The Embodied Mind

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, February 9, 2014 and is the twenty fourth (and final) talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. This is an English translation, available below, by Sr. Tue Nghiem.  Following this talk the monastery will have lazy days followed by a monastic retreat. We will not have new talks again until early March.

0:00 Guided Meditation by Thay
10:58 Remembering Thay Phap Y
18:45 Exercises of Mindful Breathing
1:05:50 Study on 30-Verses

A story of our older monastic Brother Phap Y who has recently died. Though he had been sick a long time, he died very quickly on February 6 and we are very happy. He came to Plum Village as a novice from the Tibetan tradition and has since been a trusted and loved dharma teacher. We are reminded that this body is not me and I am not limited by this body. I am life without boundaries. And I continue in the river. In Plum Village we see Thay Phap Y as an older brother who has lived with our sangha for 20-years and he was 75-years old when he died.

We practice to have peace in our body. We recognize that we have a body. Breathing in I know I have a body. At that moment the body has a mind. The embodied mind. When the mind and the body are one then we truly have life. If we continue, we can release the tension in our body. Breathing in I release all the tensions in my body. I  These are the third and the fourth exercises from the sutra on the full awareness of breathing. Breathing in, I know I breath in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. This is the first exercise. It is to recognize the breath only. Breathing in, I follow my in breath all the way to the end. This is the second exercise. Following the breath. No thinking. Just breathing. We stop the mental discourse. These exercises bring us a lot of freedom. A practice of reconciliation between body and mind. When we have peace, then we can generate joy. It can also bring peace to our feelings. A practitioner is someone who knows how to practice this art. Can we generate peace, joy, and happiness in each step? We learn to cultivate good habit energies while we are here at Plum Village. When we have these energies, then we can nourish the people we love with these energies too. We can generate happiness right here and right now. With these four exercises we generate mindfulness, concentration, and insight.

Happiness is connected to suffering. We can make use of the suffering to make happiness. This connection between happiness and suffering is of an organic nature. Managing our suffering is also an art just as generating happiness is an art. If you know how to suffer, then you suffer less. The fifth and sixth exercises are generating joy and generating happiness.  In the present moment, we can recognize the conditions of happiness. The three energies of mindfulness, concentration, and insight can be very powerful.

The seventh exercise is recognizing our suffering. Maybe our suffering had roots in the body or roots in our perception. When suffering surfaces, the practitioner should be present to recognize. Simple recognition. How do we recognize our pain? The second aspect is to embrace the suffering/pain. We embrace it with mindfulness. The third aspect is to calm the suffering. This is the eighth exercise.

Anybody can do these practices. You don’t need to be Buddhist. We can transmit these exercises to parents and two children. We should share these exercises with teachers so that it can be included in our schools to help our young children.

Returning to the study of the 30 verses for the remainder of the talk.

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Stars, Moon and Consciousness

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, January 23, 2014 and is the twentieth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem. A great teaching today that includes a story of Mara and the Buddha followed by the tradition of earth cake making in Vietnam. The second half returns to our sutra study on subject/object and store consciousness.

0:00-9:30 Chanting
9:30-46:18 Mara and the Buddha
46:18-1:02:05 Tet and Earth Cakes
1:03:00-1:18:38 Subject and Object
1:18:38-1:28:40 Christian Theology and Ultimate Reality
1:28:40-end Characteristics of Seeds

After the Buddha became enlightened, he continued to practice. Sitting. Walking. Solo retreats. Why did he continue to practice after he became enlightened? If we don’t continue to nourish, then we can lose our happiness. Everything is impermanent. It’s called conditioning.

There is a priest in New York, Father Daniel Berrigan. Thay has been friends with him since 1965 and they have enjoyed practicing together many times. We here a story of their friendship, walking meditation, and dualistic thinking.

We learn a story of Buddha and Mara to illustrate our dualistic thinking. The story is then linked to a practice during the lunar new year. We need to remind ourselves to practice to turn this place into the territory of the Buddha. Today, in Vietnam, people put up a pole with a piece of the sangati robe to remind themselves to practice happiness.

Today we have a Flower market and a ceremony for putting up the pole. The beauties of Mother Earth invite us to come back to ourselves and the flowers are an expression of this beauty. A few words on earth cake tradition in Vietnam – what do the earth cakes represent? The lunar new year is an occasion to be in touch with our ancestors and be grateful. After lunch today, we will make earth cakes together. This is how we begin to celebrate Tet.

We return to the sutra study of the 30-verses. Stars and moon are an object of consciousness. They are in store consciousness. In the world of the oyster, they have no-eye consciousness and no-ear consciousness. The things that we see, the oyster cannot see. So, sense organs are one condition to give birth to consciousness. The object gives rise to consciousness. And these are manifested from seeds. And store consciousness holds all the seeds. The sense organ and the object rely on each other to create consciousness. Object and subject. They are divided into two parts but this isn’t exactly correct. We cannot take one out of the other. This is called Interbeing.

Some say there is a world that is objective whether we look at it or not. There is also consciousness and it is also there. This is a dualistic view and called double-grasping. The stars and moon are not independent of our consciousness. Just like the left and right. This is the most important teaching of manifestation-only teaching. When we look at the object we have to see the subject and vice-versa.

We are learning store consciousness. Store consciousness cannot be described with ideas of wholesome/unwholesome, being/nonbeing, pure/impure, etc. And the seeds that store consciousness hold are the same. How does this apply in Christian theology?

Right View and Right Thinking. Transcends the idea of being and non-being. Our Five Skandhas also have this nature. So, when we look at the characteristics of the seeds, we have to see they have the same nature as store.

Two kinds of impermance.

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