Practicing in the Winter Retreat

November 17, 2011. 53-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet in Plum Village, France. The sangha is preparing for the upcoming 90-day Winter Retreat. Thay shares some guiding practices for the community to follow during the upcoming Winter Retreat: touching the Earth, sitting meditation, realizing the practice in all activities, etc.

Deepen practice. Build sangha. Cultivate peace. Make our breathing more peaceful. Improve the quality. We can bring four things into the practice: Peace. Clarity. Compassion. Courage. These four virtues bring happiness to the practitioner. Other elements of happiness: Brotherhood and sisterhood. A Path. What is your story of transformation and healing?

This winter we will study texts in preparation for 21-day retreat in June 2012. The theme of that retreat will be the Science of the Buddha. The first text will be the Paramartha Gathas of Asaga, 44-verses. Thay has translated this into Vietnamese and will serve as the foundation for a new English translation during the Winter Retreat (it has previously been translated into English by  Professor Alex Wayman). It is also available in Chinese and Sanskrit. The second text, if we have time, we will be Studies on the Objects of Conciousness. This too has been translated by Thay.

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I Am Made Only of Non-Me Elements: Library of Congress Talk

October 26, 2011. Coolidge Auditorium, Jefferson Building, at the Library of Congress.. Washington DC is the final stop on the 2011 North American Tour before Thay returns to France.

Annual Walter Capps-Bill Emerson Memorial Lecture co-hosted by Faith and Politics Institute, U.S. Institute of Peace and Walter K. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life. Introductions by Mark Farr, Congresswoman JoAnn Emerson (R-MO) and Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA).

We need a spiritual dimension in our lives. With a spiritual dimension, we can overcome our difficulties. It is important to move beyond the intellectual dimension and bring the body and mind together. We can nourish and restore ourselves in order to help other people. In our practice we can see that we are made of non-me elements. This is a wonder. The wonder of the Kingdom of God. Breathing in, we can be present right now. This can link the body and the mind.

Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. And mindfulness can be generated by us. Happiness arises from compassion. Understanding suffering gives rise to compassion. Terrorists are victims of misunderstanding and wrong perceptions. In order to remove terrorism, we must remove wrong perceptions. It can’t be done with bombs and killing. We need compassion, not the energy of fear and suspicion.

A member of congress is a cell in the body of the congress. Each cell has a responsibility to provide clarity, compassion, and courage. We can nourish the congress and make it a healthy body. Mindfulness can help cultivate these qualities. We can generate a feeling of happiness, a feeling of joy. Then we can also handle a painful feeling or emotion.

Mindfulness of compassion is what we need. We use loving speech and compassionate listening. Hearing examples of reconciliation makes this real and practical.

Making good use of our suffering. We can listen to the suffering inside of us, the other person, and in the world. We don’t run away from it. We can cultivate peace and understanding from this place of suffering. Thay’s vision is our understanding the suffering.

We conclude with a few questions.

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