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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2020 12:58 pm
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We live in the world where there’s so much impermanence and we find somebody that we really like, that we love, that we get attached to, and there’s a lot of clinging there. The affection is not what the Buddha criticizes. He criticizes the clinging, because the clinging is where the suffering is. Clinging basically means that we’re feeding off of them. A large part of our happiness depends on them. In that way they become part of us, so when there’s a loss, we feel that a good part of us has been lost as well. Think of all the unskillful things we do out of the concern to maintain a relationship, fear that we’re going to lose someone who’s dear to us.
From: The Buddha's Relationship Advice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2020 2:15 pm
by SDC
Moderator Note: please use the below from the OP as a guideline for this topic. Anyone wishing to discuss the quotes herein should do so in a new thread.
danieLion wrote:
Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:28 am
My idea in starting this topic is for myself and others to not only drop Thanissaro quotes we like, but also the ones we find controversial, provocative, or downright heretical. I have no way to enforce this, but I ask that this topic just be for quoting and if discussing is to happen that it be made a new topic of its own
Most recent sidebar move here: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=36307

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Fri Feb 07, 2020 9:09 am
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We often think that vipassana means seeing things as they are, the idea being that there’s something already out there — things as they are — and they’re all covered over by our preconceived notions, our mental fabrications. What we’ve got to do is clear those fabrications away and that will leave just the pristine things as they are. But that’s not really how insight works. That understanding actually gets in the way of insight’s arising because the Buddha didn’t say, “things as they are.” He said, “things as they’ve come to be”: how they’ve come into being. That’s a process of fabrication. It’s not the case that fabrications lie on top of pristine things as they are. Fabrication is how those things have come into being in the first place.
From: Things as They've Come to Be by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Fri Feb 14, 2020 6:11 am
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Many people define [mettā] as “lovingkindness,” implying a desire to be there for other people: to cherish them, to provide them with intimacy, nurture, and protection. The idea of feeling love for everyone sounds very noble and emotionally satisfying. But when you really stop to think about all the beings in the cosmos, there are a lot of them who — like the snake — would react to your lovingkindness with suspicion and fear. Rather than wanting your love, they would rather be left alone. Others might try to take unfair advantage of your lovingkindness, reading it as a sign either of your weakness or of your endorsement of whatever they want to do. In none of these cases would your lovingkindness lead to anyone’s true happiness.
From: Metta Means Goodwill by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Mon Mar 23, 2020 12:25 am
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Society’s main aim, no matter where, is its own perpetuation. Its cultural values are designed to keep its members useful and productive — either directly or indirectly — in the on-going economy. Most religions allow themselves to become domesticated to these values by stressing altruism as the highest religious impulse, and mainstream Buddhism is no different. Wherever it has spread, it has become domesticated to the extent that the vast majority of monastics as well as lay followers devote themselves to social services of one form or another, measuring their personal spiritual worth in terms of how well they have loved and served others.

However, the actual practice enjoined by the Buddha does not place such a high value on altruism at all. In fact, he gave higher praise to those who work exclusively for their own spiritual welfare than to those who sacrifice their spiritual welfare for the welfare of others (Aṅguttara Nikāya 4:95) — a teaching that the mainstream, especially in Mahayana traditions, has tended to suppress. The true path of practice pursues happiness through social withdrawal, the goal being an undying happiness found exclusively within, totally transcending the world and not necessarily expressed in any social function. People who have attained the goal may teach the path of practice to others, or they may not. Those who do are considered superior to those who don’t, but those who don’t are in turn said to be superior to those who teach without having attained the goal themselves. Thus individual attainment, rather than social function, is the true measure of a person’s worth.
From: Upāsikā Kee Nanayon and the Social Dynamic of Theravadin Buddhist Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Wed Mar 25, 2020 7:07 pm
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Another argument against karma is that given the doctrine of not-self how does karma make sense? If there is no self then who's doing the action? Who's receiving the action? What's there for continuity? That's getting the context backwards. The Buddha started with the teaching on karma first and then came up with the doctrine of not-self in the context of karma.

