Category Archives: Plum Village

The Cake in the Refrigerator

From the Stillwater Meditation Hall at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the second question and answer session of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village on July 16, 2014. The talk is in English and both the audio and the video are available below.

Children

  1. How can I feel less sad about my dog who has died?
  2. What do I do when my mom is angry with my father?
  3. How can I stay calm when I am annoyed?
  4. What does it mean “to guess”?

Teens and Young Adults

  1. When talking with friends, how do I stop the conversation from going toward gossiping and judging?
  2. How do you change people’s perception of you and ignore the reputation you already have?
  3. Why does Thay give these teachings and what does it bring Thay?
  4. Does Thay have some tips for me to help a lot of people in my future profession?

Others

  1. A written question: How do I heal a suffering from sexual abuse when she was younger? Should I go to a therapist?
  2. In my country there is a great economic crisis. As a doctor who sees many people and I don’t know if I can say happiness is here and now.
  3. How do I practice with self love and also being open to receiving love? I struggle with deserving love.
  4. How can I better take refuge in the sangha because I feel more comfortable alone?
  5. How can I be there for someone who tends to lose herself in the presence of others?

I Have Arrived. I am Home.

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the second week of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. This short 47-minute talk is in English with a focus on arriving in the present moment with walking meditation. Both the audio and the video are available below.

I have arrive. I am home. We have spent so much of our time running and looking for something. We can learn to stop and see the wonders of life in the present moment.  We may miss our appointment with life. Mindfulness helps us enjoy the present moment.  The purpose of the practice is to always go home to the here and now. If you live like that, you can have peace and joy.

Teaching on the practice of the “waking up” gatha. Other verses are mentioned, including a “walking” gatha. Arriving in your true home. With each step we have solidity and freedom.

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?

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.

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.

The Way Out Is In

This talk from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, March 30, 2014. The talk on this day is in English.

0:00 Present Moment
14:05 The Feelings
29:04 The Body
37:20 Mindfulness of Compassion (Listening)
1:12:45 Story of Suicide and Transformation

When you breath in, you bring your mind home to your body. A lot of time, your mind is not with your body. But when they are together, you are truly in the here and the now for your transformation and healing. It is wonderful be present and your breath becomes the object of your mind and you can become a free person. You can cultivate freedom. You don’t need to be influenced by your fear and anger. We can make good decisions. The bell of mindfulness can call you back to the present moment. Walking can also bring us to the present moment. Every step. This is the basic practice to touch the wonders of life. At Plum Village, we should learn to breathe and to walk in the present moment.

In the last talk, we learned the 7th and 8th exercises of mindful breathing. The 7th is being aware of the pain within myself. When we have a painful feeling, we know it! Do we know how to handle it or do we cover up the feelings with consumption? We can be stronger with the energy of mindfulness. The energy of mindfulness sees thee energy of pain. And the 8th exercise is to calm down the painful feeling. Holding the child of suffering – embracing tenderly.

What is exercises five and six? Five is to generate a feeling a joy. And the sixth is to generate happiness. We can always bring about a feeling of joy and happiness whenever we want. How? The oneness of body and mind. The sixth exercise is the art of happiness where the seventh and eighth are the art of suffering.

The first four exercises are about the body and the next four are about the feelings. The third is the awareness of body. When you go home to your body, you may notice pain and stress in your body. This makes you suffer. The fourth is to release the tension in your body. Calming your body. This takes care of our body. We them review the first two exercises. One week at Plum Village is enough time to learn the art.

Last time we also spoke about listening. When we have the energy of mindfulness and concentration we can look deeply into the nature of our own suffering. Understanding our own suffering lets us understand the suffering of our parents and our ancestors. We need mindfulness and concentration so we are not overwhelmed by the suffering of ourselves and others. This is the practice. Understanding brings about compassion. Everyone should learn to cultivate compassion. The practice of deep listening and loving speech can always restore communication and bring about reconciliation. What is loving speech? We practice mindfulness of compassion. Thay shares the story of being the Israelis and Palestinians together at Plum Village.

Thay then shares a story of a woman in America who wanted to commit suicide and how she was able to transform her suffering.

The way out, is in.

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.

The Realm of the Dharma

This talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, March 23, 2014. The talk on this day is in English. We begin with two chants from the monastics followed by a dharma talk on the wonders of life. Both the audio download and the video stream are available below.

It is spring and many flowers are blooming. Don’t be afraid to love and open your heart. A flower is a true wonder of life. When we walk, we encounter so many wonders of life. Where does it come from? Your body too is a wonder of life. Do we have time to be with a wonder? In the Buddhist tradition, we don’t speak of creation. We have another answer. With meditation, we look at the true nature of things and see their nature is no birth and no death. Teaching on the cloud to illustrate this teaching. The scientists also see this teaching of no birth and no death.

Getting in touch with the wonders of life. We can go outside and step away from our computer, our business, our worries. A day without a computer. How happy I am! We can using our breathing to go home to our body. When body and mind are together, you are home in the here and the now. Then we can touch the wonders of life.

What is the “dharma” versus the “Dharma”? What is the realm of the dharma? The Dharma is the teaching. A practitioner had three bodies: physical body, dharma body (our practice), and our Sangha body. We need a community. You need a sangha body to nourish your dharma body. The dharmakaya is equivalent to the kingdom of God. Can we hear the dharma talk given by the flower, the creek, the cloud, the pebble, etc? This is the teaching on Mahayana tradition. If we listen to the body, we listen to the dharma. Impermanence. The kingdom is now or never.In the kingdom, there is sunshine and there is also rain.

Every wonder is happening right here and now. We can stop and train ourselves how to live. Mindfulness is through our practice breathing and walking. Waking up in the morning, we smile.

I have arrived. I am home.