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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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Day of Mindfulness Plum Village

Turn Every Cell On

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Dear fellow practitioners and friends on the path. In this talk we learn of the joy and the happiness of the practice. The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh offered this 107-minute dharma talk on December 11, 2005 from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village (France) during the annual Winter Retreat. We are reminded of the basic practices of walking and sitting followed by a deeper teaching on the Five Dimensions of Reality.

Touching paradise. When you practice walking, you involve your body with your practice. We can walk in the ultimate dimension. You turn on every cell in your body. Being completely free with the energy of mindfulness. Each step brings healing and nourishment to you. We use the techniques of mindful breathing.

We apply the same techniques to sitting. We turn on all the cells in our body to arrive in a unified state of being. All the cells will sing in unison and we are in a state of concentration. This is the foundation of enlightenment. Thay comments on sleepiness during sitting meditation. We have to make our sitting interesting. There is so much to enjoy. This state of being gives us the capacity to heal.

The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing offers us exercises to touch all the cells of our body.

Thay offers some reflections on neuroscience and consciousness and how the Buddhist tradition sees things quite different. The elements of the human are: Form, Feelings, Perceptions, Mental formations and Consciousness. The Five Skandhas. Perceiver and the perceived. We train ourselves in seeing the object of our perception. What is the object of our perception? Our consciousness? The Five Dimensions of Reality in Buddhism.

Thay offers a deeper teaching on consciousness and mental formations, including technical terms from Chinese and Sanskrit.

One lesson from this talk is we practice with body and mind together.

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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English/German European Institute of Applied Buddhism Retreats

Domains of Mindfulness Practice

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June 16, 2013. 112-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbrol, Germany. The talk is given in English with consecutive translation into German. This is the final dharma talk of the German Retreat on the theme Are You Sure?

We start with the three kinds of energies — mindfulness, concentration, insight — and they can produced anytime while doing any activity. We can see things more deeply and remove wrong perceptions. Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. Concentration is the same.

Four Foundations of Mindfulness – the four domains or objects of mindfulness. The first domain is body. The second domain are the feelings. The mind is the third object. The final domain is objects of mind – in Buddhist psychology there are 51 mental formations. What is object of mind? The Five Skandhas (also known as the five aggregates). We discuss store consciousness and mind consciousness.

Science and Buddhism. Conventional truth and ultimate truth. Transmitter and receiver. What is emptiness? Birth and death. Being and non-being. These are just notions and can lead to wrong views.

Right View, part of the noble eightfold path, is the insight that is free from all wrong views. Right Thinking is the kind of thinking that is also free of notions of birth and death, being and non-being.

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Plum Village Retreats

Joy in Resting and Sitting

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January 6, 2013. 88-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the eighteenth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk is given in Vietnamese and this is a translation provided by Sr. Chan Không.

Editorial Note: the recording is currently missing the first part of the talk (not much); if I am able to secure a complete file then I will repost. 

The joy of sitting and resting. When you sit down and you know how to harmonize your body and breath, you can have nirvana. Walking for ourselves, our ancestors, our nation. Every step is healing. Every step is nourishing. Taking care of the earth. Thay tells a few stories of astronauts. Earth gazing and seeing that the earth is alive. We learn a walking gatha.

At about 48-minutes, we transition to sutra study. Upadi means caught or grasping. It means here grasping an object of your observation. Your Five Skandhas. Set them free. It’s not the five Skandhas that are wrong, but it is the grasping.

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Plum Village Retreats

The Act of Sitting Down is a Revolution

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December 13, 2012. 95-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the eleventh dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha?

After chanting, the dharma begins at 9-minutes into the recording. Loneliness is the ill being of our time. How can we return home? We have all these technology devices that help us stay connected and yet we still feel lonely. We have tried to use technology to dissipate our feelings of loneliness. But it has not worked. How can we connect with ourselves? How can we heal ourselves and heal society? Technology devices are not the answer. You don’t need an iPhone. The way out is the way in. Be an island unto yourself. The practice of going home is especially important during the Christmas season to heal ourselves and to heal the world.

We now resume the sutra commentary at 29-minutes. Formation is a technical Buddhist term to describe everything. Everything is a formation. Sometimes also called dharma. Do formations have their own nature; something that is permanent? No being and no nonbeing. No actor and no receiver. No formation. This teaching can be found in multiple sutras. From From this we can have the base of the nidanas. Co-arising. Is there Samsara? Thay gives a full teaching on the 12 nidanas.

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Plum Village Retreats

Two Hands Clapping

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December 9, 2012. 110-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the tenth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk was originally given in Vietnamese and this English translation is provided by Sister Chan Khong.

In the first 40-minutes of the dharma talk, the focus is arriving in your True Home. What is our true home? What are the instructions to arrive? What is the island of self?

Following the instruction on coming home, we turn to a series of sutra commentaries. We begins with Agama #273 and another sutra (didn’t get the name) chapter Two, Sutra #17-19. Topics include the six bases, eighteen realms, and the twelve links of co-arising.

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Plum Village

Foundation for a Cosmic Religion

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December 31, 2011. 97-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village. The sangha is in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat and this is talk was given in English on New Year’s Eve.

