Category Archives: Sangha

Sangha

Where is the Year 2014 Right Now?

This talk by Thich Nhat Hanh is from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village on Sunday, December 29, 2013. It is the thirteenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. This talk is in English and is available below as an audio download or online video. In this talk we are preparing for the end of the year 2013 and the teaching is on no birth, no death, and coming home to our island of self.

00:00-14:35 The Year Ending and the Year Coming
14:35-25:09 No Birth. No Death.
25:09-49:10 Coming Home and the Island of Self
49:10-56:30 Sangha
56:30-1:06:10 The Practice in an Organization or Company
1:10:30-1:23:15 Taking Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha

When we focus on our breathing, we can really be there. Breathing mindfully we can know that we are alive and that we have a body. Just breath in and out and we can touch the wonders of life. With mindfulness we can be in touch and that can help nourish and heal us. This comes from walking, sitting, breathing, doing everyday things. Is the year 2013 going to die and go away? Can we speak of a birth or death of a year? The notion of month, day, hours, etc. are invented by us and are conventional designations. What does it mean to die? From being to non-being? Where is the year 2014 right now? The answers really depend on us.

What have I done in the year 2013? Have I learned to produce a feeling a joy, a feeling of happiness? We can produce a moment of joy, a moment of happiness at any time, for us and for the people we love. Have we been able to take care of the painful feeling and emotions during the year 2013? If we do not learn these things then we will end up repeating this in the next year. This is why we have our practice phrase for next year: “New Year New Me” and “Joy Within, Joy all Around.” The new year is time and it is linked to space and action. If we know how to deal with our pain and sorrow then we can improve the quality of our days, months, and years. Right now it is winter and when we do walking meditation, we do not see butterflies. But that does not mean the butterflies are not there already. In spring they will manifest; they are only hidden waiting for conditions. The same is true with the year 2014.

Has the little boy or the little girl you once were died? No, it is still there. This teaching corresponds with the first law of thermodynamics. Nothing is born. Nothing dies. We can transfer energy and matter but we cannot produce or destroy anything. In Buddhism we say no birth and no death. Where are our ancestors? They are in every cell of our bodies and we carry them into the future. To meditate is to have the time to look deeply and see the nature of no birth and no death. The story of the cloud and Mother Earth.

Society today is running away from itself and we don’t know how to handle a feeling of pain, sorrow, loneliness. We are running away from ourselves. And electronic devices that we buy and use help us run away but the practice of mindfulness is helping us take care of our feelings. Mindfulness can restore peace and harmony in our body and our feelings. That is the practice of coming home. We can establish understanding. We can transform our anger into understanding and compassion. It is impermanent. Last week we started to speak about true home. True home is available anytime and we have to build for ourselves. The Buddha told us that everyone has an island within ourselves where we can feel calm, safe, and happy. We should take refuge in that island. Our body is the first element of our true home. The third exercise of mindful breathing suggested by the Buddha. Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. The fifth and sixth exercises of mindful breathing help us cultivate a feeling of joy and happiness. This is the art of happiness. And the seventh and eighth help us to handle the painful feelings and emotions. We can generate the energy of understanding and compassion. This is the third element of coming to our true home. We also know that a group of people, a sangha, can help us cultivate the collective energy of peace, joy, and happiness. Sangha is also home.

If we know how to create a home for ourselves, the we can create a home for our partner and for our work environment. You can help each to create their own home. Earlier this year we visited the World Bank and we discussed this practice. The World Bank can be a place that reduces suffering in the world. They have this intention and this is a source of energy that can be nourished. We start with ourselves and then it can be applied to our companies and organizations. The work of Plum Village.

When we sit together like this, there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. The sangha is a jewel. If you want to realize your dream, then you want a sangha. We can take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This is inside of you as in your island of self.

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 tis 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 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.

Have I Got a True Home?

This talk by Thich Nhat Hanh is from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village on the occasion of Christmas Eve (Tuesday, December 24, 2013). It is the twelfth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. In this talk we learning about our True Home and Sangha.

Christmas is always an opportunity to meditate on our true home. The Buddha  did not have a home when he was young; he was unhappy even with all the material conditions. And Jesus Christ was born a refugee and was also trying to find a home. But both the Buddha and the Christ practiced and they found a True Home. Have I got a true home?

A place of comfort and ease. When you come to Plum Village you are offered a practice to help you find a home. And home is not located in space and time. Our first fruit of the practice is “I have arrived. I am home.” Our true home is in the here and the now in every breath and every step.

The practice of mindful breathing brings our mind in touch with our body. Our body may be our first home. Are you in conflict with your body? Do you hate your body? We are all flowers in the garden of humanity. Do we know how to take care of our flowerness? Getting in touch with our body is the first step.

We may notice tension in our body and the Buddha offered us exercises to reduce the tension. An act of reconciliation. Very practical. We can smile to ourselves and release the tension.

