Monthly Archives: July 2011

Happiness is Made of Non-Happiness

July 22, 2011. 86-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

The art of happiness. We have to practice in order to be happy. There is also the art of power. Some believe if we have power then we will be happy.

There are three kinds of power: the power to cut off, the power to love, and the power to understand.

We have no courage to cut off, and that is a power we can cultivate. If do not cut off our craving, our angry, our despair, and other cravings then we suffer. This is a spiritual power. if we can do this, we can be a free.

The power to love, to accept, to forgive, to embrace. We suffer because we cannot accept, because our love is not large enough. Thay shares the story of salt and water. When our heart is large then we don’t suffer. We can cultivate this power of love.

The third is power to understanding. This is the foundation of love. The second noble truth speaks of understanding out suffering. We have to understand our own suffering first before we can understand the other. The Three Doors of Liberation can help us with this power.

Thay would like to write another book call The Power of Suffering. There are ways to suffer. In the teaching if the Buddha, happiness and suffering go together. It is like the above and the below; like the left and right. When we realize that happiness is made up of non-happiness elements, we are able to make good use of the mud of our suffering to grow a lotus flower. If you know how to suffer then you know how to create happiness.

In the Sutra of Mindful Breathing, there are sixteen exercises that can help us understand our suffering.

The talk was given in English and is available below. There is a video version available too.

Let There Be Light

July 20, 2011. 80-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh in French, with English translation, from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

Thay begins with a story of creation: God said, “Let there be light,” and the light said, “Wait.” “What are you waiting for?” “I’m waiting for the shadow and darkness in order to manifest together.” There is no subject without object; the two have to manifest together. Further, object and subject are the same thing.

Buddha’s first teaching was on the Four Noble Truths: suffering, the creation of suffering, happiness, and the path to happiness. If we confirm the existence if ill-being, then we also confirm the opposite. This is Interbeing. Buddha’s teaching is both on suffering and on happiness. The first Truth, helps us identify the second Truth.

We can begin a discussion of the Eightfold Noble Path with Right View, the goal of our practice. When we look at a father and a son, we should not see them as two separate entities. Everything is that way.

Thay teaches the Eightfold Noble Path, elaborating on Right Thought, Right Speech and Right Action (three aspects of our daily life) as the development of skillful means with regard to the three types of karma: mind, speech, and bodily action.

What we call death is not really death. Our karma (our actions) continue after we are no longer here in this bodily form. We continue right now in the present moment through our actions. There are two kinds of retribution for our actions: ourselves (our five skandhas), and our environment (relating to Right Livelihood).

We conclude with Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Our view on a global ethic is based on these teachings. We have a path and we don’t have to worry.

The talk was given in French and English translation is available below. There is a video version available too.

Relaxing My Body

July 20, 2011. 34-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh in French, with English translation, from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat. This is a talk for the children.

Thay teaches the children the practice of relaxing the body, smiling to life, and seeing our parents inside. He uses the example of a seed of corn show how our parents are present in every cell of our body: we cannot separate the father from the son. The Buddha is also in us, and we can breathe with him when we breathe.

The talk was given in French and English translation is available below. There is a video version available too.

Making Plans in the Here and Now

July 19, 2011. 120-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat. This is the question and answer session.

Before we begin, Thay offers a teaching on ancestors because today is Ancestors Day. Every home in Vietnam, no matter how poor, keeps an altar for the ancestors. We have two kinds of ancestors: blood and spiritual.

Here are the questions:
1) If we are living in the here and the now, how can we make plans?
2) Why do I have nightmares?
3) How can I help my younger brother to be happy if he annoys me?
4) How to become enlightened?
5) What is freedom, and can you be free even if someone tells you what to do?
6) How can I be kind to myself when I lack confidence?
7) What to do when daughters are treated less equally than sons?
8) We are taught not to judge people and things, but how can we love them without judging?
9) I feel that I attract people who have difficulties. Where is the boundary between being selfish and protecting yourself?
10) I am very confused. I feel caught by impermanence. So when you become a full-time Buddha, you have a state of mind with ultimate freedom and true happiness. But doesn’t that state go against impermanence? When you become a full-time Buddha does the law of impermanence no longer apply to you?
11) I am 50 years old, and I have a 15 year-old son. I would like to become a nun. Can I leave him to take care of himself and come to live peacefully in the temple?

