The Quotable Thanissaro

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

Post by dhammapal » Fri May 17, 2019 4:21 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The conflict between retributive justice and true happiness is well illustrated by the famous story of Aṅgulimāla (MN 86). Aṅgulimāla was a bandit who had killed so many people — the Canon counts at least 100; the Commentary, 999 — that he wore a garland (māla) made of their fingers (aṅguli). Yet after an encounter with the Buddha, he had such an extreme change of heart that he abandoned his violent ways, awakened a sense of compassion, and eventually became an arahant.

The story is a popular one, and most of us like to identify with Aṅgulimāla: If a person with his history could gain awakening, there’s hope for us all. But in identifying with him, we forget the feelings of those he had terrorized and the relatives of those he had killed. After all, he had literally gotten away with murder. It’s easy to understand, then, as the story tells us, that when Aṅgulimāla was going for alms after his awakening, people would throw stones at him, and he’d return from his almsround, “his head broken open and dripping with blood, his bowl broken, and his outer robe ripped to shreds.” As the Buddha reassured him, his wounds were nothing compared to the sufferings he would have undergone if he hadn’t reached awakening. And if the outraged people had fully satisfied their thirst for justice, meting out the suffering they thought he deserved, he wouldn’t have had the chance to reach awakening at all. So his was a case in which the end of suffering took precedence over justice in any common sense of the word.

Aṅgulimāla’s case illustrates a general principle stated in AN 3:101: If the workings of kamma required strict, tit-for-tat justice — with your having to experience the consequences of each act just as you inflicted it on others — there’s no way that anyone could reach the end of suffering. The reason we can reach awakening is because even though actions of a certain type give a corresponding type of result, the intensity of how that result is felt is determined, not only by the original action, but also — and more importantly — by our state of mind when the results ripen. If you’ve developed unlimited goodwill and equanimity, and have trained well in virtue, discernment, and the ability to be overcome neither by pleasure nor pain, then when the results of past bad actions ripen, you’ll hardly experience them at all.
From: Wisdom over Justice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat May 18, 2019 3:17 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:They’ve done studies of people going through psychotherapy, trying to figure out which method — Jungian, Freudian, or whatever — works best. And they’ve discovered that the actual method doesn’t make all that much difference. What *does* make a difference is the ability of the patient to get inside his or her body, to fully inhabit the body, and then from that standpoint to work through whatever issues there are in the mind. This is what you’re doing as you work with the breath. You’re getting into the body, getting more sensitive to the body, creating a new center of gravity for yourself, a new area of sensitivity.
From: Seeing with the Body by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat May 25, 2019 3:13 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:All of the Buddha's really basic teachings have to do with action, which is why kamma is so central to what he taught. Kamma consists of your intentions, and your intentions are shaped by your views. If your views are concerned with what you are or what the world is, you’re going to be sloppy in your actions. But if your views deal with what are you doing, what kind of actions are skillful, what kind of actions are not skillful, they focus your attention where it really can make a difference — where it really can be of use. The rest of the path then follows on that. You make up your mind that you’re going to act on intentions that are not harmful, and you apply that principle to your daily life.
From: Expert's Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Jun 02, 2019 7:36 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:You’ve probably heard the rumor that “Life is suffering” is Buddhism’s first principle, the Buddha’s first noble truth. It’s a rumor with good credentials, spread by well-respected academics and Dharma teachers alike, but a rumor nonetheless. The truth about the noble truths is far more interesting. The Buddha taught four truths — not one — about life: There is suffering, there is a cause for suffering, there is an end of suffering, and there is a path of practice that puts an end to suffering. These truths, taken as a whole, are far from pessimistic. They’re a practical, problem-solving approach — the way a doctor approaches an illness, or a mechanic a faulty engine. You identify a problem and look for its cause. You then put an end to the problem by eliminating the cause.
From: Life Isn't Just Suffering by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Jun 03, 2019 9:21 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:When you see the Buddha’s definition of ignorance, it doesn’t mean having preconceived notions. It doesn’t mean trying to change things. Ignorance means not seeing things in terms of the four noble truths. For most of us, that definition of ignorance describes the normal state of our mind. We’re thinking about other issues, other problems, usually based around our sense of who we are and what we need to keep who we are going — or around the people, the relationships we love, to keep them going as well. Those kinds of issues, those kinds of questions the Buddha said, are ignorance from the point of view of trying to put an end to suffering. So even though you may have responsibilities in the world, put them aside at least for the time being. The mind will be a lot stronger if you can.
From: A Clear Agenda by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Jun 04, 2019 7:21 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Not all sensual pleasures are bad. As the Buddha said, he doesn’t deny that some pleasures can be in accord with the Dhamma. But it’s an issue for each one of us to figure out which are okay for us and which ones are not. There are some general principles. The pleasure that comes from going out into nature is relatively harmless, as are the pleasure of solitude and the pleasure of being in the company of virtuous people when there’s a sense of harmony in the group.
From: Don’t Just Fatten Your Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:30 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So you try to comprehend [the suffering]. And as you see the suffering, you begin to realize where it comes from. It comes from craving, and that’s what you abandon. All too often, we try to abandon the suffering. It’s like coming into your house and finding that it’s full of smoke — so you try to put out the smoke. When we try to push the suffering away, it’s like putting out the smoke without putting out the fire. There’s going to be more smoke all the time. You’ve got to find the fire. It’s the craving. That’s what you abandon. When you can do that, then you realize the third noble truth, the cessation of suffering, which comes from the cessation of craving. In other words, you put out the fire and the smoke disappears on its own. And you put out the fire by developing the path.
From: The Buddha's Letter by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Jun 09, 2019 9:01 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Often mettā is translated as loving-kindness, but that’s one of the misunderstandings. Mettā has nothing to do with love. It’s all about goodwill. You can have goodwill for people without loving them and even without liking them — in fact, when you don’t like people, that’s when you need to develop mettā for them the most.

