Create a Loving Support Group

Dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh on August 16, 2001 at the University of Massachusetts during a retreat with the theme, “The Practice of Peace and Nonviolence in Family, School, and the Workplace,” from August 13-18, 2001 in Amherst, Massachusetts. We begin with the creation of a loving support group in the classroom and then continue with teaching on consumption.

These students are my continuation of mine and should create a loving support group in your class or school. We can then begin practicing peace and happiness in the class. We can understand the suffering so we can then transform. Suffering is there. A little bit everywhere. Including in our children and in the classroom. Recognizing this is the first noble truth of the Buddha. The group can propose a session of deep listening that includes the teacher, so the teacher can know about the suffering of the children. If we have such a group in the class, then the group can support each other. You can practice the Third Mantra: I suffer, please help. Thay shares how a student can communicate to the teacher by using loving speech. We can also learn how to address being persecuted by another student. How do we practice this? How do we help children feel happy when they think of school? How does the teacher feel excited to come and teach?

The children should be able to express their difficulties. We don’t need to be cruel to create happiness. Many sessions of deep listening may need to be organized. The schools should allow this to take place. It is about ethics and should be an aspect of school life. Thay tells the story of Henry, a mathematic teacher in Toronto, who came to Plum Village to learn about mindfulness.

At this point we shift away from the children and Thay begins a talk on anger. Anger has roots in the body and in the consciousness. The Five Skandhas: body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, store consciousness. What is a formation? Anger is a feeling and a mental formation. Anger is in every cell of our body. All our ancestors are in every cell of our body.

To illustrate, Thay teaches about chickens. Mindfulness can help. In particular, mindful consumption. Thay shares a report on meat eating, food production, and deforestation. We then turn to the Discourse on the Sons Flesh. Bringing toxins into our body. Nourishing compassion can by looking deeply into the food we eat. Sangha is where we learn to generate compassion. Sangha is a way out. Everyone can be a Sangha builder.

We turn to the Four Kinds of Nutriments and it starts with edible food. Then we turn to sensory impressions. We need a collection he awakening. When you listen to a dharma talk, then you don’t consume poisons. But thinking too can be consuming. Our elected people also need to be awakened to consumption. Some discussion of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Practice with a gatha to help us with our consumption.

We conclude with a discussion on the third kind of nutriment. Volition. Your deepest desire. That is a type of food too.

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The Art of Mindful Walking

Thich Nhat Hanh at the BellWe begin this Public Talk at the World Forum Theatre in The Netherlands, dated April 28, 2006, with a 5-minute introduction on how we can listen to the monastics invoking the name of Avalokiteshvara. Listening can bring peace and well-being into ourselves. We can listen deeply with compassion to relieve suffering. Following the brief introduction, the monastics begin the chant.

31-minutes (bell)

Walking meditation is a way to move between one place and another. With Mindful walking we can enjoy every step and bring peace. It is an easy and effective way to learn how to live deeply in every moment of our daily lives. Even the children can enjoy this practice. Taking refuge in the Sangha through the collective energy of mindfulness through our mindful breathing. Walking meditation is a time when we can behave as one organism and we can feel the energy of this collective effort.

I have arrived.
I am home.

With one in-breath, you touch the earth with your step. Established in the present moment. I have arrived. This means I don’t want to run anymore. With one out-breath, you arrive in your true home. Right here in the present moment. We arrive in the here and the now. We can live deeply in our daily life. Happiness is possible.

We all have many conditions of happiness if we look for them. We don’t have to run around looking for our happiness. We can touch the pure land of the Buddha, the kingdom of God in each step. Touching the many wonders of life.

57-minutes (bell)

Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. And we can be mindful all day long. It is the kind of energy the allows us to be present in the here and the now. Anyone can generate this energy. It is the energy of the Buddha, and so any one of us can be a Buddha. Even if it’s a part-time Buddha.

Our spiritual leaders should offer the kind of teaching that helps us to enjoy the kingdom of God. Then many could possibly return to the church. Especially for our young people.

