What Does it Mean to be Free

The sangha is gathered together at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2011 US Teaching Tour with the theme Cultivating the Mind of Love. It is the fourth day of the retreat. This 108-minute question and answer session is from October 1, 2011 and both the audio and video are available with this post.

A good question can help many people. It can be a question about our suffering and our happiness.

We begin with a few questions from the children.

  1. What are some of the traditional foods in a Buddhist monastery? (4:33)
  2. What helps to clear your mind? (13:55)
  3. Is it true that if you don’t believe in God that you go to the underworld? (17:32)
  4. What kind of Buddha’s are there? (21:40)

Followed by questions from teenagers, young adults, and adults.

  1. How can I relate to another person, and love another person, but not experience the three complexes – inferiority, superiority, and equality? (27:14)
  2. What would you advise someone who has been diagnosed with attention disorder, or any mental illness, that hinders a person from being in the now. And have had to rely on medications for their whole life. How can they live in the now? (32:40)
  3. What would you do if you had a friend who isn’t being loving to each other, and you are caught in the middle? (37:28)
  4. How can I not suffer when I see my 26-year old son’s life unraveling due to his drug addictions? I am overcome by grief and despair. (56:45)
  5. When facing a decision, where your only see two possible answers – the one you think is right and the one you feel is right – how can you know which one? (1:03:45)
  6. What does it mean to be free?(1:23:50)
  7. How can a Vietnam veteran, who still suffers from PTSD, communicate to the many generations of Vietnamese people at this retreat that he cared for the Vietnamese? (1:34:23)

We have one more talk in this series from Mississippi. Stay tuned.

If you appreciate this teaching, please consider making a donation to support the ongoing efforts of the online monastery. Please make a note with your donation that it was because of this talk.

Play

Nourishing Your Mother and Father in You

The Sangha is gathered together at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2011 US Teaching Tour with the theme Cultivating the Mind of Love. This 88-minute dharma talk is from September 30, 2011 and both the audio and video are available with this post.

We begin with a 23-minute teaching for the children present at the retreat. Of course, everyone can benefit and enjoy this teaching regardless of age. Thay shares a story of bringing a bag of popcorn, but not to pop, to the children at an Italian retreat. The seed of corn that becomes the plant of corn. And how we can nourish our father and mother.

After the children leave, we continue with the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. Yesterday we learned the first eight exercises of mindful breathing – the realm of bodyand the realm of feeling. Today we continue with realm of our mind. Mental formation.

9. Aware of mental formation

What is “formation” – comes from samskara. Anything that is formed, is a formation. There are physical formations and mental formation. What are the mental formations? The good ones and the negative ones. Can we name our mental formations? Call it by it’s true name.

Store and Mind consciousness. What are the characteristics of these? A teaching on seeds (bija) and how we can use our practice. What is our the ways that we suppress our negative mental formations? The most common is to consume. But what can we do instead?

10. Gladden the mental formation

This is equivalent to the practice of Right  Diligence. There are four steps in this practice: First, not to give opportunity for the negative seeds to come up in the first place / in ourselves or in each other. What are the conditions we are creating around us? We should know how to consume. Second, if by chance a negative seed arises then try your best to help it go down as quickly as possible. This is the art of embracing the negative mental formation. We can invite a good seed to come up. Change the CD. Third, give the good seeds plenty of chances to come up. This is the art of flower watering. In ourselves and in the other person. Thay shares the story of the couple who came to Plum Village from the city of Bordeaux. The fourth aspect of the practice, of the good seed has manifested then keep it present as long as you can. If we can do this, then even more good seeds continue to grow.

11. Concentrating the mind / mental formation
12. Liberating the mind / mental formation

When we are concentrated, we discover the nature of what is there. We can see the non-flower elements of the flower. Happiness is made of non-happiness elements. Mindfulness can bring concentration. Liberation is the fruit of concentration. There are many forms and teachings in cultivating concentration. What are some examples?

