We Contain the Whole Cosmos

This is a 78-minute dharma talk from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism in the 21st Century” retreat. This is the sixth and final talk on May 11, 2008 and the talk is offered in English.

Thay and Su Co Chan Khong
Photo by Paul Davis

The Dharma is something you need to come and see for yourself. It is experiential. Meditation holds the keys. We can unlock the door of reality. Among them are the Three Doors of Liberation. Emptiness. Signlessness. Aimlessness. These are the keys.

What are these Three Doors of Liberation?

Along with this, we take a deeper look at several pairs of opposites (in the context of signlessness).

  1. birth and death
  2. being and nonbeing
  3. coming and going
  4. sameness and otherness

We can liberated from our fear, our anger, our despair.

The story of the flame is quite humorous and enjoyable.

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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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Love in Action

2008-05-09 | Love in Action

This is a 78-minute dharma talk from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism in the 21st Century” retreat. This is the fifth talk on May 9, 2008 and the talk is offered in English.

Teaching and Social Work

In 1964, Thay was teaching at Colombia University and my friends in Vietnam asked me to return home. In Saigon there was a school (School of Youth for Social Service) to teach engaged Buddhism and serve the communities in Vietnamese countryside. An expression of Love in Action. They did not want sponsorship from the government and didn’t want to be involved in the war. Inspired by compassion. Nonviolence and rural development. It started with 300 workers and expanded to 10,000 workers — these were volunteers. Thay shares some of the work they did during this time and where they learned to do this work. Some of these social workers died in service and there is a memorial at the Dharma Cloud Temple (Chua Phâp Van) in Ho Chi Minh City. Thay talks of the spiritual dimension to this social work.

This is where the Order of Interbeing arose and Thay talks of the first members and the first ordination.

In 1966, That was invited by Cornell University to teach a series of lectures. The purpose was also to help Thay get out of Vietnam and to speak out about the war in Vietnam. This was sponsored by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. After this, Thay was not allowed to return to Vietnam. At this time was intensifying and a young OI member immolated of herself – her name was Nhat Chi Mai. Also several members of the school were murdered.

Nhat Chi Mai Memorial

The School for Social Service setup pilot villages. One village was bombed multiple times after re-building. To help with farming, health, and economics. They also setup refugee camps to assist with resettlement of thousands of people. This too is Engaged Buddhism. And we must also maintain our spiritual development. Thay remained in France and raised money to help fund the work of the school and bring awareness of the real war in Vietnam.

After we setup Plum Village (1982) in France, they offered retreats for veterans, health professionals, business people, members of war-torn nations, congresspeople, school teachers, and young people. Buddhism is for all walks of society. We also reach into serving those who are imprisoned.

Releasing the tension. Holding the emotion. Heal yourself. Heal your family. This too is Engaged Buddhism. Engaged Buddhism is our business in every minute and every hour. It can even be practiced in a normal fashion, without appearing religious.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Manifestation-Only Buddhism

The first practice of Right Diligence is: the negative seeds, let them sleep. Don’t water them. They become weaker and weaker. This is an art. It is the practice of Right Diligence. It is continued practice.

Today we introduce the concept of manas. Sometimes this consciousness is called ‘the lover.’ It is born from a number of unwholesome seeds. For example, feelings of superiority, inferiority, and equality. We learn of subject, object, and emptiness. Thanks to emptiness everything is possible. But manas ignores this. Manas believes you have a self. It doesn’t see Interbeing. Manas is always seeking pleasure. It is always trying to run away from suffering and ignores the goodness of suffering. No mud. No lotus. Interbeing. We need the Wisdom of Nondiscrimination (gained through meditation).

Linked with Right Thinking and Mindful Consumption.

Changing the Peg

The second practice of Right Diligence is when a negative seed does arise, we help return the mental formation to our store consciousness. How? Thay provides an example. Change the peg. Mindful breathing and invite another mental formation to arise. Coming to a retreat is a good way to water a lot of positive seeds. Create a positive environment. We can do this at home too. Listen to a dharma talk, practice chanting, mindful breathing, etc.

Even with depression. Yes, it is more difficult but it is possible. The Buddha said, nothing can survive without food. By the way we live. Cut off those things that are the cause. Inquire about the mental formations.

A Wholesome Life

The third practice is to give the positive seeds a chance. Help them to manifest. Do something to touch them and to water them. They may be covered up with many layers of fear, worry, etc. This is compassionate.

And the fourth is to allow any wholesome mental formation that is present, keep it as long as possible. Why replace them? Let them stay.

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Joy and Ease for Enlightenment

This is a 82-minute dharma talk with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh from Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism” retreat. This is the third talk on May 7, 2008 and the talk is offered in English. 

Walking Meditation

How can we enjoy walking? How can we use breathing?

Every step is life. 
Every step is a miracle. 
Every step is healing. 
Every step is freedom. 

We learn how to use this gatha with our walking – whether alone or in a group.

Walking in Hanoi with Thay on May 12, 2008.
Photo by Paul Davis

Seven Factors of Awakening

The Buddha taught of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. Buddhism is about enlightenment and mindfulness is already enlightenment. Awareness of breathing is already enlightenment.  

We explore mindfulness, joy, and ease. How does this link with the Four Noble Truths? Ill-being and well-being. Relaxation, lightness, and peace. We have methods for reducing stress. This is the path – The Path of Well Being. We have very concrete practices to assist.  For example, the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. In this talk, we touch on several of the methods for breathing. This is a Noble Path.

