Tag Archives: Mental Formations

Foundation for All Phenomena is Store Consciousness

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Sunday, December 15, 2013 and is the ninth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

00:00-10:00 Chanting
10:35-25:42 UNESCO and Violence in Schools
25:42-44:30 The Seed on the Inside and the Seed on the Outside
44:30-55:40 The Seed of Pure/Impure
55:40-end Different Schools of Thought on Store Consciousness

In 2006, Thay gave at a talk at UNESCO in Paris where he suggested that UNESCO organize retreats for teachers from across the globe so that teachers can bring the practice of nonviolence into their classrooms. At the time, the manager at UNESCO was very supportive because in that year there had been 88,000 acts of violence in classrooms in France in 2006. The energy of violence is there is our young people and many parents and children don’t have methods for dealing with the anger in themselves. In our practice, we begin with generating peace in our body and mind to better manage our energy of anger and violence. We want to share these practices with others. If teachers can learn this practice, they will know how to help their students. Plum Village agreed to create documents and materials to support this effort of reducing violence. Two books - Anger and Cultivating True Peace - both teach on this theme. We have led retreats to Wake Up Schools. We have reached out to UNESCO again to see how can we better support UNESCO again to help train teachers? We have also drafted the Manifesto 2000 (which are based on the Five Mindfulness Trainings) with them, but it seems to have been forgotten. The United Nations have accepted some of our practices for nonviolence with the young people. In Spain, there has been an effort to bring this practice to schools.

One characteristic of seeds that we need to discuss is no-inside/no-outside – this is the tenth characteristic of seeds. There is a distinction between inside and outside – inside our mind and outside in the environment. This is a dualistic view and is double-grasping. In the four establishments of mindfulness there are four domains: body, feelings, mind, and objects of mind. In our mind is the phenomena. There are also teachings on karma and retribution in Buddhism. Our actions lead to retribution. The environment is where the body lives. The environment is ourselves also. These two things cannot be separated. This is the best teaching of manifestation-only teachings.

The eleventh characteristic of seeds is pure/impure – this is a teaching of Mahayana Buddhism. In manifestation-only teachings, different sutras explore this theme. The Five Skandhas and the Twelve Localities (Six Sense Organs and Six Sense Objects). The domains of existence – 18 realms. Thay is teaching on a specific verse where all phenomena are in store consciousness. There are six different pathways but there is also a seed of nirvana. The wholesome seeds are there too in the store consciousness. Nirvana is not outside of birth and death. This characteristics leads us to the teaching of the Heart Sutra where there is no defilement and no immaculate.

Neither wholesome/unwholesome, pure/impure. It is indeterminate. You can choose one of the six paths or you can choose nirvana. What do different teachings say about the different mental formations? The Five Particular Mental Formations. More teachings on store consciousness.

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A Sense of Contact

November 28, 2013. 140-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet of Plum Village. This is the fourth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. We begin with two chants from the monastics. The talk was given in Vietnamese and this is an English translation by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

Today we continue studying the Five Universal Mental Formations – they happen in a split of a second. It is everywhere, anytime. This is why they are universal. The first is contact – we spend most of the teaching on this mental formation. It’s a vibration in our sense organs. It’s a modification of the organ when it comes together with the object and consciousness and prepares for the arrival of feeling. This is the traditional definition. Contact is the base for feeling or impression. How can consciousness occur without organs?

The second universal is attention. There is appropriate and inappropriate attention. This is followed by feeling, perception. What is the function of perception? What are the options in terms of volition? Grasp, chase after, run away, fight, or to punish. The example in traditional texts is the magnet. What is appropriate attention? How does this relate to contact?

We can bring in mindfulness – this is one of the five particular mental formations. Mindfulness is the third of the five particular. Stephen Levine defined it as memory; to recall a past experience. Mindfulness is not forgetting. Definitions of mindfulness.

Where there is mindfulness, we can recognize the five universals and not go down the path of suffering. How do we react when we have a feeling or a perception? We can interfere, by pausing and creating a new pathway, with mindfulness and this is a very important practice.

A teaching on the eight consciousnesses, in particular mind and manas and how they are different than the first five sense consciousnesses.

Seeds. Characteristics of a seed. We cannot separate the cause and the effect. There are two, but they are really one. Subject and object cannot be separated.

 

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Rebuilding our Health

November 17, 2013. 82-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Stillwater Meditation Hall, Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. This is the first talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

Rebuilding our health – mental and physical. Our society seems to be not very healthy. Some come to our retreat to heal and mindfulness can help you heal. If we are mindful, we may see that we are running. Running into the future. We have a habit of running.  So our mindful breathing can help us to stop the running. Breathing is an art.

