The Quotable Thanissaro

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Tue Feb 25, 2014 3:37 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We often view reason as something distinct from faith, but for the Buddha it was simply one way of instilling faith or conviction in his listeners.... Because his teachings could not be proven prior to an experience of Awakening, he recognized that the proper use of reason was not in trying to prove his teachings, but simply in showing that they made sense. People can make sense of things when they see them as similar to something they already know and understand. Thus the main function of reason in presenting the teachings is in finding proper analogies for understanding them: hence the many metaphors and similes used throughout the texts.

Faith based on reason and understanding, the Buddha taught, was more solid than unreasoned faith, but neither could substitute for the direct knowledge of the regularity of the Dhamma and of Unbinding, for only the experience of Unbinding was a guarantee of true knowledge. Nevertheless, faith was a prerequisite for attaining that direct knowledge. Only when the initial presentation of the teaching had aroused faith in the listener, would he/she be in a position to benefit from a less-adorned presentation of the content and put it into practice.
From: Wings to Awakening by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:06 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:It would be very useful if Buddhist groups would openly part ways with the prevailing amoral tenor of our culture and let it be known in a kindly way that they value goodheartedness and restraint among their members.

In doing so, they would provide a healthy environment for the full-scale adoption of the Buddha's course of therapy: the practice of concentration and discernment in a life of virtuous action. Where we have such environments, we find that meditation needs no myth or make-believe to support it, because it is based on the reality of a well-lived life. You can look at the standards by which you live, and then breathe in and out comfortably - not as a flower or a mountain, but as a full-fledged, responsible human being. For that's what you are.
From: The Healing Power of the Precepts by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Feb 27, 2014 2:41 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Sabbasava Sutta (MN 2) states that one's release can be "fermentation-free" only if one knows and sees in terms of "appropriate attention" (yoniso manasikara). As the discourse shows, appropriate attention means asking the proper questions about phenomena, regarding them not in terms of self/other or being/non-being, but in terms of the four noble truths. In other words, instead of asking "Do I exist? Don't I exist? What am I?" one asks about an experience, "Is this stress? The origination of stress? The cessation of stress? The path leading to the cessation of stress?" Because each of these categories entails a duty, the answer to these questions determines a course of action: stress should be comprehended, its origination abandoned, its cessation realized, and the path to its cessation developed.

Samatha and vipassana belong to the category of the path and so should be developed. To develop them, one must apply appropriate attention to the task of comprehending stress, which is comprised of the five clinging-aggregates — clinging to physical form, feeling, perception, mental fabrications, and consciousness. Applying appropriate attention to these aggregates means viewing them in terms of their drawbacks, as "inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self" (SN 22.122). A list of questions, distinctive to the Buddha, aids in this approach: "Is this aggregate constant or inconstant?" "And is anything inconstant easeful or stressful?" "And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?" (SN 22.59). These questions are applied to every instance of the five aggregates, whether "past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle, common or sublime, far or near." In other words, the meditator asks these questions of all experiences in the cosmos of the six sense media.

This line of questioning is part of a strategy leading to a level of knowledge called "knowing and seeing things as they actually are (yatha-bhuta-ñana-dassana)," where things are understood in terms of a fivefold perspective: their arising, their passing away, their drawbacks, their allure, and the escape from them — the escape, here, lying in dispassion.

