Tag Archives: psychology

Self and Non-Self: The Evolving Consciousness

The Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 5, 1997. This is the fourth talk (99-minutes).

Teaching on the Three Dharma Seals

  • Impermanence
  • No-self
  • Nirvana

The authentic teachings of the Buddha must contain all three of these. They are not only a description of reality but a way of seeing things.

Impermanence and nonself also contain the teaching of rebirth. What is impermanence? Is it the cause of our suffering? How do we practice with impermanence?

Impermanence and no-self are two sides of the a coin. And nirvana is the metal. The base. Nirvana is extinction. Extinction of notions/ideas. All the pairs of opposites.

Other topics covered in this talk:

  • Teaching of the Three Natures of Reality
  • 18 Realms of Being
  • Universal mental formations
  • Verses 23-25, 39-42 of the Fifty Verses of Consciousness

In the last 15-minutes, Thay offers suggestions for practice during the lazy afternoon and also outlines formal lunch.

Metaphors: a coin, the wave

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Realms of Being

Bus PassengersWe continue our series from the archives. The date is November 4, 1997 and the sangha continues a mindfulness retreat in Key West, Florida with the theme of Buddhist psychology. This is the third talk (98-minutes) where Thay teaches on the first 8-verses of the Fifty Verses on Buddhist Psychology.

The nature of the flower and the garbage. The transformation of flowers and the nature of Interbeing between the two. This is a pair of opposites and we can see this in other pairs of opposites. Interbeing. When we talk about enlightenment and illusion, it is the same. They do not exclude each other. Enlightenment and illusion are always present.

Dukka. Suffering. The first of the Four Noble Truths. We have to recognize that ill-being is present and see the nature of it. The First Noble Truth is a Holy Truth.

Teachings from the Fifty Verses.

1. Mind is a field in which every kind of seed is sown. This mind field can also be called all the seeds.
Our mind consciousness is like a gardener. It is like the earth, the earth is holding, preserving, maintaining, everything together. The function of
Alaya.

2. There are an infinite variety of seeds. Seeds of samsara, illusion, and nirvana, suffering, delusion, and enlightenment. Seeds of suffering and happiness. Seeds of perceptions, names, and words.
How do we transform samsara and suffering? What are perceptions and what are the objects of our perceptions?

3. Seeds that manifest as body and mind. As realms of beings. As stages and worlds, are all in our consciousness. That is why it is called store consciousness.
What are the different realms of consciousness? The six sense organs. Six objects of the sense organs. And six kinds of sense consciousness. These are the Eighteen Realms of Beings. Plus the three worlds: form, desire, and non-form. And the ten stages of the bodhissatva. They are all manifestation from store consciousness.

4. Some seeds are innate, some were handed down by our ancestors. Some were sown while we were still in the womb. Others were sown when we were children. 

Where did the seeds come from, when did they arrive, and will they always be there?

5. Whether from our family or friends, our society or our education, all seeds by nature are both individual and collective.

Another pair of opposites and can be transcended. The collective and the individual inter-are. What are these concepts? Thay uses the metaphor of a bus and its passengers to illustrate. Followed by the candle to also illustrates – its brightness. Is the brain collective or individual? Father and son. Self and non-self.

6. The quality of our lives depends on the quality of the seeds that lie in our consciousness.

7. The function of the store consciousness is to receive, to maintain, and make manifest in the world these seeds and end our habit energies.
Store consciousness is like the ocean – there are many rivers that are received by the ocean. It has the power to manifest these seeds. How do we train positive energy and habits?

8. The manifestation of Alaya can be perceived as a field within themselves, as that of representations or mere images are included in the 18 realms of being.
Perceptions of reality. For example, when we fall in love. Falling in love with the image of the other person. Teaching on the field of representation, field of things in themselves (such was), and the field of mere image.

We conclude with a short (10-minute) teaching on suffering and our relationships. Seeds of loyalty and betrayal. When things are not to your liking.

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Interbeing and Store Consciousness

Seeds Another talk from the archives. The date is November 3, 1997 and the sangha continues a mindfulness retreat in Key West, Florida with the theme of Buddhist psychology. This is the second talk (96-minutes) where Thay introduces the interbeing and gives a teaching on store consciousness.

