What is the Fabric of Reality?

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, January 26, 2014 and is the twenty first talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem. The first 45-minutes of the talk focus on connecting our body and mind through our practice of returning. The second half returns to the sutra study and the characteristics of seeds.

Every time we have difficulties with another person, what can we do? Why do we have these difficulties? Why can we not communicate? Do we blame the other person or are we able to see that both sides have difficulties? We have to look at ourselves. The most basic difficulty is that we can’t communicate or understand ourselves. It’s so easy to just run away from ourselves through reading novels, watching television, go on the internet, etc. But, there may be loneliness, grief, sadness, anger, and emptiness that we cannot bear. We are not at peace with ourselves. Therefore, we cannot easily communicate with the other person because we cannot communicate with ourselves. We can’t blame the other person or ourselves but we try to understand ourselves. This is a courageous act. We can use a friend, a co-practitioner, a sangha to support us to come back to ourselves and recognize our suffering and despair. Our breathing can help us bring our mind back to our body. This is the practice of returning. The method and practice are really simple. With concentration we can cultivate an inner strength. The third exercise from the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing is bringing our full attention to our body and let go of the tension in our body. Mindfulness of the body. Breathing can be the object of our mind to help us return to our body. How is our breathing? We can use the gatha “In. Out. Deep. Slow.” This is the practice of peace.

When Thay taught at university, another professor asked Thay what do we do to sit in meditation? The most basic practice is to harmonize our breathing. When we sit down, the first thing we do is calm down and harmonize the breathing. The second is to harmonize the body with our posture. These two go together – the breathing and the body. This may take a few minutes and then we can go deeper into contemplation. Being aware that we have body and our breathing, this is life.

We can see the miracle if our energy and practice is strong. The Mother Earth is present in our body. We carry in our body the presence of all our ancestors. They continue to live in us. If we are peaceful and joyful then our ancestors are also peaceful and joyful. And so this gatha of practice can be a very deep practice. This is awakening and can come today and can come continuously.

Freedom of in breath and out breath. If the breathing is peaceful then our body is peaceful. We calm our breathing, our body, and then our feelings.

What is that that prevents you from having joy? What is it’s true name? How do we let it entangle us? Plum Village practice is very simple. The energy of mindfulness let us see miracles in every moment. Mindful breathing and mindful steps. To calm down. We can have help
From fellow practitioners.

The characteristics of seeds is Momentary impermance.

Moons and stars are the objects of our consciousness. Everything has a mark or sign. It can be either collective or individual. All these phenomenon are from seeds. There are three kinds of conciousmess in manifestation-only teaching. Store consciousness, Manas, and Perception of Reality along with five sense consciousness plus mind. Store consciousness maintains three things: seeds, our body, and our environment. And the seeds manifests as signs or marks.

What is the fabric of reality?

The fourth characteristic of seeds. And this teaching is a different from the traditional interpretation. The seeds in the store consciousness are neither also door unwholesome because store consciousness is undetermined and unobstructed. Therefore, the characteristic of the seed is undetermined.

The fifth characteristic of seeds is that they wait for conditions to manifest. Interdependent co-arising. And the sixth is neither being nor non-being. In manifestation-only teaching, these are true mental categories and cannot be applied to reality. And that subject and object cannot operate independently.

No sameness, no otherness.
No coming, no going.

Stars, Moon and Consciousness

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, January 23, 2014 and is the twentieth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem. A great teaching today that includes a story of Mara and the Buddha followed by the tradition of earth cake making in Vietnam. The second half returns to our sutra study on subject/object and store consciousness.

0:00-9:30 Chanting
9:30-46:18 Mara and the Buddha
46:18-1:02:05 Tet and Earth Cakes
1:03:00-1:18:38 Subject and Object
1:18:38-1:28:40 Christian Theology and Ultimate Reality
1:28:40-end Characteristics of Seeds

After the Buddha became enlightened, he continued to practice. Sitting. Walking. Solo retreats. Why did he continue to practice after he became enlightened? If we don’t continue to nourish, then we can lose our happiness. Everything is impermanent. It’s called conditioning.

There is a priest in New York, Father Daniel Berrigan. Thay has been friends with him since 1965 and they have enjoyed practicing together many times. We here a story of their friendship, walking meditation, and dualistic thinking.

We learn a story of Buddha and Mara to illustrate our dualistic thinking. The story is then linked to a practice during the lunar new year. We need to remind ourselves to practice to turn this place into the territory of the Buddha. Today, in Vietnam, people put up a pole with a piece of the sangati robe to remind themselves to practice happiness.

