Category Archives: Retreats

Reconciliation

The Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 8, 1997. This is the seventh talk (115-minutes). Audio is posted below and the video is available for our donors on Patreon.

We begin with the story of David, an America who came to Plum Village and was given he assignment to write a Iove letter to his father. He thought he couldn’t do this to reconcile with him father. Thay had him practice as a 5-year old boy for a week so to touch the vulnerability and fragility in himself. We smile and identify the little child inside of us. This practice is followed by seeing our parent/father as a 5-year old child as well. Maybe we need a picture to help us truly visualize this our parent.

The teaching of emptiness of transmission. Everything depends on everything else. It always includes a transmitter, an object, and a receiver. But these three elements cannot be separated.

Another story, this one of Michael, another American, where he was asked to list the wholesome qualities of his father and mother. He had a challenge doing this for his mother because of some anger and resentment. This exercise can help repair our resentment and anger. And he was able to write a beautiful love letter to his mother. The practice has the power to liberate and bring non-fear and joy.

When we feel that we have been abused, when people have treated us with violence, anger, hatred, discrimination then a block of suffering is within us. The negative energy is in us. And if you don’t know how to handle and transform the violence within us then that violence will destroy us and the people we love. The criminals, the terrorist, they have not been able to transform the violence. We have to learn how to handle and transform the violence in us and to help others do the same. In our schools, in our prisons, and in our police departments. Mindfulness practice must be offered to society and it can be done in a non-sectarian, non-religious form.

Thay shares his idea for an Association of Mindfulness Practice Centers and what that would look like in practice and reality. He shared about three mindfulness practice centers taking shape in America (DC, Vermont, and California). Living according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings. We need to be affiliated with a group of people, a sangha. It is essential to our practice. The sangha is our refuge.

At 58-minutes we resume the teaching on the 50 Verses. We begin with verses 15-22 – about the seventh consciousness of manas. Then verse 23 is about the sixth, mental consciousness. Thay repeats a little on the three modes of cognition – the realm of things in themselves, the realm of representation, and the realm of mere image. Verses 25-27, the root of all actions. With verses 28-30, we move to the five consciousnesses of sensations.

Historical Perspective
During this talk, Thay announces the 21-Day Retreat planned for May 23, 1998 that took place at St. Michaels College in Burlington, Vermont. The theme of that retreat was the Sutra on Mindful Breathing. This was the first time the 21-Day occurred in North America. He also announced that 200-acres are being donated in Vermont for a practice community.

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Handling Strong Emotions

The Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 7, 1997. This is the sixth talk (96-minutes) offered as an audio recording below. If you wish to view the video, please make a small donation on our Patreon account.

Seed of anger. Mindfulness of anger. How do we practice with this energy of anger? How do we make peace with another in which we are angry? One method is to use the practice of deep looking. First, we generate our energy of mindfulness. Then we recognize our anger. Finally we look deeply into the nature of our anger. Teaching on the four mantras, deep listening, and loving speech. We can restore communication.

Thay shares the text of a song he wrote to help us with our practice.

It rains softly outside, and yet I feel the sadness and the sorrow coming up in me.
Please go to sleep my little pain and let my in breath and out breath embrace you tenderly.
I know you are there and I do my best to take good care of you.
You know I am trying to plant and water the seeds of harmony and loving kindness everyday so tomorrow from the soil of my consciousness flowers of peace and joy and forgiveness will bloom for everyone.
Please go to sleep my little knots. My little pain.

With this practice there will be transformation and tomorrow we will be able to accept and love each other.

How are we watering our store consciousness through our consumption? Are we intoxicating ourselves with seeds of craving and despair? Thay shares his excitement about mindfulness being applied in legislation (smoking) and in what we can buy in the supermarket (tofu). The five mindfulness trainings are a concrete practice to help us to become more mindful of our consciousness.

We continue with a deeper teaching on the first aspect of meditation: stopping.

In the concluding 15-minutes, we return to the teaching on the verses of consciousness. We are on verse 13 exploring inter-penetration.

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Selective Watering and Total Relaxation

Total Relaxation at Plum VillageThe Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 6, 1997. This is the fifth talk (114-minutes).

Much of this talk is offered in the context of those working in the helping professions such as therapists and doctors. The practice we are learning here is taking care of ourselves. We should be able to take care of ourselves in order to help other people. This can bring is a lot of joy. First, we have to learn how to rest. The practice of stopping. We have a habit of running. We can practice arriving in the here and the now.

We begin with a teaching on Total Relaxation. You can practice as an individual and as a sangha. The total relaxation exercises also brings mindfulness to our relationships, our eating, and much more. We should practice body scanning daily.

Another aspect of practicing to stop is we have to learn how to say no – we should know our limits. Secondly, we should give our body and mind time to recover after meetings. Do waking meditation or total relaxation. This is especially important for those in the helping professions.

