Author Archives: Chan Niem Hy

About Chan Niem Hy

Dharma Teacher.

Relaxing in the Present Moment

The 58-minute dharma talk offered by Thich Nhat Hanh took place at the New Hamlet of Plum Village on November 10, 2005. The audio is linked below and video is available for our donors on Patreon.

Please note, the recording begins with a few minor sound issues, but the dharma talk doesn’t begin until it is resolved by the sound team. We left it in the recording because it adds some character.

When we speak about dwelling in the present moment, we mean living deeply in every moment of our daily life. Do we know how to live in the present moment? It begins with relaxing ourselves and to stop running. To release our worries. Our tensions. Stopping our mental discourse. Do we know how to rest after a long day of work? To relax our mind and body? Mindfulness tells us the conditions for testing are there for us.

Awareness of breathing is exactly what we need to stop our mental discourse. To touch the conditions of happiness that are there. This is not hard work. We can free from our thinking and our body begins to relax, and to heal itself. Simple. We have to stop the mental discourse so we can be free in the present moment.

Walking to be present and aware of the present moment is also possible. We can relax during walking meditation too.

This practice is a practice freedom. 

A teaching on the historical and ultimate dimension as illustrated through drinking our tea, our coffee. Can you drink your tea in the ultimate dimension? Avata?saka S?tra.

In China, there was a time when they tried to bring Zen and the Pure Land together. In Plum Village, we practice Zen using the energy of mindfulness and insight but we also say the Pure and is available in the here and the now. The pure land is now or never. Thay shares a koan from that time that is still practiced today.

Who is the person invoking the name of the Buddha? 

This is the subject of our mediation. Both Zen and Pure Land practice this. Thay teaches on this koan – what is the purpose of this koan? This koan is an invitation. Thay then shares a Chinese story of two philosophers contemplating fish swimming. Are the fish happy?

Ni?m – mindfulness, recollection

We should always ask ourselves with any teaching, what does this teaching have to do with my suffering? It is not intellectual.

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Healing Oneself Healing the World with Thich Nhat Hanh and Friends

Better ListenIn addition to our regularly offered talks, we are happy to share this 2013 packaged set from Better Listen! Check it out.

Healing Oneself and Healing the World featuring Thich Nhat Hanh and practice with Br. Phap Dung and Sr. Dang Nghiem

These 2013 recordings by Thich Nhat Hanh are from Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during a 6-day retreat in 2013 with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World. The program has been digitally remastered and has 12 hours of wonderful material.
How do we produce a thought that is filled with understanding and compassion? Building a sangha or a practice center is one method. In our tradition, we begin by looking at our suffering. We can then recognize the suffering in the other person. This is the first and second noble truth. With this, the energy if compassion arises because you have touched and understood suffering.

We bring our mind and body together and come back to ourselves in order to be truly there and be able to stop our thinking. We can get lost in our thinking. When we are mindful and concentrated of our in breath them our mind only has one object. Just breathing in mindfully we can get freedom from the past l, the future, and our projects. Freedom is possible and the healing can start.

Touching Life – Come Home to Yourself

The 53-minute dharma talk offered by Thich Nhat Hanh took place at the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village on November 3, 2005. The audio is linked below and video will be available for our donors on Patreon.

What does it mean, “I take refuge in the Buddha.” Buddha is the one who is mindful, awake, enlightened. Taking refuge is not believing in a God or deity. We all have a seed of mindfulness, understanding, and love. We can become a person who is fully awake, enlightened, just like the Buddha. Taking refuge is confirming the fact that you can be enlightened. You are a Buddha. This is not a declaration of faith, but a commitment to practice. In every breath we are taking refuge. In every mindful step we are taking refuge.

The way in is also the way out. Our spiritual life should be established in that vision – being truly ourselves. Practicing to bring a spiritual dimension into your life. Through drinking our tea, preparing our breakfast, or brushing our teeth. These are spiritual acts. Not being caught by the future or the past. This is being a Buddha.

Going home to ourselves. How is this act accomplished? Practicing in a community like Plum Village, everyone is supported by the sangha. This is taking refuge in the sangha. We have faith in the community. Helping to build this refuge for others.

Story of when the Buddha was about 80-years old and how he offered the teaching on taking refuge in the island of yourself. Here we can encounter the foundation of ourselves – the island includes the Buddha, dharma, and sangha. This is the practice of Plum Village also.

How do we respond when we are lonely, not feeling like ourselves? Our feelings of fear? Do we know how to practice going home to ourselves? Walking meditation is a method. Can we walk like a Buddha? Enjoying every step. This is a miracle.

The Buddha-nature is within you and through mindfulness, concentration, and insight it is you that is performing a miracle.

It is a practice of enjoyment.