Today we have a Flower market and a ceremony for putting up the pole. The beauties of Mother Earth invite us to come back to ourselves and the flowers are an expression of this beauty. A few words on earth cake tradition in Vietnam – what do the earth cakes represent? The lunar new year is an occasion to be in touch with our ancestors and be grateful. After lunch today, we will make earth cakes together. This is how we begin to celebrate Tet.

We return to the sutra study of the 30-verses. Stars and moon are an object of consciousness. They are in store consciousness. In the world of the oyster, they have no-eye consciousness and no-ear consciousness. The things that we see, the oyster cannot see. So, sense organs are one condition to give birth to consciousness. The object gives rise to consciousness. And these are manifested from seeds. And store consciousness holds all the seeds. The sense organ and the object rely on each other to create consciousness. Object and subject. They are divided into two parts but this isn’t exactly correct. We cannot take one out of the other. This is called Interbeing.

Some say there is a world that is objective whether we look at it or not. There is also consciousness and it is also there. This is a dualistic view and called double-grasping. The stars and moon are not independent of our consciousness. Just like the left and right. This is the most important teaching of manifestation-only teaching. When we look at the object we have to see the subject and vice-versa.

We are learning store consciousness. Store consciousness cannot be described with ideas of wholesome/unwholesome, being/nonbeing, pure/impure, etc. And the seeds that store consciousness hold are the same. How does this apply in Christian theology?

Right View and Right Thinking. Transcends the idea of being and non-being. Our Five Skandhas also have this nature. So, when we look at the characteristics of the seeds, we have to see they have the same nature as store.

Two kinds of impermance.

Perception and Reality

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, January 19, 2014 and is the nineteenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem. We begin with a teaching on the art of happiness and the art of suffering and how the body and mind work together. The second half of the talk returns to our sutra study by looking at perception and reality.

0:00-9:07 Chanting
9:28-29:36 Art of Generating Happiness
29:36-37:54 Art of Suffering
37:55- 50:25 Mindfulness of Body
50:25-1:07:11 Direct Perception
1:07:11-1:20:25 Representative Perception – Manas
1:20:25-1:32:52 Mind consciousness in Dispersion
1:32:52-end Reality as Form

If we know how to use our time, we can learn a lot in only a week at Plum Village and when we return home we can continue our practice. Mindfulness helps us generate peace, joy, and happiness. This can realized in every breath and step. We can use mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Mindfulness is happening in our body, feeling, and perception. It helps us know what is happening right now. We all have mindfulness energy. A second meaning for mindfulness is to remember, to recall. Our experiences of the past. With our mindfulness we can have insight. Do we know how to make use of our insight? Concentration is focusing on something. We can dwell stably in the present moment. An experienced practitioner who can generate joy, peace, and happiness in every step and every breath. While we are here at Plum Village we can practice so that we can also do it when we return home. This is the art of generating happiness.

How are we not caught by things worthy of pursuit? Our attachments prevent us from being happy. We can be happy when we let go. Mindfulness can also help us manage our suffering, our painful feelings and emotions. In doing so, we can suffer less. This is the art of suffering. We can use our suffering to generate our happiness. Love and understanding bloom from the mud of our suffering. In only one week we can generate and learn this practice.

First, there is mindfulness of the body. When we breath-in, we bring our mind back to the body. This is the first fruit of the practice. We have some exercises to become more aware of our body. How do we practice with mindfulness of our body.

The other day we began to learn the three objects and we continue here. Direct perception – things in themselves. Suchness. Reality as it is is a direct and correct and right perception. Subject and object of perception that always go together. What does science and Buddhism have to say about this? True direct perception sees the unity of subject and object. This includes consciousness of a object. Our practice is to break through ideas and the more we can do this then the more we can be happy. We can take away the discrimination of things.

Store conciousness has this true and right perception but manas does not. Manas is the desire to live coming from sttore conciousness but considers the body as a self. It is obstructed. This is an erroneous direct perception. The object of manas is only a representation of reality.

Mind consciousness in dispersion. When in this condition, there is no mindfulness and can be easily be influenced by manas to look for pleasure and avoid suffering. If we have mind conciousness, then we can see the Four Kinds of Nutriments. We have to know to inhibit and shine light manas so the amount of “mud” is in moderation so we can grow the lotus. We need some amount of mud.

Direct perception. Erroneous perception. Wrong perception.

