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Dhamma Quotes

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I think we had a "thought for the day" thread a couple of years ago but it didn't work out because folks started posting anything with a feel-good vibe whether Buddhism-related or not. I'd like to give it another shot and limit it to writings or sayings by Buddhists.

I often come across pieces of the Pali Cannon or Buddhist teachings that seem particularly clear, or well-expressed, or have have some particular significance for me. I guess we all do. But I soon forget where I saw them. So let's try setting them down here so everyone can benefit from them. A couple of paragraphs should be enough, otherwise it's too much to type. And we should include the source and any explanation necessary.

I'll start with this piece from the Anguttara Nikaya, which I found in Bhikkhu Bodhi's book, In the Buddha's Words. It's about what Dhamma can give the layperson in this life, and it's from the section on harmonious relationships between parents and children. I read somewhere that Thais feel they have a never-ending debt to their parents, but I didn't realize the Buddha said something like this. Since filial piety has never been my strong point, this came as a shock. :o

I found most of the text online at www.amaravati.org:

"Bhikkhus, I declare that there are two persons one can never repay. What two? One's mother and father.

Even if one should carry about one's mother on one shoulder and one's father on the other, and so doing should live a hundred years.... Moreover, if one should set them up as supreme rulers, having absolute rule over the wide earth abounding in the seven treasures - not even by this could one repay one's parents. For what reason? Parents do a lot for their children: they bring them up, provide them with food, introduce them to the world.

Yet, bhikkhus, whoever encourages their faithless parents, and settles and establishes them in faith; or whoever encourages their immoral parents and settles and establishes them in morality, or whoever encourages their stingy parents, and settles and establishes them in generosity, or whoever encourages their foolish parents, and settles and establishes them in wisdom - such a person, in this way repays, more than repays, what is due to their parents."

NOTE: Please post only dhamma thoughts, ie from Buddhism, in this thread.

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Here's one of my favourites from Gil Fronsdal's translation of The Dhammapada:

Better than one hundred years lived

Without seeing the Deathless

Is one day lived

Seeing the Deathless.

This verse from the Buddha is often quoted as proof that all the effort in getting to Nibbana is worth it. You can hear Fronsdal reading The Dhammapada in a "Zencast" on mp3 files.

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Any sensual bliss in the world,

any heavenly bliss,

isn't worth one sixteenth-sixteenth

of the bliss of the ending of craving.

--Udana II, 2

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There's a saying that the Dhamma is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end. Dhamma is good in the beginning in the sense that even by hearing just a little about the Dhamma, many people gain some peace of mind. Dhamma is good in the middle in the sense that during meditation practice one gains samatha-sukha and vipassana-sukha, the happiness of tranquility and the happiness of insight. Dhamma is good in the end because it leads to the eradication of mental defilements, the attainment of total peace.

- Sayadaw U Pandita, The State of Mind Called Beautiful

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How is Release by Equanimity Achieved?

The Blessed Buddha once said:

And how, Bhikkhus, is release of mind by total Equanimity (Upekkhā)

achieved? What does this liberation have as its destination, what is

its culmination, what is its sweet fruit, and what is the ultimate goal

of mental release by universally neutral & imperturbable Equanimity?

Here, Bhikkhus, a Bhikkhu dwells pervading the frontal quadrant,

with a mind imbued with infinite Equanimity, so the second quarter,

the third quarter, and the fourth quarter. As above, so below, across,

and everywhere, and to all beings so to himself, he dwells pervading

the entire universe with a mind saturated with unlimited Equanimity,

immense, exalted, measureless, without hostility, without any enmity,

without any ill will! Thus prepared and expanded he then develops:

1: The Awareness Link to Awakening joined with limitless Equanimity.

2: The Investigation Link to Awakening fused with such Equanimity.

3: The Energy Link to Awakening together with infinite Equanimity.

4: The Joy Link to Awakening accompanied with absolute Equanimity.

5: The Tranquillity Link to Awakening linked with serene Equanimity.

6: The Concentration Link to Awakening associated with Equanimity.

7: The Equanimity Link to Awakening joined with endless Equanimity.

Based upon seclusion, disillusion, ceasing, and culminating in release.

