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Retreats

Happiness is Right Here

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A 43-minute segment on the third door of liberation – aimlessness. The talk takes place on August 17, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is part four of a four-part series.

Aimlessness

You don’t put something in front of you and run after. It is a wonderful practice. It can bring you peace. We have the habit of running after something. Fame. Profit. Wealth. Even enlightenment. People imagine that monastics are running after enlightenment. But that is not the practice.

If you have received the Five Mindfulness Trainings, you belong to the lineage of Linji. His teaching is very strong on this aspect of running. Don’t run after what you already are. Stop running. Happiness is right here. In this very moment. Just one step. Peace. Joy. Healing. Enlightenment. Are all in the present moment. This is the teaching of aimlessness. 

Are you enlightened already? But how can we make plans for the future? The answer lies in the teaching of aimlessness. 

Enlightenment is not something you strive for. The moment you are aware you are breathing in, that is a moment of enlightenment. We also practice to be aware of the present moment. We don’t live in a dream anymore. There is no way to enlightenment. Enlightenment is the way. 

To be there for each other. At the breakfast table. There are things we can do so that mindfulness is there. If we organize well, breakfast can be a celebration of life. 

So, let us take care of the present moment. The future is contained in the present moment. And let us not lose ourselves in regret about the past. 

Nirvana 

In the Buddhist tradition they speak of nirvana. Nirvana is the absence of notions. Notions like birth and death. Nirvana is not a place or space located in time. We have a notion of time. That we have birth and death. 

We hear the story of the flame. 

Pairs of opposites. 

  1. Birth and death
  2. Being and nonbeing 
  3. Coming and going 
  4. Sameness and otherness 

Sangha building. 

Thich Nhat Hanh
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Retreats

Falling in Love with a Cloud

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A 13-minute segment on the second door of liberation – signlessness. The talk takes place on August 17, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is part three of a four-part series.

Signlessness

The second door of liberation. Sign here is the appearance. When we look deeply we have to see the nature of signlessness. The seed of corn has an appearance, we see it as a seed of corn. But when it grows, it no longer appears as a seed of corn. But the seed of corn is still there; it’s only changed how it appears. 

Say you fall in love with a cloud. Thay helps us smile by recognizing our beloved cloud. It has not died. A cloud never dies. This too has been confirmed by scientists. 

Piece of paper. Can you establish the birthdate of this sheet of paper? Was it at the paper mill? But the paper hasn’t come from nothing. Even if we burn the sheet of paper, it will continue. Being and non-being are just ideas. They do not apply to reality. These are conventional designations. 

More examples. A drop of water falls from the sky. What happens? Does it become nothing? Before you were born. Were you there? Did you exist before the moment of conception? It is all a continuation. The same applies to “so called” death. 

In the moment of great despair, great anguish, signlessness is there to rescue you. 

Thich Nhat Hanh
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Retreats

The Raft is not the Shore

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A 38-minute segment on the first door of liberation – emptiness. The talk takes place on August 17, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is part two of a four-part series.

Three Doors of Liberation

Today we are going to talk about the Three Doors of Liberation. In several discourses reminds us his teachings are only a device to help us liberate ourselves. They are not absolute truth. They are like a raft helping us to the other shore. The raft is not the shore. Make use of the raft. It is also like a finger pointing to the moon. It is not the finger. The finger is only a means to help us see the moon. Don’t be caught by the dharma of the Buddha. We can practice being non-dogmatic. 

The Three Doors of Liberation are like the finger or the raft. These three doors are in all schools of Buddhism. We can use any door to help us get out of suffering. The practice is to have real insight. 

Everything is impermanent. Intellectually we know this. But the notion of impermanence alone will not help us. We need to understand the truth of impermanence. We hear an example of our relationship with a loved one. We need to look deeply to see the true nature of impermanence. The insight will help us to behave wisely. Impermanence makes life possible. It gives us a chance to heal. 

Concentration is to focus your attention on one thing deeply. To see the nature of that thing. It could be your love, you hate, your depression, your fear. To discover the true nature of what is there. 

