The Sound of Silence

yuriearth_iss_3032The sangha has just completed the French Retreat and we return here to a regular day of mindfulness in Plum Village. This talk is from the New Hamlet and is dated Thursday, April 17, 2014. The talk is in English.

0:00 Chanting
9:22 Hearing the Call of Mother Earth
23:25 The Sound of Silence
35:48 Types of Sound in Lotus Sutra
50:00 Impermanence of Sound
1:02:56 Establishing Silence
1:15:43 Consumption of Sound

The beauty of Mother Earth is a bell of mindfulness. It’s spring now and we can easily see how beautiful the earth is. If we can see this then happiness will available right away. Is anything blocking you from seeing this? Is your mind full of things? Can you hear the call of Mother Earth? Are you being pulled away by the past or anxious, fearful about the future? Even in the present moment we can be distracted. But if we look, we can see that life is full of wonders. We can pay attention to our breathing to help stop the thinking of the past, the future, and the projects of the present. I am here. I am free.

In Plum Village we have the practice of noble silence. Thay shares about the recent French Retreat where the community sat together in silence for a meal and after the sound of the bell. What is the benefits of silence? What is the sound of silence?

In the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra there is the bodhisattva Avalokite?vara – the one who listens to the sound of the world. Five kinds of sound are mentioned in this chapter. Thay teaches on these sounds. Sound of wonder. The one observes the sound of the world. The brahma sound. Sound of the rising tide. The one that transcends all worldly sounds.

In Buddhism we speak of two kinds of phenomenon. Conditioned and unconditioned. Sound is considered impermanent. It’s nature is to be created; to be made. And anything that is created is impermanent. Another early Mahayana Sutra is mentioned (chapter 40) speaks about the voice of the Buddha. The word of the Buddha is something easy to understand. The sound of the Buddha is not to loud. Silent thunder. We can hear the voice of the Buddha anytime and anywhere.

When we have been able to establish silence the we can hear what is inside ourselves. What our heart is saying. We are often concerned with our daily concerns. We worry about material comforts and affective concerns. But there is also the ultimate concern. Do we have the time to answer the ultimate concern? Hear the deepest call of your life. And that we are a continuation of our ancestors. Meditation can help cultivate the silence.

Four Kinds of Nutriments and consumption. Consuming the sound. The sound of wonders. We don’t have to run anymore.

Note from the Editor Thay has offered us a vision of building an online monastery, or online temple, where practitioners may come not just to receive information, but to practice online: to follow their breathing, experience guided meditation, interact with monastics and lay practitioners, etc.

This archive of Thay’s talks is a component of this vision. We are using a new service (Patreon) that allows for you to become an ongoing patron for this archive. Each patron can make a donation, as little as $1 per talk, to be donated automatically on a monthly basis. Payments are made by credit card or PayPal and patrons can be anywhere in the world. When you visit the site, you identify the amount you want to give for each talk, identify a maximum amount per month, and provide your mailing address. If you are in the United States you can have a tax deduction through the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation. Please visit our Patreon page: Thich Nhat Hanh is Creating Happiness.

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The Other Person

May 24, 2013. 84-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Hong Kong. The sangha is on the spring Asian Tour and this talk is given in English with consecutive translation into Chinese. The theme of the retreat is Happiness is the Way.

Thay has a few questions to ask the audience and the questions might touch something very deep in you. It is about the “the other person” in your life.

Are you in love? Are you still in love? Do you want to reconnect with the person you used to love? Do you think that he or she is happier than you are now? Do you have the time for each other or are you both to busy? Have you been able to preserve your freshness and beauty for yourself and for the other person? Are you capable to offer him or her freshness and beauty everyday? Do you know how to handle the suffering in yourself? Are you able to help handle the suffering in the other person? Do you understand your own suffering and the roots of that suffering? Are you able to understand the suffering in the other person? Do you have the capacity to help the other person suffer less? Have you learned the way to calm down the painful feelings and emotions? Do you have the time to listen to yourself, your suffering, your difficulties, and your deepest desire? Do you have the time to listen to him or her and help him or her to suffer less? Do you know the Buddhist way of restoring communication and bringing reconciliation? Are you capable of creating a feeling of joy and happiness for yourself? Are you capable of helping the other person to create a feeling of joy and happiness? Do you really think you have a clear spiritual path to go? Do you have the feeling of peace and contentment within yourself? Do you know to nourish your love everyday?

