Tag Archives: karma

Four Questions for the Tathágata

December 20, 2012. 95-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 thirteenth 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.

Dhyana is a concentration and it is a practice. Touching the Earth practice – when your five body parts the earth, we also touch with the many lineages and steams of life from before us. We do not have a separate self; not an individual self. We can bring all these lineages to make a great vow. There are four main questions the Buddha didn’t answer because he said it was not necessary.

The Tathágata exists after death, does not exist after death, both does and does not exist after death, neither exists nor does not exist after death?

Next we have a teaching from the sutra Anuradha. No birth. No existing. No becoming. No formation. What dies this mean to us as practitioners?

In Buddhism there is the teaching of samsara and karma. We have also learned about retribution. But these three existed before the Buddha and he used them anyway and expanded upon these teachings to talk about no self. Right view doesn’t allow an answer about eternalism and nihilism. The wisdom of adaptation.

A review of the twelve links teaching.

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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Be Free From Fear

November 1, 2012. 76-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is enjoying the Autumn Retreat and this is a Day of Mindfulness. This is the 8th, and final, dharma talk of the fall retreat. Thay begins with a short review of what’s been covered in the last four weeks.

Today we will look more deeply into the nature of our birth and our death. We begin with an analysis of a cloud. What is a cloud and when does it exist? We have to look at the cloud with eyes of signlessness. The rain is the new form of the cloud. How do we appy this to our own being? Is there really birth and death? There is only continuation.

Collective action. In Buddhism, the notion of action is very important. It is called karma. Triple action: thought, speech, and action. With mindfulness we can recognize our thoughts and make a decision that they produce healing and reconciliation. In order to so, we need Right View and Right Understanding. What is the connection between birth, death, and karma?

We need mindfulness and concentration to gain the insight if Right View. Birth and death inter-are with each other. Thay teaches briefly on each of the other elements of the Noble Eightfold Path.

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The Noble Eightfold Path

April 15, 2012. 106-minute recording given at Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney, Ireland by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is the third (and final) dharma talk for the Mindful Living Today retreat.

Thay begins with an explanation of no-birth and no-death, including a teaching on energies we produce in our daily lives. Thoughts of healing an compassion can heal the world. Thinking is already action. Karma has three kinds of action. We continue with a teaching on the noble eightfold path and mental/store consciousness. we conclude with the last eight exercises on the full awareness of breathing.

Mother Earth Accepts All

December 11, 2011. 87-minute dharma talk from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the sixth talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

We learn of mother. The buddha is the son of his mother, his foster mother, the mother earth. We learn of the story Suddana in Avatamsaka Sutra where each of us can birth a Buddha. We can meet the mother of the Buddha. She is the mother of all the Buddhas in the present and in the past. She is one with the planet earth. Mother earth is so large and can accept everything without discrimination.

The autumn leaves are still on the ground here at Plum Village. They are in transformation, but some still remain on the tree. The leaves live a short life, but they enjoy being whereas humans have lot of worries, anxiety, etc. it is the price of being human. To be a pine tree is beautiful. Maybe next life we can be a tree or a bird.

We always have a need for a place to return. Every part of us will return to the earth. As Buddhists we need to see things in a non-duality way and that we are one with the planet earth. The planet is the mother of every being. The nature of reality is no coming, no going; no birth, no death. If we look deeply, we can see everything continues. The earth is alive.

At 49-minutes into the talk, we continue learning the sutra beginning with Gatha 14. Sub-atomic science still cannot grasp the nature reality. In Buddhism, we have the concept of non-attainment. You cannot grasp the true nature. We cannot grasp in time and space. In quantum science, they try to grasp the nature of every particle. They see forces/fields such as gravity, electromagnetism, and nuclear. But science rarely speak of our mind and the force of karma. For example, the destruction of the Twin Towers was a force of the mind – hatred. The mind can also be positive with just as much power. In this Gatha, there are these fields we cannot grasp even if they have manifested.

14. It is not inside, nor is it outside. It is not something between inside and outside. Before (samskaras) conditioned things have arisen it is not possible to grasp them (in terms of time and space).

15. Moreover after conditioned things have arisen it is not possible to grasp them. The future does not have any sign (by which we can grasp it). The past can be an object of our discriminating mind (imagined).

16. We are able to discriminate the things we have been in touch with, we can also discriminate the things we have not yet been in touch with. Although there is no beginning of samskaras, the discriminating mind can still use the concept of beginning.

