Questions and Answers

This is a 117-minute session of questions and answers with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism in the 21st Century” retreat. The date is May 10, 2008 and the questions and answers are offered in English. 

Questions

  1. How would applied Buddhism look to the healthcare professional? (3:25)
  2. How do we deal with guilt? (8:07)
  3. My father cares about no-one and has no interest in life. He also has lots of anger. How can I help him? (17:50)
  4. A question on mindfulness of joy. Can you explain a little more about joy as it relates too attachment to the joy? (23:30)
  5. Experiencing suffering in not being able to conceive a child. (32:30)
  6. A question about medication and depression. In reference to what Thay taught in a previous talk. Sometimes there is also a physiological aspect to depression. Concern that Thay’s teaching may be misunderstood. Can you clarify? (41:24)
  7. Why does life exist? Why are we here? (56:33)
  8. As a young person, how can I use the practice and be able to share with other young people? Is there some more creative language that might speak more to young people? (1:00:00)
  9. How do we forgive someone whom we have never known intimately and have no way of communicating? For the suffering they have caused. (1:08:15)
  10. Having recently traveled in Laos and meeting many people impacted by the war and areas where unexploded ordinance remains. This caused anger and sadness to arise in me. Is this karma? Is this a time when we can be righteously angry? (1:16:03)
  11. There are young people who grow-up in a loving and supportive environment, but when they travel for university or work, they will face really negative pressure. This is a challenge. We should vaccinate our mind. Should we give children challenges so they are better prepared? (1:25:50)
  12. What is your intention with offering the Five Mindfulness Trainings? (1:35:30)
  13. Question about the 5th Mindfulness Training. This training watered by feeling of fear based on my upbringing as a Catholic. (1:45:30)
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You are Both Depression and Mindfulness

This is a 96-minute dharma talk with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh from Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism” retreat. This is the second talk on May 6, 2008 and the talk in offered in English. We begin with a teaching on mental formations and the roots of our ill-being before moving toward the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. 

Samskara. 

A Buddhist technical term. Means formation. Physical, biological, and mental. What is a formation? Recognizing that all formations are impermanent. When we observe a formation, we should be able to see this impermanent nature. 

Mental Formations

In the Plum Village tradition, we talk of 51 mental formations. There are positive formations – compassion, loving kindness, joy, etc. These are wholesome mental formations. As practitioners, can we recognize and help them to manifest? We also have negative mental formations – craving, anger, hate, jealousy, etc. In our practice, we refrain from watering these negative formations. Further, there are also indefinite mental formations – they can be wholesome or unwholesome. 
Practicing meditation is a way to recognize the mental formation. Thay teaches examples of how to do this practice of awareness with mental formations. Mindfulness. In the present moment. 

Bija

These are seeds we all carry. For example, we have a seed of anger. It may not be present as a mental formation right now, but it is a seed in our consciousness. These seeds can become a mental formation. Learning to water the wholesome seeds so they may arise as a mental formation. 

The two layers of consciousness – Store and Mind. The seeds live in store. With the practice, we can water wholesome seeds in store and help them manifest into kind consciousness. Thay teaches this is greater detail along with concrete examples. 

Mindfulness of our mental formations. An example of depression. No fighting between mindfulness and depression. It is simply to recognize. And then to embrace with tenderness. This is the energy of depression. And this is the energy of mindfulness. This is our practice. Supporting through non-duality and non-violence. Both seeds are you. You are both depression and mindfulness. 

Mindfulness, Concentration, Insight

In the Sutra the Four Establishments of Mindfulness, the Buddha teaches to begin with the body. Today we move into the second realm of practice. Aware of the feelings and emotions. And then take good care of them. Mindfulness has the function to recognize, to hold, and bring relief. It also carries the energy of concentration. 

Mindfulness leads to concentration. With concentration, you can take a deep look at your feelings and the. discover the roots of what is. This brings insight – liberation. This only comes if you have strong concentration. This begins with mindfulness. 

Roots of Ill-Being and the Noble Eightfold Path

Coming home to the present moment. To recognize ill-being as it is. The first noble truth. Through looking at ill-being, we can discover the second noble truth. Craving. Hate. Ignorance. Wrong perception. Lack of communication. What is the cause of our ill-being? Do we know how to live like a Buddha? To bring a spiritual dimension to our daily life? What are the methods of removing wrong perceptions? Even in the case of war and terrorism. 