If he then wishes:

May I dwell experiencing the repulsive in any unrepulsive & tempting,

then he can dwell experiencing repulsiveness therein. If he wishes:

May I dwell experiencing the unrepulsive in any disgusting & repulsive,

then he dwells experiencing pleasing beauty in whatever disgusting!

If he wishes: May I dwell experiencing the repulsive in what is both

unrepulsive & repulsive, he dwells experiencing repulsive disgust in it.

If he wishes: May I dwell experiencing the unrepulsive in what is both

unrepulsive & repulsive, he experiences only unrepulsive beauty by it!

If he wishes: Avoiding both the repulsive and the unrepulsive, may I

dwell in equanimity, just aware and clearly comprehending, then he

dwells in equanimity, just aware and clearly comprehending! Or else,

completely transcending the realm of infinitude of consciousness,

only aware that there is nothing, he enters & dwells in the sphere of

the void, empty & vacuous nothingness.. I tell you Bhikkhus for a wise

Bhikkhu here, who has not yet penetrated to an even more superior

mental release, the mental release by imperturbable Equanimity has

the sphere of the nothingness as its culmination!

Source of reference (edited extract):

The Grouped Sayings of the Buddha. Samyutta Nikaya

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One of the great blessings of the Buddha's teaching is the remedy it can offer for the problem of meaninglessness so widespread in human life today. The Dhamma can serve as a source of meaning primarily because it provides us with the two requisites of a meaningful life: an ultimate goal for which to live, and a clearcut but flexible set of instructions by which we can advance towards that goal from whatever station in life we start from.

[...]

If the goal towards which the path points lies beyond the pale of conditioned existence, to walk the eightfold path is to discover within the confines of conditioned existence dimensions of meaning previously unknown. This richness of meaning stems from a twofold source. One is the recognition that the following of the path brings a diminishment of suffering for ourselves as well as others, and at the same time an enhancement of joy, mental equipoise and peace. The other source of meaning is the conviction that the values we are pursuing are not merely subjective and arbitrary, but are grounded in an absolutely objective order, in the very nature of things.

- Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Quest for Meaning

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Although in one sense taking refuge is something we are doing all the time, the Pali formula we use is a reminder — because we forget, because we habitually take refuge in worry, doubt, fear, anger, greed and so on. The Buddha-image is similar; when we bow to it we don’t imagine that it is anything other than a bronze image, a symbol. It is a reflection and makes us a little more aware of Buddha, of our refuge in Buddha Dhamma Sangha.

The Buddha image sits in great dignity and calm, not in a trance but fully alert, with a look of wakefulness and kindness, not being caught in the changing conditions around it. Though the image is made of brass and we have these flesh-and-blood bodies and it is much more difficult for us, still it is a reminder. Some people get very puritanical about Buddha-images, but here in the West I haven’t found them to be a danger. The real idols that we believe in and worship and that constantly delude us are our thoughts, views and opinions, our loves and hates, our self-conceit and pride.

- Ajahn Sumedho, Now is the Knowing.

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Just as the great ocean has but one taste, the taste of salt, so this doctrine-and-discipline has but one taste, the taste of freedom.

- Udana V.5

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Another reason why we do not regard others as precious is that we pay attention to their faults whilst ignoring their good qualities. Unfortunately we have become very skilled in recognizing the faults of others, and we devote a great deal of mental energy to listing them, analyzing them, and even meditating on them!

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Transform Your Life

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There's no suffering like the suffering of a Dhamma practitioner, and there's no happiness like the happiness of one either.

- Ajahn Chah, Food for the Heart, p.263.

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Aj Chah has the best one- and two-line aphorisms .... :o

Know what is good and bad, whether traveling or living in one place. You can’t find peace on a mountain or in a cave. You can even go to where the Buddha attained enlightenment without getting closer to the truth.

