Monthly Archives: December 2011

God Can Be A Person

December 24, 2011. 105-minute dharma talk and chanting with Thich Nhat Hanh as he gives the annual Christmas Eve talk from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. The sangha is in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat and this is the first talk in English. The talk was also enjoyed by over 550 people live via the Internet.

The practice of Plum Village is “I Have Arrived. I am Home.” We can breathe in a feel alive right here and now. We stop all our thinking and focus our mind on our in breath and get established in the here and the now. Mindfulness is a kind of light to know what is happening in the present moment. With mindfulness we can become a Saint, a Buddha, a Bodhisattva . With this light. One day science will be able to measure the type of energy created by mindfulness practice. The collective energy of everyone. We can send waves of mindfulness, compassion and peace, we create interference and enhance the energy of everyone. All of us are looking for our true home. We may only feel happy when we are home. Our practice is to go home in every moment. Breathe and you are alive. Many of us have succeeded in that practice. When we do this, we also become the home for other people.

When we practice like this, we may get in touch with planet Earth. In Plum Village we look at the planet Earth as a bodhisattva. You do not have to be a person to be a bodhisattva. Everything has a buddha nature. During walking meditation, we may see that the Earth is the most beautiful bodhisattva. Patience, stability, creativity, and love – these are some of the qualities of this bodhisattva. We are a part of her. With mindfulness of walking and breathing, we can connect with our body. Your healing must go together with the healing of the planet earth. The earth is not our environment, the earth is us.

We have spoken about two kinds of vertical theology and the horizontal theology. With vertical, we try to get in touch with the absolute; the ultimate dimension of reality. When cannot arrive in our true home without touching this ultimate reality; we have to touch God. What are we? Where do we come from? We want to know our true nature.

In the Christian tradition, we learn that Jesus is the Son of God. It means that through Jesus you can touch the Ultimate Dimension, the ultimate reality, the ground of being, the almighty. We also learn that Jesus is the Son of Man. As the Son of Man, he belongs to the historical dimension where there is being and non-being, birth and death, sameness and otherness, good and evil. Notions that make us suffer. These can the foundation of our fear, anxiety, and suffering. But Jesus is not only the Son of Man, he is also the Son of God. If we get in touch with Jesus deeply enough, then we can see this ultimate dimension. We have to see Jesus as both. In the Buddhist tradition, it is very clear that everyone belongs to the historical dimension and we also belong to the ultimate dimension. This is our nature and we can learn to transcend our notions.

Merry Christmas to everyone.

Watch live streaming video from plumvillage at livestream.com

The Revolution of Buddhism

December 21, 2011. 97-minute dharma talk from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the ninth talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation.

We begin with the First Noble Truth. Why did the Buddha begin with suffering. Suffering and happiness are rooted in our own mind and are two sides of the same coin. With the Second Noble Truth, the Buddha saw the cause of suffering. From here we have the Noble Eightfold Path. It starts with Right Thinking. Suffering or not suffering all begins with our mind. It is not because of the environment. We need to have peace inside of us first before we can change (see!) the outer environment. This is the revolution of Buddhism. This is important for the social activist.

We resume the sutra study at 53-minutes with Gatha 26-29.

26. Because of the difference between previous and present life and because the cause is found in the effect, we do not say that the one who acts and the one who enjoys the fruit of the action are different from each other.

27. Because the process of cause (and effect) is uninterrupted the process of action is due to completion. These two processes contain their own cause and also the object of the action.

28. When the cause is the delight in the proliferation of ideas then there is action that is wholesome or unwholesome. With the ripening of all the seeds comes a desired or undesired fruit.

29. Relying on the ripening of seeds, the view of self arises. At that point there is a recognition of an inner knower which is formless and invisible.

The next dharma talk will be our annual Christmas Eve talk on the topic of God Can Be a Person.