It can also be the guide offered by the Buddha. To see the true  nature of things. This can be liberating. 

The Three Doors of Liberation have also been called the three concentrations. 

Emptiness

The first door of liberation. Emptiness has to do with our suffering and our happiness. We can get out of our suffering through the door of emptiness. It does not mean non-being. Thay teaches us what emptiness means. 

Empty of what? The glass. The flower. Is there a separate existence? Thay offers several examples of emptiness ranging from parent/child, seed/corn, and cells. 

When we touch the true nature of emptiness, we transcend all fear, all discrimination, all suffering. Let’s be less busy in our daily life so we can touch this truth. But remember, it is only a device. Striking a match to get a flame. Making use of the match. The fire is what I need for my liberation. I don’t need the match. A concept. We live each day in a way so we can touch the nature of emptiness. 

Thich Nhat Hanh
Categories
Retreats

The Wisdom of Nondiscrimination

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A 15-minute segment on the Wisdom of Nondiscrimination. The talk takes place on August 17, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is part one of a four-part series.

The Wisdom of Nondiscrimination

Togetherness is not possible without a kind of wisdom. The wisdom of non-discrimination. The practice of looking deeply helps remove our discrimination. 

Teaching on the umbilical cord. The art of being an expecting mother. Everything you do as a expecting mother, you do for your child. And the father is there to support. Even after the umbilical cord is cut, you are still linked very deeply with your parents. Even if we think are different person as we grow older. This is discrimination. And looking deeply we see are still linked. Non-discrimination. 

Teaching on Thay’s right hand. There is no inferiority and superiority between the two hands. Writing a poem. Hammering a nail. This is the wisdom of non-discrimination. Low self-esteem (inferiority) and high self-esteem (superiority). And even equality. In Buddhism, these three complexes are also a symptom of discrimination. If we have the wisdom of non-discrimination then we will not suffer. We inter-are. 

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Questions and Answers Retreats

Misunderstanding and Fear

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We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this eleventh post, we hear a question on the theme of spiritual leaders being killed.

  1. Jesus, Martin Luther King and Gandhi were all killed and I know that you were exiled from Vietnam. Why do bad things happen to spiritual people? 

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

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Questions and Answers Retreats

Sexual Abuse at the Family Level

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We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this tenth post, we hear questions on the theme of sexual abuse in families.

  1. Earlier we had a question about transforming suffering from sexual misconduct at a community level. Now we have a question from several people about transforming this at an individual level and the family level. One person shared about being abused as a child and now as an adult, what can I do to help heal this scared little child who feels like the past is the present. Another person shared about sexual abuse in their family and I’m afraid for a new baby’s safety in our family. 

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

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Questions and Answers Retreats

Working with Judgment and Fear

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We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this ninth post, we hear two questions.

Drawing of Vietnamese person.
Photo copyright Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism.
  1. Two years ago I was here extremely depressed and anxious. You said, people feel the storm of the mind when experiencing depression. For now that storm has subsided. I now have fear about losing my mother, and people in my family, and how can I transform this fear?
  2. Thank you for your light. Often times I struggle with judging, and I think I’m getting better, but when I do judge people I am happy to be proven wrong. The challenge is when I judge other people for being judgmental. How can I overcome this type of judging judging? 

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

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Questions and Answers Retreats

Chronic Depression and Medications

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We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this eighth post, we hear one question.

Many of us experience chronic depression. Earlier in the retreat you talked about what is feeding that depression. For me, there is also an underlying biochemical component. Do you think I should not need medication and heal from the practice only? 

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

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Questions and Answers Retreats

Living with Cancer

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We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this seventh post, we hear one question.

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

There are 10-million people with cancer. Recently I was diagnosed with late-stage cancer and given a period remaining to live. And yet I am still alive today. Is there a path for me to do my spiritual work before I pass on? 

Categories
Questions and Answers Retreats

Sexual Misconduct

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We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this sixth post, we hear one question.

The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.

Question about healing within my church community. A church leader who has acted inappropriately with sexual misconduct. The person is now gone, but we still need a healing process. Is that important even when some don’t want to or with people who didn’t even know the person?