2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby Dan74 » Mon Mar 24, 2014 11:03 pm

I think treachers and students inevitably bring their personalities to the way they impart and learn the Dhamma. This can also change with age as it was noted above Ajahn Brahm used to be quite different.
_/|\_

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby SarathW » Tue Mar 25, 2014 12:48 am

Two football match commentators may give two completely different commentaries.
What important is how you perceive the match. :popcorn:
They all depend on your vantage point.
Even Buddha taught differently to different people.

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Mar 25, 2014 9:33 am

SarathW wrote:Two football match commentators may give two completely different commentaries.
What important is how you perceive the match. :popcorn:


I'd be inclined to listen to both commentaries. ;)
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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby soapy3 » Sat Nov 22, 2014 2:27 am

Dan74 wrote:I think treachers and students inevitably bring their personalities to the way they impart and learn the Dhamma. This can also change with age as it was noted above Ajahn Brahm used to be quite different.



I think both Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu are about the same age.

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby SarathW » Sat Nov 22, 2014 2:52 am

I have seen many teachers give emphasis to different aspects of Noble Eightfold Path.
Many Sri Lankan monks, I know give emphasis to giving (Dana) and Virtues (Sela).
It appears to me Ajahan Braham stress on Jhana or Samadhi.
Ven. Thannisaro is a must if you want to understand Sutta and develop Panna (wisdom)
They all lead to the same goal Nibbana.
:)

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby soapy3 » Sat Nov 22, 2014 4:47 pm

Good morning SarathW,

I wasn't referring to the topics those men focus on, but the way they choose to focus on those topics, the words they pick, the way they frame those topics and life.

If it wasn't for Ajahn Brahm, I would be done with Theravada Buddhism aside from using it as a support for meditation.

I've found that the way TB, BB, and some others frame things to be gloomy, negative.......negatively inspiring.

That point was brought home to me even more in the past few months trying to deal with the death and other losses I experienced. I kept thinking about how other people had inspiring stories or beliefs to tell themselves. I did not. All I had were my echoes of TB & BB's writings on Buddhism. Not much in the way of emotional comfort in hard times.

Luckily, I knew about Ajahn Brahm. On the many nights were I couldn't sleep, couldn't sit still, and had to go out walking at all hours listening to his talks on my phone was a comfort.

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby culaavuso » Sat Nov 22, 2014 8:27 pm

soapy3 wrote:I've found that the way TB, BB, and some others frame things to be gloomy, negative.......negatively inspiring.


Here are some passages that might seem more bright and positive that may provide some useful context for Ven. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu's other teachings:

Life Isn't Just Suffering by Ven. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu wrote:"He showed me the brightness of the world."

That's how my teacher, Ajaan Fuang, once characterized his debt to his teacher, Ajaan Lee. His words took me by surprise.
...
Yet for a long time I couldn't shake the sense of paradox I felt over how the pessimism of the Buddhist texts could find embodiment in such a solidly happy person.

Only when I began to look directly at the early texts did I realize that what I thought was a paradox was actually an irony — the irony of how Buddhism, which gives such a positive view of a human being's potential for finding true happiness, could be branded in the West as negative and pessimistic.
...
If we negotiate life armed with all four noble truths, realizing that life contains both suffering and an end to suffering, there's hope: hope that we'll be able to sort out which parts of life belong to which truth; hope that someday, in this life, we'll discover the brightness at the point where we can agree with the Buddha, "Oh. Yes. This is the end of suffering and stress."


Trading Candy for Gold by Ven. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Buddhism takes a familiar American principle — the pursuit of happiness — and inserts two important qualifiers. The happiness it aims at is true: ultimate, unchanging, and undeceitful. Its pursuit of that happiness is serious, not in a grim sense, but dedicated, disciplined, and willing to make intelligent sacrifices.


The Karma of Happiness by Ven. Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu wrote:From a Buddhist point of view, optimism is simply one of a series of useful attitudes to have toward the future. Sometimes confidence is called for, sometimes caution, sometimes obsessive care. What we need is skill in discerning which attitude is most appropriate for which situation and then putting it into use.
...
And the Buddha found ... that when the mind stops fabricating a self, everything opens to a happiness totally independent of conditions—the one happiness that doesn’t depend on actions, doesn’t have a price, one so total that no questions have to be asked.
This sort of happiness doesn’t lend itself to being tested by the experimental methods of positive psychology or any other branch of psychology. But if psychologists could remain open to the possibility that there’s an unadulterated happiness that doesn’t fit into their framework of a full or meaningful life, it would serve as a sign that they had become genuinely wise.