Seeing things in the light of Interbeing. The right is made of the left and the left is made of the right. They are not enemies, but they contain each other. Thay teaches in the context of politics. The Buddha taught, this is because that is. Then we move to body and mind – they are interbe. Non-duality. In each cell of our body is stored the whole cosmos. In the study of Buddhist studies of the mind, the body is always first an object of our perception. Teaching on object and perception.
Touching the present moment. Using the present moment to touch the past; including our past suffering. In doing this we can experience the Interbeing of past suffering. You can heal the wounds of the past by touching the present moment. How does this apply to the future?

Namarupa. The body and the mind. Contemplation. Observation of the mind in the mind and observations of the body in the body. Stresses non-duality.

The five skandhas. This is the Sanskrit word that means heaps. Can also be translated as elements or aggregates. What are the five skandhas? Remember these distinctions are only there to help us with our practice.what are formations? How are the five interare?

After this brief overview of the skandhas, the teaching shifts to focus primarily on consciousness. Specifically, store consciousness and seeds. Working with our seeds using mindfulness. For example, mindfulness of anger. What is store consciousness? Store consciousness is like a garden that is able to maintain and store the totality of all the seeds. The practice of meditation is being aware and recognize the seeds inside us and to water the good seeds. Recognizing and taking care of our seeds. Why do we do this?

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Enjoy Each Mindful Breath

Thich Nhat Hanh - Key West - 1997The date is November 2, 1997 and the sangha is holding a mindfulness retreat in Key West, Florida with the theme of Buddhist psychology. This is the first talk (100-minutes) where Thay introduces the attendees to the basic practices of mindfulness. It’s a wonderful teaching covering breathing, sitting, walking, and silence.

We begin with a basic introduction, along with instructions, to the practice. How can we practice mindful breathing? Why is mindful breathing important? Breathe, you are alive. How do we practice sitting meditation? When we sit, don’t struggle. Breathing and sitting can both be very enjoyable. Sitting is not to become someone else but to be aware that you are alive. This is enlightenment.

Do we know how to allow our body to rest? Do we know how to trust our bodies in order to rest?

To worry too much has become a habit for us? We have learned to worry too much. This energy of worry has become to strong and preventing the healing of our body and spirit. We also have a habit of rushing and restlessness. Buddhist meditation can help us deal with these habits of running and worry.

It is possible to live happily in the present moment. The boat of mindfulness can help us not to sink into the river of suffering. The energy of mindfulness that we can generate within us that we cultivate through meditation.

In addition to our meditation practice, we also have a sangha. What is the sangha? The sangha is another component of the boat that supports you to not sink into the river of suffering. Our brothers and sisters are a source of support. Sitting together. Eating together. Walking together. Breathing together.

The practice of mindfulness is, first of all, the practice of going back to the here and now. Our habit energies are obstacles to our going back to the here and now. The address of happiness, peace, and stability is the here and now.

Instructions for walking mediation. I have arrived. I have arrived. I am home. I am home.

Instructions for eating meditation and eating together in community. This too is an opportunity for being aware of our breathing and it is a moment of practice. A moment of joy. There is no waiting.

Listening to a dharma talk. This is an opportunity for the most precious seeds to grow in us. We don’t need to use our intellect. Allow the dharma rain to fall on your consciousness.

A short teaching on the historical and ultimate dimensions followed by Thay leading everyone with a song – “I Have Arrived, I am Home.”

The last topic is on the practice of purification of speech. How do we practice with silence during the first four days of the retreat. In the retreat, we will use a notebook to write down the things that we want to say – we can observe the habit energy in us. We can also use the notebook to communicate with others if it’s absolutely necessary. Learning to observe your feelings and ideas during this period of silence. Do you know how to observe and look deeply at your feelings? We can train ourselves to recognize and embrace our feelings.

The conditions of our lives don’t have to make us suffer and we can transform the situation.

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The Body and the Environment

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Sunday, January 12, 2014 and is the seventeenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem. Our talk today continues looking at the morning chant and evening chant in addition to a deeper look at store consciousness, the body, and manas.

