The Quotable Thanissaro

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:03 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:It's very common when we come to the practice that we bring along some very strong notions of who we are or the kind of person we'd like to be: "I'm this sort of person. I want to be this sort of person." This type of thinking is very common. And yet it's not all that helpful, because that concept of who we are is very nebulous, based on all kinds of information and misinformation. It often gets in the way of what's the best thing to do at any given moment.
This is why the Buddha says to put those questions aside — "Who am I? Who am I going to be? Who have I been in the past?" — not only in their philosophical, abstract or metaphysical sense, but also in their psychological sense. Just look at what opportunities you have right here, right now for thinking, acting and speaking in skillful ways. That kind of question — "What's the most skillful thing to do right now?" — is a useful question. This is what the Buddha was getting at when he said to put thoughts of "me," "myself," "what I have been," "what I will be" aside.
From: Skillful Thinking by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Last edited by dhammapal on Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:13 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:However, the actual practice enjoined by the Buddha does not place such a high value on altruism at all. In fact, he gave higher praise to those who work exclusively for their own spiritual welfare than to those who sacrifice their spiritual welfare for the welfare of others (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Fours, Sutta 95) — a teaching that the mainstream, especially in Mahayana traditions, has tended to suppress. The true path of practice pursues happiness through social withdrawal, the goal being an undying happiness found exclusively within, totally transcending the world, and not necessarily expressed in any social function. People who have attained the goal may teach the path of practice to others, or they may not. Those who do are considered superior to those who don't, but those who don't are in turn said to be superior to those who teach without having attained the goal themselves. Thus individual attainment, rather than social function, is the true measure of a person's worth.
From: Upasika Kee Nanayon and the Social Dynamic of Theravadin Buddhist Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:21 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So it's a pretty radical, a very demanding teaching. The question is, "Do you want to be an adult or not?" There are lots of people out there who'd rather not be adults, who'd rather be infantilized. And there are lots of other people who enjoy telling them what to do, what to think. Even in Buddhist circles, you find various kinds of meditation where as they say, "Everything has all been thought out, everything has all been worked out, just follow the instructions. Don't think, don't add anything of your own." It's interesting to note that a lot of these methods also refer to the teaching on not-self as egolessness. Any sense of pride, any sense of independence is a bad thing in those meditation traditions. As one tradition would say, just be totally passive and aware, very equanimous, and just let your old sankharas burn away. And above all, don't think. Or if you are going to think, they say, learn how to think the way we think. And they have huge volumes of philosophy you have to learn, to squeeze your mind into their mold, after which they promise you awakening.

But that doesn't work. Awakening comes from being very observant in seeing things you don't expect to see, developing your own sensitivities, your own discernment. After all, as the Buddha said, the issue is the suffering you're creating. If you don't have the basic honesty and maturity to see that, you're never going to gain awakening no matter how much you know, no matter how much you study, no matter how equanimous you are. You've got to take responsibility. And you've got to be willing to learn from your mistakes. When the Buddha taught Rahula, he didn't say, "Don't ever make mistakes." He said, "Try not to make mistakes, but if you do make a mistake — and it's expected that you will — this is how you handle it, this is how you learn from it." That's teaching Rahula how to be an adult.
From: Adult Dhamma by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:35 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If one assumes the existence of a self, one must take on the implicit imperative to maximize the self's well-being through recourse to the "other." This recourse may involve either exploiting the "other" or swallowing the "other" into the self by equating one's self with the cosmos as a whole. Either approach involves clinging and craving, which lead to further suffering and stress. On the other hand, if one denies any kind of self, saying that the cosmos is totally "other," then one is assuming that there is nothing with any long-term existence whose happiness deserves anything more than quick, short-term attempts at finding pleasure. The imperative in this case would be to pursue immediate pleasure with as little effort as possible, thus aborting any sustained effort to bring about an end to suffering.
From: Wings to Awakening Part III The Basic Factors by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby danieLion » Thu Aug 23, 2012 8:46 pm

thanks a lot dhammapal! great bytes! :namaste:
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby danieLion » Thu Aug 23, 2012 8:51 pm