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby soapy3 » Wed Dec 10, 2014 7:17 pm

Hi culaavuso,

Quoting the positive things Thanisarro Bhikkhu has to write in a single post only reinforces my view that he generally has negative things to say.

No disrespect, you post gave me a good idea. Asking people who are into TB what they find inspiring in those writings and why.

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby VinceField » Thu Dec 11, 2014 1:33 am

soapy3 wrote:Hi culaavuso,

Quoting the positive things Thanisarro Bhikkhu has to write in a single post only reinforces my view that he generally has negative things to say.

No disrespect, you post gave me a good idea. Asking people who are into TB what they find inspiring in those writings and why.


Funny how perception works, huh?

I listen to Thanissaro's dhamma talks every day and I receive nothing but positive inspiration and very beneficial insight and advice for my own practice. I can't say that there was ever a case of me perceiving something negative or gloomy about anything I have heard him say.

Since you are bringing this idea to the table (that Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teachings have a negative tone), why don't you provide us with some specific quotes in which you find to be negative. Perhaps the issue lies more in your perception than in what is actually being said. If you provide exactly what you believe he teaches that is negative and explain exactly why you think it is so, perhaps we can provide you with some perspective and help you see the teachings in a more positive light, the way myself and I'm sure countless others perceive them, the way they are meant to be received.
Uhhh Something clever to give you the impression that I am the identity compulsively projected by my false illusory defiled ego?

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby SarathW » Thu Dec 11, 2014 1:43 am

Some times I wonder whether we learn from others or just get the confirmation on which we already have (known).
:thinking:

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby soapy3 » Thu Dec 11, 2014 4:28 pm

VinceField wrote:Since you are bringing this idea to the table (that Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teachings have a negative tone), why don't you provide us with some specific quotes in which you find to be negative.


If I wrote "all of it" or "most of it" you would think I was being flippant where I was not. I really think you could begin with any of his writings. I'm not the only one who has that view of his TB's work. TB, rightfully or wrongfully has a reputation as being a downer.

Tone, choice of words, and the content he frequently focuses on. I've read his stuff since the 90s and I never came away with a "I'm charged up, let me leave the house and embrace life" feeling from anything he ever wrote. At best neutral. Reading his stuff, I get the unconscious sentence "Life is miserable, learn to hate your feeling, learn to hate your desires, cultivate a sense of urgency about standing on guard against yourself, and you may be lucky enough to die and stay dead by achieving nibanna.".

This past summer my father became ill out of nowhere and I was told he had a week to live. A few other big changes happened in the same span of time. I found myself envying religious Christians because they at least had a happy story to tell themselves for comfort. All I had from reading Thanisarro Bhikkhu and Bhikkhu Bodhi was the caricature/impression I've had since reading their stuff since the 90s.

I have friends where I study who are into both men's translations. They have to be getting something out of it, so I think I will use the idea I came up with earlier. I will simply ask them to point out what they have read from those men that gives them comfort and to explain why. That is the best second chance I can give those authors.

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby VinceField » Thu Dec 11, 2014 5:31 pm

soapy3 wrote:
VinceField wrote:Since you are bringing this idea to the table (that Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teachings have a negative tone), why don't you provide us with some specific quotes in which you find to be negative.


If I wrote "all of it" or "most of it" you would think I was being flippant where I was not. I really think you could begin with any of his writings. I'm not the only one who has that view of his TB's work. TB, rightfully or wrongfully has a reputation as being a downer.

Tone, choice of words, and the content he frequently focuses on. I've read his stuff since the 90s and I never came away with a "I'm charged up, let me leave the house and embrace life" feeling from anything he ever wrote. At best neutral. Reading his stuff, I get the unconscious sentence "Life is miserable, learn to hate your feeling, learn to hate your desires, cultivate a sense of urgency about standing on guard against yourself, and you may be lucky enough to die and stay dead by achieving nibanna.".

This past summer my father became ill out of nowhere and I was told he had a week to live. A few other big changes happened in the same span of time. I found myself envying religious Christians because they at least had a happy story to tell themselves for comfort. All I had from reading Thanisarro Bhikkhu and Bhikkhu Bodhi was the caricature/impression I've had since reading their stuff since the 90s.

