Category Archives: Day of Mindfulness

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.

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.

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.

Our Spiritual Ancestors in Vietnam

November 7, 2013. 93-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet of Plum Village. We begin with two chants, one French and one Vietnamese, from the monastics. The talk is originally given in Vietnamese and this is an English translation by Sr. Chan Khong. 

Just let the dharma talk simply go into our store consciousness. No effort needed. You can be surprised later when the seeds of the dharma sprout. 

Noble path. Suffering and happiness are deeply linked. 

Waking up this morning, I smile. No judgement. Compassion. Gatha practice. Every second, every minute, every action. Insight can arise from simple practice. Walking. Sitting. Eating.  But it doesn’t mean we ignore our suffering. 

Story of Vietnamese patriarch – One Concentration. A history lesson on our spiritual ancestors in Vietnam. 

The Practice of Compassion

November 3, 2013. 101-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Stillwater Meditation Hall, Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. We begin with two chants from the monastics followed by a talk on the theme of compassion.

Thay begins with a follow-up on the visit to Stanford University where we had the topic of compassion. Sr. True Dedication is asked by Thay to begin the sharing. The talk at Stanford was sponsored by the organization CCARE, The Center for Compassion And Altruism Research And Education

Empathy. Research of the human mind. Compassion, empathy, and altruism are innate in us. The nature of compassion is like thunder, according to the lotus sutra.

First lesson: There is a relationship between suffering and compassion. Interbeing is the ground of meta-ethics. Compassion is born from understanding. Understanding what? Suffering. And if you know how to suffer then you suffer much less. Second lesson: Compassion should be directed to yourself first. Our civilization has a tendency to want to run away from ourselves. But we can go home to ourselves without fear. Third lesson: As a community, you can generate energy of compassion. This power can help others much more quickly.

There were a number of unanswered questions from the event that Thay spends time on now. Here’s a few of the questions:

  • Research has shown that compassion has extraordinary Health benefits, including a longer and have your life. From your perspective as a teacher, have you noticed this benefit of compassion?
  • Research suggests that the desire for compassion to help someone behavior is seen in primates and children. On the other hand we hear of adult capable of atrocious crimes. If compassion is innate, why do we not always display our compassion as we become adults?
  • Scientists have observed when compassion is more likely to manifest. The more similar then the more compassionate we may be.
  • Why are we able to feel more compassion when one person is in need of help versus a whole group of people in need of help?
  • What are the hindrances to compassion?
  • Is there such a thing as too much compassion, for example empathy fatigue?

The Horse is Technology

Editor’s Note: This talk is being posted out of order, and very soon after the last post, because it is a powerful teaching on technology and gives very specific instructions to those participating in the 90-day winter retreat that begins today in Plum Village. I will squeeze in the five missing talks (three from Mississippi and two from Plum Village) in the coming weeks.

November 10, 2013. 94-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Stillwater Meditation Hall, Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. The sangha is preparing for the upcoming 90-day winter retreat. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

It is five days before the winter retreat begins at Plum Village. The great ordination ceremony this coming year will take place beginning May 23, 2014 and the 21-Day retreat, starting on June 1, 2014, will have the theme What happens when you die?

For the monastics, during the winter retreat we will stay within the boundaries of Plum Village and this includes not going out on the Internet. There will be no individual email communication and all emails can be sent to one address only and be delivered to you. There is no need to check email. There is absolutely no Facebook too. Facebook is neither good nor evil but we will not use it during the winter retreat.

Making good use of technology. Thay relayed the story of visiting Google this last month and some of the questions they wanted to hear answers.  How can we innovate in order to take good care of ourselves? What is the interplay between intention, insight and innovation? How can technology be a force for integration rather than destruction?

How can we detach from our work? Thay shares about what he heard and observed at Google. What is the emotional health of Googlers? They want to use technology to solve what appears to be a technological disease. Technology is taking away our time. We need to look for the path to transform our ill being.

We begin with intention, by asking, what do we want? If technology can help us create happy and joyful feelings then we can make good use of technology. Can we reduce the amount of stress within ourselves?

Thay offers ideas for corporate and technology leaders. Good methods to use and apply technology. As part of the teaching, we look at two specific Mental Formations – contact and volition.

Four aspects of monastic life include learning to study, learning to practice, working, and playing. And yet these all interare.

For the practitioner, if we are doing it exactly like the people in the world then we may not be able to help the people in the world. No email and no Internet and no Facebook can be attractive and to allow us to become a real practitioner. It can be an awakening.

