The Quotable Thanissaro

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

Post by dhammapal » Mon Oct 30, 2017 2:10 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I was reading a book a while back on analyzing people who had started out their adult lives in really bad shape psychologically, and yet they were able to pull themselves together. Tolstoy was an example. As a young person he looked pretty hopeless, and then he somehow pulled it all together and became a great novelist, an inspiration to a lot of peacemakers. In the book I was reading — it was basically psychotherapy applied to history or psychoanalysis applied to history, which often is a pretty sordid affair. Usually they want to ferret out who had strange sexual desires, and who had strange psychological problems, and just leave it at that. But in this case the analysis was meant to derive lessons on how is it that some people who start out in really bad shape manage to get it together? That’s psychoanalysis applied to history with a real point.

The conclusions were not anything really surprising, but it’s important to remember that some of the basic facts of life, the most important ones, are things we tend to overlook. The conclusions here pointed out basically two things: First, in each case the person found someone who really believed in him or her and encouraged him or her to develop skillful qualities. Second, that person had a belief system that emphasized that it really was important to make something of yourself, something of more than just ordinary value.

This is what we have in the Dharma and the Sangha. For the Sangha, you’ve got people who believe in the worthwhile endeavor, the value of developing skillful qualities and encouraging other people to develop skillful qualities. It creates the right social environment for learning how to mature. And then second, there’s the system — the belief system or the values of the Dhamma — that if you develop skillful qualities in your mind, it really does make a difference not only for yourself, but for all the people around you. There is a value to learning how to will, or to intend things in a skillful way. It really does make a difference.
From: Truths of the Will by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:53 pm

Question: Does karma shape everything you experience?

Thanissaro Bhikkhu: The Buddha used the teaching on karma to explain only three things: 1) your experience of pleasure and pain; 2) the level of rebirth you take after death, in terms of such things as your wisdom or lack of wisdom, wealth or lack of wealth, and the length of your lifespan; and 3) what to do to get out of the cycle of rebirth. The noble eightfold path is this last type of karma: the karma that puts an end to karma. Beyond that, he said that if you tried to work out all the implications of the results of karma, you’d go crazy. Because his teaching deals simply with suffering and the end of suffering, that’s as far as he took the issue.
From: The Seeds of Karma: 21 Questions on Karma & Rebirth by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:54 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I received a phone call this evening from someone who asked, “How do I stick with the breath throughout the day? Do I just not care about other people? Do I not take in what they’re saying?” I said, “No, that’s not the case at all.” When you’re with the breath, you’re giving yourself a solid place to stand as you take on your other responsibilities. And you’re actually more able to be sensitive to other people when the basis of your attention is your breath, rather than what it normally is: your moods, your preoccupations.

So you look for whatever opportunity there is to practice. There’s a common phrase that you try to bring your practice into your life. Actually, it should be the other way around. You try to bring your life into the practice. In other words, the practice is the container. Your awareness of the breath should be the container for the day.
From: Harmlessness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Nov 05, 2017 1:44 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Reflection on other people’s mind states is also a good reflection for fairness. When you see other people acting on their unskillful mind states, it gives you a chance to see what you look like when you act on yours. It’s not a pretty sight. For example, we all have a tendency to want to straighten other people out. We want this person to be that way and that person to be this way. But when other people try to straighten you out, how do you feel? The Thais call this putting other people’s heart in your heart, and your heart in theirs: in other words, realizing that what you feel is what other people feel. If you ever want to straighten anything out, well, you’ve got your heart here that needs straightening out, first. And so focus right here — because this is where you really can do the work.
From: Bodies & Minds Outside by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Nov 06, 2017 8:22 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The more you’re able to step back from either your pride around your body or your shame around your body, the more you realize that neither is a helpful attitude to bring to the practice. When you can step away from these things, you’re that much closer to freedom, to finding a happiness that’s independent from both the body and the events in your mind.

It’s not like we’re saying the body is bad and the mind is good. There’s something deeper than even the mind that we’re after. As the Buddha says, this “something” can be touched by the mind and it’s touched and seen at the body. The potential opening to it is always right here in the present moment where the mind and the body meet. Where you have an experience of the body right now: That’s where the experience of the deathless will come. As long as the mind has these issues around liking or disliking the body, it’s not going to be able to settle into the spot where it can touch and see that other dimension.

