Category Archives: Happiness

What is Happiness?

From the Stillwater Meditation Hall at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the first question and answer session of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. The talk is in English and both the audio and the video are available below. The questions are a little difficult to hear but they are included below for you to read.

  1. Is it okay not to speak and still be understood?
  2. What is happiness?
  3. When we die, where does our spirit go?
  4. A question about suffering, particularly those of animals and the environment. What is the most effective way to reduce this suffering?
  5. Thay, do you feel old?
  6. How can we practice with the escalating violence in the world and particularly in Israel and Palestinians?
  7. How can I be in touch with the conditions of happiness and live with constant pain too?
  8. At times when I feel truly mindful, I feel a special force or intuition. What is this – a coincidence?

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.

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 Voice of the Buddha

This talk from the New Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, March 20, 2014. The talk on this day is in English. In this talk we learn about taking refuge and exercises 5-8 from the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. Thay also teaches on inviting the bell (18-min) and the four qualities of happiness (13-min) – these two topics could be listened to independently from the other parts of the talk. Both the audio download and the video stream are available below. The time stamps listed here are for audio download.

0:00 Chanting
9:30 Inviting the Bell
27:02 Taking Refuge
37:27 Four Qualities of Happiness using Pebble Meditation
50:46 Practical Refuge
1:04:15 Mindful Breathing Exercises 5-8

When we hear the bell, we practice together listening to the bell. We invite the bell to sound. Before we invite, we breathe in and out to prepare three times. There is a verse to learn to be qualified as a bell master. We calm our body and calm our feelings. The sound of the bell is the voice of the Buddha inside calling us to come home to ourselves. If you are a bell master then please be generous. When we come home to ourselves, we can discover the island of self. The Buddha recommended, don’t rely on anyone or anything, rely on the island within. Every time we hear the bell, we can practice going home to the island within. We are protected. This is the practice of taking refuge. There is also the practice of deep listening. Every cell of your body can recognize and get in touch with your ancestors within. They can join you in listening to the bell. With this, peace can penetrator every cell. We can feel calm and light. Many people have a bell of mindfulness on their computer. It allows us to stop and breath in and out three times to arrive home in ourselves.

Last time we spoke of the mental formation called restlessness. The practice of mindful breathing and walking help us to calm down our feelings. In the Christian tradition, they call this resting in God. This is taking refuge. Taking refuge is an art. If you know how, you can have peace right away. The Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha are something solid. Very much the same idea as the Trinity for Christians. But resting does not mean doing nothing. Many people are looking for someone for refuge but many have chosen someone who is not stable. Rely on the island of yourself. Cultivate stability and solidity and also look for that in the other person. Learn how to breath and walk.

We have the practice of pebble meditation to cultivate the four qualities of happiness. The first is freshness – fresh as a flower. The second is stability – solid as a mountain. The third is peace/tranquility – still water. And the fourth is freedom – space. These qualities bring a happy person. The more you can let go, the freer you become.

I take refuge in the Buddha. What does that mean? Do we have an dea of the Buddha? Taking refuge in your in breath and out breath – this is much more concrete than an idea. With our breathing, we gain mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Buddha is mindfulness – this is taking refuge. This is the island within yourself. You can also take refuge in your steps. While making that step, you generate concentration and insight. I take refuge in my in breath. I take refuge in my steps. This is not abstract and it is our Buddhanature. Nirvana. No birth and no death. We are nirvana in the here and the now.

Review of the first four exercises of mindful breathing. We continue with the next set of exercises. The fifth and sixth exercises are to generate a feeling of joy and happiness. This is the art of happiness. The seventh is to recognize a painful feeling. We should not run away from a painful feeling or emotion. We don’t need to be afraid because we can also generate an energy of mindfulness. And the eighth is to calm our painful feeling or emotion.

Perception and Reality

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, January 19, 2014 and is the nineteenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem. We begin with a teaching on the art of happiness and the art of suffering and how the body and mind work together. The second half of the talk returns to our sutra study by looking at perception and reality.

0:00-9:07 Chanting
9:28-29:36 Art of Generating Happiness
29:36-37:54 Art of Suffering
37:55- 50:25 Mindfulness of Body
50:25-1:07:11 Direct Perception
1:07:11-1:20:25 Representative Perception – Manas
1:20:25-1:32:52 Mind consciousness in Dispersion
1:32:52-end Reality as Form

If we know how to use our time, we can learn a lot in only a week at Plum Village and when we return home we can continue our practice. Mindfulness helps us generate peace, joy, and happiness. This can realized in every breath and step. We can use mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Mindfulness is happening in our body, feeling, and perception. It helps us know what is happening right now. We all have mindfulness energy. A second meaning for mindfulness is to remember, to recall. Our experiences of the past. With our mindfulness we can have insight. Do we know how to make use of our insight? Concentration is focusing on something. We can dwell stably in the present moment. An experienced practitioner who can generate joy, peace, and happiness in every step and every breath. While we are here at Plum Village we can practice so that we can also do it when we return home. This is the art of generating happiness.

