The Noblest Aspiration is to Help People Suffer Less

October 13, 2013. 105-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the second dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Finding Our True Home. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

Brief overview of the Four Kinds of Nutriments from yesterday’s talk followed by further explanation on volition followed by consciousness.

What is the ultimate concern with our lives? It is important to sit with our partner, our loved ones, to discover what this might be. How can we help each other realize our dream?

Suffering is the first awareness…the first noble truth. Many don’t know how to handle the pain in ourselves. We have the tendency to run away from ourselves and seek forgetfulness. In doing so, we become alienated from those around us. If we can’t take care of ourselves, we cannot take care of our loved ones. Further teaching on how this might apply to a corporate leader. Maybe a new kind of volition can be born. We are losing ourselves in consumptions and the corporation is helping people run away from themselves when they could take it as their aim to help people come home to themselves.

Plum Village operates without any personal telephone, personal bank account and yet happiness is possible with simple living. We don’t have to consume a lot if we have enough brotherhood, sisterhood, and mutual understanding and compassion. A corporation, like Plum Village, can become a happy community. The business leader should come home to herself – that is the first step. When you take care of yourself, then you can take care of others.

Deep and compassionate listening. First, we have to listen to ourselves and take care of the wounded child inside. Then we can take care of our family. Loving speech – the object of the fourth mindfulness training – can become natural if we learn how to use this type of speech. We can experience the miracle of reconciliation. Going back to ourselves, recognizing our suffering, and when we are lighter we can more easily understand the suffering in the other person, and then it is very easy to use loving speech. We provide this type of teaching at our Institute of Applied Buddhism in Europe and Hong Kong.

The role of a sangha in applying these teachings. We need a sangha is very important. We can transform our corporation into a sangha as well. The employees may not only be working to get a good salary. The volition of the leader can be shared with all the members of the corporation. The noblest aspiration is to help people to suffer less. As a good corporate leader, you have to listen to the many thousands of people in your corporation. You can start small and train a small group who can learn the art of deep listening and loving speech.

The political leader can do the same. Story of talking with Martin Luther King. We use the word sangha, but he used beloved community. It is the same concept. Without a sangha, the Buddha could not do too much. The same is true with a corporate leader, a school teacher, or a political leader. Civilization is going in the wrong direction because we are running away from ourselves, our families, our society, and our planet. We can help humanity to come home to themselves and move in the right direction.

The fourth kind of nutriment is consciousness - individual and collection consciousness. In Buddhism we talk about store consciousness and mind consciousness - the two parts. The seeds of our store consciousness that become a mental formation in our mind consciousness. For example, the seed of compassion. The art of suffering and the transformation of suffering. The practice of selective watering – determine to only water the good seeds in yourself. We practice not to give a negative seed a chance to manifest – don’t water the negative seed. If they do manifest, we try to help them return to store consciousness as quickly as possible. Our practice is one of non-violence – we don’t try to fight or suppress the feeling, but we recognize and embrace the negative seed with mindfulness.  The second method is to invite the opposite mental formation to come up (aka, changing the CD). Third, we water only the good seeds in ourselves and each other. The fourth method is when a good seed is present, we try to keep it there for as long as possible. Transformation at the base with Right Diligence.