The Pali canon is unique in its approach to the spirit world. While confirming the existence of spirits and other more refined levels of beings, it insists that they are not worthy of worship. The Buddha, after all, is the teacher not only of human beings but also of heavenly beings; and many heavenly beings are not especially knowledgeable or spiritually advanced, in spite of their refined state. The Canon illustrates this point in a number of gentle satires. The most famous is the Kevatta Sutta (DN 14), where the ignorance & pomposity of a supposedly all-knowing creator is lampooned. This discourse is another entertaining example of the same genre, pointing out the difficulties of teaching more advanced Dhamma to any being — human or divine — who is obsessed with sensual pleasures. On hearing some verses concerning the awakened one's state of mind — which is not subject to time and is visible here-&-now — the devata cannot understand them, and is able to grasp only a few very basic principles of Dhamma practice. It's unusual for the Buddha to aim his words so far over the heads of his listeners. Perhaps in this case, as in SN 1.1, he wants to subdue the devata's pride. At any rate, there is hope for her: as the Commentary points out, her understanding covers in a rudimentary fashion all the elements of the Noble Eightfold Path. If she follows through with her understanding, she's on the road to the higher attainments.

Translator's Note, SN 1.20: Samiddhi Sutta
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:45 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So it's not the case that people can just walk in off the street, sit down, and develop mindfulness. It takes the ability to look at your life and make some decisions about how you're going to live, and how you understand the best way of living. That's when mindfulness has a chance.
From: How to Feed Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:36 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The problem is this is one of those jobs where you can't measure your progress with a ruler or a stopwatch. You churn out papers or have projects — it's one of the useful ways we have, especially for the monks, of maintaining our sanity. As Ajaan Fuang once said, if you do nothing but meditate all day, you're going to go crazy quickly. It's for this reason that we try to do our chores meticulously and well. But if you do have chores, make sure they don't occupy your whole day. Have a little time every day for a chore to give yourself something tangible to show yourself something that got accomplished today. As the Buddha noted, the job of wearing away your defilements is like wearing down the handle on an adze — a small ax for carving — that you use every day. You know that over time your use of the adze will wear away the handle, but you can't see it being worn away from day to day to day. But don't let the projects take over. Make sure you have plenty of time to stick with the intangibles.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... alks_3.pdf
From: Overwhelmed by Freedom by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:58 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Karaniya Metta Sutta goes on to say that when you're developing this attitude, you want to protect it in the same way that a mother would protect her only child.
“As a mother would risk her life to protect her child, her only child, even so should one cultivate a limitless heart with regard to all beings.”
Some people misread this passage — in fact, many translators have mistranslated it — thinking that the Buddha is telling us to cherish all living beings the same way a mother would cherish her only child. But that's not what he's actually saying. To begin with, he doesn't mention the word "cherish" at all. And instead of drawing a parallel between protecting your only child and protecting other beings, he draws the parallel between protecting the child and protecting your goodwill. This fits in with his other teachings in the Canon. Nowhere does he tell people to throw down their lives to prevent every cruelty and injustice in the world, but he does praise his followers for being willing to throw down their lives for their precepts:
“Just as the ocean is stable and does not overstep its tideline, in the same way my disciples do not — even for the sake of their lives — overstep the training rules I have formulated for them.”
— Udana 5.5

From: Metta Means Goodwill by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Aug 25, 2012 10:11 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The fact that the Unconditioned can be attained forces us to re-evaluate any other goals we may set for ourselves, whatever worlds we want to create, in our lives. On an obvious level, it points out the spiritual poverty of a life devoted to wealth, status, or sensual pursuits; but it also forces us to take a hard look at other more "worthwhile" goals that our culture and its sub-cultures tend to exalt, such as social acceptance, meaningful relationships, stewardship of the planet, etc. These, too, will inevitably lead to suffering. The interdependence of all things cannot be, for any truly sensitive mind, a source of security or comfort. If the Unconditioned is available, and it is the only trustworthy happiness around, it only makes sense that we invest our efforts and whatever mental and spiritual resources we have in its direction.
From: The Meaning of the Buddha's Awakening by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Sep 11, 2012 9:06 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If it weren't for change,... there would be no art in the world, no music, no literature... Change can be nice when it's well handled, but, when you think of all the beautiful music in the world, think of all the lousy music, too. People actually make an effort to write lousy music. Not that they intend it to be lousy, but it's very difficult to write good music, create good art, write great literature. If change were a good thing in and of itself, good literature would be easy to write, good paintings easy to paint. But these things are hard. It takes an awful lot of skill to make change happy.
From: The World Is Swept Away by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Sep 11, 2012 11:27 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If it weren't for change,... there would be no art in the world, no music, no literature... Change can be nice when it's well handled, but, when you think of all the beautiful music in the world, think of all the lousy music, too. People actually make an effort to write lousy music. Not that they intend it to be lousy, but it's very difficult to write good music, create good art, write great literature.
From: The World Is Swept Away by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Yep.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If change were a good thing in and of itself, good literature would be easy to write, good paintings easy to paint.
From: The World Is Swept Away by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Not necessarily.

