Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Buddha is the Sitting Itself

August 23, 2011. 122-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the fourth and final talk of the Body and Mind Are One retreat.

We begin with a short guided meditation.

I invite the Buddha to breathe. I invite the Buddha to sit. I don’t have to breathe. I don’t have to sit.
Buddha is breathing. Buddha is sitting.
I enjoy the breathing. I enjoy the sitting.
Buddha is the breathing. Buddha is the sitting.
I am the breathing. I am the sitting.
There is only the breathing. There is only the sitting.
There is no-one breathing. There is no-one sitting.

We are our action. We are our karma. Everyday we produce speech and our action. There is no thinker outside the thoughts. The act of breaking the bread is Jesus. The quality of the sitting is the Buddha. When there is an in-breath is there, you know the Buddha is there. We don’t need a breather. This has to do with the lack of subject and object in our experience of reality. “In breathing and sitting, there is no breather or sitter. There is just the breathing, there is just the sitting.” “When you say ‘The wind blows’, it is very funny. If it does not blow, how can it be the wind? It is like saying ‘The rain is raining.’ If it is not raining, how can it be rain? The same is true for thinking. The thinker and the thought—they are not separate things; they are one.” We can touch the nature of no-self. Emptiness.

A teaching on deep listening and loving speech is illustrated with stories of people attending retreats and transforming their communication. We also hear examples of Israeli and Palestinians coming together. In a discussion about the Five Mindfulness Trainings, particularly the fifth, Thay introduces and shares about The Sutra on the Son’s Flesh, to point out the nature of nutriment and the Four Kinds of Nutriments. He continues on to discuss the three kinds of concentration: emptiness, signlessness and aimlessness.

The talk is available below. A video version is available: Buddha is the Sitting.

Responding to Violence

August 22, 2011. 107-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the Question and Answer session of the Body and Mind Are One retreat.

Thay answers question first from the children, from young adults, and older practitioners:

  1. Is meditating about having fun?
  2. Does the Buddha live in the bell?
  3. Can the bell be another color besides black?
  4. Is meditating healthy?
  5. What is the most important thing I can do to build Sangha?
  6. If the men in power in this country were to ask you for advice, what would you tell them?
  7. Is it ever appropriate to respond to violence with violence?
  8. How do we respond to health care workers and hospitals that have led to the death of family members?
  9. Is it wrong to take someone’s life in the case of the death penalty?
  10. How do I know when I’m truly ready to love and help others, and how do I know when I am ready for a long-term commitment?
  11. How do we practice letting go in a healthy way before tension builds?
  12. Would you consider permitting neuroscientists to study your mind, and the minds of brothers and sisters?

The talk is available below. A video version is available: questions and answers.

Freeing Ourselves From Notions

August 22, 2011. 109-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the third dharma talk of the Body and Mind Are One retreat.

After a short guided meditation, Thay speaks to the children about how to play in such a way that we maintain our joy and happiness during the whole time of playing, not letting anger overcome us. If we play and we are angry we always lose. “Learn to play in such a way that neither the winner nor the loser suffer. That is the highest way of playing.” Next we learn the third mantra. It is about love. As your love grows, your happiness grows. Darling, I know you suffer and I am here for you. We also learn about the wisdom of non-discrimination.

Thay shares with us the 4th mantra – “Darling, I suffer and I want you to know. I’m doing the best I can. Please help.” If we can’t do this, it may because of our pride. You may eant to prove you can survive by yourself. We don’t let others know about our suffering, or let them help us, because of our pride, because of our anger. A practitioner knows that when anger arises they should take good care of themselves and their anger with mindful breathing until their anger calms and they can see into the wrong perception behind their anger.

Thay then shares about the 11th and 12th exercises of mindful breathing – 11) concentrating the mind and 12) liberating the mind. There are many objects of concentration but three are found throughout Buddhism – emptiness (sunyata), signlessness (animitta), and aimlessness (apranihita). These are also called the three doors of liberation. In the Sutra on Mindful Breathing, we are given four other objects of concentration – impermanence, non-craving, cessation, and letting go. We use these concentrations to free ourselves from the notions of being and non-being, birth and death, coming and going, sameness and otherness, and the four notions of self, man/human, living beings, and lifespan that the Diamond Sutra recommends that we remove. Freeing ourselves from these notions we are able to touch reality, to touch nirvana and realize our true nature – the nature of no-birth and no-death.

The talk is available below. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and Freeing Ourselves from Notions.

I Have Arrived, I Am Home

August 21, 2011. 110-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the second dharma talk of the Body and Mind Are One retreat.

We begin with a brief guided meditation on breathing with our parents.

