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This talk by Thich Nhat Hanh is from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village on Sunday, December 29, 2013. It is the thirteenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. This talk is in English and is available below as an audio download or online video. In this talk we are preparing for the end of the year 2013 and the teaching is on no birth, no death, and coming home to our island of self.
00:00-14:35 The Year Ending and the Year Coming
14:35-25:09 No Birth. No Death.
25:09-49:10 Coming Home and the Island of Self
56:30-1:06:10 The Practice in an Organization or Company
1:10:30-1:23:15 Taking Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha
When we focus on our breathing, we can really be there. Breathing mindfully we can know that we are alive and that we have a body. Just breath in and out and we can touch the wonders of life. With mindfulness we can be in touch and that can help nourish and heal us. This comes from walking, sitting, breathing, doing everyday things. Is the year 2013 going to die and go away? Can we speak of a birth or death of a year? The notion of month, day, hours, etc. are invented by us and are conventional designations. What does it mean to die? From being to non-being? Where is the year 2014 right now? The answers really depend on us.
What have I done in the year 2013? Have I learned to produce a feeling a joy, a feeling of happiness? We can produce a moment of joy, a moment of happiness at any time, for us and for the people we love. Have we been able to take care of the painful feeling and emotions during the year 2013? If we do not learn these things then we will end up repeating this in the next year. This is why we have our practice phrase for next year: “New Year New Me” and “Joy Within, Joy all Around.” The new year is time and it is linked to space and action. If we know how to deal with our pain and sorrow then we can improve the quality of our days, months, and years. Right now it is winter and when we do walking meditation, we do not see butterflies. But that does not mean the butterflies are not there already. In spring they will manifest; they are only hidden waiting for conditions. The same is true with the year 2014.
Has the little boy or the little girl you once were died? No, it is still there. This teaching corresponds with the first law of thermodynamics. Nothing is born. Nothing dies. We can transfer energy and matter but we cannot produce or destroy anything. In Buddhism we say no birth and no death. Where are our ancestors? They are in every cell of our bodies and we carry them into the future. To meditate is to have the time to look deeply and see the nature of no birth and no death. The story of the cloud and Mother Earth.
Society today is running away from itself and we don’t know how to handle a feeling of pain, sorrow, loneliness. We are running away from ourselves. And electronic devices that we buy and use help us run away but the practice of mindfulness is helping us take care of our feelings. Mindfulness can restore peace and harmony in our body and our feelings. That is the practice of coming home. We can establish understanding. We can transform our anger into understanding and compassion. It is impermanent. Last week we started to speak about true home. True home is available anytime and we have to build for ourselves. The Buddha told us that everyone has an island within ourselves where we can feel calm, safe, and happy. We should take refuge in that island. Our body is the first element of our true home. The third exercise of mindful breathing suggested by the Buddha. Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. The fifth and sixth exercises of mindful breathing help us cultivate a feeling of joy and happiness. This is the art of happiness. And the seventh and eighth help us to handle the painful feelings and emotions. We can generate the energy of understanding and compassion. This is the third element of coming to our true home. We also know that a group of people, a sangha, can help us cultivate the collective energy of peace, joy, and happiness. Sangha is also home.
If we know how to create a home for ourselves, the we can create a home for our partner and for our work environment. You can help each to create their own home. Earlier this year we visited the World Bank and we discussed this practice. The World Bank can be a place that reduces suffering in the world. They have this intention and this is a source of energy that can be nourished. We start with ourselves and then it can be applied to our companies and organizations. The work of Plum Village.
When we sit together like this, there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. The sangha is a jewel. If you want to realize your dream, then you want a sangha. We can take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This is inside of you as in your island of self.
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