Practicing in the Present Moment

The monastic and lay community are practicing together during the 2004 Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 at Deer Park Monastery. This 95-minute event took place outdoors at San Dieguito County Park, Solana Beach in the afternoon of Saturday, January 31, 2004. Because the event is outdoors, there is some wind noise on the microphone from time to time. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.

00:00:00 Slideshow of Alms Round (music)

00:01:51 Chanting

00:10:15 Introductory Words from Thay on Asking Questions

  • Are we supposed to spend all our time in the here and now?
  • How to help someone get rid of the anger?
  • How do we practice to do the right thing, even when it is difficult?
  • How do we practice when someone we love dies? 
  • Can there ever be a positive benefit to anger?
  • How do we keep a balance with the practice and personal fulfillment, especially in professional efforts?
  • How do I forgive myself? 
  • Sometimes I have difficulty in believing in myself; how do I believe in myself?
  • My son wants to marry a Catholic and I want him to be in front of our ancestors first; what can I do?
  • What do you think of humans living in this place and time; the wrong frequency?

00:19:25 Dharma Talk in Response to the Questions

The past is already gone, and the future is not yet here. There is only the present moment. Being in the present moment doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the past nor that you can’t make plans for the future. We can be grounded in the present moment and not get lost in the past or the future. The past can even be the object of your practice in the present moment. 

Suppose you have anger at your grandmother, in the past, and she is no longer alive today. But if you practice deeply you can see she is still alive inside of you – in every cell of your body. Nothing is lost. We can practice to heal our suffering and out anger. 

Understanding and compassion are the answer to our anger. Where does anger come from? It arises from the things we consume. We can practice mindful consumption to protect ourselves and our families from anger. This is the first thing to do when practicing when anger. The second second part is to work on transforming the anger that is already present inside of us. The fifth mindfulness training can help us practice with consumption. 

It is important to not suppress our anger; this can be very dangerous. We use the energy of mindfulness to recognize and embrace our anger. This is much safer. Then we can learn to use loving speech to better express our feelings. Thay shares how to go about skillfully responding to another person with whom we are angry. Some think the energy of anger is a powerful tool, but this can be dangerous. 

00:58:19 You might think your practice of meditation might contradict your eagerness to succeed in your career. How to practice and succeed in your business? These can come together perfectly. Business leaders suffer like any other person. And if they suffer less, they can succeed more in their business. Career does not need to be an obstacle for your practice. There are ways to practice in order to have time for your families, your practice, and your business and career. Thay shares a story of offering a retreat for members of congress and some methods for practicing mindfulness in the work environment — mindful walking and mindful breathing. Taking care of yourself is taking care of your career. Mindfulness brings about understanding and compassion. Happiness is possible only when we have good communication, mutual understanding. Employees should be taken care of in the same way we take care of our families. 

Practicing with our grief. Our true nature is the nature of no-birth and no-death. Illustrated by a cloud in the sky. 

The last story of the dharma talk is one of a Vietnam veteran who attended a retreat in the 90s and shared about having killed some children during the war. The transformation of the veteran can also be the transformation of our society. 

01:31:50 Sangha Practicing Walking Meditation (music)

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Practice Means Enjoyment

The monastic and lay community are practicing together during the 2004 Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 at Deer Park Monastery. This 76-minute dharma talk in the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall takes place on Wednesday, January 28, 2004. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.

Today we have a session of questions and answers from the retreat attendees. 

