Author Archives: Chan Niem Hy

About Chan Niem Hy

Dharma Teacher.

Our Appointment with Life

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the first dharma talk of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. This short 37-minute talk is in English with a focus on the three energies of practice – mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Both the audio and the video are available below.

Mindfulness is a kind of energy that we can generate. Everyone has the capacity to generate the energy of mindfulness and allows us to be aware of what is going on in our body, in our feelings, in our perceptions, and in the world around us. What is happening in the here and the now. The world around us the object of our mind. If we are not in the here and the now then we cannot know what is happening in the present moment. We have an appointment with life. We may have been running and looking for something elsewhere and we will miss our appointment with life.

Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. For example, drinking our tea. When you are very aware of something, you are concentrated on something and you begin to see something deeply. Therefore, mindfulness contains concentration. Can we see the nature of no birth and no death in our tea? Mindfulness also carries the energy of insight. What are the three energies? Mindfulness. Concentration. Insight. We can all generate these energies, right from the beginning of our practice. With these three kinds of energies, we can do many things. For example, we can generate a feeling of joy and a feeling of happiness.

How do we live deeply every moment of our daily life? How do we see our conditions of happiness? How do we make use of our suffering?

Stepping into Freedom

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is a day of mindfulness between the close of the 21-Day Retreat and the Summer Opening. The sangha is preparing for an ordination ceremony for monastic novices on July 2 followed by summer opening on July 4. This 80-minute dharma talk is dated June 29, 2014. The focus of the talk is on the monastic life. Both the audio and the video are available below.

Where can we focus our attention when starting to breath mindfully? The tip of the nose versus the abdomen. We stop our thinking and are fully aware. No thinking is a secret of success. We can enjoy being alive in the here and now.

What is the object of our mindfulness when we walk? How can we touch reality? Thay tells the story of a 13th century king in Vietnam who practiced very well as a lay person. How can we practice everyday? Touching the ground of reality with every step and not lose ourselves by daily life.This kind of walking can be very healing.

The triple training is mindfulness, concentration, and insight. These three work together. These are three of the eight elements of the noble path – the Noble Eightfold Path. They also exist in the Five Powers (the other two are faith and diligence). This is the heart of Buddhist practice. The practice of mindfulness can also be seen concretely in the practice of the precepts and that is why we usually use the words “mindfulness” trainings. The precepts are the 5 trainings for the lay students (and the 14 for the Order members), the 10 precepts for novice monastics, 250 precepts for monks, and 380 for nuns (Some may ask why the nuns practice more? Is that not discrimination? The nuns created their own precepts). Each precept guarantees a zone of freedom. The precepts are seeking freedom. But we need to live mindfully. Thay recently wrote a new calligraphy. “Each Precept Guarantees a Zone of Freedom”.

There is joy in practicing and reciting the precepts. The manual we use for training the novices is called “Stepping into Freedom” (and is available from Parallax Press). The practice of the precepts is also the practice of mindfulness and is connected with mindful manners (outlined in the manual). “Be beautiful. Practice the Precepts.” Thay discusses some of the mindful manners for monastics.

The manual has four parts. The first part is a set of verses – the essential of the daily vinaya practice. The second part is the ten novice precepts. The third section is mindful manners – many chapters on this. The fourth part is a beautiful text to remind monastics why they are a monk or a nun. The book was originally in Chinese from more than 400 years ago. It has been updated by Plum Village. In the Christian monastic tradition, they have some of the same precepts.

Thay shares further of the big commitment to become a monastic. It is like a marriage. You are part of a sangha and you can realize your dream of helping people. To practice as a monk or nun is easier than a lay student because you have the support of the sangha.

This is a happy and beautiful moment.

How to Promote World Peace

From the Rising Tide Meditation Hall at a retreat at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is a session of questions and responses from those at the 6-day retreat with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World. The date is September 28, 2013.