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Non Fear

The Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 9, 1997. This is the final talk in the series. Audio is linked below and video will be available for our donors on Patreon.

Thay jumps immediately to the teachings on the verses of consciousness, the topic of this retreat, beginning with the thirtieth verse.

Self and nonself. Interbeing. Consciousness is always flowing and evolving. Conditioned dharmas (36). Space and time are not separated entities. The only dharma that can be considered “unconditioned” is nirvana. Suchness (36). No coming. No going. Tathagata.
Verses 37-40, we learn about the four conditions. Primary cause. Object cause. Supporting causes. Immediacy of continuity. These four conditions are necessary for manifestation. Deluded mind and true mind. Codependent arising.

Paratantra (41). Samsara and suchness are no different. It is deluded mind to think they are different – they have the same ground.

The flower is already present in the garbage (42). We see one in the other. They are not two. There is no need to run away from birth and death (43). We can understand that the kingdom of

God is at hand; available in the present. Conscious breathing and Right View (44). Mindfulness can transform all mental formations (45).

Mindfulness is the energy of God. And mindfulness is not an idea, but something we can cultivate and allow to grow. To be alive in the presence of God.

Transformation at the base is down there at the depth of our consciousness. This is where the real transformation takes place and our internal knots are slipping (46).

The present moment contains the future (47). The secret to transformation at the base is how well we handle the present moment. And practicing with a sangha can help it occur more easily. Affliction and enlightenment are the same (50). Ride on the waves of birth and death. With no fear.

There are three kinds of gifts: material gifts, gift of the dharma, and nonfear (this is the greatest gift to give). The practice of nonfear can let I’d look into the light of interbeing. When we chant the Heart Sutra, we see that Sariputra has been able to transcend fear.

Understanding our MindHistory of Buddhist Teachings
Many have asked who is the author of these 51 Verses. After the Buddha passed away, a few decades after, there was a need to systemize the teachings of the Buddha. This is known as the Abhidharma – super dharma – and it contains many many teachings. Thay offers the background on the abidharma teachings over time. Some of these teachings have been translated into English so it can be available to you. For example, the Path of Purification, the Twenty verses on Manifestation only (or mere manifestation – it is a very difficult teaching), but the 51 verses are much easier. You can listen to these talks again or purchase Understanding Our Mind: 50 Verses on Buddhist Psychology.

Two Stories on Dying

Story of Anapindika and Sariputra with the practice on the Recollection of the Three Jewels.

Story of Alfred Hassler. About 8-years ago, on the way to the Omega Institute for a retreat, we learned our dear friend Alfred Hassler was dying in a hospital nearby. Sr. Chan Không and Thay decided to stop and visit him along with Alfred’s wife and daughter. Thay recalls some of the work done with Alfred and his family.

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Reconciliation

The Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 8, 1997. This is the seventh talk (115-minutes). Audio is posted below and the video is available for our donors on Patreon.

We begin with the story of David, an America who came to Plum Village and was given he assignment to write a Iove letter to his father. He thought he couldn’t do this to reconcile with him father. Thay had him practice as a 5-year old boy for a week so to touch the vulnerability and fragility in himself. We smile and identify the little child inside of us. This practice is followed by seeing our parent/father as a 5-year old child as well. Maybe we need a picture to help us truly visualize this our parent.

The teaching of emptiness of transmission. Everything depends on everything else. It always includes a transmitter, an object, and a receiver. But these three elements cannot be separated.

Another story, this one of Michael, another American, where he was asked to list the wholesome qualities of his father and mother. He had a challenge doing this for his mother because of some anger and resentment. This exercise can help repair our resentment and anger. And he was able to write a beautiful love letter to his mother. The practice has the power to liberate and bring non-fear and joy.

When we feel that we have been abused, when people have treated us with violence, anger, hatred, discrimination then a block of suffering is within us. The negative energy is in us. And if you don’t know how to handle and transform the violence within us then that violence will destroy us and the people we love. The criminals, the terrorist, they have not been able to transform the violence. We have to learn how to handle and transform the violence in us and to help others do the same. In our schools, in our prisons, and in our police departments. Mindfulness practice must be offered to society and it can be done in a non-sectarian, non-religious form.

Thay shares his idea for an Association of Mindfulness Practice Centers and what that would look like in practice and reality. He shared about three mindfulness practice centers taking shape in America (DC, Vermont, and California). Living according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings. We need to be affiliated with a group of people, a sangha. It is essential to our practice. The sangha is our refuge.

At 58-minutes we resume the teaching on the 50 Verses. We begin with verses 15-22 – about the seventh consciousness of manas. Then verse 23 is about the sixth, mental consciousness. Thay repeats a little on the three modes of cognition – the realm of things in themselves, the realm of representation, and the realm of mere image. Verses 25-27, the root of all actions. With verses 28-30, we move to the five consciousnesses of sensations.

