Category Archives: Basic Practices

The Breathing Room

This talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, March 27, 2014. The talk on this day is in English.

14:44 The Breathing Room
22:54 Inviting the Bell
33:10 Conditions of Happiness
43:30 Mindfulness of Suffering

Thich Nhat Hanh begins with a recollection of a retreat for children. During walking meditation, we proposed they use “yes, yes” and “thanks, thanks” for each of their steps. We can say yes and feel thankful. There are so many things we can say yes to. We can appreciate these things – our body, our eyes, etc. With our eyes we can see the blue sky and the mountains. The practice is breathing in, I am aware of my eyes and am grateful they are in good condition. We do the same with other parts of our body. Like our heart. With this awareness, we can take better care of our body and allow it to be restored. In the “Sutra on the Contemplations of the Body” the Buddha taught us how to look at all the parts of the body. We use mindfulness to project light onto every part of our body. This can bring us happiness, love, and compassion. Thay provides more instruction on this practice.

If you are a leader of a corporation, you may wish to incorporate and offer a session of total relaxation. This is not a loss of time. The same can be done by a school teacher for the students. Parents too, if they know the practice, can offer a session for the family. In a civilized society this can be very good. We can also create a tiny meditation hall in the home; a space where the bell can be located and we can practice in a safe space. Every time you feel restless or confused or irritated, we can walk to that place – the breathing room – and stop all the thinking and calm our body and mind. Thay recalls a story of how to open/close the door when he was a young novice that he then relayed to Thomas Merton.

In our small breathing room, we should also have a bell. This is a territory of mindfulness. There are four lines to learn when inviting the bell after we breath in and out three times before Inviting the Bell. Thay teaches us how to invite the bell and why mindful breathing is so important.

There are many conditions of happiness. In Buddhism, we have many versus to help us practice mindfulness. For example, for when turning on the water faucet. Are you aware of your conditions of happiness? Teaching continues on how this related to the breathing room and why it’s important for the family. This is the art of happiness.

This is part of the 7th & 8th mindfulness exercises in the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Mindful Breathing. We should not run away from our suffering. We can learn from our suffering. This ties right into the Four Noble Truths. We can learn to listen to our suffering without fear without running away through consumption. With mindfulness we have the energy to take care of our suffering.

The practice of looking and listening deeply. Meditation is the time to look and listen to understand our suffering. This brings about understanding and compassion. If you know how to suffer, you suffer much less. You cannot take happiness out of suffering and cannot take suffering out of happiness.

Happiness is Possible Now

This talk from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, March 16, 2014. The talk on this day is in English and begins with Thay reflecting on the statement “How do you do?” followed by a teaching on the first four exercises of mindful breathing and the practices of total relaxation and walking meditation.

0:00 How do you do?
10:15 Restlessness
17:08 Third Exercise of Mindful Breathing
23:10 Fourth Exercise of Mindful Breathing
27:40 First Exercise of Mindful Breathing
35:15 Second Exercise of Mindful Breathing
37:00 Total Relaxation
47:10 Walking Mediation

How do you do? What does this mean? How do you feel in your body, your feelings, and your perceptions. The human is made of five elements. The body. Are you tired? Are you stressed? The feelings. Do you have pleasant or unpleasant feelings? The perceptions. How do you see the world? Most of our perceptions are incorrect. Then we have mental formations. Anger, fear, despair, jealously, hope, etc. The final element is consciousness. Your mind. Are you light or overloaded? This is what I mean when asked how do you do? Not just business – this is only just a small part. To practice Buddhism and mindfulness is to take care of our five elements so that we’ll being can become a reality. You can bring joy and peace. When anger is manifesting, so you know how to handle your anger? The Buddha taught us to handle our anger. The Buddha taught two things: How to bring peace and happiness. And secondly, how to handle the suffering when it comes up.

Today, Thay will talk about one mental formation called restlessness. We don’t feel peace and don’t know what to do. Restlessness is the lack of peace. How do new deal with this mental formation? If parents and teachers know how to handle restlessness they can help our children. How do we learn? First, we start with our body. In Plum Village we have many ways to work with the body. For example, total relaxation. In the Sutra of Mindful Breathing the Buddha proposed sixteen exercises. These are concrete.

The third exercise is “breathing in, I am aware of my body.” You do not think of anything else. When the mind is not with the body you are not totally alive. This is called the oneness of body and mind. Your body is a wonder of life. Happiness can be found in your body. Aware of body.

