Monthly Archives: December 2010

At Home With Yourself: New Year’s Eve Talk

December 31, 2010. 71-minute New Year’s Eve Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, from the Assembly of Stars Hall of the Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France.

“Once we understand the suffering inside ourselves, compassion will arise. If you understand the roots of suffering, understanding will arise, and then compassion. Then you feel at home with yourself. And when you feel at home with yourself, you can help the other person. You can understand his or her suffering better. You have become a home for yourself, and you are helping him or her to become a home for him- or herself.”

The talk was given in English and is available below (French and Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

Make a True Home of Your Love

December 26, 2010. 134-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Dharma Cloud Temple in Upper Hamlet in Plum Village on the theme of relationship and fidelity. The monastery is in the 2010- 2011 Winter Rains Retreat.

“We have said that sexual desire is not love, but our society is organized in such a way that sensual pleasure becomes the most important thing. They want to sell their products, and they make advertisements that water the seed of craving in you. They want you to consume in such a way that you have sensual pleasure. But sensual pleasure can destroy you. What we need is mutual understanding, trust, love, spiritual intimacy. But we don’t have the opportunity to meet that kind of deep need in us.

“Many young people in our society want to have cosmetic surgery in order to meet with the standard of beauty. There are fashion magazines that say in order to succeed you have to look like this, use this product. That is why many young people suffer very much. They cannot accept their body, because people expect another kind of body, so they want to have surgery to change their body. When you do not accept your body as it is, you are not in your true home. Our body is like a flower. Everyone in humanity is like a flower. And each flower are different from other kinds of flowers. And if she can accept her body, she has a chance to see her body as home. If you cannot accept your body, you cannot be home for yourself.
If you cannot be home for yourself, how can you be home for others? So in psychological circles we have to tell the young people that they are already beautiful as they are. You have to accept yourself as you are. And when you practice building a home in yourself, you become more and more beautiful. You have peace, joy, and people will recognize the beauty of your flower.”

“The monks and nuns, when they receive the bhikshu or bhikshuni precepts, they want to live a holy life. If you see that a monk is beautiful, it is because he has brought in the spiritual element into his life. Spirituality here means mindfulness, concentration, and insight. The Five Mindfulness Trainings are recommended for everyone, not only for monastics. Mindfulness is the kind of energy that can help you to go home to yourself, to the here and the now, so that you know what to do and what not to do in order to be home for yourself and for other people. The Five Mindfulness Trainings are a very concrete way of practicing mindfulness.

In the Buddhist tradition, holiness is made of mindfulness. Mindfulness, concentration, and insight make you holy. Holiness not only possible for the monastics, but also for the laypeople who practice the precepts. Holiness is not only possible with the practice of celibacy. There are those who live a conjugal life, but if they have the elements of mindfulness, concentration, and insight the have the element of holiness. A monk is like an astronaut, if you want to be an astronaut you should not be pregnant. It does not mean it is bad to be pregnant.”

“We have to learn how to treat beauty. Sexual intimacy can be a beautiful thing, if there is mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Otherwise it will be destructive.”

“To practice Buddhism as a monk is always easier than to practice as a layperson. In Vietnam we say, ‘To practice as a monk is easiest; to practice as a layperson is much more difficult.’ To practice not to have a sexual relationship is much easier than to maintain practice in a relationship, because in order to maintain mindfulness, concentration, and insight in a sexual relationship you need a lot of practice.”

“Love is not a kind of prison. True love gives us a lot of space. Whatever you enjoy, the other person enjoys; whatever is your concern is also their concern.”

The talk was given in English and is available below (French and Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

Beehives and our True Home: A Christmas Eve Talk

December 24, 2010. 58-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Stillwater Meditation in Upper Hamlet in Plum Village. The talk was given in English (French and Vietnamese audio are available as well as video version). The monastery is in the 2010- 2011 Winter Rains Retreat and this was the Christmas Eve talk.

This is a time to go home. Jesus was searching for a home. He was a young man. If you are young, you too may be looking for a home. The Buddha too was a young man searching for his true home. There are those of us who have found their true home. In the here and now. Comfortable in the present moment. They are not looking for anything else.

