Plum Village

The Good News of Oak Leaves Falling


January 6, 2011. 70-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, from New Hamlet, Plum Village, France.

On the moon, now, there is no flower, no oak tree, no cloud. On our planet we have all these things. Every time I go out for walking meditation, I feel so happy to step on the oak leaves, to see the tiny stream by my hermitage. Everything is so beautiful. We can see that in the entire universe there is not another planet so beautiful. We are so lucky. Every day, though, we live on this planet, but we don’t realize how lucky we are. I wonder if the fish in the pond can see that beauty, the bird flying in the beautiful empty space, the deer in the field browsing. Do they know? But we, we know. Human beings, before, we were apes. We walked with four limbs. Then, at a certain moment, we stood up. Instead of having an ape’s name, we then had the name “Homo erectus“. We could use our two limbs in order to do things. Eventually we became “Homo sapiens“, humans who know. When we are mindful, we can call ourselves “Homo conscius.” We enjoy the manifestation of all these gifts in nature. This is mindfulness: being aware of what is going on. When we get in touch with what is beautiful, we transform the anguish in us into joy, happiness, and love.

Dharmakaya. The body of the dharma. One if three bodies – Buddhakaya. Sanghakaya. Each of us have these three bodies. The practice is to bring these bodies into harmony.

Understanding the Buddha body. All the species can become Buddha. In Buddhism, life is one. All have Buddha nature. People, animals, plants, minerals.

The dharma body is your spiritual practice. If it is strong, you can live with ease and lightness. Dharma body is also the teaching of the Buddha and can help you build your spiritual practice. Each day is a day for growing your dharma body.

The third body is the sangha body. Thay emphasizes this body in our community. If you have the sangha in your heart, you do not lose anything when you are away from the sangha.

As humans, we have the ability to see the beauty in the world around us. We can appreciate the beauty of this world. We are mindful. We are aware. I am present with the sky and the earth. Our consciousness allows us to do that. Other species may not be able to do that like homo sapiens.

Continue to grow the three bodies and you can ride the ocean of birth and death. The nature of the practice is to be in touch with nirvana.

The last twenty minutes of the talk is a Sutra commentary. Today we discuss stanza 9 and 10.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

Editor’s Note: The talk is actually on January 6 though the translator says January 7. Also, the talk is cut-off before it is complete and we are missing the last ten minutes. You may need to listen to the French, Vietnamese, or watch the video to catch the very end.

Plum Village

The Eye of Compassion


January 2, 2011. 81-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, from the Stillwater Meditation Hall of the Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France.

“We know how to embrace suffering. We see immediately that the other person suffers too. You understand him or her. We see the other person with the eye of compassion. The eye of compassion exists within us. We see that the other person is a victim of his own suffering. He or she makes others suffer. And when we see that, we have no more anger.

“Let us listen to each other. Let us be there for each other. This is applied Buddhism.”

Listen deeply. Consumption. First noble truth. Accepting our suffering. No mud. No lotus. When we embrace our suffering, we suffer less. We can look with the eyes of compassion.

This practice of deep listening can be applied between political groups, in society, in the classroom, in the family.

Let’s listen to each other. That’s the slogan for the new year.

Let’s be there for each other. The second part of the slogan.

The talk was given in French with English translation and is available below (original French and Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

Plum Village

At Home With Yourself: New Year’s Eve Talk


December 31, 2010. 71-minute New Year’s Eve Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, from the Assembly of Stars Hall of the Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France.

“Once we understand the suffering inside ourselves, compassion will arise. If you understand the roots of suffering, understanding will arise, and then compassion. Then you feel at home with yourself. And when you feel at home with yourself, you can help the other person. You can understand his or her suffering better. You have become a home for yourself, and you are helping him or her to become a home for him- or herself.”

The talk was given in English and is available below (French and Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

Plum Village

Make a True Home of Your Love


December 26, 2010. 134-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Dharma Cloud Temple in Upper Hamlet in Plum Village on the theme of relationship and fidelity. The monastery is in the 2010- 2011 Winter Rains Retreat.

“We have said that sexual desire is not love, but our society is organized in such a way that sensual pleasure becomes the most important thing. They want to sell their products, and they make advertisements that water the seed of craving in you. They want you to consume in such a way that you have sensual pleasure. But sensual pleasure can destroy you. What we need is mutual understanding, trust, love, spiritual intimacy. But we don’t have the opportunity to meet that kind of deep need in us.

