The Art of Being Peace

For the Fifth International Buddhist Conference in May 2008, the Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh was invited to offer the opening keynote address. The event took place at the National Convention Center, Hanoi, Vietnam with the theme Buddhist Contribution to Building a Just, Democratic and Civilized Society. Hosted by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and co-organized by International Organizing Vietnam Buddhist Sangha and National Coordinating Committee for the United Nations Day of Vesak. The date is May 13, 2008 and both audio and video are available below. The talk is 53-minutes. 

Thich Nhat Hanh

Promoting Peace

Practicing Buddhism is the art of being peace, the art of promoting peace, in the society and in the world. We all should learn this art. 
We all have elements of war in our body. Practicing Buddhism is recognizing these elements so that we can then transform these elements. In the Sutra on Mindful Breathing, the Buddha provided us the practice to release the tension in our body. It only takes a few minutes. If we can release the tension in our body, then our body can learn to heal itself. When we make peace body, we can begin to make peace with our feelings and emotions. Do you know how to recognize your emotions? This is the art of making peace with ourselves. Our body, and our feelings and emotions. The Buddha also taught in this sutra how to recognize and transform our mental formations. The Buddhist practice means going home to oneself. To restore peace. How does this work in the family setting? Or in the school setting? Why is it important for parents and teachers to learn this art of being peace? 

Deep Listening and Loving Speech

During our time teaching in the west, we have also taught listening with compassion and using loving speech to restore communication. In Plum Village, we have practiced this intentionally with groups in conflict – Israelis and Palestinians. What is outlined above is used to illustrate practical application with these groups. In Mahayana Buddhism, we have the Bodhissatva Avalokiteshvara – the bodhissatva of compassion. They do this practice in order to suffer less. 

Right View is the view of dependent co-arising, no-self, interbeing. Practitioners should always remember to maintain this right view in their daily life. How does this look between a father and a son? We learn that suffering is not an individual matter. Everything this is linked to everything else. To protect other species on earth, and the earth itself, is to protect ourselves. This is the insight of interbeing. 

The Five Mindfulness Trainings

Thay reminds of Unesco’s Manifesto 2000 which Thay helped to create with several Nobel Peace Prize laureates. There are six points and has been signed by 75-million people. This arose from the teachings of Buddhism and are very similar to the Five Mindfulness Trainings. If we practice these, we will have peace in ourselves and in the world. Just signing is not enough; we need to put it into practice. This is why we recommend forming ourselves into communities – in our families, schools, workplace, and within governments. These can all become a sangha and bring these six points (and Five Mindfulness Trainings) into practice. 

The practice of deep ecology, mindful consumption and the Five Mindfulness Trainings. The trainings also teach us not to exploit people or the earth. We have been talking a lot about peace, but we have not done enough for the cause of peace. Whatever we can do in terms of thinking, speech, and action could be considered as an offering to the Lord Budhha. As an example, we learn how Deer Park Monastery in California is using solar energy and having car free days. Reducing consumption, learning to live more simply, and to have more time to take care of oneself and our beloved ones is very crucial and is the way of peace. 

Living happily in the present moment. And taking care of the present moment is taking care of the future. This can assure a beautiful future.

We conclude with a short guided meditation offered by Thich Nhat Hanh. 

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What Does it Mean to be Free

The sangha is gathered together at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2011 US Teaching Tour with the theme Cultivating the Mind of Love. It is the fourth day of the retreat. This 108-minute question and answer session is from October 1, 2011 and both the audio and video are available with this post.

A good question can help many people. It can be a question about our suffering and our happiness.

We begin with a few questions from the children.

  1. What are some of the traditional foods in a Buddhist monastery? (4:33)
  2. What helps to clear your mind? (13:55)
  3. Is it true that if you don’t believe in God that you go to the underworld? (17:32)
  4. What kind of Buddha’s are there? (21:40)

Followed by questions from teenagers, young adults, and adults.

  1. How can I relate to another person, and love another person, but not experience the three complexes – inferiority, superiority, and equality? (27:14)
  2. What would you advise someone who has been diagnosed with attention disorder, or any mental illness, that hinders a person from being in the now. And have had to rely on medications for their whole life. How can they live in the now? (32:40)
  3. What would you do if you had a friend who isn’t being loving to each other, and you are caught in the middle? (37:28)
  4. How can I not suffer when I see my 26-year old son’s life unraveling due to his drug addictions? I am overcome by grief and despair. (56:45)
  5. When facing a decision, where your only see two possible answers – the one you think is right and the one you feel is right – how can you know which one? (1:03:45)
  6. What does it mean to be free?(1:23:50)
  7. How can a Vietnam veteran, who still suffers from PTSD, communicate to the many generations of Vietnamese people at this retreat that he cared for the Vietnamese? (1:34:23)

We have one more talk in this series from Mississippi. Stay tuned.

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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Create a Loving Support Group

Dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh on August 16, 2001 at the University of Massachusetts during a retreat with the theme, “The Practice of Peace and Nonviolence in Family, School, and the Workplace,” from August 13-18, 2001 in Amherst, Massachusetts. We begin with the creation of a loving support group in the classroom and then continue with teaching on consumption.

These students are my continuation of mine and should create a loving support group in your class or school. We can then begin practicing peace and happiness in the class. We can understand the suffering so we can then transform. Suffering is there. A little bit everywhere. Including in our children and in the classroom. Recognizing this is the first noble truth of the Buddha. The group can propose a session of deep listening that includes the teacher, so the teacher can know about the suffering of the children. If we have such a group in the class, then the group can support each other. You can practice the Third Mantra: I suffer, please help. Thay shares how a student can communicate to the teacher by using loving speech. We can also learn how to address being persecuted by another student. How do we practice this? How do we help children feel happy when they think of school? How does the teacher feel excited to come and teach?

The children should be able to express their difficulties. We don’t need to be cruel to create happiness. Many sessions of deep listening may need to be organized. The schools should allow this to take place. It is about ethics and should be an aspect of school life. Thay tells the story of Henry, a mathematic teacher in Toronto, who came to Plum Village to learn about mindfulness.

At this point we shift away from the children and Thay begins a talk on anger. Anger has roots in the body and in the consciousness. The Five Skandhas: body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, store consciousness. What is a formation? Anger is a feeling and a mental formation. Anger is in every cell of our body. All our ancestors are in every cell of our body.

To illustrate, Thay teaches about chickens. Mindfulness can help. In particular, mindful consumption. Thay shares a report on meat eating, food production, and deforestation. We then turn to the Discourse on the Sons Flesh. Bringing toxins into our body. Nourishing compassion can by looking deeply into the food we eat. Sangha is where we learn to generate compassion. Sangha is a way out. Everyone can be a Sangha builder.

We turn to the Four Kinds of Nutriments and it starts with edible food. Then we turn to sensory impressions. We need a collection he awakening. When you listen to a dharma talk, then you don’t consume poisons. But thinking too can be consuming. Our elected people also need to be awakened to consumption. Some discussion of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Practice with a gatha to help us with our consumption.

We conclude with a discussion on the third kind of nutriment. Volition. Your deepest desire. That is a type of food too.

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