Happiness is Made of these Moments

This 74-minute dharma talk in the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall takes place on Sunday, February 1, 2004. The monastic and lay community are practicing together during the 2004 Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 at Deer Park Monastery. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.

In the process of renewing Buddhism, many people disagreed with me. Today, Thay offers some words on renewing Christianity. The teaching of living deeply in the present moment is also very clear in the gospel. We should take care of today. Living happily in the present moment is possible. Our basic practice during this Rainy Season Retreat is this: living happily in the present moment. If the Buddha is there, the pure land is there too. If God is there, then the kingdom of God is there too. This practice is not difficult. Mindfulness will help us be in the present moment. Thay proposed that theologians and Christian teachers offer us the teaching and practice to help us live in the present moment. The same is said to Buddhist teachers. Walking and contemplating in the pure land or the Kingdom of God. Then we no longer have to run after fame, power, wealth, and sex. 

Thich Nhat Hanh smiling during his teaching.

The teaching should be embodied by the teacher. The life of the teacher can then be authentic. If you are Dharma Teacher, you have to embody the teaching of living happily in the present moment. If you want others to be able to stop suffering and to live happily. Every moment of our daily life can be seen as a miracle. Thay offers a few examples of how we embody the practice. 

If you are beginner, a new practitioner, there are brothers and sisters who are more experienced. And these more experienced practitioners can show how we can live in the present moment. Mindfulness and concentration bring about happiness, solidity, understanding, and compassion. And this will nourish us and the other people around us. We can help those around us. Thay offers some examples of how this is practiced. Practicing is helping the sangha. 

There are those who have received the Five Trainings, and yet sometimes there are those who have not  received the trainings who may be more solid in their practice. We can learn from these students because their present in the sangha is a blessing too. It makes the sangha more beautiful and a better refuge. It’s not because of have received the Five Trainings that makes us more important. Anyone can be the teacher. Our teacher is a little bit everywhere. Signlessness. Not caught by the form. The same is true for the Order of Interbeing member – those without the brown jacket may be better practitioners than us. When we wear the brown jacket, we have to be more careful and embody the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. Our real value, as members of the Order of Interbeing, is how we practice these trainings. In order to do this, we have to be solid in our daily practice and see our teacher in others. As members of the Order, we have a duty of setting up a sangha. We have to do the work of sangha building. The sangha is protecting and supporting us. So, whether you have received the Five Trainings or not, whether you have received the Fourteen Trainings or not, whether you have received the Ten Novice Precepts – we need a sangha. 

Daily Practice worksheet – there is a column for each day. And in the evening before you go to sleep, we can evaluate our practice. We start with waking up – when you woke up, did you practice? Were you aware and present with waking up. In the teaching, we continue through the other parts of the day where we can enjoy and practice in each moment – putting on your shoes, folding your blanket, opening and closing the door, etc. There are also verses (Gathas) of practices. 

During this retreat, we have been learning about how to take care of our body and our feelings through the Exercises on Mindful Breathing proposed by the Buddha. We are learning how to handle our feelings, whether they are pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. We have learned how to produce a feeling  of joy and a feeling of happiness. In the Buddhist teachings, we learn there are 51 categories of mental formations. This is where we turn now in the dharma talk. There are positive ones – confidence, compassion, diligence, joy, etc. There are also negative ones – anger, despair, jealously, etc. And mindfulness is one of the fifty-one. These all exist in our consciousness and are of an organic nature — they can change and transform. 

How do we cultivate understanding and compassion? 

If you appreciate this teaching, please consider making a donation to support the ongoing efforts of the online monastery. Please make a note with your donation that it was because of this talk.

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The Effectiveness of Prayer

From the Thursday, March 9, 2006 dharma talk at the Assembly of Stars meditation hall, Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. The theme for this talk is the practice of prayer and we are guided by a series of questions asked by the magazine Publishers Weekly.

