You Don’t Have to Die Just Because of One Emotion

October 7, 2011. 109-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, NY. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the second dharma talk for the Stepping Into Freedom, Savoring Life Retreat. Over a thousand people are in attendance.

When the Buddha breaths, the quality of breathing is superb. When the Buddha sits, the quality of sitting is superb. And the Buddha is always inside of you and if you invite the Buddha to sit or breathe with you then you can benefit. High class breathing. Today we return to the mantras for being truly present and bringing happiness to yourself and to your loved ones. We should express our appreciate and this is the practice of mindfulness. This isn’t a Buddhist practice; anyone can practice the mantras.

Darling, I am here for you.
Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.

Thay offers the story on a grain of corn. In the grain of corn is also a plant of corn. This is a common story given to illustrate signlessness and is usually offered for the children. Meditation is to look deeply and see things that other people cannot see. Interbeing. Can we take the cloud out of the tea? Can we take the mother or father out of the child?

Continue with the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing.

Aware of our in breath and our out breath.
Follow our in breath and our out breath.
Aware of our body.
Releasing tension in the our body.

The importance of abdomen/belly breathing. It is the trunk. No thinking. You are much more than one emotion. We should memorize this, especially when strong emotions arise. Thich Nhat Hanh recently met with California Governor Jerry Brown to suggest bringing this practice into the public schools. It is non-sectarian. Emotions are impermanent.

The mind is a river with drops of water called mental formations. Meditation is sitting on the bank of the river and not being carried away by the mental formation. The 10th exercise of breathing is to cultivate the mind. To make the mind more beautiful.

Four aspects of the practice of Right Diligence. First, we don’t water the negative seeds. Second, if a negative seed arises we try to help it not stay to long in our mind consciousness. We don’t fight or supress, but invite up a good seed. The third aspect is to bring the good seeds to have many chances to arise in the mind. To beautify the mind. Fourth, once you have a good mental formation then we try to keep it as long as possible. This is transformation at the base.

The 11th and 12th exercises on breathing are concentrating the mind and liberating the mind. The last four (13-16) exercises are presented. These last four have three concentrations: emptiness; signlessness, and aimlessness. The Three Doors of Liberation. Finally, we learn about the Buddha-body, the Dharma-body, and the Sangha-body.

You may listen or download the audio from this site or watch the video.

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The River of Mind

September 8, 2011. 87-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from the Ocean of Peace Mediation Hall at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the second dharma talk for the Together We Are One retreat.

Our father is inside every cell of our body and we can breathe in and out together. Our talk today begins with a guided meditation connecting us to our parents and ancestors.

A story about Italian retreats starts the talk for the children. Thay says there are always a lot of children at Italian retreats and he recalls giving them an assignment. . Thay speaks about how we are the continuation of our parents, using the example of a seed of corn that grows up to become a plant of corn. “When you practice mindful breathing, we can invite our mother inside of us to practice breathing as well. Our father also.”

Thay shares with us the about the practice of looking deeply into the river of the mind, using the exercises from the Mindfulness of Breathing Sutra. At the beginning of this portion, Thay writes down the first 8 exercises on the board (the audio is cut on the first two, but only for a moment). Today we continue with the 9th exercise – this is about recognizing the mental formation that has manifested. There are 51 categories of mental formations in our tradition of practice. There are positive and negative mental formations. Every mental formation is like a drop of water in the river of the mind. The practitioner sits on the bank of the river and watches and observes. Aware of the mental formations. We continue with exercises 9-12.

“As a practitioner we know how to practice selective watering of the seeds in our consciousness.” “Life is impossible without impermanence. Without impermanence a grain of corn can never become a plant of corn, and your little baby can never become a little girl. So impermanence is the nature of things. Your love is also impermanent. If you do not know how to take care of your love, your love will die.

Things are impermanent; because we believe things to be permanent we suffer.” We can use impermanence to get out of anger. “To get out of your anger, you can close your eyes and visualize the other person in 300 years. What will they become? Ash. And you too. It may take only 3-5 seconds for you to touch impermanence. That way you can see that it is not wise to let anger overwhelm you like that.”

Thay finishes the talk with the teaching on the Three Doors of Liberation: 1) emptiness, 2) signlessness, 3) aimlessness.

The talk is available below. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and river of mind.

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Hello, my Anger

September 7, 2011. 118-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from the Ocean of Peace Mediation Hall at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the first dharma talk for the Together We Are One retreat.

Usually in our retreats, children learn how to invite the bell. The bell is a kind of friend, so we have a chance to practice. The bell master is responsible for inviting the bell and should be calm and solid. It should inspire people to practice. There are four lines to learn when inviting the bell.

Body, speech and mind in perfect oneness.
I send my heart along with the sound of the bell.
May all who listen awaken from forgetfulness.
And transcend all anxiety and sorrow.

Thay continues providing instruction on inviting the bell followed by instruction on listening to the bell. Listen, listen to this wonderful sound of the bell, calling me back to my true home.