In the 30-verses, we see the three natures. The tendency of conciousness to cut reality into pieces. Interdependent co-determination. Memory and mere image.

What is Emptiness?

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Plum Village is dated Thursday, January 16, 2014 and is the eighteenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem.  In this talk we learn about emptiness along with the continued theme of the winter retreat on consciousness, perception, and manas.

0:00-19:56 What is Emptiness?
19:56-30:40 Science and Consciousness
30:40-42:30 Suffering and Happiness
42:32-56:58 Mode of Perception
56:58-1:13:50 Manas
1:13:50-1:25:10 Subject and Object of Consciousness

Today we chanted the heart sutra. The most important word in this chant is emptiness; sometimes mistaken for nothingness. Emptiness is Sunyata in Sanskrit. Being as the opposite of non-being. Emptiness has no opposite. Right View is one of the elements of the noble eightfold path. The highest view of right view is to transcend the idea of being and non-being. These are two extremes and just notions that don’t describe reality. Right view helps us conserve a lot of energy. A practitioners we should practice slowly to transcend these notions. And this is called emptiness.

Form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Matter and energy. Cloud is snow but it is also rain and water. The sun is matter but it is also energy. Matter is energy and energy is matter. Science is getting closer to the nature of phenomenon. String theory. Everything has manifested from seeds. Manifestation only. There is also the law of thermodynamics.

Store consciousness is all the seeds. When they manifest, they are a formation. We can use the eyes of a scientist. Research of phenomenon. All phenomenon have the nature of no birth and no death. Consciousness and the object of consciousness cannot be separated. There still exists some duality in science between consciousness and phenomena. In manifestation-only teaching we are learning to erase that boundary. The two rely on one another to manifest. They are waiting for each other to manifest as a pair of opposites. Co-arising.

In the original teachings of the Buddha, they used very simple terms to explain. This is because that is. The conclusion is we should not wish for happiness without suffering but that suffering can be transformed. This is the art of suffering. If we know how to suffer then we suffer much less. In this winter retreat we shouldn’t think there is a realm where there is only happiness – there is no place like that. If we want happiness then we must also have suffering. Reciprocal by way of mutuality. Reciprocity. When we learn the Four Noble Truths, we have to see under  this light. The second noble truth talks of the path that leads to ill-being. It is because we live unmindfully. The presence of the second truth brings along the presence of all four which in turn brings along the noble eightfold path.

When we learn of alaya consciousness, we know that it holds all the seeds and energies and it can manifest the wondrous universe. Store consciousness can reach reality as it is. Things in themselves. This is a mode of perception and it is the nature of phenomena. A manifestation of the seeds from store consciousness. Direct and true perception of ultimate reality. All objects of store consciousness and store consciousness itself. Some examples drawn from Christianity and God are explained. The nature of all phenomena is no birth and no death. Neither pure nor impure. A direct and true perception of reality.

Manas cannot come in touch with reality as it is; it only grasps to part of store consciousness. In the sutras, there is an insight view of the body. Manas sees this body as itself. In the body, there is the five skandhas (form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness). In store consciousness, these are a wonder. But according to manas, the five skandhas are me – they are attachment. Where alaya is the beloved and manas is the lover. Store consciousness is the root consciousness and manas grabs ahold of alaya and says “this is me.” Manas represents the mud and is part of life.

Store consciousness holds all the seeds. It holds concentration and the five universal mental formations. The subject and object of consciousness. The foundations of seeds.

The Body and the Environment

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Sunday, January 12, 2014 and is the seventeenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem. Our talk today continues looking at the morning chant and evening chant in addition to a deeper look at store consciousness, the body, and manas.

0:00-8:04 Two Chants from Monastics
8:04-28:40 Walking and Breathing
28:40-1:06:46 Store Consciousness
1:06:46-1:27:25 The Body and the Environment
1:27:25-end Manas and Freud

Continuing on the morning chant verse from the last dharma talk.  The dharma body is our practice. The second line of the verse is sitting still my mind is at peace and I smile. The mind is the second action of karma and the smile is part of our speech. These three karma – body, mind, speech – must calm down. The night is divided into five parts – the fifth part is the early morning and the door of the dharma has opened. In the evening verse, the first part of the night has arrived. In the morning we can penetrate the three vehicles and embrace the two kinds of truth. We vow to go through the day being awake and not as sleepwalkers. Thay teaches on how the text of Chinese, Vietnamese, and English vary.