66-minutes (bell)

Freedom from our anger, fear, violence and despair. Our teachers should teach us how to handle these emotions. To be able to embrace and transform them. Peace should be cultivated in our daily life while we sit, while we drive, while we cook, while we wash the dishes. This only needs some training.

Compassionate listening. To have the capacity to listen with compassion. Avalokiteshvara is such a person. She can teach us how to listen in order to provide relief from suffering.

71-minutes (bell)

The art of mindful breathing is a method to cultivate this compassionate listening. To listen without blaming or judging. We can also use the techniques of loving speech. These tools help us reestablish communication. During a five-day retreat, we teach people how to do this work. Thay offers a very concrete example how we can do this in our family.

83-minutes (bell)

During this process, we may observe many wrong perceptions. What can we do? What techniques can we use to better practice loving speech and deep listening. Wrong perceptions are the foundation of fear, anger, and violence. We should know how to remove wrong perceptions. Even our own wrong perceptions. This practice is effective for individuals, groups, and even nations. Peace can become possible.

Why do young people who want to blow themselves up? What can we do? Do we blame them for the violence, hate, and despair? They need our compassion. A community of practice makes this effort much easier.

92-minutes

Thay answers a few questions from the audience.

  1. If you don’t have time to listen, especially to someone who is angry, then what can we do?
  2. Anger can be a very good energy. Can you explain more about this and transforming the energy?
  3. Can you say more about loving speech? Where can I learn more?

Su Co Chan Không concludes the evening with a song.

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Collective Mindful Energy

During the annual Spring Retreat at Plum Village, Thay offers this 72-minute dharma talk at the New Hamlet with the themes of mindfulness, sangha, and concludes with a gatha translation. The date is April 2, 2006. We begin with three chants, in English, French, and Vietnamese.

Mindfulness is the heart of our practice. It’s the kind of energy that can bring nourishment, healing and transformation. Here at Plum Village we learn how to generate and to incorporate into every moment of daily life. The energy of mindfulness helps to pull everything together. And the practice of the sangha makes it easier. The sangha is a boat that transports and embraces us in our practice. Do you know how to surrender yourself to the sangha?

Thay teaches how to begin the practice, especially as it relates to the dharma hall. When and how does the practice begin? What is the role and purpose of the sangha? We embody the practice. How?

You don’t need to wait until you arrive in the dharma hall before you practice. You don’t need to hurry to not hurry. How does the bell help our practice? But we don’t become trapped by the form.

In physics it’s called phase (quantum) entanglement. We create a collective energy together on the same frequency. We can transform. Have you noticed the power of the bell in the meditation hall? Even just the half sound. It combines our energy of mindfulness. We become a cell in the sangha body.

Every moment of our daily life is a moment to practice mindfulness.

Lamp transmission gathas. Thay offers some history on our recent lineage. The lamp gatha of Thay’s teacher. Matter and mind are both perfect and shining. If you want to study this topic more, you may be interested in this document  – Letter to Friends About our Lineage by Thay Pháp D?ng.

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Conscious Breathing is Nourishing

The sangha is practicing in the Lower Hamlet, Plum Village during the Spring Retreat. We begin this March 19, 2006 dharma talk with 18-minutes of chanting by the monks and nuns followed by a dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh.

We need to be nourished by joy and happiness in our daily life. Breathing in, I feel the joy. Breathing out, I am nourished by happiness. The practice is to know how to generate joy and happiness. How is this possible? We have the sangha and the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

Joy is born from the awareness that happiness is possible. Whether you practice alone or you practice with a sangha, you should be aware of the positive elements around us. But with a sangha, it is easier and we have the energy of the sangha. With a sangha, we can practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings much better.

What is the difference between joy and happiness?

Thay shares a story of a meeting with a San Francisco Chronicle journalist. With each journalist, Thay always invites them to practice mindfulness before the interview so they can write a good article that can help many people by watering the seeds of joy. To write with compassion. Every article can be a practice.

Practitioners of meditation should get the right nourishment every day – joy and happiness. They are there already. How do we water these seeds? Walking meditation is one method.

