The Quotable Thanissaro

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Jun 02, 2014 8:41 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:AN 7:63, in its simile of the frontier fortress, compares the various levels of jhana to food for the soldiers of right effort and for the gatekeeper of right mindfulness. Only if the mind can experience a pleasure and rapture not of the flesh — in other words, not connected with sensuality — will it have the nourishment it needs to keep itself protected.
From: Right Mindfulness: Memory & Ardency on the Buddhist Path by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Jun 03, 2014 5:14 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:When you have an experience.... put it in the framework of the four noble truths, so you know what to do with it. This is the kind of attention we’re trying to develop. The Buddha would often say at the beginning of a Dhamma talk: Pay careful attention. This didn’t mean just to listen carefully. It also meant to bring the right framework, the right framework of thought and questioning, to see how you can get the most out of what he has to say. Then you take that framework and apply it to your practice.
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/meditations6_v140119.pdf
From: Skills of the Dhamma Wheel by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Jun 04, 2014 11:08 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Remember, mindfulness isn’t just being aware of the present moment. If you were solely aware of the present moment and nothing else, you would have no memory of what had worked and hadn’t worked in the past, what was skillful, what wasn’t skillful. You’d be totally at sea. Mindfulness actually means keeping things in mind, reminding yourself that when something looks attractive, it’s not necessarily good for you, may not lead you to happiness.... It means just this: remembering what led to suffering in the past is probably going to lead to suffering again, no matter how attractive it may seem right now. Other practices that did lead the mind to clarity in the past will probably do it again. So even though the practices may seem difficult, you learn to inspire a sense of desire in yourself to do them.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/eDhammaTalks_3.pdf
From: Fabricating against Defilement by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Jun 05, 2014 9:03 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:And so from his experience of learning how to overcome those difficulties, the Buddha gives us some wise advice on trying to prevent as many mistakes as we can. But also learning how to live with mistakes, because that’s what life is full of. We always make mistakes. We often make mistakes. And if we take them as an opportunity to learn — rather than a reason either to go into strong guilt or strong denial — we take them as an opportunity to learn, we can benefit from them. As we come to understand more and more what’s going on right now, the more clearly you see right now, then the less likely the choices you make are going to cause harm on into the future.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/eDhammaTalks_3.pdf
From: Living Forwards, Understanding Backwards by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Jun 05, 2014 7:07 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:One of the problems in teaching meditation to people in America is that very few of us have learned any skills requiring that kind of steadiness, that kind of patience. Here, when you sharpen a knife, you just run it through the knife sharpener — zip, zip — and it's done. Over in Thailand, though, when I had to sharpen a knife I was given a big stone and a knife and told, "Okay, be very careful not to be in too great of a hurry, because if you get impatient you may ruin the blade." So, you have to be very consistent, very steady, and very patient as you work the blade over the whetstone. As you do this, you learn all the mental skills that go along with being patient: how not to get bored, how not to give up, the kind of conversation in the mind that helps keep it going. If you have any skills like that, think back on how you've talked yourself into being patient, consistent, persistent, and then apply those skills to the breath.
From: A Small, Steady Flame by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Jun 10, 2014 5:40 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Change is the focal point for Buddhist insight — a fact so well known that it has spawned a familiar sound bite: "Isn't change what Buddhism is all about?" What's less well known is that this focus has a frame, that change is neither where insight begins nor where it ends. Insight begins with a question that evaluates change in light of the desire for true happiness. It ends with a happiness that lies beyond change. When this frame is forgotten, people create their own contexts for the teaching and often assume that the Buddha was operating within those same contexts....
From: All About Change by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Unfortunately the two paragraphs in italics that follow this introduction that are the context created when the frame is forgotten have been cut and pasted online and even in newsletters and attributed to Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

With metta / dhammapal.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Jun 11, 2014 6:27 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So the Buddhist teachings on karma, far from being a quaint relic from the past, are a direct challenge to a basic thrust — and basic flaw — in our culture. Only when we abandon our obsession with finding vicarious pride in our tribal past, and can take actual pride in the motives that underlie our present actions, can we say that the word karma, in its Buddhist sense, has recovered its luggage. And when we open the luggage, we'll find that it's brought us a gift: the gift we give ourselves and one another when we drop our myths about who we are, and can instead be honest about what we're doing with each moment — at the same time making the effort to do it right.
From: Karma by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Jun 12, 2014 3:55 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Years back, many Buddhist teachers in the West began using the term "egolessness" to explain the Buddha's teaching on not‐self. Since then, egolessness has come to mean many things to many people. Sometimes egolessness is used to mean a lack of conceit or self‐importance; sometimes, a pure mode of acting without thought of personal reward. In its most extended form, though, the teaching on egolessness posits a fundamental error of perception: that despite our sense of a lasting, separate self, no such self really exists. By trying to provide for the happiness of this illusory self, we not only place our hopes on an impossible goal but also harm ourselves and everyone around us. If we could only see the fallacy of the ego and understand its harmful effects, we would let it go and find true happiness in the interconnectedness that is our true nature.