Thay shares about meeting Martin Luther King 44-years ago in Chicago and how they talked about community. He was trying to build home – the beloved community. To build a loving sangha; very similar to Thay’s dream. If you have a sangha, and can flow with a sangha, then you have found a home. Jesus too found his sangha – not a very big sangha – and they had a difficult time building a sangha after his death. The Buddha too talked of building a sangha. The sangha of Jesus and the sangha of the Buddha had the same kind if aspiration – to reduce suffering.

We can have the sangha in your heart. The sangha is like a beehive – each bee working for the well being of the whole beehive. You are a cell in the sangha body. The time I have spent in the west has been devoted to sangha building. I feel at home because I am a cell in the sangha body. I don’t have to look for anything else. Without sangha we cannot do anything. When a bee is isolated from the hive, it will die. Building the energy of the sangha is the sisterhood and brotherhood of compassion. If your are doing that, then you have a home. If I have a home, it is very clear that youhave a sangha.

Just after the last Rains Retreat of the Buddha (before he died), he gave a series of short dharma talks (5-, 10-minutes) that have been recorded in the Tripitaka. A common theme was about finding our true home. There is a safe island within each of us andif you want peace, freedom, solidity, joy then you must go to this island – the island of oneself. There you have the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha, your ancestors and descendants. The island is the present.

Breathing in, I know the Buddha is Mindfulness. Mindfulness brings you to the present. This is insight. When you can get in touch with the wonders of life, to go back toourselves, then you are being a Buddha. The same thing is true with Jesus Christ.Christians believe that Jesus the Son of God and the Son of Man. All of us are children of the earth, and if we can agree upon this, then Jesus is our brother. The Buddha too is our brother.

The Buddha helped us to touch the ultimate. Nirvana. Absence of afflictions is thepresence of nirvana. It is possible in the here and now.

The deer like to go back to the field.
The birds like to go back to the sky.
The people like to go back to nirvana.

You don’t need to die to enter the Kingdom of God. In the Buddhist practice, all you need to do is breathe in mindfully. To take one step mindfully. Our true home is already there inside. Peace is possible. Brotherhood and sisterhood are possible. Building a sangha is the process and we do this by breathing in.

Merry Christmas to everyone.

You are a Formation

December 16, 2010. 99-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Assembly of Stars Mediation Hall at Lower Hamlet in
Plum Village. The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation (French and original Vietnamese audio are available as well as video version). The monastery is in the 2010-2011 Winter Rains Retreat.

Mindfulness is one of the fifty-one mental formations. Everything you can see is a formation. Your body is also a
formation. Many conditions come together to create a formation. The practitioner should be able to identify the mental formations in your body and mind. The practitioner must be present to recognize them in yourself. Mindfulness is very powerful for coming to the present. Mindfulness is the heart of meditation.

Discusses the subject of Mindfulness and the object of Mindfulness. All formations have a subject and object. Explores impermanent nature of all formations – you’ve heard this teaching so many times but you still behave like everything is
permanent.

Mindfulness. Concentration. Insight.

Covers some of 16 breathing exercises, especially as it relates to impermanence. Continues with a discussion of subject and object. Non-dualistic thinking. Compares the teachings and experience of the Buddha and Jesus Christ and how we can apply it to our lives today.

Transform your corner of the earth into heaven in the here and now. Live in the ultimate dimension.

In breath – Am I present?

December 12, 2010. 115-minute dharma talk given Thich Nhat Hanh in Stillwater Mediation Hall at Upper Hamlet in Plum Village. The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation (French and original Vietnamese audio are available as well as video version). The monastery is in the 2010-2011 Winter Rains Retreat.

Mindfulness is one of the fifty-one mental formations of our mind; five of these mental formations are known as universal:

  • Touch – by our mind and the five sense organs.
  • Volition – attention. In Sanskrit it is manascara.
  • Feeling – after you have attention, sometimes you then have a feeling
  • Perception – a notion or construct about something
  • Action, will to act

What do we pay attention to? What is helpful for us to pay attention to? For example, in the Plum Village center we arrange things to pay attention to what is very useful to you – the bell tower, monastics walking or working relaxingly, arranging of flowers, architecture, statues, etc. We should try to organize our life and environment so that it is helpful and can inspire you to practice.

Other mental formations only come when you invite them. For example, Mindfulness. You want to do walking meditation, sitting meditation, etc.  Mindfulness is the core of the practice. When you are not present, you are in forgetfulness. Mindfulness means you are present. How? Bring your mind back to your body and then you can see things around you. In breath. Out breath. Breath is a tool for Mindfulness.