“Many young people in our society want to have cosmetic surgery in order to meet with the standard of beauty. There are fashion magazines that say in order to succeed you have to look like this, use this product. That is why many young people suffer very much. They cannot accept their body, because people expect another kind of body, so they want to have surgery to change their body. When you do not accept your body as it is, you are not in your true home. Our body is like a flower. Everyone in humanity is like a flower. And each flower are different from other kinds of flowers. And if she can accept her body, she has a chance to see her body as home. If you cannot accept your body, you cannot be home for yourself.
If you cannot be home for yourself, how can you be home for others? So in psychological circles we have to tell the young people that they are already beautiful as they are. You have to accept yourself as you are. And when you practice building a home in yourself, you become more and more beautiful. You have peace, joy, and people will recognize the beauty of your flower.”

“The monks and nuns, when they receive the bhikshu or bhikshuni precepts, they want to live a holy life. If you see that a monk is beautiful, it is because he has brought in the spiritual element into his life. Spirituality here means mindfulness, concentration, and insight. The Five Mindfulness Trainings are recommended for everyone, not only for monastics. Mindfulness is the kind of energy that can help you to go home to yourself, to the here and the now, so that you know what to do and what not to do in order to be home for yourself and for other people. The Five Mindfulness Trainings are a very concrete way of practicing mindfulness.

In the Buddhist tradition, holiness is made of mindfulness. Mindfulness, concentration, and insight make you holy. Holiness not only possible for the monastics, but also for the laypeople who practice the precepts. Holiness is not only possible with the practice of celibacy. There are those who live a conjugal life, but if they have the elements of mindfulness, concentration, and insight the have the element of holiness. A monk is like an astronaut, if you want to be an astronaut you should not be pregnant. It does not mean it is bad to be pregnant.”

“We have to learn how to treat beauty. Sexual intimacy can be a beautiful thing, if there is mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Otherwise it will be destructive.”

“To practice Buddhism as a monk is always easier than to practice as a layperson. In Vietnam we say, ‘To practice as a monk is easiest; to practice as a layperson is much more difficult.’ To practice not to have a sexual relationship is much easier than to maintain practice in a relationship, because in order to maintain mindfulness, concentration, and insight in a sexual relationship you need a lot of practice.”

“Love is not a kind of prison. True love gives us a lot of space. Whatever you enjoy, the other person enjoys; whatever is your concern is also their concern.”

The talk was given in English and is available below (French and Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

Plum Village

Beehives and our True Home: A Christmas Eve Talk


December 24, 2010. 58-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Stillwater Meditation in Upper Hamlet in Plum Village. The talk was given in English (French and Vietnamese audio are available as well as video version). The monastery is in the 2010- 2011 Winter Rains Retreat and this was the Christmas Eve talk.

This is a time to go home. Jesus was searching for a home. He was a young man. If you are young, you too may be looking for a home. The Buddha too was a young man searching for his true home. There are those of us who have found their true home. In the here and now. Comfortable in the present moment. They are not looking for anything else.

Thay shares about meeting Martin Luther King 44-years ago in Chicago and how they talked about community. He was trying to build home – the beloved community. To build a loving sangha; very similar to Thay’s dream. If you have a sangha, and can flow with a sangha, then you have found a home. Jesus too found his sangha – not a very big sangha – and they had a difficult time building a sangha after his death. The Buddha too talked of building a sangha. The sangha of Jesus and the sangha of the Buddha had the same kind if aspiration – to reduce suffering.

We can have the sangha in your heart. The sangha is like a beehive – each bee working for the well being of the whole beehive. You are a cell in the sangha body. The time I have spent in the west has been devoted to sangha building. I feel at home because I am a cell in the sangha body. I don’t have to look for anything else. Without sangha we cannot do anything. When a bee is isolated from the hive, it will die. Building the energy of the sangha is the sisterhood and brotherhood of compassion. If your are doing that, then you have a home. If I have a home, it is very clear that youhave a sangha.

Just after the last Rains Retreat of the Buddha (before he died), he gave a series of short dharma talks (5-, 10-minutes) that have been recorded in the Tripitaka. A common theme was about finding our true home. There is a safe island within each of us andif you want peace, freedom, solidity, joy then you must go to this island – the island of oneself. There you have the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha, your ancestors and descendants. The island is the present.

