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Plum Village Retreats

The Joy of Simplicity

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December 4, 2011. 103-minute dharma talk from New Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the fourth talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

In the last dharma talk, we learned about walking mediation. Today will learn about the practice of sitting meditation. Sitting in the spring breeze – we should sit relaxingly, joyfully, happily. We don’t sit for enlightenment. No aim to become a Buddha. We sit straight, but relaxed. This morning, the Morning Chant was so beautiful and is different from when he was a young novice monk. Thay talks about the traditional way of offering the chants in Sino-Vietnamese and discusses the lines of the Morning Chant and the Evening Chant. He tells the story of sitting all night in meditation with Ananda and a group of new bhikshus – we just sit happily. We can apply this to sitting in the airport or the train station. If we can sit like this, the world can have a lot of peace and joy. We can apply this practice into other activities of the day, like sweeping or moping. Thay talks about his life as a novice where there were no toilets in the temple. “Having toilets to clean can be a source of great happiness.”

About one-hour into the talk, we continue the teaching on the Yogacarabhumi Sastra, Verses 9-12 of the Paramartha Gathas of Asanga. What does the absolute truth say about cause and effect? What is co-being, co-manifesting? The “twelve” links of co-arising.

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Plum Village Retreats

Non-Dualistic View of Bodhisattva Gaia

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December 1, 2011. 98-minute dharma talk from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the third talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

Thay shares about truly being present when we touch the Earth while practicing walking meditation, about not getting caught in a dualistic view of nature and the Earth. “The Earth has many good qualities: solidity, endurance, and the capacity to embrace all things. When we feel lost we can go back to our mother, the Earth. When can call her Bodhisattva Gaia. The sun is like Vairocana Tathagata. Aware of the Earth and Sun like that, every step is nourishing, every step is healing.”

At about 52-minutes into the talk, Thay continues his teaching on the Yogacarabhumi Sastra, explaining Verse 6-9 of the Paramartha Gathas.

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Plum Village Retreats

What You Know Could Be An Obstacle

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November 24, 2011. 95-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from the Full Moon Meditation Hall in New Hamlet, Plum Village, France. This is the first dharma talk for the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk was given in Vietnamese and translated into English by Sr. Chan Khong [Vietnamese version].

Thich Nhat Hanh begins by talking about the importance of putting into practice what we learn when we study about Buddhism. Listen. Look Deeply. Put into Action. This is how we achieve the gate of liberation. We can also learn to think skillfully. Right Thinking and wisdom can arrive. The main teaching of Thay is to have arrived in the present moment. To be home. And yet, there are those who have heard this thousands of times but they have not reached a place of deep wisdom. It is not just an accumulation of knowledge.

“When we share the Dharma it should come from a place of happiness. Some people, including monastics, can give very good Dharma talks on ‘I have arrived, I am home,’ but they are not truly happy.”

We don’t need to use what we know when listening to a dharma talk. This leads to comparing. You just receive it. The Buddha said some students receive enlightenment just like that. Right away. Not the fruit of your knowledge. What you know, could be an obstacle. It is only intellectual.

He then begins study of the Paramartha Gathas, from the Yogacarabhumi Sastra of Asanga. Asanga is a very profound teacher who began in Theravada, but then followed Mahayahana Buddhism. This Gatha speaks about the Absolute Truth. It’s been translated three times from the Sanskrit. We have the Chinese texts as well as a Vietnamese translation by Thay. English is being produced for this teaching. [Note: When texts become available, they will be posted]

The first verse:

There is absolutely no subject, no agent and no one who enjoys the fruit of action. No dharma has any effect. Nonetheless, the passing on of one effect to another does take place.

Thay shares about physics in the light of this teaching: “What is the electron made of? All things are composite. There are many things that come together to make everything. When we look skillfully we see only action: we don’t see any owner, actor or inheritor.”

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Day of Mindfulness Plum Village

Recognizing the Fruit of Our Habits

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June 16, 2011. 70-minute Dharma Talk in Vietnamese, with translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong, given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall, Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France.

In this talk we study the Sutra on Keeping a Pure Mind While Doing Alms Round (#236). The sutra demonstrates that the practice is all day long and in all positions. Walking. Sitting. Eating. Etc. The practice today is the same as the time of the Buddha. The sutra also speaks of emptiness samadhi (deep concentration). Recognizing and embracing is the third aspect of the sutra.