Can we meet our colleagues in a kind of dharma discussion. We can ask, do you know how to take care of yourself? The Buddha said, it is possible to live happily in the present moment. He was aware that we had suffering and sorrow, but that we can also discover joy. Joy is made of non-joy elements. Like sorrow. We don’t need to remove all the pain and the sorrow. The need of mindfulness allows us to experience the present moment.

Brief teaching on the role of walking meditation and sitting meditation in the context of dwelling happily in the present moment. We can arrange our days to offer space for practice. Brings more solidity, more joy, more insight. We practice the same way when working with our sorrow.

Sangha building. Why is it important in our work settings, especially those in helping professions? Cultivating the mind of love. What is a sangha? A sangha is community that practices joy and happiness. Thay expresses his joy with having a community of monks and nuns traveling together and living together in Plum Village. The sangha is a wonderful instrument to relieve suffering. Why is taking refuge in the sangha important? What is crossing over to the other shore?

In the last 35-minutes, Thay returns to teaching on the verses (9-10) on consciousness. Alaya. Cautions on a society of hungry ghosts. The nature of dharmas – conditioned and unconditioned.

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Editors Note: Lost about 2-minutes of sound at 1h20m into talk.

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Self and Non-Self: The Evolving Consciousness

The Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 5, 1997. This is the fourth talk (99-minutes).

Teaching on the Three Dharma Seals

  • Impermanence
  • No-self
  • Nirvana

The authentic teachings of the Buddha must contain all three of these. They are not only a description of reality but a way of seeing things.

Impermanence and nonself also contain the teaching of rebirth. What is impermanence? Is it the cause of our suffering? How do we practice with impermanence?

Impermanence and no-self are two sides of the a coin. And nirvana is the metal. The base. Nirvana is extinction. Extinction of notions/ideas. All the pairs of opposites.

Other topics covered in this talk:

  • Teaching of the Three Natures of Reality
  • 18 Realms of Being
  • Universal mental formations
  • Verses 23-25, 39-42 of the Fifty Verses of Consciousness

In the last 15-minutes, Thay offers suggestions for practice during the lazy afternoon and also outlines formal lunch.

Metaphors: a coin, the wave

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Realms of Being

Bus PassengersWe continue our series from the archives. The date is November 4, 1997 and the sangha continues a mindfulness retreat in Key West, Florida with the theme of Buddhist psychology. This is the third talk (98-minutes) where Thay teaches on the first 8-verses of the Fifty Verses on Buddhist Psychology.

The nature of the flower and the garbage. The transformation of flowers and the nature of Interbeing between the two. This is a pair of opposites and we can see this in other pairs of opposites. Interbeing. When we talk about enlightenment and illusion, it is the same. They do not exclude each other. Enlightenment and illusion are always present.

Dukka. Suffering. The first of the Four Noble Truths. We have to recognize that ill-being is present and see the nature of it. The First Noble Truth is a Holy Truth.

Teachings from the Fifty Verses.

1. Mind is a field in which every kind of seed is sown. This mind field can also be called all the seeds.
Our mind consciousness is like a gardener. It is like the earth, the earth is holding, preserving, maintaining, everything together. The function of
Alaya.

2. There are an infinite variety of seeds. Seeds of samsara, illusion, and nirvana, suffering, delusion, and enlightenment. Seeds of suffering and happiness. Seeds of perceptions, names, and words.
How do we transform samsara and suffering? What are perceptions and what are the objects of our perceptions?

3. Seeds that manifest as body and mind. As realms of beings. As stages and worlds, are all in our consciousness. That is why it is called store consciousness.
What are the different realms of consciousness? The six sense organs. Six objects of the sense organs. And six kinds of sense consciousness. These are the Eighteen Realms of Beings. Plus the three worlds: form, desire, and non-form. And the ten stages of the bodhissatva. They are all manifestation from store consciousness.

4. Some seeds are innate, some were handed down by our ancestors. Some were sown while we were still in the womb. Others were sown when we were children. 

Where did the seeds come from, when did they arrive, and will they always be there?

5. Whether from our family or friends, our society or our education, all seeds by nature are both individual and collective.

Another pair of opposites and can be transcended. The collective and the individual inter-are. What are these concepts? Thay uses the metaphor of a bus and its passengers to illustrate. Followed by the candle to also illustrates – its brightness. Is the brain collective or individual? Father and son. Self and non-self.

6. The quality of our lives depends on the quality of the seeds that lie in our consciousness.

7. The function of the store consciousness is to receive, to maintain, and make manifest in the world these seeds and end our habit energies.
Store consciousness is like the ocean – there are many rivers that are received by the ocean. It has the power to manifest these seeds. How do we train positive energy and habits?

