Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Embodied Mind

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, February 9, 2014 and is the twenty fourth (and final) talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. This is an English translation, available below, by Sr. Tue Nghiem.  Following this talk the monastery will have lazy days followed by a monastic retreat. We will not have new talks again until early March.

0:00 Guided Meditation by Thay
10:58 Remembering Thay Phap Y
18:45 Exercises of Mindful Breathing
1:05:50 Study on 30-Verses

A story of our older monastic Brother Phap Y who has recently died. Though he had been sick a long time, he died very quickly on February 6 and we are very happy. He came to Plum Village as a novice from the Tibetan tradition and has since been a trusted and loved dharma teacher. We are reminded that this body is not me and I am not limited by this body. I am life without boundaries. And I continue in the river. In Plum Village we see Thay Phap Y as an older brother who has lived with our sangha for 20-years and he was 75-years old when he died.

We practice to have peace in our body. We recognize that we have a body. Breathing in I know I have a body. At that moment the body has a mind. The embodied mind. When the mind and the body are one then we truly have life. If we continue, we can release the tension in our body. Breathing in I release all the tensions in my body. I  These are the third and the fourth exercises from the sutra on the full awareness of breathing. Breathing in, I know I breath in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. This is the first exercise. It is to recognize the breath only. Breathing in, I follow my in breath all the way to the end. This is the second exercise. Following the breath. No thinking. Just breathing. We stop the mental discourse. These exercises bring us a lot of freedom. A practice of reconciliation between body and mind. When we have peace, then we can generate joy. It can also bring peace to our feelings. A practitioner is someone who knows how to practice this art. Can we generate peace, joy, and happiness in each step? We learn to cultivate good habit energies while we are here at Plum Village. When we have these energies, then we can nourish the people we love with these energies too. We can generate happiness right here and right now. With these four exercises we generate mindfulness, concentration, and insight.

Happiness is connected to suffering. We can make use of the suffering to make happiness. This connection between happiness and suffering is of an organic nature. Managing our suffering is also an art just as generating happiness is an art. If you know how to suffer, then you suffer less. The fifth and sixth exercises are generating joy and generating happiness.  In the present moment, we can recognize the conditions of happiness. The three energies of mindfulness, concentration, and insight can be very powerful.

The seventh exercise is recognizing our suffering. Maybe our suffering had roots in the body or roots in our perception. When suffering surfaces, the practitioner should be present to recognize. Simple recognition. How do we recognize our pain? The second aspect is to embrace the suffering/pain. We embrace it with mindfulness. The third aspect is to calm the suffering. This is the eighth exercise.

Anybody can do these practices. You don’t need to be Buddhist. We can transmit these exercises to parents and two children. We should share these exercises with teachers so that it can be included in our schools to help our young children.

Returning to the study of the 30 verses for the remainder of the talk.

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The Joy of the Dharma

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, February 6, 2014 and is the twenty third talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. This is an English translation, available below, by Sr. Tue Nghiem. In this teaching we have a great review of basic practices that bring joy and peace followed by a teaching on 3 verses from the 30-verses of Vasubandhu text.

0:00 Chanting
7:18 Vitality
27:50 The Three Energies
41:30 Walking Meditation
55:00 Eating Meditation
1:06:33 Thirty Verses Study

There is a mental formation called vitality.  Life. In Theravada tradition there are two types of life. The name and the form (material aspect). Even with the fetus, there is already the form and the vitality of the fetus is intermingled with the vitality of the mother. They are not two separate things. The child and mother are one. We can see vitality even in an inanimate object, such as a grain of rice. Quantum physics see this now in the subatomic particles. In the grain of corn there is vitality and in the speck of dust. There are no borders between animate and inanimate objects. We learn this in the Diamond Sutra.

We have to live our life deeply. Matter and energy – their nature is no birth and no death. We use our breathing to bring peace to our breath. We can become light like a cloud and let go of all our anxiety. We train to breathe like this.

We can generate the energy of mindfulness. Concentration is one-pointed mind. At that moment, we are truly present. A free person. These are mindfulness and concentration. We can generate this with our breathing.  In this case the breathing is the object of our mindfulness. Then, with these two we generate the third energy – insight. This is a training. We are here at Plum Village to learn how to do this because it had the capacity to heal and to nourish. To feel the joy of breathing in and breathing out. The joy of the dharma. The joy of the practice is our daily food. We are consuming food that nourishes and heals us. We have to live deeply in our breathing to generate peace and joy. Then we let go of anxiety and tension.

Walking with peace and joy. What is slow walking meditation? How and why do we practice walking? Legendary steps.

While we sit, we need to calm our breathing. We allow our body to rest, sitting upright, to harmonize the body. This too can generate joy and happiness.

The same can be done with eating. While we wait together, we can immediately begin generating joy and happiness. And we can practice this at home. In a meal, we pay attention to two things: to each morsel of food and our friends who are sitting around us. Mindfulness of food and mindfulness of sangha. This food is the gift of the whole universe. Learning how to stop our mental discourse.

