Tag Archives: alaya

Selective Watering and Total Relaxation

Total Relaxation at Plum VillageThe Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 6, 1997. This is the fifth talk (114-minutes).

Much of this talk is offered in the context of those working in the helping professions such as therapists and doctors. The practice we are learning here is taking care of ourselves. We should be able to take care of ourselves in order to help other people. This can bring is a lot of joy. First, we have to learn how to rest. The practice of stopping. We have a habit of running. We can practice arriving in the here and the now.

We begin with a teaching on Total Relaxation. You can practice as an individual and as a sangha. The total relaxation exercises also brings mindfulness to our relationships, our eating, and much more. We should practice body scanning daily.

Another aspect of practicing to stop is we have to learn how to say no – we should know our limits. Secondly, we should give our body and mind time to recover after meetings. Do waking meditation or total relaxation. This is especially important for those in the helping professions.

Can we meet our colleagues in a kind of dharma discussion. We can ask, do you know how to take care of yourself? The Buddha said, it is possible to live happily in the present moment. He was aware that we had suffering and sorrow, but that we can also discover joy. Joy is made of non-joy elements. Like sorrow. We don’t need to remove all the pain and the sorrow. The need of mindfulness allows us to experience the present moment.

Brief teaching on the role of walking meditation and sitting meditation in the context of dwelling happily in the present moment. We can arrange our days to offer space for practice. Brings more solidity, more joy, more insight. We practice the same way when working with our sorrow.

Sangha building. Why is it important in our work settings, especially those in helping professions? Cultivating the mind of love. What is a sangha? A sangha is community that practices joy and happiness. Thay expresses his joy with having a community of monks and nuns traveling together and living together in Plum Village. The sangha is a wonderful instrument to relieve suffering. Why is taking refuge in the sangha important? What is crossing over to the other shore?

In the last 35-minutes, Thay returns to teaching on the verses (9-10) on consciousness. Alaya. Cautions on a society of hungry ghosts. The nature of dharmas – conditioned and unconditioned.

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Editors Note: Lost about 2-minutes of sound at 1h 20m into talk. 

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Realms of Being

Bus PassengersWe continue our series from the archives. The date is November 4, 1997 and the sangha continues a mindfulness retreat in Key West, Florida with the theme of Buddhist psychology. This is the third talk (98-minutes) where Thay teaches on the first 8-verses of the Fifty Verses on Buddhist Psychology.

The nature of the flower and the garbage. The transformation of flowers and the nature of Interbeing between the two. This is a pair of opposites and we can see this in other pairs of opposites. Interbeing. When we talk about enlightenment and illusion, it is the same. They do not exclude each other. Enlightenment and illusion are always present.

Dukka. Suffering. The first of the Four Noble Truths. We have to recognize that ill-being is present and see the nature of it. The First Noble Truth is a Holy Truth.

Teachings from the Fifty Verses.

1. Mind is a field in which every kind of seed is sown. This mind field can also be called all the seeds.
Our mind consciousness is like a gardener. It is like the earth, the earth is holding, preserving, maintaining, everything together. The function of
Alaya.

2. There are an infinite variety of seeds. Seeds of samsara, illusion, and nirvana, suffering, delusion, and enlightenment. Seeds of suffering and happiness. Seeds of perceptions, names, and words.
How do we transform samsara and suffering? What are perceptions and what are the objects of our perceptions?

3. Seeds that manifest as body and mind. As realms of beings. As stages and worlds, are all in our consciousness. That is why it is called store consciousness.
What are the different realms of consciousness? The six sense organs. Six objects of the sense organs. And six kinds of sense consciousness. These are the Eighteen Realms of Beings. Plus the three worlds: form, desire, and non-form. And the ten stages of the bodhissatva. They are all manifestation from store consciousness.

4. Some seeds are innate, some were handed down by our ancestors. Some were sown while we were still in the womb. Others were sown when we were children. 

Where did the seeds come from, when did they arrive, and will they always be there?

5. Whether from our family or friends, our society or our education, all seeds by nature are both individual and collective.

Another pair of opposites and can be transcended. The collective and the individual inter-are. What are these concepts? Thay uses the metaphor of a bus and its passengers to illustrate. Followed by the candle to also illustrates – its brightness. Is the brain collective or individual? Father and son. Self and non-self.

6. The quality of our lives depends on the quality of the seeds that lie in our consciousness.

7. The function of the store consciousness is to receive, to maintain, and make manifest in the world these seeds and end our habit energies.
Store consciousness is like the ocean – there are many rivers that are received by the ocean. It has the power to manifest these seeds. How do we train positive energy and habits?

8. The manifestation of Alaya can be perceived as a field within themselves, as that of representations or mere images are included in the 18 realms of being.
Perceptions of reality. For example, when we fall in love. Falling in love with the image of the other person. Teaching on the field of representation, field of things in themselves (such was), and the field of mere image.

We conclude with a short (10-minute) teaching on suffering and our relationships. Seeds of loyalty and betrayal. When things are not to your liking.

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The Value of Being Together

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Sunday, January 5, 2014 and is the fifteenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem. After a brief sharing on the value of being together, the majority of the talk looks deeply at liberation, brotherhood and sisterhood, and happiness as illustrated through the Five Contemplations read before a meal. The last 35-minutes of the talk return to our winter retreat theme on alaya consciousness.

