Tag Archives: concentration

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.

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What is Right Thinking

June 12, 2013. 102-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbrol, Germany. The talk is given in English with simultaneous translation into German. This is the first dharma talk of the German Retreat on the theme Are You Sure?

Following two chants by the monastics, the talk begins at 12-minutes into the recording. 

We begin immediately with the concept of dualist thinking and Right Thinking. How do we see the interconnection between things? For example, between happiness and suffering or all the elements of a lotus flower. The lotus is made of non-lotus elements. A good gardener knows how to make good use of the mud just as a good mindfulness practitioner knows how to make good use of her suffering. The goodness of suffering. When you understand suffering then understanding and compassion arises – the foundation of happiness.

From the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, we have exercises handed down by the Buddha to help our practice with suffering.

  • Generate a feeling of joy
  • Generate a feeling of happiness 
  • Recognize painful feelings 
  • Calm down the painful feeling 

Mindfulness is an energy that helps us know what is going on in our body and our feelings. How do we bring relief to our painful feelings and emotions?

Three kinds of energies we should try to generate: mindfulness, concentration, and insight.

Four elements of True Love and being present for those we love. Taking care of our suffering and our live we can learn to take care of the world.

In the last 10-minutes, we get walking meditation instructions.

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Embrace the Whole Cosmos

November 15, 2012. 97-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha had just begun the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the third dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk was originally given in Vietnamese and this English translation is provided by Sister Chan Khong.

Reviewed the four (psychic) powers from the last talk (11/11/12). We also review mindfulness, concentration, and insight. How do we practice these? Practicing Right View. Right Speech. Right Action. These things are preparing our karma. Karma doesn’t mean bad. Practicing generosity. Dana. Enlarge your heart and accept yourself and others. A bodhissatva has the capacity to enlarge their heart. Embrace the whole cosmos. But this depends on your Right View obtained from mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Interbeing. The most important teaching from the Buddha is Right View and it comes from your practice. It isn’t about reincarnation, retribution, etc.

Today we now discuss a sutra with commentaries on the middle path. Chapter 15, the first two Gathas. All the dharma has no self. Nothing has a seperate self. Everything is a notion. The Dharma Seal is the true teaching of the Buddha and contains impermance, no self, and nirvana. Is there a permanent soul? Thay continues further with these teachings of the dharma seal.

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We Are Peace

July 14, 2012. 111-minute recording given at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the sixth dharma talk of the Summer Opening and the beginning of the second week. We begin with instructions on listening to the chant, followed by listening to the name Avaloketeshvara. The main talk begins about 40-minutes into the recording.

The third exercise of mindful breathing is about our body. Getting in touch with your body. True life is only possible with concentration and mindfulness. We learn to stop thinking so we can feel. The secret of meditation is to bring the mind in touch with the body. In the here and the now.

Mindfulness is the first energy. This bring concentration. Followed by insight. Three kinds of energies. They are within. Breathing in, I get the insight that I am alive. There are many insights like this.

When we each practice like this, we develop a collective energy and we can change the world. Just these three kinds of energy.

The second exercise is to follow your in breath all the way through. And the first is to be with your breath.

At 1:25 into the recording, Thay responds to a few questions on the topic of fear submitted by Self Magazine. How do you make good use of the energy of fear to produce good things?

Finally, tips on how to participate in a peace walk.

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Conditions of Happiness

July 8, 2012. 68-minute recording given at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the second dharma talk of the Summer Opening and it was originally given in French. This is an English translation.

Peace. Freshness. Solidity. We all have these elements in the form of seeds. We can learn how to water these seeds. We all have a Buddha-nature in us. With meditation, we can offer this to ourselves and others. We can use pebble meditation and inviting the bell.

Discovering conditions of happiness. Being the mind back to the body. Established in the present moment.  Mindfulness, the first energy, is the heart of meditation. The second energy is concentration. And the third energy is insight. The practice of walking and sitting should bring pleasure. These three energies allow you to identify the conditions of happiness. Meditation is possible all day long.

I have arrived, I am home.

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The Holiness of Mindfulness, Concentration, and Insight

April 30, 2012. 90-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet in Plum Village during the 12th annual Francophone Retreat. The talk is given in French with English translation. This is the second dharma talk.

We all have a spiritual body. We practice with our body as well as our mind. The body and the mind are together. Bhavana. To cultivate, produce. We need seeds, soil, water, etc. We want to cultivate the good seeds. Cultivate understanding and love. We use mindfulness. And mindfulness brings the energy of concentration. Then we arrive at the energy of insight. This is the Buddhanature.

Thay describes pepple meditation as a method to be truly present. Then we can use the mantra, Darling I here for you. In Plum Village, we also use the Five Mindfulness Trainings, the basis of which is Right View.

