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Happiness and Space Inside

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May 8, 2011. 78-minute Dharma Talk given in English by Thich Nhat Hanh at the new Lotus Pond Temple in Ngong Ping, Lantau Island, Hong Kong.

We begin with a story for the children. A Mothers Day practice, for those who’s mother is still alive and for those who’s mother has died. The Buddha’s mother had died when he was only seven days old. Her story is in the Avatamsaka Sutra. You too can meet the mother of the Buddha with good Concentration. We can learn to be a good mother or a good father. We can learn a lot from the mother of the Buddha. Today we celebrate the birthday of the Buddha. Vesak. We will have a ceremony to bathe the Buddha.

After 30-minutes for the children, Thay continues. We are a continuation of our mother and our father. There is no separate self. Simple, but we often forget. They are alive in us and we can talk to them. The Buddadharma can help us to manifest the good things from our parents and also to accept and transform the suffering.

Mindfulness is about the present moment. With mindfulness you can discover the seeds of happiness.

The talk was given in English translation and is available below. There is a video version too.

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Walking in Nirvana

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May 5, 2011. 87-minute Dharma Talk given in Vietnamese by Thich Nhat Hanh at the new Lotus Pond Temple in Ngong Ping, Lantau Island, Hong Kong. This recording is translated by Sr. Dang Nghiem and is the third talk from this temple (Editors note: I have been unable to get a recording for the first two talks given earlier in the week on April 28 and May 1).

Renew Buddhism is really necessary in Buddhist countries to make it relevant to the younger generation. We have been trying to teach Applied Buddhism. This is doable. We want to do that here in Hong Kong and we believe young people will come as they have in Vietnam, Thailand, and France. We are trying to establish a way if life that is beautiful.

In Buddhism we talk about Nirvana but many still think it is something after death. But Nirvana is a state that is present now. We can enter nirvana in the present moment. This is wonderful. Nirvana means cooling off.

Happiness and suffering. Without suffering you cannot generate happiness. Now, how can happiness be present without the two elements of understanding and love?

People are longing for understanding. Many are so lonely. If we can understand the other person will suffer less right away. The more we understand, the more we love. The First Noble truth is there is suffering and the Second is to understand the suffering.

Right View. No more misunderstanding. No more hatred. This is nirvana. Then we have Right Thinking. This is thinking that goes in the direction of understanding and compassion. This is followed by Right Action. The fruit of the action is karma. Actions of body, mind, and speech.

The kingdom is now or never. Buddhism is not a promise of the future. It is to manage the present moment.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below. There is a Vietnamese recording as well as video version too.

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In breath – Am I present?

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December 12, 2010. 115-minute dharma talk given Thich Nhat Hanh in Stillwater Mediation Hall at Upper Hamlet in Plum Village. The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation (French and original Vietnamese audio are available as well as video version). The monastery is in the 2010-2011 Winter Rains Retreat.

Mindfulness is one of the fifty-one mental formations of our mind; five of these mental formations are known as universal:

  • Touch – by our mind and the five sense organs.
  • Volition – attention. In Sanskrit it is manascara.
  • Feeling – after you have attention, sometimes you then have a feeling
  • Perception – a notion or construct about something
  • Action, will to act

What do we pay attention to? What is helpful for us to pay attention to? For example, in the Plum Village center we arrange things to pay attention to what is very useful to you – the bell tower, monastics walking or working relaxingly, arranging of flowers, architecture, statues, etc. We should try to organize our life and environment so that it is helpful and can inspire you to practice.

Other mental formations only come when you invite them. For example, Mindfulness. You want to do walking meditation, sitting meditation, etc.  Mindfulness is the core of the practice. When you are not present, you are in forgetfulness. Mindfulness means you are present. How? Bring your mind back to your body and then you can see things around you. In breath. Out breath. Breath is a tool for Mindfulness.

For example, when walking, we can invent sentences that match your number of steps that remind you to be present.

In breath – Am I present?
Out breath – Yes I am present.
In breath – Are you sure?
Out breath – Yes I am sure.

Am I solid? Am I stable? Means you are not being pulled to the past or to the future, but being present. Am I joyful? Am I free? Do you experience and touch joy, happiness, etc.  By being present, walking can nourish and heal. When you do this, you don’t try to concentrate but it is there anyway by bringing your mind back to the body.

