Thanissaro and the Thai Forrest

Not criticizing but noticing Thanissaro’s teaching seem to differ a little from other teachers in the Pali traditions. Is he coming from a Thai forest master perspective and are the masters ideas similar to his. Is he basing his teachings on the suttas alone. I notice he has a lot of disregard for the commentaries too


I think his teaching differs from the Theravada just as much as other teachers in the Thai forest do. Which is standard for the Thai Forest since the forest Ajahns have their own quirks and personalities.

For example his teacher, Ajahn Fuang Jotiko, and his teacher’s teacher, Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo, have their own unique take on the practice of Anapanasati, which is to control the breath. That inspiration comes from Ajahn Lee who travelled to India and saw the Sadhus practicing Pranayama, even though Ajahn Lee studied under Ajahn Mun, the founder of the Thai Forest Tradition, who almost certainly did not practice this way since you can see this through other Ajahn Mun’s students like Ajahn Maha Bua and Ajahn Chah.

Thanissaro does base his teachings on the Suttas alone (even though he borrows some info from the commentaries when making notes) and I believe his books and his take on the Dhamma overall to be really good and inspiring.

Although I have to mention one important thing that I noticed only after diversifying my reading with other Authors like Bhikkhu Sujato and Bhikkhu Analayo: Thanissaro knows only Pali and translates the Thai edition of the Tipitaka. This leads to the situation where you may feel like he’s teaching “directly from the Buddha and the Suttas alone” but in reality he’s translating and basing some of his teachings on a Sutta that is actually a later composition, and he does not know because he does not have the tools to compare with other Parallels.

This is why I consider Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bhikkhu Analayo and Bhikkhu Sujato to be my go-to translations and teachings when it comes to the Suttas: because they have an idea of what was added and what came later.


Thanks for the input. I absolutely love his teachings. But want to be as close to the original as possible. I used to have a BIG problem with falling into wrong view by using a scattering of teachers before I decided to stick with teachers that stick to the suttas. What is the main differences between him and the other teachers you mentioned. If you don’t mind.thanks
I’ve noticed he is ADAMANT about not answering questions he says the Buddha refused to answer and says that’s where the commentaries go wrong.


This is a slippery slope. And “purism” in Buddhism is a problem, and typically leads to a romanticization of one particular “type” of Buddhism–i.e. Early Buddhism, Theravada, Mahayana, etc.–as the “pure” source or something along those lines.

As somebody who has studied various schools, I recommend always keeping an open mind. Thanissaro is very orthodox in a few ways, but after reading many of his books I will say he is a scholar in his own right, and I think he is quite aware of what he is up to. He has an excellent grasp on the teachings, in my humble opinion.

I personally have found a lot of value in Mahayana literature over the years, and even though I still always come back to the suttas. The Buddha encouraged his disciples to elaborate on the teachings, and there are different ways to achieve the ultimate goal. One of my close friends is a professor of Buddhism and operates a small group of Shin practitioners. I literally have no interest in the Shin tradition, but I go often just to support, and meet like-minded people that are dedicated to spiritual practice, even if it is not my chosen tradition.

Ven. Bodhi and Ven. Analayo are much more open to the exploration and interpretation of texts outside of the traditions they were ordained in. Ven. Bodhi for example lives at a temple that is not Theravada.

I do recommend Spirituality Conceit by Ven. Analayo … great books for exploring bias in the Buddhist world.


Absolutely, and I WILL be checking out that book. But as a novice I need to be conservatively minded. I do in fact listen to some Zen teachings that I don’t completely agree with but get a lot of inspiration from


Always good to explore! I like to take a break from Buddhism all together every few months, and just make space to read things outside of Buddhist literature etc. Gives you some perspective and yes that book is great, highly recommend and it is quite short. Keep on keepin’ on friend.