There are three kinds of concentration found in every school of Buddhism: emptiness, sighlessness, and aimlessness. These are the Three Doors of Liberation. Insight arrives.

Impermanence is another concentration. When we look into the family album, are we the same or different from the baby in the picture.

The last four exercises of mindful breathing are about the objects of mind. Reality is not something outside of our mind — it is the object of our mind. These last four help with the practice to release and transform our suffering.

13. Contemplating Impermanence
14. Contemplating non-craving
15. Contemplating the ultimate (nirvana)
16. Contemplating letting go 

The talk concludes with an overview and teaching of these last four exercises, particularly our objects of craving. Money, power, sex. The conditions of our happiness are already present and available.

If you appreciate this teaching, please consider making a donation to support the ongoing efforts of the online monastery. Please make a note with your donation that it was because of this talk.

Play

Call Your Cows By Their True Name

The Sangha is gathered together at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2011 US Teaching Tour with the theme Cultivating the Mind of Love. This 85-minute dharma talk is from September 29, 2011 and both the audio and video are available in this post.

We begin with a 27-minute teaching for the children present at the retreat. Of course, everyone can benefit and enjoy this teaching regardless of age.

When you love someone, what can you offer them? What is the most precious thing we can offer them? Thay offers a story of an unhappy child and his father – what does the child want for his birthday?

The first mantra of Plum Village is “Darling, I am here for you.” In order to do this, you really have to be present. We should all memorize this mantra. This is a meditation and does not take time and money. Mindfulness helps you to be there.

Thay teaches us about how and why to use pebble meditation. The first pebble represents a flower. What is a true flower? And the second pebble represents a mountain. Cultivating our stability. The next pebble represents still water. The last pebble represents space. Open your heart. A child can very easily lead pebble meditation.

We continue teachings on breathing exercises. This morning the guided meditation explored the first four exercises of mindful breathing. These first four have to do with the body. We first recognize our in-breath and our out-breath. What is the intention of this exercise? Then we move to breathing-in, I follow my breath all the way through. During this time, there is no interruption. You only follow the breathing.

With the third, we are aware of our body. Mind and body are together. To restore the oneness. And our body is a wonder. Thay shares of a recent visit to the Googleplex. Practiced these breathing exercises, especially helping them connect with the body as described in the third exercise. It is a reconciliation between the mind and the body. The fourth exercise is breathing in, I release the tension in my body. This practice is very relevant to our time. We can reduce the amount of pain.

Contemplation of the body. Revisit all parts of our body. How do we do this?

The next set of exercises are designed to help us handle our feelings.

5. Generating joy
6. Generating happiness
7. Recognize a painful feeling
8. Embrace a painful feeling

Can we recognize the conditions of joy and happiness? Living happily in the present moment. This is found right in the Sutra and is especially relevant for business people.

Mindfulness is being able to go home to the present moment. Mindfulness is not something you can buy. When you are mindful, you are there with your body. Mindfulness and concentration are two sources of happiness. Another practice is that of letting go. Here we have the teaching on the farmer who has lost his cows. To know our obstacles is also a path to knowing our happiness. Letting go is a good practice.

Once we know our joy and happiness, then we can more easily handle our pain. When the pain manifests, a good practitioner can recognize this and know how to take care of the painful feeling. We can hold our pain.

 

Play

Remove the Dressing

The Sangha is gathered together at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2011 US Teaching Tour with the theme Cultivating the Mind of Love. Both the audio and video are available in this post.

In this 42-minute introduction, Thich Nhat Hanh begins with a teaching on Mindfulness, breathing, and the energy of mindfulness. It can be generated by our practice. And it is always mindfulness of something. We receive a teaching on breathing, sitting, and walking. How to arrive.

Sangha body. We are all a cell in the sangha body. And we can breathe together as one Sangha body. With just 3-seconds of breathing, we can make ourselves available to life and life is available to us. That is the miracle of mindfulness. We release the past and release the future.

