The Quotable Thanissaro

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby rohana » Sun Aug 04, 2013 6:21 pm

I feel these words are particularly important these days with all the Buddhist-Muslim conflicts going on in a number of places:

    There are, however, writers who try to find evidence in the Pali Canon for a Buddhist theory of just war, not in what the Buddha said, but in what he didn't. The arguments go like this: When talking with kings, the Buddha never told them not to engage in war or capital punishment. This was his tacit admission that the king had a justifiable duty to engage in these activities, and the kings would have understood his silence as such. Because these arguments cite the Pali Canon and claim a historian's knowledge of how silence was interpreted in the Buddha's day, they seem to carry more authority than the others. But when we actually look at the Pali record of the Buddha's conversations with kings, we find that the arguments are bogus. The Buddha was able to communicate the message to kings that they shouldn't kill, but because kings in general were not the most promising students of the Dhamma, he had to bring them to this message in an indirect way.

    Getting the Message
"Delighting in existence, O monks, are gods and men; they are attached to existence, they revel in existence. When the Dhamma for the cessation of existence is being preached to them, their minds do not leap towards it, do not get pleased with it, do not get settled in it, do not find confidence in it. That is how, monks, some lag behind."
- It. p 43
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Aug 09, 2013 10:22 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If you've ever been in an introductory course on Buddhism, you've probably heard this question: "If there is no self, what does the action and what receives the results of the action?" Our discussions this week show that this question is misconstrued in two ways.

The first is that the Buddha never said that there is no self, and he never said that there is a self. The question of whether a self does or doesn't exist is a question he put aside.

The second reason for why the question is misconstrued is because it has the framework backwards. It's taking the teaching of not-self as the framework and kamma as something that's supposed to fit inside the framework. Actually, the relationship is the other way around. Kamma is the framework, and the teaching of not-self is meant to fit in the framework. In other words, the Buddha takes the teachings on skillful and unskillful kamma as his basic categorical teaching. Within that context, the question on self and not-self becomes: When is a perception of self skillful kamma, and when is a perception of not-self skillful kamma? And when are they not skillful?

So to get the most use out of the teachings on self and not-self, we have to approach them with these questions in mind. The Buddha is not trying to define what you are. He's not trying to fit you into a box. He's more concerned with helping you. He tries to show you how you define yourself so that you can learn how to use that process of self-definition in a way that leads to the ultimate goal of his teaching: the end of suffering and the attainment of ultimate freedom, ultimate happiness. In this way the teachings on self and not-self are part of the answer to the question, "What when I do it will lead to my long-term welfare and happiness?"

In this context the Buddha talks about the process of what he calls I-making and my-making, with the purpose of showing you how to engage in these actions in a skillful way. Normally we engage in these processes all of the time. We create a sense of "I" in two ways: (1) around what we can control in order to attain happiness and (2) around the aspects of our experience — our mind, our body — that we hope will taste happiness. In other words, we have a sense of our self as the agent or producer of happiness, and our self as the consumer of happiness.
From: Self, Not-self, & Beyond by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Aug 14, 2013 8:07 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Almost any book on Buddhism will tell you that the three characteristics — the characteristic of inconstancy, the characteristic of stress or suffering, and the characteristic of not-self — were one of the Buddha's most central teachings. The strange thing, though, is that when you look in the Pali Canon, the word for "three characteristics," ti-lakkhana, doesn't appear. If you do a search on any computerized version of the Canon and type in, say, the characteristic of inconstancy, anicca-lakkhana, it comes up with nothing. The word's not in the Pali Canon at all. The same with dukkha-lakkhana and anatta-lakkhana: Those compounds don't appear. This is not to say that the concepts of anicca, dukkha, and anatta don't occur in the Canon; just that they're not termed characteristics. They're not compounded with the word "characteristic." The words they are compounded with are perception, sañña — as in the perception of inconstancy, the perception of stress, and the perception of not-self — and the word anupassana, which means to contemplate or to keep track of something as it occurs. For instance, aniccanupassana, to contemplate inconstancy, means to look for inconstancy wherever it happens.

