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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Practice Means Enjoyment

The monastic and lay community are practicing together during the 2004 Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 at Deer Park Monastery. This 76-minute dharma talk in the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall takes place on Wednesday, January 28, 2004. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.

Today we have a session of questions and answers from the retreat attendees. 

  1. A question of a dream and a sacred story. Practice means enjoyment. This is a question from an author of children’s books. 
  2. How do we practice to remain in the pure land? How do we cultivate our merits? This was a question from Sister Dang Nghiem asking about remaining in the community as a monastic. What can we offer as monastics? Thay teaches on three kinds of offering – money, dharma, and non-fear – and the four kinds of pleasures. 
  3. A question about sangha-building, conflict, and not escaping into our lives. Where does individual practice intersect with sangha practice? Can there be harmony in the sangha when there isn’t harmony in the sangha? Thay shares briefly on the seven steps of reconciliation and how the lay students can use the vinaya to build lay sangha. A mindfulness practice center is inside. 
  4. A question about negativity. As a person who works with children and adults with very severe disabilities.  They often have very negative things to say based on their life experiences. As I write a book about their experience, do I share of these negative aspects?
  5. A question about action – my role and contribution in the world to reduce suffering, particularly in social justice action.

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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Exercises on Mindful Breathing

The monastic community is practicing during the Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 at Deer Park Monastery with the lay community. This 83-minute dharma talk in the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall takes place on Sunday, January 18, 2004 at the beginning of the third week. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.

It takes about 5-minutes to work through some technical difficulties before the dharma talk begins. During that time Thay reflects on a few small things like the freshness of the air in Deer Park and the upcoming Year of the Monkey. The monkey is in the mind. Our practice is not to force the monkey to stop, but to become aware of the movement of the mind. We don’t try to suppress our mind. 

Last time we spoke about how to become fully present and fully alive. The practice is so easy that it would be a pity if you don’t do it. The power and energy of mindfulness is available because we all have the seed of mindfulness in our consciousness. If we keep the energy of mindfulness, concentration, and insight then we are good continuations of the Buddha. But we also live in forgetfulness and we can transform this with the flower of mindfulness. Garbage and flowers. We are like organic gardeners that can produce the flowers of peace and happiness. Our happiness arises from elements of affliction and we don’t need to be afraid of the garbage. We don’t need to run away from our pain and sorrow. 

Mindful Breathing Exercises

The Buddha offered very simple and effective methods of practice. We can master these methods and we can no longer be afraid of sickness, fear, despair, or even death. In the Sutra on Mindful Breathing, the first exercise is simply breathing in and out. Simple identification and awareness. Thay offers several methods on how to follow our in breath and out breath. When mindfulness is there, then concentration is there too. Concentration is born from mindfulness. This first exercise proposed by the Buddha is so easy and so simple. It is for our enjoyment. It is a gift. And when we practice mindfulness, we are a Buddha. 

The second exercise is long and short. Following our breath all the way through. Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. But the practice is not to try and make the breath longer or shorter. Don’t try to force your breath. Your breath is what it is. Simple, mere recognition. Just turn on the light of mindfulness and become aware of it. It is like the sunshine and the flower. Mindfulness is the sunshine and the energy will recognize and embrace the flower, our breath. The photons of the sunshine penetrate right into the flower and it opens. Our in-breath and out-breath are like a flower. In our practice of meditation, there are three elements: body, mind, and breath. They are interconnected with each other. These can become one, and all of them inherit from the energy of mindfulness and concentration brought about by mindful breathing. The second exercise suggests we enjoy our in-breath and out-breath all the way through from the beginning to the end. To follow your breath. 

The third exercise is awareness of the whole body. Breathing in, I am aware of my body. Breathing out, I am aware of my body. This is a practice of going home to your body and being present. We can reconcile with our body. Awareness is already enlightenment. We receive a short teaching on “formations.” The formation of our physical body. We are fully aware that our body fully is. To recognize our body as a formation. This practice can help to heal our body. Awareness and practicing with a smile. It’s yoga of the mouth. How do we practice this even if our mind and body are not aligned? We can smile to release all the tensions and relax the body. If you are a doctor or a therapist, you may want to explore more with the Sutra on Mindful Breathing. 

Thay offers very specific methods to practice mediation using these exercises. Everyone can succeed with these exercises.

Awareness of feelings is the fifth exercise. Breathing in, I feel joy. I am aware of the feeling called joy. Breathing out, I feel joy. This too is a formation, but they are a mental formation. The sixth is similar but we are calling forth our feeling of happiness. Joy and happiness are there for our nourishment and healing. We start with these seeds of joy and happiness before moving to those feelings that cause us to suffer. But these exercises are not simply auto-suggestion, but happiness and joy can be born if we know how to touch the seed. The first way to bring joy is to leave behind; to let go. Maybe something we believe to be crucial to our happiness. 