So use this contemplation for its intended purpose. It’s not to hate the body, or to make you feel ashamed of yourself. It’s to free you from the body and from all the attitudes in the mind that get attached to the body and then either like it or dislike it because of the attachment. When you understand this contemplation, you find that it really is very helpful. It’s one of the kindest things the Buddha left behind.
From: The Kindness of Body Contemplation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Nov 07, 2017 9:29 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If there’s suffering, the cause is not outside. Just turn around and look in your mind. This is not for the purpose of laying the blame on you. It’s for the purpose of offering you a path out of the suffering. What people do outside often is totally outrageous. Sometimes people don’t even behave like people. They behave like beasts. And it’s true. We’re not denying that fact. But if you focus on them, that’s not going to solve the problem. We’re not here to assign who’s to blame and who’s not to blame for your suffering. We’re here to find a way out. And the way out is by looking into the mind. How do you shape things? When you go about looking and listening, thinking, what are you looking for? Can you look and listen in a different way? When you frame things in this way, it’s really empowering.
From: Two Things to Keep in Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:23 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:One of the big problems in living in the world is the values of the world are very much opposed to the values of the Dhamma. What people in general think is important, the Buddha says is actually pretty trivial. And what the world may think is trivial the Buddha says is actually the important aspect of life. Learning to be generous, learning to be virtuous: The world outside at large doesn’t put much stock in these things. To get ahead sometimes you have to be really grasping and really greedy. And the people who are really successful in the eyes of the world are often doing very immoral things. And yet the world exalts them. So you have to make sure that you don’t pick up those values, because they’re going to be detrimental to your mind, detrimental to your future.
From: Try This at Home by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:35 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I wrote a review about a book on positive psychology. I was asked to critique the book from a Buddhist point of view. And the thing I noticed was that the book said nothing about how your actions, or how your ideas about pursuing happiness, were going to have an impact on other people. It was all about how much happiness you were going to get for yourself, but there was no consideration of what your pursuit of happiness was going to do down the line in terms of the karmic consequences, in terms of the impact it would have on the people around you.

The author was actually trying to be “objective” in saying, “Well, we have to study even how thieves make themselves happy, so we can’t judge the morality of their actions.” In my review, I pointed out that from the Buddha’s point of view, this doesn’t work at all because that attitude doesn’t give you protection. If your pursuit of happiness doesn’t take into consideration how it’s going to affect other people, then it’s very shortsighted. I submitted the article, and the editors of the magazine were surprised that I had chosen to speak about karma in this context. Of course, I was surprised that they were surprised.
From: Noble & True by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Fri Nov 17, 2017 2:35 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There’s a sutta [AN7:49] where the Buddha talks about different motivations for being generous. And the lowest one, of course, is, “I’ll get this back with interest.” But still that’s a good motivation. It’s better than saying, “I don’t see any need to be generous at all.” There’s too much of that out there. When people begin to realize that if they really want to have wealth that lasts for a while, if they want to have well-being that lasts for a while, they’ve got to share: That’s a meritorious motivation that should be encouraged.

As you work up the levels of motivation, you finally get to the ones where generosity is simply a natural expression of the mind. You say to yourself, “I give simply because it’s good to do this. The mind feels refreshed.” That, too, is a benefit you get from it.

So don’t look down on the idea that you’re going to get something out of this. Don’t think that it taints your merit or the goodness of your actions. It’s simply a matter of how refined you can make your sense of how you benefit from the generosity or how you benefit from the practice of virtue, how you benefit from the meditation. As your mind grows, it just gets more and more refined.
From: Don't Underestimate Merit by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:16 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We get into the present moment not because the present moment is a wonderful moment; after all, a lot of things that happen in the present are not wonderful at all. But the present moment is an important moment, because it’s where we’re making decisions that shape our life. Decisions that were made in the past are things you can’t change anymore. They are done. Decisions that you’re going to make in the future will depend a lot on what you’re doing right now. So this is the most important place to be.

The world tells us that things other people are doing on the other side of the world are the most important thing going on. But you don’t have to believe that, because your world is being shaped by your actions right now. You want to understand this process of acting.
From: Limitless Thoughts by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:25 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:You’ve got work to do. You’ve got this mind that keeps churning out intentions, so we’ve got to be very careful about what those intentions are, which ones we choose to follow, which ones we choose to let go. We’ve got to keep that in mind. It requires mindfulness, requires alertness. We’ve got to work on these qualities, we’ve got to exercise them. This is why we are sitting here meditating. These are qualities that need strengthening, they need to be made more and more consistent, more lasting.