Now, it's true that you'll frequently find in the Canon the statements that all things compounded or fabricated are inconstant, that they're all stressful. And all dhammas — all objects of the mind — are not-self. So if that's the way things are, why not just say that these are characteristic features of these things? Why make a big deal about the language? Because words are like fingers, and you want to make sure they point in the right direction — especially when they're laying blame, the way these three perceptions do. And in our practice, the direction they point to is important for a number of reasons.

One is that the Buddha's concern is not with trying to give an analysis of the ultimate nature of things outside. He's more interested in seeing how the behavior of things affects our search for happiness. As he once said, all he taught was suffering and the end of suffering. The suffering is essentially an issue of the mind's searching for happiness in the wrong places, in the wrong way. We look for a constant happiness in things that are inconstant. We look for happiness in things that are stressful and we look for "our" happiness in things that are not-self, that lie beyond our control. The three perceptions of inconstancy, stress, and not-self are focused on our psychology, on how we can recognize when we're looking for happiness in the wrong way so that we can learn to look for happiness in the right places, in the right ways. The contemplation of these three themes, the use of these three perceptions, is aimed at finding happiness of a true and lasting sort.
From: Three Perceptions by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sun Aug 25, 2013 12:01 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:...one of the central features of the Buddha's strategy as a teacher was that even though his primary focus was on the mind, he nowhere defined what the mind is. As he said, if you define yourself, you limit yourself. So instead he focused his assumptions on what the mind can do.
From: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby Sylvester » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:31 am

dhammapal wrote:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Almost any book on Buddhism will tell you that the three characteristics — the characteristic of inconstancy, the characteristic of stress or suffering, and the characteristic of not-self — were one of the Buddha's most central teachings. The strange thing, though, is that when you look in the Pali Canon, the word for "three characteristics," ti-lakkhana, doesn't appear. If you do a search on any computerized version of the Canon and type in, say, the characteristic of inconstancy, anicca-lakkhana, it comes up with nothing. The word's not in the Pali Canon at all. The same with dukkha-lakkhana and anatta-lakkhana: Those compounds don't appear. This is not to say that the concepts of anicca, dukkha, and anatta don't occur in the Canon; just that they're not termed characteristics. They're not compounded with the word "characteristic." The words they are compounded with are perception, sañña — as in the perception of inconstancy, the perception of stress, and the perception of not-self — and the word anupassana, which means to contemplate or to keep track of something as it occurs. For instance, aniccanupassana, to contemplate inconstancy, means to look for inconstancy wherever it happens.


With metta / dhammapal.



How odd. The compounds may not occur, but the semantic equivalent to the concept is conveyed by the words aniccata, anattata and dukkhata, all of which are used frequently in the suttas. In fact, in the last case, we even have it in the plural dukkhatā - ie dukkhadukkhatā (the 'sufferingnesses' of suffering), saṅkhāradukkhatā (the 'sufferingnesses' of formations) and vipariṇāmadukkhatā (the 'sufferingnesses' of change) : DN 33.

We even have a case where we are asked to contemplate jhana as being anicatta, anattata and dukkhata in MN 64 -

Whatever exists therein of material form, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness, he sees those states as impermanent, as suffering, as a disease, as a tumour, as a barb, as a calamity, as an affliction, as alien, as disintegrating, as void, as not self.

So yadeva tattha hoti rūpagataṃ vedanāgataṃ saññāgataṃ saṅkhāragataṃ viññāṇagataṃ te dhamme aniccato dukkhato rogato gaṇḍato sallato aghato ābādhato parato palokato suññato anattato samanupassati.


