Conscious Breathing is Nourishing

The sangha is practicing in the Lower Hamlet, Plum Village during the Spring Retreat. We begin this March 19, 2006 dharma talk with 18-minutes of chanting by the monks and nuns followed by a dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh.

We need to be nourished by joy and happiness in our daily life. Breathing in, I feel the joy. Breathing out, I am nourished by happiness. The practice is to know how to generate joy and happiness. How is this possible? We have the sangha and the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

Joy is born from the awareness that happiness is possible. Whether you practice alone or you practice with a sangha, you should be aware of the positive elements around us. But with a sangha, it is easier and we have the energy of the sangha. With a sangha, we can practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings much better.

What is the difference between joy and happiness?

Thay shares a story of a meeting with a San Francisco Chronicle journalist. With each journalist, Thay always invites them to practice mindfulness before the interview so they can write a good article that can help many people by watering the seeds of joy. To write with compassion. Every article can be a practice.

Practitioners of meditation should get the right nourishment every day – joy and happiness. They are there already. How do we water these seeds? Walking meditation is one method.

Mindful consumption and the Four Kinds of the Nutriments (from the sutra, “The Son’s Flesh“). Collective decisions in a sangha can help protect us from unmindful consumption because we practice together. No effort. It’s wonderful. Compassion can protects us. And compassion is born from understanding. Understanding is born when you can listen and look deeply. And by consuming understanding and compassion, we can live a more healthy and happy life. And know how to nourish this understanding and compassion.

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Transforming Our Suffering

In this 65-minute dharma talk from the New Hamlet of Plum Village, Thay teaches a message on transforming our suffering. The date is Sunday, November 26, 2006 and the sangha is in the Winter Retreat.

Dhyana is the Sanskrit word for meditation. In meditation, we have stillness. We have relaxation. We have mindfulness, concentration, insight, joy, and happiness. These virtues can be cultivated. How can we do this? The practice of “leaving behind.” This is the first act of meditation. Joy and happiness is born from this practice.

Many young people have this aspiration to “leave behind” and want to become a monastic. They have experience joy and happiness. But after two or three years, the joy and happiness are not deep enough to reach down into our blocks of suffering. We have this stillness for a period of time but then the block of suffering will emerge. What is the nature of our suffering? Hidden in the depths of our unconscious. If we can’t move into the deeper practice, we begin to blame and point to problems, we then sometimes see monastics leave the community. We have to go home to ourselves and try to recognize our suffering and embrace it. Thay illustrates this teaching through bitter melon. Our natural tendency is to run away of suffering and we don’t know the hidden goodness of suffering. Suffering can heal us.

We in the Plum Village tradition belong to the School of Linji. We have to use our intelligence, our insight in order to transform our suffering.

In Buddhism we have the notion of the three worlds. Desire. Craving. Form. We may leave behind the world of desire but still have mental discourse. We practice stillness. It is made of two elements: vitaka and vijara. Thought and reflective thinking.

Thay returns to talking of a monastic who leaves the community and then may wish to return, and this is a problem for all practicing communities. We have to be willing to go deeper, to learn how to preserve our happiness, and transform the pain, anxiety, and deep suffering that is still there in the depth of our consciousness. When suffering is emerging, adapt another attitude. Don’t try to run away from it. This is Thay’s recommendation. Stay where you are and welcome it.

How do we work with suffering rooted from injustice? How do we work with suffering rooted from our parents?

Bodhicitta. Mind of enlightenment. Beginners mind. Inspired by the desire to practice in order to transform your suffering and help many people who suffer around you. The mind of love. As practitioners, we should maintain this beginners mind because it is a powerful source of energy.

If you are able to support this project financially, please visit our account on Patreon where you can make a donation for as little as $1 per dharma talk.

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Love and Happiness

Lotus Pond

It was Thanksgiving Day in Plum Village on November 25, 2004. The sangha gathered in Lower Hamlet, Plum Village during the Fall Retreat and Thay gave a 45-minute dharma talk on the topic of love and happiness.

The telephone line should be called the “compassionate line.” We hope this line can be established everywhere so that young people in their suffering, despair, and strong emotions can have someone to talk with. Suicide is a real issue and young people they feel lonely and suffer so much. Who can they talk with? Someone who has the capacity to listen. Each of us can make a vow to be that person who has the capacity to listen. Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of deep listening. Compassionate listening. We have to cultivate this capacity and transform ourselves in this bodhisattva. Without the capacity of listening deeply, we cannot understand.

