Sitting with Our Father and Mother

9534940088_e2381e04ac_oBefore the sixth dharma talk of the 21-Day Retreat: The Path of the Buddha at Plum Village in June 2009, Thich Nhat Hanh offered this guided meditation. It is a 10-minute meditation, so please find a place to sit and be fully present for the entire meditation.

Breathing in, I invite the Buddha to breathe with my lungs.
Breathing out, I invited the Buddha to sit with my back.

Buddha is breathing, Buddha is sitting.
I enjoy breathing, I enjoy sitting.

I know that the quality of the breathing, in the Buddha breath, is excellent.
I know the quality of his sitting is excellent.
I enjoy breathing. I enjoy sitting.

I am aware that my father is fully present in every cell of my body.
I invite my father to breathe in with me. Breathe out with me.
I would like to invite my father in me to sit with my back – this is my back, but it is also his back.
Father and son. Father and daughter. Breathing together.

Breathing in, I feel so light. Breathing out, I feel so free.
Daddy, do you feel as light as I do? Do you feel as free as I do?

I know that my mother is fully present in every cell of my body.
I invite my mother to breathe with my lungs, to sit with my back.
This is my back, but it is also hers.
Mother and son breathing in together. Mother and daughter breathing in together.
Mother and son breathing out together. Mother and daughter breathing out together.

Breathing in, I feel so light.
Mother, do you feel as light as I do?

Breathing out, I feel so free.
Mother, do you feel as free as I do?

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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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Enjoy the talk.

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Cultivating Peace

Thich Nhat Hanh in Vietnam (2007)In this 2007 dharma talk, we go back to the Vietnam trip (February 21 to May 9) that focused on the Great Requiem Ceremonies across the country. The purpose of this trip was to to heal the last wounds of the war. The date of this recording is May 7, 2007 and it is the last talk of the Vietnam tour.

It is possible to cultivate peace as individuals, as families, and as nations. We need to begin with understanding and love – this is the foundation of peace. Our peace begins with our in-breath as we bring our mind back to our body. The breathing is the bridge connecting our mind and body. Do we know our conditions of happiness to live happily in the present moment? There is also the wisdom of non-discrimination in Buddhism.

Four elements of true love – maitri, karuna, mudita, and upeksha. The wisdom of non-discrimination (29:45) – a topic that is very crucial for our own peace and for peace in the world – a very important element of true love.

The Three Kinds of Powers (49:55). We need to discover that the Buddha was a human being. The source of wisdom in Buddhism can help us overcome our despair. Spiritual power can be attained through our daily practice. The first is to cut-off. For example, to cut off from our craving, our anger, our despair. We do this by looking at the nature of suffering. The Buddha did this and you can to. The second power is insight. We cultivate this through our meditation. The third kind of power to cultivate is the power to love, to forgive.

The practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking allows us to be present in the here and now. When you practice like this, each breath and step can bring you to the pure land of the Buddha and touch the wonders of life.

Thay responded to a series of questions from the audience.

  1. How do you practice offering love to someone who does not want that? (55:02)
    Can you teach us how family can practice beginning anew? The practice of deep listening and loving speech. Practicing peace. (58:02)
  2. A question about impermanence. Is nirvana achievable and is it permanent? (1:11:52)
  3. A question about anger. Working with children in the classroom caused me to lose my temper often because I couldn’t control the class. (1:23:52)
  4. How do we help people to live in peace when they live in poor environments. (1:29:27)
  5. What is the difference between “non-discrimination” and “forgiveness” when defining the fourth element of true love (upeksha)? (1:39:07)

At the conclusion of the questions (1:41:42), Thay shares a little bit about the prayer ceremonies that were organized during this tour for those who died in the war and for those who died at sea. There were three ceremonies – one in the south, one in central, and one in the north of Vietnam where we practiced sitting meditation, reciting the sutras, and doing charity work. We transferred the merit of our practice to the dead people. The sharing concludes with an English translation of the readings used during the ceremonies.