  1. How do you deal with depression?
  2. How is it possible for humankind to achieve world peace?
  3. How do I help a friend who is depressed?
  4. How can I help a friend who has a problem with his parents and has suicidal thoughts?
  5. How can I help a friend who speaks in anger to his mother and to be less angry?
  6. What do you do when you are stuck between two paths in your life?
  7. What is the Buddhist perspective on mental disorders, particularly personality disorder, and how a family can heal with this ongoing challenge?
  8. How can I practice with my fear of dying?
  9. What is the essence of true love?
  10. Should we act as a human shield to raise awareness and to stop war and violence in the world?
  11. Concerns about consumption of products with less integrity.
  12. How can I work with the historical suffering of the Jewish community?
  13. I would like to offer walking meditation and do you feel that I am qualified?
  14. How does this sangha influence the other sanghas we have created, such as government?

Exploring the Joy of Practice

monasticFrom the Rising Tide Meditation Hall at a retreat at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the third dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World. The date is September 27, 2013. We begin with seven minutes of chanting from the monastic brothers and sisters.

Thay introduces and explains the process for the Novices and Aspirants along with the 5-year program of training as a monastic. It can bring you a lot of joy. They practice the Ten Precepts of a novice. The third source of nutriment is volition – deepest desire of your life. What you want to do with your life? Knowing what you want to do can give you energy. Brotherhood and sisterhood creates a very deep love. What is life as a monastic like, how are decisions made, how do you practice? Why did Thay begin to take students after living in exile in the west? The need for dharma teachers across the world is great. Thay invites you to join the five year program.

At approximately 38-minutes into the recording, we turn to a new topic. We have talked about the art of suffering – if we know how to suffer, we will suffer much less. The art of suffering is linked to the art of happiness. Skillfully we can create joy for ourselves and others. There are many ways to create joy and happiness. The first method is to let go, to leave behind. Letting go will give birth to joy and happiness. If you let go, happiness can come right away. What are holding onto that we think is crucial for our happiness? The practice of releasing our cows. We can practice using sitting meditation and learn to release our cows. A whole country can even be caught my a cow – our ideology. The teaching of the monk Badhya who exclaimed “Oh my happiness!” during his meditation. He was able to let go.

The second way to joy and happiness is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a source of joy and a source of happiness. This is our practice. Then we have concentration – if you are very mindful, then concentration can be born. From concentration we then have insight – it can liberate us. Joy and happiness can arrive.

in the teachings of the Buddha, there are five types of energies that you can generate. They can help generate joy and happiness. The first three were covered earlier – mindfulness, concentration, and insight. The other two are faith and diligence. Faith here means confidence. The other teaching on power is cutting through / letting go. The power to cut by brought requires courage and courage requires us to have insight. The second power is wisdom. The third power is the power to love, to forgive.

How do we listen to a dharma talk? What is the zen way? We continue with a brief review from the exercises of mindful breathing.

At 86-minutes into the recording, we turn to a teaching on the three doors of liberation – emptiness, signlessness, and aimlesslessness. We hear an explanation and teaching on each of these doors.

No video is available for this talk.

Feed and Nourish our Happiness

We have enjoyed some time to rest and have not so many dharma talks in the recent weeks. The monastics at Plum Village are currently participating in the bi-annual 21-Day Retreat and those talks will not be made available immediately. In the meantime, we return to the talks given at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour that haven’t been made available until now. This is the second dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World. The date is September 26, 2013.

When I was a young monk, I believed he did not suffer but I know now that is not true. How can you not suffer when a dear friend dies? He was not a stone, he was a human being. But he suffered much less because of his wisdom and compassion. This is a very important thing to learn. The other question that had as a young monk is why did the Buddha keep practicing after his enlightenment. I know the answer today. Happiness is impermanent just like anything else. We have to feed and nourish our happiness.