Mindful consumption and the Four Kinds of the Nutriments (from the sutra, “The Son’s Flesh“). Collective decisions in a sangha can help protect us from unmindful consumption because we practice together. No effort. It’s wonderful. Compassion can protects us. And compassion is born from understanding. Understanding is born when you can listen and look deeply. And by consuming understanding and compassion, we can live a more healthy and happy life. And know how to nourish this understanding and compassion.

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The Effectiveness of Prayer

From the Thursday, March 9, 2006 dharma talk at the Assembly of Stars meditation hall, Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. The theme for this talk is the practice of prayer and we are guided by a series of questions asked by the magazine Publishers Weekly.

Questions

  1. How is prayer related to peace and peacemaking?
  2. How do you see the relationship between mediatation and prayer in your own life?
  3. Why is it important to pray with the body?
  4. How can you avoid falling into the trap of routine when you are praying? The words and motions without attention.
  5. Some Christians think of God as external, powerful and transcendent would be surprised to hear that Buddhists pray. What would you say to them?
  6. How can people find the time to pray every day?
  7. What is the one thing people can do everyday to bring them closer to the happiness they seek?
  8. Should Christians attracted to Buddhist teachings become Buddhists?
  9. What did you find in Vietnam when you returned in 2005? What were your impressions?
  10. You will 80 this year, do you plan to retire as a spiritual teacher at any point?

We begin with the fifth question. When we pray, we ask the sangha to help us, we ask the Buddha to help us. We do this first by being truly present; established in the here and the now with a clear intention. Though we do not speak of God, we do recognize the collective mind from which everything manifests.

At 24-minutes, Thay addresses the third question. Why is it important to pray with the body? There is no separation of the body and the mind.

In the spirit of Buddhism, anything you do that is accompanied with mindfulness, concentration, and insight can be considered a prayer. It also removes the distinction between the one who prays and the one who is prayed to. Every step can be a prayer.

Buddhism is mindfulness, concentration, and insight. If you practice this, then you are Buddhist. Christians can be Buddhists, but we don’t need to use the label. There are also Buddhists who are stuck in dogmatism and they are less Buddhist than many Christians. There are enough Buddhists already; we don’t need to make more Buddhists. People can stay rooted in their own tradition.

Enjoy this 75-minutes teaching.

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Happiness is Found in the Present Moment

In this December 10, 2006 dharma talk from Lower Hamlet, Thay reflects on the 2005 trip to Vietnam followed by a teaching on mindfulness of walking and eating. The sangha is in the Annual Winter Retreat and the talk is 77-minutes.

Walking Mediation in the WoodsIt was a warm winter at Plum Village in 2006 and Thay reflects on walking meditation on the grass and the leaves. We can enjoy every step we make on this planet. When a novice monk at the root temple in Vietnam, Thay did not know the practice of walking meditation. As a you don’t no Dharma Teacher, Thay still did not find the time for waking meditation. But when he returned to the root temple in 2005, it was wonderful to practice walking meditation on the hills with over 900 monastics. What is important, there is no need to make any effort and the practice is perfect. Only you can produce this step in mindfulness and concentration. Thay shares of returning to Vietnam and of bringing the monastic sangha together in harmony. The happiness and the joy of they incorporating some of the Plum Village practices, such as practicing as a fourfold sangha and gender equity.

Mindfulness is a mental formation – one of the fifty mental formations. When we are inhabited by the energy of mindfulness, we can have the eyes of the Buddha and the feet of the Buddha. We know how to generate the energy of mindfulness from our seed of mindfulness. Walking like a Buddha can happen right now. We don’t have to force ourselves. It is a pleasure.

Walking meditation is not a practice, it is an enjoyment. The best reason to do walking meditation is, because I like it! The same is true of sitting meditation. We don’t force it, but we enjoy it. It is an act of love.

Getting in touch with the food and our ancestors through eating meditation. Thay recalls his mothers cooking. A meal is a time to know who we are – through what we are eating and how we are eating. Eating can nourish our compassion. We can get in touch with the nature of reality. Are we eating in a way to nourish our compassion? We can get enlightenment just by eating. It should be a relaxing time, to eat as a sangha. To allow more time. For sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Plum Village tradition, eating is a deep practice. How?