Some commentators have suggested that, in practice, this fivefold perspective can be gained simply by focusing on the arising and passing away of these aggregates in the present moment; if one's focus is relentless enough, it will lead naturally to a knowledge of drawbacks, allure, and escape, sufficient for total release. The texts, however, don't support this reading, and practical experience would seem to back them up. As MN 101 points out, individual meditators will discover that, in some cases, they can develop dispassion for a particular cause of stress simply by watching it with equanimity; but in other cases, they will need to make a conscious exertion to develop the dispassion that will provide an escape. The discourse is vague — perhaps deliberately so — as to which approach will work where. This is something each meditator must test for him or herself in practice.
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 Feb 27, 2014 3:44 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:This, then, is the picture of the cosmos that derives from the Buddha's insight into the power of intention. And what shapes skillful intention? Two connected qualities: appropriate attention (§16) and right view (§99). Appropriate attention focuses on questions that help foster skillfulness in one's actions, and avoids questions that get in the way of developing that skill. On the mundane level, right view provides a proper understanding of action and its potential for producing mundane pleasure and pain. On the transcendent level, it reduces experience simply to cause and effect, skillful and unskillful — expressed in terms of the four noble truths — without focusing on whether there is anyone performing the action or experiencing the result. This untangles the mind from issues of space and time, and allows it to act in a way that opens to transcendent release. Simply put, appropriate attention asks the right questions; right view provides the right answers. The interplay between these two mental qualities explains the question-and-answer format used in many of the discourses in the Itivuttaka. And, given the role of right view in skillful action, the fact that all of the discourses deal with right view means that they are all aimed — directly or indirectly — at helping the reader reach true happiness by using those views to foster skillful intentions in his or her own life.
From: Itivuttaka: This Was Said by the Buddha translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Thu Feb 27, 2014 6:27 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:And so, given the fact we have a limited amount of time, a limited amount of energy, we want to make sure that we invest our time and energy in the most reliable things. If you invest in your attachments, you’ll find that they give you some support for a certain amount of time, and then they start changing on you. As the Buddha said, everything fabricated – which means everything put together by causes – is inconstant. When you find yourself latching on to something inconstant, it can give you support only as long as it lasts, and then it’s going to change. Even good qualities of the mind are inconstant, but the more you invest in them, the longer their impact, the longer their ability to support you, all the way through the process of aging, all the way through the process of illness, all the way through the process of death. These things stay there. And they can help you. The body is something you’re going to have to let go of, and eventually you’re going to have to let go of your memories, your thoughts, everything having to do with this life. At that point, the irrevocable quality of time really pushes itself on you.

In terms of our day-to-day life, we tend to live in our narratives, our stories about this person, and that person, and the relationships we have with them, the things we’ve done. The reassuring quality of a narrative is that you can tell it again and again and again, and it seems to put this constant flow of time at bay for a while. But as things close down with the body, those narratives don’t provide any help. In fact, they can make things even worse. The things you’re going to miss, the things you’re going to regret having done, will come pressing in on you. And you have to let go. If you haven’t had any practice in letting go, it’s going to be hard.

So this is an important skill to invest in: learning how to let go. The Buddha talks about different forms of wealth in the mind that you can invest in – in other words, qualities you can develop that can see you through – and the ability to let go is an important one.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/eDhammaTalks_3.pdf
From: The Buddha's Investment Strategy by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Feb 28, 2014 12:30 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:As we meditate we’re not training ourselves to be zombies or to be totally indifferent. We’re learning that there’s a time and a place to be interested in things, and a time and a place when the mind has to rest. And right now is a time and a place to rest. If you want to be curious, be curious about the breath. Keep your curiosity focused in here. Don’t let it go flashing out.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/eDhammaTalks_1.pdf
From: Wide-open Awareness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Feb 28, 2014 12:41 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The same goes with meditation. You're told, "Focus on the breath." And in the beginning you're often told, "Don't meddle with the breath. Just let it come in and go out at its own rate." You may get the basic idea that the less you interfere in the present moment, the better; the more passive you become, the better. But that makes it difficult to integrate meditation with your life. Are you going to go through life totally passive in every situation? That doesn't work. It's like a walking death. So you've got to test the rule to see whether it's the kind of rule that says, "Before you cross the road, hold onto somebody's hand," or the type that says, "Before you cross the road, look both ways. Check the oncoming traffic first." Holding somebody's hand is a rule specifically for children; when you grow up, you don't need to follow it anymore. But the rule about looking both ways is a good rule to follow whether you're a child or an adult.

