Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Ajaan Maha Boowa makes the point that when the defilements are named in the books they come in nice, neat lists, but when they come up in your mind they don't follow the lists. They don't come in the proper order. They come all pell-mell, so you have to be ready to deal with them pell-mell, whatever the order they come in. As in that question the king of Thailand once asked Luang Puu Dune: "Which defilement do you have to deal with first?" Luang Puu's answer was, "Whichever one arises first." Sometimes there are going to be subtle ones and sometimes blatant ones. They don't line up neatly.
So, again, it's good to have names for the defilements to get a sense of what you might be dealing with, but be prepared for the fact that a lot of what's going to happen in your mind won't quite be the way it's described in the books. Ajaan Lee once commented that the ways of the mind are so many that no book on earth could possibly cover them all. But fortunately there are certain basic patterns you learn from, and you try applying them. Then when you've run through your list of skills and patterns, and you find that things are still not working, you've got to use your ingenuity and try new approaches.
From: What's Not on the Map by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:What's striking about the Buddha's standard for wisdom is how direct and down to earth it is. This might come as a surprise, for most of us don't think of Buddhist wisdom as so commonsensical and straightforward. Instead, the phrase "Buddhist wisdom" conjures up teachings more abstract and paradoxical, flying in the face of common sense — emptiness being a prime example. Emptiness, we're told, means that nothing has any inherent existence. In other words, on an ultimate level, things aren't what we conventionally think of as "things." They're processes that are in no way separate from all the other processes on which they depend. This is a philosophically sophisticated idea that's fascinating to ponder, but it doesn't provide much obvious help in getting you up early on a cold morning to meditate nor in convincing you to give up a destructive addiction.
For example, if you're addicted to alcohol, it's not because you feel that the alcohol has any inherent existence. It's because, in your calculation, the immediate pleasure derived from the alcohol outweighs the long-term damage it's doing to your life. This is a general principle: attachment and addiction are not metaphysical problems. They're tactical ones. We're attached to things and actions, not because of what we think they are, but because of what we think they can do for our happiness. If we keep overestimating the pleasure and underestimating the pain they bring, we stay attached to them regardless of what, in an ultimate sense, we understand them to be.
From: The Integrity of Emptiness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Sometimes you hear that the Buddha's teaching on not-self is a teaching on non-ego. This is actually a misunderstanding and it has two unfortunate consequences. The first is that, for those who like the idea of non-ego, it becomes an excuse for self-hatred and for the practice of spiritual bypassing. An example of spiritual bypassing is this: Suppose you have troubles in your life and you don't want to engage in the difficult business of trying to become more mature in dealing with others or negotiating the conflicting desires in your own mind. Instead, you simply go and meditate, you do prostrations, you do chanting, and you hope that those practices will magically make the problems in your life go away. This is called spiritual bypassing — an unskillful way of clinging to habits and practices. As you can imagine, it's not very healthy — and not very effective. People often come back from meditation retreats and they still have the same problems they had before.
From: The Ego on the Path by Thanissaro Bhikkhu