How are we not caught by things worthy of pursuit? Our attachments prevent us from being happy. We can be happy when we let go. Mindfulness can also help us manage our suffering, our painful feelings and emotions. In doing so, we can suffer less. This is the art of suffering. We can use our suffering to generate our happiness. Love and understanding bloom from the mud of our suffering. In only one week we can generate and learn this practice.

First, there is mindfulness of the body. When we breath-in, we bring our mind back to the body. This is the first fruit of the practice. We have some exercises to become more aware of our body. How do we practice with mindfulness of our body.

The other day we began to learn the three objects and we continue here. Direct perception – things in themselves. Suchness. Reality as it is is a direct and correct and right perception. Subject and object of perception that always go together. What does science and Buddhism have to say about this? True direct perception sees the unity of subject and object. This includes consciousness of a object. Our practice is to break through ideas and the more we can do this then the more we can be happy. We can take away the discrimination of things.

Store conciousness has this true and right perception but manas does not. Manas is the desire to live coming from sttore conciousness but considers the body as a self. It is obstructed. This is an erroneous direct perception. The object of manas is only a representation of reality.

Mind consciousness in dispersion. When in this condition, there is no mindfulness and can be easily be influenced by manas to look for pleasure and avoid suffering. If we have mind conciousness, then we can see the Four Kinds of Nutriments. We have to know to inhibit and shine light manas so the amount of “mud” is in moderation so we can grow the lotus. We need some amount of mud.

Direct perception. Erroneous perception. Wrong perception.

In the 30-verses, we see the three natures. The tendency of conciousness to cut reality into pieces. Interdependent co-determination. Memory and mere image.

The Dharma Body

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Thursday, January 9, 2014 and is the sixteenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem.  Today we learn about the dharma body and the practices of letting go, concentration, and insight.

0:00-10:00 Two Chants from Monastics
10:18-20:40 What is Dharma Body?
20:40-34:40 Nourishing our Dharma Body
34:40-56:25 Joy and Happiness – Letting Go
56:25-1:06:36 Joy and Happiness – Concentration
1:06:36-1:19:25 Joy and Happiness – Insight
1:19:25-1:22:30 Walking Meditation

The dharma body is bringing morning light – this is part of the morning chant offered each day. What is this “dharma body” that shines brilliantly in the morning light? It is the teaching body. There are two kinds: the living dharma and the dharma that is written or recorded. Whenever we breathe peacefully, walk in meditation then this is the living dharma. Another meaning is our own practice – each one of us has a physical body and if we are a disciple of the Buddha then we also have a dharma body. The practice body. As students of the Buddha, we have the capacity to generate joy and happiness. So, in the morning when we go to meditation we want to allow our dharma body to shine brilliantly. The morning is a good time to study and our practice strong and solid.

Everyday we have to nourish our personal living dharma body. In the winter, the trees grow very slowly and in spring they grow very fast. Like the trees, we have to allow our dharma body to grow even in the winter time. When we walk, breathe, eat, and work then our dharma body is growing. If we don’t nourish it then it weakens. What are the conditions for the dharma body to grow? We have to be active in making it grow. For example, what is our reflex when we hear the sound of the bell. Create conditioning and reinforcement to allow our dharma body to be strong. This can also help us when we are away from the sangha even when nobody is around us – operant conditioning. The wonders of the universe is the second type of dharma body. The clouds, autumn leaves, a rose, the birds, etc. They are all giving talks on impermanence, four noble truths, non-self, and eightfold path. We may see the written dharma and then our personal dharma body then we may be able to see these wonders of the universe.

How do we generate joy, happiness, and peace? If we have a sangha then it can make it easier to generate these conditions. We can then offer this practice to our families, to our work, and the larger society. This practice can help us to manage our suffering – feelings of suffering and strong emotions. When we come to Plum Village we can learn these things in just one day by doing our practice. Each step. Each breath. If we cannot generate these three elements then we don’t have a dharma body yet. The first step is the practice of letting go and gives birth to joy and happiness. What is this letting go? What are the things that we can let go? What is preventing us from being happy and joyful? Perhaps they are ideas and notions of happiness. This is the main obstacle to our happiness. Practice is bringing a piece of paper out and writing down all our ideas of happiness.