Dharma Happiness

December 18, 2011. 117-minute dharma talk from Lower Hamlet of Plum Village, France.  This is the eight talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

We learn of a new prayer that Thay has been working on for the past several months. It is called Prayer for the Pure Mother Earth but the full text is not available yet. We also learn a new chant. A teaching on happiness and joy is illustrated through several stories on bread making, soybean collecting, walking under the moon, getting teeth removed, washing clothes, sewing.

At 49:45 minutes, we resume Paramarthah Gathas of Asanga’s Yogacarabhumi sutra study at Gatha 22-25.

22. The present disintegrates immediately. The past does not remain anywhere. The unborn depends on conditions to be born. The mind evolves in accordance with the three times.

23. In absolute terms there is association or disassociation. Whether mind is associated or not associated with all formations, it is said to evolve accordingly.

24. in this stream there is no ending, no same and no different. Everything is in accord with the view of a separate self resulting from the relative truth and it is not inexistent.

25. If our physical form is subject to destruction, then our psychological form is also subject to destruction; still it is said that in this life we lay down the cause and in the next life we enjoy the fruit.

The Five Aggregates Are Empty

December 15, 2011. 101-minute dharma talk from New Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the seventh talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

Insight from touching the earth. Truth is a kind of insight and the object of our religion is truth, goodness, and beauty. We pay respect to Buddha, to God, to Allah in order to gain this insight. When we bow down, we don’t need to personalize the statue but rather something concrete. Understanding. Compassion. Wisdom. Everyone can keep their own religion; touching the earth is not something inanimate. Mother Earth is a great Boddhisatva.

With medicine and health, we can’t just rely on one thing. The same is true in regards to religion. We have to pay attention to our body. Bring out mind back to our body. You have time for your computer, but not time for your body? We are organizing a Health Retreat to restore the well being in your body and your mind (April 2012). If we can breath in, and bring our mind back to our body, then we can stop the alienation created by external forces such as computers, tv, cell phones, etc. Stopping. Calming. Concentration. The breath can be the object of your mind and stop the situation from being dispersed.

About an hour into talk, we resume the Paramarthah Gathas of Asanga’s Yogacarabhumi sutra study with Gatha 17-21, particularly focusing on the verses dealing with the ephemeral nature of all things we think of as ourselves.

17-18. The physical body is like foam. Feelings are like bubbles on the surface of the water. The perceptions are like a magic city. The mental formations are like the stem of a banana tree. The consciousness is like a magic show. That is what the Buddha has taught.

19. Ignorance does not make ignorance ignorant, nor does it make others ignorant. Another does not make ignorance ignorant. Nevertheless ignorance is not non-existent.

20. Ignorance is born from inappropriate attention. Inappropriate attention arises in the ignorant person.

21. Merit, lack of merit and immovability; these formations are imagined in a threefold way. All things have three kinds of karma and these karma’s are not compatible with each other.

Mother Earth Accepts All

December 11, 2011. 87-minute dharma talk from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the sixth talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

We learn of mother. The buddha is the son of his mother, his foster mother, the mother earth. We learn of the story Suddana in Avatamsaka Sutra where each of us can birth a Buddha. We can meet the mother of the Buddha. She is the mother of all the Buddhas in the present and in the past. She is one with the planet earth. Mother earth is so large and can accept everything without discrimination.

The autumn leaves are still on the ground here at Plum Village. They are in transformation, but some still remain on the tree. The leaves live a short life, but they enjoy being whereas humans have lot of worries, anxiety, etc. it is the price of being human. To be a pine tree is beautiful. Maybe next life we can be a tree or a bird.

We always have a need for a place to return. Every part of us will return to the earth. As Buddhists we need to see things in a non-duality way and that we are one with the planet earth. The planet is the mother of every being. The nature of reality is no coming, no going; no birth, no death. If we look deeply, we can see everything continues. The earth is alive.