:namaste:
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby Alex123 » Tue Sep 11, 2012 2:40 pm

I haven't read entire post, so please forgive me if this was posted.

Here is an interesting excerpt. I do not know if the comment is by Ven. TB. But it sounds like him.

“Natthi attakāro, natthi parakāro.” Some people might have expected the Buddha to have approved highly of this naïve negative doctrine. The fact that he very succinctly and effectively refutes it is extremely instructive and of great significance for gaining a better understanding of the depth, subtlety, and holism of the Buddha’s actual teaching. Although the Buddha taught that there is no permanent, eternal, immutable, independently-existing core “self” (attā), he also taught that there is “action” or “doing”, and that it is therefore meaningful to speak of one who intends, initiates, sustains and completes actions and deeds, and who is therefore an ethically responsible and culpable being. It should be quite clear from its usage in this sutta, and from the argument of this sutta, that kāra in atta-kāra must be an agent noun, “doer, maker”: this is strongly entailed, for example, by the Buddha’s statement: “ārabbhavanto sattā paññāyanti, ayaṃ sattānaṃ attakāro ayaṃ parakāro”, “initiating beings are clearly discerned: of (such) beings, this is the self-doer, this, the other-doer” (AN iii.338). (This is perhaps even clearer than the term hāra in bhāra-hāra meaning “bearer” (“burden-bearer”) in SN 22.22 (Bhāra Sutta: The Burden; PTS SN iii.25). SN 22.22, which describes the “bearer” of the “burden” of the “five clung-to aggregates” (pañc-upādāna-kkhandhā) as the “person” (puggala), is arguably very closely related to AN 6.38 in meaning and implications. See SN 22.22 and also SN 12.61, note 1.) Atta-kāra could mean that one motivates oneself, or that one acts upon oneself; para-kāra could refer to the atta-kāra as seen from a third-person perspective, or to one who acts upon another being or thing. In each one of these cases, there is necessarily an all-important moment of initiation of action (see also footnotes 2 and 3, below). As for the form of the term atta-kārī, which occurs in the title of this sutta, compare the expression: “yathā-vādī tathā-kārī”, “one who speaks thus, one who does thus”; or, in other words, “he does as he says”, “he practises what he preaches” (compare, for example, PTS DN iii.135, AN ii.24, Sn 359).
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .html#fn-1
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:05 am

Hi Alex,

That sutta was translated by K. Nizamis. Maybe you could find or start a thread to post it to. It will be interesting to see how Bhikkhu Bodhi translates it as he is of the view that there is no self and the Buddha here seems to say that he has never heard of such a view.

This thread is for posts by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Here is what he had to say:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Another argument against karma is that given the doctrine of not-self how does karma make sense? If there is no self then who's doing the action? Who's receiving the action? What's there for continuity? That's getting the context backwards. The Buddha started with the teaching on karma first and then came up with the doctrine of not-self in the context of karma.

In other words he said people act - you can see that for sure. Then the question of how does the doctrine of not-self fit in to the way people act? And it turns out that the Buddha said that our sense of self is something that we do - it is a type of karma. You create your sense of yourself. You create the sense of what you are. Your create your sense of what belongs to you. It’s a type of action and the question is: is it a skillful action? is it going to create suffering or is it not going to create suffering?
http://www.audiodharma.org/teacher/16/
From: War on Karma by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (51 minute mp3 audio)

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby danieLion » Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:47 am