  1. A question of a dream and a sacred story. Practice means enjoyment. This is a question from an author of children’s books. 
  2. How do we practice to remain in the pure land? How do we cultivate our merits? This was a question from Sister Dang Nghiem asking about remaining in the community as a monastic. What can we offer as monastics? Thay teaches on three kinds of offering – money, dharma, and non-fear – and the four kinds of pleasures. 
  3. A question about sangha-building, conflict, and not escaping into our lives. Where does individual practice intersect with sangha practice? Can there be harmony in the sangha when there isn’t harmony in the sangha? Thay shares briefly on the seven steps of reconciliation and how the lay students can use the vinaya to build lay sangha. A mindfulness practice center is inside. 
  4. A question about negativity. As a person who works with children and adults with very severe disabilities.  They often have very negative things to say based on their life experiences. As I write a book about their experience, do I share of these negative aspects?
  5. A question about action – my role and contribution in the world to reduce suffering, particularly in social justice action.

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.

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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.

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Right Livelihood and True Love

This is a session of questions and answers on August 23, 2014 from the Understanding Is Love Retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbrol, Germany. The questions and answers are given in both English and Dutch. We start with a series of questions from children followed by teens and adults. Both the audio and the video are available below.

Children and Teens

  1. Do you know a better way to choose and to get rid of my doubts?
  2. What does your name mean and do you have a sign to represent your name?
  3. What should you do when you are really worried about something?
  4. What does Thay love most about Buddhism?
  5. Why did you become a Buddhist?
  6. I would like to inspire my friends. How do I do this? How did you gain so much confidence?

Adults

  1. I am confused about the word compassion. How can I be compassionate without suffering and still remain sensitive?
  2. I have a question about a problem in my family. I have anger towards my brother but also wants to have compassion and take care of herself.
  3. A question about attachment and letting go.
  4. A question about self love and acceptance.
  5. How do help someone who feels no connection to her ancestors and the world. She has shard that wants to end her life numerous times.
  6. Continuing to reconcile with my mother who is an alcoholic and sex addict.
  7. Non duality. Can you explain more about watering positive and negative seeds.
  8. Written question on sexuality and the Third Mindfulness Training. Isn’t it to strict? Does it really need a “long term commitment”?
  9. Right Livelihood and True Love. The livelihoods I love requires lots of time. How can we maintain True Love for ourselves, families, etc?

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What is Truth?

From the Nourishing Happiness in our Hearts retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbrol, Germany. This session of questions and answers on August 16, 2014 is given in English with consecutive translation into German. Both the audio and the video are available below.

Children

  1. Why are the monks and nuns not allowed to have a family?
  2. Were you unhappy when you weren’t allowed to be in Vietnam anymore?
  3. Why are the monks and nuns also called brothers and sisters?
  4. Why is it all the monks and nuns shave their head?

Teens

  1. Why should we eat vegan and not vegetarian?
  2. Why did you decide to become a Buddhist or a monk?

Adults

  1. What are the essential practices of a Buddhist monk or nun in today’s world?
  2. There are so many schools of Buddhism. Is there something, a teaching, that is the same for all schools of Buddhism?
  3. In Buddhism, there are the four stages of contemplation and some people need to visualize. Can Thay comment on this?
  4. What is a good way, a wholesome way, to handle the news of the world?
  5. How do we work with relationships in our family that are not so healthy?
  6. When can we know that feeling our feelings is good and when we are watering the wrong seeds?
  7. How do I balance watering good seeds in me and in my partner?
  8. Can lying and the practice of mindfulness go together?
  9. What is truth?

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Who Am I?

From the Stillwater Meditation Hall at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the fourth question and answer session of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village on July 30, 2014. The talk is in English and both the audio and the video are available below.

  1. How do we eat our parents?
  2. When Thay became a monk, was he aware of the suffering in the world or did that come later?
  3. Why sometimes when we cry we are happy and sometimes we are sad?
  4. How did you create Plum Village?
  5. We talk a lot about respecting Mother Earth but a lot of the food we eat here is not organic and comes from far away. I feel blocked when reading the Five Contemplations. This seems incongruent.
  6. Who am I?
  7. How do I recognize suffering in myself and learn to take care of that Suffering? Loneliness.
  8. And we find another person presents not nursing, should we and how do we withdraw?

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Why Am I Myself?