0:00-8:04 Two Chants from Monastics
8:04-28:40 Walking and Breathing
28:40-1:06:46 Store Consciousness
1:06:46-1:27:25 The Body and the Environment
1:27:25-end Manas and Freud

Continuing on the morning chant verse from the last dharma talk.  The dharma body is our practice. The second line of the verse is sitting still my mind is at peace and I smile. The mind is the second action of karma and the smile is part of our speech. These three karma – body, mind, speech – must calm down. The night is divided into five parts – the fifth part is the early morning and the door of the dharma has opened. In the evening verse, the first part of the night has arrived. In the morning we can penetrate the three vehicles and embrace the two kinds of truth. We vow to go through the day being awake and not as sleepwalkers. Thay teaches on how the text of Chinese, Vietnamese, and English vary.

Walking and breathing. If we can walk with peace and joy, it doesn’t matter how we walk. If we can do it at Plum Village then we can do it anywhere. Walk as a free person. If there is no freedom there is no happiness. Not carried away by the past or future. Every step can condition us to peace, joy, and happiness. We can use our breathing to bring our mind back to our body. This is the energy of concentration. Freedom only takes a few seconds. The Cyprus in the yard. The dharma body is the miracle of the universe.

In manifestation only teachings, the store conciousness contains all the wonders of life. The object of mind. There are three objects of mind. Things as they are themselves. Store conciousness has a direct perception – no speculation and analysis. If it does this then it has mental construction. Being and non-being. Goodness and evil. Store consciousness is neither and has a direct perception and can touch the ultimate reality. It has access to the objects in themselves.

Seeds, Body and Environment. Manas. Subject and object. Store consciousness is the first to come and the lass to leave. Store consciousness controls and collaborates with the nervous system to create balance in the body.

Manas is undetermined, but it is covered up. It belongs to the subconscious. Perception, feeling, mental formation, consciousness. Manas thinks these things are itself but it is not. It doesn’t see the environment comes from the store consciousness too. That is it’s weakness. Manas seeks to avoid suffering, seeks pleasure, it does not know seeking pleasure is suffering, and does not to see the goodness of suffering. Finally, it does not know the law of moderation. Freud called manas the id.

Without manas, the five skandhas are the dharma body. A wonder. According to Freud, apart from id there is the ego. This is the self. This becomes something that is tangible. The ego inhibits id from manifesting. The super-ego looks for ways to free the id by using wholesome means.  More discussion and comparison of Freud psychology and manifestation-only teaching.

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Five Fingers Living in Harmony

July 12, 2013. 100-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet of Plum Village during the 2013 Summer Opening. This is the fourth talk of the summer and this is an English translation from the French. The recording begins with four chants followed by a talk for the children (at 16-minutes) and then the main talk begins (at 28-minutes).

You should plant this question in our heart. A question is a seed. It’s a lesson from when Thay was a boy. In my hand are five fingers and each finger has it’s name. They live in harmony. How are they a able to do that?

We continue from a few day ago (July 9) when we learned about the Sutra on the Full Awareness if Breathing.  The last time we covered the first eight exercises. First we review briefly with mind and store consciousness and the role of seeds. The practitioner had to be present I recognize the mental formation.

  • Recognize each mental formation
  • Beautify/Gladden the mind

Watering the good seeds, especially in our relationships. Maybe sign a peace and happiness treaty. How do we work with our mental formations to have a happy and healthy life?

First, we try not to water the seeds of suffering.  Second, if a seed if suffering exists then we can invite a wholesome seed to manifest. Third, when a good seed is manifesting, we try to maintain the positive energy. Fourth, we try to keep the good seeds alive. This is the practice if right diligence. The art of happiness.

The first aspect of the noble eightfold path is right view. The insight of interbeing acquired through meditation. This is followed by right thinking. Free of all notions. No discrimination. The third is right speech. With these we can practice loving speech and deep listening.  The Five Mindfulness Trainings are an expression of the Noble Eightfold Path.

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Offering Beauty and Freshness

July 9, 2013. 103-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village during the 2013 Summer Opening. This is the second talk of the summer and this is an English translation from the French. The recording begins with two chants followed by a talk for the children (ends at 12-minutes) and then the main talk begins (begins at 33:40-minutes).

What does it mean to say I love you? What is the most precious gift? We can offer beauty and freshness. Meditation can help; the meditation on flower/fresh. How do we cultivate stability?

