Category Archives: 2010-2011 Winter Retreat

The Universe is a Single Flower

February 17, 2011. 78-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in the Assembly of Stars Mediation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France. We begin with 8-minutes of chanting. This is the final dharma talk of the Winter Retreat before the Great Ordination Ceremony and the close of the retreat. Here we continue discussing the Sutra of Flowers and Fragrance.

Seeing the Earth in that way he felt a deep compassion for all the people who live on the Earth. They are trying to do something to protect our environment. Only from very far away do you look back and see the fragility of our planet, and you feel compassion.

One astronaut said that when he left the Earth and looked back, then he became a humanitarian, because I feel that I have to take care of the people on that planet. The vision is so important from far away. If you are a schoolteacher, or parents, you try to help your students to get in touch with this. Continue reading

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The Girl Without a Button

February 13, 2011. 76-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet, Plum Village. We begin with chanting – The Heart of Perfect Understanding in French and The Three Refuges in English.

Sitting here, we try to look deeply at the other person. The person we love. What are they doing? If we know how to sit quietly, then we see that person clearly even if they are not present. Sometimes we need to be far away in order to see the relationship more clearly. Thay shares a story by Hans Christian Andersen called A Great Grief.

We travel to space and look at the earth. It is so dark in space, but when we look back we see how earth is so beautiful. If we look deeply, we can see the billions of people and what they are doing to each other. Sometimes we need to go far away to see the value. This is what some astronauts have said upon return.

How do we treasure that person? How do we treasure the planet? That picture from space can be a bell of mindfulness. To understand and to see. To wake up. We need to teach our children the preciousness of the planet, of life.

Sutra of Flowers and Fragrance from the dhammapada. So far, we have learned three chapters from the Chinese texts and these only exist in the Chinese, but this sutra is also available in the Pali. However, the Chinese has 13 more verses. We have drafted an English text. today we learn the first four verses.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

The Arrow of Desire

February 10, 2011. 92-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from the Dharma Cloud Temple, Upper Hamlet, Plum Village. We begin with 17-minutes of chanting and singing.

Sources of happiness. Freshness of the morning air. Water from the tap. Mindfulness is the water and air for the mind. With mindfulness you can look deeper and you can be happier. From there we gain insight from our awareness of breathing. And this insight can help you to undo knots inside you. We can face our fear. We have non-fear.

The perfect non-fear helps us to overcome the fear totally. There are many links that bind us: fear, irritation, anger, doubt, arrogance, desire, etc. Non-fear means we are free of these bonds. Call each one it’s true name.

The next monastic ordination family. There are eight aspirants at Upper Hamlet. They will be called Violet Bamboo family. We must practice like a bamboo; nothing inside. Empty all the knots and wounds inside. We must remove the arrow of craving and be empty like bamboo.

Sutra reference. Verses 33-36 of The Most Peaceful Dwelling Sutra.

33. If you want to completely liberate yourself from fear and end all internal formations and doubts, You must know that if you haven’t pulled out the arrow of desire, then you haven’t understood yet that this body is suffering.

34. Among the highest things that people call the most divine Nirvana is the highest. You must cut off all ideas and attachments and do not be deceived by words.

35. Knowing how to refrain or not to refrain that is the highest practice of letting go. If in our heart there are thoughts of practice the shell will be cracked.

36. Of all offerings, that of the Dharma is the most precious. Of all kinds of happiness, that happiness based on the Dharma is the greatest. Of all strengths, patience is the most powerful because it can put an end to attachment and bring the happiness of Nirvana.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

Understanding is the Basis of Love

February 2, 2011, on the Eve of the Lunar New Year of the Cat, in the New Hamlet of Plum Village. He reads poetry of Xuân Diu and talks of the beauty of fidelity in a relationship.

Self-love is the foundational of love for another.

We should see something very simple and basic: understanding is the basis of love. The understanding of our suffering we can accept and understand the others. We have communication. The practice helps us to a develop our love and understanding to remove the feeling of loneliness inside.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

Ten Days

January 30, 2011. 85-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France. We begin with 7-minutes of chanting. Thay reads some Vietnamese Poetry and a love story that takes place during the Lunar New Year.

Breathing in, I dwell on my unborn
Breathing out, no birth and death

Speaks of dualistic views and uses God as the basis for the analysis. Learning to touch the unborn. This is it. Sudden enlightenment.

Today we learn two more particular mental formations. The first is about deep desire, expectation of waiting for something. Feeling very empty. Lack of something. It’s why we check our email. Thay uses a story from a 1995 (Vietnamese) short story to make the point. The title is Ten Days. Ten days of expectation. It’s quite a funny story about young love and waiting.

Drops of Emptiness.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

We Are the Cloud

January 23, 2011. 77-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, New Hamlet, Plum Village, France. We begin with 8-minutes of chanting.

“Sitting in this meditation hall, we perceive that the clouds are floating high in the sky. But in reality we are surrounded by clouds; there is water vapor all around us. When we have fog we see this clearly. We also have vapor in our body in the form of water. So we interare with the cloud. Science shows us this; Buddhism can also show us this.”

“According to our practice, mindfulness, concentration and insight are a source of happiness. And we as practitioners need to generate this energy. Breathing in mindfulness you generate the energy of mindfulness; we get in touch with the wonders of life that are all around us.”

“The tour this year will have the theme, ‘Now is the time: this is it.’”

