Volition and Functions of Alaya Consciousness

This talk is taken out of order as there was a little difficulty in getting the English translation to share with you. In this talk, Thich Nhat Hanh focuses on the theme of volition as it relates to our relationships and to being a monastic followed by a teaching on the functions of alaya consciousness.

It was originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai,  the talk from New Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Thursday, December 19, 2013 and is the tenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Chan Duc.

00:00-10:30 Volition Food
10:30- 14:40 The Mind of Love – Bodhicitta
14:40-21:00 Volition and Marriage
21:00-28:48 The Path and Realizing the Dream
28:48-57:47 The Functions of Alaya
57:47-end Ripening and Impermanence

Last time we learned the alaya consciousness are tied to the five universal mental formations. What does alaya want to realize? In the teachings we talk of the four nutriments and the third is volition. Alaya wants to live  the good of volition should always be there – not temporary. Volition can be a positive nutrient and give us a lot of energy but it can also be unwholesome. What is my deepest desire? What do I want to do with my life? What is the source of volition food?

The Buddha had a desire to end suffering, worries, fears – to find a path. He had a desire to become a monk. The mind of love – bodhicitta. We must have this commitment to be a monk or a nun. This is our volition food as a monastic in the sangha.

People in the world may do something similar when they get married – what is the volition food of my partner? Do we share the same direction and the same ideal?  What do I want to realize in my life? We can also look at our parents and see their dreams and aspiration. Have they realized their dreams?

There is a path to realize our dream. The path is not different from the end. Every step has the dream for it to be reality in every moment of daily life. Don’t wait. We look to see our source of energy – our volition food – and we nourish it every day.

We have learned the self nature of alaya and that it is unobstructed, indeterminate, not good or bad, neutral. The 11 nature of seeds are the characteristics of the store. Now we talk about the function. First, the main function of alaya is to maintain and preserve – it is all the seeds. Second, alaya learns and manage the information it stores. Third, it has the capacity to make/ripen things. Fourth, it has the capacity to nourish and heal. Alaya is self directing and can behave in an automatic way. It has the capacity to sustain life.

The body and mind rely on each other and the basis are the seeds in alaya. Matter and spirit arise together because of alaya.

From the 30 Verses of Vasubandhu, we look at the 19th verse.

Consciousness is the totality of the seeds.
Transformation takes place in the way it does
because of a reciprocal influence; out of this, the
different constructions arise.

The alaya consciousness is also impermanent and birth/death is always taking place. Impermanent in every instant. There is also cyclical impermanence – we are born here and we die here. Maturation is cyclical.

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Foundation for All Phenomena is Store Consciousness

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Sunday, December 15, 2013 and is the ninth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

00:00-10:00 Chanting
10:35-25:42 UNESCO and Violence in Schools
25:42-44:30 The Seed on the Inside and the Seed on the Outside
44:30-55:40 The Seed of Pure/Impure
55:40-end Different Schools of Thought on Store Consciousness

In 2006, Thay gave at a talk at UNESCO in Paris where he suggested that UNESCO organize retreats for teachers from across the globe so that teachers can bring the practice of nonviolence into their classrooms. At the time, the manager at UNESCO was very supportive because in that year there had been 88,000 acts of violence in classrooms in France in 2006. The energy of violence is there is our young people and many parents and children don’t have methods for dealing with the anger in themselves. In our practice, we begin with generating peace in our body and mind to better manage our energy of anger and violence. We want to share these practices with others. If teachers can learn this practice, they will know how to help their students. Plum Village agreed to create documents and materials to support this effort of reducing violence. Two books – Anger and Cultivating True Peace – both teach on this theme. We have led retreats to Wake Up Schools. We have reached out to UNESCO again to see how can we better support UNESCO again to help train teachers? We have also drafted the Manifesto 2000 (which are based on the Five Mindfulness Trainings) with them, but it seems to have been forgotten. The United Nations have accepted some of our practices for nonviolence with the young people. In Spain, there has been an effort to bring this practice to schools.

One characteristic of seeds that we need to discuss is no-inside/no-outside – this is the tenth characteristic of seeds. There is a distinction between inside and outside – inside our mind and outside in the environment. This is a dualistic view and is double-grasping. In the four establishments of mindfulness there are four domains: body, feelings, mind, and objects of mind. In our mind is the phenomena. There are also teachings on karma and retribution in Buddhism. Our actions lead to retribution. The environment is where the body lives. The environment is ourselves also. These two things cannot be separated. This is the best teaching of manifestation-only teachings.