17-18. The physical body is like foam. Feelings are like bubbles on the surface of the water. The perceptions are like a magic city. The mental formations are like the stem of a banana tree. The consciousness is like a magic show. That is what the Buddha has taught.

How Can I Not Suffer When People Are Not Being Good to this World?

October 9, 2011. 105-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, NY. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the third dharma talk for the Stepping Into Freedom, Savoring Life Retreat. Today we have a session of questions and answers.

Our practice to ask a question that will benefit everyone. We begin with the children, then teens, and finally the adults.

  1. When you are very upset, how can you show it without hitting?
  2. Do you ever get frustrated with yourself?
  3. How do I not suffer when people are not being good to this world?
  4. How young were you when you became a monk and what types of commitments did you need to make?

    // brief introduction and discussion on the Wake Up Movement by Br. Phap Luu //

  5. When I have positive and negative energy, what should I do with it?
  6. When I’m engaged in a conversation, I worry about other things. What does it mean to go home to yourself?
  7. Can we still have the consciousness of our loved ones after death? Can we communicate?
  8. A question about the Five Mindfulness Trainings and karma. Is it forgiven?
  9. When I get discouraged or frustrated, I sometimes compare myself to you and it keeps me away and I don’t feel connected to the sangha.
  10. A question about commitment and coming from a place of truth and an unclear understanding from when the commitment was originally made.
  11. A question about attachment, discrimination, and violence.
  12. As a person raised Christian and have felt Jesus, so how can I know absolute truth? Is this it?

You may listen or download the audio from this site or watch the video.

Breathing In, I Know I am Alive

October 8, 2011. 109-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, NY. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the third dharma talk for the Stepping Into Freedom, Savoring Life Retreat.

The Buddha is a teacher of love. At the time of the Buddha, the people of India were followers of Brahma and Brahma was love. So the Buddha taught about love and gave us the Four Elements of True Love – the Four Brahmaviharas.

The first element is maitri, It’s a difficult word to translate, but many people translate into lovingkindness.  Loving oneself is the foundation of loving someone else. The Buddha made himself happy and then he helped other people be happy. When you have freedom and calmness, then it is easy to help other people be happy. The second element of true love is karuna. This is usually translated as compassion. This is one is to remove suffering, to transform suffering. The third element is mudita – this is joy. This is the sign of true love. And most of the truth lies in the fourth element – upeksa. Scholars have usually translated this as equanimity but Thay shares the real meaning is non-discrimination. In true love there is no place for discrimination.

The wisdom of non-discrimination. In the teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path, the Buddha speaks of Right View. Right View is the type of insight that is free from discrimination. Right View is usually mentioned as the first element of the Noble Eightfold Path, but it also comes from Right Concentration and Right Mindfulness. Coming from Right View, we can produce Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence. Today we will focus more on the practice of Right View and Right Concentration, but these are the eight elements of the path proposed by the Buddha. It is the Path of True Love. When we take the Five Mindfulness Trainings, they represent this path.

The teaching of no-birth and no-death, being and non-being. This has to do with the practice of emptiness, one of the three doors of liberation. There is a word, Sahabhu, it means co-being. We cannot exist by ourselves. Thay also speaks of our ideas and notions, including the notion of impermanence. Do we have insight?

Action has three aspects. Thinking. Speaking. Body. This is our product. Our continuation. Anything you produce will bear your signature. This is karma. We are our action.

With this path we can create happiness. True understanding and compassion.

You may listen or download the audio from this site or watch the video.

When You Breathe You Can Already Celebrate Life

September 11, 2011. 120-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 final dharma talk for the Together We Are One retreat.

We begin with a guided meditation looking deeply at ourselves and our ancestors.
We need to cultivate love and compassion. Love and compassion are an essential element of happiness. Maitri has the power to bring happiness. We must understand our suffering, we cannot understand the suffering if others. We must begin with ourselves.

In true live there is no individual suffering; you can’t say it’s not my problem. Understanding is the foundation of love and mindfulness and concentration are the two elements that can bring about understanding.

The roots of terrorism ate wrong views, wrong perceptions. We use loving speech and compassionate listening to help get rid of wrong views. This too is the practice of true love. The path proposed by the Buddha is a noble eightfold path. It has Mindfulness, concentration, and insight. We can travel to the shore of liberation and non-fear. Paramita.

