Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:40 am

Brizzy wrote:Excellent point about right effort, which is an essential part of the path. A lot of opposition to Thanissaro's teachings might be traced to right effort being an inconvenience within traditions which promote a 'bare attention' agenda. Thanissaro's/Buddha's teachings on pleasure can also throw up problems for traditions who view pleasure as 'craving sankhara's' which must be eradicated, and that they should not allow themselves such pleasure, but repeatedly warn of the terrible dangers of Samadhi rather than the terrible dangers of no Samadhi. (Thanissaro gave quite an amusing talk on this somewhere- cant remember its name).
I have no trouble with Ven Thanissaro's teachings, with as little as have explained here. Those traditions which promote "bare attention" of which I am aware, via the teacher with whom I have worked, have certainly not shown feelings of being inconvenienced, threatened, or in any way discomforted by what I have seen explicated in this thread, and certainly those '"bare attention" traditions' would certainly not be threatened by "Thanissaro's/Buddha's teachings on pleasure as 'craving sankhara's' which must be eradicated, and that they should not allow themselves such pleasure," and certainly they would not buy into "repeatedly warn[ing] of the terrible dangers of Samadhi rather than the terrible dangers of no Samadhi."
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:42 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:What exactly is "easeful breathing?"

He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'
Yes, but what is the actual practice of this?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:44 am

Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:Yes, but what is the actual practice of this?

Doing it.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:45 am

retrofuturist wrote:There is the case where a certain person fabricates a non-injurious bodily fabrication...
What is an example of a "non-injurious bodily fabrication?"
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby Brizzy » Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:51 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Brizzy wrote:Excellent point about right effort, which is an essential part of the path. A lot of opposition to Thanissaro's teachings might be traced to right effort being an inconvenience within traditions which promote a 'bare attention' agenda. Thanissaro's/Buddha's teachings on pleasure can also throw up problems for traditions who view pleasure as 'craving sankhara's' which must be eradicated, and that they should not allow themselves such pleasure, but repeatedly warn of the terrible dangers of Samadhi rather than the terrible dangers of no Samadhi. (Thanissaro gave quite an amusing talk on this somewhere- cant remember its name).
I have no trouble with Ven Thanissaro's teachings, with as little as have explained here. Those traditions which promote "bare attention" of which I am aware, via the teacher with whom I have worked, have certainly not shown feelings of being inconvenienced, threatened, or in any way discomforted by what I have seen explicated in this thread, and certainly those '"bare attention" traditions' would certainly not be threatened by "Thanissaro's/Buddha's teachings on pleasure as 'craving sankhara's' which must be eradicated, and that they should not allow themselves such pleasure," and certainly they would not buy into "repeatedly warn[ing] of the terrible dangers of Samadhi rather than the terrible dangers of no Samadhi."


I think you unintentionally re-wrote my argument regarding pleasure as 'craving sankharas' which must be eradicated. It is certainly not the Buddha nor Thanissaro who teaches this.

Metta

:smile:
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:52 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:Yes, but what is the actual practice of this?

Doing it.

Metta,
Retro. :)
Doing what? I am not trying to be a smart-ass here. I am trying to get a picture of what the actual practice is that some here seem to be advocating.
He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.
So, one sits, about to breath in, thinking: 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' And then there is the in-breath: 'I am breathing in calming bodily fabrication.' And so forth, in and out with this these thoughts? Is this correct? So, how does this thinking calm the bodily fabrication, and what exactly is meant by bodily fabrication?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:00 am

Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:Doing what? I am not trying to be a smart-ass here. I am trying to get a picture of what the actual practice is that some here seem to be advocating.

MN 61 wrote:"Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily action of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then any bodily action of that sort is fit for you to do.

"While you are doing a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I am doing — is it leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it is leading to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both... you should give it up. But if on reflection you know that it is not... you may continue with it.

"Having done a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I have done — did it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Was it an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it led to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it was an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the Teacher or to a knowledgeable companion in the holy life. Having confessed it... you should exercise restraint in the future. But if on reflection you know that it did not lead to affliction... it was a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then you should stay mentally refreshed & joyful, training day & night in skillful mental qualities.

