Tag Archives: 2012-2013 Winter Retreat

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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Keeping the Essential Teaching of Buddhism

February 3, 2013. 91-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the twenty-sixth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk is given in Vietnamese and this is a translation provided by Sr. Chan Không. It is the final talk of the winter retreat.

Are we the soulmate of the Buddha? We are asking if we are making any mistakes about the teaching. Are we misunderstanding the Buddha? We’ve learned about dualistic thinking. And we’ve learned about the unnecessary questions.

How do we practice with the Dharma body? The teaching? Everyone can practice like the Buddha. Everyone can be enlightened. It is not a religion. The teaching of the Buddha non-dualistic. Even right from the beginning Buddhism split into two schools. The misperception started right from the beginning. Again, what is being the soulmate of the Buddha? How do we keep the essential teaching and also the delusion?

What happens if we diefy the Buddha, then what happens? We can get lost in the idea of self. Discovering the middle way. Sometimes we need to dilute Buddhism a little without forgetting the essential teaching.

Signlessness. Seeing the Buddha in others and other things. The Buddha is next to you. Open your eyes. The Buddha is still there if we practice signlessness.

Your self is transforming every day.

Universal Monarch

January 31, 2013. 83-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the twenty-fifth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk is given in Vietnamese and this is a translation provided by Sr. Chan Không.

We begin with an outline of the next few weeks at Plum Village. Following the winter retreat, the sangha will celebrate the lunar new year for four days. After the lunar new year, there will be a monastic retreat which concludes with a monastic lamp transmission ceremony in which our lay friends are welcome to attend. During the monastic retreat, all monastics will stay at Upper Hamlet and our lay friends will stay at other hamlets. We are fortunate to have the monastics from Germany and Paris join us for the monastic retreat. The lamp transmission ceremony will take place on February 21.

Last week we learned the sutra on the white clad disciple. We should practice the five trainings and the four recollection To be on the path of enlightenment. There is also something called the five powers. This is very helpful for the businessman or the politician. The first power is faith. The others are diligence, mindfulness, concentration, and Generosity. Thay talks about sutra called the Universal Ruler or Monarch and the seven treasures. Ruling with the Dharma.

The story of a couple of kings is shared. King Ashoka. King Milanda. Kanishka. We also listen to the transition from tribal society to Monarch society to democracy. Polytheism and monotheism. We conclude with the story from the Sutra Agama #2.

Nirvana Walking

January 27, 2013. 76-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the twenty-fourth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk is given in Vietnamese and this is a translation provided by Sr. Chan Không.

In first 17-minutes, we arr reminded how to be in touch with yourself. Through walking meditation and no thinking. When we walk, we walk relaxingly and solidly. Every step is solid and every step is freedom. And with Freedom you can arrive in Nirvana. Nirvana is extinction of all the affliction. Walking meditation can be very profound.

Three Dharma Seals. Impermanence. No self. Nirvana.

The island of self. There is no way to Nirvana,  nirvana is the way.

At 45-minutes, we look at the Four Noble truths and noble eight fold path. The five mindfulness trainings are a concrete manifestation of this path to Nirvana. What are the five mindfulness Trainings? Includes a discussion of the four Kinds of nutriments.

The White Clad Disciple

January 24, 2013. 67-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the twenty-third dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk is given in Vietnamese and this is a translation provided by Sr. Chan Không.

We continue the teaching from the sutra on the white clad disciple – Upasaka Sutra, Madhyama Agama 128. The second Sutra we are learning is he teaching for those who are sick or those who are dying – Ekottara Agama 1.1, 8 (in consultation with Majjhima Nikaya 143 and Madhyama Agama 26). Both these texts are available in the Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book.

The laypeople only need to learn two teachings and they will be happy living in this very moment. The first is the five mindfulness training. And the second is the four recollections.

How do we skillfully practice? Dwelling happily in the present.

A Story of Anathapindika

January 20, 2013. 91-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the twenty-second dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk is given in Vietnamese and this is a translation provided by Sr. Chan Không.

We begin with Thay’s experience being interviewed by a journalist from The Guardian. The topic is about taking care of the environment and the role of business people. We also learn about happiness and how to write something for the reader to support this intention of happiness. To help the business person to breathe and discover happiness. Maybe we can even have the business leader to lead total relaxation. You can read the article here.

In the time of the Buddha, a number of businessmen came to see the Buddha. One is Anathapindika. The Buddha started to give teachings specifically for the lay practitioner compared to the teachings he gave to the monastics.

