Working with our Relationships


June 8, 2013. 91-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbrol, Germany. The talk is given in English with consecutive translation into Dutch. This is the fourth dharma talk, a session of questions and answers, of the Dutch Retreat on the theme Understanding Our Emotions.

Following two chants by the monastics, the questions begin at 15-minutes into the recording. 

  1. Question about the Third Mindfulness Training as it relates to sexual behavior and consumption. How can we integrate and explore our sexual behavior as true love or as consumption?
  2. Another question on true love. Can true love exist between every person I meet and in every relationship even after a relationship ends? Is there something else or can I cultivate true love for every person?
  3. One of the four elements of true love is inclusiveness. How do I combine love and career choices?
  4. In my relationships, I’ve always had a difficult time committing and my partner doesn’t feel I am there for her. What can I do?
  5. I like the statement of being able to always generate a feeling of joy. This hasn’t been my experience and so I need help knowing more about generating joy.
  6. Question about the First Mindfulness Training especially in regards to compassion and relieving the suffering of animals, especially for those who are dependent on us. Is it okay to end the suffering of an animal?

By Chan Niem Hy

Dharma Teacher.


  1. Hello Dear Ones,

    I haven’t left a reply in a while, so I thought I would do so today.

    I know that I’m a baby – a BABY with regard to spirituality and Buddhism – yet I often feel that I have real insight upon hearing and observing our master Thay. So here are a couple of comments/observations about this Q and A session.

    I noticed that the young adults with the questions spoke English as well as I do, and then translated their own questions into Dutch. I wonder if English is a common language of the Dutch people? I felt that the presentation and the questions of these young adults reflect a strong connection to American culture?

    Regarding the question on lack of commitment from the young man who said he wasn’t committed because “something better might come along”. He said that because of this, his partner was unhappy, and what to do, how to handle? I noticed that Thay did not address lack of commitment directly, seeing that the young man seemed to already know that he should be committed, and making the obvious deduction that the young man had probably heard from many sources (including his partner) that he should be committed. So instead of wasting effort by repeating it, Thay went directly into the first two of the four mantras for relationships – “Darling, I am here for you.” “Darling, I know that you are there and it makes me happy.” Instead of telling the young man ‘about’ something, our skillful teacher worked with the actual practice (that will naturally bring about commitment).

    I’ve seen our teacher do this time and again in Q and A sessions. He sees what the true need is and he addresses that, sometimes instead of the question that was asked. This is beautiful. And it also helps us to look at the roots of the questions we might ask ourselves, so that we might truly see our real needs. Ah, I hope that the young man is practicing at this very minute!

    One more comment on the first mantra. For the first time I heard the “I” emphasized, i.e., “I am here for you. All of me, and with nothing withheld.” Previously I had thought the emphasis was on ‘you’, “I am here for your sake”. While this is also true, the first part, WHO is there, must be taken care of before the “for you” or “for your sake” can even be considered. Who is there can be taken care of first in the sense of you being fully there, all of you and nothing withheld; and then contemplated later in the sense of “Who is it that is truly there”, for deeper understanding and even more beautiful action.

    I am enjoying putting this new understanding into practice.

    Anyone feel free to comment or pose corrections.

    A lotus to you.

  2. Thank you for sharing these thoughts and insights with us. I too was moved by this talk and will be applying some of these teachings in our upcoming sangha meeting.

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