So, the rule about not meddling with your breath: Which kind of rule is that? It's a holding-the-hand kind of rule. Meditation teachers often feel that people brand new to meditation will probably mess up their breath if they try to control it too much. In order to avoid that, they tell you not to get involved, to be as passive as possible. But as you gain more experience with the breath, you don't need to hold onto the teacher's hand anymore. You have to look for yourself. You have to experiment with the breath. Otherwise you'll never get a sense of how much subconscious molding of the breath is still going on, down under the surface of your consciousness. You'll never get a sense of what input you're putting into the present moment. That's crucial to the meditation, for only when you see it are you in a position where you can try to refine it.
From: Adolescent Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Feb 28, 2014 1:52 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The Buddha’s pragmatic emphasis is further illustrated by the cluster of topics he treats through cross-questioning:
how to understand the workings of kamma,
how to understand pleasure and pain,
how important caste is in comparison to action,
whether the life gone forth can benefit as many people as the practice of sacrifice,
what his qualifications for teaching are,
and why he teaches the way he does.

And actually, all six of these topics are permutations of one: kamma.
Pleasure and pain are best understood in terms of the actions that lead to them;
people are to be judged by their actions rather than their caste;
the life gone forth enables one to find and teach to numerous beings the path of action leading to the end of suffering, something no sacrifice can do;
the Buddha is qualified to teach because of the skillful way he has mastered the principles of cause and effect in training his mind;
and the way he teaches — and in particular, his use of cross-questioning itself — is a primary example of how the kamma of collaborative effort works.
From: Skill in Questions: How the Buddha Taught by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (404 page pdf)

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Fri Feb 28, 2014 7:23 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So, if you find that the breath is boring, it's because, one, you're not paying attention; and two, you're not asking the right questions. You're assuming lots of things you don't really know about the body in the present moment. Learn how to question those assumptions. Is the body as solid as it seems? Certain sensations of tension or tightness: Do they have to be there? Maybe the way you're breathing is what's maintaining them. As you allow yourself to get absorbed in the breath, exploring these things, you require less and less willpower to stay here. This is the kind of concentration that has discernment as one of its integral factors. In terms of the bases of success, it's the fourth one: concentration based on the powers of analysis.

So give it a try. Explore what's actually happening as you just sit here. The breath comes in, the breath goes out, the breath spins around in place, gets blocked here, flows there, dissipates here, gets strong and constant there. Explore these things. It's part of learning how to take care of the body. And you find that in taking care of the body this way, you're taking care of the mind as well.
From: Analyzing the Breath by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:02 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The whole purpose of this practice is to focus on what's actually happening in your mind. The big questions are,
"What are you doing that's causing unnecessary suffering for yourself or for other people?
What can you do to stop doing that?"

These questions apply not only to things you do and say, but also the way your mind operates, the way the mind treats itself, the way it deals with its own thoughts and feelings. You want these questions to take charge.
From: Freedom Undefined by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:03 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Start with thoughts of goodwill, because that's why we're here. Goodwill is the wish for happiness — both for your own happiness and for the happiness of everybody else. This is what we're working on as we meditate: We're taking that wish and we're working on it, looking for a way to bring true happiness to ourselves and to the people around us. Spread thoughts of goodwill first to yourself and then out in ever-widening circles to people who are close to your heart, people you know well and like, people you're more neutral about, and even people you don't like. Don't let there be any limitation on your goodwill, because that's a limitation on your own mind, on your own happiness.
From Basics by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Mar 01, 2014 8:38 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:We spread thoughts of goodwill for all the world, that we don’t wish anyone any harm. We wish that all beings could find happiness. So why are we sitting here with our eyes closed? Why aren’t we going out there, making people happy?

Because happiness is something that has to come from within. It’s based on being skillful in the way you act, which includes not only your physical actions, but also your speech and the actions of your mind — and in particular, the act of intention. This is because it’s through our intentions that we shape the world we experience, along with the amount of pleasure or pain we take out of that experience. To formulate intentions that really do lead to happiness is a skill. And because it’s a skill, nobody else can master the skill for you; you can’t master the skill for anyone else. You can give other people advice, you can show them to some extent how to do things, but for them to find happiness requires that they take the issue of happiness seriously, that they learn how to be skillful in their approach to happiness. If you’re going to give them reliable advice or set a reliable example, you yourself need to learn how to be skillful, too.