The Buddha then proposed the fourth exercise, “breathing in, I release the tension in my body.” This is very important for us today to help us suffer less. When you heat the bell, you can stop your thing and breath in mindfully and bring your mind back to your body. Release the tension in body.

The first exercise of mindful breathing is very simple and powerful. Breathing in, I know am breathing out. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. Awareness of breath. Very simple. We can touch the fact that you are alive and this is the greatest of all miracles. It is wonderful. This can make you a free person and can make good decisions.

The second exercise is following your in breath all the way through. We become very concentrated on your breath. Our concentration becomes deeper. We stop our thinking and we enjoy. When we sit in the lotus position, we can allow ourselves to release the tension and this is one of the methods to work with restlessness. We have many practices to help us work with our breathing. Gathas and songs to release the tensions and enjoy our body.

The practice of lying down and total relaxation of body is practical and relevant. In the Sutra of the Contemplations of the Body we learn how to identify different parts of the body. We can all learn and practice total relaxation.

Another method to release the tension is walking meditation. The present moment. Happiness is possible now. We don’t need to go into the future to find happiness. Walking meditation is a training to help us stop running. Life is only available in the here and the now. It is the practice of stopping. Stop the running and enjoy every step. How do we practice walking meditation?

Editor’s Note: The video is included below for you but the time stamps listed above apply to the audio recording only.

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.

We are using a new service (Patreon) that allows for you to become an ongoing patron for this archive. Each patron can make a donation, as little as $1 per talk, to be donated automatically on a monthly basis. Payments are made by credit card or PayPal and patrons can be anywhere in the world. When you visit the site, you identify the amount you want to give for each talk, identify a maximum amount per month, and provide your mailing address. If you are in the United States you can have a tax deduction through the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation.

Please visit our Patreon page: Thich Nhat Hanh is Creating Happiness.

The Joy of the Dharma

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, February 6, 2014 and is the twenty third talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. This is an English translation, available below, by Sr. Tue Nghiem. In this teaching we have a great review of basic practices that bring joy and peace followed by a teaching on 3 verses from the 30-verses of Vasubandhu text.

0:00 Chanting
7:18 Vitality
27:50 The Three Energies
41:30 Walking Meditation
55:00 Eating Meditation
1:06:33 Thirty Verses Study

There is a mental formation called vitality.  Life. In Theravada tradition there are two types of life. The name and the form (material aspect). Even with the fetus, there is already the form and the vitality of the fetus is intermingled with the vitality of the mother. They are not two separate things. The child and mother are one. We can see vitality even in an inanimate object, such as a grain of rice. Quantum physics see this now in the subatomic particles. In the grain of corn there is vitality and in the speck of dust. There are no borders between animate and inanimate objects. We learn this in the Diamond Sutra.

We have to live our life deeply. Matter and energy – their nature is no birth and no death. We use our breathing to bring peace to our breath. We can become light like a cloud and let go of all our anxiety. We train to breathe like this.

We can generate the energy of mindfulness. Concentration is one-pointed mind. At that moment, we are truly present. A free person. These are mindfulness and concentration. We can generate this with our breathing.  In this case the breathing is the object of our mindfulness. Then, with these two we generate the third energy – insight. This is a training. We are here at Plum Village to learn how to do this because it had the capacity to heal and to nourish. To feel the joy of breathing in and breathing out. The joy of the dharma. The joy of the practice is our daily food. We are consuming food that nourishes and heals us. We have to live deeply in our breathing to generate peace and joy. Then we let go of anxiety and tension.

Walking with peace and joy. What is slow walking meditation? How and why do we practice walking? Legendary steps.

While we sit, we need to calm our breathing. We allow our body to rest, sitting upright, to harmonize the body. This too can generate joy and happiness.

The same can be done with eating. While we wait together, we can immediately begin generating joy and happiness. And we can practice this at home. In a meal, we pay attention to two things: to each morsel of food and our friends who are sitting around us. Mindfulness of food and mindfulness of sangha. This food is the gift of the whole universe. Learning how to stop our mental discourse.

We are learning verse #5-7 from the 30 Verses we’ve been studying this week. These three verses talk about manas. We begin with manifestation. Store consciousness was the first manifestor and the second is manas. Manas relies on the store consciousness to manifest. It grasps onto store consciousness and relies on it and returns to it. Manas has a distorted perception.