The talk was given in English and is available below. There is a video version available too.

The River of Body and Mind

July 16, 2011. 85-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh in French, with English translation provided by Sister Pine, from New Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

Our body is not static; it’s always changing. It is a river and every cell represents a drop in the river. To meditate is to sit at the bank and look at our body. Like the body, there is a river of feelings flowing day and night. We are learning about the five skandhas as the river of body and mind: form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.

Thay continues into the steps of practice based on the Mindfulness of Breathing Sutra. The first four help us with the physical form and the next four are to help us with our feelings: 1) recognizing the in and out breath, 2) following the in and out breath, 3) mindful of the body, 4) calming the body, 5) recognizing joy, 6) recognizing happiness, 7) aware of painful feelings, 8) embracing painful feelings. These eight are reviewed briefly.

There is also a river of perceptions. Is my perception correct? We also have mental formations. There are positive formations as well as those that make us suffer. Our mind is a river of mental formations. Finally, in Buddhism we speak of consciousness.

We continue with the sutra as it relates to perceptions. 9) selective watering of good seeds, 10) recognizing negative mental formations, 11) concentrate the mind, 12) free the mind. There are three principal concentrations that we practice. They help us transform fear, anxiety, and despair. There are three practices of concentration presented in Buddhist schools. They are 1) the concentration on emptiness, 2) the concentration on signlessness, 3) the concentration on aimlessness. These are also the Three Doors of Liberation and can be found in all schools of Buddhism. We learn of dualism and non-dualistic thinking.

What is happiness? Happiness is made of understanding and love. And with that comes compassion. But we must understand suffering. The First Noble Truth is about suffering. Suffering is essential to happiness.

Being and non-being. Signlessness. These are just notions and reality transcends all notions.

The third concentration, aimlessness, everything is already here.

The talk was given in French and English translation is available below. There is a video version available too.

Pebble Meditation: Children’s Talk

July 16, 2011. 56-minute dharma talk for the children. Thich Nhat Hanh speaks in French, with English translation provided by Sister Pine, from New Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

Four positions of the body. We should hold our body in order to have peace. How can we sit on a lotus flower. When we have peace, we can have freedom and happiness.

Happiness is also possible using mantras. The first is “My dear, I am here for you.” To be there is a practice. We can do this by bringing our mind and body together. The second is “I know you are there and I’m very happy.” It’s just as easy to apply as the first. The person you love is there. The first was to recognize our own presence and the second is to recognize the other.

The quality of our presence is also important. One practice we can use to help with quality is Pebble Meditation. Using a sack of four pebbles to practice a self-guided meditation on being fresh as a flower, solid as a mountain, reflective like water, and free as space. Specific instruction is given for each step.

In the concluding 15-minutes, we are led through the mindful movements.

The talk was given in French and English translation is available below. There is a video version available too.

Miracle of Being Alive: The Greatest of All Miracles

July 15, 2011. 86-minute dharma talk from Stillwater Meditation Hall in Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France with Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat and it is the second week.

Thay continues the teaching on mindfulness of breathing, summarizing the first eight steps of the Sutra on Mindful Breathing (he spoke of it during the July 13 dharma talk). The first four help us take care of our body. With the fifth, we touch the realm of feelings.

He teaches on dealing with difficult emotions, including how we can help those loved ones who feel they need to commit suicide because of an emotion. Belly breathing. Focus on your in breath and out breath, following the rise of abdomen. We should remember that emotions are impermanent. We have can peace, solidity, and freedom.