Impermanence, Non-self, and Nirvana. The Three Dharma Seals. Some schools call the third as suffering, but Thay feels this is not correct. Emptiness, Signlessness, and Aimlessness. These also are known as dharma seals (Tripitaka) – sometimes called the Three Doors of Liberation.

We then move to another sutra (#293), a sutra about interdependent co-arising conditions, and Thay recognizes this is very difficult. At the end he reminds us to drink some tea.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below. There is a video version available too. Please note, we are missing just the first minute or two of the recording.

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English/Dutch European Institute of Applied Buddhism Retreats

Discussing a Strategy of Consumption

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May 27, 2011. 86-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into Dutch, with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the third Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Dutch Retreat at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings can be seen as applied ethics. It is also a holy path. The profane and the sacred are of an organic nature. With Mindfulness and concentration, anything can become holy. Practicing the Five Mindfulness Trainings, we become a holy person.

The first concentration is impermanence. The first nine exercises in the Sutra of Mindful Breathing help us with the remaining concentrations. To touch the good and wholesome seeds. Selective watering. We then hear teaching regarding the remaining exercises.

Thay speaks about Right Mindfulness as part of the Noble Eightfold Path. “Mindfulness helps us to get in touch with the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land of the Buddha, which is present in the here and the now.” “In the old times, nirvana was a word that was used by people in the countryside. When they made a fire to cook their rice or their chapati, then they would leave the fire overnight so that by morning it was completely extinguished. They could put their fingers up to the fire and they would not be burned. So nirvana is a word to describe a state of cooling down, no more suffering. We can safely describe nirvana as the extinction of all notions, and of all the suffering that arises due to these notions.”

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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Retreats

Generating a Feeling of Joy

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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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Day of Mindfulness English/German European Institute of Applied Buddhism

I Prefer Walking in the Kingdom of God

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May 22, 2011. 91-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into German, with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is a Day of Mindfulness offered by Thay at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.

Communication in the family. Love and care for yourself allows you to love and care for another. We must begin with oneself. The teaching of the Buddha is clear. Thay speaks about calming and healing the body and mind, and about the art of bringing about happiness and reconciliation in our relationships. The practice is from the Exercises of Mindful Breathing (Anapanasati Sutta). We can learn the practice to transform our habit energies; Mindfulness can help us see our habit energies.

A special treat at 49-minutes when Thay chants to demonstrate the Interbeing nature of ourselves and the Buddha. The communication between the Buddha and us are one. The same is true between a father and a son.

Towards the end of the talk he offers an orientation on the practice of walking meditation.

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

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English/German European Institute of Applied Buddhism Questions and Answers Retreats

Living Practice Communities for Young People

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May 20, 2011. 94-minute session of Question and Answers given in English, with consecutive translation into German, with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the fifth day of the German Retreat at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.

Some of the questions from the session include:

How can we support the formation of living practice communities for young people? Thay invites Phap Linh to help respond to this question regarding leading groups of young people, particularly in the Wake Up! movement.

How can we transform our relationship with someone who hates us?

How do I deal with judgmental thoughts about other people?

Lately I feel that my true self is like a drop that has been taken out of the collective consciousness, as if from a cloud, and I feel as I’m aging that this drop that has been separated would like to re-enter the ocean. I would like to know if you know of this longing to be re-united as a drop with the ocean: how can I live with this contradiction of longing for the true self in the here and now, and my daily life?

Following the FIve Mindfulness Trainings, I try not to kill. Two years ago, when I saw some bugs in the kitchen, I left them in peace because there were not so many. I did the same thing last year. This summer there are so many that I felt I had to do something. You teach that when we follow the North Star this means we do not have to reach it. So I began to kill these bugs, always trying to keep a friendly mind, wishing a good rebirth for them in the next life. At first it felt OK. But when you are killing ten or more beings every day, when they wish to live as we do, it becomes too much. I felt it cannot be better to kill them by chemical means, where I don’t have to touch them personally. But to perform the act of killing again and again—is this not worse, with regard to the karmic imprints in our stream of consciousness, or do you have to decide not to kill at all, despite the disadvantages?

