“Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These mental qualities are skillful; these mental qualities are blameless; these mental qualities are praised by the wise; these mental qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness’—then you should enter and remain in them.” (The Buddha, AN III.65)
For the student who wants to dig deeply into the Buddha’s teachings, “Wings to Awakening” is one of the best anthologies available because of its very specific focus on the “how” and “what” of the Buddha’s Awakening. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu writes in the Preface:
“Many anthologies of the Buddha’s teachings have appeared in English, but this is the first to be organized around the set of teachings that the Buddha himself said formed the heart of his message: the Wings to Awakening (bodhi-pakkhiya-dhamma).
The material is arranged in three parts, preceded by a long Introduction. The Introduction tries to define the concept of Awakening so as to give a clear sense of where the Wings to Awakening are headed. It does this by discussing the Buddha’s accounts of his own Awakening, with special focus on the way in which the principle of skillful kamma (in Sanskrit, karma) formed both the “how” and the “what” of that Awakening: The Buddha was able to reach Awakening only by developing skillful kamma—this is the “how”; his understanding of the process of developing skillful kamma is what sparked the insights that constituted Awakening—this is the “what.”
Downloadable Dhamma Talks & Writings of Thanissaro Bhikkhu of Metta Forest Monastery (Wat Metta)
This website is an incredible treasure-trove of talks and writings by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. You’ll find dozens of PDFs and other documents, and literally hundreds of wonderful talks in the MP3 format.
Probably few concepts in Buddhism are as misunderstood as karma. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu writes:
“For most people, karma functions like fate—and bad fate, at that: an inexplicable, unchangeable force coming out of our past, for which we are somehow vaguely responsible and powerless to fight. ‘I guess it’s just my karma,’ I’ve heard people sigh when bad fortune strikes with such force that they see no alternative to resigned acceptance.
The fatalism implicit in this statement is one reason why so many of us feel repelled by the concept of karma, for it sounds like the kind of callous myth-making that can justify almost any kind of suffering or injustice in the status quo: ‘If he’s poor, it’s because of his karma.’ ‘If she’s been raped, it’s because of her karma.’ From this it seems a short step to saying that he or she deserves to suffer, and so doesn’t deserve our help.”
Nothing could be further from the truth! In the article “Karma,” Thanissaro explains what the Buddha actually taught and shows how timeless, practical, and liberating the true teaching on karma is:
“Jiddhu Krishnamurti is a spiritual teacher I have come back to again and again. For me, reading J. Krishnamurti is like getting a splash of fresh, pure, cold mountain stream water in one’s face. The man is uncompromising in his message that nothing less than a complete transformation of consciousness is needed in order to break free of the conditioned and mundane into true freedom of mind and spirit.
Most of all, J. Krishnamurti insists that this radical change cannot come from outside us or from any external teaching or thought system. From his standpoint, every religious teaching, every social and political system has failed to set humanity free, and in fact, has enslaved humans…”