The Path of liberation. We must know how to take care of the path to overcome our difficulties. The path of eight correct practices (Right View, Right Speech, Right Action, etc).

Body, Speech, and Mind
Mindfulness, Concentration, Insight
Right Livelihood, Right Diligence

These are the fruit of our practice.

For those of you interested, Thay mentions the 5-year monastic training for young people. At about 59-minutes into the talk, we transition to the sutra commentary we’ve been exploring. Here we here about verses 28-31.

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, the recording is cut off before it is completed and I am unable to get the missing recording at this time. It is cut off shortly after the sutra commentary begins. The video link below has everything.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

The Sound of the Bell

January 20, 2011. 77-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France

The talk begins with a discussion on bell inviting. The first bell discussed is the large temple bell. We have fifty-four verses to recite while inviting the Temple Bell. Do this twice for a total of 108 verses. This helps you come back to your breathing. Another bell is the activity bell. It is to inform you. It has ten sounds.

The second part of the talk is a discussion of the Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths inter-are. Some scholars frame as phenomenal world and ontological world. Existence and non-existence.

The final element, beginning about 47-minutes into the talk, is the continued sutra commentary. Today we discuss verses 21-25 and Thay exposes some flaws in the translations. Phenomenon, it comes and goes. This is the twelfth in a series of talks offered during the Winter Retreat of 2010-11 on translations of the Dharmapada and Udanavarga from the Chinese Canon

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

Four Attainments of Plum Village

January 16, 2011. 112-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Full Moon Meditation Hall, New Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The recording begins with about 10-minutes of chanting.

Editor’s Note: We are a few dharma talks behind due to one of the Plum Village servers being down for 10-days. The server has been repaired and we’re back on track again. I’ll try to listen to the talks this week and post.

If you practice correctly, you will see results right away. According to the Buddha, there are many fruits of the practice. Results.

The first is “Entering Into the Stream” – the first step of your practice. Only you can judge if you are here. It’s like getting onto the train. Do you have one foot in, and one foot out or are you on the train and in your seat? Or, are you “moving in the direction of the stream” – on the way to the train station. If you arrive, you know you have arrived. The second is two more coming back and third is one more coming back. The fourth is “The Fruit of No Return” – no coming back. You do not go back to the the life of agitation; for a monastic aspirant it is someone who has let go of everything. The fifth is “Extinction of all the Suffering” – arhat. That person is totally free.

In Plum Village we have fruits of the practice, but they are rooted in the traditional teaching. You have arrived, you are home. You are relaxed, you are peaceful. You can arrive in any moment. As soon as you move in that direction, you are happy. The degree of your practice, is the degree of your happiness. How wonderful to be alive! So many conditions of happiness.

The Four Attainments of Plum Village:

  1. “I have arrived, I am home” or “froglessness”
  2. “Dwelling happily”
  3. “Interbeing”
  4. “No-birth, no-death”

Thay invites the brothers up to chant The Four Recollections. (1:08)

We continue the sutra (1:15) we have been studying on the safest place. It’s about nirvana. Nirvana is a place when you arrive to a place of no affliction. A place of no birth and no death. No coming and no going. In this talk, we learn verses 20-23.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

Zen is Eating

January 13, 2011. 75-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The recording begins with about 10-minutes of chanting.

Eating meditation. Delicious and healthy. Our sitting meditation should be the same. Healthy. Relaxed. Follow your breath to harmonize your body and mind. Sitting meditation is also a type of consumption. It should be the same for everything. Walking. Eating. Working. Resting. It is an art.

Zen is also eating. The meal is a moment of practice. And there is a collective awakening when you practice together with others. Each of us are a drop contributing to the river.

Every step is your joy. This is it. Thay talks about what his calligraphy called “This is It” means.

The continued sutra commentary begins at 48-minutes into the talk. The verses 17-20 19 Feelings. Perception. Suffering. Mental formations. Nirvana.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

The Happiness of Neutral Feelings

January 9, 2011. 84-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The recording begins with about 8-minutes of chanting.

If you are a good practitioner you can easily handle your difficulties; the transformation is quicker. There are many kinds of feelings: painful feelings, pleasant feelings, and neutral feelings. In the process of practicing we discover that the neutral feelings are very interesting. As when we sit, there is a sensation that is neutral. When we bring mindfulness to the neutral feeling, you find that it is quite nice. You see that you already have enough conditions for happiness with a neutral feeling. If you look deeply at the neutral feeling you see that it is wonderful. When you see your feelings passing by like a river, you see that 80% of your neutral feelings are quite pleasant. With mindfulness, our neutral feeling is transformed into happiness.

At the first teaching of the Buddha in the Deer Park, he spoke of the Four Noble Truths and the the eight correct practices. Never declare that you know already because you can always deepen your understanding and practice. The First Noble Truth is suffering. The Third Noble Truth talks of the cessation of suffering. This is the presence of happiness. Learn how to produce happiness. A good practitioner knows how to do this. Transform your difficulty and produce happiness. In Buddhism we recognize painful feelings, pleasant feelings, and neutral feelings. With mindfulness, you can transform a neutral feelings too. We should look deeply into our neutral feelings. We have many occasions to be happy. Thay encourages us to write a report on how you create happiness and send it to him.

After about 45-minutes, the talk transitions into a sutra commentary, continuing on the theme of nirvana. I believe we’re still on the sutra from the Dhammapada called Place of Peace and Wonder.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).