Looks like characteristics to me.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Aug 28, 2013 7:28 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Ajaan Fuang once had a student in Singapore who wrote him a letter describing how his meditation had reached the point where it was concerned solely with seeing the three characteristics in everything he encountered. Ajaan Fuang had me write in reply: "Don't focus on things outside. Keep looking back at the mind, to see what it is that keeps complaining that they're stressful, inconstant, and not self — because the fault lies not with the things: The fault lies with the mind that's looking for happiness in the wrong place."
From: Three Perceptions by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:58 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:But semantic issues can have practical consequences. If mindfulness is defined as alertness, there is no term in the satipatthana formula to account for the role of memory in the practice. Even if we were to accept the modern contention that mindfulness training is aimed only at one dimension of time — the present — it’s hard to see how training in mindfulness would not need to encompass the other two dimensions of time as well: the future for motivation, and the past for guidance. Remembering what to do and why you’re doing it is an important part of sticking with any practice.

This point is illustrated, ironically, by a comment made by a teacher who holds to the definition of mindfulness as awareness of the present: that mindfulness is easy; it’s remembering to be mindful that’s hard. It would be strange if the Buddha did not account for one of the hardest parts of mindfulness practice in his instructions. To leave the role of memory unstated is to leave it unclear in the mind of the practitioner, driven underground where it becomes hidden from honest inquiry.
<....>
Mindfulness, as defined in the Canon, helps to accomplish the Buddha’s purpose not only by keeping it in mind, but also by remembering what to do and what not to do, and how to see things in order to actually bring that purpose about. At the same time, mindfulness as memory helps to keep in mind the standards by which the results of the practice are to be assessed in a truly reliable way.

These are some of the reasons — both conceptual and practical — why the modern explanations of mindfulness are actually inferior to the explanation given in the Pali Canon, and why they should be put aside when looking at what the Canon has to say.
From: Right Mindfulness: Memory and Ardency on the Buddhist Path by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (178 page pdf file)

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Sep 12, 2013 5:56 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The chief danger, of course, lies in the mind's creative capacity for self-deception. But — unlike many other religious figures —the Buddha didn't simply recommend that if we can't trust ourselves we should place our trust in him. Instead, he provided ways for us to train ourselves to be trustworthy by investigating the areas where we tend to lie to ourselves most: our intentions and the results of our actions.
From: The Practice in a Word by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby Buckwheat » Sun Sep 15, 2013 4:39 am

dhammapal wrote:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Sometimes you hear that the Buddha's teaching on not-self is a teaching on non-ego. This is actually a misunderstanding and it has two unfortunate consequences. The first is that, for those who like the idea of non-ego, it becomes an excuse for self-hatred and for the practice of spiritual bypassing. An example of spiritual bypassing is this: Suppose you have troubles in your life and you don't want to engage in the difficult business of trying to become more mature in dealing with others or negotiating the conflicting desires in your own mind. Instead, you simply go and meditate, you do prostrations, you do chanting, and you hope that those practices will magically make the problems in your life go away. This is called spiritual bypassing — an unskillful way of clinging to habits and practices. As you can imagine, it's not very healthy — and not very effective. People often come back from meditation retreats and they still have the same problems they had before.
From: The Ego on the Path by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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:embarassed: Spiritual bypassing :embarassed: ooops
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby Kusala » Mon Sep 16, 2013 7:09 am

The Buddha via the Bible http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writ ... eBible.pdf

"...Buddhism does not have a will. It does not adapt; people adapt Buddhism to their various ends. And because the adapters are not always wise, there's no guarantee that the adaptations are skillful. Just because other people have made changes in the Dhamma doesn't automatically justify the changes we want to make. Think, for instance, of how some Mahayana traditions dropped the Vinaya 's procedures for dealing with teacher-student sexual abuse: Was this the Dhamma wisely adapting itself to their needs?"
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Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

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The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby Kusala » Sat Sep 21, 2013 8:15 am

The Power of Judgment http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... gment.html

"...Don't fall into the easy trap of being judgmental or non-judgmental - judgmental in trusting your knee-jerk likes or dislikes, non-judgmental in trusting that every dharma teacher would be equally beneficial as a guide. Instead, be judicious in choosing the person whose judgments you're going to take on as your own...The first step in being judicious is understanding what it means to judge in a helpful way.