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Stop Waiting and Start Living

The Miracle of Mindfulness tour is underway with 50-60 monastics traveling and teaching in the USA. We have just completed the New York events at Blue Cliff Monastery and in New York City. A retreat will begin later this week in Mississippi followed by retreats and events in California. You can see the entire tour schedule on the tour site.

The recording included here is from the public talk in New York City  that took place on September 12, 2015 at The Town Hall with the theme of Mindfulness: Stop Waiting, Start Living. Our two teachers are Sister Jina and Brother Dharma Embrace. We’ve included both the video and the audio.

Sister Jina (Chan Dieu Nghiem – True Wonder) is an Irish-Dutch nun who ordained in Japan in 1985 and joined the Plum Village community in 1990, one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s first European monastic disciples. After serving as the dearly loved Abbess of Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, for 16 years, she now lives at Deer Park Monastery in California. Sister Jina’s teachings have inspired generations of practitioners around the world. She is an avid mountain-hiker, bird-watcher and to relax, loves folk-dancing.

Brother Dharma Embrace (Chan Phap Dung) is a Vietnamese-American monk who came of age as a San Fernando “Valley Boy” break dancing and skateboarding. He struggled in school before eventually graduating from USC and working as an architect in Santa Monica. Disenchanted with the corporate world, he decided to ordain on visiting Deer Park Monastery . He is loved by young and old for his dynamic creativity and urban cool. He is involved in many initiatives to bring mindfulness into schools, business, and politics.

A few of the topics covered in this talk include:

  • A Full Time Refugee
  • Taking Refuge in the Breath
  • Taking Refuge in the Bell
  • Growing Up / Anger / Suffering as a Young Man / Conditions of Happiness
  • Coming Home and Opening and Closing the Door
  • Where are my Roots
  • Celebrate Our Spiritual Roots
  • Engagement and Community
  • Questions and answers

 

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This Moment, Only Once

The audio archives contained here will continue to grow and change moving forward. In addition to sharing Thich Nhat Hanh talks from the archives, we will also share current talks from senior dharma teachers from our community. This rich and lively talk was given in the Assembly of Stars Hall in Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, on Thursday May 21, 2015, as part of the community’s Spring Retreat.

Thay Phap Hai

Thay Phap Hai

Brother Phap Hai (Brother Dharma Ocean) offers some challenging questions to help us energize and focus our practice and truly arrive in ourselves in the present moment.

What is the “seed sound” of the Plum Village practice “I have arrived, I am home”? What is the difference between knowledge and insight? What is the original meaning of the word “Path” in Buddhism? Have you actually ever “seen” the Dharma? If you saw the Buddha today, what would you ask?

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Love and Happiness

Lotus Pond

It was Thanksgiving Day in Plum Village on November 25, 2004. The sangha gathered in Lower Hamlet, Plum Village during the Fall Retreat and Thay gave a 45-minute dharma talk on the topic of love and happiness.

The telephone line should be called the “compassionate line.” We hope this line can be established everywhere so that young people in their suffering, despair, and strong emotions can have someone to talk with. Suicide is a real issue and young people they feel lonely and suffer so much. Who can they talk with? Someone who has the capacity to listen. Each of us can make a vow to be that person who has the capacity to listen. Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of deep listening. Compassionate listening. We have to cultivate this capacity and transform ourselves in this bodhisattva. Without the capacity of listening deeply, we cannot understand.

According to the teachings of the Buddha, love is born from the ground of understanding. We can apply this in our relationships and our families. Understanding is not something that happens “just like that” – it takes time and we have to give our ideas, our views, our prejudices, our judgment.

Understanding what? The difficulties and suffering of the other person. The deep hope and desire the person has. The kind of obstacles the person is experiencing. We can ask the other person, “do you think I understand you enough?” Once you understand, you can stop doing and saying things that cause the other person to suffer. Then you have True Love. This is the practice of love.

Do we understand ourselves? The nature of our own suffering? Everyone has an idea of happiness and we may strive for that idea. But, can we see that happiness can come from any direction? Joy comes from letting go and the first thing we can let go of is our idea of happiness.