Walking and breathing. If we can walk with peace and joy, it doesn’t matter how we walk. If we can do it at Plum Village then we can do it anywhere. Walk as a free person. If there is no freedom there is no happiness. Not carried away by the past or future. Every step can condition us to peace, joy, and happiness. We can use our breathing to bring our mind back to our body. This is the energy of concentration. Freedom only takes a few seconds. The Cyprus in the yard. The dharma body is the miracle of the universe.

In manifestation only teachings, the store conciousness contains all the wonders of life. The object of mind. There are three objects of mind. Things as they are themselves. Store conciousness has a direct perception – no speculation and analysis. If it does this then it has mental construction. Being and non-being. Goodness and evil. Store consciousness is neither and has a direct perception and can touch the ultimate reality. It has access to the objects in themselves.

Seeds, Body and Environment. Manas. Subject and object. Store consciousness is the first to come and the lass to leave. Store consciousness controls and collaborates with the nervous system to create balance in the body.

Manas is undetermined, but it is covered up. It belongs to the subconscious. Perception, feeling, mental formation, consciousness. Manas thinks these things are itself but it is not. It doesn’t see the environment comes from the store consciousness too. That is it’s weakness. Manas seeks to avoid suffering, seeks pleasure, it does not know seeking pleasure is suffering, and does not to see the goodness of suffering. Finally, it does not know the law of moderation. Freud called manas the id.

Without manas, the five skandhas are the dharma body. A wonder. According to Freud, apart from id there is the ego. This is the self. This becomes something that is tangible. The ego inhibits id from manifesting. The super-ego looks for ways to free the id by using wholesome means.  More discussion and comparison of Freud psychology and manifestation-only teaching.

The Dharma Body

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Thursday, January 9, 2014 and is the sixteenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem.  Today we learn about the dharma body and the practices of letting go, concentration, and insight.

0:00-10:00 Two Chants from Monastics
10:18-20:40 What is Dharma Body?
20:40-34:40 Nourishing our Dharma Body
34:40-56:25 Joy and Happiness – Letting Go
56:25-1:06:36 Joy and Happiness – Concentration
1:06:36-1:19:25 Joy and Happiness – Insight
1:19:25-1:22:30 Walking Meditation

The dharma body is bringing morning light – this is part of the morning chant offered each day. What is this “dharma body” that shines brilliantly in the morning light? It is the teaching body. There are two kinds: the living dharma and the dharma that is written or recorded. Whenever we breathe peacefully, walk in meditation then this is the living dharma. Another meaning is our own practice – each one of us has a physical body and if we are a disciple of the Buddha then we also have a dharma body. The practice body. As students of the Buddha, we have the capacity to generate joy and happiness. So, in the morning when we go to meditation we want to allow our dharma body to shine brilliantly. The morning is a good time to study and our practice strong and solid.

Everyday we have to nourish our personal living dharma body. In the winter, the trees grow very slowly and in spring they grow very fast. Like the trees, we have to allow our dharma body to grow even in the winter time. When we walk, breathe, eat, and work then our dharma body is growing. If we don’t nourish it then it weakens. What are the conditions for the dharma body to grow? We have to be active in making it grow. For example, what is our reflex when we hear the sound of the bell. Create conditioning and reinforcement to allow our dharma body to be strong. This can also help us when we are away from the sangha even when nobody is around us – operant conditioning. The wonders of the universe is the second type of dharma body. The clouds, autumn leaves, a rose, the birds, etc. They are all giving talks on impermanence, four noble truths, non-self, and eightfold path. We may see the written dharma and then our personal dharma body then we may be able to see these wonders of the universe.

How do we generate joy, happiness, and peace? If we have a sangha then it can make it easier to generate these conditions. We can then offer this practice to our families, to our work, and the larger society. This practice can help us to manage our suffering – feelings of suffering and strong emotions. When we come to Plum Village we can learn these things in just one day by doing our practice. Each step. Each breath. If we cannot generate these three elements then we don’t have a dharma body yet. The first step is the practice of letting go and gives birth to joy and happiness. What is this letting go? What are the things that we can let go? What is preventing us from being happy and joyful? Perhaps they are ideas and notions of happiness. This is the main obstacle to our happiness. Practice is bringing a piece of paper out and writing down all our ideas of happiness.

In the sutras it also states that concentration also gives rise to joy, happiness, and peace. This is the art of meditation. In Zen tradition, they say that concentration is food – the joy of meditation. We nourish this every day and not by power, fame, position, or sex. While we sit, while we walk, while we chant … it is not to “get” to happiness but it doing these activities in themselves. If you have mindfulness, then you can have joy and happiness throughout the day. It’s up to you. Our friends in the practice can help remind us.