The eleventh characteristic of seeds is pure/impure – this is a teaching of Mahayana Buddhism. In manifestation-only teachings, different sutras explore this theme. The Five Skandhas and the Twelve Localities (Six Sense Organs and Six Sense Objects). The domains of existence – 18 realms. Thay is teaching on a specific verse where all phenomena are in store consciousness. There are six different pathways but there is also a seed of nirvana. The wholesome seeds are there too in the store consciousness. Nirvana is not outside of birth and death. This characteristics leads us to the teaching of the Heart Sutra where there is no defilement and no immaculate.

Neither wholesome/unwholesome, pure/impure. It is indeterminate. You can choose one of the six paths or you can choose nirvana. What do different teachings say about the different mental formations? The Five Particular Mental Formations. More teachings on store consciousness.

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Is our nature goodness?

In this talk we take a deep look at dualistic thinking, the theology and challenges of seeing the world as pure and impure, and more about the seeds.

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Thursday, December 12, 2013 and is the eighth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

00:00-09:50 Chanting
09:50-30:50 Synchronization of Breathing
30:50-48:00 Dualistic Thinking
48:00-1:02 Theology
1:03-1:23 Seeds
1:23-1:48 Pure and Impure

Hearing the sound of the bell, we stop thinking. We breath gently and pay attention our breathing. Simple and easy. An important habit energy. If we do this together, we are a collective and not a separate individuals. This is synchronization. It’s like when water becomes ice – the molecules come together.  Like the photons of a laser beam. The bell is the stimulation to help us stop thinking. In our body there are cells – all the cells work together in synchronization.

We have the habit of dividing reality into wholesome and not wholesome. Well being and ill-being. Right and wrong. Beauty and ugliness. Permanence and impermanence.  Happiness and suffering. Purity and impurity. This is dualistic thinking. If god is goodness them who will take care of the other side? Is our nature goodness?

Manifestation only teaching and this dualistic thinking. Our nature is indeterminate – neither wholesome nor unwholesome. Reality is indeterminate. Discussion on theology and suffering and natural disasters in the world. And I Ching too. In Buddhism we still say nature is neither pure nor impure.

Good seeds, bad seeds, and neutral. And they’ve been there since the beginning. This is a big issue in manifestation only teachings because some see the seeds are determinate. It has a nature that is organic – even love is organic and so is hate. More on the characteristics of seeds (a review).

Seeds that are pure and impure.  The 22 organs referred to in the Shastra.

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Mother Earth Has All the Seeds

The sangha held a monastic ordination ceremony on this day and so Thich Nhat Hanh spent some time talking about being a monastic. The second part of his talk is fantastic and touches deeply on his revolutionary nature and how Buddhism must be progressive and change. We conclude the talk with the winter retreat by learning more about the characteristics of the seeds.

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Sunday, December 8, 2013 and is the seventh talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

00:00-06:40 Chanting
06:40-13:45 New Monastics Introduced
13:45-34:30 Being a Monastic
34:30-54:28 Renewing Buddhism
54:28-1:06 Poetry and Walking
1:06-1:41 Sutra Study

Thay introduces the verses for the new year. New year, new me. Joy within, joy all around.

Being a Monastic
Purpose of the new monastic family. A new life. When we become a monastic, we let go of everything. The accomplishments and difficulties belong to the sangha. There is no individual future. We must take care of the entire family. How is this different from lay dharma teacher? The needs are great and we need more monastics and dharma teachers. Importance of organizing and leading retreats. We are a practical community; not theoretical. We also have the Five-Year Program as a dharma door for young people.

Renewing Buddhism
Buddhism is an art and must be progressive otherwise it stands still. We can modify the teachings so it’s applicable to society. New sutras, training,  precepts. New findings and new research. If we don’t renew then Buddhism stands still and we don’t honor the ancestors. It must be appropriate for the people and era otherwise it is not true Buddhism. See how the Five Trainings or Ten Novice Precepts of Plum Village are very different from traditional and much better. We must have courage to renew. Can we reduce the number of monastic precepts? A new Buddhism.

Poetry and Walking
Thay shares a poem he uses for walking meditation down and back from Son Ha.  Nourishing the sangha with mindful breathing and mindful walking. Can we be a cell of the sangha and if the Buddha?

Sutra Study
Review of the first ten characteristics of the seeds. Are the seeds innate? We need to sow and water the seeds. To cultivate the seeds. If we don’t have happiness then we need to plant it so it’s possible. Mother Earth contains all the seeds and we must protect the environment. The insight of manifestation only is non-duality. No double grasping. Subject and object are not different.

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What is the Purpose of this Human Life?

In this 2-hour dharma talk, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches how and why we can live our lives deeply and provides methods such as gatha practice. We also continue the theme of the winter retreat by learning more about the characteristics of the seeds.