Questions

  1. How is prayer related to peace and peacemaking?
  2. How do you see the relationship between mediatation and prayer in your own life?
  3. Why is it important to pray with the body?
  4. How can you avoid falling into the trap of routine when you are praying? The words and motions without attention.
  5. Some Christians think of God as external, powerful and transcendent would be surprised to hear that Buddhists pray. What would you say to them?
  6. How can people find the time to pray every day?
  7. What is the one thing people can do everyday to bring them closer to the happiness they seek?
  8. Should Christians attracted to Buddhist teachings become Buddhists?
  9. What did you find in Vietnam when you returned in 2005? What were your impressions?
  10. You will 80 this year, do you plan to retire as a spiritual teacher at any point?

We begin with the fifth question. When we pray, we ask the sangha to help us, we ask the Buddha to help us. We do this first by being truly present; established in the here and the now with a clear intention. Though we do not speak of God, we do recognize the collective mind from which everything manifests.

At 24-minutes, Thay addresses the third question. Why is it important to pray with the body? There is no separation of the body and the mind.

In the spirit of Buddhism, anything you do that is accompanied with mindfulness, concentration, and insight can be considered a prayer. It also removes the distinction between the one who prays and the one who is prayed to. Every step can be a prayer.

Buddhism is mindfulness, concentration, and insight. If you practice this, then you are Buddhist. Christians can be Buddhists, but we don’t need to use the label. There are also Buddhists who are stuck in dogmatism and they are less Buddhist than many Christians. There are enough Buddhists already; we don’t need to make more Buddhists. People can stay rooted in their own tradition.

Enjoy this 75-minutes teaching.

If you are able to support this project financially, please visit our account on Patreon where you can make a donation for as little as $1 per dharma talk.

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Solidity and Freedom – German Retreat

The first dharma talk of the Nourishing Happiness in our Hearts retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbrol, Germany. The talk is given in English with consecutive translation into German. The talk was given on August 13, 2014 and both the audio and the video are available below.

Topics

  • Story of the corn seed.
  • The realm of Dharma. Everything is a wonder.
  • The kingdom of God and the cosmos.
  • Living happily in the present moment.
  • Three kinds of energy; Mindfulness, insight, and concentration.
  • The art of happiness – being able to generate a feeling of joy and a feeling of happiness.
  • The art of suffering.
  • Interbeing
  • Elements of meditation
  • Freedom and walking meditation.

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Have I Got a True Home?

This talk by Thich Nhat Hanh is from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village on the occasion of Christmas Eve (Tuesday, December 24, 2013). It is the twelfth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. In this talk we learning about our True Home and Sangha.

Christmas is always an opportunity to meditate on our true home. The Buddha  did not have a home when he was young; he was unhappy even with all the material conditions. And Jesus Christ was born a refugee and was also trying to find a home. But both the Buddha and the Christ practiced and they found a True Home. Have I got a true home?

A place of comfort and ease. When you come to Plum Village you are offered a practice to help you find a home. And home is not located in space and time. Our first fruit of the practice is “I have arrived. I am home.” Our true home is in the here and the now in every breath and every step.

The practice of mindful breathing brings our mind in touch with our body. Our body may be our first home. Are you in conflict with your body? Do you hate your body? We are all flowers in the garden of humanity. Do we know how to take care of our flowerness? Getting in touch with our body is the first step.

We may notice tension in our body and the Buddha offered us exercises to reduce the tension. An act of reconciliation. Very practical. We can smile to ourselves and release the tension.

Why, in some instances, have we abandoned our body? Do you have a feeling of loneliness?are we covering up suffering in our life? We don’t know how to handle the suffering inside of us and we cover it up with consumption. The practice of mindfulness can help you reverse this to take care of your body and your feelings. If you can, then you are creating a true home for yourself.

24-m Consumption and Loneliness
27-m The Art of Happiness (Exercises 5 & 6)
31-m The Art of Suffering (Exercises 7 & 8)
37-m Practicing with a Sangha
43-m Building a Sangha
47-m The Plum Village Sangha
50-m What do I want to do with my life?