Letting go gives rise to happiness. Mindfulness and concentration also gives rise to happiness. Then we have insight. Everyone can have insight. Do we know how to make use of our insight? Do we know how to make use of our suffering? The Art of Suffering.

The Value of Being Together

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Sunday, January 5, 2014 and is the fifteenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem. After a brief sharing on the value of being together, the majority of the talk looks deeply at liberation, brotherhood and sisterhood, and happiness as illustrated through the Five Contemplations read before a meal. The last 35-minutes of the talk return to our winter retreat theme on alaya consciousness.

0:00-10:30 Monastics Chanting
10:54-19:55 The Value of Being Together
19:55-49:15 The Five Contemplations
49:05-1:03:25 Collective Energy of the Sangha
1:02:15-1:38:56 Alaya Consciousness

Where is the year 2013 now? Every day we created action in our thinking and our speech. Karma. In the coming year we will harvest the fruit of last year. We should practice this year with the flavor of right thinking to plant good seeds. Will our speech carry the language of love and compassion. We should only use loving speech. Harvest the fruit of right speech. Our bodily action should also have loving action to sow good action. In Plum Village, we have the opportunity to sit together, eat together, and be less busy than we have in our regular culture. Eating together as a family is important but we don’t take the time. How can organize the family to sit together? Can we treasure the presence of one another?

In Plum Village we use the Five Contemplations before a meal to remind ourselves of our freedom, our busylessness. Leisure for watching the moon. In Buddhism, we have the word liberation so we are not be entangled. Entangled by what? When we’re tied up by our busyness, anger, jealousy, fear, complexes, anxiety then we are not free. Thay shares the story of the king in Vietnam who handed over his throne so he could be a monk and discover freedom. Freedom is looking for practices and teachings that can help untangle ourselves. But the king continued as a spiritual teacher to his son. Engaged action. Liberation is a very important dharma. We need to recognize the knots that bind us so we can untie them. Do we have the capacity to be happy? If we cannot, it is because we have ties that bind us. What ties are entangling us? How do we practice for freedom?  How can we nourish brotherhood and sisterhood, the second aspect of the contemplation? Creating a career of helping other people. The third component of our contemplation is happiness. In Plum Village we eat as slow as we can so we can enjoy our freedom. We can listen to the taste in our mouth.  If we don’t have these things then we don’t have something to offer another person.

Before we chant, the monastic reads that we should breath as one body. We make our body and mind calm. When we do this as a community then we can really see our brotherhood and sisterhood. We create a collective energy of peace. We nourish one another as a community with our mindfulness, concentration, and insight. We go as a river in harmony and our suffering is being embraced by the sangha. We have to take refuge in the sangha and it’s collective energy of practice. We have other reminders and opportunities for practice such as the chant before sitting meditation. We also sing before walking in order to remind ourselves of our practice of walking.

There is something from the non-beginning. In alaya (store) consciousness there is a reality with no beginning. This is the foundation of all things. The cosmos. Alaya creates life. It’s nature is unobstructed and equivalent to the ultimate dimension of a suchness. It is not covered by notions of beginning/ending, good/evil, pure/impure, etc.

In the teachings we learn our manifestation is both our body and the environment. We have an influence on the environment and the environment influences us. Alaya is a foundation of everything. Neuroscience says something similar and have discovered a little part of alaya and it’s called background consciousness. When our mind works with our five sense organs they become the five sense consciousnesses. When mind consciousness works by itself, this too has a name. Working alone or separately. While we sleep and have dreams, this is mind consciousness in dreams.

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.

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The Practice of Mindfulness is the Practice of Happiness

This talk by Thich Nhat Hanh is from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 on the occasion of New Years Eve. It is the fourteenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. This talk is in English. The talk begins with a lovely guided meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh followed by a teaching on compassion to help us listen to the monastics chanting. The second half of the talk focuses on love and healing our suffering.

00:00-10:15 Guided Meditation
10:15-24:45 Generating Compassion to Relieve Suffering
25:23-44:45 Chanting the Name of Avalokite?vara
46:00-51:40 Standing and Breathing
51:40-1:12:30 Self Love and the New Year
1:12:30-1:29:50 The Second Arrow
1:29:50-end Three Energies

A few months ago we visited Stanford University on the topic of compassion. Many of us do not know how to take the mud to make the lotus. Compassion can be used to embrace and understand suffering. Without suffering, no compassion is possible. We shouldn’t run away from our own suffering. How do we do that? We can use mindful waking, mindful breathing, then we can generate the energy of mindfulness and we won’t feel overwhelmed. We can take care of the suffering inside.