You don’t have to be a scholar, you simply need to be a practitioner. We have all experienced ill-being. How can we do this as practitioners? 

Engaged Buddhism in Vietnam

About 39-minutes into the talk, we turn back toward the history of engaged Buddhism. In the 1950s, Thay began writing about religious belief and society. In the mid-60s, we established the Order of Interbeing arising out of war and ideologies.  We can look at the precepts of the Order as a direct response. What is the teaching on views from the Buddha? To be free from views is a basic foundation of Buddhism. In 1965, I wrote the book Lotus in a Sea of Fire. The war in Vietnam was raging. Our enemies are not man, it is hate and violence. We needed more international support to hear us say we don’t want this war. The peace movement in Vietnam was the lotus. The book was released underground in Vietnam. Sister Chân Không was arrested for having the book. In 1964, we also establish the School for Youth and Social Service to focus on education, health, economics, and organization. 

Thay shares of the creation of a new group for today’s youth – now known as Wake Up!  And there are also new courses coming from the Institute of Applied Buddhism. These are building upon these early days in Vietnam. 

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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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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Life at Every Breath

This is a 53-minute dharma talk with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh from Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism” retreat. This is the first talk on May 5, 2008.

We begin with some instruction on sitting and breathing. It is important to repeat the essentials. When we sit, we should enjoy our sitting. Like the Buddha, do you know how to sit on the lotus flower? Sitting for the sake of sitting. Releasing tension in our body through sitting and breathing. Thay teaches us how to reduce the tension and we practice together.

Smiling is one method. Smiling is like yoga of the mouth. We can let the body lead, instead of the mind, and so we begin with a smile and the joy may come later. With our breathing, we can bring our body and mind together. We can know we are alive and we can smile to life.

There is the practice of bringing our parents into our breathing and sitting. Why and how. Breathing in and breathing out is quite wonderful. And it is enough to cultivate wisdom. So, enjoy the sitting. And enjoy the breathing.

During this retreat, while you sit or while you walk, practice these sentences. Every breath is life. Life at every breath. And while we walk, life at every step. Then you may try too, breathing in, I am aware of my heart. Thay teaches how and why we can practice this awareness of our heart.

Life is already full of suffering, why would you suffer when practice meditation. Learning to breathe and to enjoy. Life is present in the here and the now. Drinking tea is also a method for being present. Life at every breath.

Slow walking is a practice you may try, even on your own, to bring full awareness to life at every step. All the wonders of life. Every moment is a moment of practice. Walk like a Buddha. Walk like a free person. A miracle at every step. A miracle at every breath. Enlightenment.

Every step is healing. Every breath is healing. We can heal ourselves and the earth. You are free. Freedom from afflictions. Walk as a free person. We have an appointment with life, in the present moment. With our in breath and our breath.

The first meaning of Engaged Buddhism is being present in the here and the now. Regardless of what we are doing. In every moment. Dwelling happily in the present moment. This is the teaching of the Buddha.

Thich Nhat Hanh in Hue
Source: touching-peace-photography.com
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The Practice for Engaged Buddhism

This is the final dharma talk of the 2000 21-Day Retreat, The Eyes of the Buddha, offered from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh on June 20, 2000. The primary theme of the dharma talk is the Noble Eightfold Path.

In Part I, we begin with an introduction to deep listening – protected by compassion – followed by a teaching on the Noble Eightfold Path threaded with teachings on the Five Mindfulness Trainings

  1. Right View
  2. Right Thinking
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Diligence
  6. Right Livelihood
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

In Part II, beginning at 1-hour and 8-minutes we turn to the topics of violence, nonviolence, UNESCO’s Manifesto 2000, and dependent co-arising.

Live your life as a bodhisattva.

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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Will Thay Sing us a Song?

August 15, 2013. 102-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the fourth dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Happy Teachers will Change the World. We begin with two chants from the monastics followed by a session of questions and answers.

Children

  1. Will you tell us of a struggle you’ve had and how meditation and the bell helped you to overcome it?
  2. Recalling the dream in an earlier talk this week, how did it make you feel when the secretary said yes to you and not to the other person?
  3. Will Thay sing us a song?
  4. What made you want to become a zen master?

Teens

  1. What is the difference between joy and happiness?
  2. My father causes much suffering and doesn’t practice right view. I have lots of resentment I am fearful. How do I transform my suffering to peace and joy when he has hurt me so much?
  3. How did mindfulness help you in your life?
  4. How can I bring the practice to life for the ones I love without forcing it on them, especially those who have sexual misconduct or doing drugs?

Adults

  1. A question about engaged Buddhism.
  2. In the list of 51 mental formations, shame is identified as a wholesome formation. Can you explain this?
  3. A question about hope. Fear and anger in society and future of human race and the planet.
  4. Another question on the future. With favorable climatic conditions ending, how do we balance kindness/mindfulness for future generations and with present people?
  5. A question about ending a relationship. What do you do when there isn’t an ability to leave a toxic relationship? How do we transform if we’re not strong enough in our practice? Also concerns about financial stability beyond the relationship.
  6. A question from a person who can’t overcome her suffering. The pain seems insurmountable. The question comes with some question on how to continue living.

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