The talk continues by looking at what are know as particular mental formations. Mindfulness, concentration, and insight are “particular” mental formations because we must call them. By creating new habits and new neuropathways through mindfulness, concentration, and insight.

Please write to Thay of your practice, report to him.

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Enjoy the Ultimate, Part IX

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December 5, 2010. 77-minute dharma talk given Thich Nhat Hanh in the Assembly of Stars hall at Lower Hamlet in Plum Village. The talk is in Vietnamese with English translation (French and original Vietnamese available and video version). The monastery is in the 2010-2011 Winter Rains Retreat. You can hear other parts of this commentary. We continue here with Part IX and stanza’s 29-32 of Chinese Dhammada, Sutra #36.

Walking in the present moment, but not like a robot. If you see another practitioner who might be struggling with the practice, learn to be an inspiration to others by practicing yourself rather than saying what they’re doing it wrong. Presence of your mind. Ask yourself, are you sure? The body is here, but what about the mind? Do you radiate peace, joy, and presence?

Stopping is our practice. Everything is a training for a new habit. When we eat, walk, shop, cook, clean the bathroom. You can get enlightened by stopping, looking, and practicing.

If you need to suffer, just suffer. Do not suppress. But that is not enough. Suffering is not enough. It is not ok to only suffer. You have to train yourself to accept yourself. Allow yourself to cry, allow yourself to see another way out. See other ways to transform. without mud. No lotus. Suffering has a role in happiness. No one can claim that I have no suffering at all, but don’t suffer uselessly. You come to the sangha to make use of your suffering.

The sutra commentary begins at the 49-minute mark of the dharma talk. We learn about leading the life of a holy person. In taking the mindfulness Trainings, whether lay or monastic, we  gain space. Limitless space. It’s easy. If you understand this verse, you put  your whole heart toward the path of practice. This is the path to the shore of no birth and no death.

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What are the Five Mindfulness Trainings?

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During the Annual Summer Opening at Plum Village in France, Thich Nhat Hanh offers to respond to questions from participants on several occasions. The audio here is a 15-minute response to one of the questions on July 20, 2007.

How did the Five Mindfulness Trainings come to be?

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Long Hand of the Fourfold Sangha

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June 11, 2010. 108-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Great Compassion Temple, European Institute of Applied Buddhism. The talk was given Vietnamese, though you can clearly hear Thay’s voice, and is translated into English by Sister Chân Duc (Annabel).

The talk has four parts.

  1. Enjoying Every Moment
  2. The Order of Interbeing
  3. Engaged Buddhism
  4. The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings

The last line of dhamapada, from the Chinese, is an inspiration for the early part of this talk. On my head, there begins to have white hair. My youth has been stolen. It seems like they have come to tell me that I should become a monk as soon as possible. We need to learn to stroll – to enjoy our stroll. We shouldn’t waste our opportunity of being a human. We should enjoy every moment. Taste every moment. How can this be done? Train with a sangha. Don’t wait till your hair is gray

Each member of the Order of Interbeing has to be a pillar. An inspiration. The brown color. The brown jacket symbolizes humility. We should manifest that spirit. The spirit of power of silence. The Vietnamese name is Tiep Hien. The word Tiep has many meanings. To receive is the first. To continue is second. To be in touch with (life, suffering) is third. The first thing we must do is to receive. The way Thay walks. Talks. This is his way of transmitting. The word Hien. First, it means the thing that is present. Now. The dharma  door of plum Village is the present moment. Second, it means realization. Realizing the practice. Third, manifestation. We could also add another meaning. Make it appropriate to the time and place. Actualization. With all these meanings, it can’t so easily translate into English. Therefore, we have Order of Interbeing and we must study to understand its meaning.

Engaged Buddhism means Buddhism that enters the world. Engaged Buddhism has been in our Vietnamese tradition for hundreds of years. Closely related to Engaged Buddhism is Applied Buddhism. Applied is a secular term, but it allows us to do more than simply study Buddhism but rather to actually apply the teachings to transform our suffering. There are many schools that teach Buddhism, but few that teach applied Buddhism. The Order of Interbeing members are the long hand of the fourfold sangha that stretches out to society. The lay order members are needed to do this. Build sangha.

Thay calls for a council, an assembly of Order members, to revise the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. This is our challenge. With the recent revision of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, they now contain all the good parts of the Fourteen, but the Fourteen are now missing new elements found in the five. A committee has already begun the work, but it needs to be expanded.

I hope you enjoy the talk as much as I did listening and making a few notes.