In mah?y?na Buddhism we have a great being capable of overcoming great suffering and to help other people. This is the bodhisattva of compassionate listening. Avalokite?vara.  The monastics will chant her name today to help us all generate the energy of compassion. We can stop the thinking and just listen to the chant. Thay gives us instructions on how to best listen to the chant – we practice as a drop of water in a river and allow it to embrace us.

We have been discussing about home and the new year. And the first element is our body. Learning how to breath, to walk, and to build our home. The second element is our feelings and emotions. We have to learn to take care of this as well in order to have a true home.  The third element is our perceptions. We should always be asking, are you sure of your perceptions?

Do we know how to love ourselves? To take care of ourselves. If we can love and take care if ourselves then we’ll know how to take care of someone else. Self love is the foundation. We have been discussing about the new year. The year is made of time, speech, and action. The year 2013 will continue from our action. The fruit of our action will stay. Nothing is lost. This is retribution. This coming year we have the sentence “New Year. New Me.” To liberate us. We should to renew ourselves. To create a feeling of joy, happiness, and compassion. This is the practice of mindfulness.

Have you been able to enjoy the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land? The new year is your chance to enjoy it and practice. In Plum Village we have the time to walk together. We can challenge ourselves to walk in mindfulness. Every step. Happiness is possible. Mindfulness is being aware…aware of our steps. The practice of mindfulness is the practice of happiness.

Suffering is part of life. The Buddha spoke about the second arrow. It is a teaching to help us suffer much less. If we allow fear and anger to grow then we are allowing the second arrow. But don’t be afraid of suffering, especially if we know how to practice. Being aware of the painful feeling and calming the painful feeling. The first step is to suffer less. The second is to make good use of our suffering.  Our true home is in every step and in every breath.

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.

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Volition and Functions of Alaya Consciousness

This talk is taken out of order as there was a little difficulty in getting the English translation to share with you. In this talk, Thich Nhat Hanh focuses on the theme of volition as it relates to our relationships and to being a monastic followed by a teaching on the functions of alaya consciousness.

It was originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai,  the talk from New Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Thursday, December 19, 2013 and is the tenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Chan Duc.

00:00-10:30 Volition Food
10:30- 14:40 The Mind of Love – Bodhicitta
14:40-21:00 Volition and Marriage
21:00-28:48 The Path and Realizing the Dream
28:48-57:47 The Functions of Alaya
57:47-end Ripening and Impermanence

Last time we learned the alaya consciousness are tied to the five universal mental formations. What does alaya want to realize? In the teachings we talk of the four nutriments and the third is volition. Alaya wants to live  the good of volition should always be there – not temporary. Volition can be a positive nutrient and give us a lot of energy but it can also be unwholesome. What is my deepest desire? What do I want to do with my life? What is the source of volition food?

The Buddha had a desire to end suffering, worries, fears – to find a path. He had a desire to become a monk. The mind of love – bodhicitta. We must have this commitment to be a monk or a nun. This is our volition food as a monastic in the sangha.

People in the world may do something similar when they get married – what is the volition food of my partner? Do we share the same direction and the same ideal?  What do I want to realize in my life? We can also look at our parents and see their dreams and aspiration. Have they realized their dreams?

There is a path to realize our dream. The path is not different from the end. Every step has the dream for it to be reality in every moment of daily life. Don’t wait. We look to see our source of energy – our volition food – and we nourish it every day.

We have learned the self nature of alaya and that it is unobstructed, indeterminate, not good or bad, neutral. The 11 nature of seeds are the characteristics of the store. Now we talk about the function. First, the main function of alaya is to maintain and preserve – it is all the seeds. Second, alaya learns and manage the information it stores. Third, it has the capacity to make/ripen things. Fourth, it has the capacity to nourish and heal. Alaya is self directing and can behave in an automatic way. It has the capacity to sustain life.

The body and mind rely on each other and the basis are the seeds in alaya. Matter and spirit arise together because of alaya.

From the 30 Verses of Vasubandhu, we look at the 19th verse.

Consciousness is the totality of the seeds.
Transformation takes place in the way it does
because of a reciprocal influence; out of this, the
different constructions arise.

The alaya consciousness is also impermanent and birth/death is always taking place. Impermanent in every instant. There is also cyclical impermanence – we are born here and we die here. Maturation is cyclical.

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