Stars, Moon and Consciousness

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, January 23, 2014 and is the twentieth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem. A great teaching today that includes a story of Mara and the Buddha followed by the tradition of earth cake making in Vietnam. The second half returns to our sutra study on subject/object and store consciousness.

0:00-9:30 Chanting
9:30-46:18 Mara and the Buddha
46:18-1:02:05 Tet and Earth Cakes
1:03:00-1:18:38 Subject and Object
1:18:38-1:28:40 Christian Theology and Ultimate Reality
1:28:40-end Characteristics of Seeds

After the Buddha became enlightened, he continued to practice. Sitting. Walking. Solo retreats. Why did he continue to practice after he became enlightened? If we don’t continue to nourish, then we can lose our happiness. Everything is impermanent. It’s called conditioning.

There is a priest in New York, Father Daniel Berrigan. Thay has been friends with him since 1965 and they have enjoyed practicing together many times. We here a story of their friendship, walking meditation, and dualistic thinking.

We learn a story of Buddha and Mara to illustrate our dualistic thinking. The story is then linked to a practice during the lunar new year. We need to remind ourselves to practice to turn this place into the territory of the Buddha. Today, in Vietnam, people put up a pole with a piece of the sangati robe to remind themselves to practice happiness.

Today we have a Flower market and a ceremony for putting up the pole. The beauties of Mother Earth invite us to come back to ourselves and the flowers are an expression of this beauty. A few words on earth cake tradition in Vietnam – what do the earth cakes represent? The lunar new year is an occasion to be in touch with our ancestors and be grateful. After lunch today, we will make earth cakes together. This is how we begin to celebrate Tet.

We return to the sutra study of the 30-verses. Stars and moon are an object of consciousness. They are in store consciousness. In the world of the oyster, they have no-eye consciousness and no-ear consciousness. The things that we see, the oyster cannot see. So, sense organs are one condition to give birth to consciousness. The object gives rise to consciousness. And these are manifested from seeds. And store consciousness holds all the seeds. The sense organ and the object rely on each other to create consciousness. Object and subject. They are divided into two parts but this isn’t exactly correct. We cannot take one out of the other. This is called Interbeing.

Some say there is a world that is objective whether we look at it or not. There is also consciousness and it is also there. This is a dualistic view and called double-grasping. The stars and moon are not independent of our consciousness. Just like the left and right. This is the most important teaching of manifestation-only teaching. When we look at the object we have to see the subject and vice-versa.

We are learning store consciousness. Store consciousness cannot be described with ideas of wholesome/unwholesome, being/nonbeing, pure/impure, etc. And the seeds that store consciousness hold are the same. How does this apply in Christian theology?

Right View and Right Thinking. Transcends the idea of being and non-being. Our Five Skandhas also have this nature. So, when we look at the characteristics of the seeds, we have to see they have the same nature as store.

Two kinds of impermance.

  • Indigo Moon

    Thank you so much for these talks. I was wondering however if/when Thay will be giving more talks in English….hearing his voice is so powerful for me and I miss it. Thank you.

  • http://kenleyneufeld.com Kenley Neufeld

    Hi Indigo,
    Thank you for writing. Typically the winter retreat is given entirely in Vietnamese and this retreat ends around February 20. After a break, there will a few more talks as part of the regular cycle and we’ll hear some talks in English or French.

    If you listen with headphones on and in a quiet room, you can usually hear him speaking in the background of the translation (not as good but it’s something). :-)

  • Indigo Moon

    Thank you very much for explaining this. I do try to listen behind the translation but his voice is so faint in comparison and I have been listening to past talks as well. Thank you …and I look forward to hearing his voice again in late Feb :)

  • CJOLARS

    Much gratitude to Sr. Tue Nghiem for her very appropriate and beautiful work in translating and speaking. i love the meditative climate in these talks.