from Wings to Awakening: An Anthology from the Pali CanonI have made similar use of modern science — chaos theory in particular. There are many parallels between Buddhist theories of causation and modern deterministic chaos theory. Examples and terminology drawn from the latter — such as feedback, scale invariance, resonance, and fluid turbulence — are very useful in explaining the former. Again, in using these parallels I am not trying to equate Buddhist teachings with chaos theory or to engage in pseudo-science. Fashions in science change so rapidly that we do the Buddha's teachings no favor in trying to "prove" them in light of current scientific paradigms. Here I am simply pointing out similarities as a way of helping to make those teachings intelligible in modern terms. Deterministic chaos theory is the only modern body of knowledge that has worked out a vocabulary for the patterns of behavior described in Buddhist explanations of causality, and so it seems a natural source to draw on, both to describe those patterns and to point out some of their less obvious implications.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:On an affective level, a sense of connectedness may relieve the pain of isolation, but when you look deeper, you have to agree with the Buddha that interconnectedness and interdependence lie at the essence of suffering. Take the weather, for instance. Last summer we had wonderful, balmy weather in San Diego — none of the oppressive heat that usually hits in August — and yet the same weather pattern brought virtually non-stop rain to southern Alaska, drought to the Northeast, and killer hurricanes with coffins floating out of their graves in North Carolina. Are we supposed to find happiness in identifying with a world like this? The suttas are often characterized as pessimistic in advocating release from samsara, but that's nothing compared to the pessimism inherent in the idea that staying interconnected is our only hope for happiness.
From: A Question of Skill: An Interview with Thanissaro Bhikkhu by Insight Magazine Online
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So find somebody that you do find easy to think "OK, may this person be happy". The phrases you use don't have to be elaborate; and it's not something that you just keep repeating the phrase; you just pose that idea in the mind and see if you agree with it. See if there are any members of the committee who would object.
From: Unsentimental Goodwill by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (mp3 audio)
- Head & Heart Together.As for your physical eating habits, this is one of the areas where inner strength training and outer strength training part ways. As a meditator, you have to be concerned less with what physical food you eat than with why you eat. If you're bulking up for no real purpose, it's actually harmful for the mind. You have to realize that in eating - even if it's vegetarian food - you're placing a burden on the world around you, so you want to give some thought to the purposes served by the strength you gain from your food. Don't take more from the world than you're willing to give back. Don't eat just for the fun of it, because the beings that provided the food didn't provide it in fun. Make sure the energy gets put to good use.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:On the other hand, if one denies any kind of self, saying that the cosmos is totally "other," then one is assuming that there is nothing with any long-term existence whose happiness deserves anything more than quick, short-term attempts at finding pleasure. The imperative in this case would be to pursue immediate pleasure with as little effort as possible, thus aborting any sustained effort to bring about an end to suffering.
From: Wings to Awakening by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Most of us, when looking at the four noble truths, don't realize that they're all about desire. We're taught that the Buddha gave only one role to desire — as the cause of suffering. Because he says to abandon the cause of suffering, it sounds like he's denying any positive role to desire and its constructive companions: creativity, imagination, and hope. This perception, though, misses two important points. The first is that all four truths speak to the basic dynamic of desire on its own terms: perception of lack and limitation, the imagination of a solution, and a strategy for attaining it. The first truth teaches the basic lack and limitation in our lives — the clinging that constitutes suffering — while the second truth points to the types of desires that lead to clinging: desires for sensuality, becoming, and annihilation. The third truth expands our imagination to encompass the possibility that clinging can be totally overcome. The fourth truth, the path to the end of suffering, shows how to strategize so as to overcome clinging by abandoning its cause.
From: Pushing the Limits: Desire & Imagination in the Buddhist Path by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
In one of Ajaan Lee's last Dhamma talks he compared life to taking a boat across an ocean. The problem out on the ocean is that there's no fresh water. For most of us meditation is like stopping in a port, picking up some fresh water, and putting it in the boat. Then we go out to sea and discover that we've run out of water, so we have to go back to port. As a result we don't get very far. If we're not careful, the winds will blow us away from the coast, and we'll find ourselves without any water at all.
In other words, when we meditate we pick up a good sense of ease, a sense of inner refreshment. It's like stocking up on water. But then we take it out and we pour the water out our eyes and ears, all over the place. So we have to come back, meditate some more, get some more water — back and forth like this. We never really stock up on enough water to take us across the ocean. So an important lesson we have to learn is how not to pour the water out. What this means is learning how to maintain your center with the breath, inside the body, even when you go outside and deal with other people. This is one of the big issues in any meditator's life.
The trick, as Ajaan Lee says, is to have a little distillery in the boat so that you can take the salt water and put it into the distillery, to turn it into fresh water. Then everywhere you go you've got fresh water. In other words, no matter where you go, you're right here: centered in the body, with your awareness filling the body. You're not leaving the body unprotected and you're not using up all your energy in those false outside defenses. You're creating a sense of energy here in the body, a sense of refreshment, and it's protecting you as well. This way you can travel around the world because there's salt water everywhere. If you've got the skill, you can turn it into fresh water — as much fresh water as you want.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:1) You’re not concerned with your breath as it might be observed by a doctor or a machine outside you. You’re concerned with your breath as only you can know it: as part of your direct experience of having a body. If you have trouble thinking of these energies as “breath,” see if thinking of them as “breathing sensations” or “body sensations” helps — whatever enables you to get in touch with what’s actually there.
2) This is NOT a matter of trying to create sensations that don’t already exist. You’re simply making yourself more sensitive to sensations that are already there. When you’re told to let the breath energies flow into one another, ask yourself if the sensations you feel seem unconnected to one another. If they do, simply hold in mind the possibility that they can connect on their own. This is what it means to allow them to flow.