Mindfulness is the kind of energy that has the power of knowing what is going on. Mindfulness is a miracle. It is like a light that allows us to see things, and everyone has this light of mindfulness. Mindfulness is mere recognition; we don’t try to grasp it. When mindfulness is there, everything will be different. Including your joy and your pain. And it is always for the better. When mindfulness is there, the Buddha is there.

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Transforming Our Suffering

In this 65-minute dharma talk from the New Hamlet of Plum Village, Thay teaches a message on transforming our suffering. The date is Sunday, November 26, 2006 and the sangha is in the Winter Retreat.

Dhyana is the Sanskrit word for meditation. In meditation, we have stillness. We have relaxation. We have mindfulness, concentration, insight, joy, and happiness. These virtues can be cultivated. How can we do this? The practice of “leaving behind.” This is the first act of meditation. Joy and happiness is born from this practice.

Many young people have this aspiration to “leave behind” and want to become a monastic. They have experience joy and happiness. But after two or three years, the joy and happiness are not deep enough to reach down into our blocks of suffering. We have this stillness for a period of time but then the block of suffering will emerge. What is the nature of our suffering? Hidden in the depths of our unconscious. If we can’t move into the deeper practice, we begin to blame and point to problems, we then sometimes see monastics leave the community. We have to go home to ourselves and try to recognize our suffering and embrace it. Thay illustrates this teaching through bitter melon. Our natural tendency is to run away of suffering and we don’t know the hidden goodness of suffering. Suffering can heal us.

We in the Plum Village tradition belong to the School of Linji. We have to use our intelligence, our insight in order to transform our suffering.

In Buddhism we have the notion of the three worlds. Desire. Craving. Form. We may leave behind the world of desire but still have mental discourse. We practice stillness. It is made of two elements: vitaka and vijara. Thought and reflective thinking.

Thay returns to talking of a monastic who leaves the community and then may wish to return, and this is a problem for all practicing communities. We have to be willing to go deeper, to learn how to preserve our happiness, and transform the pain, anxiety, and deep suffering that is still there in the depth of our consciousness. When suffering is emerging, adapt another attitude. Don’t try to run away from it. This is Thay’s recommendation. Stay where you are and welcome it.

How do we work with suffering rooted from injustice? How do we work with suffering rooted from our parents?

Bodhicitta. Mind of enlightenment. Beginners mind. Inspired by the desire to practice in order to transform your suffering and help many people who suffer around you. The mind of love. As practitioners, we should maintain this beginners mind because it is a powerful source of energy.

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Continuing our Spiritual and Blood Ancestors

In this 53-minute dharma talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village, Thay teaches a message of love. The date is Sunday, November 12, 2006. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

You are a continuation of your father. Intellectually we know this to be true. And yet we feel that we are different. It is because you have a notion of your father – you haven’t looked deeply enough at your father. Who is the father inside of you? Can you practice for your father? Transformation of your father inside of you also helps to transform the father on the outside.

How can you can get in better touch with your father? First, we need to be aware. Thay shares about how he practiced regarding his own father. Creating a conversation with your father can occur anytime, whether they are alive or not.

The same practice can apply to your mother. Begin a conversation with your mother inside of you. And if she is still alive, you can talk with her too. Thay offers specific.

You also have a spiritual teacher inside of you who is also outside of you. How are you carrying your teacher into the future? How is your teacher evolving inside of you? How are you practicing for your teacher? We should not be exactly like our teacher. We should learn and transform for the time. To see the suffering of our time.

The Buddha of our Time. A global ethic. To be able to respond to globalization, the environment, and other present needs.

When you contemplate an orange, you see everything about the orange. The universal aspect of the orange. Harmony. We need a global ethic to look at something like globalization. The global ethic manifests through the Five Mindfulness Trainings. This is the path to take up and they are presenting in a non-sectarian way and it’s nature is universal. You don’t have to be a Buddhist. You can remain yourself but you can create harmony, sisterhood, brotherhood. The Five Mindfulness Trainings are the way out of difficult situations. They may also be inherent in other traditions and people are encouraged to look and discover this too.