In other words, he said people act, you can see that for sure. Then the question of how does the doctrine of not-self fit in to the way people act? And it turns out that the Buddha said that our sense of self is something that we do, it is a type of karma. You create your sense of yourself. You create the sense of what you are. Your create your sense of what belongs to you. It’s a type of action.
From: War on Karma (51min mp3 audio) by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Sat Apr 11, 2020 10:25 am
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Drop all your extraneous concerns and keep your head. There’s a saying that if you can keep your head when everyone else is losing theirs, you’re a person of value. That’s a strength. It means, of course, that you have to have some equanimity about the things that are not your duties, that don’t fall to you. Otherwise, they fritter away the time and the energy needed for things that really do fall to you. I think this is one of the problems in our society: We tend to see equanimity as indifference and indifference as a weakness of character — that you don’t care when you should be caring. But ask yourself: Who’s placing the shoulds on you there? Even the Buddha himself didn’t place shoulds on people.
From: Keeping Your Head by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Sat Apr 18, 2020 6:12 am
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I read somebody complaining that they had seen a passage where someone had said that jhana is necessary for awakening, and he said, “No, that can’t be the case. My teacher says you see your defilements most clearly when they’re really strong: strong lust, strong anger. That’s when you’re going to gain awakening.” That’s what he said, but where are you in relation to that anger, where are you in relation to that lust when you’ve allowed these things to grow strong? When they stir up the mind, you can’t see things clearly. There has to be at least part of the mind that’s standing very still and watching whatever is happening, not the least bit stirred by those things. Otherwise you just slip along with them, accepting this as the normal way of the mind.
From: Accepting the Buddha's Standards by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Sun Apr 26, 2020 1:12 am
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:One of the biggest misunderstandings in the Buddhist tradition — dating back millennia — is that the Buddha taught two levels of truth: conventional truth, in which beings and individuals exist; and ultimate truth, in which beings and individuals don’t exist and never have.

This is a mistake on two counts. First, the post-Canonical position on conventional truths — which postdates the Buddha by many centuries — is that conventional truths are skillful means: statements that help some people get on the path even though, on the ultimate level, such statements are false. Because the Buddha talked about individuals existing and selves depending on themselves, this would mean that some of the Buddha’s teachings were useful fictions — beneficial even though they weren’t really true. This, however, violates the Buddha’s own observation on what he would and wouldn’t say. Only if something was true, beneficial, and timely would he say it. When he set out a table of types of speech, the possibility that something would be false but beneficial didn’t even make it on the table. This means that as far as he was concerned, such statements didn’t even exist (MN 58).

Second, the Buddha never said that beings don’t exist. When asked to define what a being is, he didn’t say that, on the ultimate level, there are no beings. Instead, he gave a straightforward answer: “Any desire, passion, delight, or craving for form… feeling… perception… fabrications…consciousness: When one is caught up [satta] there, tied up [visatta] there, one is said to be ‘a being [satta].’” (SN 23:2)

In other words, the Buddha defined beings as processes — and processes exist (SN 22:94). He also noted how those processes take rebirth: When a being has set one body aside and has yet to be born in another one, it’s sustained by craving (SN 44:9). And he noted that all beings have one thing in common: They depend on nutriment, which is the same as saying that they all suffer (Khp 4).

But as he pointed out, it’s not necessary to keep on identifying as a being. If you can develop dispassion for any craving for form, feeling, perception, fabrications, and consciousness, then you’re freed from being a being (SN 23:2). And he discovered further that, in doing so, you don’t go out of existence. Instead, you’re now immeasurable — so immeasurable that labels of existing, not existing, both, or neither, don’t even apply (SN 44:1).

So the purpose of meditation is not to discover that you aren’t a being and never have been. Instead, it’s to show you how you’ve been defining yourself as a being through your attachments, and how you can find freedom through putting those attachments — your identity as a being — aside (SN 22:36).
From: Meditators at Work by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Fri May 01, 2020 11:35 am
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Back in the 19th century, when the word “mindfulness” was coined to translate the Pali term sati, it was the perfect word for the job. It was related to a phrase that’s often repeated in churches: to be ever mindful of the needs of others. In other words, you keep their needs in mind; you take them into consideration as you go through the day in all your activities. And even though the Buddha has you be mindful of other things, that instruction is a form of mindfulness in the sense that he was talking about: keeping something in mind as you going through your activities, reminding yourself of what’s important to act on, what values you want to express in your actions.
From: Strength of Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Sat May 02, 2020 11:27 am
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I don’t know how many times I’ve run into people who say that they’ve learned from their meditation that there is no agency, there is no choice. There are meditation methods that try to drive choice underground: You get to the point where you deny that you have choice, that you’re simply there on the receiving end of what happened from the past. But that’s not in line with what the Buddha taught. He said that if you think that the present moment is totally determined by the past, you have no freedom at all. If whatever you do is determined by the past, you have no choice as to kill or not to kill, to steal or not to steal. It would be a meaningless life. There would be no meaning in the path.