Historical Perspective
During this talk, Thay announces the 21-Day Retreat planned for May 23, 1998 that took place at St. Michaels College in Burlington, Vermont. The theme of that retreat was the Sutra on Mindful Breathing. This was the first time the 21-Day occurred in North America. He also announced that 200-acres are being donated in Vermont for a practice community.

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Handling Strong Emotions

The Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 7, 1997. This is the sixth talk (96-minutes) offered as an audio recording below. If you wish to view the video, please make a small donation on our Patreon account.

Seed of anger. Mindfulness of anger. How do we practice with this energy of anger? How do we make peace with another in which we are angry? One method is to use the practice of deep looking. First, we generate our energy of mindfulness. Then we recognize our anger. Finally we look deeply into the nature of our anger. Teaching on the four mantras, deep listening, and loving speech. We can restore communication.

Thay shares the text of a song he wrote to help us with our practice.

It rains softly outside, and yet I feel the sadness and the sorrow coming up in me.
Please go to sleep my little pain and let my in breath and out breath embrace you tenderly.
I know you are there and I do my best to take good care of you.
You know I am trying to plant and water the seeds of harmony and loving kindness everyday so tomorrow from the soil of my consciousness flowers of peace and joy and forgiveness will bloom for everyone.
Please go to sleep my little knots. My little pain.

With this practice there will be transformation and tomorrow we will be able to accept and love each other.

How are we watering our store consciousness through our consumption? Are we intoxicating ourselves with seeds of craving and despair? Thay shares his excitement about mindfulness being applied in legislation (smoking) and in what we can buy in the supermarket (tofu). The five mindfulness trainings are a concrete practice to help us to become more mindful of our consciousness.

We continue with a deeper teaching on the first aspect of meditation: stopping.

In the concluding 15-minutes, we return to the teaching on the verses of consciousness. We are on verse 13 exploring inter-penetration.

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Selective Watering and Total Relaxation

Total Relaxation at Plum VillageThe Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 6, 1997. This is the fifth talk (114-minutes).

Much of this talk is offered in the context of those working in the helping professions such as therapists and doctors. The practice we are learning here is taking care of ourselves. We should be able to take care of ourselves in order to help other people. This can bring is a lot of joy. First, we have to learn how to rest. The practice of stopping. We have a habit of running. We can practice arriving in the here and the now.

We begin with a teaching on Total Relaxation. You can practice as an individual and as a sangha. The total relaxation exercises also brings mindfulness to our relationships, our eating, and much more. We should practice body scanning daily.

Another aspect of practicing to stop is we have to learn how to say no – we should know our limits. Secondly, we should give our body and mind time to recover after meetings. Do waking meditation or total relaxation. This is especially important for those in the helping professions.

Can we meet our colleagues in a kind of dharma discussion. We can ask, do you know how to take care of yourself? The Buddha said, it is possible to live happily in the present moment. He was aware that we had suffering and sorrow, but that we can also discover joy. Joy is made of non-joy elements. Like sorrow. We don’t need to remove all the pain and the sorrow. The need of mindfulness allows us to experience the present moment.

Brief teaching on the role of walking meditation and sitting meditation in the context of dwelling happily in the present moment. We can arrange our days to offer space for practice. Brings more solidity, more joy, more insight. We practice the same way when working with our sorrow.

Sangha building. Why is it important in our work settings, especially those in helping professions? Cultivating the mind of love. What is a sangha? A sangha is community that practices joy and happiness. Thay expresses his joy with having a community of monks and nuns traveling together and living together in Plum Village. The sangha is a wonderful instrument to relieve suffering. Why is taking refuge in the sangha important? What is crossing over to the other shore?

In the last 35-minutes, Thay returns to teaching on the verses (9-10) on consciousness. Alaya. Cautions on a society of hungry ghosts. The nature of dharmas – conditioned and unconditioned.

If you would like to view the video of this dharma talk, please make a small donation on our Patreon account

Editors Note: Lost about 2-minutes of sound at 1h20m into talk.

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Self and Non-Self: The Evolving Consciousness

The Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 5, 1997. This is the fourth talk (99-minutes).

Teaching on the Three Dharma Seals

  • Impermanence
  • No-self
  • Nirvana

The authentic teachings of the Buddha must contain all three of these. They are not only a description of reality but a way of seeing things.

Impermanence and nonself also contain the teaching of rebirth. What is impermanence? Is it the cause of our suffering? How do we practice with impermanence?

Impermanence and no-self are two sides of the a coin. And nirvana is the metal. The base. Nirvana is extinction. Extinction of notions/ideas. All the pairs of opposites.