Thay shares with us the about the practice of mindfulness of breathing. Awareness of our in-breath and our out-breath. It’s quite simple. This can helps us to release the past and release the future. This can become the only object of our mind. We get some freedom right away. It is always true that mindfulness and concentration bring insight; and insight is something that can liberate us. We do not practice like a machine: we are alive. We are not caught in the form of the practice. That is why every moment we experience nourishment and healing. Each exercises is included in each of the subsequent ones. This teaching is from the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing (Anapanasati Sutta). In this talk we look at the first eight breathing exercises.

In Buddhist psychology we see the mind as having two parts: mind consciousness and store consciousness. Your store consciousness is part of your body and it can operate without mind consciousness. The first four breathing exercises has to do with mind. Mind and store should function well together. This brings us to a discussion of mental formations cittasamskara and it manifests in the form of a seed bija.

He goes on to talk about the four practices of right diligence: 1) recognize the negative seeds and make sure they don’t come up, 2) if a negative seed has already come up, embrace the formation and invite it to go back down, 3) invite good seeds to come up, 4) maintain the good mental formations for a long time.

When looking at the fifth and sixth exercises, producing joy and happiness, we have to be aware of our ideas. We all have our ideas of happiness, and that idea may be an obstacle to our happiness. This is very deep practice. That object of craving, object of desire, may be an obstacle. Have the courage to let go.

He also discusses in detail how we can embrace our difficult mental formations just like a mother embraces her crying baby.

The talk is available below. During a middle portion of the recording, the sound is listenable but degraded. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and hello my anger.

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The Flower is Full of Everything

August 14, 2011. 86-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from War Memorial Gym at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the final talk of the retreat.

Exercises of mindful breathing from the Anapanasati Sutta: the first four are (1) identify your breath, (2) follow your breath, (3) aware, and (4) release. From here we move to the feelings. They are (5) generate joy, (6) generate happiness, (7) aware of painful feelings, and (8) embrace the painful feeling. We then (9) recognize joy, (10) gladdening the mind, (11) concentrating the mind, (12) liberate the mind.

There are at least three types of concentration in Buddhism known as the Three Doors of Liberation: Emptiness, Signlessness, Aimlessness.  Thay provides an detailed explanation of each door.

The next four exercises are concentrations proposed by the Buddha, but we do explore these in depth during this talk. We also hear about no birth/no death, being/non-being, coming/going, and sameness/otherness.

Emptiness does not mean non-existence. A glass can be empty or full of tea, but in order to be empty or full the glass needs to be there. So emptiness does not mean non-existence. This glass is empty of tea, but it is full of air. So it is helpful for us to ask, ‘Empty of what?’ To be empty is always to be empty of something. When we contemplate a flower like this, we see the flower is full of everything: the cloud, the sunshine, the Earth, time, space, the gardener—everything has come together to help the flower to manifest. Why do we say it is empty? It is empty of only one thing: a separate existence. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower is full of non-flower elements. It is clear that the flower has to be interbe with everything in the cosmos. She cannot be by herself alone. To be by oneself alone is impossible. So we begin to see the interdependence of everything.

He uses the example of a match which requires the action of us striking it for a flame to manifest. In life we are the same: when we ask ‘Where do we come from?’ or ‘Where are we going?’ we see that we do not come from anywhere. “When conditions come together sufficiently, I manifest. My nature is the nature of no coming and no going. When conditions are no longer sufficient, I just stop manifestation and wait for a chance to manifest again. My nature is no coming, no going.”

This concludes the retreat in Vancouver. After a public talk on August 14, the sangha will travel to Colorado for a retreat at Estes Park.

The talk is available below. There is a video version available too.

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Embracing Emotions with Non-Violence

July 13, 2011. 74-minute Dharma Talk given in French, with English translation by Sr. Pine from Stillwater Meditation Hall in Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

Thay shares about the first eight steps of the practice of mindful breathing from the Anapanasati Sutta: 1) Recognizing the in and out breath. It’s not thinking; it’s an experience. The first exercise is the identification. 2) Following the in and out breath. 3) Breathing in, I am aware of the body. We get in touch with the physical body. We bring the mind back to the body. It is an act of reconciliation. We may become aware of tension or pain in the body. 4) Breathing in, I calm my body.

The next two exercises, the Buddha wants us to focus on pleasant feelings first – 5) Aware of joy, 6) Aware of happiness. If we can take a piece of paper and write down all the conditions of happiness we may discover that two sides of a piece of paper may not be enough. There are hundreds of conditions to see happiness.

The seventh exercise is (7) aware of mental formations – this is to recognize a painful feeling. These are zones of energy that manifest from deep in out consciousness. We can use the energy Mindfulness and concentration. The eighth asks us to embrace and soothe – 8) Calming mental formations.

Dharmakaya – the dharma body, bring wherever you go, you bring the practice with you. Like bringing your cell phone with you. We need a spiritual dimension in our daily life.

The Buddhakaya, the Buddha body. We all have a Buddha body. We all have a seed of Mindfulness. The Buddha nature. Mindfulness carries concentration.

The Sanghakaya – our sangha body. Without a sangha, the Buddha could nit accomplish his dream. Without a community, we cannot do very much. It’s a community, but it’s also a practice. How to build a Sangha near you.

