Happiness for Young People

This talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, March 13, 2014 and the sangha has just finished a couple weeks of lazy days following the winter retreat. The talk on this day is in English and begins with a lesson on mindful breathing to release tension and painful emotions followed by a teaching on the Four Kinds of Nutriments. The second half of the talk includes a special ceremony and discussion with the vice chancellor of the University of Hong Kong.

1:08 Chanting
8:00 Hearing the Bell
14:26 Mindful Breathing to Relieve Tension and Painful Emotions
21:54 Letter to Death Row
30:00 The Four Kinds of Nutriments
57:29 Ceremony to Confer Honorary Doctorate Degree to Thich Nhat Hanh from the University of Hong Kong
1:17:40 Thay Responds to Degree
1:30:40 Dialogue between Thay and Vice Chancellor on Topic of Today’s Youth

When you hear the bell, you may want to stop you’re thinking. Use your breathing to be aware that you have a body and smile to your body. It is a wonder. Practice mindful breathing we bring our mind home to our body. We are fully alive when we do this exercise. Our body is already a wonder of life.

When you’re mind is not with your body, it is not truly alive. We need an embodied mind. In the Sutra of Mindful Breathing, the Buddha proposed sixteen exercises. The third exercise is breathing in, I am aware of my body. You’re body is your first true home. The next exercise is to release the tension in your body – the fourth exercise.

We can also calm our painful emotions (the seventh exercise). We should not run away from our painful feelings. Many people in society consume min order to avoid thier painful feelings. With these exercises you can generate the energy of mindfulness. The pain is an energy and so is mindfulness. Mindfulness can embrace your pain (the eighth exercise). We can suffer much less.

Yesterday Thay received a letter from a young man in America who is a pen pal of a man on death row. The person in prison is a practicing Buddhist who has found relief from the teachings. They have been reading The Heart of the Buddhist Teachings together. Thay responds to the letter by talking about fear, anger, and despair that people suffer from both within and without. We can practice compassion and then we can be free. There can be freedom in prison.

Today we are going to have a discussion on the topic of youth. All of us need a good environment. Teachers and parents should come together to create a good environment for our young people in order to suffer less. The Buddha said that nothing can survive without food. There are several kinds of food. In the Sutra of the Four Nutriments can be helpful as a background to understand. In this sutra there is a story of a family crossing the desert and they have to make a very difficult decision to kill their child in order to survive. The first kind of nutriment is edible food. We have to eat in such a way to preserve compassion in us and not to eat the flesh of our own sons and daughters. The second kind of nutriment is sensory impressions. This comes from eye, ear, nose, ear, body, and mind. When we watch television, we consume. When we use the internet, we consume. Even conversation can be very toxic. Educators and parents should practice mindful consumption to set an example for our young people to preserve our well being. The third kind of nutriment is intention/volition. This is the deepest desire in us – our deepest desire may be good or it may be destructive. Helping young people to suffer less or to work for the environment or work for peace, these are good intentions. Last year at Google, they asked Thay to talk about intention. What do we want to do with our life? Our deepest desire? Is it to practice to help people to suffer less, then that is a good intention. And the fourth kind of nutriment is consciousness – consciousness as food. There is individual consciousness. We carry with us the suffering of our parents and our ancestors. We should have a teacher or friend to help us come out of the dark corner of the past. Practicing appropriate attention, that is good food. There is also collective consciousness. We can feel the collective energy of mindfulness and compassion in a positive environment. To help young people, we should reflect on the kinds of nutriments we are providing them. Nothing can survive without food.

Thay Phap Luu introduces the conferring of a Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa degree for Thich Nhat Hanh from the University of Hong Kong in advance of the 190th Congregation on March 18, 2014 in Hong Kong. The Vice Chancellor of the University and other professors are present to offer the degree. The honorary degree is a very old and cherished tradition of the University and past degrees have been given to Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Bill Clinton. Following the degree conferring, Thay offers a few words (10-minutes) in response and as a message to those at the University of Hong Kong. We continue with a dialogue between Thay and the Vice Chancellor on the subject of today’s youth.

What can we do more to help our students to provide a better environment?

In our restless world today, there is frustration and unhappiness in graduates not being able to find work and career. What insight can you share to help young people feel more satisfied and content with the future?

Note from the Editor
Thay has offered us a vision of building an online monastery, or online temple, where practitioners may come not just to receive information, but to practice online: to follow their breathing, experience guided meditation, interact with monastics and lay practitioners, etc. This archive of Thay’s talks is a component of this vision.

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  • Christine Louise Brown

    I really do like to breathe. Thank you and my actual human father who said to me “I can only give you the sun, the moon, and the stars.” This was in a very difficult political era in the United States…thank you for this commentary and thank you god for my dearl human dad, who also hinted to me that “pretty girls are a dime a dozen…think of something”.

  • Sachin Shrestha

    The Idea of Online Sanga is very wonderful! I will be very happy to talk with thay.