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May 20, 2011. 94-minute session of Question and Answers given in English, with consecutive translation into German, with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the fifth day of the German Retreat at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.
Some of the questions from the session include:
How can we support the formation of living practice communities for young people? Thay invites Phap Linh to help respond to this question regarding leading groups of young people, particularly in the Wake Up! movement.
How can we transform our relationship with someone who hates us?
How do I deal with judgmental thoughts about other people?
Lately I feel that my true self is like a drop that has been taken out of the collective consciousness, as if from a cloud, and I feel as I’m aging that this drop that has been separated would like to re-enter the ocean. I would like to know if you know of this longing to be re-united as a drop with the ocean: how can I live with this contradiction of longing for the true self in the here and now, and my daily life?
Following the FIve Mindfulness Trainings, I try not to kill. Two years ago, when I saw some bugs in the kitchen, I left them in peace because there were not so many. I did the same thing last year. This summer there are so many that I felt I had to do something. You teach that when we follow the North Star this means we do not have to reach it. So I began to kill these bugs, always trying to keep a friendly mind, wishing a good rebirth for them in the next life. At first it felt OK. But when you are killing ten or more beings every day, when they wish to live as we do, it becomes too much. I felt it cannot be better to kill them by chemical means, where I don’t have to touch them personally. But to perform the act of killing again and again—is this not worse, with regard to the karmic imprints in our stream of consciousness, or do you have to decide not to kill at all, despite the disadvantages?
A question regarding my superiority complex: All my life I have found that I meet people, I judge them and find that I am superior. I used to go to school, at the end of each year we had the custom to invite the best of each year on stage and decorate them with a golden plaque that they could put on the wall. There is still this voice in me that wants to share that once I too received one of those golden plaques. But I have also discovered how this attitude has created a distance between myself and other people. By looking deeply I see that there is a mechanism in me that causes me to measure myself against my father, an archaic struggle against the father. I am deeply grateful for the teachings which have enabled me to transform this. I keep my father now in my heart, and the inner struggle has ceased. I am also touched that you talked so much about fathers and sons in this retreat. One reason for my feeling of superiority is that I have always tried to protect myself from a feeling of inferiority. However, this feeling of having to create a distance between myself and other people is still present. I feel I have already heard some answers to my question, particularly in the Sutra on Five Ways of Putting an End to Anger. I would still like to ask your advice on how to better manage this.
I had a deep crisis in my life about twelve years ago with those who I thought had been my friends. These were the people that I spent my time with, and who I practiced with. There came a moment when I was most in need of their help, and I was let down by them. Not only did they let me down, but they then attacked me and stabbed me in the back. Through all those years they had not seen me as I really was. This has led to me becoming very ill, and it has led me to losing all my trust in other people. In this way, it was shown to me that the friends of today can be the enemies of tomorrow, and perhaps the enemies of today can be the friends of tomorrow. These past twelve years I have spent with the question whether I would continue to live, because there was a moment when I felt I wouldn’t. But I felt I wanted to live because I felt that there were many things yet to learn. And I also felt I wouldn’t be able to live in this world if I were not able to open myself to something new. First, there was a moment when I needed to withdraw and move to a place where I would not see the people that had let me down. I have lived there withdrawn near nature, and near to Mother Meera. With the help of Mother Meera I have looked deeply, and I have tried to forgive myself and others. Now I am on a new path where I am trying to find trust again in both myself and others. Much has now changed for the better. There are still moments, and recently there has been an incident–I live in a very old house with many nice flats in it–in those other flats there are people living there who are not very mindful, and the communication with those people can be very difficult. Recently there have been a few instances where I have been verbally attacked by people, though I could not see how I did anything to cause such an attack to take place. I feel that this old wound is being touched again, where people cannot be trusted, and you never know what will happen in the next moment. This can cause a shock whereby I feel that I am not able to cope, and I feel I need to protect myself from this. My question is: How can I live in an open and trusting way, even with people who are not very mindful, and how am I also able to protect myself and my sensitivity?
The session was given in English and German at the same time and is available below for listening or download. You may also view the video.