Let’s visualize the new year coming as a giant bird; coming from the far east and traveling west. We are going somewhere; where are we going? When mindfulness and concentration are present, then we can gain insight to not be carried away by afflictions. The practice of mindfulness can help us enjoy life deeply and also help us to handle difficult emotions and feelings.

The Four Noble Truths and Right View for the transformation of suffering. The science of no birth and no death. The energy of thought and action.

The earth as bodhisattva. Freshness. This year we have an opportunity to continue our experiments, experiments with our insight, particularly as it relates to science. In 2012, we can lay the foundation for a cosmic religion (Einstein reference). The scientists and us can do this together.

There is no soul. No self. There are only the five Skandhas (aggregates) – body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, conciousness. But these do continue in other forms.

Editors Note: some periods of silence exist in audio, but the listener is not missing any part of the talk.

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English/French Plum Village Retreats

Let There Be Light

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July 20, 2011. 80-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh in French, with English translation, from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

Thay begins with a story of creation: God said, “Let there be light,” and the light said, “Wait.” “What are you waiting for?” “I’m waiting for the shadow and darkness in order to manifest together.” There is no subject without object; the two have to manifest together. Further, object and subject are the same thing.

Buddha’s first teaching was on the Four Noble Truths: suffering, the creation of suffering, happiness, and the path to happiness. If we confirm the existence if ill-being, then we also confirm the opposite. This is Interbeing. Buddha’s teaching is both on suffering and on happiness. The first Truth, helps us identify the second Truth.

We can begin a discussion of the Eightfold Noble Path with Right View, the goal of our practice. When we look at a father and a son, we should not see them as two separate entities. Everything is that way.

Thay teaches the Eightfold Noble Path, elaborating on Right Thought, Right Speech and Right Action (three aspects of our daily life) as the development of skillful means with regard to the three types of karma: mind, speech, and bodily action.

What we call death is not really death. Our karma (our actions) continue after we are no longer here in this bodily form. We continue right now in the present moment through our actions. There are two kinds of retribution for our actions: ourselves (our five skandhas), and our environment (relating to Right Livelihood).

We conclude with Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Our view on a global ethic is based on these teachings. We have a path and we don’t have to worry.

The talk was given in French and English translation is available below. There is a video version available too.

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Plum Village Retreats

The River of Body and Mind

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July 16, 2011. 85-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh in French, with English translation provided by Sister Pine, from New Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

Our body is not static; it’s always changing. It is a river and every cell represents a drop in the river. To meditate is to sit at the bank and look at our body. Like the body, there is a river of feelings flowing day and night. We are learning about the five skandhas as the river of body and mind: form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.

Thay continues into the steps of practice based on the Mindfulness of Breathing Sutra. The first four help us with the physical form and the next four are to help us with our feelings: 1) recognizing the in and out breath, 2) following the in and out breath, 3) mindful of the body, 4) calming the body, 5) recognizing joy, 6) recognizing happiness, 7) aware of painful feelings, 8) embracing painful feelings. These eight are reviewed briefly.

There is also a river of perceptions. Is my perception correct? We also have mental formations. There are positive formations as well as those that make us suffer. Our mind is a river of mental formations. Finally, in Buddhism we speak of consciousness.

We continue with the sutra as it relates to perceptions. 9) selective watering of good seeds, 10) recognizing negative mental formations, 11) concentrate the mind, 12) free the mind. There are three principal concentrations that we practice. They help us transform fear, anxiety, and despair. There are three practices of concentration presented in Buddhist schools. They are 1) the concentration on emptiness, 2) the concentration on signlessness, 3) the concentration on aimlessness. These are also the Three Doors of Liberation and can be found in all schools of Buddhism. We learn of dualism and non-dualistic thinking.

What is happiness? Happiness is made of understanding and love. And with that comes compassion. But we must understand suffering. The First Noble Truth is about suffering. Suffering is essential to happiness.

Being and non-being. Signlessness. These are just notions and reality transcends all notions.

The third concentration, aimlessness, everything is already here.

The talk was given in French and English translation is available below. There is a video version available too.

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English/German European Institute of Applied Buddhism Retreats

To Be Means to Interbe

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May 21, 2011. 127-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into German, with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the final talk Dharma talk offered by Thay in the German Retreat at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.

Right view and non-discrimination and non-dualistic thinking. Thoughts, speech, and action are three products of our daily life. These are out continuation into the future. Karma. With mindfulness, concentration, an insight we can assure a beautiful future. The Five Skandhas, the environment and retribution. Mindfulness can also transform the past.

Thay shares about the Eightfold Noble Path, particularly the three karmas of body, speech and mind. “What we produce in terms of thought, speech, and actions will never be lost. When this body of ours disintegrates, our karma continues always, and will be expressed in new forms of life. So the dissolution of this body does not mean our end. By practicing mindfulness, concentration, and insight it is possible to ensure a beautiful continuation into the future.”

The Three Doors of Liberation. Emptiness. Signlessness. Aimlessness.

The talk was given in English and German at the same time and is available below for listening or download. You may also view the video.