At least that's what we're told, and often with a fair amount of vehemence. Buddhist writers, often so gentle and nonjudgmental, can quickly turn vicious when treating the ego. Some portray it as a tyrannical bureaucracy deserving violent overthrow; others, as a ratlike creature - nervous, scheming, and devious - that deserves to be squashed (ed: a monk once told me he was meditating to "suffocate the ego"). Whatever the portrait, the message is always that the ego is so pernicious and tenacious that any mental or verbal abuse directed against it is fair play in getting it to loosen its foul grip on the mind.

But when people trained in classical Western psychotherapy read these attacks on the ego, they shake their heads in disbelief. For them the ego is not something evil. It's not even a singular thing you can attack. It's a cluster of activities, a set of functions in the mind - and necessary functions at that. Any mental act by which you mediate between your raw desires for immediate pleasure and your superego - the oughts and shoulds you've learned from family and society - is an ego function. Ego functions are our mental strategies for gaining lasting happiness in the midst of the conflicting demands whispering and shouting in the mind.
From: The Problem of Egolessness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Jun 14, 2014 3:18 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So there’s a debt of gratitude — gratitude here meaning an appreciation of the goodness that other people have done for you, the fact that the happiness you have depends on the skillful choices that other people have made.

There’s a debt that goes along with that. And there’s a lesson as well: that we depend on the goodness of others and the hard choices that some people have to make. If we want goodness to continue in the world, we’re going to have to learn to make hard choices as well. We can’t just assume that whatever comes easy is okay. Sometimes you have to make the hard choice to go out of your way to do something you know is really good, really helpful, even though it requires sacrifices.

So that’s how the Buddha introduced his teaching on kamma, on action: There is goodness in the world because people can choose.
From: The Truth of Transcendence by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Jun 14, 2014 3:34 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Then there's verbal fabrication, vaci-sankhara, the act of putting things in words. The two basic verbal sankharas are directed thought and evaluation. And you've got those right here, too. You direct your thoughts to the breath and then evaluate the breath: How does the breath feel? Does it feel good? If it does, stay with it. If it doesn't feel good, you can change it. This is about the most basic level of conversation you can have with yourself. "Does this feel good or not? Comfortable or not? Yes. No."

And then you work with that. What are you working with? You're working with mental fabrication, citta-sankhara, which covers feeling and perception: feelings of pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain. And then perceptions are the labels the mind gives to things: "This is pleasant. This is painful. This is this and that is that."
From: Fabrication by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Jun 14, 2014 3:36 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:All your thoughts, words, and deeds do make a difference. Because as you focus on them and try to get more and more skillful, that’s what gets you on the path. And the path takes you to an ultimate happiness. And that makes a difference too.
From: Making a Difference by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sun Jun 15, 2014 8:57 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:This is why the path to true happiness begins with right view, the understanding that helps clear up the mind's bewilderment. Right view is not just a matter of having correct opinions about why there's suffering and what can be done about it. Right view also means knowing how you gain right opinions by asking the right questions, learning which questions help put an end to suffering, which questions get in the way, and how to use this knowledge skillfully on the path to true happiness. This means that right view is strategic. In fact, all of the Buddha's teachings are strategic. They are not simply to be discussed; they are to be put to use and mastered as skills so as to arrive at their intended aim.
From: Strategies of Self & Not-self by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Jun 16, 2014 5:35 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:It's possible to create a huge variety of selves. As the Buddha once said, the mind can take on more shapes than all the species of animals in the world [§13]. Think of what that means: all the whales and insects and everything in-between. Your selves are even more variegated than that. If you watch your sense of self during the day, you'll see that it continually changes its shape, like an amoeba. Sometimes it looks like a dog, sometimes a person, sometimes a heavenly being, sometimes a shapeless blob.

