Happiness is Made of these Moments

This 74-minute dharma talk in the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall takes place on Sunday, February 1, 2004. The monastic and lay community are practicing together during the 2004 Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 at Deer Park Monastery. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.

In the process of renewing Buddhism, many people disagreed with me. Today, Thay offers some words on renewing Christianity. The teaching of living deeply in the present moment is also very clear in the gospel. We should take care of today. Living happily in the present moment is possible. Our basic practice during this Rainy Season Retreat is this: living happily in the present moment. If the Buddha is there, the pure land is there too. If God is there, then the kingdom of God is there too. This practice is not difficult. Mindfulness will help us be in the present moment. Thay proposed that theologians and Christian teachers offer us the teaching and practice to help us live in the present moment. The same is said to Buddhist teachers. Walking and contemplating in the pure land or the Kingdom of God. Then we no longer have to run after fame, power, wealth, and sex. 

Thich Nhat Hanh smiling during his teaching.

The teaching should be embodied by the teacher. The life of the teacher can then be authentic. If you are Dharma Teacher, you have to embody the teaching of living happily in the present moment. If you want others to be able to stop suffering and to live happily. Every moment of our daily life can be seen as a miracle. Thay offers a few examples of how we embody the practice. 

If you are beginner, a new practitioner, there are brothers and sisters who are more experienced. And these more experienced practitioners can show how we can live in the present moment. Mindfulness and concentration bring about happiness, solidity, understanding, and compassion. And this will nourish us and the other people around us. We can help those around us. Thay offers some examples of how this is practiced. Practicing is helping the sangha. 

There are those who have received the Five Trainings, and yet sometimes there are those who have not  received the trainings who may be more solid in their practice. We can learn from these students because their present in the sangha is a blessing too. It makes the sangha more beautiful and a better refuge. It’s not because of have received the Five Trainings that makes us more important. Anyone can be the teacher. Our teacher is a little bit everywhere. Signlessness. Not caught by the form. The same is true for the Order of Interbeing member – those without the brown jacket may be better practitioners than us. When we wear the brown jacket, we have to be more careful and embody the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. Our real value, as members of the Order of Interbeing, is how we practice these trainings. In order to do this, we have to be solid in our daily practice and see our teacher in others. As members of the Order, we have a duty of setting up a sangha. We have to do the work of sangha building. The sangha is protecting and supporting us. So, whether you have received the Five Trainings or not, whether you have received the Fourteen Trainings or not, whether you have received the Ten Novice Precepts – we need a sangha. 

Daily Practice worksheet – there is a column for each day. And in the evening before you go to sleep, we can evaluate our practice. We start with waking up – when you woke up, did you practice? Were you aware and present with waking up. In the teaching, we continue through the other parts of the day where we can enjoy and practice in each moment – putting on your shoes, folding your blanket, opening and closing the door, etc. There are also verses (Gathas) of practices. 

During this retreat, we have been learning about how to take care of our body and our feelings through the Exercises on Mindful Breathing proposed by the Buddha. We are learning how to handle our feelings, whether they are pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. We have learned how to produce a feeling  of joy and a feeling of happiness. In the Buddhist teachings, we learn there are 51 categories of mental formations. This is where we turn now in the dharma talk. There are positive ones – confidence, compassion, diligence, joy, etc. There are also negative ones – anger, despair, jealously, etc. And mindfulness is one of the fifty-one. These all exist in our consciousness and are of an organic nature — they can change and transform. 

How do we cultivate understanding and compassion? 

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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Reconciliation

The Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 8, 1997. This is the seventh talk (115-minutes). Audio is posted below and the video is available for our donors on Patreon.

We begin with the story of David, an America who came to Plum Village and was given he assignment to write a Iove letter to his father. He thought he couldn’t do this to reconcile with him father. Thay had him practice as a 5-year old boy for a week so to touch the vulnerability and fragility in himself. We smile and identify the little child inside of us. This practice is followed by seeing our parent/father as a 5-year old child as well. Maybe we need a picture to help us truly visualize this our parent.

The teaching of emptiness of transmission. Everything depends on everything else. It always includes a transmitter, an object, and a receiver. But these three elements cannot be separated.

Another story, this one of Michael, another American, where he was asked to list the wholesome qualities of his father and mother. He had a challenge doing this for his mother because of some anger and resentment. This exercise can help repair our resentment and anger. And he was able to write a beautiful love letter to his mother. The practice has the power to liberate and bring non-fear and joy.

When we feel that we have been abused, when people have treated us with violence, anger, hatred, discrimination then a block of suffering is within us. The negative energy is in us. And if you don’t know how to handle and transform the violence within us then that violence will destroy us and the people we love. The criminals, the terrorist, they have not been able to transform the violence. We have to learn how to handle and transform the violence in us and to help others do the same. In our schools, in our prisons, and in our police departments. Mindfulness practice must be offered to society and it can be done in a non-sectarian, non-religious form.

Thay shares his idea for an Association of Mindfulness Practice Centers and what that would look like in practice and reality. He shared about three mindfulness practice centers taking shape in America (DC, Vermont, and California). Living according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings. We need to be affiliated with a group of people, a sangha. It is essential to our practice. The sangha is our refuge.

At 58-minutes we resume the teaching on the 50 Verses. We begin with verses 15-22 – about the seventh consciousness of manas. Then verse 23 is about the sixth, mental consciousness. Thay repeats a little on the three modes of cognition – the realm of things in themselves, the realm of representation, and the realm of mere image. Verses 25-27, the root of all actions. With verses 28-30, we move to the five consciousnesses of sensations.

Historical Perspective
During this talk, Thay announces the 21-Day Retreat planned for May 23, 1998 that took place at St. Michaels College in Burlington, Vermont. The theme of that retreat was the Sutra on Mindful Breathing. This was the first time the 21-Day occurred in North America. He also announced that 200-acres are being donated in Vermont for a practice community.

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