Henepola Gunaratana quotes

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Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Ph.D. (1927- ) was born in Sri Lanka and ordained at the age of 12. He attended colleges and universities in Sri Lanka and the U.S., culminating in a Ph.D. degree. He is the founder and abbot of Bhavana Society in West Virginia, USA. He is one the leaders in Buddhism pushing for bhikkhuni reinstatement and he has personally ordained many women with the full ordination. He has written many bestselling Dhamma books and leads retreats around the world.


Meditation and general teachings

  • View all problems as challenges. Look upon negativities that arise as opportunities to learn and to grow. Don't run from them, condemn yourself, or bury your burden in saintly silence. You have a problem? Great. More grist for the mill. Rejoice, dive in, and investigate.
  • "Discipline" is a difficult word for most of us. It conjures up images of somebody standing over you with a stick, telling you that you're wrong. But self-discipline is different. It's the skill of seeing through the hollow shouting of your own impulses and piercing their secret. They have no power over you. It's all a show, a deception. Your urges scream and bluster at you; they cajole; they coax; they threaten; but they really carry no stick at all. You give in out of habit. You give in because you never really bother to look beyond the threat. It is all empty back there. There is only one way to learn this lesson, though. The words on this page won't do it. But look within and watch the stuff coming up-restlessness, anxiety, impatience, pain-just watch it come up and don't get involved. Much to your surprise, it will simply go away. It rises, it passes away. As simple as that. There is another word for self-discipline. It is patience.
  • Somewhere in this process you will come face-to-face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pell-mell down the hill utterly out of control and hopeless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday. It has always been this way and you just never noticed. You are also no crazier than everybody else around you. The only real difference is that you have confronted the situation they have not.
  • Deeply buried in the mind, there lies a mechanism that accepts what the mind experiences as beautiful and pleasant and rejects those experiences that are perceived as ugly and painful. This mechanism gives rise to those states of mind that we are training ourselves to avoid; things like greed, lust, hatred, aversion, and jealousy.
  • Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom. You don’t have to be swept away by your feeling. You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity.
  • The irony of it is that real peace comes only when you stop chasing it—another Catch-22.
  • Learning to look at each second as if it were the first and only second in the universe is essential in vipassana meditation.
  • Buddhism advises you not to implant feelings that you don’t really have or avoid feelings that you do have. If you are miserable you are miserable; that is the reality, that is what is happening, so confront that. Look it square in the eye without flinching. When you are having a bad time, examine that experience, observe it mindfully, study the phenomenon and learn its mechanics. The way out of a trap is to study the trap itself, learn how it is built. You do this by taking the thing apart piece by piece. The trap can’t trap you if it has been taken to pieces. The result is freedom.

On the importance of the Jhanas in Buddhist meditation

  • For those that say that the jhanas are not necessary to Buddhist practice; they are doing Noble Sevenfold Path (joke), instead of the Noble Eightfold Middle Path. Right Concentration (Samma Samadhi) is an integral part of the Buddhist path.

On Bhikkhuni (nuns) ordination

  • I support it. I support it. Fully ordained nuns should be able to do the same things as fully ordained monks. That's the kind of equality I support. The Buddha introduced extra rules for women, because without giving some concessions, without introducing some rules, there would have been an enormous upheaval and opposition coming from other monks as well as lay people. To silence them, he introduced these regulations. But in modern society these things can be modified.


  • The Path of Serenity and Insight. Motilal Banarsidass. 1985.
  • The Jhanas in Theravada Meditation. Buddhist Publication Society. 1988.
  • Mindfulness in Plain English. Wisdom Publications. 1992.
  • Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness: Walking the Buddha's Path. Wisdom Publications. 2001.
  • Journey to Mindfulness: The Autobiography of Bhante G. Wisdom Publications. 2003.
  • Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English. Wisdom Publications. 2009.
  • The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English. Wisdom Publications. 2012.