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Plum Village Retreats

Making Peace with Ourselves

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The date is November 25, 2001 at Plum Village, Upper Hamlet. This is the first talk of the 3-month winter retreat. The talk is offered in English.

00:00 Connecting with Green Mountain Dharma Center and Deer Park Monastery
09:10 Chanting
34:12 Going Home to Ourselves
41:08 Drinking our Tea
43:22 Mindfulness of our Body
46:04 Body
52:50 Feelings
56:26 Perceptions
1:01:38 Mental Formations
1:05:14 Consciousness
1:06:01 Reclaiming Our Sovereignty
1:14:01 The Sangha
1:17:58 The Energy of Mindfulness
1:24:55 Healing from Within
1:29:04 Looking Deeply
1:37:53 Building a Sangha

What is the 3-month retreat? How do we practice together? Our practice is to build brotherhood. How do we know if we are succeeding in our practice? To practice to be happy together. It is a kind of daily food. Through our sitting mediation, walking meditation, eating in mindfulness. These help build our sisterhood and brotherhood. This is done by building peace within ourselves so it can manifest around us. 

The Energy of Mindfulness

Buddhist meditation has a universal value. The energy of mindfulness help us to there, to be fully present in every moment of our daily life. To be there for us. Our body, our feelings, our perceptions – they are all there, but are we taking care of them? Our practice is to go home to ourselves and tend to our feelings, perceptions, and our body. Our tendency is to run away from ourselves. 

Drinking our tea. Are we fully present to drink our tea? Or are you drinking like a machine? Mindfulness of drinking. Everyone can do that. If we are not careful, we may follow our habit. Mindfulness is the energy to be there for what is going on. Through breathing, walking, eating, etc. 

Mindfulness is the kind of energy that helps you to be fully there. This is the first action for peace. Have you abandoned yourself? Mindfulness can help you come back to yourself. We start with our body. Your breath is part of your body. When you breathe in, bring your mind back. Mindful breathing. This is the best way to begin making peace. It is the door in which you can come back to yourself. We can restore ours sovereignty in the territory of ourselves. 

The Five elements (Skandhas) 

The first element is form – your physical body. Our physical body is like a river; it is always flowing. The first thing a practitioner should do is make peace with our body. Learn how to calm and renew your body. Learn the art of deep and total relaxation. Give our body a chance to rest and restore itself. It is an action of peace. In the Harvard medical school, they have studied the role of meditation in healing the body. Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile to my body.

The second element of your person is feeling. The painful feelings, pleasant feelings, neutral feelings. All kinds of feelings. Like the body, there is a river of feelings. They are born, remain, and affect other aspects of our person. Are you taking care of your feelings? Your emotions? Our tendency is to run away. Breathing in, I am aware of my feeling. Breathing out, I calm my feeling. They are like a suffering baby and they have been left alone. We need to take care of this territory of feelings. 

The third portion of our territory is perception. We perceive realities, we have an image of ourselves. That is a perception. We have an image of the other person, or other group of people. This is a perception. And very often they are wrong. And because of our wrong perceptions, we suffer very deeply. There are a lot of contradictions. 

In the Buddhist tradition, the physical body is called a formation. Formation is a technical term that means anything that manifests based on conditions. For example, a flower. Our body is formation. Our feelings are also a kind of formation, but we call it a mental formation. The fourth element is mental formations. According to Buddhist psychology, we have defined 51 mental formations. And mindfulness is one of the mental formations; we should develop our mindfulness. 

The fifth domain is called consciousness. Consciousness contains all the kind of seeds that can manifest into mental formations. It is like the soil keeping all the seeds and when the rain falls then mental formations manifest. 

Reclaiming Our Sovereignty

The territory of our person is very large. And if we don’t know how to bring peace into our territory, then we cannot help our brother or sister to do the same. To restore peace, it is the act of peace. And it is a collective effort. We are the king/queen that rules our territory, but we have not been very good at taking care of our territory. We have lost our sovereignty. We have to go home and rely upon our sangha to help us restore and reclaim our sovereignty. We have our in-breath and out-breath to support us in this endeavor. And when the quality of your breathing has improved, you can step into your body and channel the peace and harmony with your breathing. That is the practice. 

Our society is organized in such a way that we’re encouraged to do the opposite of taking caring of ourselves. Television, magazines, etc. help us to run away from ourselves. When you don’t have anything to do, we often look for something to do. We are afraid of coming home to ourselves because we may encounter the war within ourselves. We have been running away. The buddhist practice helps us return to our kingdom without fear. With the energy of mindfulness of our sangha. We need the sangha. It is very difficult to do alone. The sangha can help us embrace our body, our feelings, our perceptions. The Buddha offers many concrete methods to restore peace and well-being. 