So as you work with the breath, try to be as quick as possible in noticing when the mind slips off the breath. As soon as you sense that it’s slipping, then bring it right back. This is the work of the meditation.
From: Goodwill All Around by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Nov 23, 2017 5:45 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:When an intention comes up to do or say or think something, you want to know what that intention is. It's a teaching that the Buddha teaches his son Rahula, to look at his actions and look especially at his intentions before he does or says or thinks anything. Now I've heard a lot of people say, "Gee, that's an awful lot of attention to something like that," and they have so many other things they have to pay attention to. Well, it turns out that the other things you're paying attention to are the results many times of your own past actions. It's much better to start at the very beginning to make sure that the new intentions coming out are well-formed.
From: Straightened Intentions (3min mp3 audio) by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Thu Nov 23, 2017 11:47 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There is a story of a Zen student. I think he was in Minnesota. He was going to come out here to Los Angeles, to try his luck at the entertainment industry. He went to say goodbye to his teacher, and his teacher asked him, “Suppose you get out there and your first job is a failure, what are you going to do?” The guy said, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to accept that.” The teacher said, “No, you don’t accept that kind of thing. You bounce back. Try again. Get knocked down again, you try again. Can’t let yourself give in to despair. You have to be able to bounce back.” In other words, you have to have confidence there is some way that this is going to work out. This is why conviction is one of the most basic qualities you have to bring to the path.
From: Being Right by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:21 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Many of us come to meditation because we’ve got particular problems that cause suffering in our lives. Something’s wrong, something’s lacking, something’s eating away at our hearts. We have a sense that meditation might be able to do something for that. That’s a perfectly fine motivation for coming. And when the Buddha taught the four noble truths, suffering was the first thing he talked about.

Some people come and they have a particular problem that’s been eating away; but once that problem gets solved, they stop meditating. We see some of that. But there are other cases: As you take care of that particular problem, you see there is a larger structure to the way we live our lives, the way we have bodies that age, grow ill and die. There are dangers out there, dangers in here. And the damage that those dangers can do doesn’t stop just in here. Even if it comes from in here, it can spread out. You begin to see there’s a larger issue here.

This is where your sense of what the practice is about begins to grow. Your sense of what constitutes well-being gets more and more refined.
From: Don't Underestimate Merit by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

dhammapal
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Post by dhammapal » Sun Nov 26, 2017 10:24 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Some people feel they don’t deserve happiness. Well, the issue of deserving and not deserving happiness never comes up in the Buddha’s teachings. There’s simply the issue of cause and effect. A good action, an action motivated by a skillful intention, leads to good results. It’s impersonal. Unskillful actions motivated by unskillful motivations lead to pain. Each of us has a lot of actions in the past, so there’s bound to be good mixed with bad. You don’t have to wear off the bad kamma before you can enjoy the good. You simply learn to make the best use of both pleasure and pain when they come along.

The Buddha never talks about having to wear off your old kamma before you can gain awakening. The idea that meditation is a purification that burns away your old kamma is actually a Jain teaching that he ridiculed. And you wonder what he would have said about a passage I read the other day in a Buddhist magazine — that if you can maintain equanimity during sex, that can also be a form of purification. The Buddha had no use for these ideas. You don’t have to burn off your old kamma. If you had to burn off your old kamma, he said, we’d never be done. As for the idea of burning off bad kamma by having sex, he would probably have shaken his head in disbelief. But while you’re meditating you can develop a good expansive state of mind — and empathetic joy is one way of developing that expansive state of mind — that helps to mitigate a lot of the results of your own past bad actions.

In other words, there are potentials for suffering coming from your past bad actions but there are also potentials for happiness coming from your past good actions. We all have a mixed bag. Or in the Buddha’s analogy, we each have a field full of seeds of different qualities. There are seeds that will grow bitter fruit, and there are seeds that grow sweet fruit. Just because we have bitter seeds in the field doesn’t mean that we deserve to eat nothing but bitter fruit. It means simply that those sorts of potentials are there. If we keep watering those particular seeds, the fruits are going to come. But we have the choice of which seeds we’re going to water. So you want the water of your mind to be an expansive attitude, one that can water sweet seeds or else sweeten the bitter fruit in such a way that it’s not so bitter.
From: Empathetic Joy by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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