 

Tour Reflections

October 31, 2013. 70-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Stillwater Meditation Hall, Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. The sangha has recently returned from the North American tour. The talk was given in Vietnamese and this is the English translation by Sr. Chan Khong.

We begin with a summary of the 3-month teaching tour of North America that has just ended. Thay shares about the dry earth at the centers in North America and yet the rain came to each during the tour. Because we travel in so many buses and cars, Thay reminds us to be aware of our trip. Walk with the Buddha. Drive with the Buddha. Sit with the Buddha. Be aware of the Buddha with every breath and every moment.

How can we have the Buddha in our lives? Example of the bell master, even on the bus, and if that person is the only one with mindfulness and then that person and the energy of the bell can help carry into the sangha.

There are many who are thirsty for the practice is large and all our events sold out. We were able to stream the talk in Oakland with the support of Sounds True [video] and 35k listened online. We don’t have the capacity to meet all the needs but we are able allow for many to listen online, even with our retreats. We need more monastic and lay dharma teachers.

Suffering and happiness are two sides of one reality – like two sides of a piece of paper. If we know how to suffer, then we suffer very little and can enjoy our happiness. Just because we become a Buddha does not mean we do not suffer; it is because suffering and happiness Interare. For example, because we have a body then we will have disease. If we know how to suffer, we don’t let the second arrow cause us to suffer more.

We all have to practice something – to find a spiritual dimension for our lives. We must find time for this in our lives. Shares about the 2-day visit to the World Bank for their employees. Some thought it strange to have this monk and his students come to the World Bank but people discovered the value and were appreciative.

The four nutriments, especially for the business person; how to make money without being evil. Of particular importance is the fourth nutriment: volition. But don’t run away from your body and your mind.

We were also invited by Harvard University and Stanford University [video] to offer a teaching on mindfulness and compassion. Why is compassion important?

 

Mindfulness in Our Everyday Lives

September 1, 2013. 118-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 a public Day of Mindfulness when approximately 1400 people came to Blue Cliff to learn about the practice.

  • What is a dharma talk?
  • How to listen?
  • What is walking meditation?
  • Our True Nature
  • What is mindful eating?
  • Healing our suffering
  • Chanting (from 33-minutes to 49-minutes)
  • Conditions of happiness
  • Art of Suffering
  • Understanding and compassion
  • Effortlessness
  • Practice of mindful breathing
  • Joy and happiness
  • Deep listening and loving speech
  • Wake Up Schools
  • What is mindfulness?
  • Four Mantras

Healing through Reconciliation

June 2, 2013. 67-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbrol, Germany. The sangha has just returned from a couple of months in Asia and will be at the EIAB for a month offering retreats. The talk is given in English with simultaneous translation into German. This is a Day of Mindfulness.

The dharma talk is rain that can penetrate into the soul of our mind. Our mind is a garden with many good seeds within it. Seeds of happiness and compassion. The dharma talk is not a set of ideas to get and keep but is a rain that can let the good seeds sprout. To allow these seeds to spring up.

With mindfulness, we can create a feeling of joy and happiness. It is simple and easy. We just need to pay attention to our breath. We just need to pay attention to every step we take. It only takes 2-3 seconds to see that you are alive. The first enlightenment is that you are alive! You can become a free person.

How do we become aware of our body? How do we become aware of our feelings? Mindfulness functions to recognize and embrace. And the energy of mindfulness carries with it the energy of concentration and insight. How does this work with love an reconciliation?

Mindfulness of compassion, especially in regards to listening.

Thay gives instruction and application of walking meditation and eating meditation

Vesak Talk in Hong Kong

May 19, 2013. 32-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from the Lotus Pond Temple in Hong Kong. The sangha is on the spring Asian Tour and this talk is given in English with simultaneous translation into Chinese. This is a Day of Mindfulness celebrating vesak.

Birth story of Siddhartha and the relationships in the family that effected his birth. Siddhartha left shortly after the birth of Rahula, his own son, in her to search for the way. He was doing that for all of us – his father, his mother, his country. When you become a monk or a nun, you do so for more than just yourself. He found a way to reduce tension in his body, to calm down his feelings,  to see the deep roots of suffering in himself and other people, found a way to restore communication, and most importantly the nature of no-birth and no-death. Today we celebrate Siddhartha’s birth.

The Buddha saw that happiness is possible and it’s made of understanding and love. It only takes a short time to learn this path. We can learn to release the tension in our body, to calm our painful feeling and emotions, to learn how to generate a feeling of joy and happiness, and to understand the suffering in oneself and in the other person. We can use the Sutra on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing.

Shakyamuni is a Teacher and not a God.