Monthly Archives: November 2011

To Express Our Love For The Earth

November 27, 2011. 100-minute dharma talk from Lower Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the second talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

Thay shares hows to practice when entering the meditation hall for sitting meditation: quietly, stopping our thinking, and at peace. “We want to express our love for the Earth, so we have to walk mindfully, with gratitude.” Entering the meditation hall and settling. Calmly. Mindfully. Paying attention to your breathing and your sitting position. This brings peace to your body and to your mind. Every breath. Every step. We can use the breathing sutra. We can see our mental and body formations. The entire cosmos is inside of you and inside the earth. What is bodhisattva? Enlightened being. An being who has awakening, peace, understanding, love.

At about 38-minutes, Thay continues sharing on the Paramartha Gathas from the Yogacarabhumi Sastra of Asanga. “Yoga means coming together appropriately.” He teaches how subject and object cannot be separated. “Don’t think there is a subject outside of the object. That is wrong thinking. They manifest together, like left and right. Without the left there is no right, and vice versa.”

“Self (?) has various meanings: 1) owner, 2) actor, 3) inheritor. We should understand correctly: There is rain, but there is nothing that rains. There is blowing, but nothing blowing. There is feeling, but there is no one feeling.”

We can let go of conventional designation. Father and son are born at the same time. Subject and object. We have this idea this is my home, my child, my bank account. But there is no owner. There is feeling, but no feeler. There is action, but no actor. There is thinking, but no thinking. The self has an ego that gives you the idea of a separate self. We are not our feeling. This is a construction of our mind. Your presence is your function.

What You Know Could Be An Obstacle

November 24, 2011. 95-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from the Full Moon Meditation Hall in New Hamlet, Plum Village, France. This is the first dharma talk for the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk was given in Vietnamese and translated into English by Sr. Chan Khong [Vietnamese version].

Thich Nhat Hanh begins by talking about the importance of putting into practice what we learn when we study about Buddhism. Listen. Look Deeply. Put into Action. This is how we achieve the gate of liberation. We can also learn to think skillfully. Right Thinking and wisdom can arrive. The main teaching of Thay is to have arrived in the present moment. To be home. And yet, there are those who have heard this thousands of times but they have not reached a place of deep wisdom. It is not just an accumulation of knowledge.

“When we share the Dharma it should come from a place of happiness. Some people, including monastics, can give very good Dharma talks on ‘I have arrived, I am home,’ but they are not truly happy.”

We don’t need to use what we know when listening to a dharma talk. This leads to comparing. You just receive it. The Buddha said some students receive enlightenment just like that. Right away. Not the fruit of your knowledge. What you know, could be an obstacle. It is only intellectual.

He then begins study of the Paramartha Gathas, from the Yogacarabhumi Sastra of Asanga. Asanga is a very profound teacher who began in Theravada, but then followed Mahayahana Buddhism. This Gatha speaks about the Absolute Truth. It’s been translated three times from the Sanskrit. We have the Chinese texts as well as a Vietnamese translation by Thay. English is being produced for this teaching. [Note: When texts become available, they will be posted]

The first verse:

There is absolutely no subject, no agent and no one who enjoys the fruit of action. No dharma has any effect. Nonetheless, the passing on of one effect to another does take place.

Thay shares about physics in the light of this teaching: “What is the electron made of? All things are composite. There are many things that come together to make everything. When we look skillfully we see only action: we don’t see any owner, actor or inheritor.”

Practicing in the Winter Retreat

November 17, 2011. 53-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet in Plum Village, France. The sangha is preparing for the upcoming 90-day Winter Retreat. Thay shares some guiding practices for the community to follow during the upcoming Winter Retreat: touching the Earth, sitting meditation, realizing the practice in all activities, etc.

Deepen practice. Build sangha. Cultivate peace. Make our breathing more peaceful. Improve the quality. We can bring four things into the practice: Peace. Clarity. Compassion. Courage. These four virtues bring happiness to the practitioner. Other elements of happiness: Brotherhood and sisterhood. A Path. What is your story of transformation and healing?

This winter we will study texts in preparation for 21-day retreat in June 2012. The theme of that retreat will be the Science of the Buddha. The first text will be the Paramartha Gathas of Asaga, 44-verses. Thay has translated this into Vietnamese and will serve as the foundation for a new English translation during the Winter Retreat (it has previously been translated into English by  Professor Alex Wayman). It is also available in Chinese and Sanskrit. The second text, if we have time, we will be Studies on the Objects of Conciousness. This too has been translated by Thay.

A Bodhisattva in Every Step

November 13, 2011. 80-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet in Plum Village, France. The sangha has just returned from the North American Tour and this is the first dharma talk. I am a little hesitant to post because the sound is a bit challenging. The talk is given in Vietnamese and simultaneously translated into English by Sr. Chan Khong. The challenge being you can hear Thay very clearly and it is occasionally difficult to hear the English clearly. It is a lovely talk and a slightly fresh view from his typical dharma talk, so I hope you enjoy it despite the sound issues.

Thay shares about the practice of sitting meditation, and about the beauty of what the Earth offers to us when we are able to overcome our human pride.

You are very proud of your science, your math, but if you look at one petal of a flower you realize that you would have to be an extremely talented mathematician and artist to create such a thing. Human beings are very proud to be the heroic soldier who can do everything, but the Earth is also very powerful. It has created millions of species. Mother Earth offers us air to breathe, water to drink. We have to recognize the planet Earth as a wonderful mother who can host us, who can give us everything we need.

“In every speck of dust there are countless Buddhas. During walking meditation we can touch the Earth in us. We have to be realistic. Don’t search for a bodhisattva in your imagination. It is there in every step.”

I Am Made Only of Non-Me Elements: Library of Congress Talk

October 26, 2011. Coolidge Auditorium, Jefferson Building, at the Library of Congress.. Washington DC is the final stop on the 2011 North American Tour before Thay returns to France.

Annual Walter Capps-Bill Emerson Memorial Lecture co-hosted by Faith and Politics Institute, U.S. Institute of Peace and Walter K. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life. Introductions by Mark Farr, Congresswoman JoAnn Emerson (R-MO) and Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA).

We need a spiritual dimension in our lives. With a spiritual dimension, we can overcome our difficulties. It is important to move beyond the intellectual dimension and bring the body and mind together. We can nourish and restore ourselves in order to help other people. In our practice we can see that we are made of non-me elements. This is a wonder. The wonder of the Kingdom of God. Breathing in, we can be present right now. This can link the body and the mind.

Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. And mindfulness can be generated by us. Happiness arises from compassion. Understanding suffering gives rise to compassion. Terrorists are victims of misunderstanding and wrong perceptions. In order to remove terrorism, we must remove wrong perceptions. It can’t be done with bombs and killing. We need compassion, not the energy of fear and suspicion.

A member of congress is a cell in the body of the congress. Each cell has a responsibility to provide clarity, compassion, and courage. We can nourish the congress and make it a healthy body. Mindfulness can help cultivate these qualities. We can generate a feeling of happiness, a feeling of joy. Then we can also handle a painful feeling or emotion.

Mindfulness of compassion is what we need. We use loving speech and compassionate listening. Hearing examples of reconciliation makes this real and practical.

Making good use of our suffering. We can listen to the suffering inside of us, the other person, and in the world. We don’t run away from it. We can cultivate peace and understanding from this place of suffering. Thay’s vision is our understanding the suffering.

We conclude with a few questions.