Mindfulness has to go with insight. Insight can get you out of your suffering. This winter we will look at the 51-mental formations. The first five are called universal.

  1. Contact
  2. Attention
  3. Feeling
  4. Perception
  5. Volition

Then we have five particulars.

    1. Intention
    2. Determination
    3. Mindfulness
    4. Concentration
    5. Insight

Right now we are talking about mindfulness. Our consciousness has two parts – store and mind. Our mental formations can move from one part to the other. Each formation is known as a seed in the store consciousness. There are conditions that cause a seed to manifest in your mind. Mindfulness is the capacity to see what is going on in your feelings, your perceptions, and around you. We can also use the mindful waking to heal and stop the running. We can allow nature to heal us.

The earth is not just the environment, the earth is ourselves.

A good mental formation is ease. We need to practice to cultivate this kind of energy. This is one of the seven factors of enlightenment.

An opposite mental formation is called restlessness. Mental excitement. This prevents out mind from applying itself to good mental formations. Our society suffers from restlessness and that is why we run after the consumption, the internet, work, etc.

Mindfulness to release stress is good, but it is not enough. We need the insight in order to be able to truly release. Without the insight we will not stop running.

Time is more than money, time is life.

In this winter retreat, we will look with a critical eye at the manifestation-only.

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The Tea Inside the Calligraphy

August 14, 2013. 118-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the third dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Happy Teachers will Change the World. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

Topics

  • The cloud in the tea
  • Teaching on no birth, no death
  • The tea inside the calligraphy
  • The Four NobleTruths
  • Interbeing – ill being and well being
  • Nothing can survive without food
  • The noble (eightfold) path that leads to well-being
  • The Four Kinds of Nutriments
  • Sutra of the Sons Flesh
  • Right View
  • Mental Formations – the Five particulars
  • Being and non-being
  • No birth and no death
  • Right Thinking
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action

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The Way Out is In

August 12, 2013. 76-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the first dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Happy Teachers will Change the World.

Topics

  • Listening to the bell
  • Releasing tension in our body with mindfulness at any time
  • Generating joy and happiness
  • Being aware of our conditions of happiness in the present moment
  • The practice of mindfulness can also help us handle a painful feeling or emotion
  • There is a deep connection between suffering and happiness
  • Compassionate listening – mindfulness of compassion
  • Global ethics – how to release tension, reduce pain
  • Sixteen exercises on mindful breathing (briefly mentioned)
  • Store and mind consciousness – seeds
  • 51-mental formations, such as anger and mindfulness
  • The suffering inside the school teacher and inside the student
  • The way out is in – we must take care of ourselves first then for the other person
  • Supporting our young people and teaching them how to love

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The Uncultivated Mind Brings Suffering

October 25, 2012. 105-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is enjoying the Autumn Retreat and this is a Day of Mindfulness.

Last week we learned about the Four Kinds of Nutriments and having to do with the Fifth Mindfulness Training.

Power. Some people think if they have power, they will be happy. It takes a great deal of understanding. The mind of love; of enlightenment. Bodhicitta. This comes from the practice of mindfulness and concentration. Understanding your own suffering helps you understand the suffering of others around you. I’m the family and in the nation. Love and understanding. Understanding is the foundation of love. The mind left uncultivated will bring lots of suffering. We need a spiritual dimension in our daily life. This is our practice. Bodhicitta is a tremendous source of energy.

Mental formations. There are mental formations that make us suffer, but they can be transformed.
Samadhi. Maintaining awareness.

Meditation on impermance. We have to keep this alive in us. Treasure the moments we have. Impermanance is a characteristic of life.

The Three Doors of Liberation. Concentrations. Emptiness. Signlessness. Aimlessness. This teaching includes an exploration of birth and death. Being and non-being. Impermanance. Non-craving. Nirvana.

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The Principle of Identity

September 3, 2012. 107-minute dharma talk given in English, with simultaneous translation into Italian, with Thich Nhat Hanh at the Italian Retreat with the theme Peace in Action. The retreat took place at Fraterna Domus in Rome, Italy.

Using the pebble in our work and in school, practicing love for others, and the first two mantras of Plum Village.

Darling I am here for you.
Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy. 

In the Buddhist tradition, we speak of two kinds of truth: conventional and ultimate. There is a connection between these, just like between happiness and suffering. In seeing this, we can move away from the principle of identity. Our mind wants to see things in a dualistic way.

Right View. Which is Interbeing. We can create thought that is understanding and has compassion. Thay teaches the noble eightfold path. Recognizing our mental formations. Right Diligence. Selective watering.

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The Impermanence of Consciousness

June 7, 2012. 99-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the fifth dharma talk (of 15).

This is an excellent session of questions and answers.

