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December 26, 2010. 134-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Dharma Cloud Temple in Upper Hamlet in Plum Village on the theme of relationship and fidelity. The monastery is in the 2010- 2011 Winter Rains Retreat.
“We have said that sexual desire is not love, but our society is organized in such a way that sensual pleasure becomes the most important thing. They want to sell their products, and they make advertisements that water the seed of craving in you. They want you to consume in such a way that you have sensual pleasure. But sensual pleasure can destroy you. What we need is mutual understanding, trust, love, spiritual intimacy. But we don’t have the opportunity to meet that kind of deep need in us.
“Many young people in our society want to have cosmetic surgery in order to meet with the standard of beauty. There are fashion magazines that say in order to succeed you have to look like this, use this product. That is why many young people suffer very much. They cannot accept their body, because people expect another kind of body, so they want to have surgery to change their body. When you do not accept your body as it is, you are not in your true home. Our body is like a flower. Everyone in humanity is like a flower. And each flower are different from other kinds of flowers. And if she can accept her body, she has a chance to see her body as home. If you cannot accept your body, you cannot be home for yourself.
If you cannot be home for yourself, how can you be home for others? So in psychological circles we have to tell the young people that they are already beautiful as they are. You have to accept yourself as you are. And when you practice building a home in yourself, you become more and more beautiful. You have peace, joy, and people will recognize the beauty of your flower.”
“The monks and nuns, when they receive the bhikshu or bhikshuni precepts, they want to live a holy life. If you see that a monk is beautiful, it is because he has brought in the spiritual element into his life. Spirituality here means mindfulness, concentration, and insight. The Five Mindfulness Trainings are recommended for everyone, not only for monastics. Mindfulness is the kind of energy that can help you to go home to yourself, to the here and the now, so that you know what to do and what not to do in order to be home for yourself and for other people. The Five Mindfulness Trainings are a very concrete way of practicing mindfulness.
In the Buddhist tradition, holiness is made of mindfulness. Mindfulness, concentration, and insight make you holy. Holiness not only possible for the monastics, but also for the laypeople who practice the precepts. Holiness is not only possible with the practice of celibacy. There are those who live a conjugal life, but if they have the elements of mindfulness, concentration, and insight the have the element of holiness. A monk is like an astronaut, if you want to be an astronaut you should not be pregnant. It does not mean it is bad to be pregnant.”
“We have to learn how to treat beauty. Sexual intimacy can be a beautiful thing, if there is mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Otherwise it will be destructive.”
“To practice Buddhism as a monk is always easier than to practice as a layperson. In Vietnam we say, ‘To practice as a monk is easiest; to practice as a layperson is much more difficult.’ To practice not to have a sexual relationship is much easier than to maintain practice in a relationship, because in order to maintain mindfulness, concentration, and insight in a sexual relationship you need a lot of practice.”
“Love is not a kind of prison. True love gives us a lot of space. Whatever you enjoy, the other person enjoys; whatever is your concern is also their concern.”
The talk was given in English and is available below (French and Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).