For the children, we are encouraged to create a breathing room in our homes. Every civilized home in the 21st century should have such a room with a bell and a flower. Breathing with the bell we can bring out mind and body together. Thay speaks about how we are the continuation of our parents, using the example of a seed of corn that cannot remember, once it is a plant, that it was once a seed. “When you practice mindful breathing, we can invite our mother inside of us to practice breathing as well. Our father also.”

Thay speaks about touching the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land of the Buddha, right in the present moment. When we walk, we can touch the Kingdom. If you can walk like that, you can walk like a Buddha. “I have arrived, I am home: this is the shortest Dharma talk.” We, especially parents, try to transmit only the best parts of us and that which still needs work we keep in order to transform. Thay advises us, when we share, to not only share about our suffering but also to share our joy and our happiness. “We need not only people with suffering to come on a retreat, we also need people with lots of joy, so they can help those who are suffering.” The importance and role of the sangha.

We continue with the Sutra on Mindfulness of Breathing, with a recap of yesterday’s teaching and continuing on with the 7th and 8th steps: becoming aware of a painful feeling or emotion and embracing it. We see this practice with parents and children. Thay would also like to see this applied in schools. Applied ethics. How do we teach ethics to school children. We can teach children to breathe and if the school teacher knows the techniques then it can be transmitted. This can be secularized.

The following steps are: 9) aware of mental formations, 10) gladdening the mind, 11) concentrating the mind, 12) liberating the mind. Thay shares about the practice of right diligence: not touching the negative seeds, making sure any negative formations go back down to store consciousness, watering the good seeds, and keeping the good mental formations manifesting as long as possible.

The talk is available below. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and the shortest dharma talk.

Breakthrough Into the Nature of Reality

August 20, 2011. 116-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the first dharma talk of the Body and Mind Are One retreat.

The first 21-minutes of the dharma talk is for the children. Thay speaks about offering our true presence, the best gift, to our loved ones.

When the children leave, Thay speaks about the term “sahabhu,” which he defines as “co-being” or “co-interbeing”.

In Buddhism we practice mindfulness and concentration. Mindfulness is to be aware of what is there, and we can choose the object of our mindfulness. We can be aware of a flower or a cloud, or of our in-breath. The energy of mindfulness brings with it the energy of concentration. When mindfulness and concentration are powerful we get a breakthrough, an insight—we understand the nature of what is there.

Mindfulness, concentration, and insight. It is insight that can release us from our suffering. Prajna. We also talk of the Noble Eightfold Path and the first is Right View. Right View transcends all other views. Free from the notion of being and non-being. One method to get there is sahabhu. From here Thay explains the Four Noble Truths and the idea of non-dualism and why suffering is a noble truth.

Thay continues to share about the dual nature of birth and death: “We are experiencing birth and death at every moment. Death is now, together with birth. They manifest together at the same time. You cannot say the above exists, and then the below later. The have to exist at the same time. Why are we afraid of dying? Wherever there is death there is life. We are not used to seeing things and thinking of things in term of interbeing. That is why fear and despair are born.”

Buddha. Dharma. Sangha.
Son. Father. Holy Spirit.
Body. Mind. Environment.

In neuroscience they ask whether consciousness is created by the brain; whether the brain and the mind are the same thing. How can something objective like the brain create something subjective like the mind. So there is the ‘in’ and the ‘out'; scientists are still caught in dualistic thinking. The wisdom of non-discrimination can help scientists to get an insight more quickly.

Thay dedicates the last section of the talk to the concrete practice of mindful breathing, including the first few steps of mindful breathing as delineated in the Mindfulness of Breathing Sutra. We are reminded to practice mindfulness and meditation correctly: “Life is already full of suffering, why do you have to suffer more with Buddhist meditation?”

The talk is available below. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and breakthrough into the nature of reality.

The Flower is Full of Everything

August 14, 2011. 86-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from War Memorial Gym at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the final talk of the retreat.

Exercises of mindful breathing from the Anapanasati Sutta: the first four are (1) identify your breath, (2) follow your breath, (3) aware, and (4) release. From here we move to the feelings. They are (5) generate joy, (6) generate happiness, (7) aware of painful feelings, and (8) embrace the painful feeling. We then (9) recognize joy, (10) gladdening the mind, (11) concentrating the mind, (12) liberate the mind.

There are at least three types of concentration in Buddhism known as the Three Doors of Liberation: Emptiness, Signlessness, Aimlessness.  Thay provides an detailed explanation of each door.

The next four exercises are concentrations proposed by the Buddha, but we do explore these in depth during this talk. We also hear about no birth/no death, being/non-being, coming/going, and sameness/otherness.

