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Retreats

Sitting on our Portable Lotus Flower

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In this 95-minute talk we learn how to sit, how to practice with the love mantras, and how to practice insight in order to transform our suffering. The talk takes place on August 14, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is the second dharma talk of the retreat. We begin with the monastics chanting The Four Recollections.

Sitting on our Portable Lotus Flower

9:25 Thay leads us in a short guided meditation. To be alive is the greatest of all miracles. Please sit like a Buddha. Thay teaches us about the lotus (or half-lotus) position. Feeling solid and stable. This way of sitting influences the mind. We are sitting like a mountain. The solidity of the body has something to do with the solidity of the mind. It is like sitting on a lotus flower. What does this mean? 

16:15 A story of the time Thay visited a prison in Maryland. Sitting with a few hundred inmates, we learned how to sit like a Buddha on a lotus flower. How to keep our back upright and to release tension. We also learned how to practice a mindful meal. This visit later became a book called Be Free Where You Are

19:25 We describe the Buddha as an artist. Sitting on the lotus flower. As a friend of the buddha, it is nice to know how to sit like him. The Buddha is not a God. He was a human being. He did become a free, happy, enlightened person. The word Buddha is a title, not a name. Anyone can become a Buddha. Do you have a capacity to sit like a Buddha? What are the challenges we experience as students of the Buddha. 

21:57 When Mr. Nelson Mandela came to visit France, he was asked what he’d like to do the most. He responded by saying, to sit down. To rest. Thay said we need some training in order to sit well. To do nothing. To be a Buddha is to allow freshness, solidity and peace to manifest in us. Sometimes we are very close to this. Almost a Buddha. 

Love Mantras

25:13 When you love someone, the best thing you can offer them is your Buddhahood. To have a little Buddha as a present for our loved ones. In this moment, Thay is teaching this to the children present at the talk. The best kind of present is your beautiful presence. Our mindful sitting and walking can improve our presence. It just takes some practice. 

29:02 In Buddhism, we sometimes practice a mantra. It is something that can help transform a situation.

“Darling, I am here for you”

You can practice with this. To love is to offer your fresh presence. And when you are truly there, you may notice something else is there – your beloved one, and the world. This mantra is the first step. Then you can say,

“Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.”

To acknowledge the presence of your loved one. To be loved is to be recognized. We are reminded that you don’t need to go to the meditation hall in order to practice. No matter how old you are, you can still practice these two mantras. Without love, happiness is not possible. 

What would it be like to have a million dollars? Would this make me happy? Allow me to do more? Would it bring happiness? What Thay has is mindfulness, and this can bring us a lot of happiness. When we have enough insight, we are not caught up in difficult situations anymore. This comes from our mindfulness and concentration. We come to this retreat to learn how to do things with mindfulness. To create love, understanding, and insight. This is the gift of the Buddha. 

Contemplating the Body

38:59 In the previous talk, we were trying to learn just one thing – releasing the tension. The Buddha has much to teach us on healing. Every step we take can help us release the tension. Every breath that we take can help us release the tension. When we allow our body to relax, our body begins to have the capacity for healing itself. There are many ways to do this, such as deep relaxation practice. In the sutra on the contemplation of the body, the Buddha uses an example of farmer who went into the cellar and opened a bag of seeds. Thay teaches us this practice of scanning our body with a ray of mindfulness. How do use this practice? This practice will bring relieve. And if we know how to go a little bit further, into our ill-being, we may discover the roots of our ill-being. Looking deeply with concentration. What is the source of our ill-being. 

47:18 In Buddhism, we teach the Four Noble Truths. And the first is ill-being, and we have to call it by its true name. Sickness, anger, fear, depressions, etc. To recognize it and to name it. From that we can see the second noble truth; the roots of that ill-being. We look at this truth in terms of nutriments. Nothing can survive without food. If we have fear or depression, it is because we have been feeding them. Just practicing this, you are already on the path of healing. If depression is there, perhaps we have lived in such a way to make that possible, we ask what did we consume? What kind of contact did we have? We look at the second noble truth in terms of nutriments. How do we practice with this in order to transform the depression? The fourth noble truth cannot be seen unless we first see the second noble truth. Do not run away from suffering so we can begin to see the path of healing in the fourth noble truth. 

The Buddha is a Human Being

54:30 The second noble truth is the path leading to ill-being. The path of consumption. The Buddha spoke of four kinds of nutriments: edible food, sensory impressions. What is the importance practicing mindful consumption? How can we do this in our daily lives? Why do we consume when we don’t need to consume? 