From the Stillwater Meditation Hall at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the third question and answer session of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village on July 23, 2014. The talk is in English and both the audio and the video are available below.

Children

  1. Why do monks and nuns always have brown clothes and no hair?
  2. How can I express my anger without taking it out anyone?
  3. Why does a seed give birth to a flower and sometimes not? Why am I myself as I am and not as the others?
  4. Why did you make Plum Village?

Teens and Young Adults

  1. I’m not the only one who feels lonelineness and sadness about myself and I’ve had struggled with self hatred. How do I learn to care and love myself and stop negative perceptions?
  2. In school it is very competitive and there is a lot of pressure to succeed. I feel like I need to work harder. How do I take it easy without hurting myself further?
  3. How can I love myself more and how can I have more confidence in myself?

Others

  1. It seems we live in a global culture of non-stop talking. Can you help us learn more about the practice of silence?
  2. I have a friend who’s father was diagnosed with cancer. His father shared he was contemplating suicide. What should he do?

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The Cake in the Refrigerator

From the Stillwater Meditation Hall at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the second question and answer session of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village on July 16, 2014. The talk is in English and both the audio and the video are available below.

Children

  1. How can I feel less sad about my dog who has died?
  2. What do I do when my mom is angry with my father?
  3. How can I stay calm when I am annoyed?
  4. What does it mean “to guess”?

Teens and Young Adults

  1. When talking with friends, how do I stop the conversation from going toward gossiping and judging?
  2. How do you change people’s perception of you and ignore the reputation you already have?
  3. Why does Thay give these teachings and what does it bring Thay?
  4. Does Thay have some tips for me to help a lot of people in my future profession?

Others

  1. A written question: How do I heal a suffering from sexual abuse when she was younger? Should I go to a therapist?
  2. In my country there is a great economic crisis. As a doctor who sees many people and I don’t know if I can say happiness is here and now.
  3. How do I practice with self love and also being open to receiving love? I struggle with deserving love.
  4. How can I better take refuge in the sangha because I feel more comfortable alone?
  5. How can I be there for someone who tends to lose herself in the presence of others?

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What is Happiness?

From the Stillwater Meditation Hall at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the first question and answer session of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. The talk is in English and both the audio and the video are available below. The questions are a little difficult to hear but they are included below for you to read.

  1. Is it okay not to speak and still be understood?
  2. What is happiness?
  3. When we die, where does our spirit go?
  4. A question about suffering, particularly those of animals and the environment. What is the most effective way to reduce this suffering?
  5. Thay, do you feel old?
  6. How can we practice with the escalating violence in the world and particularly in Israel and Palestinians?
  7. How can I be in touch with the conditions of happiness and live with constant pain too?
  8. At times when I feel truly mindful, I feel a special force or intuition. What is this – a coincidence?

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How to Promote World Peace

From the Rising Tide Meditation Hall at a retreat at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is a session of questions and responses from those at the 6-day retreat with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World. The date is September 28, 2013.

Try the BetterListen Version of this entire retreat – click the image below

Better Listen

  1. How do you deal with depression?
  2. How is it possible for humankind to achieve world peace?
  3. How do I help a friend who is depressed?
  4. How can I help a friend who has a problem with his parents and has suicidal thoughts?
  5. How can I help a friend who speaks in anger to his mother and to be less angry?
  6. What do you do when you are stuck between two paths in your life?
  7. What is the Buddhist perspective on mental disorders, particularly personality disorder, and how a family can heal with this ongoing challenge?
  8. How can I practice with my fear of dying?
  9. What is the essence of true love?
  10. Should we act as a human shield to raise awareness and to stop war and violence in the world?
  11. Concerns about consumption of products with less integrity.
  12. How can I work with the historical suffering of the Jewish community?
  13. I would like to offer walking meditation and do you feel that I am qualified?
  14. How does this sangha influence the other sanghas we have created, such as government?
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