So, both for the sake of our own true happiness and for the true happiness of others, this is why we’re sitting here meditating. We’re training the mind to be very attentive, continually attentive to what it’s doing, so that it can learn how to do it skillfully. This means that even though there is the quest for peace, the quest for stillness in the mind, it’s not just peace and stillness for its own sake. It’s for the sake of understanding what we’re doing to cause suffering, and what we can do to stop it. That’s the purpose of our understanding.
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/meditations6_v140119.pdf
From: Less is More by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Mar 01, 2014 9:41 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Try to develop a sense of yourself as someone who’s always willing to learn, especially from your mistakes. You don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes. You try not to make mistakes so that you don’t have the extra burden of looking back on blameworthy mistakes — i.e., ones where you knew better but went ahead with harmful behavior anyhow. But when you do make a mistake, you say, “Okay, that was a mistake. What can I learn from it?” You realize that beating yourself up extra hard is not going to compensate for something you did — and it’s certainly not going to put you in a better position to do it skillfully the next time. The more you look at the events in the mind in this way, the more you see that what you thought were things or entities or inherent natures you couldn’t change are actually actions.
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/meditations6_v140119.pdf
From: Kindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Mar 01, 2014 8:57 pm

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:This is why the Buddha says that uncertainty is overcome by looking at skillful and unskillful qualities in the mind. To begin with, you’re focusing your attention on the most important issue in life, which is what sort of impact your actions are having, and particularly what kind of impact your mind states are having. After all, the source of action is in the mind. If you’re uncertain about different mental qualities, then watch. Try developing goodwill; try being generous; try observing the precepts. See what kind of impact these qualities have on your life.
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/meditations6_v140119.pdf
From: Virtue Contains the Practice by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby Kusala » Sun Mar 02, 2014 9:46 am

Making The Dhamma Your Own

"A recurring theme in the teachings of the Forrest Ajahns is that you have to make the Dhamma your own. In other words, you can read about it, you can hear about it, think about it, if that's as far as you go, that's still the Buddha's Dhamma -- somebody else's Dhamma. You can practice it a little bit, but unless you really push yourself you don't really know how true that Dhamma is and it's not really your own...

I noticed a lot of people who get interested in the Pali Cannon, but if they don't really practice it or if they practice just in their ease and comfort, their interest begins to wane. They start getting cynical about the whole thing, but it's the people who tested the teachings, those are the ones who maintain their confidence, maintain their conviction, about what the Buddha taught is really true. That's because they've seen these qualities arise within them, they've seen that they can actually develop them in ways they wouldn't expect it...Your mind becomes Dhamma, you've made it your own. And that's not by imposing your idea about the Dhamma on it, it means you basically make yourself in the Dhamma...