For example, when walking, we can invent sentences that match your number of steps that remind you to be present.

In breath – Am I present?
Out breath – Yes I am present.
In breath – Are you sure?
Out breath – Yes I am sure.

Am I solid? Am I stable? Means you are not being pulled to the past or to the future, but being present. Am I joyful? Am I free? Do you experience and touch joy, happiness, etc.  By being present, walking can nourish and heal. When you do this, you don’t try to concentrate but it is there anyway by bringing your mind back to the body.

The talk continues by looking at what are know as particular mental formations. Mindfulness, concentration, and insight are “particular” mental formations because we must call them. By creating new habits and new neuropathways through mindfulness, concentration, and insight.

Please write to Thay of your practice, report to him.
Continue reading

Enjoy the Ultimate, Part X

December 9, 2010. 96-minute dharma talk given Thich Nhat Hanh in the Full Moon Mediation Hall at New Hamlet in Plum Village. The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation (French and original Vietnamese available and video version). The monastery is in the 2010-2011 Winter Rains Retreat.

This is a happy moment.

In the past we have used “engaged” Buddhism, but today we use “applied” Buddhism. Buddhism in our daily life. In 1945, we had magazine called Liberation in Vietnam created by some advanced practitioners to study Buddhism and find practices to put into our daily life – into everything. It’s kind of an applied metaphysics.

There are many universities today where you can study Buddhism and get a degree, but most are not applied Buddhism. It is more of a scholastic knowledge – theoretical knowledge. We are determined not to do this at Plum Village, EIAB, Deer Park, etc. We try to transmit the practice of Applied Buddhism.

Creating True Peace (2003), published by Free Press, is a textbook for applied Buddhism originally written at the request of unesco staff. The book contains many examples, and the talk now moves into giving some examples.

The importance of a retreat. Start with one day, then a weekend, and ideally a 7-day retreat. With the longer retreat, the more traditional length, you can soften your mind to see ways out of your suffering, your difficulty.

Please don’t come here to gain knowledge. Learn to apply Buddhism so you can share it with others. Every single piece of knowledge is for putting into practice. To produce peace. To produce happiness. To be a dharma instrument.

At about 45-minutes, we transition to the sutra commentary and finish the last four stanzas. We finish here with Part X and stanza’s 33-36 of Chinese Dhammada, Sutra #36. You can hear other parts of this commentary.

Teaching of the Buddha gathered together by the patriarchs on a specific topic, sometimes reordered. These teachings are from the earliest times o the Buddha. This sutra belongs to the chapter on nirvana. Sometimes you can see links between stanzas because the patriarchs tried to put this together in a flow, not necessarily given exactly in form by the Buddha.

For example, some sutra will speak of the ultimate reality and some will not. Heart of Prajnaparamita is an ultimate sutra – go beyond the world. So some people think you must go beyond, but there are other sutra that speak of the non-ultimate dimension. If you are a scholar, you must know that and when looking at these 36-stanzas you must know to which the stanza belongs – the ultimate or non-ultimate dimension – to not be caught and not to be confused. You use your deep mind, but Thay will give you some hints by reviewing other parts of the sutra that we began exploring back in July.

Enjoy the Ultimate, Part IX

December 5, 2010. 77-minute dharma talk given Thich Nhat Hanh in the Assembly of Stars hall at Lower Hamlet in Plum Village. The talk is in Vietnamese with English translation (French and original Vietnamese available and video version). The monastery is in the 2010-2011 Winter Rains Retreat. You can hear other parts of this commentary. We continue here with Part IX and stanza’s 29-32 of Chinese Dhammada, Sutra #36.

Walking in the present moment, but not like a robot. If you see another practitioner who might be struggling with the practice, learn to be an inspiration to others by practicing yourself rather than saying what they’re doing it wrong. Presence of your mind. Ask yourself, are you sure? The body is here, but what about the mind? Do you radiate peace, joy, and presence?

Stopping is our practice. Everything is a training for a new habit. When we eat, walk, shop, cook, clean the bathroom. You can get enlightened by stopping, looking, and practicing.