Other topics covered in this talk:

  • Teaching of the Three Natures of Reality
  • 18 Realms of Being
  • Universal mental formations
  • Verses 23-25, 39-42 of the Fifty Verses of Consciousness

In the last 15-minutes, Thay offers suggestions for practice during the lazy afternoon and also outlines formal lunch.

Metaphors: a coin, the wave

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Realms of Being

Bus PassengersWe continue our series from the archives. The date is November 4, 1997 and the sangha continues a mindfulness retreat in Key West, Florida with the theme of Buddhist psychology. This is the third talk (98-minutes) where Thay teaches on the first 8-verses of the Fifty Verses on Buddhist Psychology.

The nature of the flower and the garbage. The transformation of flowers and the nature of Interbeing between the two. This is a pair of opposites and we can see this in other pairs of opposites. Interbeing. When we talk about enlightenment and illusion, it is the same. They do not exclude each other. Enlightenment and illusion are always present.

Dukka. Suffering. The first of the Four Noble Truths. We have to recognize that ill-being is present and see the nature of it. The First Noble Truth is a Holy Truth.

Teachings from the Fifty Verses.

1. Mind is a field in which every kind of seed is sown. This mind field can also be called all the seeds.
Our mind consciousness is like a gardener. It is like the earth, the earth is holding, preserving, maintaining, everything together. The function of
Alaya.

2. There are an infinite variety of seeds. Seeds of samsara, illusion, and nirvana, suffering, delusion, and enlightenment. Seeds of suffering and happiness. Seeds of perceptions, names, and words.
How do we transform samsara and suffering? What are perceptions and what are the objects of our perceptions?

3. Seeds that manifest as body and mind. As realms of beings. As stages and worlds, are all in our consciousness. That is why it is called store consciousness.
What are the different realms of consciousness? The six sense organs. Six objects of the sense organs. And six kinds of sense consciousness. These are the Eighteen Realms of Beings. Plus the three worlds: form, desire, and non-form. And the ten stages of the bodhissatva. They are all manifestation from store consciousness.

4. Some seeds are innate, some were handed down by our ancestors. Some were sown while we were still in the womb. Others were sown when we were children. 

Where did the seeds come from, when did they arrive, and will they always be there?

5. Whether from our family or friends, our society or our education, all seeds by nature are both individual and collective.

Another pair of opposites and can be transcended. The collective and the individual inter-are. What are these concepts? Thay uses the metaphor of a bus and its passengers to illustrate. Followed by the candle to also illustrates – its brightness. Is the brain collective or individual? Father and son. Self and non-self.

6. The quality of our lives depends on the quality of the seeds that lie in our consciousness.

7. The function of the store consciousness is to receive, to maintain, and make manifest in the world these seeds and end our habit energies.
Store consciousness is like the ocean – there are many rivers that are received by the ocean. It has the power to manifest these seeds. How do we train positive energy and habits?

8. The manifestation of Alaya can be perceived as a field within themselves, as that of representations or mere images are included in the 18 realms of being.
Perceptions of reality. For example, when we fall in love. Falling in love with the image of the other person. Teaching on the field of representation, field of things in themselves (such was), and the field of mere image.

We conclude with a short (10-minute) teaching on suffering and our relationships. Seeds of loyalty and betrayal. When things are not to your liking.

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Interbeing and Store Consciousness

Seeds Another talk from the archives. The date is November 3, 1997 and the sangha continues a mindfulness retreat in Key West, Florida with the theme of Buddhist psychology. This is the second talk (96-minutes) where Thay introduces the interbeing and gives a teaching on store consciousness.

Seeing things in the light of Interbeing. The right is made of the left and the left is made of the right. They are not enemies, but they contain each other. Thay teaches in the context of politics. The Buddha taught, this is because that is. Then we move to body and mind – they are interbe. Non-duality. In each cell of our body is stored the whole cosmos. In the study of Buddhist studies of the mind, the body is always first an object of our perception. Teaching on object and perception.
Touching the present moment. Using the present moment to touch the past; including our past suffering. In doing this we can experience the Interbeing of past suffering. You can heal the wounds of the past by touching the present moment. How does this apply to the future?

Namarupa. The body and the mind. Contemplation. Observation of the mind in the mind and observations of the body in the body. Stresses non-duality.

The five skandhas. This is the Sanskrit word that means heaps. Can also be translated as elements or aggregates. What are the five skandhas? Remember these distinctions are only there to help us with our practice.what are formations? How are the five interare?

After this brief overview of the skandhas, the teaching shifts to focus primarily on consciousness. Specifically, store consciousness and seeds. Working with our seeds using mindfulness. For example, mindfulness of anger. What is store consciousness? Store consciousness is like a garden that is able to maintain and store the totality of all the seeds. The practice of meditation is being aware and recognize the seeds inside us and to water the good seeds. Recognizing and taking care of our seeds. Why do we do this?

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