However, all of these ways of creating a self can be analyzed down to the five aggregates: form, feeling, perception, fabrication, and consciousness. The Buddha doesn't say that these aggregates are what your self is; they're simply the raw materials from which you create your sense of self [§14].
From: Out of the Thicket and Onto the Path by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:15 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:In other words, the Buddha has you look at life and death over the long term, realizing that in order to develop good qualities in the mind you have to abandon your attachments, your sense of self around many things. But this is a trade, a very wise and advantageous trade. You gain many important skillful mental qualities in return. Now this is not just an exercise in delayed gratification, because even in the present moment you gain a healthy sense of self, one that's always trying to learn how to do what is skillful, always trying to learn from mistakes, and always willing to learn how to let go of unhealthy ways of identification.
From: Not-self for Mundane Happiness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Jun 17, 2014 12:02 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So there’s a lot going on even when you think you’re just giving bare attention to something. One of your tasks as a meditator is to notice that, to ferret it out and to learn how to apply appropriate attention to what’s going on. What makes it appropriate is that the perceptions related to it are framed in terms of the four noble truths and the duties appropriate to those truths — or, you might say, the skills appropriate to those truths.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Jun 17, 2014 7:39 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Often we hear that mindfulness is enough. Like the Beatles’ old song: All you need is love. The refrain in a lot of Buddhist circles is: All you need is mindfulness. Well why? What’s good about mindfulness? What is mindfulness? How does it function? You’ve got to have a view about these things.

This is why, when the Buddha identified the most important internal quality in the practice, he didn’t say mindfulness. He said appropriate attention, something we hardly ever hear of in Dhamma talks. “Attention” means how you frame the issue, how you frame the way you approach the present moment, how you look at things, the questions you ask. This attention can either be appropriate in terms of putting an end to suffering or inappropriate if it’s not effective at all, if it actually creates more suffering. And the appropriate way to attend to the present moment is the same way the Buddha did: getting a sense of your intentions and seeing where they’re skillful and where they are not.
From: Appropriate Attention by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:32 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Buddha's path is not the sort where you simply do as you're told — noting, noting, noting, or scanning, scanning, scanning without thinking. Those approaches are simply mindfulness exercises, but people tend to do them mindlessly — i.e., without asking any questions. Actual insight comes not by pummeling the mind with a technique but from posing the right questions in the mind. "What are these assumptions I'm carrying around here? How could I do this more efficiently? What am I doing that I'm not noticing? How can I learn how to notice it? How can I catch the mind as it's about to let go of its mindfulness?" This last point may sound impossible, but it's not. When you learn how to pose questions in the mind like this, and you enjoy trying to find the answers, it's going to bring progress along the path.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Jun 24, 2014 5:15 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So even though in the beginning of the meditation it may seem that there’s a little fence around the mind, there are restrictions on the mind, it’s just for the purpose of getting things established. It’s like your hands cupped around the flame that you’re trying to light. Once the flame has caught hold of the kindling, then it begins to grow on its own and it grows larger and larger. So it’s not always going to be restrictive. In fact, when the sense of concentration gets solid and begins to spread out through the body you find that it’s much more expansive than your ordinary states of awareness. And it’s all right here.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Jun 25, 2014 7:52 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Buddha says that an important part of staying with the breath, staying with the body in and of itself, is what he calls subduing greed and distress with reference to the world, or putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. The “world” here has many meanings. You can think about the world outside. Or just the world of your six senses: sight, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, ideas. With anything that comes up in the mind, remind yourself: That’s just the memory of a sight or the memory of a sound or whatever. You don’t have to get worked up about these things. You’re not responsible for them right now. They don’t have to impinge on your awareness. You may have some responsibilities after you leave meditation, but there’s no need to weigh the mind down now. You don’t need to clutter it up now. And as I said, there’s no need to stash anything away.... So for the time being you have no responsibilities. For the time being you have no history. In fact, any thought that would remind you of who you are, that can go, too. The more you’re able to do this, the more the mind will gain from the meditation.
From: Free for the Time Being by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Jun 26, 2014 9:36 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Many students interpret the teaching on not-self as the Buddha's answer to two of the most frequently-asked questions in the history of serious thought: "Who am I?" and "Do I have a true self?".... If the not-self teaching isn't meant to answer these questions, what question does it answer? A basic one: "What is skillful?".... In the areas where you need a healthy sense of self to act skillfully, it's wise to maintain that sense of self. But eventually.... you see that self-identification, even of the most refined sort, is harmful and stressful. You have to let it go.... So if you put the not-self teaching in its proper context.... you'll see that it's not a dead-end answer to a dead-end question. Instead, it's a cutting-edge tool for bringing about liberation.
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