It is possible to create a meditation hall on a bus or train and then use the time to nourish and heal yourself. You can use the exercises from the Anapanasati Sutta. The first exercise is to become aware of your in-breath and your out-breath. We can cultivate energy to help heal and nourish. The first energy is mindfulness. This energy can be cultivated with just one in-breath. The second energy we can generate during breathing is concentration. The third energy is insight. This is a kind of vision/wisdom that will help liberate you from suffering. This is enlightenment itself – it can come in just a few seconds! To be alive is a true wonder, a true miracle.

I am alive. Stop the thinking. Enjoy breathing.

The second exercise is to follow your in-breath and your out-breath all the way through. With the third exercise, you become aware that you have a body. Next we calm our body and release the tension and restore peace. Even if we only have a few minutes, we can use these exercises to restore ourselves. Generating joy is the fifth exercise. Next we become aware of the painful emotion that in us – we don’t try to run away from our pain. From here we calm down the pain.

Understanding suffering always bring compassion. We can restore communication with the other person and end suffering.

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Who is the Buddha?

May 27, 2012. 65-minute recording given at New Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is a Day of Mindfulness.

We learn who the Buddha is through the teachings of the Buddha. When we bow to the Buddha, we should see our true connection. Interbeing. The Buddha is enlightened with deep understanding and compassion. How can we produce it? The first step is awareness of suffering. The four noble truths.

The Buddha is a human being. He is not a god. The Buddha is made of non-Buddha elements. Thay then makes the connection to the planet and science. The Buddha can be a sub-atomic particle.

We hear two questions from the audience. How can we handle out habit energy in daily life? How can I heal violence around me?

Thay reminds us the 21-day retreat begins in a few days. This will be part of our 30-year anniversary. For each dharma talk during the retreat, we will sit together in silence for 8-minutes. Stop our thinking and feel the presence of ourselves and others. There should be no noise during this time. Thay also wrote an intimate letter to a young scientist in preparation for retreat.

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Questions about Global Climate Change

March 18, 2012. 70-minute talk from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village, France. It is a rainy day today and we hear responses to a series of questions presented by a magazine in the UK on the topic of climate change and global warming.

  1. Do you believe humans can avoid a global ecological collapse, or are we driving ourselves towards one?
  2. The urban population across the world is growing. What if anything is lost by our increasing switch towards being an urban species?
  3. Are we a vulnerable species or one still in control of our destiny?
  4. There is strong support for engineered solutions to our ecological problems, for example reflecting the sun’s rays, sucking up carbon emissions, or lab-grown meat. Is this the right approach for us to be taking?
  5. Most of us in the West are still attached to a high-consumption lifestyle. We like to buy new and exciting things. Is there a strong enough alternative lifestyle out there that can convince us to leave this high-consumption lifestyle we have?
  6. Have we found a new narrative, one that can help us learn to live more sustainably before it is too late?
  7. What is the hardest part of the lifestyle you have chosen to live, and how do you attract young people to follow?
  8. Can we strive for financial and spiritual contentment, or are they mutually exclusive?
  9. Most environmentalists narrow down the problems we face into two issues: overconsumption and overpopulation. Where do you stand?
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Answering Questions about Global Climate Change from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

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God Can Be A Person

December 24, 2011. 105-minute dharma talk and chanting with Thich Nhat Hanh as he gives the annual Christmas Eve talk from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. The sangha is in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat and this is the first talk in English. The talk was also enjoyed by over 550 people live via the Internet.

The practice of Plum Village is “I Have Arrived. I am Home.” We can breathe in a feel alive right here and now. We stop all our thinking and focus our mind on our in breath and get established in the here and the now. Mindfulness is a kind of light to know what is happening in the present moment. With mindfulness we can become a Saint, a Buddha, a Bodhisattva . With this light. One day science will be able to measure the type of energy created by mindfulness practice. The collective energy of everyone. We can send waves of mindfulness, compassion and peace, we create interference and enhance the energy of everyone. All of us are looking for our true home. We may only feel happy when we are home. Our practice is to go home in every moment. Breathe and you are alive. Many of us have succeeded in that practice. When we do this, we also become the home for other people.