We are learning verse #5-7 from the 30 Verses we’ve been studying this week. These three verses talk about manas. We begin with manifestation. Store consciousness was the first manifestor and the second is manas. Manas relies on the store consciousness to manifest. It grasps onto store consciousness and relies on it and returns to it. Manas has a distorted perception.

Inferiority, superiority, and equality complexes. Manas also goes along with the four kinds of afflictions. And the five universal mental formations.

It is also undetermined – neither wholesome or unwholesome. The five views of manas. Wisdom of discrimination.

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Tale of Kieu

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, January 30, 2014 and is the twenty second talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. We are on the eve on Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. This is an English translation, available below, by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

The time is 3:00pm on Vietnamese New Year’s Eve (Tet) and it is an occasion to connect with our ancestors. Without our roots then we cannot survive. In Asian culture we try to connect with the other realms. The world of nine sources. In Vietnam we have a tradition of worshiping our ancestors. Every family has an altar in their home. Every day people offer a stick of incense to their ancestors to help connect to their heritage. It only takes a minute and it is a sacred and scientific act. Connect with our roots. It is good mental health. It is a way to express our love and loyalty. Thay shares a little about the Rose Ceremony. Here in Plum Village, as we study Buddhist teachings, we can see these two realms are one. It is a stream. Scientists are also on this path. Matter and energy are not two deprecate things. There are no boundaries between heaven and earth.

At 25-minutes into the talk, Thay shares about Tale of Kieu Oracle reading, a Plum Village Tet tradition. We learn the story and background of this classical Vietnamese poem.

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What is the Fabric of Reality?

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, January 26, 2014 and is the twenty first talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem. The first 45-minutes of the talk focus on connecting our body and mind through our practice of returning. The second half returns to the sutra study and the characteristics of seeds.

Every time we have difficulties with another person, what can we do? Why do we have these difficulties? Why can we not communicate? Do we blame the other person or are we able to see that both sides have difficulties? We have to look at ourselves. The most basic difficulty is that we can’t communicate or understand ourselves. It’s so easy to just run away from ourselves through reading novels, watching television, go on the internet, etc. But, there may be loneliness, grief, sadness, anger, and emptiness that we cannot bear. We are not at peace with ourselves. Therefore, we cannot easily communicate with the other person because we cannot communicate with ourselves. We can’t blame the other person or ourselves but we try to understand ourselves. This is a courageous act. We can use a friend, a co-practitioner, a sangha to support us to come back to ourselves and recognize our suffering and despair. Our breathing can help us bring our mind back to our body. This is the practice of returning. The method and practice are really simple. With concentration we can cultivate an inner strength. The third exercise from the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing is bringing our full attention to our body and let go of the tension in our body. Mindfulness of the body. Breathing can be the object of our mind to help us return to our body. How is our breathing? We can use the gatha “In. Out. Deep. Slow.” This is the practice of peace.

When Thay taught at university, another professor asked Thay what do we do to sit in meditation? The most basic practice is to harmonize our breathing. When we sit down, the first thing we do is calm down and harmonize the breathing. The second is to harmonize the body with our posture. These two go together – the breathing and the body. This may take a few minutes and then we can go deeper into contemplation. Being aware that we have body and our breathing, this is life.

We can see the miracle if our energy and practice is strong. The Mother Earth is present in our body. We carry in our body the presence of all our ancestors. They continue to live in us. If we are peaceful and joyful then our ancestors are also peaceful and joyful. And so this gatha of practice can be a very deep practice. This is awakening and can come today and can come continuously.

Freedom of in breath and out breath. If the breathing is peaceful then our body is peaceful. We calm our breathing, our body, and then our feelings.

What is that that prevents you from having joy? What is it’s true name? How do we let it entangle us? Plum Village practice is very simple. The energy of mindfulness let us see miracles in every moment. Mindful breathing and mindful steps. To calm down. We can have help
From fellow practitioners.

The characteristics of seeds is Momentary impermance.

Moons and stars are the objects of our consciousness. Everything has a mark or sign. It can be either collective or individual. All these phenomenon are from seeds. There are three kinds of conciousmess in manifestation-only teaching. Store consciousness, Manas, and Perception of Reality along with five sense consciousness plus mind. Store consciousness maintains three things: seeds, our body, and our environment. And the seeds manifests as signs or marks.

What is the fabric of reality?

The fourth characteristic of seeds. And this teaching is a different from the traditional interpretation. The seeds in the store consciousness are neither also door unwholesome because store consciousness is undetermined and unobstructed. Therefore, the characteristic of the seed is undetermined.

The fifth characteristic of seeds is that they wait for conditions to manifest. Interdependent co-arising. And the sixth is neither being nor non-being. In manifestation-only teaching, these are true mental categories and cannot be applied to reality. And that subject and object cannot operate independently.

No sameness, no otherness.
No coming, no going.

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