What has Buddha-Nature?

December 1, 2013. 93-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. This is the fifth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. We begin with two chants from the monastics. The talk was given in Vietnamese and this is an English translation by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

An issue in Christianity has been the question whether God a human or not a human. Theologians have said, though God is not a person but God is not less than a person.  In Buddhism, there is the idea of sentient beings that suffer and Buddha’s who have enlightenment. But when we become a Buddha, we continue to be a sentient being. I’m Mahayana Buddhism, these two are not separate. Sentient beings and Buddha’s are not different but two pairs of opposite. One cannot be without the other. Humans are composed of non-human elements. This is a non-dualistic insight. Interdependent co-arising.

Everything is impermanent, including enlightenment and Buddha. We must continue to cultivate happiness and insight. Can the Buddha be recognized in another form than a human? Consider what is written in the Diamond Sutra. We also need to remove the dualistic thinking regarding inanimate objects. Even a rock has Buddha-nature. We have to transcend the idea that Buddha must be a human.

Applying this teaching using sitting and breathing. Thay provides instructions.

At 58-minutes, we continue with the winter retreat teachings from the 30-verses of Vasubandhu with the 3rd verse.

Its appropriations and its manifestation of locality
cannot be known intellectually. It is always
associated with contact, mental attention, feeling,
perception, and volition.

Seeds. Form. Signs. Consciousness. Names.

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The Temple of Brotherhood

June 9, 2012. 127-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the sixth dharma talk (of 15).

Just prior to this session, those attending the retreat received a 86-page booklet with sutras and a Letter to a Young Scientist.

Three energies of practice

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Concentration
  3. Insight

The practice of looking deeply along with a discussion of zen history. Tang Hoi, a vietnamese monk, brought zen to China. Zen. Chan. Thien. Dhyana.

Four Notions of Letting Go (from Diamond Sutra)

  1. Self
  2. Man
  3. Living being
  4. Life span

Thay spends the majority of talk teaching on self. A similar teaching is also found in Sutra #296 from Samyukta Agama.

We read from The Paramartha Gathss of Asanga Gathas on the Absolute Truth (verses 1-2)

1. There is absolutely no subject, no agent and no one who enjoys the fruit of action (no one who feels). No dharma (phenomenon, object of mind) has any function. Nonetheless the passing on of one effect to another does take place.

2. There are only the 12 limbs of existence, the aggregates, the realms (ayatanas) and the worlds (dhatus) that are always changing. When we observe thoroughly and contemplate these things we shall not find a separate self anywhere.

Twelve Ayatana

  • Eyes (form)
  • Nose (smell)
  • Tongue (taste)
  • Ears (sound)
  • Body (touch)
  • Mind (objects of mind)

There is no “self” in this. The 18 dhata includes all the twelve above plus the following:

  • Eye consciousness
  • Nose  consciousness
  • Tongue consciousness
  • Ears consciousness
  • Body consciousness
  • Mind consciousness

Why do you think the “self” doesn’t change when everything else does?

At 1:28, Thay reads (not provided in the book) the Sutra #300 from Samyukta Agama. We continue with verse 44 from the same text above, followed by a portion of the “Discourse on the Middle Way”

44.  Living beings is the name of a continuous stream and all phenomena as the object of perception are only signs. Therefore there is no real change of birth into death and death into birth and no person who realizes nirvana.

At the end of talk, Thay provides commentary on why the Buddha had to continue the practice beyond enlightenment.

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What is True Love?

May 20, 2012. 73-minute recording given at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is a Day of Mindfulness and the monastics begin with two chants.

The Buddha taught loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Thay thinks we can add two new elements to True Love: Trust. Confidence. Thay teaches on all these elements in addition to a brief examination of the Diamond Sutra as it relates to Interbeing.

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Where is Plum Village?

April 26, 2012. 69-minute recording given at Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is a Day of Mindfulness and the monastics begin with two chants.