Why, in some instances, have we abandoned our body? Do you have a feeling of loneliness?are we covering up suffering in our life? We don’t know how to handle the suffering inside of us and we cover it up with consumption. The practice of mindfulness can help you reverse this to take care of your body and your feelings. If you can, then you are creating a true home for yourself.

24-m Consumption and Loneliness
27-m The Art of Happiness (Exercises 5 & 6)
31-m The Art of Suffering (Exercises 7 & 8)
37-m Practicing with a Sangha
43-m Building a Sangha
47-m The Plum Village Sangha
50-m What do I want to do with my life?

The year is ending and it is a good time to ask what we want to do with our life. If you are a couple, you may wish to sit down and discuss your dream and see how to support each other. Jesus had a dream. Buddha had a dream. Can we look at our other relationships and see how they might be improved?

Wherever we go, the sangha is with us. Sangha is our home. We can practice in such a way that our family is our sangha. We should devote our time and energy to building our true home so that we can realize our dream.

Merry Christmas.

You can support this site by donating to the Plum Village Online Monastery Team

Deep Aspiration

July 1, 2012. 50-minute recording given at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is a Day of Mindfulness. We begin with chanting.

When you set up a practice center, you have to think of the sangha. A sangha is a group of people who practice together and the environment is good, nourishing, and healthy. When people arrive at a practice center, she should feel the energy right away.

We practice mindfulness as manifested from the Five Mindfulness Trainings. These generate a healthy environment. This is what the Buddha did right away and we too can create such a practice center.

Suffering is part of life and with mindfulness we can make good use of our suffering. We can produce joy, happiness, and compassion. The law of Interbeing is suffering and happiness. The mud and the lotus.

The holy is made of non-holy elements. We can generate holiness if we understand suffering and allow compassion to arise in us and we don’t suffer anymore. The Five Mindfulness Trainings can help cultivate this holiness.

Being a monastic. We have 10-precepts. It is a holy life. Training as a monastic, you also need a sangha. You cultivate the mind of love. Boddhichita.

Conditioned Genesis

June 20, 2012. 79-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the fifteenth dharma talk (of 15). No chanting. This is the final dharma talk of the retreat.

Topics

  • We are all cells in the sangha body. Sangha building.
  • Suffering and happiness.
  • The mind of non-discrimination.

Four pairs of opposites

  • Birth/Death
  • Being/Non-being
  • Coming/Going
  • Sameness:Otherness

Scientists and practitioners can let go of notions.

Thay reads from The Paramartha Gathas of Asanga Gathas on the Absolute Truth. This is because that is – Condition Genesis

Both the self and the elements that give rise to the self are empty. They are just constructions of our perverted (confused) mind. The separate-self nature ofall the sentient species is also empty. The only thing that is, is the causing andconditioning of one dharma upon another.

And the following from The Discourse on the Adaptation of Conditioned Genesis Connected with Emptiness

Profound indeed is this, namely conditioned genesis; even more profound,more difficult to see is this, namely the extinction of all attachment, the destructionof craving, the fading away of desire, the cessation of all suffering: nirvana.

Signlessness

One Cell in the Buddha Body

June 14, 2012. 86-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the tenth dharma talk (of 15).

The Four Recollections

Joy and happiness with the three kinds of energies: mindfulness, concentration, and insight. When we focus on our breath, we are only our breath. We are not our sorrow or our regret.

Joy while breathing
Happiness while sitting

Joy is the breathing
Happiness is the breathing

Thay tells a story of the Buddha visiting a disciple who was very attached to the Buddha, but was now dying. His name was Vakali to help him die peacefully. The story illustrates the concept of the dharma body (dharmakaya). Our practice is our dharma body. The sangha and our teacher can help is develop our dharma body. Our practice also creates the living dharma.

We also have a sangha body (sanghakaya); a community of practice. The sangha body is in yourself.

We also learn the last two of the Four Recollections: Buddha body (buddhakaya) and the Mindfulness Trainings (silakaya). We practice to cultivate these four bodies.

Energies of Buddhism

September 3, 2011. 101-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, CA. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the only Public Talk in California. For those who regularly read this podcast, we are posting this talk now as we have not completed preparing the last two talks from the retreat at Deer Park – they will be posted soon.

Mindfulness, concentration, and insight are the energies of Buddhism similar to the Holy Spirit being the energy of God.

We all have the capacity for understanding and love. It comes from the inside and comes with the practice of Mindfulness and concentration. This is the Buddha nature in us. We can generate a feeling of joy, a feeling of happiness in any moment. The Sutra on Mindful Breathing offers sixteen-exercises. Breathing in and breathing out with Mindfulness is a practice of resurrection. Thay takes us through the first eight exercises.