No Ajahn Chah: Reflections

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Dharma Talk: Six Principles of Enlightened Living: The Six Paramitas and the Three Trainings

What I'd like to talk about tonight is the six principles of enlightened living. Over the past six months or so on many Monday nights we have been going through some of the basic teachings that help support our journey of awakening. We have explored together how to relate to the fact of impermanence and death, our own mortality; relate to finding a reliable refuge or sanctuary in this fleeting world, traditionally known as taking refuge; relate to generating the altruistic, selfless, loving Bodhicitta, the innate, pure heart of enlightenment and compassion; relate to self-inquiry and to who and what we really are; relate to the essential awareness practice of sustaining present wakefulness, of Dzogchen (the Innate Great Perfection): the meditation practice renowned as Cutting Through, Seeing Through, in the form of sky-gazing. Various other Dharma subjects have also come along the way. Tonight I'd like to talk about the six Mahayana principles of enlightened living: How to integrate the outer, inner, and innate levels of enlightened living and carry all circumstances into the path, integrate everything as our path, assimilate everything into the path of awakening.

I'm sure you have all heard of what is traditionally known as the Noble Eight-faceted Path taught by Buddha. These eight steps to enlightenment are usually divided into three main principles or trainings: sila (morality), samadhi (meditation), and prajna (wisdom).

The Tree Trainings

Sila means virtue, ethics, morality, self-discipline, impeccability. Sila is a beautiful Sanskrit and Pali word. It means that which cools the intense broiling, roiling stew of passions and conflicting emotions. It's like a shade tree in the desert of blazing, conflicting emotions, a shelter where we can find relief. Nonattachment, integrity, and a righteous, honest, impeccable life provides a shelter, a true refuge in our confusing times.

Samadhi means collectedness, concentration, reflectiveness, inquiry, mindfulness, meditation, focus.

Prajna means wisdom, gnosis, enlightened awareness, transcendental wisdom, true self-knowledge.

Sila, samadhi, and prajna -- virtue, meditation or awareness practice, and wisdom -- make up three enlightened principles that are like a tripod that our enlightenment can rest on. Actually the three are inseparable, like the three facets of a single, luminous jewel. Each supports and promotes the other. For example, if we lie, steal, and have weak moral fiber, how can we think to know truth?

Externally, virtue means not harming. Internally, it means having integrity and honesty. And innately we all have that capacity, don't we? Who doesn't have purity of heart, beneath it all? Is there anyone here who doesn't have that innate capacity, even if they don't reveal it very often? Innately we all have that capacity to be impeccable, honest, virtuous. Not self-righteous, but to live what is known as the righteous life. That's enlightened living.

We can train from the outside in, by restraining or vowing not to harm, not to be naughty, not to kill, lie, steal, intoxicate ourselves, and so on. At the same time, we can work from the inside out, from our innate goodness and integrity, by resting in the natural state without clinging, free from concepts and attachment. Then natural morality, natural integrity, and natural impeccability will flow forth without vows, without having outer strictures. Actually the best way to train is from outside in and inside out at the same time. Then wherever we are, that kind of impeccability can flower, our highest character will develop. So that's enlightened living: impeccability. Not just rules or vows, not just square morality, but impeccability, character, integrity. And when we change for the better, our children and grandchildren and the world change, too.

The second main principle or training of enlightened living is meditation, samadhi. Outwardly that can look like meditation, or mindfulness practice, or other explicit forms of religious or philosophical self-inquiry. And yet without the inward component, it is not so deep; we could just be going through the motions, performing empty rituals and giving mere lip service to high ideals. Inwardly, are we really interested in this work? Are we really inquiring? Are we really applying ourselves and investigating? What is our motivation? Are we just sitting down and trying to stop ourselves from thinking? There are plenty of pills in bottles that will do that. But that's not the point of meditation, of reflectiveness, of contemplation. So inwardly, it is the quality of investigating or inquiring, of being more aware and conscious, which makes a difference. Meanwhile, innately that awareness is part of all of us. We are all lit up by pure, authentic, spiritual presence as if by an inner light. This is what Tibetans refer to as the clear light. We are illumined by consciousness, aren't we? It is innately present; no matter how scattered we feel, it is here. We are totally here, even if we feel scattered -- innately lit up by presence, by innate awareness, the light within us all.

