The Flower is Full of Everything

August 14, 2011. 86-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from War Memorial Gym at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the final talk of the retreat.

Exercises of mindful breathing from the Anapanasati Sutta: the first four are (1) identify your breath, (2) follow your breath, (3) aware, and (4) release. From here we move to the feelings. They are (5) generate joy, (6) generate happiness, (7) aware of painful feelings, and (8) embrace the painful feeling. We then (9) recognize joy, (10) gladdening the mind, (11) concentrating the mind, (12) liberate the mind.

There are at least three types of concentration in Buddhism known as the Three Doors of Liberation: Emptiness, Signlessness, Aimlessness.  Thay provides an detailed explanation of each door.

The next four exercises are concentrations proposed by the Buddha, but we do explore these in depth during this talk. We also hear about no birth/no death, being/non-being, coming/going, and sameness/otherness.

Emptiness does not mean non-existence. A glass can be empty or full of tea, but in order to be empty or full the glass needs to be there. So emptiness does not mean non-existence. This glass is empty of tea, but it is full of air. So it is helpful for us to ask, ‘Empty of what?’ To be empty is always to be empty of something. When we contemplate a flower like this, we see the flower is full of everything: the cloud, the sunshine, the Earth, time, space, the gardener—everything has come together to help the flower to manifest. Why do we say it is empty? It is empty of only one thing: a separate existence. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower is full of non-flower elements. It is clear that the flower has to be interbe with everything in the cosmos. She cannot be by herself alone. To be by oneself alone is impossible. So we begin to see the interdependence of everything.

He uses the example of a match which requires the action of us striking it for a flame to manifest. In life we are the same: when we ask ‘Where do we come from?’ or ‘Where are we going?’ we see that we do not come from anywhere. “When conditions come together sufficiently, I manifest. My nature is the nature of no coming and no going. When conditions are no longer sufficient, I just stop manifestation and wait for a chance to manifest again. My nature is no coming, no going.”

This concludes the retreat in Vancouver. After a public talk on August 14, the sangha will travel to Colorado for a retreat at Estes Park.

The talk is available below. There is a video version available too.

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