What is the goodness of suffering? It can help us to understand and love. We have to learn how to make good use of suffering. Then we can suffer much less. First, we must learn how to not let the second arrow come hit us. When we have pain in our body or mind and we let it be magnified the we create more pain and suffering. The second thing to learn is how to go home and take care of our suffering. To embrace tenderly our pain.

Our consciousness has two layers – store and mind. In the store, we have many seeds; mental formations. For example, anger is a mental formation. Another mental formation is mindfulness, the energy of mindfulness, and this can be used to lessen the energy of anger. Mindfulness can embrace tenderly and anger will be transformed. We can then invite you the seed of compassion. Mindfulness of compassion.

The first five mental formations are called universal. They are contact, attention, feeling, perception, and volition. They are universal because they are there at any time and at any place. How do we interact and engage with these universal mental formations?

The focus of the exercises of mindful breathing are body and feelings in the first eight. then, starting with the ninth we turn to the mind. The mental formations are the objects of our mind. The tenth is about gladdening the mind. We can use Right Diligence to help the negative seeds to not manifest in our mind. This is the first aspect of the practice. And if it’s already manifested, this is the second aspect, we invite the negative seed to return to store. The third aspect is to let the good seeds rise. The fourth aspect is to try keeping the positive mental formation present as long as you can.

We turn now to Right View – a part of the noble eightfold path. Right view is insight and enlightenment. From Right View, we can have Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence. Insight can come right away! Right View transcends being and non-being, no birth and no death. Interbeing can be very helpful.

Questions and Answers with Educators

This is the third day of the Educators Retreat at the University of Barcelona. Thich Nhat Hanh, along with the monks and nuns of Plum Village, are on their first tour of Spain this month. In this session, Thay responds to questions from those attending the retreat. The date of the recording is May 11, 2014. The audio and video links are available below. The timestamps included here are for the AUDIO recording only.

  1. How do we bring this practice into our daily life? (2:32)
  2. How can mindfulness help transform the toxic seeds in our subconscious? (9:45)
  3. How can we find a new path for young people in society today? (17:20)
  4. Could you explain a little more about mindfulness of suffering. (26:53)
  5. How do I forgive myself for pain that I have caused and how do I forgive others? (40:30)
  6. How do I plant the seed of mindfulness in my 34 year old? Is this to young? (54:18)
  7. How can we help children to look deeply at the root cause of their suffering? Anger. Anguish. Fear. (1:07:02)
  8. How can men today become softer? (1:13:44)
  9. With limited time, how can I help people who are suffering? They don’t want to hear to embrace suffering. (1:24:18)
  10. How can a young sangha with little experience protect itself? (1:35:44)

The Five Mindfulness Trainings for Educators

This is the second day of the Educators Retreat at the University of Barcelona. Thich Nhat Hanh, along with the monks and nuns of Plum Village, are on their first tour of Spain this month. In this talk, Thay teaches the Five Mindfulness Trainings. The date of the recording is May 10, 2014. The audio and video links are available below. The timestamps included here are for the AUDIO recording only.

0:00 Verses of Practice
15:16 Protecting Life
27:26 True Happiness
34:10 True Love
49:35 True Communication
1:10:55 Consumption

When Thay became a monk at the age of sixteen, he was given a book of verses to memorize. One of those verses is for waking up in the morning.

Waking up this morning, I smile.
I have 24th Rand new hours to live.
I vow to live these 24-hours deeply.
I vow to look at those around me with eyes of compassion.

We learn these verses to practice mindfulness. Thay shares a few other examples to help to stop our thinking. There are about fifty of these verses for a novice to memorize. We have written new ones today, such as telephone meditation. We can use this to improve the quality of our communication. Everything we do can can be done in mindfulness.

The practice of mindfulness can be very concrete. There are five areas we can consider. The first is to protect life. Our life as well as the lives of others, plants, animals, minerals, and the earth. This is the first mindfulness training. What does this mean? How do we practice with this and what can school teachers and parents do with this training? Everywhere young people are killing themselves because they don’t know how to handle a strong emotion. We can use mindful breathing and can see that an emotion is just one little part of a person. We can deep belly breathing and take care of the strong emotion.