And the third main principle or training of enlightened living is prajna, wisdom. Hard to describe, isn't it? And yet it is so palpable. We can feel it externally functioning in life, very practically, as wisdom or common sense, genuine selfless helpfulness. Usually the wise people are wise about many things, not just about one narrow, specialized field, like meditation or religion. Rather, they are wise in the ways of the world, and, perhaps, the so-called other world too. Wise in life and death. Wise. So outwardly prajna shows up as sageness, being wise, being an elder and mentor and model. We can cultivate that. Inwardly, it is a little more subtle, but it shows up; also, we can cultivate it as sanity, centeredness, inner peace -- at one and at home with both ourselves and with others. We can plumb the deep inner well, and heal ourselves.

Meanwhile, innately: gnosis, transcendence, unselfishness is within us all. The ultimate form of wisdom is not a doing; it is our true nature, our being. It is not just information or intellectual knowledge. Wisdom sounds like knowledge, but it is more like our luminous, pure being. Can we tune into that? Not just doing something externally. Not just knowing something internally. But can we be that? And trust that? Being is complete in itself. That is transcendental wisdom. We may or may not belong to a church, but churches have not been around very long. I mean any kind of church. They have been around for only a few thousand years. But our being -- that mystical sacrament, that mysterious and sacred space -- has been around a lot longer. Not exactly our being, but being itself. Primordial being, as we call it in the Dzogchen tradition. Authentic primordial being, or Rigpa, Buddha-mind.

Thus, there are outer, inner, and innate aspects to all these things -- to virtue, to contemplation or awareness meditation, and to wisdom. So these are three salient principles or trainings of enlightened living that I would you to reflect on. I'd ask you to do a little homework. I'd like you to do some reading or thinking about this. What is the relation between virtue -- outer, inner, and innate -- meditation or inquiry -- outer, inner, and innate -- and wisdom -- outer, inner and innate? You can find many discussions of this in Buddhist books. They talk about the three trainings. Buddha discussed it in the original sutras. It is part of the Fourth Noble Truth, the Truth of the Path.

This is just an outline for reflecting on principles of enlightened living. Of course, we can apply this outer, inner, and innate scheme to almost anything, but it is particularly useful for unpacking and understanding some of the Buddhist teachings about how things are. For, after all, Buddhism is descriptive, not proscriptive. It describes how things are, not what you should do. You get to decide that. We decide. We choose. And we experience accordingly.

The Six Principles of Enlightened Living, the Six Paramitas (Perfections)

Now I would like to look further into the six principles of enlightened living, which I have started to think of as principles of enlightened leadership, to talk about them more in a Western way. But in the old-fashioned way, they are called the six paramitas, the six perfections. I would like to look into this in the outer, inner, and innate fashion since nobody has discussed this to my knowledge and I have become interested in thinking about it this way.

The first paramita -- the first principle of enlightened living -- is dana paramita: the perfection of generosity. This is what is called charity (caritas) in the Christian sense, which means love; it doesn't just mean giving pennies to the poor. Caritas means unattached generosity, boundless openness, unconditional love. Open heart, open mind, open hand. That's why it comes first among the six. It is extraordinarily pertinent to our lives and our path.

The second is sila paramita -- virtue, morality -- which we have already described.

Third is shanti paramita: patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance.

This ties into the fourth one, virya paramita: energy, diligence, courage, enthusiasm, effort.

The fifth is dhyana paramita: meditation, absorption, concentration, contemplation.

The sixth enlightened principle is prajna: transcendental wisdom.

Since each of these is an enlightened principle, a paramita, wisdom is in each and all of these. For example, the first one is dana paramita, generosity: It is wise, isn't it, to let go? Why is that? Because resistance is suffering (this is explicit in the Second Noble Truth). Craving, attachment and resistance is suffering. So it is wise to let go. Externally, dana paramita implies being more generous, open, giving, serving, and donating our time and energy. Internally, it is being more generous with our emotions and generous with others, open-hearted. Not suppressing our emotions, not being miserly with our emotions; rather, allowing them and appreciating them. And innately, being generous, spontaneous, total unbounded energy. Why squelch that limitless, innate energy like a miser, as if saving your energy for "the real thing"? Here is the problem of commitment, which many people suffer from: holding back and fearing intimate engagement or total involvement. You miss your whole life that way.