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Net of Love Sutta (Part VII)

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May 23, 2010. 50-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in New Hamlet, Plum Village. The talk was given Vietnamese and is translated into English by Sr. Chan Khong. This is the seventh in a series (Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart V, Part VI). It is the conclusion of this commentary.

The talk is a little shorter than the others because some of the gathas have been discussed in other dharma talks as they are repeated here in the sutra. The focus of this section is the hero and freedom.

Here is the current translation (subject to change) of the gatha’s covered in this talk.

29.  The five kinds of sensual desires arise, when our mind feels satisfied by them.  When we can speedily put an end to those five kinds of sensual desires, we can truly be called a Hero.

30. When we no longer have sensual desire, we have no more fear. At that point we are free, peaceful and happy.  When desire is ended the internal formations also end and because of that the practitioner comes out of the deep abyss.

31. Dear sensual love, I know your roots:  the desiring mind comes from misperceived wishes and wrong perceptions.  Now I don’t have any more wishes or wrong perceptions about you.  So how can you arise?

32. If we have felled the tree of sexual desire, but we have not pulled up its roots, it will sprout again.  If the monk or nun felled the tree of sexual desire and completely uprooted it, he or she will realize nirvana.

33. If a person doesn’t want to cut down the tree of sexual desire, its branches and leaves will continue to a greater or lesser extent arise.  When our mind is still caught in sexual desire, we are still like the calf that always needs its mother’s utter.

This concludes the Spring 2010 Retreats at Plum Village.

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Attadanda Sutta (Part IV)

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April 25, 2010. 50-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Still Water Meditation Hall, Upper Hamlet, Plum Village. The talk was given in Vietnamese and is translated into English.

The Sutra on Transforming Violence and Fear was given in the first year of the Buddha’s teaching and is known as Absolute Truth (Attadanda) Sutra #16. It is a very ancient text, but still very relevant to our time. This first three talks were given February 7February 11, and April 1.

This talk covers paragraphs twelve through sixteen and deals primarily with sexual desire and other cravings. The flood of need, desire, craving can subside. The stream of the practitioner is to know the truth. Very few can let go of sexual desire and when you do then you don’t feel a loss.

The talk begins with Thay listing names of monastics and lay practitioners who are dharma teachers in training.

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Attadanda Sutta (Part III)

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April 1, 2010. 80-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall, Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. The talk was given Vietnamese and is translated into English. The talk was not previously posted here, and is therefore taken out of chronological order from the other talks.

The Sutra on Transforming Violence and Fear was given in the first year of the Buddha’s teaching and is known as Absolute Truth (Attadanda) Sutra #16. It is a very ancient text, but still very relevant to our time. This first two talks were given February 7 and February 11 during the Winter Retreat.

This talk covers stanzas 8-11 and this begins about 45-minutes into the talk.

8. We should let go of pride. We shouldn’t sleep too much nor let ourselves fall into indolence. We should know how to live and work moderately and not let ourselves be carried away by the majority. Let us not be caught by any dazzling appearances and let us know how to walk away unfazed. Let us always contemplate the empty nature of all things in order attain the quiet nirvana.
9. Don’t insult anyone. Don’t let yourself be pulled by and attached to deceiving appearances. Don’t let yourself be drowned in entertainment and forget that the goal of our practice is to help ourselves and others get out of suffering.
10. What belongs to the past, we don’t think about anymore. What belongs to the future, we don’t dream about. We should recognize what is happening in the present moment so we don’t get caught in it. In this way, we just walk alone on the five vast continents with no one jealous of us anymore.
11. I say sexual desire is the force that causes the most destruction. The flood the engulfs the whole world. Only by seeing that, can we master all doubts. When we wholeheartedly contemplate interdependent co-arising, we must see that if we are not free from the pollution of sexual desire, it will be difficult for us to end suffering.
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Exploring our Feelings

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March 14, 2010. A short 55-minute dharma talk given in English by Thich Nhat Hanh at the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. This talk is given a month after the end of the Winter Retreat and also the annual period a rest. Spring is beginning to arrive in Plum Village and our Teacher reminds us this is a moment of happiness.

The focus of this talk is our feelings – painful, neutral, and pleasant feelings. Short, simple and clear. Please enjoy.

Update: Later that day he said, “anyone who has a chance to listen to this talk is very lucky…. and that this one talk alone is enough for a lifetime of practice.”

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