In the sutras it also states that concentration also gives rise to joy, happiness, and peace. This is the art of meditation. In Zen tradition, they say that concentration is food – the joy of meditation. We nourish this every day and not by power, fame, position, or sex. While we sit, while we walk, while we chant … it is not to “get” to happiness but it doing these activities in themselves. If you have mindfulness, then you can have joy and happiness throughout the day. It’s up to you. Our friends in the practice can help remind us.

Letting go gives rise to happiness. Mindfulness and concentration also gives rise to happiness. Then we have insight. Everyone can have insight. Do we know how to make use of our insight? Do we know how to make use of our suffering? The Art of Suffering.

Public Talk in Bangkok

April 9, 2013. 116-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Paragon in Bangkok, Thailand. The sangha is on the spring Asian Tour and this talk is given in English with simultaneous translation into Thai.

We begin with an introduction to listening to the chant by Thich Nhat Hanh. How do we have the capacity to listen that can lead to understanding? How can we get in touch with the suffering of the other person? We hear the monastics chant the name of Avalokiteshvara at 18-minutes.

The main talk begins at 38-minutes. When we hear the bell, we stop thinking and allow our body to relax.

The theme for the talk is how to suffer less, how to create happiness in our daily lives. What is happiness? Do we have time to love and take care of our beloved ones? Do I have the capacity to love? What can we offer those who we love? To love is to be there.

Using the Sutra on the Full Awarness of Mindful Breathing to cultivate love.

Walking to arrive in the present. How should we walk? What other daily activities can we do with mindfulness? Can you see the many conditions of happiness?

Editor’s Note: the very end of the talk is cutoff in the recording. We apologize for this error. 

Happy Teachers will Change the World

April 5, 2013. 120-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Mahachulalungkornrajavidyalaya University in Bangkok, Thailand. The sangha is in the 5-Day Applied Ethics Retreat as part of the spring Asian Tour. The talk is given in English with simultaneous translation into Thai. This is the first talk.

The Buddha was a happy teacher and that’s how he was able to help others. If we are not happy teachers then it will be difficult to help out students. How can we offer happiness? Do you have happiness to offer? Do you have happiness and love in yourself? What is the best thing we can offer a person we love? The first mantra is “Darling, I am here for you.”

That shares about people meditation and how the sangha has used it for teaching children about the practice. Flower | Fresh. Mountain | Solid. Water | Reflecting. Space | Freedom.

The practice of Buddhism can be seen in two aspects. First, we learn how to suffer. If you know how to suffer then you suffer much less by making good use of your suffering. Happiness is made of non-happiness elements. Suffering is a non-happiness element.  The second aspect of the practice is learning how to create moments of happiness. With this we can transform our anger and fear. A good school teacher should know how to take care of themselves.

Teachers taking care of themselves and is comprised of five elements (Skandhas): Body. Feelings. Perceptions. Mental formations. Consciousness.  We can learn to improve the quality of these five elements. How do we do this?  We begin with the body and the feelings.

A school teacher can then create a moment of happiness for her students. How we can identify and cultivate moments of happiness for our students? How can we help the young person who is suffering?

Create a Moment of Happiness

March 10, 2013. 45-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village during the Daffodil Festival. We have been quiet here on the archive because the sangha took time for lazy days as well as a monastic retreat (not distributed). This talk is given in English and the sangha is preparing for the arrival of 600 French in the coming week. A few suggested subjects for the retreat include: happiness is possible, healing is possible how to live more deeply, coming home, do not wander anymore, and go as a river.

The practice of Plum Village can be seen in two points. First, how to recognize the suffering and embrace it and transform it. We cannot avoid suffering. If you know how to suffer, you will suffer less. The art of suffering. We have blocks of suffering, but how to handle the little sufferings? How do we support those attending the retreat? How do we prepare the space so they know that healing is possible with every step and every breath? There is no way to healing, healing is the way. In order to heal, we have to stop. The Five Mindfulness Trainings can help us with this practice. They have the power to heal. It is possible to create moments of happiness in our daily lives. Learn how to enjoy and savor the little happinesses in life. Can you create a moment of happiness?

What can we do about the mental discourse in our head? Radio NST (Non-Stop-Thinking). One practice is to feel our body and our feelings. We can practice walking meditation. It is an opportunity to create moments of happiness and to heal. Eating in mindfulness is another practice. Being aware of the food and members of the sangha around you. This is not hard labor. The dharma is lovely and every minute of the practice can be healing and transforming.

Available here as a audio download or a video.