The second realm of the practice is true happiness. The topic of true happiness should be explored to see what it means. True happiness is made of understanding and love. Love is born from understanding. Understanding is a practice and a true element of happiness.

The third area is the practice of true love. Sexual desire is not true love. Many young people do not know what is true love. True love is made of compassion, loving kindness, and nondiscrimination. These are the elements of true love.

The fourth aspect of mindfulness is the practice of loving speech and deep listening. This is the fourth mindfulness training. This practice should begin in the family first and then we can bring it into our school and classrooms. How can we restore communication and reconcile? What can we do in the classroom to help students to suffer less?

The fifth mindfulness training has to do with consumption. Our society is a society of consumption. This is an idea about happiness. This concept of consumption is taught in the context of the four kinds of nutriments. The first kind is edible food. The second source of nutriment is sense impressions. What are we consuming in our conversations, in the media, and on internet? The third nutriment is volition. Our aspiration or deepest desire. The last source of nutriment is consciousness. What are the seeds in our consciousness and do we know how to water the good seeds?

The Five Mindfulness Trainings are a very concrete expression of our mindfulness practice. Happiness is possible. Compassion is possible. Healing is possible. And a school teacher should learn to embody this kind of practice for transformation and healing to take place.

Four Energies and Mindful Educators

Thich Nhat Hanh along with the monks and nuns of Plum Village are on their first tour of Spain this month. An Educators Retreat at the University of Barcelona and this is the first talk providing an orientation to the practice taught by Thay. The date of the recording is May 9, 2014. The audio and the video are both available below.

We begin with an introduction to the practice of breathing and the role it plays in mindfulness practice.There is an energy of mindfulness that is born during the time we are breathing. Life is available in the present moment because the past is already gone the future has not yet come. To go home to the present moment is easy…breath in mindfully. We can get in touch with our body when we are breathing mindfully. Our body is the first wonder of life. Maybe when we get in touch with our body, we may notice tension in our body. If we notice this tension while breathing, we can release this tension while breathing out. If we learn to do this well, then we can learn to transmit this to our students. There is another energy of the practice called concentration. This energy is born from the energy of mindfulness. It let’s us focus. (Editor’s Note: short skip in the recording here) The third energy is insight. Insight arises from concentration and mindfulness. The French novelist Camus spoke of this through the story of the prisoner. Breathing in, I know I am alive. This is already an insight and it is a true miracle. Mindfulness allows us to live deeply each moment we are alive and has the power to liberate us.

Conditions of happiness. Can we see all the conditions of happiness right here in this moment? We can begin with mindfulness of our eyes. A good practitioner of mindfulness should be able to create a feeling of joy and a feeling of happiness at any moment. The practice of walking is another method to discover a moment of happiness. I have arrived.

True happiness is made of mindfulness, concentration and insight. And this will bring compassion, love, and joy.  This is the art of living. With this practice, you can also handle a painful feeling or emotion. Many of us consume in order to not encounter our suffering. We are afraid of our own suffering. Mindfulness can help you know how to suffer. How do we do this? We can use mindfulness to not be overwhelmed by the pain inside. We can recognize and embrace the pain. Once we learn this practice, we can do the same for our students and help our students to suffer less as well.

Understanding will always bring about compassion. Compassion is the fourth kind of energy and has the power to heal and transform anger. Once we know our own suffering transformed, how can we help another person to suffer less.

Thay draws a circle representing the school teacher. How do we work with difficult aspects in our school environments. We can start with our loved ones, then our colleagues, and finally our students. The first thing to do is going home to ourselves through the practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking. We can do this with the support of co-practitioners.

Instruction on walking meditation, mindful eating, and listening to the bell.