When we practice like this, we may get in touch with planet Earth. In Plum Village we look at the planet Earth as a bodhisattva. You do not have to be a person to be a bodhisattva. Everything has a buddha nature. During walking meditation, we may see that the Earth is the most beautiful bodhisattva. Patience, stability, creativity, and love – these are some of the qualities of this bodhisattva. We are a part of her. With mindfulness of walking and breathing, we can connect with our body. Your healing must go together with the healing of the planet earth. The earth is not our environment, the earth is us.

We have spoken about two kinds of vertical theology and the horizontal theology. With vertical, we try to get in touch with the absolute; the ultimate dimension of reality. When cannot arrive in our true home without touching this ultimate reality; we have to touch God. What are we? Where do we come from? We want to know our true nature.

In the Christian tradition, we learn that Jesus is the Son of God. It means that through Jesus you can touch the Ultimate Dimension, the ultimate reality, the ground of being, the almighty. We also learn that Jesus is the Son of Man. As the Son of Man, he belongs to the historical dimension where there is being and non-being, birth and death, sameness and otherness, good and evil. Notions that make us suffer. These can the foundation of our fear, anxiety, and suffering. But Jesus is not only the Son of Man, he is also the Son of God. If we get in touch with Jesus deeply enough, then we can see this ultimate dimension. We have to see Jesus as both. In the Buddhist tradition, it is very clear that everyone belongs to the historical dimension and we also belong to the ultimate dimension. This is our nature and we can learn to transcend our notions.

Merry Christmas to everyone.

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Watch live streaming video from plumvillage at livestream.com
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A Bodhisattva in Every Step

November 13, 2011. 80-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet in Plum Village, France. The sangha has just returned from the North American Tour and this is the first dharma talk. I am a little hesitant to post because the sound is a bit challenging. The talk is given in Vietnamese and with consecutive translation into English by Sr. Chan Khong. The challenge being you can hear Thay very clearly and it is occasionally difficult to hear the English clearly. It is a lovely talk and a slightly fresh view from his typical dharma talk, so I hope you enjoy it despite the sound issues.

Thay shares about the practice of sitting meditation, and about the beauty of what the Earth offers to us when we are able to overcome our human pride.

You are very proud of your science, your math, but if you look at one petal of a flower you realize that you would have to be an extremely talented mathematician and artist to create such a thing. Human beings are very proud to be the heroic soldier who can do everything, but the Earth is also very powerful. It has created millions of species. Mother Earth offers us air to breathe, water to drink. We have to recognize the planet Earth as a wonderful mother who can host us, who can give us everything we need.

“In every speck of dust there are countless Buddhas. During walking meditation we can touch the Earth in us. We have to be realistic. Don’t search for a bodhisattva in your imagination. It is there in every step.”

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The Universe is a Single Flower

February 17, 2011. 78-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in the Assembly of Stars Mediation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France. We begin with 8-minutes of chanting. This is the final dharma talk of the Winter Retreat before the Great Ordination Ceremony and the close of the retreat. Here we continue discussing the Sutra of Flowers and Fragrance.

Seeing the Earth in that way he felt a deep compassion for all the people who live on the Earth. They are trying to do something to protect our environment. Only from very far away do you look back and see the fragility of our planet, and you feel compassion.

One astronaut said that when he left the Earth and looked back, then he became a humanitarian, because I feel that I have to take care of the people on that planet. The vision is so important from far away. If you are a schoolteacher, or parents, you try to help your students to get in touch with this. Continue reading “The Universe is a Single Flower”

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The Girl Without a Button

February 13, 2011. 76-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet, Plum Village. We begin with chanting – The Heart of Perfect Understanding in French and The Three Refuges in English.

Sitting here, we try to look deeply at the other person. The person we love. What are they doing? If we know how to sit quietly, then we see that person clearly even if they are not present. Sometimes we need to be far away in order to see the relationship more clearly. Thay shares a story by Hans Christian Andersen called A Great Grief.

We travel to space and look at the earth. It is so dark in space, but when we look back we see how earth is so beautiful. If we look deeply, we can see the billions of people and what they are doing to each other. Sometimes we need to go far away to see the value. This is what some astronauts have said upon return.

How do we treasure that person? How do we treasure the planet? That picture from space can be a bell of mindfulness. To understand and to see. To wake up. We need to teach our children the preciousness of the planet, of life.

Sutra of Flowers and Fragrance from the dhammapada. So far, we have learned three chapters from the Chinese texts and these only exist in the Chinese, but this sutra is also available in the Pali. However, the Chinese has 13 more verses. We have drafted an English text. today we learn the first four verses.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

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