Dana is the wisdom of openness, internally, externally, and innately. Just being is innate generosity. Everything is available within the natural state. Don't be a miser regarding being and always be lost in doing and squandering your energies in frivolous, scattered activities. Everything is available in the natural state of pure being. Don't take my word for it. Master of old Padampa Sangyay said so, the Buddha of Tingri, Tibet.

We can go through this outer, inner, and innate scheme and find that it is all within us; we can cultivate it externally and internally, and discover that we are actually involved in it already. That's the good news. The bad news is our own way of seeing it, of feeling far from it and inadequate. Even though we are all supposed to be perfect in the Great Perfection, somehow we don't feel perfect enough. Never quite perfect enough. Never truly satisfied. But this is just a habit, a distorted way of perceiving, which enlightened vision can rectify.

Secondly, we talk about morality: it is wise to not harm. That is the essence of virtue. Externally, taking the five basic lay vows or precepts: "I shall refrain from killing and stealing and lying and sexual misconduct (exploiting others) and intoxicating myself." Internally, isn't it just as wise not to deceive ourselves and to have integrity and develop our own character? Innately, of course, we all have that purity of heart and basic goodness, and feel love naturally. Let's not lose touch with that. Let's exploit that innate, natural resource, rather than exploiting others for what we think we need and want. Let's exploit our own natural resource within, our own true spiritual inheritance. That is something we can never really lose; no one and nothing can take it away from us.

The third paramita is patience, shanti paramita. Sometimes it is mistranslated as peace. but it really means patience, forbearance, tolerance. So externally, it means, say, counting to at least ten before we kick back. Having some balance and sense of restraint. Being patient instead of being totally irritable and reactive. It means persevering through whatever twists and turns the path requires, to the goal of our aspirations. Internally, it means being patient with ourselves and having some acceptance and tolerance for ourselves, with all of theirs as well as our foibles, hang-ups, and neuroses. It is good to be cracked. It lets the light through! Recently, I read a poem that I really liked by Wendell Berry: "It is the impeded stream that sings." So let's not try to be too perfect and dull. It will just frustrate us anyway. Having a few rocks in the stream makes it sing. Even stumbling blocks can become steppingstones.

Innately, we are all here for the whole show, so we must be interested in seeing this through. We are not going anywhere else; this is it! That's why as people get older, they get wiser, because they realize that no matter what they do, they are going to keep on keeping on. That's the most secret, mystical meaning of the shanti paramita. And even if you think, but what about so and so who committed suicide, even then there is ongoingness. We are all in it for the whole journey. Don't be deceived by mere appearances.

Fourth is virya paramita: energy, diligence. It is often translated as effort. But that sounds so one-sided. What about effortless effort? What about the great passion of our true vocation, which we do day and night out of love? Not just the effort to get through our forty-hour week and forget about it at Friday at 5:00. How about effortless effort? Externally, it seems like effort, but internally it can be effortless effort and passion for our true spiritual life. Aren't we all interested in well-being? Does that take an effort to pursue? Are we not pursuing it? That's virya paramita: courage, fearlessness to pursue continuously our highest good.

Innately, of course, there is boundless energy and interest and curiosity and wonder and beauty and awe in everything, every moment, if we open to it, if we don't close ourselves off from it, if we don't dull ourselves. Inexhaustible resources and the potential is always available to find everything we seek just in pure being. Endless being, inexhaustible field of being, primordial being.

We can make great efforts to improve ourselves, to learn, to grow, and to develop -- to relinquish what is negative and adopt what is wholesome and positive -- but in the end I think it is the updraft of our joy in just being alive that carries us aloft and puts wind in our sails.

Fifth is dhyana paramita: meditation or absorption, presence. Externally, it shows up as presence of mind or collectedness, meditation, contemplation. Internally isn't it wise to be focused and centered and aware and see what is going on, rather than being heedless, mindless, absent-minded and distracted? Not just be lost in fabrication, but to really see what is going on, right here and now. We can do that, with a little attention and focus.

