Early Buddhism, Four Powers, and Two Truths

November 11, 2012. 99-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 second 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.

At the time of the Buddha, he accepted many of the existing teachings such as reincarnation and karma. The gods were Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The Buddha took the teachings deeper. Thay makes the observation that at this time in history, the highest caste was the spiritual teacher and the business person less. It is the opposite today. Thay then teaches about the expansion and history of Vedantism and Jainism. The states of meditation in Jainism. Thanks to concentration, the practitioner can have joy and happiness. More inner peace. No suffering. No joy. Purification. The Four Brahma Viharas (Immeasurable Minds). The Buddha accepted their teaching but also created his own way.

The Four Powers.

  1. Deep Desire/Aspiration
  2. Mind
  3. Diligence
  4. Looking deeply

We’ve been learning the methodologies of Buddhism (last time it was the Four Criterion). Today we talk about the Two Truths: Relative Truth and Absolute Truth.

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Breathing In, I Know I am Alive

October 8, 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 third dharma talk for the Stepping Into Freedom, Savoring Life Retreat.

The Buddha is a teacher of love. At the time of the Buddha, the people of India were followers of Brahma and Brahma was love. So the Buddha taught about love and gave us the Four Elements of True Love – the Four Brahmaviharas.

The first element is maitri, It’s a difficult word to translate, but many people translate into lovingkindness.  Loving oneself is the foundation of loving someone else. The Buddha made himself happy and then he helped other people be happy. When you have freedom and calmness, then it is easy to help other people be happy. The second element of true love is karuna. This is usually translated as compassion. This is one is to remove suffering, to transform suffering. The third element is mudita – this is joy. This is the sign of true love. And most of the truth lies in the fourth element – upeksa. Scholars have usually translated this as equanimity but Thay shares the real meaning is non-discrimination. In true love there is no place for discrimination.

The wisdom of non-discrimination. In the teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path, the Buddha speaks of Right View. Right View is the type of insight that is free from discrimination. Right View is usually mentioned as the first element of the Noble Eightfold Path, but it also comes from Right Concentration and Right Mindfulness. Coming from Right View, we can produce Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence. Today we will focus more on the practice of Right View and Right Concentration, but these are the eight elements of the path proposed by the Buddha. It is the Path of True Love. When we take the Five Mindfulness Trainings, they represent this path.

The teaching of no-birth and no-death, being and non-being. This has to do with the practice of emptiness, one of the three doors of liberation. There is a word, Sahabhu, it means co-being. We cannot exist by ourselves. Thay also speaks of our ideas and notions, including the notion of impermanence. Do we have insight?

Action has three aspects. Thinking. Speaking. Body. This is our product. Our continuation. Anything you produce will bear your signature. This is karma. We are our action.

With this path we can create happiness. True understanding and compassion.

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