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Questions and Answers Retreats

Toxic Inputs

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We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this fifth post, we hear two questions.

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

1. How can we influence other members of our family, especially other adults, who want to avoid toxic inputs such as television shows, alcohol, etc. often they are not interested in changing their lifestyle or the practice. How can handle this in our home.

2. What should you do if someone feels bad and you want to make them feel better.

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Retreats

Sitting on our Portable Lotus Flower

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In this 95-minute talk we learn how to sit, how to practice with the love mantras, and how to practice insight in order to transform our suffering. The talk takes place on August 14, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is the second dharma talk of the retreat. We begin with the monastics chanting The Four Recollections.

Sitting on our Portable Lotus Flower

9:25 Thay leads us in a short guided meditation. To be alive is the greatest of all miracles. Please sit like a Buddha. Thay teaches us about the lotus (or half-lotus) position. Feeling solid and stable. This way of sitting influences the mind. We are sitting like a mountain. The solidity of the body has something to do with the solidity of the mind. It is like sitting on a lotus flower. What does this mean? 

16:15 A story of the time Thay visited a prison in Maryland. Sitting with a few hundred inmates, we learned how to sit like a Buddha on a lotus flower. How to keep our back upright and to release tension. We also learned how to practice a mindful meal. This visit later became a book called Be Free Where You Are

19:25 We describe the Buddha as an artist. Sitting on the lotus flower. As a friend of the buddha, it is nice to know how to sit like him. The Buddha is not a God. He was a human being. He did become a free, happy, enlightened person. The word Buddha is a title, not a name. Anyone can become a Buddha. Do you have a capacity to sit like a Buddha? What are the challenges we experience as students of the Buddha. 

21:57 When Mr. Nelson Mandela came to visit France, he was asked what he’d like to do the most. He responded by saying, to sit down. To rest. Thay said we need some training in order to sit well. To do nothing. To be a Buddha is to allow freshness, solidity and peace to manifest in us. Sometimes we are very close to this. Almost a Buddha. 

Love Mantras

25:13 When you love someone, the best thing you can offer them is your Buddhahood. To have a little Buddha as a present for our loved ones. In this moment, Thay is teaching this to the children present at the talk. The best kind of present is your beautiful presence. Our mindful sitting and walking can improve our presence. It just takes some practice. 

29:02 In Buddhism, we sometimes practice a mantra. It is something that can help transform a situation.

“Darling, I am here for you”

You can practice with this. To love is to offer your fresh presence. And when you are truly there, you may notice something else is there – your beloved one, and the world. This mantra is the first step. Then you can say,

“Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.”

To acknowledge the presence of your loved one. To be loved is to be recognized. We are reminded that you don’t need to go to the meditation hall in order to practice. No matter how old you are, you can still practice these two mantras. Without love, happiness is not possible. 

What would it be like to have a million dollars? Would this make me happy? Allow me to do more? Would it bring happiness? What Thay has is mindfulness, and this can bring us a lot of happiness. When we have enough insight, we are not caught up in difficult situations anymore. This comes from our mindfulness and concentration. We come to this retreat to learn how to do things with mindfulness. To create love, understanding, and insight. This is the gift of the Buddha. 

Contemplating the Body

38:59 In the previous talk, we were trying to learn just one thing – releasing the tension. The Buddha has much to teach us on healing. Every step we take can help us release the tension. Every breath that we take can help us release the tension. When we allow our body to relax, our body begins to have the capacity for healing itself. There are many ways to do this, such as deep relaxation practice. In the sutra on the contemplation of the body, the Buddha uses an example of farmer who went into the cellar and opened a bag of seeds. Thay teaches us this practice of scanning our body with a ray of mindfulness. How do use this practice? This practice will bring relieve. And if we know how to go a little bit further, into our ill-being, we may discover the roots of our ill-being. Looking deeply with concentration. What is the source of our ill-being. 

47:18 In Buddhism, we teach the Four Noble Truths. And the first is ill-being, and we have to call it by its true name. Sickness, anger, fear, depressions, etc. To recognize it and to name it. From that we can see the second noble truth; the roots of that ill-being. We look at this truth in terms of nutriments. Nothing can survive without food. If we have fear or depression, it is because we have been feeding them. Just practicing this, you are already on the path of healing. If depression is there, perhaps we have lived in such a way to make that possible, we ask what did we consume? What kind of contact did we have? We look at the second noble truth in terms of nutriments. How do we practice with this in order to transform the depression? The fourth noble truth cannot be seen unless we first see the second noble truth. Do not run away from suffering so we can begin to see the path of healing in the fourth noble truth. 

The Buddha is a Human Being

54:30 The second noble truth is the path leading to ill-being. The path of consumption. The Buddha spoke of four kinds of nutriments: edible food, sensory impressions. What is the importance practicing mindful consumption? How can we do this in our daily lives? Why do we consume when we don’t need to consume? 

