What Does it Mean to be Free

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. It is the fourth day of the retreat. This 108-minute question and answer session is from October 1, 2011 and both the audio and video are available with this post.

A good question can help many people. It can be a question about our suffering and our happiness.

We begin with a few questions from the children.

  1. What are some of the traditional foods in a Buddhist monastery? (4:33)
  2. What helps to clear your mind? (13:55)
  3. Is it true that if you don’t believe in God that you go to the underworld? (17:32)
  4. What kind of Buddha’s are there? (21:40)

Followed by questions from teenagers, young adults, and adults.

  1. How can I relate to another person, and love another person, but not experience the three complexes – inferiority, superiority, and equality? (27:14)
  2. What would you advise someone who has been diagnosed with attention disorder, or any mental illness, that hinders a person from being in the now. And have had to rely on medications for their whole life. How can they live in the now? (32:40)
  3. What would you do if you had a friend who isn’t being loving to each other, and you are caught in the middle? (37:28)
  4. How can I not suffer when I see my 26-year old son’s life unraveling due to his drug addictions? I am overcome by grief and despair. (56:45)
  5. When facing a decision, where your only see two possible answers – the one you think is right and the one you feel is right – how can you know which one? (1:03:45)
  6. What does it mean to be free?(1:23:50)
  7. How can a Vietnam veteran, who still suffers from PTSD, communicate to the many generations of Vietnamese people at this retreat that he cared for the Vietnamese? (1:34:23)

We have one more talk in this series from Mississippi. Stay tuned.

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.

Play

What has Buddha-Nature?

December 1, 2013. 93-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. This is the fifth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. We begin with two chants from the monastics. The talk was given in Vietnamese and this is an English translation by Sr. Tue Nghiem.

An issue in Christianity has been the question whether God a human or not a human. Theologians have said, though God is not a person but God is not less than a person.  In Buddhism, there is the idea of sentient beings that suffer and Buddha’s who have enlightenment. But when we become a Buddha, we continue to be a sentient being. I’m Mahayana Buddhism, these two are not separate. Sentient beings and Buddha’s are not different but two pairs of opposite. One cannot be without the other. Humans are composed of non-human elements. This is a non-dualistic insight. Interdependent co-arising.

Everything is impermanent, including enlightenment and Buddha. We must continue to cultivate happiness and insight. Can the Buddha be recognized in another form than a human? Consider what is written in the Diamond Sutra. We also need to remove the dualistic thinking regarding inanimate objects. Even a rock has Buddha-nature. We have to transcend the idea that Buddha must be a human.

Applying this teaching using sitting and breathing. Thay provides instructions.

At 58-minutes, we continue with the winter retreat teachings from the 30-verses of Vasubandhu with the 3rd verse.

Its appropriations and its manifestation of locality
cannot be known intellectually. It is always
associated with contact, mental attention, feeling,
perception, and volition.

Seeds. Form. Signs. Consciousness. Names.

Play

What is God?

July 25, 2013. 77-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet of Plum Village during the 2013 Summer Opening. This is the eleventh talk of the summer and it is a session of questions and answers.

Children

  1. How can I stop worrying?
  2. When I’m angry, how do I let my anger out?
  3. What is God?
  4. Why do I suffer?
  5. What can I do to not have friends exclude me?

Adults

  1. How can Buddhism help in serious illnesses?
  2. What is your teaching on reincarnation?
  3. How can you treat … Question on love?

Play

Children and their Experience of Divorce

July 11, 2013. 82-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet in Plum Village during the 2013 Summer Opening. This is the third talk of the summer and it is a session of questions and answers.

Children

  1. Why does the world exist?
  2. I don’t understand about love because my parents got divorced and they yelled at each other.
  3. What does God look like to you?
  4. How long are you/I going to live?

Teens and Adults

  1. When parents get divorced, why do they fight in front of the children and also say they love the children?
  2. I have a friend who is always unkind to me and then later he is concerned about me. Why does he do that?
  3. How can have stillness and joy?
  4. How can transform the guilt inside for my parents getting divorced?
  5. I don’t know how to deal with my anger, especially when I am angry. What can I do?
  6. How do I practice with my parents/grandparents when I haven’t met or seen him?
  7. A friend is on drugs. How can I deal with being overwhelmed by this person?

French Television

  1. What is the meaning of prayer in Buddhism?
  2. What are the different kinds of prayer in Buddhism?
  3. What can prayer offer to humanity?

Play

God Can Be A Person

December 24, 2011. 105-minute dharma talk and chanting with Thich Nhat Hanh as he gives the annual Christmas Eve talk from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. The sangha is in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat and this is the first talk in English. The talk was also enjoyed by over 550 people live via the Internet.

