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Plum Village

The Four Elements

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March 13, 2011. 63-minute Dharma Talk in French given by Thich Nhat Hanh at Assembly of Stars, Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France.

In Buddhism we speak of Four Elements: water, earth, fire, and air. With water we can practice purification. With air we breathe. Breathe out the toxic gases in the body. Fire is also a method purification. With heat we can heal. The earth can purify as well. In Plum Village we have a practice called Touching the Earth. The earth is our Mother. We are children of the earth. we can return to the earth to renew ourself. Intimate conversations with the earth. We hear of Ksitigarbha (Earth Store), a great bodhisattva.

With these elements we can nourish and cultivate love, understanding, compassion, and reduce our suffering.

We briefly review the steps of mindful breathing to bring joy and calm to our minds and bodies.

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

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Plum Village

Body and Mind Are One

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March 10, 2011. 96-minute Dharma Talk in French given by Thich Nhat Hanh at Assembly of Stars, Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France.

The body and the mind. Two sides of the same thing. Both the mind and body are aspects of our being. Both belong to the same thing. One supports the other. So, to take care of your mind is to take care of your body (and vice-versa).

We can contemplate our body, and it begins with mindfulness. Sutra on Mindful Breathing has sixteen exercises. The fourth exercise is about resting. This is something we have forgotten how to do and it is very important. Relax. Tension and pain exist both in body and mind. We only hear of the first four.

How do we eliminate toxins in our body and mind? Toxins like hatred, anger, greed. We can learn with our practice. Deep breathing is one method. There are four kinds of nutriments – these are explained. Thay focuses on what we consume and how it impacts us, our well being.

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

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Plum Village

The Arrow of Desire

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February 10, 2011. 92-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from the Dharma Cloud Temple, Upper Hamlet, Plum Village. We begin with 17-minutes of chanting and singing.

Sources of happiness. Freshness of the morning air. Water from the tap. Mindfulness is the water and air for the mind. With mindfulness you can look deeper and you can be happier. From there we gain insight from our awareness of breathing. And this insight can help you to undo knots inside you. We can face our fear. We have non-fear.

The perfect non-fear helps us to overcome the fear totally. There are many links that bind us: fear, irritation, anger, doubt, arrogance, desire, etc. Non-fear means we are free of these bonds. Call each one it’s true name.

The next monastic ordination family. There are eight aspirants at Upper Hamlet. They will be called Violet Bamboo family. We must practice like a bamboo; nothing inside. Empty all the knots and wounds inside. We must remove the arrow of craving and be empty like bamboo.

Sutra reference. Verses 33-36 of The Most Peaceful Dwelling Sutra.

33. If you want to completely liberate yourself from fear and end all internal formations and doubts, You must know that if you haven’t pulled out the arrow of desire, then you haven’t understood yet that this body is suffering.

34. Among the highest things that people call the most divine Nirvana is the highest. You must cut off all ideas and attachments and do not be deceived by words.

35. Knowing how to refrain or not to refrain that is the highest practice of letting go. If in our heart there are thoughts of practice the shell will be cracked.

36. Of all offerings, that of the Dharma is the most precious. Of all kinds of happiness, that happiness based on the Dharma is the greatest. Of all strengths, patience is the most powerful because it can put an end to attachment and bring the happiness of Nirvana.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

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Retreats

Being Present

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September 17, 2010. 104-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh in English. This is the third day of the retreat in Malaysia taking place at Tiara Beach Resort in Port Dickson. We are honored to hear two songs from the children present before the talk begins followed by a short meditation on parents. Thay is very good with supporting the children.

We are reminded of the relationship between Teacher and Student. Why is it important and what is the role we each play. We should practice kindness for our teacher just as our teacher practices kindness for the student.  Practicing mindfulness is the practice of being kind to our teacher; to honor and follow what we are taught. The teacher must do the same so only what is directly experienced is taught. With awareness we can see the miracle of walking on earth and see the Buddha is in each of us.

Some discussion on the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing is included. How do we handle strong emotions? Just like a tree in a storm where there is a lot of movement near the top of the tree but solidity in the middle and bottom, we too must come down out of our head and practice abdomen breathing when we encounter the strong emotions.