Basically, goodwill — when understood in the light of kamma — is the wish that people understand the causes for happiness and act on that understanding. This is something you can wish for anyone, even people who are very evil or whom you dislike intensely.
From: Sublime Attitudes by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Jun 18, 2019 4:37 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:You don’t have to think about whether beings are lovable or not lovable. It’s just that when you think about all the suffering there is in the world, you should say, “Isn’t there already enough? Do you have to wish more suffering on yourself, or more suffering on other people? Wouldn’t it be better if we could all learn how to be skillful?” This, of course, doesn’t mean that everybody will be skillful or that everybody will find true happiness. It also doesn’t mean that you don’t protect yourself from other people’s unskillfulness. All too often we confuse the idea of metta with a kind of Pollyanna-ish attitude toward life that everybody deep down inside is a good person and if we would only allow them to show their goodness, they would be very happy to show that goodness. Well, that’s not always the case. There are a lot of people who, when you’re good to them, will see that as a sign of weakness. So you have to protect yourself. But the trick is learning how to protect yourself in a way that’s not harming anyone. The breath is helpful here when you’ve developed a sense of your own energy field being filled with good breath energy. That makes it harder for people’s unskillful energy to invade your field.
From: Unsentimental Goodwill by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Jun 24, 2019 10:00 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:In his meditation instructions, [the Buddha] doesn’t set everything out in a nice step-by-step form that even brainless people could follow. Instead, he plants suggestions in our minds, points out areas where it’s fruitful to explore, and then leaves it up to our own ingenuity to continue the exploration. He wants to make us curious, so that we follow our curiosity. If meditation were simply a matter of following preset steps, it would get very dull — and very confining — very quickly. But it doesn’t hurt that we have recommendations to where it’s useful to look, what skills are useful to develop.
From: Expert's Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:12 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Sometimes you hear that mindfulness and concentration are two separate states of mind. Mindfulness is open, accepting, and devoid of agendas, whereas concentration is exclusionary and made out of effort. But that’s not true. The Buddha talks about mindfulness in many ways where it has to be very focused. He says that when you see an unskillful mind state, you apply mindfulness, relentlessness, and effort to try to get rid of it as quickly as possible in the same way that if your hair were on fire, you’d bring a lot of mindfulness, relentlessness, and effort to put out the fire.