In the Buddhist teaching of love, there are four elements. The first is maitri – friendship, brotherhood, loving-kindness. And the second is karuna – capacity to understand the suffering and help remove and transform it – compassion. Mudita is the third element – joy – your joy is her joy, her joy is our joy. The last element is upeksha – nondiscrimination. This is a higher form of love. The four qualities have no limits – infinite love – these elements are also call the Four Unlimited Minds.

The bodhisattva of love is in you.

 

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Fresh Opportunities of Abundance

As we continue to send Thay our lovely energy of healing, we look back to a dharma talk he gave on January 26, 2003 from the Dharma Nectar Temple, Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. The sangha is in the middle of the Winter Retreat and the lunar new year is approaching. This short dharma talk (48-minutes) begins with a monastic chant in Vietnamese.

The Buddha teaches we should try to make our practice pleasant, joyful, and nourishing. There are several different types of joy. Mindfulness is the key to exploring. How should a practice center be organized? Are we creating the right conditions?

The two sentences for the coming lunar year (2003) are part of the practice – All misfortunes entirely away. Fresh Opportunities seen in abundance. – we post these in order to remind us of our practice. We have many opportunities to practice all around us. Can you write down all the opportunities available to you? Mindfulness will help us touch these opportunities.

Other kinds of joy. Sangha building. Helping our brothers or sisters in the community can bring both a lot of joy. This is based on understanding and love. There may also be a kind of joy based upon craving. Craving for recognition and praise. Can you learn to operate as a sangha? How?

You don’t need to be #1 to be happy. The teaching is a teaching of no-self. Inferiority. Superiority. Equality.

How can we take care of our ups and our downs? We cannot hide our suffering. How to ask for help?

The 51-mental formations in the boat of self. We have the five universal and five particulars – these are travelers in the boat of ourselves. They can also form a team and work together. Mindfulness and concentration. We have to learn to live in harmony with the sangha of self.

Smile and breathe. Enjoy the gem.

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Evolutive Dharma

From the archives, this talk by Thich Nhat Hanh was given during the 2002-2003 Winter Retreat (January 19, 2003) from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. The one-hour talk begins with a short chant in English by the monks and nuns.

The living Buddha. How do we get in touch with the living Buddha? When we think of the Buddha, we have a notion. We think of Shakyamuni. If we are caught by the notion of the historical Buddha we cannot be in touch with the living Buddha.

The practice of signlessness. With the eyes of signlessness, we can recognize the cloud in the tea or the ice cream. This is not something metaphysical or abstract. We see people and things in their new forms with the eyes of signlessness. We can be free from our ignorance. Impermanence makes life possible. It allows the Buddha to grow beyond his 80-year lifespan.

The living Dharma. The living dharma is something you can see for yourself, something that grows. The dharma needs to be offered in an intelligent way: it must be the right teaching for the right person, it must be flexible, and it must be able to grow.

The notion of the evolutive dharma. The nature of Interbeing can help us touch our true nature. Buddhism is only made of nonbuddhist elements. Buddhism has no fixed identity and is evolving. It’s like a Bodhi tree remains the same tree even as it grows in different directions. The living dharma is alive, moving, and growing.

And the living Sangha has the living Buddha and living dharma inside. Practice in an intelligent way and don’t be caught in fundamentalism. Even in the Buddha’s lifetime, the Dharma and Sangha were evolving. Fundamentalism is our enemy.

Thanks to our practice and our enlightenment, Mahayana Buddhism can grow. Different types of concentrations – impermanence, nirvana, no self – will help us grow in the practice.

 

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Francophone Educators’ Retreat

Dear listeners. As you know, Thay is in the hospital recovering from a brain hemorrhage. This fall, Thay has been able to given one dharma talk and that was for the Francophone Educators’ Retreat in Upper Hamlet on October 27, 2014. The talk is 30-minutes long, available in audio only, and is given in French (without translation). Though we may not all understand the words, please enjoy the talk.

 

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