A question regarding my superiority complex: All my life I have found that I meet people, I judge them and find that I am superior. I used to go to school, at the end of each year we had the custom to invite the best of each year on stage and decorate them with a golden plaque that they could put on the wall. There is still this voice in me that wants to share that once I too received one of those golden plaques. But I have also discovered how this attitude has created a distance between myself and other people. By looking deeply I see that there is a mechanism in me that causes me to measure myself against my father, an archaic struggle against the father. I am deeply grateful for the teachings which have enabled me to transform this. I keep my father now in my heart, and the inner struggle has ceased. I am also touched that you talked so much about fathers and sons in this retreat. One reason for my feeling of superiority is that I have always tried to protect myself from a feeling of inferiority. However, this feeling of having to create a distance between myself and other people is still present. I feel I have already heard some answers to my question, particularly in the Sutra on Five Ways of Putting an End to Anger. I would still like to ask your advice on how to better manage this.

I had a deep crisis in my life about twelve years ago with those who I thought had been my friends. These were the people that I spent my time with, and who I practiced with. There came a moment when I was most in need of their help, and I was let down by them. Not only did they let me down, but they then attacked me and stabbed me in the back. Through all those years they had not seen me as I really was. This has led to me becoming very ill, and it has led me to losing all my trust in other people. In this way, it was shown to me that the friends of today can be the enemies of tomorrow, and perhaps the enemies of today can be the friends of tomorrow. These past twelve years I have spent with the question whether I would continue to live, because there was a moment when I felt I wouldn’t. But I felt I wanted to live because I felt that there were many things yet to learn. And I also felt I wouldn’t be able to live in this world if I were not able to open myself to something new. First, there was a moment when I needed to withdraw and move to a place where I would not see the people that had let me down. I have lived there withdrawn near nature, and near to Mother Meera. With the help of Mother Meera I have looked deeply, and I have tried to forgive myself and others. Now I am on a new path where I am trying to find trust again in both myself and others. Much has now changed for the better. There are still moments, and recently there has been an incident–I live in a very old house with many nice flats in it–in those other flats there are people living there who are not very mindful, and the communication with those people can be very difficult. Recently there have been a few instances where I have been verbally attacked by people, though I could not see how I did anything to cause such an attack to take place. I feel that this old wound is being touched again, where people cannot be trusted, and you never know what will happen in the next moment. This can cause a shock whereby I feel that I am not able to cope, and I feel I need to protect myself from this. My question is: How can I live in an open and trusting way, even with people who are not very mindful, and how am I also able to protect myself and my sensitivity?

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

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English/German European Institute of Applied Buddhism Retreats

Cooling Down the Fire of Anxiety

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May 19, 2011. 92-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into German, with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the third Dharma talk offered by Thay in the German Retreat at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.

We learn about verses of practice — Gathas — many are taken from Avatamsaka Sutra. Later, Thay wrote Gathas for modern society such as using the telephone and riding a bicycle. We continue the discussion on right view with a presentation on the opposites: being/non-being, birth/death, coming/going, and sameness/otherness. The last 15-minutes of the talk, Thay provides some instruction for education and mindfulness.

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

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Uncategorized

Walking in Nirvana

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May 5, 2011. 87-minute Dharma Talk given in Vietnamese by Thich Nhat Hanh at the new Lotus Pond Temple in Ngong Ping, Lantau Island, Hong Kong. This recording is translated by Sr. Dang Nghiem and is the third talk from this temple (Editors note: I have been unable to get a recording for the first two talks given earlier in the week on April 28 and May 1).

Renew Buddhism is really necessary in Buddhist countries to make it relevant to the younger generation. We have been trying to teach Applied Buddhism. This is doable. We want to do that here in Hong Kong and we believe young people will come as they have in Vietnam, Thailand, and France. We are trying to establish a way if life that is beautiful.

In Buddhism we talk about Nirvana but many still think it is something after death. But Nirvana is a state that is present now. We can enter nirvana in the present moment. This is wonderful. Nirvana means cooling off.

Happiness and suffering. Without suffering you cannot generate happiness. Now, how can happiness be present without the two elements of understanding and love?

People are longing for understanding. Many are so lonely. If we can understand the other person will suffer less right away. The more we understand, the more we love. The First Noble truth is there is suffering and the Second is to understand the suffering.

Right View. No more misunderstanding. No more hatred. This is nirvana. Then we have Right Thinking. This is thinking that goes in the direction of understanding and compassion. This is followed by Right Action. The fruit of the action is karma. Actions of body, mind, and speech.

The kingdom is now or never. Buddhism is not a promise of the future. It is to manage the present moment.

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