Consumption, developing countries, large populations, meat industry, and learning to reduce our consumption. From the roots of ill-being we can discover the path. By practicing deeply the first and the second noble truths we can discover the fourth noble truth. Using the Five Mindfulness Trainings to guide us. Protecting life and the practice of love. Thay offers a summary of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. 

In the noble eightfold path, the Buddha recommends Right View. This is the insight of interbeing. And once you have this insight, you discover Right Thinking. Right Speech. Right Action.

Engaged Buddhism can be seen in the light of the Four Noble Truths. It responds to suffering. It responds to ill-being. With a noble path. Helping beings in countless ways.

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How to Promote World Peace

From the Rising Tide Meditation Hall at a retreat at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is a session of questions and responses from those at the 6-day retreat with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World. The date is September 28, 2013.

Try the BetterListen Version of this entire retreat – click the image below

Better Listen

  1. How do you deal with depression?
  2. How is it possible for humankind to achieve world peace?
  3. How do I help a friend who is depressed?
  4. How can I help a friend who has a problem with his parents and has suicidal thoughts?
  5. How can I help a friend who speaks in anger to his mother and to be less angry?
  6. What do you do when you are stuck between two paths in your life?
  7. What is the Buddhist perspective on mental disorders, particularly personality disorder, and how a family can heal with this ongoing challenge?
  8. How can I practice with my fear of dying?
  9. What is the essence of true love?
  10. Should we act as a human shield to raise awareness and to stop war and violence in the world?
  11. Concerns about consumption of products with less integrity.
  12. How can I work with the historical suffering of the Jewish community?
  13. I would like to offer walking meditation and do you feel that I am qualified?
  14. How does this sangha influence the other sanghas we have created, such as government?
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Buddhism is not a Philosophy

October 11, 2012. 118-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is enjoying the Autumn Retreat and this is a Day

Teaching of suffering and the transformation of suffering. We don’t speculate on philosophical questions. We don’t only use our intellect. Buddhism is practical. How to handle a painful feeling? A strong emotion?

There is an insight on Interbeing. Non-self. Emptiness. What is true happiness? What is understanding and love? Practical application of the Four Noble Truths. When we are able to see our own suffering, we are better able to see the suffering of others.

Thay shares a few more stories from the time of the Vietnam war in terms of hope and despair. Generating joy and happiness through the exercises on mindful breathing.

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How does it feel when you’re dead? Question and Answer Session

July 18, 2012. 88-minute recording given at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the ninth dharma talk of the Summer Opening and this is a session of questions and answers.

Children

  1. How does it feel when you are dead?
  2. Sometimes I feel nobody loves us and I’m all alone.
  3. A game the children are playing has something about killing. Is this okay? Help me understand.

Teens and Adults

  1. People seem afraid of silence. Is it because they are afraid of being with themselves?
  2. I experience extreme energies and sometimes feel as a victim with the energy.
  3. Husband is in a deep depression and then one of our daughters was seriously injured. He feels it’s unjust and he is suffering. How can I help him transform suffering he doesn’t see in himself?
  4. Difficulties with meditation. What happens during meditation and how can I improve?

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The Noble Truths of Nourishment

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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Applied Mindfulness of Breathing

January 4, 2012. 102-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. The sangha is in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat, but within that retreat is the 6-day Applied Ethics and Teachers Retreat. This talk is given in English. During the past six days we have practiced together as educators.

We begin with a teaching on the first eight steps of the Sutra on Mindful Breathing. Belly breathing. Rising and falling of the abdomen. We are much more than one emotion and with this practice we can realize this.

Thay continues (at 1:03) to share about the practices of loving speech and deep listening. Many of us suffer from our family relationships. If we can master these practices, we can transmit to our students and help them.
He also shares (at 1:25) the practice of how to die happily and peacefully.

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Questions and Answers

March 4, 2011. 111-minute Questions and Answers in French with Thich Nhat Hanh at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France. This is the fourth day of the 5-day French Retreat and the translation is provided by Sr. Pine.

Some of the topics include Sitting Meditation, Death, Euthanasia, Sex, Suicide, Non-action, Right Livelihood, Religion, Equality, Depression, and the Four Kinds of Nutriments.

There is a French recording as well as video version too – Part 1 and Part 2.

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