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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Sitting and Walking in the Here and Now

In early 2004, Thich Nhat Hanh and two hundred monastics came to Southern California to spend several months at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California. The monastic community is practicing during the Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 with the lay community. This 80-minute dharma talk takes place on Sunday, January 11, 2004 at the beginning of the second week. We are in the recently opened Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.

We begin with an overview of how to begin the day in the monastery — the bell, walking meditation, sitting meditation, and chanting. How much time should we allow for these activities? Do we need to wait to begin meditation? When you hear the bell announcing sitting meditation, you begin right away with your walking. What is our practice when we are walking? What is our practice when we arrive at the mediation hall? Thay shares and outlines the Plum Village practice.

What can the dharma teacher do to contribute to the practice? The dharma teachers have a responsibility to be present for the orientation. To help support those who have newly arrived. The dharma teachers can help assure that people practice in the practice center (so we don’t become a “non-practice” practice center!).

A reporter recently asked Thay, what happens after we die? The question is kind of a trap. What happens in the present moment? The answer to both these questions is the same. And if we can answer the second question, then there is no need to answer the previous question. What is our practice to be fully present in the here and now — to become a free person. And with our practice, we can then free our ancestors.

What is the role of the sangha in helping with your practice of sitting meditation? Practicing with the wonders of life in the practice center with the support of the sangha. Thay reflects on the meaning of the kingdom of God. Transforming our homes, sanghas, and practice centers into a pure land. A place of refuge where we can experience brotherhood and sisterhood. To enjoy deeply every moment of our daily life.

The practice of walking, sitting, and chanting is for the care of the present moment. It is not for the future. There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. There is no way to enlightenment, enlightenment is the way. We don’t sit for anything and do not expect anything. Just be present in the here and now. That is good enough. Don’t be caught by the idea of the Buddha that is outside of you — you are already a Buddha.

Living and working in harmony with nature, plants and animals, at Deer Park Monastery. Even though we are many hundreds, we can walk in the pure land in harmony with nature. How do we practice walking meditation?

I have arrived.
I am home.
I am solid.
I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.

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The World We Are

Thank you for patience in our posting a dharma talk from our teacher. Today we are happy to offer a talk for the new year. This 63-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh is from December 31, 2008 at Plum Village, Lower Hamlet, Dharma Nectar Temple. The theme of the talk is about interbeing and the world we are.

It’s the last day of the year. Can you believe it? Where does it go? And from what direction does the next year come? Questions are interesting and important. And in the teaching of the Buddha, we learn of no-coming and no-going.

Thay shares a story of his walking meditation from Still Sitting Hut to the temple at Son Ha, down the hill. Life is everywhere. Seeing also how the oak leaves become the soil. There is a lot of happiness in seeing and observing these things. Why? Because then Thay is not afraid of dying! Life is everywhere, inside and all around us.

Teaching on giving – there is the giver, the gift, and the receiver. Illustrated by the corn seed. And that of our parents. Is there a distinction between the giver, gift, and receiver? The emptiness in giving. Another illustration, the left and the right. Everything is inside everything else.

How do we love? And healing and forgiveness? Every thought is considered action. You can heal the world by right thinking. Your thought can be the giver of life. Our right thinking is already action toward healing and forgiveness. We the also have right speech – also a healing action. Be the giver of life. We can profit right away.

Right action can be also be seen in a triple aspect – thinking, speaking, and acting. This is our continuation, our karma. This is retribution – two aspects of retribution are taught.

We never die. Whether we like it or not. But we can continue beautifully. You are your environment. The oak leaf becoming the soil teaches us this – the oak leaf becomes the soil.

The World We Have, recently published by Parallax Press, might have a better title as “The World We Are.”

As you walk around, look at everything as yourself.

In the closing minutes of the talk, Thay speaks to a handout of personal commitments that we can make to better support the environment in the coming year. A version of this handout is available on the Earth Holder website under Personal Commitments.

Happy New Year!

If you are able to support this project financially, please visit our account on Patreon where you can make a donation for as little as $1 per dharma talk.

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Collective Mindful Energy

During the annual Spring Retreat at Plum Village, Thay offers this 72-minute dharma talk at the New Hamlet with the themes of mindfulness, sangha, and concludes with a gatha translation. The date is April 2, 2006. We begin with three chants, in English, French, and Vietnamese.

Mindfulness is the heart of our practice. It’s the kind of energy that can bring nourishment, healing and transformation. Here at Plum Village we learn how to generate and to incorporate into every moment of daily life. The energy of mindfulness helps to pull everything together. And the practice of the sangha makes it easier. The sangha is a boat that transports and embraces us in our practice. Do you know how to surrender yourself to the sangha?

Thay teaches how to begin the practice, especially as it relates to the dharma hall. When and how does the practice begin? What is the role and purpose of the sangha? We embody the practice. How?