Back to the line of Zorro. The line at the top is the historical dimension and the bottom line is the ultimate dimension. We travel from historical to ultimate. You can reach the ultimate dimension in this life. We can see the Four Noble Truths, quantum physics.

Subject and object of perceptions. What is in your mind may be different from person to person. Each person has a different consciousness about what we see and what we experience.

More on the friendship of Anathapindika and Shariputra. Sutra on the White Clad Disciple. We can teach lay people. How to be happy in the present moment and be the holy disciple.

Another sutra we discuss is one the guide for those who are dying. It’s about Sariputra helping Anathapindika to die happily.

The Story of King Ajatashatru

January 17, 2013. 87-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the twenty-first dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk is given in Vietnamese and this is a translation provided by Sr. Chan Không.

Thay shares that he has written a document with all the teachings from the winter retreat. At the end of Winter Retreat we can distribute. The focus has been mistakes that have been made about Buddhism.

We hear story of Siddhartha from before he was enlightened. King Bimbisara was impressed with him and wanted him to be the Teacher for the whole nation. Siddhartha said no because he wasn’t enlightened yet. Later, when he was enlightened, he want back to the King at the time when King Bimbisara’s son was trying to take away his power. There was some mental sickness in his son, and later King, Ajatashatru. This is the story we hear that is found in the Samaññaphala Sutta, The Fruit of Contemplative Life Discourse. What is the life of a monastic? What is the freedom of a monastic.

At 43-minutes we continue with sutra study that has been the focus of the winter retreat. What happens when we pass away? Everyone always wants to know and there are lots of theories. Nihilism versus enternalism. The truth must be beyond these mental categories. What is no birth and no death? Impermanence and the middle way. The one who acts and the one who receives are not the same, but not different either. This is the deep looking at impermanence and see the pairs of opposites. We also hear about the time of Lê Dynasty in Vietnam.

Even some scientists have discovered this teaching of no birth and no death. We can transcend these mental categories of placing everything into boxes. When you see that, you can live free and happy in your daily life.

Unanswered Questions

January 13, 2013. 117-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the twentieth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk is given in Vietnamese and this is a translation provided by Sr. Chan Không.

Here in Plum Village, when we walk, we don’t talk and we stop thinking. We bring our breathing and our step into the present moment. Concentrate in a relaxing manner. We can use walking as a bell of mindfulness.

How can we practice eating meditation? We turn off the TV, including the TV in your mind. We can use the Five Contemplations to help practice. Thay reviews the traditional contemplation and compares to the modern version.

Four Kinds of Nutriments. How do we help outr mind? What to do with negative thought? What is volition?

At 70-minutes, we turn to our ongoing sutra study. My teaching is to touch your suffering and transform your suffering. It is not an intellectual exercise. The Buddha only shared a few practical ideas to heal. There are some questions refused to answer. What are they?

The Buddha taught two things on many sutras. Non-self. Impermanence.

The Self is Ever Changing

January 10, 2013. 106-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the nineteenth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk is given in Vietnamese and this is a translation provided by Sr. Chan Không.

In our practice of Touching the Earth today, we practiced with the Three Jewels. There is the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. What does this mean? Comparison with the Trinity in Christianity. Do you know how to love? Do you know how to understand? What is the guideline for looking deeply so we can love and understand? What are the elements of a sangha? What can you do to start a sangha? Why is a sangha important?

At 40-minutes we begin the sutra study. What is a seperate self? The self is ever changing. We have the illusion that it’s the same. No sameness. No otherness. It’s the middle way. What is conventional designation? Formation and samskara. You Are, So I Am. Discusses sutra in light of Spinoza, a Dutch philosopher.

In the relative world there is birth, becoming, action, and formation. The teaching of interacting is the teaching of no-self. Thay explores this within the context of early Buddhism and the development of the teaching.

Joy in Resting and Sitting

January 6, 2013. 88-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the eighteenth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk is given in Vietnamese and this is a translation provided by Sr. Chan Không.

Editorial Note: the recording is currently missing the first part of the talk (not much); if I am able to secure a complete file then I will repost. 

The joy of sitting and resting. When you sit down and you know how to harmonize your body and breath, you can have nirvana. Walking for ourselves, our ancestors, our nation. Every step is healing. Every step is nourishing. Taking care of the earth. Thay tells a few stories of astronauts. Earth gazing and seeing that the earth is alive. We learn a walking gatha.

At about 48-minutes, we transition to sutra study. Upadi means caught or grasping. It means here grasping an object of your observation. Your Five Skandhas. Set them free. It’s not the five Skandhas that are wrong, but it is the grasping.