Inferiority, superiority, and equality complexes. Manas also goes along with the four kinds of afflictions. And the five universal mental formations.

It is also undetermined – neither wholesome or unwholesome. The five views of manas. Wisdom of discrimination.

Being #1 and/or Being Happy

This talk by Thich Nhat Hanh is from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village and is dated Sunday, December 22, 2013. It is the eleventh talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. In this talk we use the practice of walking meditation to explore themes of enlightenment, secularization of mindfulness, technology, schools, and the corporation. Both the audio recording and the video are available in this post.

02:22-12:18 Chanting
16:38-28:50 The practice of walking meditation
28:50-32:30 Enlightenment
32:30-40:01 Reflection on our Life in 2013
40:01-53:50 Coming Home to Ourselves and the Corporation
53:50-61:01 Secularization of Mindfulness and Being #1
1:01-1:06 Making Good Use of Technology
1:07-1:15 Intentions for Year 2014 – Walking Meditation
1:15-1:19 Mindfulness and a Sangha
1:19-1:32 UNESCO, Wake Up Schools, and Politics

Today during our Touching the Earth practice, we promised to the Buddha that we would enjoy the practice of walking meditation in our daily life. Every breath and step can generate a feeling of joy and a feeling of peace. Our body is a wonder. We don’t need to be in a hurry, looking for something. In Plum Village we practice walking mediation. Why do we practice walking meditation? The same question is asked of sitting meditation. How does Thay practice mindful movements? Why does Thay practice mindful movements? It is not only for better health. It tells Thay that he is alive and strong enough to do the movements. Thay shares about those astronauts who return to the earth and walk again – how long do they maintain this awareness? Mindfulness of being alive and walking on the earth is a wonderful thing. To enjoy walking meditation is not difficult.

Everyone can have mindfulness of breathing. Enlightenment can arise in a few seconds with awareness of our breath and that we are alive and we have a body. Buddhism is not exactly a religion but it is a way of living. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to practice mindfulness. We can even generate this while we brush our teeth.

Many of us have searched for material comforts and many of us do have many material comforts but we may still not be happy. Time is something we should treasure. When we wake up in the morning, we can breathe and be aware that we have 24-hours to live. Thay teaches the waking up gatha. With the end of the year, it may help us to think about the way we live our life. How did we spend 2013? What have we done with our life? Can we live with more joy?

This year we had the opportunity to visit Google and spend a whole day practicing with the employees. We noticed the people there practiced whole-heartedly – they did walking, sitting, and eating mediation. A company like that wants to succeed and be #1 but there is also so much suffering. They do not have the time to take care of their body, feelings, emotions, families, etc. They see a need for a spiritual practice so they can suffer less. Time is no longer money. Time is peace. Time is life. Thay shares further about the visit to Google and how we can suffer less through our practice. Going home to ourselves. We are running away from ourselves and we do not take the time to take care of ourselves. If we cannot take care of ourselves, how can we take care of the person we love? Is technology helping us run away from ourselves? Thay sees a struggle within corporate culture – they have stress, guilt, etc. They want to learn ways to deal with these issues.

Is it possible to be #1 and be happy? This is the dilemma. There are people who are victims of their success, but there is nobody is a victim of their happiness. Which is #1 priority? The bottom line in the corporation is still thinking of being #1 in their area. And some practice mindfulness to become #1 and not to become happy. Are they using mindfulness to do the things to be more successful in business? Can you use mindfulness to make money? It is the same question/issue of those who teach mindfulness but don’t practice mindfulness. Thay’s answer is “don’t worry” because if you practice true mindfulness it always brings joy, happiness, and compassion. If it doesn’t bring these things then it isn’t true mindfulness. How can you teach mindfulness if you do not practice mindfulness?

Five monks and nuns spent two hours talking with engineers of Google. We proposed they think about building something to help people to learn and practice mindfulness. We can make good use of technology to help people go home and take care of ourselves without fear. Some of our monastic brothers and sisters also visited Facebook to explore new opportunities to help people to suffer less. From now until the end of the year, we can spend our time practicing walking and sitting and meditate on these teachings.

Setting an intention for the coming year. Maybe you make a promise for the year 2014 that you will practice walking meditation every day when walking from the parking lot to your work. Thay shares about a retreat in Hong Kong where he shared about walking meditation, having a connection to a teacher, and about not using the telephone and still feeling connected. Walking meditation can be your connection to Thay – as you walk, know that you are walking with your teacher and the sangha. Mindfulness practice is not difficult.

