develop it as much as you can. That way you’re planting more good seeds.
From: Goodwill & Karma by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:03 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:When I was in Singapore recently, someone raised the question, “What is this business about spreading breath energies throughout the body? The Buddha never said anything about breath energies.” Well, there are a lot of things the Buddha didn’t say about the practice. He sketched out the main outlines. It’s for us to fill in the details. For instance, there’s that passage where he says that when you get the mind to settle down with a sense of pleasure and rapture and fullness around your object, you should spread that well-being through the body. But he doesn’t say how. This is where Ajaan Lee’s teachings on spreading the breath energy are really useful. They give you some ideas to explore for how you could use the breath energy to spread the pleasure and rapture around so that you can have body, feelings of pleasure, and mind all together right here.
From: Significance by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Sep 24, 2018 9:38 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Of the four types of [right] effort, the first — preventing unskillful dhammas from arising — tends to receive the least attention, perhaps because of the misunderstanding that meditation is simply a matter of staying focused on what’s happening in the present moment. However, as the heedfulness reflections under the heading of “motivation” make clear, it’s because of future dangers that you focus on the present to begin with — not simply to be aware of what’s going on, but to do your duty in line with the four noble truths while you have the chance to do it, and to train the mind for the sake of its future growth. Part of your duty in the present is to plant the seeds for future growth on the path and to develop the skillful dhammas that will prevent unskillful dhammas from arising in the future.
From: Right Effort by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Oct 02, 2018 10:43 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:[A nature writer wrote] that we have to put up with the suffering [of life and death] because otherwise we wouldn’t be involved with life’s great adventure. But as the Buddha said, suffering in a pointless universe is not really worth it. There’s nothing noble about it. The bigger adventure is finding a way out: to understand the craving, to understand the cause of the craving, and to learn how to outgrow it so that we’re not slaves to it, so that we’re not being constantly swept along. So it’s good to think about how the Buddha defined the cause of suffering. He says it’s the craving that leads to further becoming.
From: The Second Noble Truth by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Oct 07, 2018 5:19 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We tend to think of meditation as only one or two vipassana techniques, but that’s not true. There are lots of techniques for dealing with all different kinds of problems in the mind. When teachers give you just one technique, it’s sort of one-size-fits-all, or Henry Ford’s old maxim: People can have whatever color car they want as long as it’s black. Given the complexity of the mind, there’s no way that one single technique is going to work in all cases, or that one particular person will have to stick to one technique all the time. You have to realize that the Buddha offers a whole toolbox here, lots of different methods, lots of different approaches.
From: Respect, Confidence & Patience by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Oct 14, 2018 1:50 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There’s a translation of a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Chah in which the original translation said that when you’re focusing on the breath, any thoughts that come up, you want to let go. And the Thai transcription of the talk was actually skewed to follow the English version. But we found out that when you actually listened to the talk, he was saying, “If thoughts come up, if they’re directed to the breath and they’re helpful in evaluating the breath, think them,” because that gets you even more firmly involved with the breath — which means that some thoughts are thoughts to be abandoned, and some thoughts are thoughts to be developed as part of the path. You’ve got to learn how to exercise your discernment here to figure out which is which, and then carry through with whatever the appropriate task is.
From: No Foolproofing by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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