3) These energies are not air. They’re energy. If, while you’re allowing the breath energies to spread through the various parts of the body, you sense that you’re trying to force energy into those parts, stop and remind yourself: Energy doesn’t need to be forced. There’s plenty of space even in the most solid parts of the body for this energy to flow, so you don’t have to push it against any resistance. If there’s a sense of resistance to the energy, it’s coming from the way you visualize it. Try to visualize the energy in a way that can slip around and through everything with ease.
The best way to get in touch with these energies is to close your eyes, notice the sensations that tell you where the different parts of your body are, and then allow yourself to view those sensations as a type of energy. As you get more sensitive to those sensations and see how they interact with the energy of the in-and-out breath, it will seem more and more natural to regard them as types of breath energy. That allows you to get the most use out of them.
From: With Each & Every Breath: A Guide to Meditation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (103 page pdf)
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Buddha simply says, "Bring mindfulness to the fore." In other words, be very clear about what you're keeping in mind, which is the meaning of mindfulness. To have a purpose in mind, what you're planning to do, and then your ability to remember that: That's mindfulness. As for actually watching what's going on, that's called alertness. You need both qualities, but it helps to know which is which.
From: On the Path of the Breath by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The same goes with meditation. You're told, "Focus on the breath." And in the beginning you're often told, "Don't meddle with the breath. Just let it come in and go out at its own rate." You may get the basic idea that the less you interfere in the present moment, the better; the more passive you become, the better. But that makes it difficult to integrate meditation with your life. Are you going to go through life totally passive in every situation? That doesn't work. It's like a walking death. So you've got to test the rule to see whether it's the kind of rule that says, "Before you cross the road, hold onto somebody's hand," or the type that says, "Before you cross the road, look both ways. Check the oncoming traffic first." Holding somebody's hand is a rule specifically for children; when you grow up, you don't need to follow it anymore. But the rule about looking both ways is a good rule to follow whether you're a child or an adult.
So, the rule about not meddling with your breath: Which kind of rule is that? It's a holding-the-hand kind of rule. Meditation teachers often feel that people brand new to meditation will probably mess up their breath if they try to control it too much. In order to avoid that, they tell you not to get involved, to be as passive as possible. But as you gain more experience with the breath, you don't need to hold onto the teacher's hand anymore. You have to look for yourself. You have to experiment with the breath. Otherwise you'll never get a sense of how much subconscious molding of the breath is still going on, down under the surface of your consciousness. You'll never get a sense of what input you're putting into the present moment. That's crucial to the meditation, for only when you see it are you in a position where you can try to refine it.
So you have to go through that awkward stage of messing with the breath too much, making it too long, making it too short, using too much pressure to change the breath to fit it into what you think might be a good mold. Or when you find something good, you tend to hold onto it well past the time when it's really worth holding onto. Or you force the breath into different parts of the body where it's best not to force it. These are issues you have to learn through experience, through making mistakes. You have to go through the adolescence of your meditation to get a sense of what's just right. That's where you begin to reach maturity, to develop finesse in your meditation.
From: Adolescent Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:When you do come back to the breath, don't berate yourself for having left. Take pride in the fact that you've caught yourself and have pulled yourself back in line. When you come back, try to come back in a way that's deft, skillful. Reward yourself with an especially satisfying breath, one that feels really, really good deep down inside. That gives you practice in slipping back into a skillful state of mind from an unskillful one, and doing it skillfully. It also develops your mindfulness.
From: Moving Between Thought Worlds by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Discernment doesn’t come just from watching passively as things arise and pass away in your experience. It also has to see why they arise and why they pass away. To do this, it has to experiment — trying to make skillful qualities arise and unskillful qualities pass away — to see which causes are connected to which effects.
From: With Each & Every Breath: A Guide to Meditation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (103 page pdf)
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There are a lot of drawbacks to sensuality, and it's good to think about them on a regular basis. It helps incline the mind to the idea that maybe it would be good to put those thoughts aside and see if you can develop a sense of ease, a sense of well-being that doesn't have to depend on them. It's not as if the Buddha is going to starve you. He gives you an alternative pleasure, one that's safe, that provides real nourishment. In the beginning it's hard because part of the mind doesn't want to settle down and work toward it. So you have to go on faith, on the conviction that this is something you really should want. That right there may seem to be a contradiction: putting together the terms should and want. We think of wanting as something that happens naturally, and the should-ing as unnatural. But you can induce a desire — you do it all the time. So if you want to be truly happy, you should induce desires for the causes of true happiness.
From: Generating Desire by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:And equanimity, too, is something you have to will — the ability to stay unperturbed with the things you like and the things you don't like; not getting excited when things go well, not getting depressed when they don't. In other words, you train yourself to have a certain amount of independence. Discernment is needed to perfect and understand this quality, and the equanimity helps foster the discernment, allowing you to see things more clearly, as well. The two qualities go hand-in-hand.
There are times in the meditation where you do simply have to sit and watch. Some of your defilements really will go away just when you watch them — but not all of them. One of the points of developing equanimity is so you begin to see where the difference lies.
So the Buddha is not recommending a blanket passivity here. He's telling you to develop equanimity when it's appropriate. You develop equanimity when you need to see things that you don't yet understand. When you understand, sometimes equanimity is still appropriate, and sometimes you need to do something more forceful to deal with the problem at hand.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... alks_3.pdf
From: The Will to Awaken by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Develop compassion for yourself. Think of all the suffering you could be causing yourself if you weren't meditating. Think of all the suffering you might be causing others if you weren't meditating. This helps to remind you that when things aren't going all that well in the meditation, it's still a lot better than most of the things that people do in their lives. It's a good, beneficial use of your time.
From: Judicious vs. Judgmental by Thanissaro Bhikkhu