This year is 30th anniversary of Plum Village. Where is Plum Village? We may have wrong perceptions about where it is. The Diamond Sutra is an important text in our tradition. It is the diamond that can cut through illusion. We need to remove all notions. The notions of self, man, living being, and life span.

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Subject and Object of Perception Produce Each Other

February 9, 2012. 60-minute dharma talk from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation. A French translation is also available.

How do we invoke the Buddha’s name? Taking refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Buddha in myself.We must be skillful. This is a deep practice, and how to practice to let the bodhisattva (great being) do everything for us, not just the sattva (living being): when we invoke the name of the Buddha or the bodhisattva in this way, we live fully in each moment. Calling the name and visualizing are the two methods for invoking. We call the name, touch the earth, visualize. There is a connection that is very close. We have the seed of enlightenment. Even listening to a dharma talk can be invoking if we have mindfulness, concentration, and insight. In fact, we can apply this to all our activities.

At 28-minutes, Thay continues to teach the current shastra, or commentary, that we are studying, Dignaga’s ?lambana-par?k??, discussing substantialism, the nature of svabhava, and realism. Thay summarizes the verses of the shastra up until this talk, starting with the first verse.

“Subject and object of perception produce each other; they do not manifest separately, just as the back cannot be without the front: you cannot remove the back without also removing the front. If you are sad, you are sad about something. There cannot be sadness about nothing. So we see that subject and object inter are, they have produced each other, and they may manifest at the same time.”

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Free from Notions: The Diamond Sutra

September 25, 2011. 100-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 last day of mindfulness held at the monastery. The in-person attendance is a record high with an estimated 1200 people in attendance.

Today’s talk will be on right view. The practice of mindfulness based in right view can heal ourselves and heal the world. But we have to work to practice right view. The tea is the continuation of the cloud and this is the practice of no-birth and no-death. Your own nature is the nature of no-birth and no-death.

In The Diamond Sutra, we are asked to let go of the idea of self and we can be free from any discrimination. The second notion to let go of is the notion of man. We are made of animals, vegetables, and minerals. if we see this, we can see out Interbeing with the planet. The third notion is the notion of living beings. The final notion is the notion of a life span.

If you have not seen the non-Buddha elements than you have not seen the Buddha. The safest method to see the Buddha is to look inside yourself.

The sangha now travels to Mississippi for a retreat.

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Freeing Ourselves From Notions

August 22, 2011. 109-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the third dharma talk of the Body and Mind Are One retreat.

After a short guided meditation, Thay speaks to the children about how to play in such a way that we maintain our joy and happiness during the whole time of playing, not letting anger overcome us. If we play and we are angry we always lose. “Learn to play in such a way that neither the winner nor the loser suffer. That is the highest way of playing.” Next we learn the third mantra. It is about love. As your love grows, your happiness grows. Darling, I know you suffer and I am here for you. We also learn about the wisdom of non-discrimination.

Thay shares with us the 4th mantra – “Darling, I suffer and I want you to know. I’m doing the best I can. Please help.” If we can’t do this, it may because of our pride. You may eant to prove you can survive by yourself. We don’t let others know about our suffering, or let them help us, because of our pride, because of our anger. A practitioner knows that when anger arises they should take good care of themselves and their anger with mindful breathing until their anger calms and they can see into the wrong perception behind their anger.

Thay then shares about the 11th and 12th exercises of mindful breathing – 11) concentrating the mind and 12) liberating the mind. There are many objects of concentration but three are found throughout Buddhism – emptiness (sunyata), signlessness (animitta), and aimlessness (apranihita). These are also called the three doors of liberation. In the Sutra on Mindful Breathing, we are given four other objects of concentration – impermanence, non-craving, cessation, and letting go. We use these concentrations to free ourselves from the notions of being and non-being, birth and death, coming and going, sameness and otherness, and the four notions of self, man/human, living beings, and lifespan that the Diamond Sutra recommends that we remove. Freeing ourselves from these notions we are able to touch reality, to touch nirvana and realize our true nature – the nature of no-birth and no-death.

The talk is available below. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and Freeing Ourselves from Notions.

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