Questions

  1. What is the difference between feelings and mental formations?
  2. Is euthanasia okay? Is it Right Action? Can we relieve physical Pain?
  3. How do I practice with the teaching of inferiority and equality complexes?
  4. How can we support out dharma teacher when s/he is not so skillful?
  5. How do I practice with the last four exercises from the sutra on the full awareness of breathing?
  6. Question on consciousness and impermanence.
  7. What happens to the mind after the body dies?
  8. How can you take refuge in the sangha if you don’t trust? How can we build trust?
  9. Severe mental illness, such as bipolar, requires medicine to balance emotion. Can you clarify this as it relates to the practice?
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You Don’t Have to Die Just Because of One Emotion

October 7, 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 second dharma talk for the Stepping Into Freedom, Savoring Life Retreat. Over a thousand people are in attendance.

When the Buddha breaths, the quality of breathing is superb. When the Buddha sits, the quality of sitting is superb. And the Buddha is always inside of you and if you invite the Buddha to sit or breathe with you then you can benefit. High class breathing. Today we return to the mantras for being truly present and bringing happiness to yourself and to your loved ones. We should express our appreciate and this is the practice of mindfulness. This isn’t a Buddhist practice; anyone can practice the mantras.

Darling, I am here for you.
Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.

Thay offers the story on a grain of corn. In the grain of corn is also a plant of corn. This is a common story given to illustrate signlessness and is usually offered for the children. Meditation is to look deeply and see things that other people cannot see. Interbeing. Can we take the cloud out of the tea? Can we take the mother or father out of the child?

Continue with the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing.

Aware of our in breath and our out breath.
Follow our in breath and our out breath.
Aware of our body.
Releasing tension in the our body.

The importance of abdomen/belly breathing. It is the trunk. No thinking. You are much more than one emotion. We should memorize this, especially when strong emotions arise. Thich Nhat Hanh recently met with California Governor Jerry Brown to suggest bringing this practice into the public schools. It is non-sectarian. Emotions are impermanent.

The mind is a river with drops of water called mental formations. Meditation is sitting on the bank of the river and not being carried away by the mental formation. The 10th exercise of breathing is to cultivate the mind. To make the mind more beautiful.

Four aspects of the practice of Right Diligence. First, we don’t water the negative seeds. Second, if a negative seed arises we try to help it not stay to long in our mind consciousness. We don’t fight or supress, but invite up a good seed. The third aspect is to bring the good seeds to have many chances to arise in the mind. To beautify the mind. Fourth, once you have a good mental formation then we try to keep it as long as possible. This is transformation at the base.

The 11th and 12th exercises on breathing are concentrating the mind and liberating the mind. The last four (13-16) exercises are presented. These last four have three concentrations: emptiness; signlessness, and aimlessness. The Three Doors of Liberation. Finally, we learn about the Buddha-body, the Dharma-body, and the Sangha-body.

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

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The River of Mind

September 8, 2011. 87-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 Together We Are One retreat.

Our father is inside every cell of our body and we can breathe in and out together. Our talk today begins with a guided meditation connecting us to our parents and ancestors.

A story about Italian retreats starts the talk for the children. Thay says there are always a lot of children at Italian retreats and he recalls giving them an assignment. . Thay speaks about how we are the continuation of our parents, using the example of a seed of corn that grows up to become a plant of corn. “When you practice mindful breathing, we can invite our mother inside of us to practice breathing as well. Our father also.”

Thay shares with us the about the practice of looking deeply into the river of the mind, using the exercises from the Mindfulness of Breathing Sutra. At the beginning of this portion, Thay writes down the first 8 exercises on the board (the audio is cut on the first two, but only for a moment). Today we continue with the 9th exercise – this is about recognizing the mental formation that has manifested. There are 51 categories of mental formations in our tradition of practice. There are positive and negative mental formations. Every mental formation is like a drop of water in the river of the mind. The practitioner sits on the bank of the river and watches and observes. Aware of the mental formations. We continue with exercises 9-12.

“As a practitioner we know how to practice selective watering of the seeds in our consciousness.” “Life is impossible without impermanence. Without impermanence a grain of corn can never become a plant of corn, and your little baby can never become a little girl. So impermanence is the nature of things. Your love is also impermanent. If you do not know how to take care of your love, your love will die.

Things are impermanent; because we believe things to be impermanent we suffer.” We can use impermanence to get out of anger. “To get out of your anger, you can close your eyes and visualize the other person in 300 years. What will they become? Ash. And you too. It may take only 3-5 seconds for you to touch impermanence. That way you can see that it is not wise to let anger overwhelm you like that.”

Thay finishes the talk with the teaching on the Three Doors of Liberation: 1) emptiness, 2) signlessness, 3) aimlessness.

The talk is available below. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and river of mind.

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