There is no "actual practice" that can be advocated independent of the origin of the action...

AN 3.112 wrote:Bhikkhus, these three are the origins for the arising of actions. What three? Greed is an origin for the arising of actions, so too hate and delusion.

Bhikkhus, an action by nature greedy, arising from greed, is demerit and wrong. It brings unpleasant results and conduces to more action not to the cessation of actions. Bhikkhus, an action by nature hateful, arising from hate, is demerit and wrong. It brings unpleasant results and conduces to more action not to the cessation of actions. Bhikkhus, an action by nature deluded, arising from delusion, is demerit and wrong. It brings unpleasant results and conduces to more action not to the cessation of actions. Bhikkhus, these three are the origins for the arising of actions.

Bhikkhus, these three are the origins for the arising of actions. What three? Non-greed is an origin for the arising of actions, so too non-hate and non-delusion.

Bhikkhus, an action by nature not greedy, arising from non-greed, is merit, not wrong. It brings pleasant results and conduces to cessation of actions not to the arising of more actions Bhikkhus, an action by nature not hateful, arising from non-hate, is merit not wrong. It brings pleasant results and conduces to the cessation of actions, not to the arising of more actions. Bhikkhus, an action by nature not deluded, arising from non-delusion, is merit, not wrong. It brings pleasant results and conduces to cessation of actions, not to the arising of more actions. Bhikkhus, these three are the origins for the arising of actions.

There are no universal absolutes regarding action that can be mechanically prescribed that will be fruitful and skilful to all persons, at all times, and in all circumstances. Action is cetana, and the vipaka will be commensurate.

This is why the Buddha taught via "guidelines" - if the individual's "actual practice" (in terms of outward form or mechanics) in the present moment adheres to the guidelines, then it is good/skilful. If the individual's "actual practice" (in terms of outward form or mechanics) in the present moment doesn't adhere to the guidelines, then it is bad/unskilful.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:00 am

Brizzy wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Brizzy wrote:Excellent point about right effort, which is an essential part of the path. A lot of opposition to Thanissaro's teachings might be traced to right effort being an inconvenience within traditions which promote a 'bare attention' agenda. Thanissaro's/Buddha's teachings on pleasure can also throw up problems for traditions who view pleasure as 'craving sankhara's' which must be eradicated, and that they should not allow themselves such pleasure, but repeatedly warn of the terrible dangers of Samadhi rather than the terrible dangers of no Samadhi. (Thanissaro gave quite an amusing talk on this somewhere- cant remember its name).
I have no trouble with Ven Thanissaro's teachings, with as little as have explained here. Those traditions which promote "bare attention" of which I am aware, via the teacher with whom I have worked, have certainly not shown feelings of being inconvenienced, threatened, or in any way discomforted by what I have seen explicated in this thread, and certainly those '"bare attention" traditions' would certainly not be threatened by "Thanissaro's/Buddha's teachings on pleasure as 'craving sankhara's' which must be eradicated, and that they should not allow themselves such pleasure," and certainly they would not buy into "repeatedly warn[ing] of the terrible dangers of Samadhi rather than the terrible dangers of no Samadhi."


I think you unintentionally re-wrote my argument regarding pleasure as 'craving sankharas' which must be eradicated. It is certainly not the Buddha nor Thanissaro who teaches this.

Metta

:smile:
It certainly was unintentional. Let me try again:

    I have no trouble with Ven Thanissaro's teachings, with as little as have explained here. Those traditions which promote "bare attention" of which I am aware, via the teachers with whom I have worked, have certainly not shown feelings of being inconvenienced, threatened, or in any way discomforted by what I have seen explicated in this thread, and certainly those '"bare attention" traditions' folks which I know would certainly not be those "who view": "Thanissaro's/Buddha's teachings on pleasure can also throw up problems for traditions who view pleasure as 'craving sankhara's' which must be eradicated, and that they should not allow themselves such pleasure,," and certainly they would not buy into "repeatedly warn[ing] of the terrible dangers of Samadhi rather than the terrible dangers of no Samadhi."
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:05 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

tiltbillings wrote:Doing what? I am not trying to be a smart-ass here. I am trying to get a picture of what the actual practice is that some here seem to be advocating.

