Move Toward the Absolute Truth

November 18, 2012. 92-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha had just begun the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the fourth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk was originally given in Vietnamese and this English translation is provided by Sister Chan Khong.

Everyone already knows that the heart of the Buddha’s teaching is the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. People seem to remember reincarnation, retribution, and karma but these three are not the core of his teachings. These three teachings existed before the time of the Buddha. If you believe in samsara then you believe in the immortal soul, but this is not the true teaching of the Buddha. The Buddha did not deny samsara, but he did teach that we do not have a separate self. He also accepted karma, but that too is also relative. Buddhism is made with many elements, including non-Buddhist elements. Thay continues explaining the influences on Buddhism and the similarities and differences among the different traditions present in India at that time.

You don’t need any spiritual beliefs to follow the Noble Eightfold Path and you can live happily and free. It all begins with Right View. We continue with The Four Noble Truths, Absolute truth and conventional truth, suffering and happiness.

At 1:01 into the recording, we continue with the sutra commentary. We start with the third Chinese line of the gatha. The sutra has been translated into French and English and will be distributed soon.

It is unreasonable to think that the self nature lies in the conditions.
The self nature that is born from conditions would be something that is made.
Without self nature and other nature, how can we have a phenomena.
Only with self and other nature can dharma be possible.
When there is no possibility of being, how can non-being be possible.
Only when there is being can it end and become non-being. 

When something is made, it is not self nature. What is self nature? A flower has no self-nature. A baby has no self-nature. Everything has no self-nature. Transcend all the notions of being and non-being. We need to transcend them. Slowly move toward the absolute truth.

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Nirvana In the Here and the Now

June 13, 2012. 124-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the ninth dharma talk (of 15).

Investigation of the phenomenonal and noumenal worlds. We use our mind of discrimination to investigate the conventional truth. If we use the practice to look more deeply, we can see the ultimate truth of the same object. We use the mind of non-discrimination for the ultimate truth. And in Buddhism we take care of the mind. We need to train our mind so to create a strong instrument for investigation. The yogi has to be skillful.

The teaching of the Dharma as a finger. A skillful practitioner should not be caught in notions.

The Wisdom of Adaptation. Being and nonbeing. A flower is made of non-flower elements and this principle applies to everything. In the 2nd paragraph of the Heart of Perfect Understanding. Form is emptiness and Emptiness is not form. Form is free from being and nonbeing. They are neither produced nor destroyed. We can apply the Law of Thermodynamics – the conservation of matter and energy. We look then at the Discourse on the Adaption of Conditioned Genesis Connected with Emptiness (Samyukta Agama 293).

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There is Action but no Actor

June 10, 2012. 102-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the seventh dharma talk (of 15).

We begin with two chants: Les Vision Profond (French) and Hien Tien Thanh Tinh (We are Truly Present). Interbeing of the entire cosmos. The flower is interacting with the entire cosmos.

Topics

  • Suffering and happiness
  • Being and non-being
  • Fourth Mindfulness Training – deep listening

Readings

From The Discourse on Emptiness in its Ultimate Meaning

Monks, when the eye arises, there is no place from which it comes; when it  ceases, there is no place to which it goes. Thus, the eye, without any real substance,  arises; having arisen it will finally have to cease. It is a result of some action but  there is no actor at all.

And from The Paramartha Gathas of Asanga Gathas on the Absolute Truth

5. All conditioned things undergo change at every instant. Their abiding is not something real, much less their function. All we can say is that their arising is their function and their arising is also the agent.

6-7. Eyes cannot see form, ears cannot hear sound, the nose does not smell scent,  the tongue does not taste an object, the body does not feel touch, the mind  does not recognize objects of mind. However in the organs and objects of  sense there is no one who maintains or begins the perception.

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The River of Body and Mind

July 16, 2011. 85-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh in French, with English translation provided by Sister Pine, from New Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

Our body is not static; it’s always changing. It is a river and every cell represents a drop in the river. To meditate is to sit at the bank and look at our body. Like the body, there is a river of feelings flowing day and night. We are learning about the five skandhas as the river of body and mind: form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.

Thay continues into the steps of practice based on the Mindfulness of Breathing Sutra. The first four help us with the physical form and the next four are to help us with our feelings: 1) recognizing the in and out breath, 2) following the in and out breath, 3) mindful of the body, 4) calming the body, 5) recognizing joy, 6) recognizing happiness, 7) aware of painful feelings, 8) embracing painful feelings. These eight are reviewed briefly.

There is also a river of perceptions. Is my perception correct? We also have mental formations. There are positive formations as well as those that make us suffer. Our mind is a river of mental formations. Finally, in Buddhism we speak of consciousness.

We continue with the sutra as it relates to perceptions. 9) selective watering of good seeds, 10) recognizing negative mental formations, 11) concentrate the mind, 12) free the mind. There are three principal concentrations that we practice. They help us transform fear, anxiety, and despair. There are three practices of concentration presented in Buddhist schools. They are 1) the concentration on emptiness, 2) the concentration on signlessness, 3) the concentration on aimlessness. These are also the Three Doors of Liberation and can be found in all schools of Buddhism. We learn of dualism and non-dualistic thinking.

What is happiness? Happiness is made of understanding and love. And with that comes compassion. But we must understand suffering. The First Noble Truth is about suffering. Suffering is essential to happiness.

Being and non-being. Signlessness. These are just notions and reality transcends all notions.

The third concentration, aimlessness, everything is already here.

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

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Understanding Our Mind: No Birth, No Death

March 31, 2011. 155-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into Thai, with Thich Nhat Hanh on the seventh (and final) day of the Understanding Our Mind retreat at Mahachulalongkornrajavidhayalaya Buddhist University (MCU) in Bangkok, Thailand.

After a brief review of manas and store consciousness, Thay speaks about the nature of no-birth and no-death discovered by the Buddha. Being and nonbeing – we can’t have something from nothing. How are we continuing the teacher. The young monks, nuns, lay practitioners are also Thay – their practice becomes my Thay’s continuation. Its like the Century plant that we have at Deer Park Monastery. One plant can become many plants.

Right thinking is your continuation. Thinking is already action. Karma. Our karma continues after The dissolution of the body.The second karma action is speech. The third is body. The way we eat. The way we drive. So, dissolution of the body is not our death.

Birth and death
Being and nonbeing
Coming and going
Sameness and otherness

The ultimate reality is free from all these notions. Suchness. The ultimate reality. It cannot be conceived of by ideas or notions. Nirvana is the other word for ultimate reality. The extinction of all notions.

At the end of the talk, Sister Chan Khong shares about the Thai Plum Village, inviting everyone to come to practice at the new international practice center in Thailand.

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

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