From the realm of body and feelings, we come to the ninth exercise which is the realm of the mental formations. Formation – samskara – is a technical term. The flower is a formation because it is made of non-flower elements. In the Buddhist tradition, there are 51 mental formations. We learn the relationship between mind consciousness and store consciousness and the concept of seeds (bija). We can practice selective watering. In a relationship, we can use a Peace Treaty. He tells the story of a couple whose love is revitalized by the practice of watering good seeds. The ninth exercise is about gladdening the mind.

At the end of the talk Thay shares about the four practices of Right Diligence. It means we should continue our practice. Don’t allow the negative seeds to become a mental formation. If a negative seed becomes a mental formation, we shouldn’t allow it to stay too long, but not by way of suppressing. When you recognize a good seed, try to touch it and bring up. Finally, try to keep the good seeds present as long as you can.

The talk was given in English and is available below. There is a video version available too.

Practice of Listening to the Chant

July 15, 2011. 30-minute introduction to chanting Namo’valokiteshvaraya. Thich Nhat Hanh speaks in English from Stillwater Meditation Hall in Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

Please note, the first few minutes of the introduction includes the French translation, but the balance is restored after a few minutes.

Thay shares about the three steps of contemplation while listening to the chanting of the bodhisattva’s name: 1) touching compassion in oneself, 2) touching compassion in those around us, 3) touching compassion in all beings.

The introduction is followed by chanting by the Plum Village Monastics.

The talk was given in English and is available below. There is a video version available too.

Embracing Emotions with Non-Violence

July 13, 2011. 74-minute Dharma Talk given in French, with English translation by Sr. Pine from Stillwater Meditation Hall in Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

Thay shares about the first eight steps of the practice of mindful breathing from the Anapanasati Sutta: 1) Recognizing the in and out breath. It’s not thinking; it’s an experience. The first exercise is the identification. 2) Following the in and out breath. 3) Breathing in, I am aware of the body. We get in touch with the physical body. We bring the mind back to the body. It is an act of reconciliation. We may become aware of tension or pain in the body. 4) Breathing in, I calm my body.

The next two exercises, the Buddha wants us to focus on pleasant feelings first – 5) Aware of joy, 6) Aware of happiness. If we can take a piece of paper and write down all the conditions of happiness we may discover that two sides of a piece of paper may not be enough. There are hundreds of conditions to see happiness.

The seventh exercise is (7) aware of mental formations – this is to recognize a painful feeling. These are zones of energy that manifest from deep in out consciousness. We can use the energy Mindfulness and concentration. The eighth asks us to embrace and soothe – 8) Calming mental formations.

Dharmakaya – the dharma body, bring wherever you go, you bring the practice with you. Like bringing your cell phone with you. We need a spiritual dimension in our daily life.

The Buddhakaya, the Buddha body. We all have a Buddha body. We all have a seed of Mindfulness. The Buddha nature. Mindfulness carries concentration.

The Sanghakaya – our sangha body. Without a sangha, the Buddha could nit accomplish his dream. Without a community, we cannot do very much. It’s a community, but it’s also a practice. How to build a Sangha near you.

The talk was given in French and the English translation is available below. There is a video version available too.

I am Here for You: Talk for Children

July 13, 2011. 30-minute Dharma Talk given in French for the children, with English translation by Sr. Pine from Stillwater Meditation Hall in Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

I am here for you – a mantra we can easily learn. We hear the story of the boy who wishes for his birthday the presence of his father. How do we truly be there? If the dad has been to Plum Village at least once, he will know what to do be there.

When we can be there for ourselves, then we can be there for others. We only need yo take one step to bring our mind back to the body. The most precious thing we can offer is our own presence and it only takes one mindful breath.

A second mantra we can learn is “I know that you are there, and I am happy.” – this is meditation. This is to recognize the happiness and to express it.

Please learn these two mantras.

The talk was given in French and the English translation is available below. There is a video version available too.