Monthly Archives: December 2012

Just Walk and Heal

December 24, 2012. 118-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat) and this is the special Christmas Eve dharma talk (and the fourteenth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha?)

Begin with a teaching on listening to the chant. Learning to recognize our own suffering and the suffering of the other person. We can then generate compassion. The monastics then chant the name Namo ‘valokiteshvaraya.

The practice of going home is a very deep practice. We need the energy of mindfulness. We don’t need a plane or train ticket to go home. There is a station – Radio NST – (non-stop thinking) and this doesn’t help us arrive home. Walking and breathing allow us to arrive. The more you are mindful and concentratesd the more pleasant. Help you stop the thinking and the worrying. Just walk and heal.

“I have arrived. I am home.” This is the best dharma talk we have in Plum Village. We do not have to force ourselves to breathe or to walk. It can be really pleasant. There is no way home, home is the way. The Buddha taught about the island of self.

Loneliness is an illusion. It is a wrong perception. Every breath and every step can help us see this. The teaching on “going home” is very strong.

Thay explores the living Christ. We reflect of the birth of Jesus into this world as the son of man. Did he exist before this time? What do we mean by birth?

Science and Buddhism. Matter and energy. Nothing is born. Nothing dies. Our true nature is of no birth and no death. This is the ultimate truth.

There is no being, no non-being, only Interbeing. When we celebrate the birth of Christ, we can look deeply into this teaching of no birth and no death.

Four Questions for the Tathágata

December 20, 2012. 95-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the thirteenth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk was originally given in Vietnamese and this English translation is provided by Sister Chan Khong.

Dhyana is a concentration and it is a practice. Touching the Earth practice – when your five body parts the earth, we also touch with the many lineages and steams of life from before us. We do not have a separate self; not an individual self. We can bring all these lineages to make a great vow. There are four main questions the Buddha didn’t answer because he said it was not necessary.

The Tathágata exists after death, does not exist after death, both does and does not exist after death, neither exists nor does not exist after death?

Next we have a teaching from the sutra Anuradha. No birth. No existing. No becoming. No formation. What dies this mean to us as practitioners?

In Buddhism there is the teaching of samsara and karma. We have also learned about retribution. But these three existed before the Buddha and he used them anyway and expanded upon these teachings to talk about no self. Right view doesn’t allow an answer about eternalism and nihilism. The wisdom of adaptation.

A review of the twelve links teaching.

Arriving Home is Truly Enough

December 16, 2012. 88-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the twelfth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk was originally given in Vietnamese and this English translation is provided by Sister Chan Khong.

Go home and heal yourself. Where is your home? Only there any heal yourself. To some extent, we all have a sickness. We need to totally bring ourselves into the present moment with everything that we are doing. It is a training And we do it together with our community and our ancestors. We can touch the ultimate dimension. Arriving home is truly enough.

At 23-minutes we resume the sutra study and commentary. Dharma seal. The criterion for the teachings of the Buddha. Impermanence. No self. Nirvana. What is the road from relative truth to ultimate truth?

There are a number of Buddhists who are obsessed by the idea that impermanence is suffering. Life is suffering. So many have used “suffering” as the third dharma seal. But we need to remember also that if there is suffering, there must also be happiness. See the Chanda Sutra, #262 that clearly says nirvana is the third dharma seal.

Why is impermanence important? This too is related with the 12 links. Thay highlights a few errors from the sutras and provides a new teaching that better reflects the true teaching.

We also cover Agama #293.

The Act of Sitting Down is a Revolution

December 13, 2012. 95-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the eleventh dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha?

After chanting, the dharma begins at 9-minutes into the recording. Loneliness is the ill being of our time. How can we return home? We have all these technology devices that help us stay connected and yet we still feel lonely. We have tried to use technology to dissipate our feelings of loneliness. But it has not worked. How can we connect with ourselves? How can we heal ourselves and heal society? Technology devices are not the answer. You don’t need an iPhone. The way out is the way in. Be an island unto yourself. The practice of going home is especially important during the Christmas season to heal ourselves and to heal the world.

We now resume the sutra commentary at 29-minutes. Formation is a technical Buddhist term to describe everything. Everything is a formation. Sometimes also called dharma. Do formations have their own nature; something that is permanent? No being and no nonbeing. No actor and no receiver. No formation. This teaching can be found in multiple sutras. From From this we can have the base of the nidanas. Co-arising. Is there Samsara? Thay gives a full teaching on the 12 nidanas.

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Two Hands Clapping

December 9, 2012. 110-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the tenth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk was originally given in Vietnamese and this English translation is provided by Sister Chan Khong.

In the first 40-minutes of the dharma talk, the focus is arriving in your True Home. What is our true home? What are the instructions to arrive? What is the island of self?

Following the instruction on coming home, we turn to a series of sutra commentaries. We begins with Agama #273 and another sutra (didn’t get the name) chapter Two, Sutra #17-19. Topics include the six bases, eighteen realms, and the twelve links of co-arising.

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What is dualism and nirvana?

December 6, 2012. 105-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the ninth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk was originally given in Vietnamese and this English translation is provided by Sister Chan Khong.

When we speak of spirituality, people often think I the east. And when speaking of science, people think of the west. Today these two ideas can come together. Even Christianity is from the east and has non-dualistic elements. In the first half of the dharma talk today, Thay answers the following questions:

What is dualistic/non-dualistic thinking?
What is nirvana?

About an hour into the recording, the teaching shifts into the sutra commentary as it relates to the twelve links of co-arising, the ultimate dimension, teaching on non-action, and the prajnaparamitas.