I have friends where I study who are into both men's translations. They have to be getting something out of it, so I think I will use the idea I came up with earlier. I will simply ask them to point out what they have read from those men that gives them comfort and to explain why. That is the best second chance I can give those authors.


Well, since you aren't providing anything solid to work with, only vague generalities, I don't believe there is much that can be done to be of service to you. I can provide direct quotes from every dhamma talk I listen to of Thanissaro's and explain exactly why each teaching is a positive influence on my practice, but I have a feeling it will do little to convince you and I have little desire to convince you to begin with. There are other teachers out there. I'm sure you can fare well with the others.

Just the fact that Culaavuso provided some quotes in which Thanissaro specifically speaks of the positiveness of Buddhism, and you essentially implied that those were the only positive things he has ever said and everything else is negative, is a pretty blatant indicator of an unbalanced perspective.

There is a facebook group "The Skillful Teachings of Thanissaro Bhikkhu" in which several inspiring quotes are posted daily. If you took your argument over to that group and opened it for discussion, I'm sure you would get some pretty enlightening perspectives on just how inspiring Thanissaro's teachings can be.

Also, the fact that for decades you have been following a teacher who you claim to be a negative influence on your practice is rather puzzling. Ironically this goes directly against Thanissaro's teachings of abandoning that which arises unwholesomeness in oneself. This leads me to believe that there are most likely some aspects of the teachings that you are not comprehending, or misinterpreting at best.

Finding comfort amidst the death of loved ones comes from understanding the Dhamma. Teachers can only point us to the Dhamma, but it is not the teacher that provides the comfort, it is in the dhamma expressed by the teacher in which the comfort is found. I believe that Thanissaro provides us with this dhamma just as well as any other teacher.
Uhhh Something clever to give you the impression that I am the identity compulsively projected by my false illusory defiled ego?

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby Mkoll » Thu Dec 11, 2014 7:32 pm

soapy3 wrote:
VinceField wrote:Since you are bringing this idea to the table (that Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teachings have a negative tone), why don't you provide us with some specific quotes in which you find to be negative.


If I wrote "all of it" or "most of it" you would think I was being flippant where I was not. I really think you could begin with any of his writings. I'm not the only one who has that view of his TB's work. TB, rightfully or wrongfully has a reputation as being a downer.

Tone, choice of words, and the content he frequently focuses on. I've read his stuff since the 90s and I never came away with a "I'm charged up, let me leave the house and embrace life" feeling from anything he ever wrote. At best neutral. Reading his stuff, I get the unconscious sentence "Life is miserable, learn to hate your feeling, learn to hate your desires, cultivate a sense of urgency about standing on guard against yourself, and you may be lucky enough to die and stay dead by achieving nibanna.".

This past summer my father became ill out of nowhere and I was told he had a week to live. A few other big changes happened in the same span of time. I found myself envying religious Christians because they at least had a happy story to tell themselves for comfort. All I had from reading Thanisarro Bhikkhu and Bhikkhu Bodhi was the caricature/impression I've had since reading their stuff since the 90s.

I have friends where I study who are into both men's translations. They have to be getting something out of it, so I think I will use the idea I came up with earlier. I will simply ask them to point out what they have read from those men that gives them comfort and to explain why. That is the best second chance I can give those authors.

To be fair, Buddhism itself has a reputation of being a "downer." The very concept of a beginningless samsara and rebirth is enough to horrify many people who when they learn of it won't touch Buddhism with a 10 foot pole. Given your envy of Christian cosmology, it sounds like your problem is with Buddhist cosmology rather than Ven. T himself. And maybe your problem with Buddhist cosmology colors your perception of the people who talk about it and all things "Buddhist" in general.

Perhaps what is also worth pondering is that perceptions of people or things being inherently negative are your perceptions. What I'm emphasizing here is that their source is in your mind, not elsewhere. What you see as negative doesn't have the attribute of negativity inherent to it, rather that attribute is born from your own perceptions. I know this is obvious but it bears repeating.
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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Dec 11, 2014 7:52 pm

soapy3 wrote:Luckily, I knew about Ajahn Brahm.


He's my favourite Theravada teacher these days, but I've also got a lot from other teachers over the years. I think we're lucky to have access to so many actually.
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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby Anagarika » Thu Dec 11, 2014 8:25 pm

Soapy, my sense of where you're coming from is the way that you, and I'm sure others, perceive the written and video presentations of Ajahn Geoff, and compare that style to the way that Ajahn Brahm writes and teaches on his BSWA site. I have always felt it fortunate, auspicious, that we have both of these monks teaching in our time, along of course with so many other excellent monks and nuns.