Think, not of a Supreme Court justice sitting on her bench, passing a final verdict of guilt or innocence, but of a piano teacher listening to you play. She's not passing a final verdict on your potential as a pianist. Instead, she's judging a work in progress...when you're evaluating a potential dharma teacher, remember that there's no Final Judgment in Buddhism. You want someone who will evaluate your actions as a work in progress, and you have to apply the same standard to him or her.

And you're not trying to take on the superhuman role of evaluating that person's essential worth. You're simply judging whether his or her actions embody the kinds of skills you'd like to develop, and the types of mental qualities - which are also a kind of action - that you'd trust in a trainer or guide. After all, the only way we know anything about other people is through their actions, so that's as far as our judgments can fairly extend."
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Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Sep 28, 2013 3:49 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There is no need to know the entire sequence of factors of dependent coarising in order to put an end to suffering and stress. A person merely needs to focus on a particular factor or relationship within the sequence — whichever is easiest to focus on — and to apply knowledge in terms of the four noble truths to that spot. This is why the Buddha, in teaching the way to the end of suffering and stress, did not have to explain the entire sequence every time to every student. He could focus simply on whichever factor or set of factors was most transparent to the student, recommend a relevant meditative practice, and that would be enough for the student to bring suffering to an end. This tactic will be explored in further detail in Chapter Three, where different aspects of Buddhist practice are listed under the factors of dependent coarising to which they are most closely related.
From: The Shape of Suffering: A Study of Dependent Co-arising by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (112 page pdf)

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Oct 04, 2013 10:15 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We don’t like the word suppression. We tend to confuse it with repression. Repression is the unhealthy way to react to unskillful mental states. In other words, you pretend that they’re not there. And because you pretend that they’re not there, you’re in huge denial. Large parts of your awareness get cut off. Those impulses are allowed to fester in their little hidden corner of their little locked up room. But they don’t stay locked up for long. That’s why repression doesn’t really work.

Suppression is something different. It’s the ability to say No to a desire as you know it’s happening. You know it’s there but you simply learn how to say no. Now the approach here is not, “Just say No.” The Buddha gives you ways of thinking that help you say No: the two qualities that he says are treasures of the mind, the protectors of the world — a sense of shame and a sense of compunction.

Shame is when you have enough self-respect to be able to tell yourself: I don’t want to do that because it would be beneath me. This is where a strong sense of self is very helpful; a sense of self respect is very helpful here. And it includes respect for your teachers and all the people who’ve helped you along. You’d be ashamed to have them know that you had done that particular thing, or you’re ashamed of yourself that you’ve taken your good training and simply thrown it away. And so shame here is not a debilitating sense that you’re a bad person and that you are ashamed of yourself. It’s a sense that you’re a really good person. You’ve received good training and yet you might be thinking about following a bad action, so you realize it’s beneath you. It’s not in keeping with what you know to be true. That sense of shame is very helpful in suppressing unskillful desires.

Compunction is the ability to foresee a dangerous or to foresee an undesirable result of an action and say, “I just don’t want to go there.” This quality is based on goodwill for yourself, realizing that the little bit of pleasure that comes from an unskillful impulse now is not really worth all the danger, all the sorrow and suffering, that will come down the line. You care for yourself. This is where you show good will for yourself. This is why it’s also possible to translate this quality as “concern.” In other words, you’re not apathetic. You don’t have a “who cares?” attitude. You care. Because you realize that once you’ve done something unskillful, you can’t buy it back.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... alks_3.pdf
From: The Ennobling Path by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby Anagarika » Mon Oct 07, 2013 12:07 am