The Energy of Mindfulness

The energy of mindfulness has several functions. The first function is to be there for yourself. To help us produce our true presence. Through mindful breathing and mindful walking. This is the basic practice of Plum Village. The second function is to recognize what is there. What is there is your body, your feeling, etc. 

And the third function of mindful is to embrace. Not fighting. Just embracing. The fruit of the practice depends on the strength of your mindfulness. If you practice well, then it will be enough to embrace your pain. This can bring about relief and calming. We can create an environment that is favorable for this practice. 

Healing is not really coming from outside. It can come from the inside. It is inherent in our body and consciousness. Just like an animal is injured retreats to take care of the body. If we worry too much, then we make the situation worse. We need to rest. We can believe in the capacity of our body. This can also apply to our consciousness too. Every wound can be healed. Through tenderly embracing our pain in the body and in our feelings. 

The next function of mindfulness is to look deeply. Look deeply into what? Our feelings, our perceptions. To identify the roots of our pain and our suffering. Our ill-being. Looking deeply into the nature of our anger, our pain, then we can see the kind of food we are using to feed them. This is related to consumption. And practicing mindful consumption is the way out. Nothing can survive without food. To know what to consume and what not to consume. Looking deeply requires concentration. Which then gives you insight to know what to do. 

Practical Example: a feeling of despair. 

Building a Sangha

Thay shares of coming to the West and feeling all alone. I had to come to call for a cessation of war in Vietnam. And so he began to build a sangha to feel supported and not be alone. Building sangha is the most important task. Without a sangha, we cannot have refuge. Even if you are a teacher or a Buddha, you still need sangha. A group of people can change the course of history. 

Peace and well-being always begins with yourself. Learn the methods from the sangha. Have faith in the practice. And you can feel peace and well-being. Coming together for three months is our opportunity to build brotherhood and sisterhood. 

The next Buddha is Mr. Love. And will take the form of the sangha. The Five Skandhas working in harmony, that is a sangha. 

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Magnolia Grove Monastery Retreats

Call Your Cows By Their True Name

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The Sangha is gathered together at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2011 US Teaching Tour with the theme Cultivating the Mind of Love. This 85-minute dharma talk is from September 29, 2011 and both the audio and video are available in this post.

We begin with a 27-minute teaching for the children present at the retreat. Of course, everyone can benefit and enjoy this teaching regardless of age.

When you love someone, what can you offer them? What is the most precious thing we can offer them? Thay offers a story of an unhappy child and his father – what does the child want for his birthday?

The first mantra of Plum Village is “Darling, I am here for you.” In order to do this, you really have to be present. We should all memorize this mantra. This is a meditation and does not take time and money. Mindfulness helps you to be there.

Thay teaches us about how and why to use pebble meditation. The first pebble represents a flower. What is a true flower? And the second pebble represents a mountain. Cultivating our stability. The next pebble represents still water. The last pebble represents space. Open your heart. A child can very easily lead pebble meditation.

We continue teachings on breathing exercises. This morning the guided meditation explored the first four exercises of mindful breathing. These first four have to do with the body. We first recognize our in-breath and our out-breath. What is the intention of this exercise? Then we move to breathing-in, I follow my breath all the way through. During this time, there is no interruption. You only follow the breathing.

With the third, we are aware of our body. Mind and body are together. To restore the oneness. And our body is a wonder. Thay shares of a recent visit to the Googleplex. Practiced these breathing exercises, especially helping them connect with the body as described in the third exercise. It is a reconciliation between the mind and the body. The fourth exercise is breathing in, I release the tension in my body. This practice is very relevant to our time. We can reduce the amount of pain.

Contemplation of the body. Revisit all parts of our body. How do we do this?

The next set of exercises are designed to help us handle our feelings.

5. Generating joy
6. Generating happiness
7. Recognize a painful feeling
8. Embrace a painful feeling

Can we recognize the conditions of joy and happiness? Living happily in the present moment. This is found right in the Sutra and is especially relevant for business people.

Mindfulness is being able to go home to the present moment. Mindfulness is not something you can buy. When you are mindful, you are there with your body. Mindfulness and concentration are two sources of happiness. Another practice is that of letting go. Here we have the teaching on the farmer who has lost his cows. To know our obstacles is also a path to knowing our happiness. Letting go is a good practice.

Once we know our joy and happiness, then we can more easily handle our pain. When the pain manifests, a good practitioner can recognize this and know how to take care of the painful feeling. We can hold our pain.

 

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Plum Village

The Way Out Is In

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This talk from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, March 30, 2014. The talk on this day is in English.