8. The manifestation of Alaya can be perceived as a field within themselves, as that of representations or mere images are included in the 18 realms of being.
Perceptions of reality. For example, when we fall in love. Falling in love with the image of the other person. Teaching on the field of representation, field of things in themselves (such was), and the field of mere image.

We conclude with a short (10-minute) teaching on suffering and our relationships. Seeds of loyalty and betrayal. When things are not to your liking.

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Interbeing and Store Consciousness

Seeds Another talk from the archives. The date is November 3, 1997 and the sangha continues a mindfulness retreat in Key West, Florida with the theme of Buddhist psychology. This is the second talk (96-minutes) where Thay introduces the interbeing and gives a teaching on store consciousness.

Seeing things in the light of Interbeing. The right is made of the left and the left is made of the right. They are not enemies, but they contain each other. Thay teaches in the context of politics. The Buddha taught, this is because that is. Then we move to body and mind – they are interbe. Non-duality. In each cell of our body is stored the whole cosmos. In the study of Buddhist studies of the mind, the body is always first an object of our perception. Teaching on object and perception.
Touching the present moment. Using the present moment to touch the past; including our past suffering. In doing this we can experience the Interbeing of past suffering. You can heal the wounds of the past by touching the present moment. How does this apply to the future?

Namarupa. The body and the mind. Contemplation. Observation of the mind in the mind and observations of the body in the body. Stresses non-duality.

The five skandhas. This is the Sanskrit word that means heaps. Can also be translated as elements or aggregates. What are the five skandhas? Remember these distinctions are only there to help us with our practice.what are formations? How are the five interare?

After this brief overview of the skandhas, the teaching shifts to focus primarily on consciousness. Specifically, store consciousness and seeds. Working with our seeds using mindfulness. For example, mindfulness of anger. What is store consciousness? Store consciousness is like a garden that is able to maintain and store the totality of all the seeds. The practice of meditation is being aware and recognize the seeds inside us and to water the good seeds. Recognizing and taking care of our seeds. Why do we do this?

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Enjoy Each Mindful Breath

Thich Nhat Hanh - Key West - 1997The date is November 2, 1997 and the sangha is holding a mindfulness retreat in Key West, Florida with the theme of Buddhist psychology. This is the first talk (100-minutes) where Thay introduces the attendees to the basic practices of mindfulness. It’s a wonderful teaching covering breathing, sitting, walking, and silence.

We begin with a basic introduction, along with instructions, to the practice. How can we practice mindful breathing? Why is mindful breathing important? Breathe, you are alive. How do we practice sitting meditation? When we sit, don’t struggle. Breathing and sitting can both be very enjoyable. Sitting is not to become someone else but to be aware that you are alive. This is enlightenment.

Do we know how to allow our body to rest? Do we know how to trust our bodies in order to rest?

To worry too much has become a habit for us? We have learned to worry too much. This energy of worry has become to strong and preventing the healing of our body and spirit. We also have a habit of rushing and restlessness. Buddhist meditation can help us deal with these habits of running and worry.

It is possible to live happily in the present moment. The boat of mindfulness can help us not to sink into the river of suffering. The energy of mindfulness that we can generate within us that we cultivate through meditation.

In addition to our meditation practice, we also have a sangha. What is the sangha? The sangha is another component of the boat that supports you to not sink into the river of suffering. Our brothers and sisters are a source of support. Sitting together. Eating together. Walking together. Breathing together.

The practice of mindfulness is, first of all, the practice of going back to the here and now. Our habit energies are obstacles to our going back to the here and now. The address of happiness, peace, and stability is the here and now.

Instructions for walking mediation. I have arrived. I have arrived. I am home. I am home.

Instructions for eating meditation and eating together in community. This too is an opportunity for being aware of our breathing and it is a moment of practice. A moment of joy. There is no waiting.

Listening to a dharma talk. This is an opportunity for the most precious seeds to grow in us. We don’t need to use our intellect. Allow the dharma rain to fall on your consciousness.

A short teaching on the historical and ultimate dimensions followed by Thay leading everyone with a song – “I Have Arrived, I am Home.”

The last topic is on the practice of purification of speech. How do we practice with silence during the first four days of the retreat. In the retreat, we will use a notebook to write down the things that we want to say – we can observe the habit energy in us. We can also use the notebook to communicate with others if it’s absolutely necessary. Learning to observe your feelings and ideas during this period of silence. Do you know how to observe and look deeply at your feelings? We can train ourselves to recognize and embrace our feelings.

The conditions of our lives don’t have to make us suffer and we can transform the situation.

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Geese Flying South

Thay Reading a TextOur talk today is from 16-years ago and begins with a reading, first in English by a nun, and then in Vietnamese by Thich Nhat Hanh. It is 23 January 2000 and the sangha has gathered in the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village for a dharma talk during the winter retreat. The talk is in English.