1:01:04 Continuing from the previous talk, we look again at store and mind consciousness. When the seed of anxiety, fear, or confusion come up to our mind consciousness level then we feel uneasy. It makes us suffer. That is why we want to occupy the mind with another object (such as a film or a book). But this is a way to repress the feeling of uneasiness. To coverup the feeling of emptiness. We want to forget our suffering. The practice recommended by the Buddha, you should not try to suppress it with consumption, but invite the energy of mindfulness to manifest by mindful walking or mindful breathing. This can help take care of that energy that makes you suffer. We strengthen the seed of mindfulness through our daily practice so we can more easily apply it when we are suffering from fear, sorrow, despair. It is recognizing and embracing our suffering. The energy of mindfulness is something that can continue to grow inside of us. The Buddha is inside of you and you are capable of holding your pain, sorrow, and fear. We don’t need to practice consumption without mindfulness. We need to stop consuming toxins. We practice mindfulness to recognize and hold the pain and sorrow. That is the Buddha at work inside of you. The Buddha is a human being. 

1:12:23 Those who of us who don’t practice, we practice repressing our fear and anger. We cause bad circulation of our psyche because we suppress the negative feelings. With this bad circulation, symptoms of mental illness appear. The practice is to allow the pain to emerge. And if we are equipped with mindfulness, then we are no longer afraid. If we are still young in the practice, we can ask for help from the sangha to help restore the circulation of our psyche. With some months of practice, we can do this on our own. To use our mindfulness and concentration to look into the nature of our ill-being. The path leading to the cessation of ill-being is also the path leading to well-being. This is third noble truth. The existence of well-being. 

1:17:10 The beginning of well-being. This path is a noble path. Mindfulness always carry the energy of concentration. And if you live mindfully, then you can see through to the true nature of our suffering. This is insight meditation. It has the power to liberate. With this you can liberate yourself and you can help liberate other people. 

1:20:09 Remembering the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia. All of us suffer. We ask why did this happen and why did so many people die? We want to know why. Thay also suffered, but by practicing looking deeply to see that we too have died with them also. And we discover they died for us and that we should live for them. How are we living today so their death will have a meaning? This is interbeing. This is insight. We are all of the nature to die. We are all of the nature to get sick. We need courage to have the strength of our mindfulness. How do we die with peacefulness? Nothing is born and nothing dies. There is no birth and no death. This insight can remove fear and true happiness is possible. 

With our practice, we bring the element of non-fear. Thay teaches in light of climate change and the use of technology. 

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Retreats

Joy and Ease for Enlightenment

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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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Deer Park Monastery Retreats

True Love and the Four Noble Truths

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October 14, 2013. 80-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the third dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Finding Our True Home.

The Four Noble Truths. The first is ill being. What is so noble about ill being? We can find a way out through the source of ill being. From the source, you can see the making of ill being. This is the second noble truth. When you see the path that leads to ill being then you can see the path out of ill being. It is a path of joy and happiness. The path of well being. Therefore, according the teaching of interbeing we have both ill being and well being.

  1. Ill being
  2. The Making of ill being (ignoble path)
  3. Well being
  4. Path of well being (noble path)

Right View. A deep insight. What exactly is Right View? It is when we are not caught by the notion of ill being and well being. Interbeing. If we look at the Diamond Sutra, we are urged to transcend the four notion. The first notion is self – in order to do so, we have to see that self is only made of non-self elements.

The Four Elements of True Love. Loving Kindness. Equanimity – Non-discrimination. Joy. Compassion. How do we offer our true presence to our beloved ones? To love means to be there. Thay shares the practice of Pebble Meditation and how it relates to true love as well as the Five Mantras we can use in our relationships.

  1. Darling, I am here for you.
  2. Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.
  3. Darling, I know you suffer and I am here for you.
  4. Darling, I am suffering and I need your help.
  5. Darling, this is a happy moment.

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Blue Cliff Monastery Retreats

Looking Deeper into our Minds

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August 27, 2013. 101-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, New York during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the second dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Transformation and Healing – The Art of Suffering.

Topics

  • Tea meditation – a cloud in my tea
  • A cloud in the calligraphy
  • Working with strong emotions
  • Smile to our anger
  • Mindfulness is to embrace and calm
  • Happiness and suffering
  • Four Noble Truths
  • Ill being and well being
  • Second and Fourth as Path and Nutriments
  • Interbeing of pairs of opposites
  • Right View
  • Right Thinking
  • The notion of self (Diamond Sutra)
  • Right Mindfulness
  • Right Concentration
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action

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Retreats

The Tea Inside the Calligraphy

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August 14, 2013. 118-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 third dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Happy Teachers will Change the World. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

Topics

  • The cloud in the tea
  • Teaching on no birth, no death
  • The tea inside the calligraphy
  • The Four NobleTruths
  • Interbeing – ill being and well being
  • Nothing can survive without food
  • The noble (eightfold) path that leads to well-being
  • The Four Kinds of Nutriments
  • Sutra of the Sons Flesh
  • Right View
  • Mental Formations – the Five particulars
  • Being and non-being
  • No birth and no death
  • Right Thinking
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action

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English/French Plum Village Retreats

Meditation on the Corn Seed

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July 16, 2013. 81-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village during the 2013 Summer Opening. This is the sixth talk of the summer and this is an English translation from the French. The recording begins with a talk for the children and then the main talk begins (at 18-minutes).

Meditation on the corn seed. Meditation is having the time to look and to listen. There is knowledge in this seed and it is alive. Does the plant remember when it was a little seed? Has the corn seed died? Meditation can help us see things that other people cannot see. Looking into the corn plant we can see the seed.