According to the teachings of the Buddha, love is born from the ground of understanding. We can apply this in our relationships and our families. Understanding is not something that happens “just like that” – it takes time and we have to give our ideas, our views, our prejudices, our judgment.

Understanding what? The difficulties and suffering of the other person. The deep hope and desire the person has. The kind of obstacles the person is experiencing. We can ask the other person, “do you think I understand you enough?” Once you understand, you can stop doing and saying things that cause the other person to suffer. Then you have True Love. This is the practice of love.

Do we understand ourselves? The nature of our own suffering? Everyone has an idea of happiness and we may strive for that idea. But, can we see that happiness can come from any direction? Joy comes from letting go and the first thing we can let go of is our idea of happiness.

In the Buddhist teaching of love, there are four elements. The first is maitri – friendship, brotherhood, loving-kindness. And the second is karuna – capacity to understand the suffering and help remove and transform it – compassion. Mudita is the third element – joy – your joy is her joy, her joy is our joy. The last element is upeksha – nondiscrimination. This is a higher form of love. The four qualities have no limits – infinite love – these elements are also call the Four Unlimited Minds.

The bodhisattva of love is in you.

 

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Solidity and Freedom – German Retreat

The first dharma talk of the Nourishing Happiness in our Hearts retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbrol, Germany. The talk is given in English with consecutive translation into German. The talk was given on August 13, 2014 and both the audio and the video are available below.

Topics

  • Story of the corn seed.
  • The realm of Dharma. Everything is a wonder.
  • The kingdom of God and the cosmos.
  • Living happily in the present moment.
  • Three kinds of energy; Mindfulness, insight, and concentration.
  • The art of happiness – being able to generate a feeling of joy and a feeling of happiness.
  • The art of suffering.
  • Interbeing
  • Elements of meditation
  • Freedom and walking meditation.

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What is Happiness?

From the Stillwater Meditation Hall at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the first question and answer session of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. The talk is in English and both the audio and the video are available below. The questions are a little difficult to hear but they are included below for you to read.

  1. Is it okay not to speak and still be understood?
  2. What is happiness?
  3. When we die, where does our spirit go?
  4. A question about suffering, particularly those of animals and the environment. What is the most effective way to reduce this suffering?
  5. Thay, do you feel old?
  6. How can we practice with the escalating violence in the world and particularly in Israel and Palestinians?
  7. How can I be in touch with the conditions of happiness and live with constant pain too?
  8. At times when I feel truly mindful, I feel a special force or intuition. What is this – a coincidence?

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Exploring the Joy of Practice

monasticFrom the Rising Tide Meditation Hall at a retreat at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the third dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World. The date is September 27, 2013. We begin with seven minutes of chanting from the monastic brothers and sisters.

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Thay introduces and explains the process for the Novices and Aspirants along with the 5-year program of training as a monastic. It can bring you a lot of joy. They practice the Ten Precepts of a novice. The third source of nutriment is volition – deepest desire of your life. What you want to do with your life? Knowing what you want to do can give you energy. Brotherhood and sisterhood creates a very deep love. What is life as a monastic like, how are decisions made, how do you practice? Why did Thay begin to take students after living in exile in the west? The need for dharma teachers across the world is great. Thay invites you to join the five year program.

At approximately 38-minutes into the recording, we turn to a new topic. We have talked about the art of suffering – if we know how to suffer, we will suffer much less. The art of suffering is linked to the art of happiness. Skillfully we can create joy for ourselves and others. There are many ways to create joy and happiness. The first method is to let go, to leave behind. Letting go will give birth to joy and happiness. If you let go, happiness can come right away. What are holding onto that we think is crucial for our happiness? The practice of releasing our cows. We can practice using sitting meditation and learn to release our cows. A whole country can even be caught my a cow – our ideology. The teaching of the monk Badhya who exclaimed “Oh my happiness!” during his meditation. He was able to let go.