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

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Generating a Feeling of Joy

May 25, 2011. 84-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into Dutch, with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the first Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Dutch Retreat at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.

Learning to walk in the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land of the Buddha.

Suffering and happiness. Happiness is available through understanding and love. And first we must understand suffering. No mud. No lotus. This teaching can be found in the Four Noble Truths originally taught by the Buddha. This is Interbeing.

Next, we look at breathing and it’s role in Mindfulness to generate joy and happiness. Thay explains the first eight exercises from the Sutra on Mindful Breathing (Anapanasati Sutta).

The talk was given in English and Dutch at the same time and is available below for listening or download. You may also view the video.

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Now is the Time: Both by nature empty

April 21, 2011. 104-minute question and answer session given in English, with consecutive translation into Mandarin, with Thich Nhat Hanh and others. This is the fifth day of a five-day retreat in Taipei, Taiwan.

The Sixteen Exercises of Mindful Breathing (Anapanasati Sutta) – we are encouraged to memorize these exercises. Here we review each of these again. For example, the concentration of impermanence (13th exercise) should not just be an idea.

In addition, there are other meditations (concentrations) that can help us liberate ourselves. Emptiness. Signlessness. Aimlessness.

Mindfulness brings about concentration and we gain wisdom of Right View and we can be liberated.

With signlessness we can see the impermanent nature of all beings.

No birth. No death.
Being and nonbeing.
No coming. No going.
No sameness. No otherness.

The talk was given in English and Mandarin at the same time and is available below for listening or download. You may also view the video.

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Now is the Time: Aware of What’s Going On

April 19, 2011. 97-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into Mandarin, with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the third day of a five-day retreat in Taipei, Taiwan.

Before we begin the dharma talk, Thay took a few minutes to introduce two of the monastics. The first is Phap Lien, who is English and has been a strong support for the Wake Up Movement and the second was Phap De, also known as Young Brother, who is an American practicing both Christianity and Buddhism.

We continue the Anapanasati Sutta (we covered the first six exercises during the April 18 talk). Working with strong emotions. Provides meditation instruction of focusing on abdomen breathing. The seventh exercise is to become aware of a painful feeling. We should recognize it and return to our breathing.

Mental formations. There is a river of mind flowing with many feelings and emotions. To meditate is to sit on the bank of the river. The tenth exercise is to touch the wholesome mental formations. Feelings like love, compassion, and joy. We all have mental formations in the form of a seed. When we come to a retreat like this, the seed of goodness is watered in us. In Buddhist psychology, we talk of store and mind consciousness. In store they are seeds and in mind they are mental formations. Flower watering is a method of selective watering of the wholesome seeds in others.

In this segment of the talk, Thay talks about restoring communication, especially with our loved ones. Our wife. Our husband. Father. Mother. Son. Daughter. How can we do it? Practical steps are offered.

The talk was given in English and Mandarin at the same time and is available below for listening or download. You may also view the video.

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Now is the Time: Mantras and Sutras

April 18, 2011. 112-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into Mandarin, with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the second day of a five-day retreat in Taipei, Taiwan. Please note, the first 20-minutes of the talk has really low volume but it does improve after that.

The Four Noble Truths. Suffering and happiness are inseparable. Offering your true presence. In this talk, Thay introduces the Four Mantras in the context of the Anapanasati Sutta. Included is also an introduction to pepple meditation and some mindful movements.

The first mantra is, darling, I am here for you.

The Buddha taught exercises for mindful breathing. Recognize and follow are the first two exercises. By following, there is no interruption of mindfulness. The third exercise is being aware of your whole body. Formations. Everything is a formation. My body is a formation. And the fourth exercise is to release the tension in my body.

Producing a feeling of joy and of happiness are the fifth and sixth exercises. These are mental formations. Breathing in, I know that I am alive. Breathing out, I smile to life.

The next exercises ask you to recognize and embrace painful feelings. Today we will talk of mindfulness of anger. Recognize the anger and embrace with mindfulness.

We now return to the mantras. The third is darling, I know that you suffer and I am here for you. The forth is much more difficult. Darling, I suffer and I want you to know it. I am trying my best to practice. Please help me.

The Sutra on Mindful Breathing is a wonderful text for practice.

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Every act of mindfulness is an act of resurrection

April 12, 2011. 52-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into Mandarin by Sister Hui-jiny, at Sun Yat-Sen University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This talk is very similar in content to the April 2 talk given in Thailand.

The present moment. The Anapanasati Sutta gives this lesson. Can relieve our concern about the past or future. Ww can discover many conditions of happiness in the present moment. It could be our sight, or our hearing, or our feet. It is possible to be happy in the present moment.

Aware of joy and happiness are two exercises proposed by the Buddha. Mindfulness as a kind of resurrection (this week is Easter). There is a lot of light with mindfulness. Walking meditation too can bring you to the present moment of happiness. To walk like a Buddha.

Thay speaks on reducing suffering through stopping and the practice of deep listening. Mindfulness of compassion.

The talk was given in English and Mandarin at the same time and is available below for listening or download. You may also view the video.

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