And, he said, it would leave you unprotected and bewildered. “Unprotected” in the sense that you wouldn’t have any way of arguing against your urges to do something unskillful. And “bewildered” because you’d say, “What did I do in the past that made me compelled me to do this?” Because you’re denied the chance to look into your motivations in the present moment.

But when you realize that what you’re doing right now is the important part of kamma, and that you’re free to do something skillful or not, then you can look into your impulses right now that would try to get you to do something unskillful, and you can say, “I don’t have to follow these.” You can pry into them, look into them, see what’s their allure. And then you can compare the allure with the drawbacks, gain a sense of where the compulsion came from, and realize you don’t have to give into it. That’s when you escape.
From: A Generosity of Spirit by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Tue May 05, 2020 8:10 am
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Buddha didn’t have much positive to say about pema, or love. There was a time when a group of Brahmans who had suddenly gotten faith in the Buddha came early one morning, getting ready to prepare food for the Buddha and the monks as they came out for their alms round. The Brahmans were making a huge racket, and the Buddha asked the monk, Nagita, who was attending him at the time, “Nagita, what’s making all that racket out there like a bunch of fish mongers?” And Nagita said, “Oh those are Brahmans who have new faith in the Buddha.” And the Buddha said, “I want nothing to do with them.”

I’ve forgotten Nagita’s precise words, but he said something to the effect of, “Please be kind. Their faith is new.” And the Buddha said again, “I want nothing to do with them.” He added, “What do you get out of food? You get excrement. What do you get out of love? The mind gets altered and you suffer pain, sorrow, grief, and despair.”

There’s another passage where the Buddha talked about how closely intertwined love and hate are. If you love someone, then you’re also going to love the people who are good to that person, regardless of whether they’re good people or not. Or if they’re bad to the person you love, you’re going to hate them regardless of whether they’re right or not. If people are good to someone you hate, you’re going to hate them. And if they’re bad to someone you hate, you’re going to love them, regardless of whether they’re right or wrong. So your love is an unreliable guide to how you should skillfully judge people or relate to people.

So when the Buddha’s talking about universal metta, he’s not talking about universal love. He’s talking about universal goodwill, a universal desire for happiness, but he never promotes the idea that everybody’s good and therefore we should love them.
From: Unsentimental Goodwill by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Wed May 06, 2020 12:06 pm
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Like the Buddha: He left his family, and many people get upset about that, thinking he was a deadbeat dad. But you have to remember that one of the ways that a husband or father could provide for his family in those days was to go out on an expedition, go out exploring, and to come back with a treasure. Sometimes it would take years. In this case, the Buddha came back with a really great treasure: the treasure of the deathless. So even though he had to isolate himself from his family — and it did cause them some grief; he himself found it hard to leave them — still, he knew that he had to. And when he came back, he had something that more than compensated for those six or seven years.

So remember this when you find that the demands of the practice pull you away from your family or your friends. It may look like you’re being irresponsible, but you’re actually taking care of your number one responsibility. And when you do that, everybody benefits. Whether anybody else appreciates that fact doesn’t matter. You know that this is what you’ve got to do.
From: Responsible for Your Goodness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Thu May 14, 2020 3:46 pm
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Thus the scholastic attempt to identify such terms as the aggregates as dealing in ultimate realities — while other, more personal terms, deal only in conventional truths — is clearly misguided. All language, in the face of the experience of unbinding, is a matter of convention. The second reason for regarding the scholastic approach as misguided can be seen in all the evidence we have cited that the Buddha was not trying to build a systematic description of reality — or ultimate realities — as a whole. Thus to try to create one out of the raw materials of his words is a misapplication of his teaching — a form of inappropriate attention that distracts from the actual practice of his teachings, and one he would not condone.
From: Skill in Questions: How the Buddha Taught by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Posted: Fri May 15, 2020 11:52 am
by dhammapal
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Accept the fact that you’ve done things in the past that are leading to unpleasant things right now — pains in the body, difficult situations in life — and try to find the resources right now so you can be with those things unshaken and try to figure them out.

The Buddha’s not having you just sit there. As Ajaan Chah once said, if patience were the only thing that were required, chickens would have beat us to nibbana a long time ago. They just sit, sit, sit on their nests. We’re here to develop patience so that we can see things clearly.
From: A Mind Like Earth by Thanissaro Bhikkhu