What is the Purpose of this Human Life?

In this 2-hour dharma talk, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches how and why we can live our lives deeply and provides methods such as gatha practice. We also continue the theme of the winter retreat by learning more about the characteristics of the seeds.

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from New Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Thursday, December 5, 2013 and is the sixth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

00:00-14:30 What is the purpose of human life?
14:30-23:00 Practice gathas
23:00-41:35 Spirituality and Plum Village practice
41:35-end Store consciousness and characteristics of seeds

Some trees live thousands of years and certain turtles can live hundreds of years. A human span is about a 100-years. What is the purpose of this human life? We should live deeply so the time here doesn’t go to waste. We should not wait to answer this question. The quality of life; not just living it to pass the days. The quality depends on how deeply we live each moment and not the emotional and material comforts. Money, power, prestige may not provide this quality or happiness.

In Vietnam we had king who had given his throne to his son in order to become a monk. This gave him more time to live more deeply. He wore the color brown, the color for monastics. In Vietnam, it represents simplicity and humility. It’s the color of those who work in the fields.

When we become monastics, we learn the gathas to practice mindfulness. This Sunday we will ordain seven aspirants in Plum Village. There are about 60 Gathas to memorize and the first gatha to memorize is the walking up gatha.

Waking up this morning, I smile. 
Twenty-four brand new hours. 
I vow to live deeply each moment
And look at all beings with the eyes of compassion and love. 

Every breath and every step is legendary. The quality of life is awareness and our capacity to live deeply.

Science and philosophy both study our humanity. There is also Tao – spirituality. It is also a branch of research to understand our own suffering and happiness. Spirituality is not to run away from life and it is not religion. It is a path to understanding and love to live deeply our lives. We can use the discoveries of science and philosophy. We come to Plum Village to learn how to live life. We look for elder brothers and sisters to guide us. We don’t practice for merit in the future but to live deeply in this moment. For example, walking meditation is not a mean to an end. It’s a daily practice. It is the path of happiness.

The same with sitting meditation  First we need calmness and stillness in our body and mind. The sixteen exercises of mindful breathing can help us calm and still our body and mind. If we don’t know how, we ask a dharma teacher for help.

These practices liberate us.

We’re learning the 8th consciousness – Store. We begin with a review of The first three verses of 30 Verses of Vasubandhu  What is a self? There are also dharmas and phenomena. All this manifests from the same route – store consciousness. Store both receives and maintains the seeds. It also holds the body and the environment in which we live in. What goes into our store consciousness? There are three different kinds of seeds that go into store: the image of the objects of phenomena, the names of the objects, and the last is discrimination (habit of discriminating). That was the review of previous weeks.

Characteristics of the Seeds
The first characteristic of a seed is that it changes every millisecond. They are changing all the time. Another characteristic is that it’s also continuous, like a steam. It maintains the nature of the seed over time. Every seed is waiting for the conditions to manifest. Manifestation only teachings. Individual and collective manifestation

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Cooling Down the Fire of Anxiety

May 19, 2011. 92-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into German, with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the third Dharma talk offered by Thay in the German Retreat at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.

We learn about verses of practice — Gathas — many are taken from Avatamsaka Sutra. Later, Thay wrote Gathas for modern society such as using the telephone and riding a bicycle. We continue the discussion on right view with a presentation on the opposites: being/non-being, birth/death, coming/going, and sameness/otherness. The last 15-minutes of the talk, Thay provides some instruction for education and mindfulness.

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.

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The Universe is a Single Flower

February 17, 2011. 78-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh in the Assembly of Stars Mediation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France. We begin with 8-minutes of chanting. This is the final dharma talk of the Winter Retreat before the Great Ordination Ceremony and the close of the retreat. Here we continue discussing the Sutra of Flowers and Fragrance.

Seeing the Earth in that way he felt a deep compassion for all the people who live on the Earth. They are trying to do something to protect our environment. Only from very far away do you look back and see the fragility of our planet, and you feel compassion.

One astronaut said that when he left the Earth and looked back, then he became a humanitarian, because I feel that I have to take care of the people on that planet. The vision is so important from far away. If you are a schoolteacher, or parents, you try to help your students to get in touch with this. Continue reading “The Universe is a Single Flower”

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Cultivating Peace, Joy, and Happiness

Where Earth Meets Water
Image by Lady-bug via Flickr

November 19, 2009 dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet in Plum Village.

In this talk Thay demonstrates the importance of gathas, short verses for practice, in the cultivating of peace, joy, and happiness.

Water flows from high in the mountains.
Water runs deep in the Earth
Miraculously, water comes to us,  and sustains all life.

During the second part of the talk, we hear about the first few exercises from the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing.

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