At 49-minutes into the talk, we continue learning the sutra beginning with Gatha 14. Sub-atomic science still cannot grasp the nature reality. In Buddhism, we have the concept of non-attainment. You cannot grasp the true nature. We cannot grasp in time and space. In quantum science, they try to grasp the nature of every particle. They see forces/fields such as gravity, electromagnetism, and nuclear. But science rarely speak of our mind and the force of karma. For example, the destruction of the Twin Towers was a force of the mind – hatred. The mind can also be positive with just as much power. In this Gatha, there are these fields we cannot grasp even if they have manifested.

14. It is not inside, nor is it outside. It is not something between inside and outside. Before (samskaras) conditioned things have arisen it is not possible to grasp them (in terms of time and space).

15. Moreover after conditioned things have arisen it is not possible to grasp them. The future does not have any sign (by which we can grasp it). The past can be an object of our discriminating mind (imagined).

16. We are able to discriminate the things we have been in touch with, we can also discriminate the things we have not yet been in touch with. Although there is no beginning of samskaras, the discriminating mind can still use the concept of beginning.

17-18. The physical body is like foam. Feelings are like bubbles on the surface of the water. The perceptions are like a magic city. The mental formations are like the stem of a banana tree. The consciousness is like a magic show. That is what the Buddha has taught.

Psyche and Soma Are Not Separate

December 8, 2011. 103-minute dharma talk from Lower Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the fifth talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

The happiness of the dharma. When listening to a dharma talk, walking, eating, cleaning the toilet, or sitting meditation, this is dharma happiness. When you put the practice into your daily activities, then you can have happiness. We just need to look a little deeper with concentration. Today we can learn about eating mindfully. A piece of bread contains the body of the cosmos. We also learn how to sit correctly.

At 38-minutes we switch to sutra study. The Paramartha Gathas of Asanga from the Yogacarabhumi Sastra. He shares in particular about the 12 Links of Interdependent Origination as a new theory of knowledge, or epistemology. When we look at them deeply we see there is no subjective observer; we are participants in what we observe. Without this insight we fall into the wrong perception that body and mind are separate.

The Joy of Simplicity

December 4, 2011. 103-minute dharma talk from New Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the fourth talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

In the last dharma talk, we learned about walking mediation. Today will learn about the practice of sitting meditation. Sitting in the spring breeze – we should sit relaxingly, joyfully, happily. We don’t sit for enlightenment. No aim to become a Buddha. We sit straight, but relaxed. This morning, the Morning Chant was so beautiful and is different from when he was a young novice monk. Thay talks about the traditional way of offering the chants in Sino-Vietnamese and discusses the lines of the Morning Chant and the Evening Chant. He tells the story of sitting all night in meditation with Ananda and a group of new bhikshus – we just sit happily. We can apply this to sitting in the airport or the train station. If we can sit like this, the world can have a lot of peace and joy. We can apply this practice into other activities of the day, like sweeping or moping. Thay talks about his life as a novice where there were no toilets in the temple. “Having toilets to clean can be a source of great happiness.”

About one-hour into the talk, we continue the teaching on the Yogacarabhumi Sastra, Verses 9-12 of the Paramartha Gathas of Asanga. What does the absolute truth say about cause and effect? What is co-being, co-manifesting? The “twelve” links of co-arising.

Non-Dualistic View of Bodhisattva Gaia

December 1, 2011. 98-minute dharma talk from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the third talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

Thay shares about truly being present when we touch the Earth while practicing walking meditation, about not getting caught in a dualistic view of nature and the Earth. “The Earth has many good qualities: solidity, endurance, and the capacity to embrace all things. When we feel lost we can go back to our mother, the Earth. When can call her Bodhisattva Gaia. The sun is like Vairocana Tathagata. Aware of the Earth and Sun like that, every step is nourishing, every step is healing.”

At about 52-minutes into the talk, Thay continues his teaching on the Yogacarabhumi Sastra, explaining Verse 6-9 of the Paramartha Gathas.