there's a nice passage in the cannon where someone says even if the whole world rose up against the Buddha, he'd still side with the Buddha, from what he had seen in his own practice. The Dhamma gets bigger in your heart, the world gets smaller, becomes less and less of an issue because you realize the issues outside are nothing compared to the issues inside and you start straightening out these issues inside. The battle is won."
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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 » Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:14 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:So when Ajaan Mun was teaching, he found he had to deal with the assumption many poor people had that "I just don't have the merit to get anywhere in the practice." He kept reminding his students, "You have everything you need. You've got a human body. You've got a human mind. You've got breath. You've got your awareness. You've got some mindfulness, some alertness. These are all the things you need." And so a lot of his Dhamma talks focused on, one, the fact that people were suffering; and, two, they had the resources that, if they worked at them, could take them out of suffering. That's the important point: if you work on them. You need to have a strong sense that where you are is suffering, but you have what it takes to get beyond that suffering if you apply yourself.
From: Shame & Acceptance by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:46 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Listen to the breath. See what it has to say. What kind of breathing would feel good right now? Coming in where? Going out where? Allow it to happen.
From: The Four Bases of Success by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:26 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Some people say that our suffering is such a small selfish issue to be dealing with. Why can't we be dealing with larger issues like compassion, the world as a whole, the interconnectedness of everybody? Why? Because those issues tend to be vague and abstract. They really don't get to the main issue in life: why it is that the mind creates suffering for itself. That's the big issue. If, through our compassion, we could save other beings, then that would be a useful topic to focus on. But the problem is that each of us suffers because of our own lack of skill in dealing with pain. If we'd be willing to learn from the pain, then each of us could take care of our problems and there wouldn't be issues in life at all.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/eDhammaTalks_3.pdf
From: The Humble Way to Awakening by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:A brahman once asked the Buddha, "Will all the world reach release [Awakening], or half the world, or a third?" But the Buddha didn't answer. Ven. Ananda, concerned that the brahman might misconstrue the Buddha's silence, took the man aside and gave him an analogy: Imagine a fortress with a single gate. A wise gatekeeper would walk around the fortress and not see an opening in the wall big enough for even a cat to slip through. Because he's wise, he would realize that his knowledge didn't tell him how many people would come into the fortress, but it did tell him that whoever came into the fortress would have to come in through the gate. In the same way, the Buddha didn't focus on how many people would reach Awakening but he did know that anyone who reached Awakening would have to follow the path he had found: abandoning the five hindrances, establishing the four frames of reference, and developing the seven factors for Awakening.
From: Freedom From Buddha Nature by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Mar 08, 2014 9:22 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There's a story in one of Ajaan Lee's talks about an old woman who went to the monastery and noticed that the walking meditation paths weren't well swept. So she swept them and set out some water for washing feet. Just that much made her feel cheerful. It so happened that on her way home she had a heart attack and died. The next thing she knew she was a deva, just from the cheerfulness that came from keeping the place around her clean. This story illustrates an important principle: Whatever you can do to gladden the mind in a wholesome and skillful way is part of your repertoire as a good meditator.
From: Gladdening the Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:This doesn’t mean that you have to give up humor, just that you learn to employ humor wisely. Humor in our society tends to fall into the categories of wrong speech: falsehoods, divisive speech, coarse speech, and idle chatter. There’s a challenge in learning to use your humor to state things that are true, that lead to harmony, and actually serve a good purpose. But think for a moment of all the great humorists of the past: We remember their humor because of the clever ways they expressed the truth. You may or may not aspire to be a great humorist, but the effort spent in trying to use humor wisely is a good exercise in discernment. If you can learn to laugh wisely and in a good-natured way about the foibles of the world around you, you can learn to laugh in the same way at your own foibles. And that’s one of the most essential skills in any meditator’s repertoire.
From: With Each and Every Breath: A Guide to Meditation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (~100 page pdf)

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Vary your routine. Just as a muscle can stop responding to a particular exercise, your mind can hit a plateau if it's strapped to only one meditation technique. So don't let your regular routine get into a rut. Sometimes the only change you need is a different way of breathing, a different way of visualizing the breath energy in the body. But then there are days when the mind won't stay with the breath no matter how many different ways of breathing you try. This is why the Buddha taught supplemental meditations to deal with specific problems as they arise. For starters, there's goodwill for when you're feeling down on yourself or the human race — the people you dislike would be much more tolerable if they could find genuine happiness inside, so wish them that happiness. There's contemplation of the parts of the body for when you're overcome with lust — it's hard to maintain a sexual fantasy when you keep thinking about what lies just underneath the skin. And there's contemplation of death for when you're feeling lazy — you don't know how much time you've got left, so you'd better meditate now if you want to be ready when the time comes to go.

When these supplemental contemplations have done their work, you can get back to the breath, refreshed and revived. So keep expanding your repertoire. That way your skill becomes all-around.
From: Strength Training for the Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Re: The Quotable Thanissaro

Postby dhammapal » Sat Mar 08, 2014 9:25 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Normally, people will allow their happiness to depend on a whole lot of conditions. And the more you think about those conditions, the more you realize that they're totally beyond your control: the economy, the climate, the political situation, the continued beating of certain hearts, the stability of the ground beneath your feet, all of which are very uncertain. So what do you do? You learn to look inside. Try to create a sense of wellbeing that can come simply with being with the breath. Even though this isn't the total cure, it's the path toward the cure.
From: Fears by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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