0:00-10:30 Monastics Chanting
10:54-19:55 The Value of Being Together
19:55-49:15 The Five Contemplations
49:05-1:03:25 Collective Energy of the Sangha
1:02:15-1:38:56 Alaya Consciousness

Where is the year 2013 now? Every day we created action in our thinking and our speech. Karma. In the coming year we will harvest the fruit of last year. We should practice this year with the flavor of right thinking to plant good seeds. Will our speech carry the language of love and compassion. We should only use loving speech. Harvest the fruit of right speech. Our bodily action should also have loving action to sow good action. In Plum Village, we have the opportunity to sit together, eat together, and be less busy than we have in our regular culture. Eating together as a family is important but we don’t take the time. How can organize the family to sit together? Can we treasure the presence of one another?

In Plum Village we use the Five Contemplations before a meal to remind ourselves of our freedom, our busylessness. Leisure for watching the moon. In Buddhism, we have the word liberation so we are not be entangled. Entangled by what? When we’re tied up by our busyness, anger, jealousy, fear, complexes, anxiety then we are not free. Thay shares the story of the king in Vietnam who handed over his throne so he could be a monk and discover freedom. Freedom is looking for practices and teachings that can help untangle ourselves. But the king continued as a spiritual teacher to his son. Engaged action. Liberation is a very important dharma. We need to recognize the knots that bind us so we can untie them. Do we have the capacity to be happy? If we cannot, it is because we have ties that bind us. What ties are entangling us? How do we practice for freedom?  How can we nourish brotherhood and sisterhood, the second aspect of the contemplation? Creating a career of helping other people. The third component of our contemplation is happiness. In Plum Village we eat as slow as we can so we can enjoy our freedom. We can listen to the taste in our mouth.  If we don’t have these things then we don’t have something to offer another person.

Before we chant, the monastic reads that we should breath as one body. We make our body and mind calm. When we do this as a community then we can really see our brotherhood and sisterhood. We create a collective energy of peace. We nourish one another as a community with our mindfulness, concentration, and insight. We go as a river in harmony and our suffering is being embraced by the sangha. We have to take refuge in the sangha and it’s collective energy of practice. We have other reminders and opportunities for practice such as the chant before sitting meditation. We also sing before walking in order to remind ourselves of our practice of walking.

There is something from the non-beginning. In alaya (store) consciousness there is a reality with no beginning. This is the foundation of all things. The cosmos. Alaya creates life. It’s nature is unobstructed and equivalent to the ultimate dimension of a suchness. It is not covered by notions of beginning/ending, good/evil, pure/impure, etc.

In the teachings we learn our manifestation is both our body and the environment. We have an influence on the environment and the environment influences us. Alaya is a foundation of everything. Neuroscience says something similar and have discovered a little part of alaya and it’s called background consciousness. When our mind works with our five sense organs they become the five sense consciousnesses. When mind consciousness works by itself, this too has a name. Working alone or separately. While we sleep and have dreams, this is mind consciousness in dreams.

Note from the Editor
Thay has offered us a vision of building an online monastery, or online temple, where practitioners may come not just to receive information, but to practice online: to follow their breathing, experience guided meditation, interact with monastics and lay practitioners, etc. This archive of Thay’s talks is a component of this vision.

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Volition and Functions of Alaya Consciousness

This talk is taken out of order as there was a little difficulty in getting the English translation to share with you. In this talk, Thich Nhat Hanh focuses on the theme of volition as it relates to our relationships and to being a monastic followed by a teaching on the functions of alaya consciousness.

It was originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai,  the talk from New Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Thursday, December 19, 2013 and is the tenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Chan Duc.

00:00-10:30 Volition Food
10:30- 14:40 The Mind of Love – Bodhicitta
14:40-21:00 Volition and Marriage
21:00-28:48 The Path and Realizing the Dream
28:48-57:47 The Functions of Alaya
57:47-end Ripening and Impermanence

Last time we learned the alaya consciousness are tied to the five universal mental formations. What does alaya want to realize? In the teachings we talk of the four nutriments and the third is volition. Alaya wants to live  the good of volition should always be there – not temporary. Volition can be a positive nutrient and give us a lot of energy but it can also be unwholesome. What is my deepest desire? What do I want to do with my life? What is the source of volition food?

The Buddha had a desire to end suffering, worries, fears – to find a path. He had a desire to become a monk. The mind of love – bodhicitta. We must have this commitment to be a monk or a nun. This is our volition food as a monastic in the sangha.

People in the world may do something similar when they get married – what is the volition food of my partner? Do we share the same direction and the same ideal?  What do I want to realize in my life? We can also look at our parents and see their dreams and aspiration. Have they realized their dreams?

There is a path to realize our dream. The path is not different from the end. Every step has the dream for it to be reality in every moment of daily life. Don’t wait. We look to see our source of energy – our volition food – and we nourish it every day.

We have learned the self nature of alaya and that it is unobstructed, indeterminate, not good or bad, neutral. The 11 nature of seeds are the characteristics of the store. Now we talk about the function. First, the main function of alaya is to maintain and preserve – it is all the seeds. Second, alaya learns and manage the information it stores. Third, it has the capacity to make/ripen things. Fourth, it has the capacity to nourish and heal. Alaya is self directing and can behave in an automatic way. It has the capacity to sustain life.

The body and mind rely on each other and the basis are the seeds in alaya. Matter and spirit arise together because of alaya.

From the 30 Verses of Vasubandhu, we look at the 19th verse.

Consciousness is the totality of the seeds.
Transformation takes place in the way it does
because of a reciprocal influence; out of this, the
different constructions arise.

The alaya consciousness is also impermanent and birth/death is always taking place. Impermanent in every instant. There is also cyclical impermanence – we are born here and we die here. Maturation is cyclical.

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