You don’t need to wait until you arrive in the dharma hall before you practice. You don’t need to hurry to not hurry. How does the bell help our practice? But we don’t become trapped by the form.

In physics it’s called phase (quantum) entanglement. We create a collective energy together on the same frequency. We can transform. Have you noticed the power of the bell in the meditation hall? Even just the half sound. It combines our energy of mindfulness. We become a cell in the sangha body.

Every moment of our daily life is a moment to practice mindfulness.

Lamp transmission gathas. Thay offers some history on our recent lineage. The lamp gatha of Thay’s teacher. Matter and mind are both perfect and shining. If you want to study this topic more, you may be interested in this document  – Letter to Friends About our Lineage by Thay Pháp D?ng.

If you are able to support this project financially, please visit our account on Patreon where you can make a donation for as little as $1 per dharma talk.

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Arriving in Plum Village

July 7, 2012. 87-minute recording given at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the first dharma talk of the Summer Opening. The sangha is celebrating the 30th Summer Opening. The talk begins with instruction on how to listen to the chant followed by Avalokiteshvara chant.

The main talk begins at 40-minutes into the recording. We hear stories from the Avatamsaka Sutra (Flower Garland Sutra). The mother of the Buddha and how the friends came to see Siddhartta while still in the womb. She had a lot of space inside for everyone. We can cultivate this kind of space too. Story of Sidhartta making at least seven steps at his birth. What does this mean? Walking like a Buddha on planet earth. Freedom, joy, and happiness is available with every step. This portion of the talk is about 45-minutes and a beautiful segment to listen to with others in the Sangha

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Conditioned Genesis

June 20, 2012. 79-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper 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 fifteenth dharma talk (of 15). No chanting. This is the final dharma talk of the retreat.

Topics

  • We are all cells in the sangha body. Sangha building.
  • Suffering and happiness.
  • The mind of non-discrimination.

Four pairs of opposites

  • Birth/Death
  • Being/Non-being
  • Coming/Going
  • Sameness:Otherness

Scientists and practitioners can let go of notions.

Thay reads from The Paramartha Gathas of Asanga Gathas on the Absolute Truth. This is because that is – Condition Genesis

Both the self and the elements that give rise to the self are empty. They are just constructions of our perverted (confused) mind. The separate-self nature ofall the sentient species is also empty. The only thing that is, is the causing andconditioning of one dharma upon another.

And the following from The Discourse on the Adaptation of Conditioned Genesis Connected with Emptiness

Profound indeed is this, namely conditioned genesis; even more profound,more difficult to see is this, namely the extinction of all attachment, the destructionof craving, the fading away of desire, the cessation of all suffering: nirvana.

Signlessness

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A Seed of Corn

June 20, 2012. 70-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from New 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 fourteenth dharma talk (of 15). No chanting, but began with some mindful movements.

True Happiness comes from understanding and compassion. I am capable of understanding. The seeds of Buddhahood are there. Right Thinking is the kind of thinking that can produce compassion. One in-breath can create compassion and we can create new habits.

The Four Attainments are the fruits of our practice.

  1. Dwell peacefully where you are. Froglessness.
  2. I have arrived.
  3. No birth

Does the soul exist?

Thay reads from The Paramartha Gathas of Asanga Gathas on the Absolute Truth, verse 44, on Birth. Death. Nirvana.

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

Being a seed of corn.

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Applying Buddhist Teachings to the Classroom

April 2, 2012. 115-minute dharma talk given at The American School in London by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is part four (and final part) of the Educators’ Retreat: An Exploration of Mindful Education.

Memorizing gathas to help us establish mindfulness. There are four domains of mindfulness: body, feelings, mental formations, and objects of mind. Mindfulness can help us be together in these four realms. Once we have established mindfulness, we can have concentration. The final kind of energy is insight – this can liberate you from your fear. This is not the product of your thinking, it is the insight of Interbeing. True education should be based in this insight of Interbeing.

In order to see things, we need an organ (for example, the nose to receive oder). The organ of thinking it is called manas, and there is a lot of mis-perception in this organ. For example, the view of a separate self – this is at the base of all our complexes (inferiority, superiority, and equality). We can use mindfulness to gain the insight of non-discrimination. In the field of education, it is the same thing. The happiness of the students is the happiness of the teacher. We need non-discrimination to enjoy the teaching and the learning.

In the teaching of the four noble truths, the first truth is there is suffering. In education, the first thing we should do is identify the suffering and acknowledge it to each other. We have to see the truth so that real change can happen through a collective awakening. Thay continues with the application of the second, third, and fourth noble truth in our lives.

We learn about what is meant by sangha and how it can be applied to the community of teachers. What is suffering and why is it important? The last part of the talk looks closely at the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

Happy teachers will know how to generate understanding and love that will help the younger generation change the world.

A video version may be available.

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