The practice of Plum Village is “I Have Arrived. I am Home.” We can breathe in a feel alive right here and now. We stop all our thinking and focus our mind on our in breath and get established in the here and the now. Mindfulness is a kind of light to know what is happening in the present moment. With mindfulness we can become a Saint, a Buddha, a Bodhisattva . With this light. One day science will be able to measure the type of energy created by mindfulness practice. The collective energy of everyone. We can send waves of mindfulness, compassion and peace, we create interference and enhance the energy of everyone. All of us are looking for our true home. We may only feel happy when we are home. Our practice is to go home in every moment. Breathe and you are alive. Many of us have succeeded in that practice. When we do this, we also become the home for other people.

When we practice like this, we may get in touch with planet Earth. In Plum Village we look at the planet Earth as a bodhisattva. You do not have to be a person to be a bodhisattva. Everything has a buddha nature. During walking meditation, we may see that the Earth is the most beautiful bodhisattva. Patience, stability, creativity, and love – these are some of the qualities of this bodhisattva. We are a part of her. With mindfulness of walking and breathing, we can connect with our body. Your healing must go together with the healing of the planet earth. The earth is not our environment, the earth is us.

We have spoken about two kinds of vertical theology and the horizontal theology. With vertical, we try to get in touch with the absolute; the ultimate dimension of reality. When cannot arrive in our true home without touching this ultimate reality; we have to touch God. What are we? Where do we come from? We want to know our true nature.

In the Christian tradition, we learn that Jesus is the Son of God. It means that through Jesus you can touch the Ultimate Dimension, the ultimate reality, the ground of being, the almighty. We also learn that Jesus is the Son of Man. As the Son of Man, he belongs to the historical dimension where there is being and non-being, birth and death, sameness and otherness, good and evil. Notions that make us suffer. These can the foundation of our fear, anxiety, and suffering. But Jesus is not only the Son of Man, he is also the Son of God. If we get in touch with Jesus deeply enough, then we can see this ultimate dimension. We have to see Jesus as both. In the Buddhist tradition, it is very clear that everyone belongs to the historical dimension and we also belong to the ultimate dimension. This is our nature and we can learn to transcend our notions.

Merry Christmas to everyone.

Play

Watch live streaming video from plumvillage at livestream.com
Play

The Five Aggregates Are Empty

December 15, 2011. 101-minute dharma talk from New Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the seventh talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

Insight from touching the earth. Truth is a kind of insight and the object of our religion is truth, goodness, and beauty. We pay respect to Buddha, to God, to Allah in order to gain this insight. When we bow down, we don’t need to personalize the statue but rather something concrete. Understanding. Compassion. Wisdom. Everyone can keep their own religion; touching the earth is not something inanimate. Mother Earth is a great Boddhisatva.

With medicine and health, we can’t just rely on one thing. The same is true in regards to religion. We have to pay attention to our body. Bring out mind back to our body. You have time for your computer, but not time for your body? We are organizing a Health Retreat to restore the well being in your body and your mind (April 2012). If we can breath in, and bring our mind back to our body, then we can stop the alienation created by external forces such as computers, tv, cell phones, etc. Stopping. Calming. Concentration. The breath can be the object of your mind and stop the situation from being dispersed.

About an hour into talk, we resume the Paramarthah Gathas of Asanga’s Yogacarabhumi sutra study with Gatha 17-21, particularly focusing on the verses dealing with the ephemeral nature of all things we think of as ourselves.

17-18. The physical body is like foam. Feelings are like bubbles on the surface of the water. The perceptions are like a magic city. The mental formations are like the stem of a banana tree. The consciousness is like a magic show. That is what the Buddha has taught.

19. Ignorance does not make ignorance ignorant, nor does it make others ignorant. Another does not make ignorance ignorant. Nevertheless ignorance is not non-existent.

20. Ignorance is born from inappropriate attention. Inappropriate attention arises in the ignorant person.

21. Merit, lack of merit and immovability; these formations are imagined in a threefold way. All things have three kinds of karma and these karma’s are not compatible with each other.

Play

Play

Beloved Community

September 9, 2011. 92-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from the Ocean of Peace Mediation Hall at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the third dharma talk for the Together We Are One retreat.

Thay teaches the children the practice of pebble meditation: 1) Flower: Fresh, 2) Mountain: Solid, 3) Water: Calm, 4) Space: Free. And talks of the first two mantras.