1:01:04 Continuing from the previous talk, we look again at store and mind consciousness. When the seed of anxiety, fear, or confusion come up to our mind consciousness level then we feel uneasy. It makes us suffer. That is why we want to occupy the mind with another object (such as a film or a book). But this is a way to repress the feeling of uneasiness. To coverup the feeling of emptiness. We want to forget our suffering. The practice recommended by the Buddha, you should not try to suppress it with consumption, but invite the energy of mindfulness to manifest by mindful walking or mindful breathing. This can help take care of that energy that makes you suffer. We strengthen the seed of mindfulness through our daily practice so we can more easily apply it when we are suffering from fear, sorrow, despair. It is recognizing and embracing our suffering. The energy of mindfulness is something that can continue to grow inside of us. The Buddha is inside of you and you are capable of holding your pain, sorrow, and fear. We don’t need to practice consumption without mindfulness. We need to stop consuming toxins. We practice mindfulness to recognize and hold the pain and sorrow. That is the Buddha at work inside of you. The Buddha is a human being. 

1:12:23 Those who of us who don’t practice, we practice repressing our fear and anger. We cause bad circulation of our psyche because we suppress the negative feelings. With this bad circulation, symptoms of mental illness appear. The practice is to allow the pain to emerge. And if we are equipped with mindfulness, then we are no longer afraid. If we are still young in the practice, we can ask for help from the sangha to help restore the circulation of our psyche. With some months of practice, we can do this on our own. To use our mindfulness and concentration to look into the nature of our ill-being. The path leading to the cessation of ill-being is also the path leading to well-being. This is third noble truth. The existence of well-being. 

1:17:10 The beginning of well-being. This path is a noble path. Mindfulness always carry the energy of concentration. And if you live mindfully, then you can see through to the true nature of our suffering. This is insight meditation. It has the power to liberate. With this you can liberate yourself and you can help liberate other people. 

1:20:09 Remembering the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia. All of us suffer. We ask why did this happen and why did so many people die? We want to know why. Thay also suffered, but by practicing looking deeply to see that we too have died with them also. And we discover they died for us and that we should live for them. How are we living today so their death will have a meaning? This is interbeing. This is insight. We are all of the nature to die. We are all of the nature to get sick. We need courage to have the strength of our mindfulness. How do we die with peacefulness? Nothing is born and nothing dies. There is no birth and no death. This insight can remove fear and true happiness is possible. 

With our practice, we bring the element of non-fear. Thay teaches in light of climate change and the use of technology. 

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Plum Village Retreats

Conscious Breathing is Nourishing

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The sangha is practicing in the Lower Hamlet, Plum Village during the Spring Retreat. We begin this March 19, 2006 dharma talk with 18-minutes of chanting by the monks and nuns followed by a dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh.

We need to be nourished by joy and happiness in our daily life. Breathing in, I feel the joy. Breathing out, I am nourished by happiness. The practice is to know how to generate joy and happiness. How is this possible? We have the sangha and the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

Joy is born from the awareness that happiness is possible. Whether you practice alone or you practice with a sangha, you should be aware of the positive elements around us. But with a sangha, it is easier and we have the energy of the sangha. With a sangha, we can practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings much better.

What is the difference between joy and happiness?

Thay shares a story of a meeting with a San Francisco Chronicle journalist. With each journalist, Thay always invites them to practice mindfulness before the interview so they can write a good article that can help many people by watering the seeds of joy. To write with compassion. Every article can be a practice.

Practitioners of meditation should get the right nourishment every day – joy and happiness. They are there already. How do we water these seeds? Walking meditation is one method.

Mindful consumption and the Four Kinds of the Nutriments (from the sutra, “The Son’s Flesh“). Collective decisions in a sangha can help protect us from unmindful consumption because we practice together. No effort. It’s wonderful. Compassion can protects us. And compassion is born from understanding. Understanding is born when you can listen and look deeply. And by consuming understanding and compassion, we can live a more healthy and happy life. And know how to nourish this 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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Public Talk

Happiness is the Way

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May 27, 2013. 69-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Hong Kong Coliseum. The sangha is on the spring Asian Tour and this talk is given in English with consecutive translation into Chinese. This is the Public Talk.

Thay has a few questions to ask the audience and the questions might touch something very deep in you and provide you with insight to see the way to go. Allow the question to penetrate into your heart.

  • Are you in love? 
  • Are you still in love? 
  • Do you want to reconnect with the person you used to love? 
  • Do you think that he or she is happier than you are now? 
  • Do you have the time for each other or are you both to busy? 
  • Have you been able to preserve your freshness and beauty for yourself and for the other person? 
  • Are you capable to offer him or her freshness and beauty everyday? 
  • Do you know how to handle the suffering within yourself? 
  • Are you able to help handle the suffering in the other person? 
  • Do you understand your own suffering and the roots of that suffering? 
  • Are you able to understand the suffering in the other person? 
  • Do you have the capacity to help the other person suffer less? 
  • Have you learned the way to calm down your painful feelings and emotions? 
  • Do you have the time to listen to yourself, your suffering, your difficulties, and your deepest desire? 
  • Do you have the time to listen to him or her and help him or her to suffer less? 
  • Do you know the Buddhist way of restoring communication and bringing about reconciliation? 
  • Are you capable of creating a feeling of joy and happiness for yourself? 
  • Are you capable of helping the other person to create a feeling of joy and happiness? 
  • Do you really think you have a clear spiritual path to go? 
  • Do you have the feeling of peace and contentment within yourself? 
  • Do you know to nourish your love everyday? 
  • Have you ever met a person who is truly happy? 