If you need to suffer, just suffer. Do not suppress. But that is not enough. Suffering is not enough. It is not ok to only suffer. You have to train yourself to accept yourself. Allow yourself to cry, allow yourself to see another way out. See other ways to transform. without mud. No lotus. Suffering has a role in happiness. No one can claim that I have no suffering at all, but don’t suffer uselessly. You come to the sangha to make use of your suffering.

The sutra commentary begins at the 49-minute mark of the dharma talk. We learn about leading the life of a holy person. In taking the mindfulness Trainings, whether lay or monastic, we  gain space. Limitless space. It’s easy. If you understand this verse, you put  your whole heart toward the path of practice. This is the path to the shore of no birth and no death.

Enjoy the Ultimate, Part IV

November 18, 2010. 71-minute dharma talk given Thich Nhat Hanh at New Hamlet in Plum Village. The talk is in Vietnamese with English translation (French and original Vietnamese available too). This talk is part of a sutra commentary (Chinese Dhammada, Sutra #36) series and is being posted out of sequence due to the Asia Tour; you can hear Part IPart IIPart III.

The primary theme of this sutra is nirvana. Our true nature.
Several different illustrations/parables are used in this talk. For example, the birds and deer can lose the sky and countryside if they are caged. Humans too can be caught (caged) by our own busyness, etc. and we too can lose. We need to return to the sky, the countryside and we are reminded that nirvana is within us. When people’s belief system is discredited or challenged, particularly by scientific evidence (round earth, center of the universe, evolution, etc.), then they can become lost and lose their ethics and become angry. With this, nirvana is the safest place for humans to be. The practice is not about metaphysical contemplations. As a practitioner, we need to know where we’re going and what we want to become. We have to be free and not be burned by the afflictions of anger, attachment, jealousy, etc. nirvana has to be lived and touched here and now.
Near the end of the talk, Thay returns to a common theme of sangha. Members of a sangha support and reflect each other. Individual happiness does not exist. He has often talked of the next Buddha of 21st century will be the sangha. It’s something that Martin Luther King called the beloved community – he didn’t have a chance to see his beloved community arrive, but Thay has been fortunate to teach and build the sangha into this century.
These are just some highlights. The talk is rich with material for practice. Enjoy.

Enjoy the Ultimate, Part VIII

December 2, 2010. 67-minute dharma talk given Thich Nhat Hanh at Upper Hamlet in Plum Village. The talk is in Vietnamese with English translation (French and original Vietnamese available and video version). The monastery is in the 2010-2011 Winter Rains Retreat. You can hear Part IPart IIPart III, and Part VII (still working on parts VI-VI). We continue here with part eight and stanza’s 25-28 of Chinese Dhammada, Sutra #36.

Before the sutra commentary, Thay gives a 30-minute talk on the practice of touching the earth. It’s a lovely talk and explanation – definitely worth a listen. It’s a type of yoga where we coordinate the body and mind. We must make it a contemplation. It is not a devotion. The Buddha is not a god.
The one who bows and the one who is bowed to are both equally empty.
Really need to contemplate and look deeply. Open up to ancestors and descendants. We touch our brain and heart before touching the earth to help bring this forward.
Toward the end of this segment, Thay spends just a couple minutes discussing taking care of sexual energy. He has found calling on or chanting Avaloketeshvara to be very helpful. Lots of things are taking care of the sangha, including our energies (such as sexual).

Enjoy the Ultimate, Part VII

November 28, 2010. 77-minute dharma talk given Thich Nhat Hanh at New Hamlet, Full Moon Meditation Hall, in Plum Village. The talk is in Vietnamese with English translation by Sr. Chan Khong (French and original Vietnamese audio are available as well as video version). The 2010-2011 Winter Rains Retreat opened on this day and also comes after a short break due to the months long tour of Southeast Asia. At this time, I do not have the recordings available for parts four through six that took place during the Summer Opening Fall Days of Mindfulness, but you can hear Part I, Part II, and Part III until those are ready. Therefore, we continue here with part seven and stanza’s 21-24 of Chinese Dhammada, Sutra #36.

Before the sutra commentary, Thay gives a 30-minute talk on the basic practices of Plum Village. Listening to the bell. Walking. Being present. Tells story of signing 300 books on the tour and how it was a joy and of his practice of being present.
The sutra commentary explores Nirvana (21), Non-Duality (22), No Discrimination (23), and Samsara (24).