0:00 Present Moment
14:05 The Feelings
29:04 The Body
37:20 Mindfulness of Compassion (Listening)
1:12:45 Story of Suicide and Transformation

When you breath in, you bring your mind home to your body. A lot of time, your mind is not with your body. But when they are together, you are truly in the here and the now for your transformation and healing. It is wonderful be present and your breath becomes the object of your mind and you can become a free person. You can cultivate freedom. You don’t need to be influenced by your fear and anger. We can make good decisions. The bell of mindfulness can call you back to the present moment. Walking can also bring us to the present moment. Every step. This is the basic practice to touch the wonders of life. At Plum Village, we should learn to breathe and to walk in the present moment.

In the last talk, we learned the 7th and 8th exercises of mindful breathing. The 7th is being aware of the pain within myself. When we have a painful feeling, we know it! Do we know how to handle it or do we cover up the feelings with consumption? We can be stronger with the energy of mindfulness. The energy of mindfulness sees thee energy of pain. And the 8th exercise is to calm down the painful feeling. Holding the child of suffering – embracing tenderly.

What is exercises five and six? Five is to generate a feeling a joy. And the sixth is to generate happiness. We can always bring about a feeling of joy and happiness whenever we want. How? The oneness of body and mind. The sixth exercise is the art of happiness where the seventh and eighth are the art of suffering.

The first four exercises are about the body and the next four are about the feelings. The third is the awareness of body. When you go home to your body, you may notice pain and stress in your body. This makes you suffer. The fourth is to release the tension in your body. Calming your body. This takes care of our body. We them review the first two exercises. One week at Plum Village is enough time to learn the art.

Last time we also spoke about listening. When we have the energy of mindfulness and concentration we can look deeply into the nature of our own suffering. Understanding our own suffering lets us understand the suffering of our parents and our ancestors. We need mindfulness and concentration so we are not overwhelmed by the suffering of ourselves and others. This is the practice. Understanding brings about compassion. Everyone should learn to cultivate compassion. The practice of deep listening and loving speech can always restore communication and bring about reconciliation. What is loving speech? We practice mindfulness of compassion. Thay shares the story of being the Israelis and Palestinians together at Plum Village.

Thay then shares a story of a woman in America who wanted to commit suicide and how she was able to transform her suffering.

The way out, is in.

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Uncategorized

The Voice of the Buddha

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This talk from the New Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, March 20, 2014. The talk on this day is in English. In this talk we learn about taking refuge and exercises 5-8 from the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. Thay also teaches on inviting the bell (18-min) and the four qualities of happiness (13-min) – these two topics could be listened to independently from the other parts of the talk. Both the audio download and the video stream are available below. The time stamps listed here are for audio download.

0:00 Chanting
9:30 Inviting the Bell
27:02 Taking Refuge
37:27 Four Qualities of Happiness using Pebble Meditation
50:46 Practical Refuge
1:04:15 Mindful Breathing Exercises 5-8

When we hear the bell, we practice together listening to the bell. We invite the bell to sound. Before we invite, we breathe in and out to prepare three times. There is a verse to learn to be qualified as a bell master. We calm our body and calm our feelings. The sound of the bell is the voice of the Buddha inside calling us to come home to ourselves. If you are a bell master then please be generous. When we come home to ourselves, we can discover the island of self. The Buddha recommended, don’t rely on anyone or anything, rely on the island within. Every time we hear the bell, we can practice going home to the island within. We are protected. This is the practice of taking refuge. There is also the practice of deep listening. Every cell of your body can recognize and get in touch with your ancestors within. They can join you in listening to the bell. With this, peace can penetrator every cell. We can feel calm and light. Many people have a bell of mindfulness on their computer. It allows us to stop and breath in and out three times to arrive home in ourselves.

Last time we spoke of the mental formation called restlessness. The practice of mindful breathing and walking help us to calm down our feelings. In the Christian tradition, they call this resting in God. This is taking refuge. Taking refuge is an art. If you know how, you can have peace right away. The Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha are something solid. Very much the same idea as the Trinity for Christians. But resting does not mean doing nothing. Many people are looking for someone for refuge but many have chosen someone who is not stable. Rely on the island of yourself. Cultivate stability and solidity and also look for that in the other person. Learn how to breath and walk.

We have the practice of pebble meditation to cultivate the four qualities of happiness. The first is freshness – fresh as a flower. The second is stability – solid as a mountain. The third is peace/tranquility – still water. And the fourth is freedom – space. These qualities bring a happy person. The more you can let go, the freer you become.