MN 61 wrote:"Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?'. . .
That certainly is one way to practice, but it seems not to be the whole of it.

These are no universal absolutes regarding action that can be mechanically prescribed that will be fruitful and skilful to all persons, at all times, and in all circumstances. Action is cetana.

This is why the Buddha taught via "guidelines" - if the individual's "actual practice" (in terms of outward form or mechanics) in the present moment adheres to the guidelines, then it is good.
Guidelines, but certainly not specifics, which is why working with a teacher can be a very good thing, indeed.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:26 am

Greetings,

Thanissaro Bhikkhu's own experience under his teacher is probably relevant in this regard...

Jhana Not by the Numbers
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... mbers.html

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 16, 2012 6:09 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Thanissaro Bhikkhu's own experience under his teacher is probably relevant in this regard...

Jhana Not by the Numbers
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... mbers.html

Metta,
Retro. :)
Thanks. Interesting discussion on his part, which makes my point about the need for working with an experienced teacher.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby farmer » Thu Feb 16, 2012 6:19 am

Tilt is asking a good, specific question and getting only vague answers. Maybe that is because Venerable Thanissaro, rather than teaching specific types of breathing, leaves the meditator with a set of suggestions/questions to explore on his or her own. Those of us who have tried his approach know from experience what he is talking about, but our understanding is in the form of "muscle memory" rather than conceptual knowledge, which makes it hard to verbalize.

Maybe it will be helpful if I give a few concrete examples of ways I use breathing to support samatha:

* A long, deep, exaggerated breath is helpful for setting the tone at the beginning of sitting meditation. "Take a deep breath" is standard advice for someone who wants to clear anger or anxiety from their mind, so this is just a very natural way of "putting aside greed and distress with respect to the world."

*I tend to continue with deep in-breaths and slightly shorter, heavier out-breaths as long as I feel my mind wants to get involved with distractions. The deep breathing seems to clear out the bodily sensations associated with any anxiety, greed or ill will that get carried in from daily life, and provides a clear object for the mind to settle on.

* As I settle into concentration, it feels natural to let the breath slow, soften and become shallower. The in and out breaths seem more equal at this phase.

* If a distraction arises, it can be helpful to "breathe through" the corresponding sensation in the body. (That sentence makes a lot of sense to me, but may sound bizarre to you...)

* The habit of monitoring the quality of the breath carries through into daily life. If I am sub-consciously irritated by something, I will often notice the aversion first as a tightening in my breathing.
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 16, 2012 6:55 am

farmer wrote:Tilt is asking a good, specific question and getting only vague answers. . . .
Thanks. I appreciate your catching what I was asking and I appreciate even more the time you took for your response. It was helpful.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:14 am

tiltbillings wrote:I have no trouble with Ven Thanissaro's teachings, with as little as have explained here. Those traditions which promote "bare attention" of which I am aware, via the teachers with whom I have worked, have certainly not shown feelings of being inconvenienced, threatened, or in any way discomforted by what I have seen explicated in this thread ... ]

Me neither. I don't see much point in speculation about how so-and-so who follow this-or-that approach might be uncomfortable with such-and-such. I certainly don't feel "threatened" by anything that Ven T says.

If one examines the whole "packages", not just a couple of details, there's really not so much disagreement. With these apparent disagreements regarding "bare attention", it's partly a matter of terminology, such as where one puts divisions between right intention, mindfulness, effort, etc.

:anjali:
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:24 am

Greetings,

farmer wrote:Maybe it will be helpful if I give a few concrete examples of ways I use breathing to support samatha...