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from New Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Thursday, December 5, 2013 and is the sixth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

00:00-14:30 What is the purpose of human life?
14:30-23:00 Practice gathas
23:00-41:35 Spirituality and Plum Village practice
41:35-end Store consciousness and characteristics of seeds

Some trees live thousands of years and certain turtles can live hundreds of years. A human span is about a 100-years. What is the purpose of this human life? We should live deeply so the time here doesn’t go to waste. We should not wait to answer this question. The quality of life; not just living it to pass the days. The quality depends on how deeply we live each moment and not the emotional and material comforts. Money, power, prestige may not provide this quality or happiness.

In Vietnam we had king who had given his throne to his son in order to become a monk. This gave him more time to live more deeply. He wore the color brown, the color for monastics. In Vietnam, it represents simplicity and humility. It’s the color of those who work in the fields.

When we become monastics, we learn the gathas to practice mindfulness. This Sunday we will ordain seven aspirants in Plum Village. There are about 60 Gathas to memorize and the first gatha to memorize is the walking up gatha.

Waking up this morning, I smile. 
Twenty-four brand new hours. 
I vow to live deeply each moment
And look at all beings with the eyes of compassion and love. 

Every breath and every step is legendary. The quality of life is awareness and our capacity to live deeply.

Science and philosophy both study our humanity. There is also Tao – spirituality. It is also a branch of research to understand our own suffering and happiness. Spirituality is not to run away from life and it is not religion. It is a path to understanding and love to live deeply our lives. We can use the discoveries of science and philosophy. We come to Plum Village to learn how to live life. We look for elder brothers and sisters to guide us. We don’t practice for merit in the future but to live deeply in this moment. For example, walking meditation is not a mean to an end. It’s a daily practice. It is the path of happiness.

The same with sitting meditation  First we need calmness and stillness in our body and mind. The sixteen exercises of mindful breathing can help us calm and still our body and mind. If we don’t know how, we ask a dharma teacher for help.

These practices liberate us.

We’re learning the 8th consciousness – Store. We begin with a review of The first three verses of 30 Verses of Vasubandhu  What is a self? There are also dharmas and phenomena. All this manifests from the same route – store consciousness. Store both receives and maintains the seeds. It also holds the body and the environment in which we live in. What goes into our store consciousness? There are three different kinds of seeds that go into store: the image of the objects of phenomena, the names of the objects, and the last is discrimination (habit of discriminating). That was the review of previous weeks.

Characteristics of the Seeds
The first characteristic of a seed is that it changes every millisecond. They are changing all the time. Another characteristic is that it’s also continuous, like a steam. It maintains the nature of the seed over time. Every seed is waiting for the conditions to manifest. Manifestation only teachings. Individual and collective manifestation

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What has Buddha-Nature?

December 1, 2013. 93-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. This is the fifth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. We begin with two chants from the monastics. The talk was given in Vietnamese and this is an English translation by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

An issue in Christianity has been the question whether God a human or not a human. Theologians have said, though God is not a person but God is not less than a person.  In Buddhism, there is the idea of sentient beings that suffer and Buddha’s who have enlightenment. But when we become a Buddha, we continue to be a sentient being. I’m Mahayana Buddhism, these two are not separate. Sentient beings and Buddha’s are not different but two pairs of opposite. One cannot be without the other. Humans are composed of non-human elements. This is a non-dualistic insight. Interdependent co-arising.

Everything is impermanent, including enlightenment and Buddha. We must continue to cultivate happiness and insight. Can the Buddha be recognized in another form than a human? Consider what is written in the Diamond Sutra. We also need to remove the dualistic thinking regarding inanimate objects. Even a rock has Buddha-nature. We have to transcend the idea that Buddha must be a human.

Applying this teaching using sitting and breathing. Thay provides instructions.

At 58-minutes, we continue with the winter retreat teachings from the 30-verses of Vasubandhu with the 3rd verse.

Its appropriations and its manifestation of locality
cannot be known intellectually. It is always
associated with contact, mental attention, feeling,
perception, and volition.

Seeds. Form. Signs. Consciousness. Names.

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A Sense of Contact

November 28, 2013. 140-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet of Plum Village. This is the fourth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. We begin with two chants from the monastics. The talk was given in Vietnamese and this is an English translation by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

Today we continue studying the Five Universal Mental Formations – they happen in a split of a second. It is everywhere, anytime. This is why they are universal. The first is contact – we spend most of the teaching on this mental formation. It’s a vibration in our sense organs. It’s a modification of the organ when it comes together with the object and consciousness and prepares for the arrival of feeling. This is the traditional definition. Contact is the base for feeling or impression. How can consciousness occur without organs?