The year is ending and it is a good time to ask what we want to do with our life. If you are a couple, you may wish to sit down and discuss your dream and see how to support each other. Jesus had a dream. Buddha had a dream. Can we look at our other relationships and see how they might be improved?

Wherever we go, the sangha is with us. Sangha is our home. We can practice in such a way that our family is our sangha. We should devote our time and energy to building our true home so that we can realize our dream.

Merry Christmas.

You can support this site by donating to the Plum Village Online Monastery Team

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What has Buddha-Nature?

December 1, 2013. 93-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. This is the fifth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. We begin with two chants from the monastics. The talk was given in Vietnamese and this is an English translation by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

An issue in Christianity has been the question whether God a human or not a human. Theologians have said, though God is not a person but God is not less than a person.  In Buddhism, there is the idea of sentient beings that suffer and Buddha’s who have enlightenment. But when we become a Buddha, we continue to be a sentient being. I’m Mahayana Buddhism, these two are not separate. Sentient beings and Buddha’s are not different but two pairs of opposite. One cannot be without the other. Humans are composed of non-human elements. This is a non-dualistic insight. Interdependent co-arising.

Everything is impermanent, including enlightenment and Buddha. We must continue to cultivate happiness and insight. Can the Buddha be recognized in another form than a human? Consider what is written in the Diamond Sutra. We also need to remove the dualistic thinking regarding inanimate objects. Even a rock has Buddha-nature. We have to transcend the idea that Buddha must be a human.

Applying this teaching using sitting and breathing. Thay provides instructions.

At 58-minutes, we continue with the winter retreat teachings from the 30-verses of Vasubandhu with the 3rd verse.

Its appropriations and its manifestation of locality
cannot be known intellectually. It is always
associated with contact, mental attention, feeling,
perception, and volition.

Seeds. Form. Signs. Consciousness. Names.

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The Self is Ever Changing

January 10, 2013. 106-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the nineteenth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk is given in Vietnamese and this is a translation provided by Sr. Chan Không.

In our practice of Touching the Earth today, we practiced with the Three Jewels. There is the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. What does this mean? Comparison with the Trinity in Christianity. Do you know how to love? Do you know how to understand? What is the guideline for looking deeply so we can love and understand? What are the elements of a sangha? What can you do to start a sangha? Why is a sangha important?

At 40-minutes we begin the sutra study. What is a seperate self? The self is ever changing. We have the illusion that it’s the same. No sameness. No otherness. It’s the middle way. What is conventional designation? Formation and samskara. You Are, So I Am. Discusses sutra in light of Spinoza, a Dutch philosopher.

In the relative world there is birth, becoming, action, and formation. The teaching of interacting is the teaching of no-self. Thay explores this within the context of early Buddhism and the development of the teaching.

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Inclusiveness is the Love of Jesus

April 14, 2012. 95-minute recording given at Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney, Ireland by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is the second dharma talk for the Mindful Living Today retreat.

We begin with a new chant with the inviting the bell and listening to the bell Gathas. The chant is accompanied by traditional flute.

To meditate means to have the time to be calm and to look deeply. Anyone can learn and teach meditation. Connecting with our mother, especially if she is still alive, and we can use the second mantra to be happy she is still alive. Don’t wait. Darling, I know you are there and I am so happy. We can use this with our loved ones. And for those without our mother, we can look for her in the palm of our hand. Thay then uses the hand to illustrate the wisdom of non-discrimination. If we meditate deeply we can learn this wisdom.

The first mindfulness training is about protecting life. A human is made of non-human elements. To protect the environment and other species is to protect ourselves. This is deep ecology. This is a deep practice.

The second mindfulness training is about true happiness. We have to change our idea about happiness. The third mindfulness training is about true love. Kindness. Compassion. Joy. Non-discrimination. We can reduce the suffering with true love. The fourth mindfulness training is about deep listening and loving speech. This training can open up new possibilities. It is a real peace process. How can we heal deep division? Thay provides specific instructions. Last, the fifth mindfulness training is about mindful consumption. The five trainings are not teory. It is very practical. It is the deep teaching of Jesus and the Buddha. We should keep our Christian roots and meditation can make our roots stronger.