Interesting list Farmer... very similar to what I've experienced, following the sutta instructions and listening to the likes of Thanissaro Bhikkhu etc.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:30 am

Yes, thanks Farmer. Some of those are very familiar among the things I notice I do too in reaction to certain conditions. It's nice to see how we get common experiences/lessons out of our Dhamma practice... :group:

:anjali:
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:46 am

mikenz66 wrote:Yes, thanks Farmer. Some of those are very familiar among the things I notice I do too in reaction to certain conditions. It's nice to see how we get common experiences/lessons out of our Dhamma practice... :group:

:anjali:
Mike
Same source.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby marc108 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:26 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Same source.


lol good one.

re: Ven. Thanissaro & "calming the bodily fabrication"

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part3-d
The first two steps of breath meditation [§151] involve simple tasks of directed thought and evaluation: directing one's thoughts and attention to the breath in and of itself, in the present, at the same time evaluating it as one begins to discern variations in the length of the breath. Some modern teachers maintain that the factor of evaluation here also includes taking one's observations of short and long breathing as a basis for adjusting the rhythm of the breath to make it as comfortable as possible. Because the first level of jhāna must be based on a sense of pleasure [§238], this advice is very practical.

The remaining steps are willed or determined: One "trains oneself," first by manipulating one's sense of conscious awareness, making it sensitive to the body as a whole.Then one can begin manipulating the bodily sensations of which one is aware, reducing them to a single sensation of calm by letting "bodily fabrication" — the breath — grow calm so as to create an easeful sense of rapture and pleasure.[i] A comparison between the stages of breath meditation and the graphic analogies for jhāna[/i]
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:38 pm

mikenz66 wrote: If one examines the whole "packages", not just a couple of details, there's really not so much disagreement. With these apparent disagreements regarding "bare attention", it's partly a matter of terminology, such as where one puts divisions between right intention, mindfulness, effort, etc.

And even the staunch Burmese talk about comfort:
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pan ... ality.html
Sayadaw U Pandita wrote:The Buddha suggested that either a forest place under a tree or any other very quiet place is best for meditation. He said the meditator should sit quietly and peacefully with legs crossed. If sitting with crossed legs proves to be too difficult other sitting postures may be used. For those with back trouble a chair is quite acceptable. It is true that to achieve peace of mind, we must make sure our body is at peace. So it is important to choose a position that will be comfortable for a long period of time.

and fabrication of one's meditation practice:
Sayadaw U Pandita wrote:http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pan ... imate.html
For this development to occur, however, the appropriate causes must be present. Nine causes lead to the growth of the controlling faculties; they are listed here, and will be discussed in more detail below. The first cause is attention directed toward the impermanence of all objects of consciousness. The second is an attitude of care and respect in meditation practice. The third is maintaining an unbroken continuity of awareness. The fourth cause is an environment that supports meditation. The fifth is remembering circumstances or behavior that have been helpful in one’s past meditation practice so that one can maintain or recreate those conditions, especially when difficulties may arise. The sixth is cultivating the qualities of mind which lead toward enlightenment. The seventh is willingness to work intensely in meditation practice. The eighth is patience and perseverance in the face of pain or other obstacles. The ninth and last cause for the development of the controlling faculties is a determination to continue practicing until one reaches the goal of liberation.

:anjali:
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Re: Thanissaro Bikkhu and manipulation of the breath

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:54 pm

Greetings Mike,

Thanks for sharing the quotes. I have a couple of quick questions with reference to what you've highlighted...

With regards to the first red highlighted quote, I've heard about some insight practitioners (I forget their lineage) who deliberately cultivate physical pain in order to give them physical sensations to work with. Have you heard of this practice, and if so, do you know of any quotes/texts etc. from the vipassana traditions that explain that practice of deliberately cultivating physical pain, juxtaposed against the need to make sure our body is at peace? I'm curious as to how the two things might be resolved.

With regards to the second highlight, I was just curious as to your logic behind choosing only to highlight number five? You introduce the full quote by saying it's regarding "fabrication of one's meditation practice", but to me, point 1-9 all pertain to fabrication of one's meditation practice. Did you call out #5 because it seems to correlate with Thanissaro Bhikkhu's "learn what works for you" mode of teaching, or is it something else?

Thanks.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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