Do we have the time to get in touch with the miracle of mindfulness? When we bring our mind and body together, we have a chance to touch this miracle through the practice of mindfulness of breathing and mindfulness of walking.

The cells in our body have the capacity to generate energy. And we can listen as one sangha body. And we can become a real and true sangha in that moment. And with this we can gain insight. Thay teaches how the practice of walking allow us to touch the wonders of life in the here and now.

I have arrived.
I am home.

Every in breath and every out breath allow us to remain in the here and the now. And we are supported by many other practitioners.

As with walking, sitting meditation is the same. We can enjoy in a relaxing manner. It can be a delight! We have our Sangha and our breathing. We don’t need to suffer.

I have arrived.
I am home.

This is not a declaration!

During this retreat, we will learn to practice and be the living Buddha, the living Dharma, and the living Sangha.

At 23:45 into the recording, Thay invites Sister Pine and Br. Phap Dung to offer a few words on how to enjoy our practice more – how can we enjoy our life?

One of the practices is called Noble Silence — what does this mean? How do we practice with noble silence? Another practice we offer and teach is Working Meditation — an opportunity and a training to come back to our body and our breathing. In a retreat, we can slow down and enjoy our capacity to stop, be present, and perhaps gain insight. Br. Phap Dung shares a story of eating salad without the dressing. We can remove the dressing in our lives. Cultivate the ability to generate your own bell of mindfulness.

In our tradition, the practice and the non-practice are interweaved. It’s hard to tell where the meditation begins. Try to pay attention to the non-practice. The non-effort.

Play

No Sameness No Otherness

No sameness. No otherness. That is the nature of all that is.

The retreat theme is “What Happens when we die?” at Plum Village, France. This is a 26-minute portion of the talk offered from the Stillwater Meditation Hall at Upper Hamlet on June 12, 2014. Both the video and audio are available below.

In this talk we return to many common teachings of no-birth, no-death as illustrated by the corn seed and the corn plant, the cloud and the cup of tea, and seeing ourselves as a 5-year old child. We are reminded that we carry all our ancestors in our body. When we walk, our ancestors walk with us at the same time. We don’t just walk for ourselves, but we also walk for our ancestors. The same is with our spiritual ancestors – we are the continuation of these ancestors too. The teaching also reminds us how to work with our more difficult ancestors in order to discover healing and transformation. We can turn our anger into compassion.

You can support us by:
– donating: https://plumvillage.org/support

Play

The World We Are

Thank you for patience in our posting a dharma talk from our teacher. Today we are happy to offer a talk for the new year. This 63-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh is from December 31, 2008 at Plum Village, Lower Hamlet, Dharma Nectar Temple. The theme of the talk is about interbeing and the world we are.

It’s the last day of the year. Can you believe it? Where does it go? And from what direction does the next year come? Questions are interesting and important. And in the teaching of the Buddha, we learn of no-coming and no-going.

Thay shares a story of his walking meditation from Still Sitting Hut to the temple at Son Ha, down the hill. Life is everywhere. Seeing also how the oak leaves become the soil. There is a lot of happiness in seeing and observing these things. Why? Because then Thay is not afraid of dying! Life is everywhere, inside and all around us.

Teaching on giving – there is the giver, the gift, and the receiver. Illustrated by the corn seed. And that of our parents. Is there a distinction between the giver, gift, and receiver? The emptiness in giving. Another illustration, the left and the right. Everything is inside everything else.

How do we love? And healing and forgiveness? Every thought is considered action. You can heal the world by right thinking. Your thought can be the giver of life. Our right thinking is already action toward healing and forgiveness. We the also have right speech – also a healing action. Be the giver of life. We can profit right away.

Right action can be also be seen in a triple aspect – thinking, speaking, and acting. This is our continuation, our karma. This is retribution – two aspects of retribution are taught.