Emptiness does not mean non-existence. A glass can be empty or full of tea, but in order to be empty or full the glass needs to be there. So emptiness does not mean non-existence. This glass is empty of tea, but it is full of air. So it is helpful for us to ask, ‘Empty of what?’ To be empty is always to be empty of something. When we contemplate a flower like this, we see the flower is full of everything: the cloud, the sunshine, the Earth, time, space, the gardener—everything has come together to help the flower to manifest. Why do we say it is empty? It is empty of only one thing: a separate existence. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower is full of non-flower elements. It is clear that the flower has to be interbe with everything in the cosmos. She cannot be by herself alone. To be by oneself alone is impossible. So we begin to see the interdependence of everything.

He uses the example of a match which requires the action of us striking it for a flame to manifest. In life we are the same: when we ask ‘Where do we come from?’ or ‘Where are we going?’ we see that we do not come from anywhere. “When conditions come together sufficiently, I manifest. My nature is the nature of no coming and no going. When conditions are no longer sufficient, I just stop manifestation and wait for a chance to manifest again. My nature is no coming, no going.”

This concludes the retreat in Vancouver. After a public talk on August 14, the sangha will travel to Colorado for a retreat at Estes Park.

The talk is available below. There is a video version available too.

A Deep Volition of Practice

August 12, 2011. 85-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from War Memorial Gym at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this talk is a question and answer session.

Children

  1. How did it feel when you left your country?
  2. Where did you learn to become mindful and to breathe?
  3. Do you think you’ve reached the highest level of Buddhism? Oh, can you play soccer with the kids today?

Teens

  1. Do you believe you have reached the stage of enlightenment, and if not do you think you will at some stage in your life?
  2. What was it like being on the Oprah Winfry show?
  3. What is the goal of Buddhism?
  4. I have self doubt and negative thoughts that keep me from enjoying myself; how can I overcome this?

Adults

  1. What are the best ways to connect with my volition to offer love?
  2. My suffering comes from chronic illness with a lot of physical pain and I am also an activist who cares very deeply for the world which leads to despair. What practices do you suggest for this type of suffering?
  3. What would be a good way to bring mindfulness to the inner cities?
  4. Awakening of the Heart. Are we as a society moving from the intellect to the heart? Is there a shift in our collective consciousness?

The talk is available below. There is a video version available too.

Miracles of Reconciliation

August 11, 2011. 60-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from War Memorial Gym at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this the third talk of the retreat.

Today we continue with the Noble Eightfold Path. Right Speech. Deep listening. The purpose of deep listening is to allow the other person, or group of people, to have a chance to speak out. Maybe nobody has listened to them and you may be the first person. They can empty their heart. Compassion can protect you, even if the other person is full of accusations, bitterness, and wrong perceptions. When we sit down and listen, we can follow our in breath and out breath to help the other person suffer less. The is the role of a bodhissatva. Every one of us has the seed of compassion inside. We can all benefit from this discipline of deep listening – we all have the seeds of compassion and understanding.

The dharma talk comes from the living experience of the teacher. The best way to listen to a dharma talk is not with your intellect – send your intellect on vacation and allow the dharma rain to penetrate the soil and it will water the best of the seeds in us. One of those seeds is awakening; enlightenment.

Right Diligence has four aspects. We need a little understanding of our mind in order to practice  true diligence. The mind has two layers: store consciousness and mind consciousness. The practice of diligence is to not allow those negative seeds inside of our store consciousness to manifest. In Buddhist psychology, there are 51 varieties of seeds. A seed can manifest as a mental formation.

The talk is available below. There is a video version available too.

Growing Corn

August 11, 2011. 26-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from War Memorial Gym at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this talk is especially for the children.

Story of corn seeds. Grain of corn to be planted and remember to water everyday. And when it becomes a plant of corn, maybe 2-3 leaves, you come and ask the plant a question. “My dear little plant of corn, do you remember when you were a tiny seed?” The plant may not remember, but you do. The plant of corn is only a continuation of the grain of corn. You too were like the grain of corn and we don’t remember, so we need a friend in the dharma to help us. We believe that our father and our mother are outside of us, but that is not true. In addition to being outside of us, they are inside of us; every cell of our body. We are a continuation of our father and of our mother and we can make our father and mother more beautiful into the future. We can bring them into the future.

The talk is available below. There is a video version available too.

If there is no death, there is no life

August 10, 2011. 52-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from War Memorial Gym at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this talk is the second dharma talk.

Thay speaks about the nature of life and death. “We think that now is life, and death will be later. But in fact, left and right manifest together, above and below manifest at the same time… Death is happening right here in every moment. Why are we afraid of dying?” He goes on to talk about the nature of happiness: “If a father does not understand the suffering of his son, then it is impossible for that father to love and make his son happy. So understanding is very crucial to happiness. To love means to understand.

Right view is non-discriminative thinking. “In Buddhism, thinking is already action: by your thinking you can destroy the world, by your thinking you can save the world.” Thay goes on to share about the relationship between the Noble Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths.

The talk is available below. There is a video version available too.