The Quotable Thanissaro

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:37 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Sometimes we in the West think that we come to the Dhamma with an advantage: We've got so much education, we're so well-read. But we have a major disadvantage in that we lack the patience and consistency that come with mastering a skill. So keep that in mind as you're meditating, when you find yourself getting impatient for results.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:15 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We’re on a path, but it’s not a path that saves all its good things for the end. There are a lot of good things that come along the way if you learn to look in the right places and make the best use of the good things you’ve got.

This is the teaching that Ajaan Lee stresses over and over again. We’ve got the five khandhas. Everybody knows the five khandhas are stressful, inconstant, and not-self. But he says, "Don’t be in too great a hurry to throw them away. Learn how you can use them." After all, what is the path made out of if not feelings and perceptions and thought-constructs and consciousness? Learn how to use these things. What is rupa jhana made out of? It’s based on form, the first khandha, and includes the other four khandhas as well. Learn how to use these things in a way that turns your objects of delusion and suffering into the path. Once the path has done its job, then you let it go.

But first you have to learn where to hold onto. You can’t let go of everything all at once. You let go in stages until the path’s work is completed. Then you let go. That way you let go without hurting yourself. It’s like climbing a ladder: If you let go halfway up, you just fall down to the ground. If you climb the ladder to the roof, then when you’ve reached the roof you can let of the ladder because you’re standing on something safe and secure.

So it all comes down to discernment, seeing what really should be let go, what order things are let go in, and what you have to depend on in the meantime. Once those distinctions are clear, then the path falls into place.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Aug 11, 2014 5:48 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Back in the past in India the Brahmans liked to say that giving was very good, especially if you gave to Brahmans. If you gave to other groups of people, it didn’t create any merit. Of course this created a backlash after a couple of centuries of Brahmans constantly calling for gifts for themselves, there were people who said well, actually, giving does not really produce any benefits at all.

One group said it was because people are determined in their behavior from the very beginning anyhow, that people have no free will, therefore the act of giving isn’t really virtuous and there was another group that said, well, it is not really fruitful because everybody just kind of dies at the end of life and that is it. Everybody just goes back to space and that’s all and so having them give something really doesn’t create any benefit.

It is interesting that when the Buddha began his discussion of the teaching of karma, he starts with the topic of giving which makes the point on one hand that it is virtuous and is the result of free choice. He is making the point that in his understanding of karma that we do have free choice. And then secondly that it is fruitful, it actually does give good benefits.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Aug 14, 2014 5:52 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The important thing is to detach yourself from the usual snares of the world. They dangle things in front of your face and lead you on so that you can’t really hear the message of the Dhamma. It’s like the cartoon in The New Yorker that shows people trudging along on a city street, each with a big stick coming up their back and hanging down in front of them, dangling a carrot in front of their faces. They all look pretty glum. And on the street, there’s a guy driving his top-down sports-carrot down the road, smiling to himself. We’re all going after those dangling carrots and that’s why we don’t really see the Dhamma around us.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sun Aug 17, 2014 7:14 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Sometimes you hear of specific methods as being scientific, that they’ve worked everything out, all the steps, and all you have to do is follow the steps. They even have all the questions and answers on cards; they have standard meditation talks. Everybody gets put through the same process. That’s scientific in the same way that an assembly line is scientific, but it doesn’t mean that the workers on the assembly line are going to be scientific, or they understand anything of what’s going on. The process is too mechanical. That’s not the science that the Buddha was teaching. He was teaching how to experiment, how to take joy in finding things out — which means that sometimes you do what you’re told in the meditation and sometimes you do what you’re not told, so you can see what happens.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Aug 18, 2014 2:57 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Thus from the perspective of the practice, mainstream Buddhism serves the function of inspiring individuals truly intent on the practice to leave the mainstream and to go into the forest, which was where the religion was originally discovered. As for those who prefer to stay in society, the mainstream meets their social/religious needs while at the same time making them inclined to view those who leave society in search of the Dhamma with some measure of awe and respect, rather than viewing them simply as drop-outs.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sun Aug 24, 2014 3:30 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:These three qualities of ardency, alertness, and mindfulness relate to the three different time frames:
Mindfulness helps you tap into your memories of the past and what memories are relevant in the practice right now. And the primary memory, of course, is that you want to remember to stay with the breath....
Alertness focuses on the present, what’s actually going on right now. What are you doing? What are the results of what you’re doing?
Ardency relates both to the present and into the future. You really want to be serious about staying focused here because you have a goal in mind: that desire to really understand suffering and learn how to get beyond it. You want to shape things well now so that they’ll be in better shape in the future, all the way to the goal.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Aug 28, 2014 3:53 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So if you get the mind still and find yourself wondering what to do next, the first answer is that you've got to take care of the stillness. Remember: It's a house. It's not a movie show. You're not looking for entertainment. The house doesn't have to be entertaining. The prime requisite for a house is that it's restful, that it offers good shelter. But then the Buddha saw that you can do more with a house than just find shelter and rest. You can make it a working home.