A teaching from the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. The exercises of breathing are simple yet can be very profound on us. The first is recognizing. Bringing our attention to our in-breath. We can let go of our past, of our projects, etc. and we can immediately be free. Buddhism is made of three kinds of energy: mindfulness, concentration, insight.

The second exercise is to follow the breath. We focus entirely on the in-breath and the out-breath. The third is awareness if body and then fourth we calm our body.

The next two are giving rise to a feeling of joy and happiness. We can do this anytime. The seventh exercise is recognizing a painful feeling. Then we calm the feeling in the eighth.

The art of happiness. The art of suffering.

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Plum Village Retreats

Meditation on the Flame

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July 19, 2013. 110-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet of Plum Village during the 2013 Summer Opening. This is the eighth talk of the summer.

Editor’s Note: This talk coming slightly out of order as I catch up on the recordings. The sixth (July 16) and seventh (July 18) talk of summer will be posted soon. 

Teaching using the meditation on the flame. The flame is there but it is hidden. Maybe in the box? It is hidden by the conditions, and there are conditions that help the flame manifest. Where does the flame go? Her nature is no coming and no going. We know this with mindfulness, concentration, and insight. When conditions are no longer sufficient, the manifestation ceases to continue. The same is true for those we love. This is a very deep teaching.

We continue the teaching on the Four Noble Truths. The first is dukkha, translated as ill-being/suffering. The second is the making of ill-being; how suffering is made. This is seeing the cause of our suffering. With the third, we have the cessation of ill-being. The path, or the way, leading to well-being is the the fourth. The Five Mindfulness Trainings contain this path and is called the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to healing and out of suffering.

  • Right View
  • Right Thinking
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action
  • Right Livelihood
  • Right Diligence
  • Right Mindfulness
  • Right Concentration

The Noble Truths in the context of mindful consumption and the fifth mindfulness training. Nothing can survive without food. In Buddhism, we speak of Four Kinds of Nutriments.

  1. Edible Food
  2. Sense impression
  3. Volition
  4. Consciousness

We’ve been taking mostly about the second and fourth noble truth so far. The talk continues here with looking more closely at Right View and the other elements if the path.

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English/German European Institute of Applied Buddhism Retreats

Teaching on Consumption and the Fifth Training

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June 14, 2013. 87-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 third dharma talk of the German Retreat on the theme Are You Sure?

Following two chants by the monastics, the talk begins at 16-minutes into the recording.

One thing we can be sure of is that there is suffering in yourself and the world. From here, the Buddha built his practice and teaching. Nothing can be by itself alone, it must inter-be with something else. Suffering is the First Noble Truth. Dukkha is ill-being, but we must confirm its opposite as well. This is the Third Noble Truth – the existence of well-being. This way of thinking is the opposite of dualist of thinking and based on Interbeing.

How do we explain interbeing? A further explanation of the Four Noble Truths along with a teaching on consumption in relationship to these Truths. In our community, it is the Fifth Mindfulness Training that shows a way out.

Everything requires food. What are we feeding ourselves? According to the Buddha, there are Four Kinds of Nutriments.

  1. Edible food
  2. Sensory impressions
  3. Volition
  4. Consciousness

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Retreats

Thoughts of Compassion

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April 8, 2013. 116-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 final talk of the retreat.

How do we apply the dharma into our daily lives? What is Applied Buddhism? In the last five years we have been trying to offer the teachings in non-Buddhist circles through classes in Europe and Hong Kong. We have now started to use the term Applied Ethics. This means translating Buddhism into a secular language. Today we will spend time on the teachings of Applied Ethics.

Thay reads a question from one of the attendees about deep listening. The story of family in deep sadness and exists in silence but lives in the same house. Teaching on the Four Noble Truths. What is suffering? How can we live simply and build brotherhood and sisterhood? Practicing with Right View can relieve the suffering. What do we mean by right view?

Birth and death. What are our ideas about birth and death? What is being and non-being? Illustrations of a cloud and a flower. Interbeing allows us to transcend these notions. Applied ethics is to apply more beauty, more solidity.

Nirvana. Karma. Sangha.

Every time you have a thought of compassion or understanding, you should write it down.

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Plum Village Retreats

Nirvana Walking

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January 27, 2013. 76-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 twenty-fourth 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.

In first 17-minutes, we arr reminded how to be in touch with yourself. Through walking meditation and no thinking. When we walk, we walk relaxingly and solidly. Every step is solid and every step is freedom. And with Freedom you can arrive in Nirvana. Nirvana is extinction of all the affliction. Walking meditation can be very profound.

Three Dharma Seals. Impermanence. No self. Nirvana.

The island of self. There is no way to Nirvana,  nirvana is the way.

At 45-minutes, we look at the Four Noble truths and noble eight fold path. The five mindfulness trainings are a concrete manifestation of this path to Nirvana. What are the five mindfulness Trainings? Includes a discussion of the four Kinds of nutriments.