I take refuge in the Buddha. What does that mean? Do we have an dea of the Buddha? Taking refuge in your in breath and out breath – this is much more concrete than an idea. With our breathing, we gain mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Buddha is mindfulness – this is taking refuge. This is the island within yourself. You can also take refuge in your steps. While making that step, you generate concentration and insight. I take refuge in my in breath. I take refuge in my steps. This is not abstract and it is our Buddhanature. Nirvana. No birth and no death. We are nirvana in the here and the now.

Review of the first four exercises of mindful breathing. We continue with the next set of exercises. The fifth and sixth exercises are to generate a feeling of joy and happiness. This is the art of happiness. The seventh is to recognize a painful feeling. We should not run away from a painful feeling or emotion. We don’t need to be afraid because we can also generate an energy of mindfulness. And the eighth is to calm our painful feeling or emotion.

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Retreats

Happy Teachers will Change the World

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April 5, 2013. 120-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Mahachulalungkornrajavidyalaya University in Bangkok, Thailand. The sangha is in the 5-Day Applied Ethics Retreat as part of the spring Asian Tour. The talk is given in English with consecutive translation into Thai. This is the first talk.

The Buddha was a happy teacher and that’s how he was able to help others. If we are not happy teachers then it will be difficult to help out students. How can we offer happiness? Do you have happiness to offer? Do you have happiness and love in yourself? What is the best thing we can offer a person we love? The first mantra is “Darling, I am here for you.”

That shares about people meditation and how the sangha has used it for teaching children about the practice. Flower | Fresh. Mountain | Solid. Water | Reflecting. Space | Freedom.

The practice of Buddhism can be seen in two aspects. First, we learn how to suffer. If you know how to suffer then you suffer much less by making good use of your suffering. Happiness is made of non-happiness elements. Suffering is a non-happiness element.  The second aspect of the practice is learning how to create moments of happiness. With this we can transform our anger and fear. A good school teacher should know how to take care of themselves.

Teachers taking care of themselves and is comprised of five elements (Skandhas): Body. Feelings. Perceptions. Mental formations. Consciousness.  We can learn to improve the quality of these five elements. How do we do this?  We begin with the body and the feelings.

A school teacher can then create a moment of happiness for her students. How we can identify and cultivate moments of happiness for our students? How can we help the young person who is suffering?

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English/Dutch European Institute of Applied Buddhism Retreats

Foundations of Mindfulness

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August 16, 2012. 91-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into Dutch (though the Dutch is muted in this recording), with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the fifth (and final) Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Dutch Retreat on the theme Body and Mind Are One at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.

Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. An object. The first object of mindfulness is our body. Our body includes our in-breath and out-breath. There is a sutra on the contemplation of the body. The second object of our mindfulness is our feelings. Pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feelings. The third object is our mind. It is comprised of mental formations. The fourth is the objects of our mind.

After a brief review of the first 8 exercises on the Full Awareness of Mindful Breathing, Thay moves ahead with the remaining exercises. Also, a teaching on impermanence, non-self, and Interbeing. Contemplating a cloud. The three concentrations. Emptiness. Aimlessness. Signlessness. Also known as the Three Doors of Liberation. Dwelling happily in the present moment.

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Plum Village

The Happiness of Neutral Feelings

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January 9, 2011. 84-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The recording begins with about 8-minutes of chanting.

If you are a good practitioner you can easily handle your difficulties; the transformation is quicker. There are many kinds of feelings: painful feelings, pleasant feelings, and neutral feelings. In the process of practicing we discover that the neutral feelings are very interesting. As when we sit, there is a sensation that is neutral. When we bring mindfulness to the neutral feeling, you find that it is quite nice. You see that you already have enough conditions for happiness with a neutral feeling. If you look deeply at the neutral feeling you see that it is wonderful. When you see your feelings passing by like a river, you see that 80% of your neutral feelings are quite pleasant. With mindfulness, our neutral feeling is transformed into happiness.

At the first teaching of the Buddha in the Deer Park, he spoke of the Four Noble Truths and the the eight correct practices. Never declare that you know already because you can always deepen your understanding and practice. The First Noble Truth is suffering. The Third Noble Truth talks of the cessation of suffering. This is the presence of happiness. Learn how to produce happiness. A good practitioner knows how to do this. Transform your difficulty and produce happiness. In Buddhism we recognize painful feelings, pleasant feelings, and neutral feelings. With mindfulness, you can transform a neutral feelings too. We should look deeply into our neutral feelings. We have many occasions to be happy. Thay encourages us to write a report on how you create happiness and send it to him.

After about 45-minutes, the talk transitions into a sutra commentary, continuing on the theme of nirvana. I believe we’re still on the sutra from the Dhammapada called Place of Peace and Wonder.

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).