2008-05-09 | Love in Action
This is a 78-minute dharma talk from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism in the 21st Century” retreat. This is the fifth talk on May 9, 2008 and the talk is offered in English.
Teaching and Social Work
In 1964, Thay was teaching at Colombia University and my friends in Vietnam asked me to return home. In Saigon there was a school (School of Youth for Social Service) to teach engaged Buddhism and serve the communities in Vietnamese countryside. An expression of Love in Action. They did not want sponsorship from the government and didn’t want to be involved in the war. Inspired by compassion. Nonviolence and rural development. It started with 300 workers and expanded to 10,000 workers — these were volunteers. Thay shares some of the work they did during this time and where they learned to do this work. Some of these social workers died in service and there is a memorial at the Dharma Cloud Temple (Chua Phâp Van) in Ho Chi Minh City. Thay talks of the spiritual dimension to this social work.
This is where the Order of Interbeing arose and Thay talks of the first members and the first ordination.
In 1966, That was invited by Cornell University to teach a series of lectures. The purpose was also to help Thay get out of Vietnam and to speak out about the war in Vietnam. This was sponsored by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. After this, Thay was not allowed to return to Vietnam. At this time was intensifying and a young OI member immolated of herself – her name was Nhat Chi Mai. Also several members of the school were murdered.
The School for Social Service setup pilot villages. One village was bombed multiple times after re-building. To help with farming, health, and economics. They also setup refugee camps to assist with resettlement of thousands of people. This too is Engaged Buddhism. And we must also maintain our spiritual development. Thay remained in France and raised money to help fund the work of the school and bring awareness of the real war in Vietnam.
After we setup Plum Village (1982) in France, they offered retreats for veterans, health professionals, business people, members of war-torn nations, congresspeople, school teachers, and young people. Buddhism is for all walks of society. We also reach into serving those who are imprisoned.
Releasing the tension. Holding the emotion. Heal yourself. Heal your family. This too is Engaged Buddhism. Engaged Buddhism is our business in every minute and every hour. It can even be practiced in a normal fashion, without appearing religious.
The first practice of Right Diligence is: the negative seeds, let them sleep. Don’t water them. They become weaker and weaker. This is an art. It is the practice of Right Diligence. It is continued practice.
Today we introduce the concept of manas. Sometimes this consciousness is called ‘the lover.’ It is born from a number of unwholesome seeds. For example, feelings of superiority, inferiority, and equality. We learn of subject, object, and emptiness. Thanks to emptiness everything is possible. But manas ignores this. Manas believes you have a self. It doesn’t see Interbeing. Manas is always seeking pleasure. It is always trying to run away from suffering and ignores the goodness of suffering. No mud. No lotus. Interbeing. We need the Wisdom of Nondiscrimination (gained through meditation).
Linked with Right Thinking and Mindful Consumption.
Changing the Peg
The second practice of Right Diligence is when a negative seed does arise, we help return the mental formation to our store consciousness. How? Thay provides an example. Change the peg. Mindful breathing and invite another mental formation to arise. Coming to a retreat is a good way to water a lot of positive seeds. Create a positive environment. We can do this at home too. Listen to a dharma talk, practice chanting, mindful breathing, etc.
Even with depression. Yes, it is more difficult but it is possible. The Buddha said, nothing can survive without food. By the way we live. Cut off those things that are the cause. Inquire about the mental formations.
A Wholesome Life
The third practice is to give the positive seeds a chance. Help them to manifest. Do something to touch them and to water them. They may be covered up with many layers of fear, worry, etc. This is compassionate.
And the fourth is to allow any wholesome mental formation that is present, keep it as long as possible. Why replace them? Let them stay.