The main talk begins with Thay sharing an article from a magazine about geese flying south. This story is used to illustrate the wisdom of the animal kingdom and they know about how important sangha is for the individual. There are things that are difficult to do alone but will be easier with the sangha. Why is important to eat with the sangha? Why is important to walk with the sangha? How does your sitting with the sangha help both you and the sangha?

We learn more about sitting meditation, the miracle of walking with the Buddha, and living in community within the monastery. Living in these 24-hours. Even how to enjoy brushing our teeth.

Below is a general outline of the topics covered in this talk.

0:00 English Reading
7:44 Vietnamese Reading
15:00 Geese Flying South and Sangha
26:00 Walking with the Buddha
37:08 Sitting in the Meditation Hall
40:48 The Miracle of the Orange
52:07 Everything is the Practice
56:40 How to Sit
1:05:43 Listening to the Bell

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Because I Like It!

With Thay’s gentle and compassionate humor, we discover the teaching of Right Diligence. This is the eighth talk during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme Path of the Buddha. The date is June 11, 2009 and we are at the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village.

The Four Noble Truths are an exact science – there is right view and wrong view. For the Fourth Noble Truth, the Path and well being, we have Right View. For the Second, ill being, we have Wrong View. They are opposites. Thay reviews Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood in the context of well being and ill being.

In this talk we continue with a teaching on Right Diligence. What is the difference between diligence and effort? Intensive versus regularity. Why is diligence better (easier) than effort? How does Right Diligence bring well being? What is Wrong Diligence and why does it bring ill being? Practical tips for practice are offered.

The story of Frederick, a businessman, and his wife Claudia and their son Phillip. The story concludes with a wonderful teaching on walking and carrying peace in every step.

True Diligence

Consciousness Diagram

Source: The Mindfulness Bell, Summer 2008

True Diligence is often described in four steps.

First, the unbeneficial seeds are in us. Be skillful to not let these seeds arise in us. Thay teaches on consciousness – store and mental consciousness. We can practice to lullaby these seeds of suffering to sleep.

Second, if by chance that seed of suffering has manifested then we need to do something to let it go back to store consciousness. Don’t allow it to stay too long. Not suppressing but helping it to go back. This is appropriate attention.

Third, we invite the beneficial seeds to come up. Like a good friend who you have not seen in a long time. Send an invitation to dissipate the darkness. Joy and happiness are always possible and give them a chance to manifest. How? One method is a sangha.

Fourth, when those beneficial seeds are present then we try to keep them present as long as possible. Help them to be strong. Again, what is a method for practicing this step?

Generosity

We continue the talk with a teaching on the second mindfulness training and how we consider the revision. The second mindfulness training is about generosity. How does it relate to right diligence? What is practicing generosity? Stealing?

Is it possible to have no more desire? Are you aware of your conditions of happiness? The talk concludes with a short teaching on the Sutra of the White Clad Disciple.

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We Only Need to Look in the Present Moment

Shaded path at Upper HamletIn June, 2009, a 21-day retreat was offered at Plum Village on the theme “The Path of the Buddha” and this recording is the first talk of the retreat (June 2, 2009). This was also in the first year of Obama being president of the United States. Thay teaches about the sangha as it relates to the president. Now, many years later, Obama is in the last year of his term and we have the opportunity to reflect on how we did with Thay’s instructions.

We begin with a story of meeting MLK to build the idea of the beloved community and sangha building. What is the sangha and why do we need one? Thay teaches that even President Obama needs a sangha in a very compassionate and loving way. The 21-Day Retreat is an opportunity to perceive the sangha visibly. We should build and preserve the sangha. We have been planting seeds of brotherhood, sisterhood, peace, nonviolence.

We have produced our politicians. Our politicians need a strong sangha, even though it is not a Buddhist one. And we have a role in that sangha too. Obama is not an individual, he is a part of the sangha.

Without the sangha, we cannot go far. The 21-day retreat is a time to strengthen our sangha and open the way for the world. The sangha includes the Buddha and the dharma. It contains the the path of understanding and love.

The 21st century is like a hill and we are climbing this hill together as a sangha. Can we climb beautifully? Each step should be love, healing, forgiveness. With a sangha, this becomes easy.

What are we looking for? Our joy. Our success. Our transformation. Our happiness. Our emancipation. Our freedom. Whatever we are looking for, we have to look for it in the present moment. How do we do we go home to the present moment to discover the power to nourish and to heal?

What is the path of the Buddha? We are going to explore a global spiritual ethic. The five mindfulness trainings represent this ethic. All the other precepts – 10 novice precepts, 14 mindfulness trainings – also represent this ethic.  We will explore this during our retreat together.

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