The Resurrection and The Stranger

Today is Easter Sunday and it is a regular day of mindfulness in Plum Village. This talk is from the Lower Hamlet and is dated Sunday, April 20, 2014. The talk is in English. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

Mindfulness practice of the sequoia tree, the sky. Thay talks about Albert Camus’ book called The Stranger. Here too the prisoner talks about truly seeing the sky. This is awakening. Camus called this a moment of consciousness. Many people are living as if we are dead. The blue sky is a wonder of life. Awakening. Can we wake up?

Mindful breathing. Resurrection. From forgetfulness to mindfulness. The miracle of the resurrection. This is not dogma. When we wake up then we can get in touch with the wonders of life. Joy and happiness are possible. How? Waking up to our suffering. Jesus was aware of his suffering and the role of suffering. In Plum Village, we say this bread is the body of the cosmos. Similar to the breaking bread by Jesus. To wake up is to see no birth and no death. It is not because of birth or death that Jesus exists. The same is with mindfulness.

Birth and death. This is our true nature and highest awakening. And Nirvana is the same. We can go back to ourselves and touch our true nature. If we have time to look deeply, we can see the connection between suffering and happiness. Jesus himself realized the role of suffering. As a practitioner of mindfulness we should know how to handle our suffering. Most of us are afraid of suffering. Through the energy of mindfulness, concentration, and insight we can be strong enough to touch and embrace our suffering. When we can do it for ourselves, we can help people around us do it as well. Joy and happiness are possible and transcend anxiety and fear. We don’t need to be afraid of suffering.

If you understand the art of suffering, then you understand the art of happiness. If you understand the art of happiness, then you understand the art of suffering.

The Sound of Silence

yuriearth_iss_3032The sangha has just completed the French Retreat and we return here to a regular day of mindfulness in Plum Village. This talk is from the New Hamlet and is dated Thursday, April 17, 2014. The talk is in English.

0:00 Chanting
9:22 Hearing the Call of Mother Earth
23:25 The Sound of Silence
35:48 Types of Sound in Lotus Sutra
50:00 Impermanence of Sound
1:02:56 Establishing Silence
1:15:43 Consumption of Sound

The beauty of Mother Earth is a bell of mindfulness. It’s spring now and we can easily see how beautiful the earth is. If we can see this then happiness will available right away. Is anything blocking you from seeing this? Is your mind full of things? Can you hear the call of Mother Earth? Are you being pulled away by the past or anxious, fearful about the future? Even in the present moment we can be distracted. But if we look, we can see that life is full of wonders. We can pay attention to our breathing to help stop the thinking of the past, the future, and the projects of the present. I am here. I am free.

In Plum Village we have the practice of noble silence. Thay shares about the recent French Retreat where the community sat together in silence for a meal and after the sound of the bell. What is the benefits of silence? What is the sound of silence?

In the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra there is the bodhisattva Avalokite?vara – the one who listens to the sound of the world. Five kinds of sound are mentioned in this chapter. Thay teaches on these sounds. Sound of wonder. The one observes the sound of the world. The brahma sound. Sound of the rising tide. The one that transcends all worldly sounds.

In Buddhism we speak of two kinds of phenomenon. Conditioned and unconditioned. Sound is considered impermanent. It’s nature is to be created; to be made. And anything that is created is impermanent. Another early Mahayana Sutra is mentioned (chapter 40) speaks about the voice of the Buddha. The word of the Buddha is something easy to understand. The sound of the Buddha is not to loud. Silent thunder. We can hear the voice of the Buddha anytime and anywhere.

When we have been able to establish silence the we can hear what is inside ourselves. What our heart is saying. We are often concerned with our daily concerns. We worry about material comforts and affective concerns. But there is also the ultimate concern. Do we have the time to answer the ultimate concern? Hear the deepest call of your life. And that we are a continuation of our ancestors. Meditation can help cultivate the silence.

Four Kinds of Nutriments and consumption. Consuming the sound. The sound of wonders. We don’t have to run anymore.

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.

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