The last part of the talk reviews the Four Mantras:

  1. Darling, I am here for you.
  2. Darling, I know that you are here and it makes me very happy.
  3. Darling, I know that you are suffering and that is why I am here for you.
  4. Darling, I am suffering and I need your help.

Practicing being present and learning to listen with compassion.

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Retreats

Taking Care of Pain, Generating Happiness

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September 16, 2010. 127 minute dharma talk in English with consecutive translation into Chinese. This is the second day of the retreat in Malaysia taking place at Tiara Beach Resort in Port Dickson.

The bell is a significant element in many practitioners experience. How the bell sounds can effect our practice as well as the practice of those around us. The first 25-minutes Thay gives a review on how to correctly invite the bell.

A common story given in dharma talks is that one given by the Buddha where a person goes into the cellar, brings up a bag of different types of beans, opens the bag and identifies the different types. The Sutra on the Contemplation of the Body is the same where we can apply mindfulness to the different parts of the body. We are reminded to spend more time on those parts that suffer. Bringing our awareness to those elements of the body can help bring healing and happiness. This contemplation also includes being aware of the position of our body (sitting, standing, walking, lying down, etc.) – we are aware when we’re in these positions.

A good practitioner should know how to handle painful feelings and not to run away from them , sometimes by listening to music, eating, and other entertainment. We need to use mindfulness to transform our pain. Transforming, by embracing, our pain can cultivate happiness. If you are a beginner, you may not have enough mindfulness yet. In that case, you can borrow the energy of mindfulness from the sangha. Thay provides a brief review of sangha and how it has unfolded in the west.

How do we bring a moment of joy, of happiness? Letting go (including the idea of happiness), mindfulness, concentration, and insight.

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Retreats

Remembering our Seeds

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September 9, 2010. 82-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Singapore during the Peaceful Mind, Open Heart Retreat at the Kong Meng San Pu Jue Zen Monastery. The talk is given in English on the second day of the retreat.

Our talk begins with a gentle and loving talk to the children with the story of the corn seed growing into a corn plant. Thay suggests that we talk to the corn plant and remind it of being a seed just as we need to remember being a seed once ourselves.

The remaining 55-minutes we are taken through exercises for identifying our breath and mindfulness.

Breathing in, I know this is an in breath
Breathing out, I know this is an out breath

Breathing in, following the in breath all the way through
Breathing out, following the out breath all the way through

These are steps for dwelling happily in the present moment. It allows for the three energies to arise: mindfulness, concentration, insight. The next exercise is useful for body scanning.

Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body
Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body

Breathing in, I release the tension in my body
Breathing out, I release the tension in my body

This talk contains common themes, but ones that are always good to be reminded of for our daily practice. Enjoy.

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Please note, some parts of the audio recording sounds like it is skipping. These are all minor and a problem with the source recording.

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Retreats

Breathing our Feelings

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September 10, 2010. 100-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Singapore during the Peaceful Mind, Open Heart Retreat at the Kong Meng San Pu Jue Zen Monastery. The talk is given in English and Chinese with consecutive translation. I apologize for posting this out of order – you can hear the previously posted second part of this discourse at Mindful Breathing: Mind and Objects of Mind.

The retreat is exploring the  Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing (also known as the Anapanasati Sutta).  The first eight have the two broad categories of body and feelings. The discourse is explored in more detail in The Path of Emancipation.

1. ‘Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath.
Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.

2. ‘Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath.
Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.

3. ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.’ He or she practices like this.

4. ‘Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.’ He or she practices like this.

5. ‘Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful.’ He or she practices like this.

6. ‘Breathing in, I feel happy. Breathing out, I feel happy.’ He or she practices like this.

7. ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my mental formations. Breathing out, I am aware of my mental formations.’ He or she practices like this.

8. ‘Breathing in, I calm my mental formations. Breathing out, I calm my mental formations.’ He or she practices like this.

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Retreats

Mindful Breathing: Mind and Objects of Mind

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September 12, 2010. 113-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Singapore during the Peaceful Mind, Open Heart Retreat at the Kong Meng San Pu Jue Zen Monastery. The talk is given in English. The audio link is below and there is also an optional video version.

