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.

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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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

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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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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The Practice for Engaged Buddhism

This is the final dharma talk of the 2000 21-Day Retreat, The Eyes of the Buddha, offered from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh on June 20, 2000. The primary theme of the dharma talk is the Noble Eightfold Path.

In Part I, we begin with an introduction to deep listening – protected by compassion – followed by a teaching on the Noble Eightfold Path threaded with teachings on the Five Mindfulness Trainings

  1. Right View
  2. Right Thinking
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Diligence
  6. Right Livelihood
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

In Part II, beginning at 1-hour and 8-minutes we turn to the topics of violence, nonviolence, UNESCO’s Manifesto 2000, and dependent co-arising.

Live your life as a bodhisattva.

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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The Eyes of the Buddha – Interbeing

2000-06-13. This is the 9th dharma talk of the 21-Day Retreat, The Eyes of the Buddha, offered at the Lower Hamlet, Plum Village.

Our practice is to go back to the present moment in order to be aware of what is going on – whether they are positive or negative. The sangha eyes is the instrument in which we use to practice deep looking. And the Buddha eyes is the instrument we use in order to practice deep looking. We don’t only look as individuals.

The first issue we face is loneliness. The disintegration of the family. Individualism. Our families need to be rebuilt. Our communities need to be rebuilt. Our society need to be rebuilt. Our church need to be rebuilt. The second issue we need to look at is violence. There is so much violence. Violence leads to despair. What we consume feeds us with more violence, with more fear, with intolerance, anger, and despair. The dharma should be effective in helping us deal with violence and hatred. The teaching of the Buddha on consumption has much to do with the nurture of violence. The third issue is of fear/uncertainty. We are afraid of what will come in the future. Division and alienation is destroying our happiness. We should get together and build sangha. To learn again how to live as a community. The dharma should address real issues of our time. The dharma is not something for the future. The dharma is now. To take care of the present.

Anytime we hear the teaching of emptiness, interbeing, aimlessness, nirvana, we should bring our suffering in order to understand our suffering. Ask the question, what does this teaching have to do with our suffering – both individual and collective.

Interbeing. This teaching is an antidote to the situation of division, discrimination, alienation. It should be the medicine for individualism. Thay teaches on a gatha on dependent co-arising – pratitya samatpada.

* Dependent Co-Arising
* Emptiness
* Conventional Designation
* The Middle Path

In the second half of the dharma talk, we turn our direction towards the reality of birth and death. Burning a sheet of paper to illustrate the teaching. We cannot kill Gandhi or Martin Luther King. We need to let go of the idea of form. We can transcend the notions of birth and death. This is a training.

Madhyamikakarikasastra

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Being Free from Dogma

This 58-minute dharma talk is the second half of a talk offered on November 17, 2005 at the New Hamlet, Plum Village.

Thay continues a discussion from the earlier dharma talk. When we make a statement in Buddhism, it should help to transform and to present the truth. Buddhism is not a philosophical position. Zen is free from notions, statements. For example,

Space is a conditioned dharma. Space is not a conditioned dharma.
Dharma and the non-dharma.

Does Buddhist fundamentalism exist? Are there those who have gotten dogmatic about the dharma. Buddhism should be free from dogma, but there is some dogmatism in Buddhism too. Why isn’t this a good thing?

The truth of interbeing. At the cellular level and in nature. In heart of reality there is cruelty, violence, and a struggle for survival. In the heart of reality there is also wisdom, compassion, and togetherness. And this is the foundation of reality.

We conclude with a brief teaching on Buddhism and science.

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Relaxing in the Present Moment

The 58-minute dharma talk offered by Thich Nhat Hanh took place at the New Hamlet of Plum Village on November 10, 2005. The audio is linked below and video is available for our donors on Patreon.

Please note, the recording begins with a few minor sound issues, but the dharma talk doesn’t begin until it is resolved by the sound team. We left it in the recording because it adds some character.

When we speak about dwelling in the present moment, we mean living deeply in every moment of our daily life. Do we know how to live in the present moment? It begins with relaxing ourselves and to stop running. To release our worries. Our tensions. Stopping our mental discourse. Do we know how to rest after a long day of work? To relax our mind and body? Mindfulness tells us the conditions for testing are there for us.

Awareness of breathing is exactly what we need to stop our mental discourse. To touch the conditions of happiness that are there. This is not hard work. We can free from our thinking and our body begins to relax, and to heal itself. Simple. We have to stop the mental discourse so we can be free in the present moment.

Walking to be present and aware of the present moment is also possible. We can relax during walking meditation too.

This practice is a practice freedom. 

A teaching on the historical and ultimate dimension as illustrated through drinking our tea, our coffee. Can you drink your tea in the ultimate dimension? Avata?saka S?tra.

In China, there was a time when they tried to bring Zen and the Pure Land together. In Plum Village, we practice Zen using the energy of mindfulness and insight but we also say the Pure and is available in the here and the now. The pure land is now or never. Thay shares a koan from that time that is still practiced today.

Who is the person invoking the name of the Buddha? 

This is the subject of our mediation. Both Zen and Pure Land practice this. Thay teaches on this koan – what is the purpose of this koan? This koan is an invitation. Thay then shares a Chinese story of two philosophers contemplating fish swimming. Are the fish happy?

Ni?m – mindfulness, recollection

We should always ask ourselves with any teaching, what does this teaching have to do with my suffering? It is not intellectual.

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Healing Oneself Healing the World with Thich Nhat Hanh and Friends

Better ListenIn addition to our regularly offered talks, we are happy to share this 2013 packaged set from Better Listen! Check it out.

Healing Oneself and Healing the World featuring Thich Nhat Hanh and practice with Br. Phap Dung and Sr. Dang Nghiem

These 2013 recordings by Thich Nhat Hanh are from Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during a 6-day retreat in 2013 with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World. The program has been digitally remastered and has 12 hours of wonderful material.
How do we produce a thought that is filled with understanding and compassion? Building a sangha or a practice center is one method. In our tradition, we begin by looking at our suffering. We can then recognize the suffering in the other person. This is the first and second noble truth. With this, the energy if compassion arises because you have touched and understood suffering.

We bring our mind and body together and come back to ourselves in order to be truly there and be able to stop our thinking. We can get lost in our thinking. When we are mindful and concentrated of our in breath them our mind only has one object. Just breathing in mindfully we can get freedom from the past l, the future, and our projects. Freedom is possible and the healing can start.