Thanks for keeping this thread fresh y'all.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:37 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:To limit oneself to only one approach in meditation would be like trying to build a house when one's motivation is uncertain and one's tool box contains nothing but hammers.
From: One Tool Among Many: The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Oct 11, 2012 9:25 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Back in the '50s and '60s when anthropologists first went over to Asia to study Buddhism, particularly in South-east Asia, they would prepare themselves by reading up in the Pali Canon, and read a lot about suffering (and that was back in the days when people thought that Buddha taught that life is suffering), then they go over to Asia and were surprised to find that Asian Buddhists were happy: they seem to smile a lot – and the attitude was:
"Well these people don't really understand Buddhism – if they really understood Buddhism they'd know better than to smile"
<snip>
It's not just, as some people used to believe, elementary Buddhism that you then graduate from, that you start out happy and then you actually find out how glum things are and then you go on to Nibbana. But it's actually a consistent pursuit all the way through.
http://www.audiodharma.org/talks/ThanissaroBhikkhu.html
From "Happiness" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu mp3 audio

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:03 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Because the Buddha saw how these enlightened qualities of wisdom, compassion, and purity could be developed through the pursuit of happiness, he never told his followers to practice his teachings without expecting any gain in return. He understood that such a demand would create an unhealthy dynamic in the mind. In terms of Western psychology, expecting no gain in return would give license for the super‐ego to run amok. Instead, the Buddha taught that even the principle of renunciation is a trade. You exchange candy for gold, trading lesser pleasures for greater happiness. So he encouraged people to be generous with their time and belongings because of the inner rewards they would receive in return.
From The Problem of Egolessness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Nov 02, 2012 4:31 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:In this way, the Buddha points to one of the most distinctive features of his own teaching on kamma: that the present experience of pleasure and pain is a combined result of both past and present actions. This seemingly small addition to the notion of kamma plays an enormous role in allowing for the exercise of free will and the possibility of putting an end to suffering before the effects of all past actions have ripened. In other words, this addition is what makes Buddhist practice possible, and makes it possible for a person who has completed the practice to survive and teach it with full authority to others. For more on these points, see the articles, "Karma", "A Refuge in Skillful Action", and "Five Piles of Bricks"; see also the Introduction to "The Wings to Awakening", along with the introductions to the sections on Skillfulness and Kamma & the Ending of Kamma in that book.

The second important point touched on in this sutta — how to put an end to pain and suffering — relates to the first. If the cause of present suffering were located exclusively in the past, no one could do anything in the present moment to stop that suffering; the most that could be done would be to endure the suffering while not creating any new kamma leading to future suffering. Although this was the Jain approach to practice, many people at present believe that it is the Buddhist approach as well. Meditation, according to this understanding, is the process of purifying the mind of old kamma by training it to look on with non-reactive equanimity as pain arises. The pain is the result of old kamma, the equanimity adds no new kamma, and thus over time all old kamma can be burned away.

In this sutta, however, the Buddha heaps ridicule on this idea. First he notes that none of the Niganthas have ever come to the end of pain by trying to burn it away in this way; then he notes that they have based their belief in this practice entirely on their faith in their teacher and their approval of his ideas, but neither faith nor approval can act as guarantees of the truth. As he illustrates with his simile of the man shot with an arrow, only a person who has succeeded in going beyond pain would be in a position to speak with authority of the method that actually puts an end to pain. (What is not mentioned in this sutta is the Nigantha idea that the practice of austerities, to succeed completely in burning away old kamma, must culminate in a suicide by starvation. Thus there could be no living person who would be able to vouch for the efficacy of their method.)
From: Devadaha Sutta translator's introduction by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Nov 10, 2012 8:09 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Stress (dukkha).
Alternative translations for dukkha include suffering, burdensomeness, and pain. However — despite the unfortunate connotations it has picked up from programs in "stress-management" and "stress-reduction" — the English word stress, in its basic meaning as the reaction to strain on the body or mind, has the advantage of covering much the same range as the Pali word dukkha. It applies both to physical and mental phenomena, ranging from the intense stress of acute anguish or pain to the innate burdensomeness of even the most subtle mental or physical fabrications. It also has the advantage of being universally recognized as something directly experienced in all life, and is at the same time a useful tool for cutting through the spiritual pride that keeps people attached to especially refined or sophisticated forms of suffering: once all suffering, no matter how noble or refined, is recognized as being nothing more than stress, the mind can abandon the pride that keeps it attached to that suffering, and so gain release from it. Still, in some of the verses of the
Itivuttaka, stress seems too weak to convey the meaning, so in those verses I have rendered dukkha as pain, suffering, or suffering & stress.
From: Itivuttaka Translator's Introduction by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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