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.
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