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Being a Better Christian through Mindfulness

April 13, 2012. 99-minute recording given at Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney, Ireland by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is the first dharma talk for the Mindful Living Today retreat.

We begin with a teaching for the children on pepple meditation and inviting the bell.

We have the seed for the kingdom of God.

We need to learn how to make good use of our suffering. Happiness and suffering. We should not be afraid of suffering.

We need to recognize the kingdom of god in the here and now. The practice of mindfulness will help.

Finally, we can rediscover Jesus as a spiritual teacher. Learn to live like Jesus by using Buddhist meditation. The teaching of here and now is also in the gospel.

Working with strong emotions using your breath. We have sixteen exercises of mindful breathing. That teaches on the first 8-exercises.

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Being a Better Christian through Mindfulness

April 13, 2012. 99-minute recording given at Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney, Ireland by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is the first dharma talk for the Mindful Living Today retreat.

We begin with a teaching for the children on pepple meditation and inviting the bell.

We have the seed for the kingdom of God.

We need to learn how to make good use of our suffering. Happiness and suffering. We should not be afraid of suffering.

We need to recognize the kingdom of god in the here and now. The practice of mindfulness will help.

Finally, we can rediscover Jesus as a spiritual teacher. Learn to live like Jesus by using Buddhist meditation. The teaching of here and now is also in the gospel.

Working with strong emotions using your breath. We have sixteen exercises of mindful breathing. That teaches on the first 8-exercises.

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God Can Be A Person

December 24, 2011. 105-minute dharma talk and chanting with Thich Nhat Hanh as he gives the annual Christmas Eve talk from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. The sangha is in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat and this is the first talk in English. The talk was also enjoyed by over 550 people live via the Internet.

The practice of Plum Village is “I Have Arrived. I am Home.” We can breathe in a feel alive right here and now. We stop all our thinking and focus our mind on our in breath and get established in the here and the now. Mindfulness is a kind of light to know what is happening in the present moment. With mindfulness we can become a Saint, a Buddha, a Bodhisattva . With this light. One day science will be able to measure the type of energy created by mindfulness practice. The collective energy of everyone. We can send waves of mindfulness, compassion and peace, we create interference and enhance the energy of everyone. All of us are looking for our true home. We may only feel happy when we are home. Our practice is to go home in every moment. Breathe and you are alive. Many of us have succeeded in that practice. When we do this, we also become the home for other people.

When we practice like this, we may get in touch with planet Earth. In Plum Village we look at the planet Earth as a bodhisattva. You do not have to be a person to be a bodhisattva. Everything has a buddha nature. During walking meditation, we may see that the Earth is the most beautiful bodhisattva. Patience, stability, creativity, and love – these are some of the qualities of this bodhisattva. We are a part of her. With mindfulness of walking and breathing, we can connect with our body. Your healing must go together with the healing of the planet earth. The earth is not our environment, the earth is us.

We have spoken about two kinds of vertical theology and the horizontal theology. With vertical, we try to get in touch with the absolute; the ultimate dimension of reality. When cannot arrive in our true home without touching this ultimate reality; we have to touch God. What are we? Where do we come from? We want to know our true nature.

In the Christian tradition, we learn that Jesus is the Son of God. It means that through Jesus you can touch the Ultimate Dimension, the ultimate reality, the ground of being, the almighty. We also learn that Jesus is the Son of Man. As the Son of Man, he belongs to the historical dimension where there is being and non-being, birth and death, sameness and otherness, good and evil. Notions that make us suffer. These can the foundation of our fear, anxiety, and suffering. But Jesus is not only the Son of Man, he is also the Son of God. If we get in touch with Jesus deeply enough, then we can see this ultimate dimension. We have to see Jesus as both. In the Buddhist tradition, it is very clear that everyone belongs to the historical dimension and we also belong to the ultimate dimension. This is our nature and we can learn to transcend our notions.

Merry Christmas to everyone.

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