Ajahn Geoff has always come across to me as akin to one of my graduate school professors. Sometimes a bit intimidating, but behind the scene much warmer and friendly with colleagues, yet a source of knowledge that is of great value. Ajahn Brahm is more akin to the medical doctor that truly knows his stuff, trained well, is well disciplined, but also learned that part of the delivery of the medicine is a great "bedside manner."

For me, if I have a general sense of wellbeing and am looking for some strengthening of my Dhamma academics, Ajahn Geoff is usually my go-to-monk for Sutta study and Dhammic information. On the other hand, if I am having a rough day, or experiencing some inner turmoil that I just can't seem to shake off, I am more apt to turn to one of Ajahn Brahm's talks on "letting go," or a similar subject. Certainly, he has stated that people in distress or suffering the loss or potential loss of a loved one, have come to him to say that his books or talks saved them from extended grief, or worse. My guess is that at some point in his monastic life, he understood that the way into people's heart and minds was through teaching Dhamma in light of everyday experience, everyday ups and downs, and with some humor interlaced. He's a storyteller with great wisdom, like the Irish seanachi, while Ajahn Geoff, to me, is the dean of the graduate school.

I've noted before that I have spent time at Wat Metta, and been around Ajahn Geoff when he gently teases one of his young monks to a chorus of laughter from the lay gallery. He's not humorless, at all. It's just that Ajahn Brahm may be your go-to-monk when life is hitting a rough spot, and you need both the wise doctor and the bedside cheer to keep you positive and seeing the bright side of life. This is not two Buddhisms, but one Dhamma that is fortunately being disseminated by two very different, but equally compelling teachers.

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 11, 2014 8:29 pm

Hi Soapy,
soapy3 wrote:
VinceField wrote:Since you are bringing this idea to the table (that Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teachings have a negative tone), why don't you provide us with some specific quotes in which you find to be negative.


If I wrote "all of it" or "most of it" you would think I was being flippant where I was not. I really think you could begin with any of his writings. I'm not the only one who has that view of his TB's work. TB, rightfully or wrongfully has a reputation as being a downer.

Tone, choice of words, and the content he frequently focuses on. I've read his stuff since the 90s and I never came away with a "I'm charged up, let me leave the house and embrace life" feeling from anything he ever wrote. At best neutral. Reading his stuff, I get the unconscious sentence "Life is miserable, learn to hate your feeling, learn to hate your desires, cultivate a sense of urgency about standing on guard against yourself, and you may be lucky enough to die and stay dead by achieving nibanna."....

I'm a little puzzled why, if you find TB's approach depressing, you don't just ignore him. After all, he's just one of thousands of wonderful teachers out there. If you prefer AB's style, go with that.

I've sometimes listened to recorded talks by highly respected teachers and found that I just didn't connect. They seemed to me to drone on and on incoherently. Yet others found them inspiring. I'm not going to make a list, since it's just my reaction to the recordings. Furthermore, live, the impression may be quite different. I met Ajahn Brahm briefly some years ago when he did a weekend of talks and meditation in Hong Kong. Before that, just listening to recordings, I thought his talks seemed a bit shallow. Live, however, it was clear that he had a depth and seriousness behind the bad jokes.

I would encourage you to spend some, or more, time with live teachers. There are lots out there. They don't have to be famous.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby DhammaOS » Thu Dec 11, 2014 9:15 pm

I will admit Thanissaro Bhikku seems a bit blunt, but I don't really measure him as a downer, simply, a stern teacher, think someone said something along the lines of a fatherly figure type thing? I like them both for different reasons, Ajahn Brahm is very uplifting and lighthearted, and TB is very factual,straight, but surprisingly contemplative. We are fortunate to have access to a wide variety of teachers and their talks thanks to the internet.
"There are, O monks, these four lights. What four? The light of the moon, the light of the sun, the light of fire, and the light of wisdom. Of these four lights, the light of wisdom is supreme."-AN 4:143

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby SarathW » Thu Dec 11, 2014 10:15 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Soapy,
soapy3 wrote:
VinceField wrote:Since you are bringing this idea to the table (that Thanissaro Bhikkhu's teachings have a negative tone), why don't you provide us with some specific quotes in which you find to be negative.


If I wrote "all of it" or "most of it" you would think I was being flippant where I was not. I really think you could begin with any of his writings. I'm not the only one who has that view of his TB's work. TB, rightfully or wrongfully has a reputation as being a downer.