The support of a sangha can help with your intention of mindfulness. If you are not close to a sangha, you may want to get in touch with an online sangha. It is possible to change our life. If we practice well, we can handle the painful feelings and emotions inside ourselves. With mindfulness, we can listen to the other person with compassion. We can practice loving speech if we have mindful breathing and mindful walking to restore communication.

Reflection on Thay’s visit to UNESCO in 2006 where he made a proposal for an institute a training of teachers on mindfulness. Bringing this practice into schools to help young people deal with their suffering and the violence in schools. Though we weren’t able to bring this to reality with UNESCO, we have created the Wake Up Schools program and we are training teachers in the practice of mindfulness. These same ideas and teachings can be established in our political entities.

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Introduction and Chanting in Mississippi

September 24, 2013. 120-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the orientation for the 6-day retreat with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World.

Creating a healing environment in our physical and spiritual spaces. 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.

Tonight, the monks and nuns will chant the name of Avalokitesvara in order to get in touch with suffering and help relieve the pain and suffering of others. As we listen, we should stop our thinking and be concentrated on our breathing. The chant begins at 19:44.

The talk resumes at 48:30 with an orientation to the practice with Br. Phap Dung and Sr. Dang Nghiem.

Our Ultimate Concern

October 12, 2013. 100-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the first dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Finding Our True Home. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

This morning we heard the Sutra on Knowing a Better Way to Live Alone. What does this mean? Is this a practice of solitude? To live alone means not to have a second person in you. Maybe an object of desire or craving. To live alone is to be completely satisfied with the here and now. There is no need to run anymore. This is the practice of aimlessness.

I have arrived. Enlightenment. Happiness. Joy. They are all right here and right now. Walking meditation. What prevents us from arriving? Recognizing habit energy and why is this important. We all have habit energy that push is to do or say something. We can name it and not have to push it away using our mindfulness. We can create a new habit of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something – the object of our mindfulness. As we are mindful, concentration is born. Where there is mindfulness there is the beginning of concentration. And with these two energies, we can have insight.

We touch our true home in every moment. Touching the present moment. We can use walking meditation to learn more about touching the present moment.

The Buddha taught about four kinds of food (Nutriments) and that nothing can survive without food. Edible food is the first. We eat I’m a way to retain compassion in our heart. We can practice mindful eating to reduce the suffering in the world. The second kind is sense impressions. It’s what we “eat” with our eyes, ears, nose, and mind. We have to careful what we consume in ourselves and in our society. The third is volition – the will to act. Our deepest kind of desire and can give us a lot of energy. More of an ultimate concern for our life, something meaningful. What is our volition? This can be a good nutriment or a negative nutriment. This is a topic Thay will offer to Google and other corporate leaders next week.

Mindful Breathing. The first exercise of mindful breathing is awareness of our breathing, and the second is following our breathing. This brings concentration. The third is being aware of my body and the fourth we calm our body. With the fifth and sixth we get to the domain of feelings – joy and happiness. What are the conditions of happiness. The seventh is recognizing our suffering and the eighth is calming our suffering.

Orientation to the Practice

August 25, 2013. 108-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, New York during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the orientation talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Transformation and Healing – The Art of Suffering.

Peace, happiness, and love are skills we can learn. The art of happiness and the art of suffering. We suffer less if we learn how to suffer. With this start, we are reminded to take care of our happiness and our suffering. Following the introduction, the monastics chant the name of Avalokiteshvara.

Following the chant, Thay turns the orientation over to two senior monastics who orientate the retreatants on the practice.

Introducing the Four Objects of Mindfulness

August 13, 2013. 91-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the second dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Happy Teachers will Change the World. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

Talk for children
Story of a dream Thay had 20-years ago. A dream of being a young university student with a famous teacher. A music class. This is followed by a teaching on how to be a good bell master.

Main Talk Topics

  • Practicing mindfulness in a meeting
  • Establishing space in the home for practice
  • Slow walking to arrive
  • Mental formations
  • Four Objects of Mindfulness (body, feelings, mind, objects of mind)
  • Selective watering (True Diligence)
  • Eating meditation

Opening Mindfulness Retreat for Educators

August 11, 2013. 55-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the opening session of the 6-day retreat.

In this short talk, the focus is on the Art of Suffering and how chanting the name of Avalokiteshvara can help open us up to our suffering. In the last segment of the talk we have a teaching on walking meditation.