In Buddhism, we known the Buddha is a human being and we also believe in Mahayana Buddhism that we all have a Buddhanature. Building a practice community, a sangha, was one if the first things he did in order to help people. With a sangha, the practice is easier. The Buddha needed a sangha and so do we. We should build a sangha, and this is a noble practice. In Buddhism, the sangha is one of the Three Jewels. A good sangha is one that practices Mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Each of us is a cell in the body of the sangha. If we can save this planet, we will need this kind of energy. The energy generated by a sangha.

Thay shares with us about the nature of God and the nature of the Buddha, and how the we can find the Buddha-nature in everyone. He continues to share about the project of the Beloved Community started by Martin Luther King, Jr., and specifically the history of how Thay left Vietnam, was exiled, and met Dr. King. “Everyone of us can make a step mindfully, everyone of us can look mindfully and recognize the beauty of life. If we can recognize the beauty of the Dharma, we can recognize the Kingdom of God–we get in touch with the Kingdom of God. We don’t have to look anywhere outside, anywhere else.

A living sangha carries the living dharma. The way you practice. It can’t be found in a book. When you produce a thought of compassion, of understanding. If this is present, then the living Buddha is there also. You are also a cell in the body of the Buddha. You are a Buddha. Each one of us can take a step mindfully and see the beauty of life. When we are in touch with the flower, then we are in touch with the kingdom.

We are the Buddha. We are the dharma. We are the sangha.

We return to Buddhist psychology with the idea if store and mind consciousness. There is also a realm of non-thinking for other beings. We can practice samadhi to train ourselves to stop the thinking. We can enjoy our breathing. Enjoy the feeling. Leave the thinking.

There is the “mind base” – manas – this is unconcious. Eye. Ear. Nose. Tongue. Body. And the sixth is manas (mind). It is characterized by pleasure seeking and avoiding suffering. Manas ignores the goodness of suffering. Manas ignores the law of moderation.

“When you bow to the Buddha, you don’t view the Buddha as an entity wholly separate from you. I am in you, and you are in me. There is no longer any complex. That is the wisdom of non-discrimination: nirvikalpajnana.”

The talk is available below. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and beloved community.

Play
Play

The Five Mantras and Noble Eightfold Path

March 5, 2011. 96-minute dharma talk in French with Thich Nhat Hanh at Plum Village, France. This is the fifth day of the 5-day French Retreat and the translation is provided by Sr. Pine.

The fifth Mantra. This is a happy moment.

Mindfulness is the source of happiness. Smirti. We should be able to transform any moment into happiness with mindfulness. This moment is worth living. Moment after moment.

I’m here for you. This is the First Mantra. This is for generating your concentrated presence.

My dear, I know you are there and I’m so happy. This is the Second Mantra. To recognize the presence of your lived one. Your loved can be anything.

My dear, I know you suffer and I am here for you. The Third Mantra. Used when you notice something is not right. Not well.

My dear, I am suffering and I want you to know. I’m doing my best. Please help me. The Fourth Mantra. This is the most difficult because it’s when you are suffering and you think you’re loved one is the cause. We want to punish. After you have tried to cool the flames, maybe 24-hours, then you can practice this mantra. Tell him in a calm voice. If you are not able, then write it down.

Right thinking is thinking that goes in the direction of non-discrimination in the direction of understanding. We can always produce a thought of right thinking using mindfulness. Anger is no longer possible with this type of action. Karma (action) is our continuation. Thought is our action. If your thinking is beautiful then you action will be as well. With Right Thinking you can bring Right Speech and Right Action.

The path recommended by the Buddha begins with Right View. In addition to Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Concentration, Right Effort, and Right Livelihood. The noble eightfold path. This path leads to the end of suffering. The fourth noble truth. This is the presence of happiness.

A discussion on the Ultimate and Historical dimensions – they are not separate. Nirvana. Suchness. With the instrument of mindfulness and concentration, we can see the nature of reality. Being and non-being disappear.

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

Play
Play

Ten Days

January 30, 2011. 85-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France. We begin with 7-minutes of chanting. Thay reads some Vietnamese Poetry and a love story that takes place during the Lunar New Year.

Breathing in, I dwell on my unborn
Breathing out, no birth and death

Speaks of dualistic views and uses God as the basis for the analysis. Learning to touch the unborn. This is it. Sudden enlightenment.

Today we learn two more particular mental formations. The first is about deep desire, expectation of waiting for something. Feeling very empty. Lack of something. It’s why we check our email. Thay uses a story from a 1995 (Vietnamese) short story to make the point. The title is Ten Days. Ten days of expectation. It’s quite a funny story about young love and waiting.

Drops of Emptiness.

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).

Play
Play