So I was in San Diego this weekend and of course went up to Wat Metta. A great day, with a Q&A with Ajahn Geoff, followed by a work period with Tan Daniel that I really enjoyed, then chanting (amazing how many people there can chant in Pali without the handbook...not me, by far), and then another Dhamma talk (Ven. Thanissaro gave it in English and then in Thai), followed by meditation. I have to mention...between the chanting and the settling down for the Dhamma talk, one of his younger monks blew his nose...it was a lovely brrrooooonnkkk...I looked over at Ajahn Geoff and he had a huge 1000 watt smile on his face. "B flat?" he said with a smile. It was a great moment and a great day. I encourage anyone who has the chance to visit Wat Metta to do so.
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Oct 15, 2013 9:27 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Last year I received a phone call from someone who was doing a thesis on using Buddhist teachings and practices in the workplace. He wanted to ask me some questions as part of his thesis. One of the things that bothered me about his questions was that he would ask first about Buddhist teachings and then about Buddhist practices, as if they were two different things. But they're not. Everything is part of the practice. Even the more abstract and theoretical teachings are meant to be used for pragmatic purposes when appropriate. After all, right view is part of the path. It's something to do, to develop, to be applied. When it's done its work, you let it go.
From: The Practice of Right View by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:23 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:This is why the Buddha didn’t institute meditation retreat centers. He instituted communities that would live together, look after their surroundings, interact with lay people and, at the very least, be dependent on them for food. This was designed to provide an environment in which both the lay people and the monastics could become sensitive to all these different dimensions of the practice.
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writ ... 130911.pdf
From: All-around Eye by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Oct 30, 2013 6:53 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Buddha discovered that the way you attend to things is determined by what you see as important: the questions you bring to the practice, the problems you want the practice to solve. No act of attention is ever bare. If there were no problems in life you could open yourself up choicelessly to whatever came along. But the fact is there is a big problem smack dab in the middle of everything you do: the suffering that comes from acting in ignorance. This is why the Buddha doesn't tell you to view each moment with a beginner's eyes. You've got to keep the issue of suffering and its end always in mind.
From: Mindfulness Defined by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby Anagarika » Wed Oct 30, 2013 1:11 pm

dhammapal wrote:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Buddha discovered that the way you attend to things is determined by what you see as important: the questions you bring to the practice, the problems you want the practice to solve. No act of attention is ever bare. If there were no problems in life you could open yourself up choicelessly to whatever came along. But the fact is there is a big problem smack dab in the middle of everything you do: the suffering that comes from acting in ignorance. This is why the Buddha doesn't tell you to view each moment with a beginner's eyes. You've got to keep the issue of suffering and its end always in mind.
From: Mindfulness Defined by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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:goodpost:

Another reason why I feel Ven. Thanissaro's discussions of right mindfulness are so much more correct and beneficial than the definitions being given to samma sati or just sati, by the western Zen influenced "mindfulness movement."
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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Nov 04, 2013 6:23 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Canon never defines mindfulness as an open, receptive, pre-verbal state. In fact, its standard definition for the faculty of mindfulness is the ability to keep things in mind. Thus, in the practice of right mindfulness, one is keeping one of four frames of reference in mind: body, feelings, mind, and mental qualities, remembering to stay with these things in and of themselves. And some of the more vivid analogies for the practice of mindfulness suggest anything but an open, receptive, non-judging state.
the Buddha transl. Thanissaro wrote:“Just as when a person whose turban or head was on fire would put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, earnestness, mindfulness, and alertness to put out the fire on his turban or head; in the same way, the monk should put forth extra desire… mindfulness, and alertness for the abandoning of those evil, unskillful mental qualities.” — AN 10:51
<snip>

There's a tendency, even among serious scholars, to mine in the Canon for passages presenting a more spacious, receptive picture of mindfulness. But this tendency, in addition to ignoring the basic definition of mindfulness, denies the essential unity among the factors of the path — one such scholar, to make his case, had to define right mindfulness and right effort as two mutually exclusive forms of practice. This suggests that the tendency to define mindfulness as an open, receptive, non-judging state comes from a source other than the Canon. It's possible to find Asian roots for this tendency, in the schools of meditation that define mindfulness as bare awareness or mere noting. But the way the West has morphed these concepts in the direction of acceptance and affirmation has less to do with Asian tradition, and more to do with our cultural tendency to exalt a pre-verbal receptivity as the source for true spiritual inspiration.
From: The Buddha via the Bible by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (33 page pdf)

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Nov 20, 2013 2:05 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:If there were nothing more important than life, then life itself would be pointless.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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