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Enjoying the Space Outer Space

December 2, 2012. 82-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the eighth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk was originally given in Vietnamese and this English translation is provided by Sister Chan Khong.

Walking. Using the power and concentration of walking meditation. Not thinking. Entrust your problems to your store conciousness. There is a lot of wisdom there from all the generations before you. What is collective consciousness? Store conciousness? How so you feed your conciousness?

At 23-minutes, we begin the sutra commentary. Enjoying the Space Outer Space. Touching the freedom in the present moment, this is the outer space. Also, it is sometimes called the sutra of Nirvana. Gatha #13. Formation is conditioned things. Condition and conditioned. The act and actor. According to the wisdom of the Buddha, you can see that you can’t have the action without the actor.

What is the view that transcends all notions? This isn’t nihilism.

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20121202 from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

A New Teaching on the Twelve Nidanas

November 29, 2012. 115-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the seventh dharma talk of the retreat with the theme  Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? We begin with chanting.

The Buddha has spoken about Mother Earth as patience and equanimity. The two great virtues of the planet earth. Our society is very sick and many of us need healing. Our body and mind have lots of poisons. We don’t know how to consume. But Mother Earth has the capacity to heal herself and can help us if we know how to take refuge in her.  She is not in a hurry. When we walk, we can be aware that the earth is holding our steps. Mother Earth is also inside of us. Walking meditation is one of the ways to heal and allow the earth to be in us and around us. We are the earth. Allow it to happen by itself; we don’t make the breathing in/out happen. We just enjoy the in/out breath. Mother Earth is a great bodhisattva.The healing begins when you are not trying anything. The practice of non-practice.

Thay summarizes the November 25 talk into English due to challenges with the translation in that talk.

There is a dimension of reality called the historical dimension. In the historical dimension we see things as separate – father is outside of the son. This is classical science as applied by Newton. But now we have  another kind of science that goes deeper; it has discovered a new kind of truth. This is represented by quantum physics. It seems to contradict the truth found in historical dimension. In meditation there are also two kinds of truth: the conventional truth and the ultimate truth. There is path that can lead us from historical to ultimate. The Buddha taught, “This is because that is.” This is the teaching of “genesis” in Buddhism. In Plum Village we use a sheet of paper to illustrate this teaching. So simple. Everything can be looked at in this way. It is the best practice of meditation because it can connect us with the ultimate truth.The Buddha used the notions of historical dimension to lead us to the ultimate. This was skillful means to helps us to release notions and concepts. The teaching of co-arising / inter-arising.

In the ultimate dimension, we use words like Emptiness. This is the equivalent to God. It is the ultimate. It is the absence of notions and concepts. The teaching of interbeing – nothing by itself can be alone. Helps you to be connected to emptiness. This is because that is. Rebirth is possible without a self. Karma is possible without a self. Retribution is possible without a self. Many Buddhists still believe you need a “self” but this is a deluded belief. This is because of influences from pre-Buddhist teachings. Even for many people in the west, the first thing they think of in Buddhism is reincarnation. This is not the “cream” of Buddhism. The deep teaching is interbeing. No-self.  The wisdom of adaptation. To connect with emptiness. The teachings of the twelve links seem more at explain samsara rather than the ultimate truth.

Twelve Nidanas

  1. Avidya (delusion)
  2. Sanskara (impulses, actions, dispositions)
  3. Vijñana (consciousness)
  4. Namarapa (body and mind)
  5. Sadayatana (six sense organs and object)
  6. Sparsa (contact)
  7. Vedana (feelings)
  8. Trsna (craving, attachment)
  9. Upadana (grasping)
  10. Bhava (existence)
  11. Jati (birth)
  12. Jara-marana (old age and death)

This is the classical way of presenting the Nidanas. The first two links belong to the past. The next eight links belong to this life – the present. Then after this body disintegrates, the last two are the future. As a young student, Thay learned the three times past, present, and the future are represented in these twelve links. Thay also learned there are two layers of cause and effect within these twelve links. The teaching of three times and two layers of cause and effect. As a student, I just believed my teacher. But as Thay continued to learn and to practice, he learned this teaching will not help us touch the ultimate dimension. It can only be used on the level of conventional truth. We have to look at this teaching differently.

Thay provides a re-teaching of the twelve links to see them in the ultimate truth.

delusion <–> formations -> birth/death -> being/non-being -> samsara

wisdom <–> formations -> no-birth/no-death -> no-being/no non-being -> nirvana 

This is because that is. 

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20121129 from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

Twelve Links of Co-Arising

November 25, 2012. 99-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the sixth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk was originally given in Vietnamese and this English translation is provided by Sister Chan Khong.

Editor’s Note: Thay repeats this talk in English on November 29 because of challenges with translation in this talk.

Thay teaches from the Chandra Sutra. Sutra #262 from the Chinese canon. Analysis. What is the third seal (sometimes call signature)? Nirvana or suffering.

People in the world are normally caught in one of two extremes: the view of being and the view of non-being. Since worldly people are caught in the objects of perception, their minds are bound. If someone does not accept, does not grasp, does not stand firm in these ideas, does not compare and measure a separate self that he is then caught in, then he will see that when the causes are sufficient for suffering to arise, suffering arises, and when the causes are no longer sufficient, suffering ceases (and in that there is no need for a self, and the ideas of being and non-being cannot be applied).

With right view, we don’t need self. We don’t need a thinker. Nirvana is the cessation of all views. We have to be skillful when teaching the Dharma, and also skillful when listening to the Dharma.

We then continue with Samyukta Agama #293 (Discourse on the Adaptation of Conditioned Genesis that Connects with Emptiness) on the 12 Links of Co-Arising.

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20121125 from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.