The second universal is attention. There is appropriate and inappropriate attention. This is followed by feeling, perception. What is the function of perception? What are the options in terms of volition? Grasp, chase after, run away, fight, or to punish. The example in traditional texts is the magnet. What is appropriate attention? How does this relate to contact?

We can bring in mindfulness – this is one of the five particular mental formations. Mindfulness is the third of the five particular. Stephen Levine defined it as memory; to recall a past experience. Mindfulness is not forgetting. Definitions of mindfulness.

Where there is mindfulness, we can recognize the five universals and not go down the path of suffering. How do we react when we have a feeling or a perception? We can interfere, by pausing and creating a new pathway, with mindfulness and this is a very important practice.

A teaching on the eight consciousnesses, in particular mind and manas and how they are different than the first five sense consciousnesses.

Seeds. Characteristics of a seed. We cannot separate the cause and the effect. There are two, but they are really one. Subject and object cannot be separated.

 

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Discovering Non-Discriminative Wisdom

November 24, 2013. 116-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet of Plum Village. This is the third talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. We begin with two chants (17-minutes) from the monastics. The talk was given in Vietnamese and this is an English translation by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

Shares a little about the chant in Vietnamese; it’s about love. The purpose of the practice is to generate joy/happiness and to take care of our suffering. How do we do this? We do tis with mindfulness, concentration, and insight. The foundations of the Four Noble Truths in Plum Village. Walking and sitting meditation should be viewed as a privilege. Freedom can be found in our busyness. Every action can bring happiness, it is a path of happiness.

A mental formation such as contact is present when three things are present. The organ, object, and consciousness. All three must be present. Mind and consciousness. When is consciousness active? The mind still works when there is no consciousness. This is the store consciousness.

The eighth consciousness that comprise the store consciousness. The store consciousness can learn good things and bad things; it is neutral. Door consciousness can be both individual and collective.

Interdependent co-arising; Interdependent nature of phenomenon. One thing gives birth or arising to another thing. Suchness. Transcending the idea of being and non-being. Inter arising of suchness.

Inter arising of all phenomenon. Where is store consciousness? Example of H2O to illustrate.

The characteristics of manas. Manas. The lover. The seventh consciousness. What are the dangers of manas? Manas does not know the goodness of suffering. The sixth consciousness is the gardener and can bring Mindfulness to the seventh consciousness.

No self, so no complex of inferiority for superiority or quality.

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Individual and Collective Manifestation

November 21, 2013. 93-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet of Plum Village. This is the second talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. We begin with two chants from the monastics. The talk was given in Vietnamese and this is an English translation by Sr. Tue Nghiem. 

Story of a poet Thay met in the 1940s in Saigon. Shares a poem called the Dalia. Another poem from the 60s called  Song of April. A flower in the poem is used to teach on manifestation-only and the dharma body. This is the work of Mahayana Buddhism. We can hear the dharma in everything. The Buddha is the flower. Where does the flower come from in manifestation-only? 

We can apply this same teaching to our own seeds, such as anger. We don’t always see our anger until it manifests, but to say that it is not there is incorrect. It’s just hidden. 

Text of the 30 Verses of Vasubandhu

Consciousness has two parts. The subject and object. The two parts rely upon one another to manifest. 

Can our mind see the object of reality? The object and the subject rely upon one another order to manifest. Cognition.  Understanding this alcan free us from the idea of birth and death, being and non-being. 

The mental formation contact. The relationship between subject and object and the mental formation of contact. We also look at the second mental formation of attention. This teaching is illustrated by the sound of the bell and other distractions that may be occurring at the same time. Appropriate attention. As a practitioner, we can choose the object of our Mindfulness. With practice this can become automatic. No effort.

The cells of the body and the collective energy of a group of people. Can we sit peacefully? Individual manifestation and collective manifestation. The collective is comprised of the individual. Our practice can affect other people. 

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Our Spiritual Ancestors in Vietnam

November 7, 2013. 93-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet of Plum Village. We begin with two chants, one French and one Vietnamese, from the monastics. The talk is originally given in Vietnamese and this is an English translation by Sr. Chan Khong. 

Just let the dharma talk simply go into our store consciousness. No effort needed. You can be surprised later when the seeds of the dharma sprout. 

Noble path. Suffering and happiness are deeply linked. 

Waking up this morning, I smile. No judgement. Compassion. Gatha practice. Every second, every minute, every action. Insight can arise from simple practice. Walking. Sitting. Eating.  But it doesn’t mean we ignore our suffering. 

Story of Vietnamese patriarch – One Concentration. A history lesson on our spiritual ancestors in Vietnam. 

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