Innately, we are all totally absorbed. We can never be anything else. So don't feel like you are lost and just looking at everybody feeling lost. You're found. Innately, there is total presence, although we waste it, we overlook it, we defract it with many cracked mirrors and distracted, pointless activities. We feel like we are only operating on one or two cylinders. But we are just using the other cylinders to hold ourselves in. All the cylinders are going all the time. We ourselves are actually the long-sought-after perpetual motion machine. How can we not meditate on, contemplate upon, and reflect upon our lives?

Whether doing sitting meditation, walking meditation, chanting, visualization, yoga, martial arts, breathing exercises, prayers, or whatever, the joy of meditation rewards us deeply.

And sixth, prajna paramita: the highly touted transcendental wisdom, said to be indescribable. I talked about it earlier. I won't go into it again, except by telling a brief story about Vimalakirti, the enlightened layman of Visali in India. He lived in the time of the Buddha. The Mahayana sutra called Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra tells his story. He was a layman with a family. He was an impeccable member of the community, an enlightened businessman. He was the sagest person in the city of Visali. All the Bodhisattvas and enlightened monks and nuns came to him and had a discussion. They all came to his bedroom, which was very small, about 6 feet by 6 feet, and somehow all the enlightened ones fit in there through the magic of interpenetration and emptiness. This august sangha gathering also included all the Bodhisattvas, including Manjusri, Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, and Tara. Maybe they all made themselves as small as those angels that reportedly dance on the head of a pin. The sutra says they were all there, arhats and Bodhisattvas alike, with their seats, thrones, and mounts, all in Vimalakirti's tiny chamber.

Each member of this Dharma assembly gave their views on what is transcendental wisdom. That was the subject of the discussion that day. Each one gave a description of the indescribable; this is why we love the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra. It is marvelous. With each progressive description, you think, "Ah, now we have really got it." Yet, the truth expounded seems to get better each time. Each expounder outdoes the previous, not in the sense of competitiveness, but the Dharma teaching just goes deeper and deeper. They finally get to Manjusri, the God of Wisdom. He gives his spiel. It is so marvelous. It is the ultimate spiel on nondual truth, transcendental wisdom. Then everybody bows to reverently to him -- including us the reader. What else can be said? we wonder.

Finally they all turn to Vimalakirti, and ask him to pronounce the final word on transcendental wisdom. (All this is part of the Prajna Paramita Sutra, which has dozens of thousands of Sanskrit verses.) So Vimalakirti answers. And the sutra says -- I am always overcome with emotion here, at this point -- that "his silence resounded like thunder." That was the last word on what is wisdom, what is enlightenment. It is truly ineffable, inconceivable, beyond the mind; and yet, it is so palpable, experienceable, demonstrable. Vimalakirti lived it; he embodied it. That's the principle of enlightened living: embodiment, enactment, not just merely knowing about something. That's self-realization: enacting it; embodying truth; wisdom in action as love, compassion, and impeccability.

Lama Surya Das

http://www.dzogchen.org/teachings/talks/dtalk-95feb20.html

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Do not pursue the past.

Do not lose yourself in the future.

The past no longer is.

The future has not yet come.

Looking deeply at life as it is

in the very here and now,

the practitioner dwells

in stability and freedom.

We must be diligent today.

To wait for tomorrow is too late.

Death comes unexpectedly.

How can we bargain with it?

The sage calls a person who knows

how to dwell in mindfulness

night and day

"one who knows

the better way to live alone."

- Bhaddekaratta Sutta, translated by Thich Nhat Hanh.

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The Buddha made this wonderful statement:

"There is, monks, an unborn, uncreated, an unconditioned. Here, monks, I say there is no coming, no going, no standing, no ceasing, no beginning. Not fixed, not movable, it has no support. Just this is the end of suffering."

It's a very powerful statement, a very wonderful statement, a penetrating view of reality. Note that it is negative: negating all creation, negating all that is individual, negating all the characteristics that isolate, such as concepts of an individual, concepts that are dualistic, limited, mortal. It is pure negation, sweeping away everything. That is what the unconditioned is - when you sweep away all conditions.

- Ajahn Jagaro, True Freedom.

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Nibbana is, but not the person that enters it;

The path is but no traveller on it is seen.

- Visuddhi-Magga, XVI

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