We never die. Whether we like it or not. But we can continue beautifully. You are your environment. The oak leaf becoming the soil teaches us this – the oak leaf becomes the soil.

The World We Have, recently published by Parallax Press, might have a better title as “The World We Are.”

As you walk around, look at everything as yourself.

In the closing minutes of the talk, Thay speaks to a handout of personal commitments that we can make to better support the environment in the coming year. A version of this handout is available on the Earth Holder website under Personal Commitments.

Happy New Year!

If you are able to support this project financially, please visit our account on Patreon where you can make a donation for as little as $1 per dharma talk.

Play

Create a Loving Support Group

Dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh on August 16, 2001 at the University of Massachusetts during a retreat with the theme, “The Practice of Peace and Nonviolence in Family, School, and the Workplace,” from August 13-18, 2001 in Amherst, Massachusetts. We begin with the creation of a loving support group in the classroom and then continue with teaching on consumption.

These students are my continuation of mine and should create a loving support group in your class or school. We can then begin practicing peace and happiness in the class. We can understand the suffering so we can then transform. Suffering is there. A little bit everywhere. Including in our children and in the classroom. Recognizing this is the first noble truth of the Buddha. The group can propose a session of deep listening that includes the teacher, so the teacher can know about the suffering of the children. If we have such a group in the class, then the group can support each other. You can practice the Third Mantra: I suffer, please help. Thay shares how a student can communicate to the teacher by using loving speech. We can also learn how to address being persecuted by another student. How do we practice this? How do we help children feel happy when they think of school? How does the teacher feel excited to come and teach?

The children should be able to express their difficulties. We don’t need to be cruel to create happiness. Many sessions of deep listening may need to be organized. The schools should allow this to take place. It is about ethics and should be an aspect of school life. Thay tells the story of Henry, a mathematic teacher in Toronto, who came to Plum Village to learn about mindfulness.

At this point we shift away from the children and Thay begins a talk on anger. Anger has roots in the body and in the consciousness. The Five Skandhas: body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, store consciousness. What is a formation? Anger is a feeling and a mental formation. Anger is in every cell of our body. All our ancestors are in every cell of our body.

To illustrate, Thay teaches about chickens. Mindfulness can help. In particular, mindful consumption. Thay shares a report on meat eating, food production, and deforestation. We then turn to the Discourse on the Sons Flesh. Bringing toxins into our body. Nourishing compassion can by looking deeply into the food we eat. Sangha is where we learn to generate compassion. Sangha is a way out. Everyone can be a Sangha builder.

We turn to the Four Kinds of Nutriments and it starts with edible food. Then we turn to sensory impressions. We need a collection he awakening. When you listen to a dharma talk, then you don’t consume poisons. But thinking too can be consuming. Our elected people also need to be awakened to consumption. Some discussion of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Practice with a gatha to help us with our consumption.

We conclude with a discussion on the third kind of nutriment. Volition. Your deepest desire. That is a type of food too.

Play

The Art of Mindful Walking

Thich Nhat Hanh at the BellWe begin this Public Talk at the World Forum Theatre in The Netherlands, dated April 28, 2006, with a 5-minute introduction on how we can listen to the monastics invoking the name of Avalokiteshvara. Listening can bring peace and well-being into ourselves. We can listen deeply with compassion to relieve suffering. Following the brief introduction, the monastics begin the chant.

31-minutes (bell)

Walking meditation is a way to move between one place and another. With Mindful walking we can enjoy every step and bring peace. It is an easy and effective way to learn how to live deeply in every moment of our daily lives. Even the children can enjoy this practice. Taking refuge in the Sangha through the collective energy of mindfulness through our mindful breathing. Walking meditation is a time when we can behave as one organism and we can feel the energy of this collective effort.

I have arrived.
I am home.

With one in-breath, you touch the earth with your step. Established in the present moment. I have arrived. This means I don’t want to run anymore. With one out-breath, you arrive in your true home. Right here in the present moment. We arrive in the here and the now. We can live deeply in our daily life. Happiness is possible.