Breathing in, I know the Buddha is Mindfulness. Mindfulness brings you to the present. This is insight. When you can get in touch with the wonders of life, to go back toourselves, then you are being a Buddha. The same thing is true with Jesus Christ.Christians believe that Jesus the Son of God and the Son of Man. All of us are children of the earth, and if we can agree upon this, then Jesus is our brother. The Buddha too is our brother.

The Buddha helped us to touch the ultimate. Nirvana. Absence of afflictions is thepresence of nirvana. It is possible in the here and now.

The deer like to go back to the field.
The birds like to go back to the sky.
The people like to go back to nirvana.

You don’t need to die to enter the Kingdom of God. In the Buddhist practice, all you need to do is breathe in mindfully. To take one step mindfully. Our true home is already there inside. Peace is possible. Brotherhood and sisterhood are possible. Building a sangha is the process and we do this by breathing in.

Merry Christmas to everyone.

Plum Village

You are a Formation


December 16, 2010. 99-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Assembly of Stars Mediation Hall at Lower 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. Everything you can see is a formation. Your body is also a
formation. Many conditions come together to create a formation. The practitioner should be able to identify the mental formations in your body and mind. The practitioner must be present to recognize them in yourself. Mindfulness is very powerful for coming to the present. Mindfulness is the heart of meditation.

Discusses the subject of Mindfulness and the object of Mindfulness. All formations have a subject and object. Explores impermanent nature of all formations – you’ve heard this teaching so many times but you still behave like everything is

Mindfulness. Concentration. Insight.

Covers some of 16 breathing exercises, especially as it relates to impermanence. Continues with a discussion of subject and object. Non-dualistic thinking. Compares the teachings and experience of the Buddha and Jesus Christ and how we can apply it to our lives today.

Transform your corner of the earth into heaven in the here and now. Live in the ultimate dimension.


In breath – Am I present?


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.

Plum Village

Enjoy the Ultimate, Part X


December 9, 2010. 96-minute dharma talk given Thich Nhat Hanh in the Full Moon Mediation Hall at New Hamlet in Plum Village. The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation (French and original Vietnamese available and video version). The monastery is in the 2010-2011 Winter Rains Retreat.

This is a happy moment.

In the past we have used “engaged” Buddhism, but today we use “applied” Buddhism. Buddhism in our daily life. In 1945, we had magazine called Liberation in Vietnam created by some advanced practitioners to study Buddhism and find practices to put into our daily life – into everything. It’s kind of an applied metaphysics.

There are many universities today where you can study Buddhism and get a degree, but most are not applied Buddhism. It is more of a scholastic knowledge – theoretical knowledge. We are determined not to do this at Plum Village, EIAB, Deer Park, etc. We try to transmit the practice of Applied Buddhism.

Creating True Peace (2003), published by Free Press, is a textbook for applied Buddhism originally written at the request of unesco staff. The book contains many examples, and the talk now moves into giving some examples.

The importance of a retreat. Start with one day, then a weekend, and ideally a 7-day retreat. With the longer retreat, the more traditional length, you can soften your mind to see ways out of your suffering, your difficulty.

Please don’t come here to gain knowledge. Learn to apply Buddhism so you can share it with others. Every single piece of knowledge is for putting into practice. To produce peace. To produce happiness. To be a dharma instrument.

At about 45-minutes, we transition to the sutra commentary and finish the last four stanzas. We finish here with Part X and stanza’s 33-36 of Chinese Dhammada, Sutra #36. You can hear other parts of this commentary.

Teaching of the Buddha gathered together by the patriarchs on a specific topic, sometimes reordered. These teachings are from the earliest times o the Buddha. This sutra belongs to the chapter on nirvana. Sometimes you can see links between stanzas because the patriarchs tried to put this together in a flow, not necessarily given exactly in form by the Buddha.

For example, some sutra will speak of the ultimate reality and some will not. Heart of Prajnaparamita is an ultimate sutra – go beyond the world. So some people think you must go beyond, but there are other sutra that speak of the non-ultimate dimension. If you are a scholar, you must know that and when looking at these 36-stanzas you must know to which the stanza belongs – the ultimate or non-ultimate dimension – to not be caught and not to be confused. You use your deep mind, but Thay will give you some hints by reviewing other parts of the sutra that we began exploring back in July.


Enjoy the Ultimate, Part IX


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.