During the most recent retreat at the YMCA camp in Hong Kong, we learned about walking meditation. How can we arrive with every step in the here and the now. We also learned how to breatha and sit in order to transform our suffering. In order to understand and recognize the suffering in ourselves and the other person. We only need a short time of practice to gain understanding.

What is compassionate listening and loving speech? How can we create reconciliation?

Making the Five Precepts relevant to our time. The precepts and noble eightfold path are based on the insight of Right View and allow you to transcend all discrimination.

The first training is protecting life. The second is about true happiness. Next we have true love. We’ve already touched on deep listening and loving speech, the subject of the fourth. The last training is about consumption. We cover the Four Kinds of Nutriments.

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English/French Plum Village Retreats

The Noble Truths of Nourishment

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May 13, 2012. 76-minute recording given at Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the first talk given during the Health Retreat and the talk was given in French. This recording is the English translation.

Listen, Listen to this sound of the bell. Every breath is a pleasure. Mindfulness. Concentration. Insight.

Thay talks about the relationship between food and the four noble truths and explains the four types of nutriments.

Edible foods
Sense impressions (eye, ears, mind, body)
Volition (deepest desire)
Collective conciousness

Physical health may not be possible without spiritual health. Without compassion, happiness is impossible.

The talk ends with instruction on eating in freedom.

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Day of Mindfulness Plum Village

Questions about Global Climate Change

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March 18, 2012. 70-minute talk from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village, France. It is a rainy day today and we hear responses to a series of questions presented by a magazine in the UK on the topic of climate change and global warming.

  1. Do you believe humans can avoid a global ecological collapse, or are we driving ourselves towards one?
  2. The urban population across the world is growing. What if anything is lost by our increasing switch towards being an urban species?
  3. Are we a vulnerable species or one still in control of our destiny?
  4. There is strong support for engineered solutions to our ecological problems, for example reflecting the sun’s rays, sucking up carbon emissions, or lab-grown meat. Is this the right approach for us to be taking?
  5. Most of us in the West are still attached to a high-consumption lifestyle. We like to buy new and exciting things. Is there a strong enough alternative lifestyle out there that can convince us to leave this high-consumption lifestyle we have?
  6. Have we found a new narrative, one that can help us learn to live more sustainably before it is too late?
  7. What is the hardest part of the lifestyle you have chosen to live, and how do you attract young people to follow?
  8. Can we strive for financial and spiritual contentment, or are they mutually exclusive?
  9. Most environmentalists narrow down the problems we face into two issues: overconsumption and overpopulation. Where do you stand?

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Answering Questions about Global Climate Change from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

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Deer Park Monastery

Jesus is the Bread

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September 4, 2011. 91-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from the Ocean of Peace Mediation Hall at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the first Day of Mindfulnss during a month-long stay in Escondido.

This is a happy moment. When you love someone, you want him or her to be there for you. How can you love if you are not there? To love is a practice. To practice mindful walking and mindful breathing. You can then offer yourself. You are truly there. The most precious gift is your true presence.

Children are flowers in the garden of humanity. Each of us are born as a flower. We need to preserve our flowerness. To be a true lover we need to know how to take care of ourselves. This is a Buddhist practice.

The First Mantra is “Darling, I am here for you.” And, when you want someone to know of your love then you can practice the Second Mantra. “Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.

Thay also teaches on listening to the bell, and the establishment of a breathing room for the family to restore your flowerness.

Thay shares with us the about the nature of bread, that contains the whole cosmos: the Buddha, Jesus, all things are in the bread. “You don’t need to think, there is just awareness. Awareness and insight, but no thinking. No thinking is the secret. We can eat every morsel of our lunch in that way.”

He continues to share about the story of the young couple in the Sutra on the Son’s Flesh who decide to move to another country with their son. Faced with starvation in the desert, they decide to kill their little boy and eat his flesh, crying and beating their chests as they do so. “After the Buddha told this story to the monks, he turned to them and said, ‘Dear friends, do you think the parents enjoyed eating the flesh of their own son?’ ‘No, it is impossible that they could enjoy it.’

The Buddha said, ‘Let us eat in such a way that we preserve our compassion and mindfulness, otherwise when we eat it is like we are eating the flesh of our own son.'” “We should be the aware that many of the items that we consume, with the eyes, the ear, the body, the mind, can be very toxic. A television program, an article, may be full of anger, hate and violence. If we allow our children to consume these items, the toxins will go into their consciousness. Even conversations can sometimes be very toxic.”

The talk is available below. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and Jesus is the Bread.