We all have many conditions of happiness if we look for them. We don’t have to run around looking for our happiness. We can touch the pure land of the Buddha, the kingdom of God in each step. Touching the many wonders of life.

57-minutes (bell)

Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. And we can be mindful all day long. It is the kind of energy the allows us to be present in the here and the now. Anyone can generate this energy. It is the energy of the Buddha, and so any one of us can be a Buddha. Even if it’s a part-time Buddha.

Our spiritual leaders should offer the kind of teaching that helps us to enjoy the kingdom of God. Then many could possibly return to the church. Especially for our young people.

66-minutes (bell)

Freedom from our anger, fear, violence and despair. Our teachers should teach us how to handle these emotions. To be able to embrace and transform them. Peace should be cultivated in our daily life while we sit, while we drive, while we cook, while we wash the dishes. This only needs some training.

Compassionate listening. To have the capacity to listen with compassion. Avalokiteshvara is such a person. She can teach us how to listen in order to provide relief from suffering.

71-minutes (bell)

The art of mindful breathing is a method to cultivate this compassionate listening. To listen without blaming or judging. We can also use the techniques of loving speech. These tools help us reestablish communication. During a five-day retreat, we teach people how to do this work. Thay offers a very concrete example how we can do this in our family.

83-minutes (bell)

During this process, we may observe many wrong perceptions. What can we do? What techniques can we use to better practice loving speech and deep listening. Wrong perceptions are the foundation of fear, anger, and violence. We should know how to remove wrong perceptions. Even our own wrong perceptions. This practice is effective for individuals, groups, and even nations. Peace can become possible.

Why do young people who want to blow themselves up? What can we do? Do we blame them for the violence, hate, and despair? They need our compassion. A community of practice makes this effort much easier.

92-minutes

Thay answers a few questions from the audience.

  1. If you don’t have time to listen, especially to someone who is angry, then what can we do?
  2. Anger can be a very good energy. Can you explain more about this and transforming the energy?
  3. Can you say more about loving speech? Where can I learn more?

Su Co Chan Không concludes the evening with a song.

If you are able to support this project financially, please visit our account on Patreon where you can make a donation for as little as $1 per dharma talk.

Play

Collective Mindful Energy

During the annual Spring Retreat at Plum Village, Thay offers this 72-minute dharma talk at the New Hamlet with the themes of mindfulness, sangha, and concludes with a gatha translation. The date is April 2, 2006. We begin with three chants, in English, French, and Vietnamese.

Mindfulness is the heart of our practice. It’s the kind of energy that can bring nourishment, healing and transformation. Here at Plum Village we learn how to generate and to incorporate into every moment of daily life. The energy of mindfulness helps to pull everything together. And the practice of the sangha makes it easier. The sangha is a boat that transports and embraces us in our practice. Do you know how to surrender yourself to the sangha?

Thay teaches how to begin the practice, especially as it relates to the dharma hall. When and how does the practice begin? What is the role and purpose of the sangha? We embody the practice. How?

You don’t need to wait until you arrive in the dharma hall before you practice. You don’t need to hurry to not hurry. How does the bell help our practice? But we don’t become trapped by the form.

In physics it’s called phase (quantum) entanglement. We create a collective energy together on the same frequency. We can transform. Have you noticed the power of the bell in the meditation hall? Even just the half sound. It combines our energy of mindfulness. We become a cell in the sangha body.

Every moment of our daily life is a moment to practice mindfulness.

Lamp transmission gathas. Thay offers some history on our recent lineage. The lamp gatha of Thay’s teacher. Matter and mind are both perfect and shining. If you want to study this topic more, you may be interested in this document  – Letter to Friends About our Lineage by Thay Pháp D?ng.

If you are able to support this project financially, please visit our account on Patreon where you can make a donation for as little as $1 per dharma talk.

Play