In other words, you learn not only how to build and maintain your home, but also how to use it as your workshop. You not only develop and maintain concentration, but you also put it to use. This was the big difference between the Buddha's approach to concentration and that of his two teachers. His two teachers saw concentration simply as a place to rest, and that was it, whereas the Buddha said, No, you can actually work in here as well. There's more to be done than just resting. You work and analyze, you discover new things about the mind. And if you're still looking for entertainment, that's the best kind of entertainment there is: the joy of developing a skill, the joy of discovery.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Aug 29, 2014 7:54 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Buddha’s not forcing anything on you. But he is giving you guidance, and his guidance is categorical, i.e., true across the board. As he said, our normal reaction to suffering is bewilderment and a search. The bewilderment is that we don’t know why we’re suffering. Why is this happening? What can we do? If you don’t believe in the principle of human action, you stay bewildered.

There were people who, in the Buddha’s time, taught that human action is powerless. The Buddha rarely went out of his way to seek out other people to argue with them, but he did go to argue with those who taught doctrines that basically left you without any hope for making a difference in the present moment — either by teaching that everything is the result of past action or everything is a result of the will of a creator or that everything is totally without cause. Those kinds of teaching, he said, leave you bewildered because they leave no grounds for a should or should not. If everything is determined, there’s nothing you can do. If there’s no connection between cause and effect, then no matter what you do, you can’t have an impact on anything. You’re lost. You have no recourse when suffering comes up.

So the Buddha’s teaching you what to do when you suffer so that you’re no longer bewildered and you don’t have to continue suffering. And in that way, his teaching is a gift. As with any gift, when you receive it, you want to make good use of it. You don’t want to just throw it away. You learn to be grateful for the generosity of the person who gave it and try to put it to the best use possible.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sun Aug 31, 2014 4:06 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:It’s by nourishing the skillful roots - lack of greed, lack of anger, lack of delusion - that the health of the mind survives. Even if we have to leave this particular body, at least the mind has the potential for sending out skillful roots wherever it finds itself the next time around. It’s nourished with its inner sense of well-being, truthfulness, self-honesty. You look at your behavior and there’s nothing you have to hide from yourself. That’s important. At the same time, when you reflect on your behavior, you realize you’ve been helpful to other people. Practicing generosity is like sending good roots out, spreading abroad in all directions, so that you’re survival is not just for your own sake, but it helps other people well.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sun Aug 31, 2014 4:09 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:And the motivation comes down to two things: one is the desire to win, and the other is the confidence that you can. The desire that Ananda talked about here comes from hearing that other people have achieved awakening, so you want that, too. Of course the desire has to be focused properly, not just on the goal but — primarily — on the means to the goal. So you focus right here: each breath coming in, each breath going out. Each breath is the next step on your path. It’s through developing the path that the goal is found. The path and the goal are not the same thing. But it’s by focusing totally on the path right here that the goal will appear right here. So there’s an intimate connection between the two. And your desire to take this path to the goal is what keeps you going.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Sep 01, 2014 6:06 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Buddha says to focus on the breath instead of the pain, because whatever pain is associated with the breath - and it tends to be subtle, but it is there - is something you can manage, something you can deal with. He gives you the breath as your tool for dealing with the pain. So when you're aware of pain, don't yet let your primary focus be on the pain. Keep your focus on the breath. In other words, get used to being acquainted with the breath first, because that's the person who'll introduce you to pain properly. It's like meeting any important person: You first have to get to know certain well-connected friends who can introduce you to that person. And that's the way it is with pain: You have to know the breath first, for it's your well-connected friend.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:17 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:To overcome that ignorance, you need a good point of comparison against which you can measure that pleasure and pain. This is why you’re practicing concentration. You try to develop a state of good solid concentration in the mind with a sense of ease and wellbeing that can come simply from being with the breath, being absorbed in the breath, filling the breath energy throughout the body with a sense of healthy energy. This puts you in a good position to compare things. You can look at the other pleasures you followed in life and ask, “Are they anything like this breath? Are they as steady, reliable, and harmless as this kind of pleasure?” You’re training yourself to be a connoisseur of pleasure, so that you can really understand where the pleasure lies, where the pain lies, and how things stack up. Which pleasure is greater? How about the pain of going back to your old ways of looking for pleasure? You see these things a lot more easily when you’re coming from a vantage point of stable wellbeing.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sun Sep 14, 2014 7:09 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:For instance, the values of dispassion and being unfettered run counter to the pursuit of sensuality and to the sense of “I,” “mine,” “we,” and “ours” that underlie family life. The value of shedding runs counter to the domestic desire to accumulate as a protection against future lack; because this value includes the shedding of pride, it also runs counter to the desire for prominence in social affairs. The value of contentment runs counter to the domestic concern with accumulating wealth and stockpiling for the future; the value of modesty, counter to the desire for fame and recognition; and the value of seclusion, counter to the domestic desire to be surrounded by loved ones. The value of being unburdensome, on its face, coincides with the domestic value of frugality, but on a deeper level — in light of the fact that the act of creating a family places extra burdens on the environment to feed and support more people — it counsels celibacy as the ideal way to be unburdensome. Thus it runs directly counter to the domestic idea that the creation of a family is a gift to the world.
From: Udana: Exclamations translated with introduction by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (149 pages)
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Sep 16, 2014 5:42 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If you learn to approach your I-making and my-making in the light of the Rahula instructions, you greatly refine this aspect of your education, as you find yourself forced to be more honest, discerning, and compassionate in seeing where an "I" is a liability, and where it's an asset. On a blatant level, you discover that while there are many areas where "I" and "mine" lead only to useless conflicts, there are others where they're beneficial. The sense of "I" that leads you to be generous and principled in your actions is an "I" worth making, worth mastering as a skill. So, too, is the sense of "I" that can assume responsibility for your actions, and can be willing to sacrifice a small pleasure in the present for a greater happiness in the future. This kind of "I," with practice, leads away from affliction and toward increasing levels of happiness. This is the "I" that will eventually lead you to practice meditation, for you see the long-term benefits that come from training your powers of mindfulness, concentration, and discernment.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Sep 17, 2014 6:27 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There's a passage in the Dhammapada where the Buddha says that life as a householder is difficult, life as a monk gone forth is difficult. Then he ends by saying, "So be neither." Of course, what he means by that is to find a way of not having to be anything at all. That requires practice. It's a skill — the skill we're working on right here, the skill that takes you out of having to live the household life or have to live the life of a monk. Without this skill, those are the only choices you have. Derived from them are lots of other little choices, but they're all trapped inside those two categories.