Peace in the body. Peace in the feelings. Peace in the perceptions. This is possible. Joy and happiness too. The practitioner should know how to generate these. What does it mean to cultivate? We need energy, and the first is mindfulness. The next energy, and linked to mindfulness, is concentration. And if these two are strong enough, we can bring about insight. There are 16-exercises of mindful breathing that can help is cultivate these three energies.

  • Recognizing breath is the first exercise.
  • Following breath is the second exercise. 
  • The third is recognizing your body. 
  • Calming the body is the fourth. 

With the next set of exercises we move from body to the realm of feelings.

  • Generating joy
  • Generating happiness 
  • Recognizing a painful feeling
  • Calm the painful feeling

Discussion and explanation of habit energy.

We now move to the realm of perceptions. The five universal mental formations: contact, attention, feeling, perception, volition. What are mental formations? Mind and store consciousness along with the manifestation of seeds. Buddhist psychology. Along with five universals are the five particulars: intention, determination, mindfulness, concentration, insight.

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Mindfulness is a Source of Happiness

May 2, 2012. 94-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village during the 12th annual Francophone Retreat. The talk is given in French with English translation. This is the third dharma talk.

Continuing with the idea of practice as the cultivation of our mind. We need to now how our mind operates to practice well. In Buddhist psychology we talk about seeds in our consciousness. We learn of our store consciousness and our mind consciousness.

The first role of mindfulness is simple recognition. If it is anger arising, we recognize the manifestation of anger. Secondly, we embrace the emotion non-violently.

Right Diligence. There are four aspects of right diligence. First, we organize things so the negative seeds don’t have the opportunity to be watered. Second, if negative seeds do arise then do something right away to invite good seeds to manifest. The third aspect is helping the good seeds to manifest. And the fourth is to try keeping good seeds present as long as possible.

More teaching on mind consciousness. Manas.

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Dharma Talk Francophone Day 4 from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

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Beloved Community

September 9, 2011. 92-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 third dharma talk for the Together We Are One retreat.

Thay teaches the children the practice of pebble meditation: 1) Flower: Fresh, 2) Mountain: Solid, 3) Water: Calm, 4) Space: Free. And talks of the first two mantras.

In Buddhism, we known the Buddha is a human being and we also believe in Mahayana Buddhism that we all have a Buddhanature. Building a practice community, a sangha, was one if the first things he did in order to help people. With a sangha, the practice is easier. The Buddha needed a sangha and so do we. We should build a sangha, and this is a noble practice. In Buddhism, the sangha is one of the Three Jewels. A good sangha is one that practices Mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Each of us is a cell in the body of the sangha. If we can save this planet, we will need this kind of energy. The energy generated by a sangha.

Thay shares with us about the nature of God and the nature of the Buddha, and how the we can find the Buddha-nature in everyone. He continues to share about the project of the Beloved Community started by Martin Luther King, Jr., and specifically the history of how Thay left Vietnam, was exiled, and met Dr. King. “Everyone of us can make a step mindfully, everyone of us can look mindfully and recognize the beauty of life. If we can recognize the beauty of the Dharma, we can recognize the Kingdom of God–we get in touch with the Kingdom of God. We don’t have to look anywhere outside, anywhere else.

A living sangha carries the living dharma. The way you practice. It can’t be found in a book. When you produce a thought of compassion, of understanding. If this is present, then the living Buddha is there also. You are also a cell in the body of the Buddha. You are a Buddha. Each one of us can take a step mindfully and see the beauty of life. When we are in touch with the flower, then we are in touch with the kingdom.

We are the Buddha. We are the dharma. We are the sangha.

We return to Buddhist psychology with the idea if store and mind consciousness. There is also a realm of non-thinking for other beings. We can practice samadhi to train ourselves to stop the thinking. We can enjoy our breathing. Enjoy the feeling. Leave the thinking.

There is the “mind base” – manas – this is unconcious. Eye. Ear. Nose. Tongue. Body. And the sixth is manas (mind). It is characterized by pleasure seeking and avoiding suffering. Manas ignores the goodness of suffering. Manas ignores the law of moderation.

“When you bow to the Buddha, you don’t view the Buddha as an entity wholly separate from you. I am in you, and you are in me. There is no longer any complex. That is the wisdom of non-discrimination: nirvikalpajnana.”

The talk is available below. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and beloved community.

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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.

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