In other words, that’s what you’d remember: This is what needs to be taken care of first. It’s your top priority. And it’s obvious in this case that mindfulness isn’t just a matter of accepting the fact that the flames are lighting up your head, and they’re beautiful shades of yellow, orange, blue, and green. You don’t want your hair to be on fire, so you put it out right away. Whatever else you’re doing at that time, you have to stop and let it go. Focus totally on putting out the fire. That, he says, is a function of mindfulness: remembering your priorities.
From: How Much Concentration is Enough? by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:54 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:As for the assumption that there is no self, MN 109 shows that if you assume that there is no self, there is no agent responsible for actions, and no one to be affected by actions. This would entirely vitiate the teaching on kamma, which is essential to undertaking the path to the end of suffering (SN 35:145). This would also turn the teaching into a doctrine of non-action (DN 1; AN 3:62). As AN3:62 states, such a doctrine would undercut any grounds for deciding what should and shouldn’t be done, and so would leave its listeners bewildered and unprotected. This is why the Buddha also rejects annihilationism as another especially pernicious wrong view.
From: Talking about Nirvana by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:49 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Some people find the Buddha’s precepts too hard to follow; other people say they’re not inclusive enough. The ones who say that they’re not inclusive enough insist that we have to be more responsible. If there’s a precept against killing, you shouldn’t be able to eat meat. If there’s a precept against stealing, you shouldn’t abuse the earth’s resources. They make the precepts bigger and bigger and bigger all the time to the point where they become impossible, too big to be fully put into practice. Or in some cases it *is* possible to practice them fully, but the Buddha said it wasn’t necessary to go that far. We’re working on the precepts that help the mind get concentrated, which is why they go only as far as they do.
From: The Buddha's Shoulds by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Eraka
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by Eraka » Tue Jul 16, 2019 1:42 pm

"The religion is like an elephant with a severed leg. A doctor wants to reattach the
leg, even though it has long been dead, and his tools for doing so are
contaminated. If the operation goes forward, it will hasten the elephant’s death."
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu on the revival of the Bhikkhuni Sangha in Theravada Buddhism :(

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:35 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:It’s easy to see why some people think that meditation encourages narcissism, a fascination with your own feelings, a fascination with your own thoughts, your own breath, as if that was all that mattered in the world. And it’s not helped when the meditation is reduced to a certain formula, a certain technique, that again just focuses on what you’re feeling, what you’re sensing, as if that were all the world of the practice. It’s easy for people to come to meditation, saying, “What’s in it for me?” and not be challenged with much to discourage that attitude.

So it’s important to reflect on a phrase in the Buddha’s teachings on mindfulness, that when you’re contemplating the body in and of itself, or feelings, mental qualities, states of mind, you do it both internally and externally. In other words, it’s not just your body, feelings, mind states, mental qualities, but also the bodies, feelings, mind states, and mental qualities of other people, other beings. And in this contemplation, it’s important to remember the original meaning of mindfulness. It’s not awareness. If it were awareness, there’d be a problem: How could you be aware of other people’s feelings? How could you be aware of their mental qualities? You’d have to be psychic. And even then, what use would that be?

Mindfulness doesn’t mean awareness. It means keeping something in mind. As in that old phrase — to be ever mindful of the needs of others — you keep other people’s needs in mind. It means you remember them. You hold them in mind.
From: Antidotes for Narcissism by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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