For me, the word wonderful means full of wonder. This is a wonderful moment. Our body is a wonder, and it belongs to the kingdom of God. We can touch the kingdom of God. In the Christian gospel, there is a story of a farmer who discovers a treasure on a piece of land and he sold everything except this piece of land. This is the kingdom of God. This is all you need. Happiness is possible in present moment. A good practitioner can generate happiness.

The importance of sangha. Taking refuge in the sangha. How do we handle suffering? A painful feeling? With a sangha.

True happiness needs suffering too. No mud. No lotus. They interare. This is right view. We should make good use of suffering.

How can we be liberated from despair and anger?

Applied ethics. Mindfulness in schools. How to handle painful or difficult emotions.

I Have Arrived, I Am Home

August 21, 2011. 110-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the second dharma talk of the Body and Mind Are One retreat.

We begin with a brief guided meditation on breathing with our parents.

For the children, we are encouraged to create a breathing room in our homes. Every civilized home in the 21st century should have such a room with a bell and a flower. Breathing with the bell we can bring out mind and body together. Thay speaks about how we are the continuation of our parents, using the example of a seed of corn that cannot remember, once it is a plant, that it was once a seed. “When you practice mindful breathing, we can invite our mother inside of us to practice breathing as well. Our father also.”

Thay speaks about touching the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land of the Buddha, right in the present moment. When we walk, we can touch the Kingdom. If you can walk like that, you can walk like a Buddha. “I have arrived, I am home: this is the shortest Dharma talk.” We, especially parents, try to transmit only the best parts of us and that which still needs work we keep in order to transform. Thay advises us, when we share, to not only share about our suffering but also to share our joy and our happiness. “We need not only people with suffering to come on a retreat, we also need people with lots of joy, so they can help those who are suffering.” The importance and role of the sangha.

We continue with the Sutra on Mindfulness of Breathing, with a recap of yesterday’s teaching and continuing on with the 7th and 8th steps: becoming aware of a painful feeling or emotion and embracing it. We see this practice with parents and children. Thay would also like to see this applied in schools. Applied ethics. How do we teach ethics to school children. We can teach children to breathe and if the school teacher knows the techniques then it can be transmitted. This can be secularized.

The following steps are: 9) aware of mental formations, 10) gladdening the mind, 11) concentrating the mind, 12) liberating the mind. Thay shares about the practice of right diligence: not touching the negative seeds, making sure any negative formations go back down to store consciousness, watering the good seeds, and keeping the good mental formations manifesting as long as possible.

The talk is available below. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and the shortest dharma talk.

Long Hand of the Fourfold Sangha

June 11, 2010. 108-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Great Compassion Temple, European Institute of Applied Buddhism. The talk was given Vietnamese, though you can clearly hear Thay’s voice, and is translated into English by Sister Chân Duc (Annabel).

The talk has four parts.

  1. Enjoying Every Moment
  2. The Order of Interbeing
  3. Engaged Buddhism
  4. The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings

The last line of dhamapada, from the Chinese, is an inspiration for the early part of this talk. On my head, there begins to have white hair. My youth has been stolen. It seems like they have come to tell me that I should become a monk as soon as possible. We need to learn to stroll – to enjoy our stroll. We shouldn’t waste our opportunity of being a human. We should enjoy every moment. Taste every moment. How can this be done? Train with a sangha. Don’t wait till your hair is gray

Each member of the Order of Interbeing has to be a pillar. An inspiration. The brown color. The brown jacket symbolizes humility. We should manifest that spirit. The spirit of power of silence. The Vietnamese name is Tiep Hien. The word Tiep has many meanings. To receive is the first. To continue is second. To be in touch with (life, suffering) is third. The first thing we must do is to receive. The way Thay walks. Talks. This is his way of transmitting. The word Hien. First, it means the thing that is present. Now. The dharma  door of plum Village is the present moment. Second, it means realization. Realizing the practice. Third, manifestation. We could also add another meaning. Make it appropriate to the time and place. Actualization. With all these meanings, it can’t so easily translate into English. Therefore, we have Order of Interbeing and we must study to understand its meaning.

Engaged Buddhism means Buddhism that enters the world. Engaged Buddhism has been in our Vietnamese tradition for hundreds of years. Closely related to Engaged Buddhism is Applied Buddhism. Applied is a secular term, but it allows us to do more than simply study Buddhism but rather to actually apply the teachings to transform our suffering. There are many schools that teach Buddhism, but few that teach applied Buddhism. The Order of Interbeing members are the long hand of the fourfold sangha that stretches out to society. The lay order members are needed to do this. Build sangha.

Thay calls for a council, an assembly of Order members, to revise the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. This is our challenge. With the recent revision of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, they now contain all the good parts of the Fourteen, but the Fourteen are now missing new elements found in the five. A committee has already begun the work, but it needs to be expanded.

I hope you enjoy the talk as much as I did listening and making a few notes.