Right view is an element of the noble eightfold path. The Five Mindfulness Trainings are a very concrete method to have right view. Thay talks about being and non-being as it relates to out way of thinking. Right thinking is another part of the path. To continue the explanation, Thay tells a story of a cloud. The nature of a cloud is no-birth, no-death. Our cloud has not come from non-being. A cloud can never die. Being and non-being are just notions. When conditions are sufficient, I manifest myself. My nature is non-local. Right view can liberate us from fear, despair, anger.

In the mind of discrimination, we always want to choose only happiness. We want to ban the suffering and only have happiness. But happiness and suffering inter-are. It is the understanding of the suffering that compassion/happiness can arrive. We do not discriminate against suffering. Birth is now. Death is now. We can touch that fact. Being and non-being are notions and cannot be applied to reality.

Right speech, the next in the path, means speech without discrimination. Next we look at Right Action. What we do with our body should reflect our right view. No discrimination. The same can be said about Right Livelihood, Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.
Finally, Thay talks about karma.

In addition to the audio, a video version is available.

Breakthrough Into the Nature of Reality

August 20, 2011. 116-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the first dharma talk of the Body and Mind Are One retreat.

The first 21-minutes of the dharma talk is for the children. Thay speaks about offering our true presence, the best gift, to our loved ones.

When the children leave, Thay speaks about the term “sahabhu,” which he defines as “co-being” or “co-interbeing”.

In Buddhism we practice mindfulness and concentration. Mindfulness is to be aware of what is there, and we can choose the object of our mindfulness. We can be aware of a flower or a cloud, or of our in-breath. The energy of mindfulness brings with it the energy of concentration. When mindfulness and concentration are powerful we get a breakthrough, an insight—we understand the nature of what is there.

Mindfulness, concentration, and insight. It is insight that can release us from our suffering. Prajna. We also talk of the Noble Eightfold Path and the first is Right View. Right View transcends all other views. Free from the notion of being and non-being. One method to get there is sahabhu. From here Thay explains the Four Noble Truths and the idea of non-dualism and why suffering is a noble truth.

Thay continues to share about the dual nature of birth and death: “We are experiencing birth and death at every moment. Death is now, together with birth. They manifest together at the same time. You cannot say the above exists, and then the below later. The have to exist at the same time. Why are we afraid of dying? Wherever there is death there is life. We are not used to seeing things and thinking of things in term of interbeing. That is why fear and despair are born.”

Buddha. Dharma. Sangha.
Son. Father. Holy Spirit.
Body. Mind. Environment.

In neuroscience they ask whether consciousness is created by the brain; whether the brain and the mind are the same thing. How can something objective like the brain create something subjective like the mind. So there is the ‘in’ and the ‘out’; scientists are still caught in dualistic thinking. The wisdom of non-discrimination can help scientists to get an insight more quickly.

Thay dedicates the last section of the talk to the concrete practice of mindful breathing, including the first few steps of mindful breathing as delineated in the Mindfulness of Breathing Sutra. We are reminded to practice mindfulness and meditation correctly: “Life is already full of suffering, why do you have to suffer more with Buddhist meditation?”

The talk is available below. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and breakthrough into the nature of reality.

Let There Be Light

July 20, 2011. 80-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh in French, with English translation, from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

Thay begins with a story of creation: God said, “Let there be light,” and the light said, “Wait.” “What are you waiting for?” “I’m waiting for the shadow and darkness in order to manifest together.” There is no subject without object; the two have to manifest together. Further, object and subject are the same thing.

Buddha’s first teaching was on the Four Noble Truths: suffering, the creation of suffering, happiness, and the path to happiness. If we confirm the existence if ill-being, then we also confirm the opposite. This is Interbeing. Buddha’s teaching is both on suffering and on happiness. The first Truth, helps us identify the second Truth.

We can begin a discussion of the Eightfold Noble Path with Right View, the goal of our practice. When we look at a father and a son, we should not see them as two separate entities. Everything is that way.

Thay teaches the Eightfold Noble Path, elaborating on Right Thought, Right Speech and Right Action (three aspects of our daily life) as the development of skillful means with regard to the three types of karma: mind, speech, and bodily action.

What we call death is not really death. Our karma (our actions) continue after we are no longer here in this bodily form. We continue right now in the present moment through our actions. There are two kinds of retribution for our actions: ourselves (our five skandhas), and our environment (relating to Right Livelihood).

We conclude with Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Our view on a global ethic is based on these teachings. We have a path and we don’t have to worry.

The talk was given in French and English translation is available below. There is a video version available too.