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.

Download or watch below.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/54079304]
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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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