We conclude with Thay sharing a short story of the Buddha. Seeing with the eyes of the Buddha. Contemplating the beauty of the world.

1:45 Bell and Chanting
10:30 Continuation of your Father
29:15 Continuation of your Teacher
36:15 The Buddha of our Time
39:20 Global Ethic: Five Mindfulness Trainings
51:30 Returning to our Ancestors

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Turn Every Cell On

Dear fellow practitioners and friends on the path. In this talk we learn of the joy and the happiness of the practice. The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh offered this 107-minute dharma talk on December 11, 2005 from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village (France) during the annual Winter Retreat. We are reminded of the basic practices of walking and sitting followed by a deeper teaching on the Five Dimensions of Reality.

Touching paradise. When you practice walking, you involve your body with your practice. We can walk in the ultimate dimension. You turn on every cell in your body. Being completely free with the energy of mindfulness. Each step brings healing and nourishment to you. We use the techniques of mindful breathing.

We apply the same techniques to sitting. We turn on all the cells in our body to arrive in a unified state of being. All the cells will sing in unison and we are in a state of concentration. This is the foundation of enlightenment. Thay comments on sleepiness during sitting meditation. We have to make our sitting interesting. There is so much to enjoy. This state of being gives us the capacity to heal.

The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing offers us exercises to touch all the cells of our body.

Thay offers some reflections on neuroscience and consciousness and how the Buddhist tradition sees things quite different. The elements of the human are: Form, Feelings, Perceptions, Mental formations and Consciousness. The Five Skandhas. Perceiver and the perceived. We train ourselves in seeing the object of our perception. What is the object of our perception? Our consciousness? The Five Dimensions of Reality in Buddhism.

Thay offers a deeper teaching on consciousness and mental formations, including technical terms from Chinese and Sanskrit.

One lesson from this talk is we practice with body and mind together.

If you are able to support this project financially, please visit our account on Patreon where you can make a donation for as little as $1 per dharma talk. We often share the video version of the dharma talk on the Patreon post, and this particular talk includes many notes and diagrams on the white board that are visible on the recording.

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Spiritual Evolution

An 88-minute dharma talk from the New Hamlet, Plum Village on November 27, 2005.

Building on the previous dharma talk on biological evolution, we begin with the topic of sensual pleasures. We know that sensual pleasures are very fleeting and they don’t last. Do we want survival or do we want happiness? Happiness and survival, these two things go together. What is this drive for survival. This drive for sensual pleasure. The Buddha does not speak about survival. The Buddha speaks of a way out of suffering.

The Buddha teaches us to recognize our anger and our fear. Our fear causes us to act in a very destructive way. Is there a way to transform our fear. We are also invited to look at our delusions (confusion). We don’t know where to go. What to do. We can become desperate because of our confusion. We should also look at the nature of our craving. This too pushes us in the direction of wrong action. In the teachings of the Buddha, these are called poisons.

As we look into the world, we can see that confusion and anger are destroying us. This is why we need spiritual evolution. To give survival another way. Another meaning.

Not only can we purify our mind, through the training of meditation, we can also purify and transform our body. We learn a new way of dealing with events that happen in our lives. The practice can create new patterns of behavior and our body can learn to behave differently. We can replace the old patterns of our body and our mind.

Transmission of the practice. We can transmit the practice to our children, our friends. It doesn’t need to be genetic. This is spiritual evolution. If we are going to survive as a species, we need to bring in this dimension of spiritual evolution. It can be realized.

Thay explores different elements of the practice. Listening to a dharma talk. Walking meditation. Listening to the bell.

In the last segment, we learn practices for dealing with anger. We need a spiritual immune system to treat these poisons. When we’ve been able to transform these poisons, then we can help many people.

During the talk, Thay illustrates with the following stories

  • Young man with terminal illness
  • Pirate in Thailand raping refugees
  • A nun who was arrested in Vietnam

If you are able to support this project financially, please visit our account on Patreon where you can make a donation for as little as $1 per dharma talk.

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