During the previous four days of the retreat, the community had been exploring the first eight exercises of the Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing (also known as the Anapanasati Sutta).  The first eight have the two broad categories of body and feelings, but here we focus on the last eight exercises to mindful breathing – the mind (or mental formation) and the objects of mind. Mind and object of mind are always together. The discourse is explored in more detail in The Path of Emancipation.

9. ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my mind. Breathing out, I am aware of my mind.’ He or she practices like this.
10. ‘Breathing in, I make my mind happy. Breathing out, I make my mind happy.’ He or she practices like this.
11. ‘Breathing in, I concentrate my mind. Breathing out, I concentrate my mind.’ He or she practices like this.
12. ‘Breathing in, I liberate my mind. Breathing out, I liberate my mind.’ He or she practices like this.
13. ‘Breathing in, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas. Breathing out, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas.’ He or she practices like this.
14. ‘Breathing in, I observe the disappearance of desire. Breathing out, I observe the disappearance of desire.’ He or she practices like this.
15. ‘Breathing in, I observe the no-birth, no-death nature of all phenomena. Breathing out, I observe the no-birth, no-death nature of all phenomena.’ He or she practices like this.
16. ‘Breathing in, I observe letting go. Breathing out, I observe letting go.’ He or she practices like this.
In this talk, Thay discusses #15 in terms of nirvana and reflects that this is the most wonderful exercise. We can contemplate our true nature. No birth. No death. No coming. No going. That is nirvana. The highest point in Buddhist teaching. God is nirvana.
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Retreats

Orientation to Practice

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September 8, 2010. 72-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Singapore during the Peaceful Mind, Open Heart Retreat at the Kong Meng San Pu Jue Zen Monastery. The talk is in English and the last portion is giving by Thay Phap Hai and Sr. Concentration. During the months of September and October, Thay will be traveling throughout Southeast Asia giving retreats and talks. This is the first stop.

The primary focus of this talk is to provide instructions for enjoying the retreat. The retreat is an opportunity to practice Applied Buddhism. We learn the basic practices such as listening to the bell, connecting body and mind, mindful walking, brushing our teeth, eating meditation, and more.

It is a short talk with a specific focus, but the reminders are good to bring home and practice wherever we are. Please enjoy.

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Plum Village

Net of Love Sutta (Part VI)

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May 20, 2010. 70-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. The talk was given Vietnamese (found here) and is translated into English by Sr. Chan Khong. This is the sixth in a series (Part IPart IIPart III, Part IV, Part V).

Breathing Meditation for Sitting, Lying Down and Walking. The first 40-minutes of the talk explore this idea of breathing. If you really want to let your mind rest, then follow your breath. It’s very delicious, like ice cream. But, if you make an effort then it is not correct. Don’t force.

You can have happiness today. What I teach is what I’ve tried myself. Trust Thay.

The talk is followed by learning to sing the Five Contemplations, practiced before eating a meal.

In the final 30-minutes, Thay provides a commentary on the following gathas of the Net of Love (Attachment) sutta.

24. Seeing and understanding the true nature of things without being caught in any of them and we know how to undo the ties of sexual desire in our mind. Then we have grasped the meaning of the Buddha’s teachings.

25. Offering the right teaching is the most precious offering.  The scent of morality is the most fragrant one of all.  The most effective way to live according to right teaching is the greatest happiness amongst all kinds of happiness.  The practice of putting an end to sensual love once and for all is the practice of putting an end to sexual desires.
 
26-27. The ignorant person often ties himself with the rope of sensual desire.  He doesn’t yet desire to cross to the other shore.  Craving creates corruption and brings about disasters and misfortune to others and himself.  The greedy mind is the field; craving, anger and ignorance are the seeds.  For those who are capable of practicing generosity and liberating others, the merit he harvests is immeasurable.
 
28. With few traveling companions but a large amount of merchandise to convey, the merchant falls into the state of anxiety and panic. The wise ones don’t run after desires, because they know that the infatuation with sensual pleasures is the brigand, who can destroy his life.

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