Tone, choice of words, and the content he frequently focuses on. I've read his stuff since the 90s and I never came away with a "I'm charged up, let me leave the house and embrace life" feeling from anything he ever wrote. At best neutral. Reading his stuff, I get the unconscious sentence "Life is miserable, learn to hate your feeling, learn to hate your desires, cultivate a sense of urgency about standing on guard against yourself, and you may be lucky enough to die and stay dead by achieving nibanna."....

I'm a little puzzled why, if you find TB's approach depressing, you don't just ignore him. After all, he's just one of thousands of wonderful teachers out there. If you prefer AB's style, go with that.

I've sometimes listened to recorded talks by highly respected teachers and found that I just didn't connect. They seemed to me to drone on and on incoherently. Yet others found them inspiring. I'm not going to make a list, since it's just my reaction to the recordings. Furthermore, live, the impression may be quite different. I met Ajahn Brahm briefly some years ago when he did a weekend of talks and meditation in Hong Kong. Before that, just listening to recordings, I thought his talks seemed a bit shallow. Live, however, it was clear that he had a depth and seriousness behind the bad jokes.

I would encourage you to spend some, or more, time with live teachers. There are lots out there. They don't have to be famous.

:anjali:
Mike


:goodpost: Mike.
:)

Listen to all, plucking a feather from every passing goose, but, follow no one absolutely**.

Chinese Proverbs

PS:
**Should I add "except Buddha"
May be not.
:thinking:

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby soapy3 » Thu Dec 11, 2014 10:18 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I'm a little puzzled why, if you find TB's approach depressing, you don't just ignore him. After all, he's just one of thousands of wonderful teachers out there. If you prefer AB's style, go with that.


Hi Mike. I got interested in Buddhism in the 90s. There were a lot less options back then. Most of the resources for reading about Theravada were small bits offered by meditation teachers in popular books, translations & essays by TB on Access To Insight, and translations and essays by Bhikkhu Bodhi who I have similar problems with. Both men provided me, as well as many others, with a good, and freely offered education about Theravada, but their styles left me with the impressions that I now have.

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Re: 2 Buddhisms? Ajahn Brahm and Thanisarro Bhikkhu

Postby soapy3 » Thu Dec 11, 2014 10:30 pm

Mkoll wrote:To be fair, Buddhism itself has a reputation of being a "downer." The very concept of a beginningless samsara and rebirth is enough to horrify many people who when they learn of it won't touch Buddhism with a 10 foot pole.


Theravada does. I've heard different about other forms of Buddhism. Samsara & rebirth do not personally sound bad to me. Trouble is I just don't believe in rebirth. I'm not hostile to the idea, but I haven't had experiences to convince me of the truth. If I had such a belief, I would have had a lot more comfort this summer when my father's life and other things ended. In that situation situation TB's writings would have simply been something expressed in a way not to my liking.

Given your envy of Christian cosmology, it sounds like your problem is with Buddhist cosmology rather than Ven. T himself. And maybe your problem with Buddhist cosmology colors your perception of the people who talk about it and all things "Buddhist" in general.


I think you have a point. Without a sense of conviction in rebirth and nibanna, the only emotional comfort Buddhism had to offer me this summer was that if I survived those hard times I might be able with continued practice to become well adjusted enough that the next set of inevitable deaths and endings would phase me less. Not much comfort.

Perhaps what is also worth pondering is that perceptions of people or things being inherently negative are your perceptions. What I'm emphasizing here is that their source is in your mind, not elsewhere. What you see as negative doesn't have the attribute of negativity inherent to it, rather that attribute is born from your own perceptions. I know this is obvious but it bears repeating.


I can't agree with you there. I think a lot of it is the terminology TB chooses. For example "defilements" versus "hindrances". "Defilements" sounds puritanical to me. I have to purify myself of "defilements" ( my mental qualities, my emotions, desires, who I am ) to achieve a better state. That just sounds negatively the way it is put to me. Even "hindrances" is not that great. While not technically correct as to translating Pali, Ajahn Brahm had a talk I listened after I learned my father had cancer. I was out walking at 2am while listening to it. He described the hindrances and adversities as "teachers". "Ajahn Mosquitos" to describe his own difficulties as a young monk in the jungle. "Ajahn Dad" for me. Much less negative, some hope, some empowerment. I don't know if I am clear.


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