We continue with teachings on being, non-being, and the noble eightfold path.

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Dharma Talk Francophone Day 2 from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

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Applying Buddhist Teachings to the Classroom

April 2, 2012. 115-minute dharma talk given at The American School in London by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is part four (and final part) of the Educators’ Retreat: An Exploration of Mindful Education.

Memorizing gathas to help us establish mindfulness. There are four domains of mindfulness: body, feelings, mental formations, and objects of mind. Mindfulness can help us be together in these four realms. Once we have established mindfulness, we can have concentration. The final kind of energy is insight – this can liberate you from your fear. This is not the product of your thinking, it is the insight of Interbeing. True education should be based in this insight of Interbeing.

In order to see things, we need an organ (for example, the nose to receive oder). The organ of thinking it is called manas, and there is a lot of mis-perception in this organ. For example, the view of a separate self – this is at the base of all our complexes (inferiority, superiority, and equality). We can use mindfulness to gain the insight of non-discrimination. In the field of education, it is the same thing. The happiness of the students is the happiness of the teacher. We need non-discrimination to enjoy the teaching and the learning.

In the teaching of the four noble truths, the first truth is there is suffering. In education, the first thing we should do is identify the suffering and acknowledge it to each other. We have to see the truth so that real change can happen through a collective awakening. Thay continues with the application of the second, third, and fourth noble truth in our lives.

We learn about what is meant by sangha and how it can be applied to the community of teachers. What is suffering and why is it important? The last part of the talk looks closely at the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

Happy teachers will know how to generate understanding and love that will help the younger generation change the world.

A video version may be available.

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The Joy of Simplicity

December 4, 2011. 103-minute dharma talk from New Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the fourth talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

In the last dharma talk, we learned about walking mediation. Today will learn about the practice of sitting meditation. Sitting in the spring breeze – we should sit relaxingly, joyfully, happily. We don’t sit for enlightenment. No aim to become a Buddha. We sit straight, but relaxed. This morning, the Morning Chant was so beautiful and is different from when he was a young novice monk. Thay talks about the traditional way of offering the chants in Sino-Vietnamese and discusses the lines of the Morning Chant and the Evening Chant. He tells the story of sitting all night in meditation with Ananda and a group of new bhikshus – we just sit happily. We can apply this to sitting in the airport or the train station. If we can sit like this, the world can have a lot of peace and joy. We can apply this practice into other activities of the day, like sweeping or moping. Thay talks about his life as a novice where there were no toilets in the temple. “Having toilets to clean can be a source of great happiness.”

About one-hour into the talk, we continue the teaching on the Yogacarabhumi Sastra, Verses 9-12 of the Paramartha Gathas of Asanga. What does the absolute truth say about cause and effect? What is co-being, co-manifesting? The “twelve” links of co-arising.

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Breathing and Interbeing

September 18, 2011. 115-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from the Ocean of Peace Mediation Hall at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the second dharma talk for the Vietnamese “Opening the Heart” retreat. The talk was originally given in Vietnamese and this is the English translation provided by Sr. Dang Nghiem (except the first few minutes).

We begin with a guided meditation and see our father as 5-yr old child. We cannot take the father out of the son. Today, we continue learning about the breath by using the Sutra on Full Awareness of Breathing. Thay walks us through the first eight exercises; the first two being about right mindfulness. The fifth and sixth are about joy and happiness. We get there by letting go. Let go of our ideas. We can also look for conditions of happiness. concentration can also bring. Then insight.

The talk ends with a few stories on Interbeing nature of our families, true love, and understanding.

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Full of Wonder

September 17, 2011. 96-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from the Ocean of Peace Mediation Hall at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the first dharma talk for the Opening the Heart Vietnamese Retreat. The talk was given in Vietnamese and translated into English by Sr. Dang Nghiem.

We begin with a guided meditation on our parents. Opening the Heart. Thay teaches the corn story to illustrate the concept of continuation. This practice not just for us. It is for our parents, our children. This is non-dualistic way of thinking. We have both blood and spiritual ancestors inside of us. Where do you look for the Buddha? We all have Buddhanature. Do not look for the Buddha on the outside. We also have the dharma jewel. We have a method to practice. If the jewel is not shining than we need to learn how to polish. The third jewel is the sangha. What does a sangha practice? Mindfulness, concentration, and insight.

What is the relationship between the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha? Ate you a true cell in the body of the sangha and the dharma? What is continuation? The nature of things? The cloud and the tea. The child and the father. The corn seed and the corn plant. How do we live deeply? Enjoying each wonderful moment. To use our conditions of happiness. Practicing to generate Mindfulness, concentration, and insight.

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