What we're looking for is a path of practice that leads to freedom from any kind of category at all. As the Buddha said, what you are is limited, measured by what you cling to. So the path beyond categories has to be a path that gets rid of clinging. When you hold onto the body, that's what you are. When you hold onto any of the other aggregates, you're classified as a feeling-clinger, a perception-clinger, a mental-fabrication-, or consciousness-clinger. You create your identity by what you cling to. This is why the Buddha never answered questions about what a human being is, because a human being can be almost anything.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Sep 19, 2014 4:28 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Now the Buddha doesn't say to ignore other people and just be very selfish. He says there's a different way to approach the whole issue of happiness. In other words, you find a source for happiness that doesn't take anything away from anyone else, so you don't have to be afraid of other people. When you're not afraid of them, you find that you can actually be more compassionate to them. So developing and maintaining this center inside is not a selfish thing. The Buddha's not teaching you to be insensitive. He's just saying to put yourself in a stronger position and to trust that you're stronger by not trying to go outside and fix up people's moods and all the other things that we think we can do with other people when we're dealing with them. Just stay inside and have a sense of confidence that you're strong inside. After all, your source of happiness lies inside. Because it's not taking anything away from anybody else, you don't have to be afraid of them.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Sep 19, 2014 10:17 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:I was reading an interview with John McPhee recently. He had written an enormous tome on geology and part of it had a long section on geological time. After it came out, he got letters from many cancer patients saying how that section had really put their minds at peace. When you think about say, dying at age 30, when your friends are going to live to be 70 or 80 — if you think in the normal human time frame, dying at 30 seems to be a real tragedy. But if you think in geological time, where they measure things in millions of years, in fact the smallest unit is a million years, the fact that your life is 30 years rather than 70 doesn’t seem so bad. Just the shift of context can make a huge difference in how you perceive things.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Sep 20, 2014 5:47 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Your thoughts are skillful or unskillful, your words and your deeds are skillful and unskillful, depending on the extent to which they put an end to suffering. So always keep this principle in mind as thoughts come in and out of your mind. You may have heard that the Buddha taught, say, that there is no self. To what extent is the non-self teaching skillful? Where is it not skillful? Those are the questions he would have you look at, not the question of whether there is or is not a self. There are a lot of things that could be true, but this may not be the right time to think about those things.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Sep 20, 2014 5:53 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Samsara literally means "wandering-on." Many people think of it as the Buddhist name for the place where we currently live — the place we leave when we go to nibbana. But in the early Buddhist texts, it's the answer, not to the question, "Where are we?" but to the question, "What are we doing?" Instead of a place, it's a process: the tendency to keep creating worlds and then moving into them. As one world falls apart, you create another one and go there. At the same time, you bump into other people who are creating their own worlds, too.
....
If samsara were a place, it might seem selfish for one person to look for an escape, leaving others behind. But when you realize that it's a process, there's nothing selfish about stopping it at all. It's like giving up an addiction or an abusive habit. When you learn the skills needed to stop creating your own worlds of suffering, you can share those skills with others so that they can stop creating theirs. At the same time, you'll never have to feed off the worlds of others, so to that extent you're lightening their load as well.
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