What is the Purpose of this Human Life?

In this 2-hour dharma talk, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches how and why we can live our lives deeply and provides methods such as gatha practice. We also continue the theme of the winter retreat by learning more about the characteristics of the seeds.

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from New Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Thursday, December 5, 2013 and is the sixth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

00:00-14:30 What is the purpose of human life?
14:30-23:00 Practice gathas
23:00-41:35 Spirituality and Plum Village practice
41:35-end Store consciousness and characteristics of seeds

Some trees live thousands of years and certain turtles can live hundreds of years. A human span is about a 100-years. What is the purpose of this human life? We should live deeply so the time here doesn’t go to waste. We should not wait to answer this question. The quality of life; not just living it to pass the days. The quality depends on how deeply we live each moment and not the emotional and material comforts. Money, power, prestige may not provide this quality or happiness.

In Vietnam we had king who had given his throne to his son in order to become a monk. This gave him more time to live more deeply. He wore the color brown, the color for monastics. In Vietnam, it represents simplicity and humility. It’s the color of those who work in the fields.

When we become monastics, we learn the gathas to practice mindfulness. This Sunday we will ordain seven aspirants in Plum Village. There are about 60 Gathas to memorize and the first gatha to memorize is the walking up gatha.

Waking up this morning, I smile. 
Twenty-four brand new hours. 
I vow to live deeply each moment
And look at all beings with the eyes of compassion and love. 

Every breath and every step is legendary. The quality of life is awareness and our capacity to live deeply.

Science and philosophy both study our humanity. There is also Tao – spirituality. It is also a branch of research to understand our own suffering and happiness. Spirituality is not to run away from life and it is not religion. It is a path to understanding and love to live deeply our lives. We can use the discoveries of science and philosophy. We come to Plum Village to learn how to live life. We look for elder brothers and sisters to guide us. We don’t practice for merit in the future but to live deeply in this moment. For example, walking meditation is not a mean to an end. It’s a daily practice. It is the path of happiness.

The same with sitting meditation  First we need calmness and stillness in our body and mind. The sixteen exercises of mindful breathing can help us calm and still our body and mind. If we don’t know how, we ask a dharma teacher for help.

These practices liberate us.

We’re learning the 8th consciousness – Store. We begin with a review of The first three verses of 30 Verses of Vasubandhu  What is a self? There are also dharmas and phenomena. All this manifests from the same route – store consciousness. Store both receives and maintains the seeds. It also holds the body and the environment in which we live in. What goes into our store consciousness? There are three different kinds of seeds that go into store: the image of the objects of phenomena, the names of the objects, and the last is discrimination (habit of discriminating). That was the review of previous weeks.

Characteristics of the Seeds
The first characteristic of a seed is that it changes every millisecond. They are changing all the time. Another characteristic is that it’s also continuous, like a steam. It maintains the nature of the seed over time. Every seed is waiting for the conditions to manifest. Manifestation only teachings. Individual and collective manifestation

  • jacky duong

    Hi, where could I find the the original Vietnamese talks?

  • http://kenleyneufeld.com Kenley Neufeld

    It’s linked above in the second paragraph – Lang Mai. :-)

  • jacky duong

    Thank you!

  • st

    The quality of life is awareness and our capacity to live deeply. it means……………..