The second way to joy and happiness is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a source of joy and a source of happiness. This is our practice. Then we have concentration – if you are very mindful, then concentration can be born. From concentration we then have insight – it can liberate us. Joy and happiness can arrive.

in the teachings of the Buddha, there are five types of energies that you can generate. They can help generate joy and happiness. The first three were covered earlier – mindfulness, concentration, and insight. The other two are faith and diligence. Faith here means confidence. The other teaching on power is cutting through / letting go. The power to cut by brought requires courage and courage requires us to have insight. The second power is wisdom. The third power is the power to love, to forgive.

How do we listen to a dharma talk? What is the zen way? We continue with a brief review from the exercises of mindful breathing.

At 86-minutes into the recording, we turn to a teaching on the three doors of liberation – emptiness, signlessness, and aimlesslessness. We hear an explanation and teaching on each of these doors.

No video is available for this talk.

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Feed and Nourish our Happiness

We have enjoyed some time to rest and have not so many dharma talks in the recent weeks. The monastics at Plum Village are currently participating in the bi-annual 21-Day Retreat and those talks will not be made available immediately. In the meantime, we return to the talks given at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour that haven’t been made available until now. This is the second dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World. The date is September 26, 2013.

Try the BetterListen Version of this entire retreat – click the image below

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When I was a young monk, I believed he did not suffer but I know now that is not true. How can you not suffer when a dear friend dies? He was not a stone, he was a human being. But he suffered much less because of his wisdom and compassion. This is a very important thing to learn. The other question that had as a young monk is why did the Buddha keep practicing after his enlightenment. I know the answer today. Happiness is impermanent just like anything else. We have to feed and nourish our happiness.

What is the goodness of suffering? It can help us to understand and love. We have to learn how to make good use of suffering. Then we can suffer much less. First, we must learn how to not let the second arrow come hit us. When we have pain in our body or mind and we let it be magnified the we create more pain and suffering. The second thing to learn is how to go home and take care of our suffering. To embrace tenderly our pain.

Our consciousness has two layers – store and mind. In the store, we have many seeds; mental formations. For example, anger is a mental formation. Another mental formation is mindfulness, the energy of mindfulness, and this can be used to lessen the energy of anger. Mindfulness can embrace tenderly and anger will be transformed. We can then invite you the seed of compassion. Mindfulness of compassion.

The first five mental formations are called universal. They are contact, attention, feeling, perception, and volition. They are universal because they are there at any time and at any place. How do we interact and engage with these universal mental formations?

The focus of the exercises of mindful breathing are body and feelings in the first eight. then, starting with the ninth we turn to the mind. The mental formations are the objects of our mind. The tenth is about gladdening the mind. We can use Right Diligence to help the negative seeds to not manifest in our mind. This is the first aspect of the practice. And if it’s already manifested, this is the second aspect, we invite the negative seed to return to store. The third aspect is to let the good seeds rise. The fourth aspect is to try keeping the positive mental formation present as long as you can.

We turn now to Right View – a part of the noble eightfold path. Right view is insight and enlightenment. From Right View, we can have Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence. Insight can come right away! Right View transcends being and non-being, no birth and no death. Interbeing can be very helpful.

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Four Energies and Mindful Educators

Thich Nhat Hanh along with the monks and nuns of Plum Village are on their first tour of Spain this month. An Educators Retreat at the University of Barcelona and this is the first talk providing an orientation to the practice taught by Thay. The date of the recording is May 9, 2014. The audio and the video are both available below.

We begin with an introduction to the practice of breathing and the role it plays in mindfulness practice.There is an energy of mindfulness that is born during the time we are breathing. Life is available in the present moment because the past is already gone the future has not yet come. To go home to the present moment is easy…breath in mindfully. We can get in touch with our body when we are breathing mindfully. Our body is the first wonder of life. Maybe when we get in touch with our body, we may notice tension in our body. If we notice this tension while breathing, we can release this tension while breathing out. If we learn to do this well, then we can learn to transmit this to our students. There is another energy of the practice called concentration. This energy is born from the energy of mindfulness. It let’s us focus. (Editor’s Note: short skip in the recording here) The third energy is insight. Insight arises from concentration and mindfulness. The French novelist Camus spoke of this through the story of the prisoner. Breathing in, I know I am alive. This is already an insight and it is a true miracle. Mindfulness allows us to live deeply each moment we are alive and has the power to liberate us.

Conditions of happiness. Can we see all the conditions of happiness right here in this moment? We can begin with mindfulness of our eyes. A good practitioner of mindfulness should be able to create a feeling of joy and a feeling of happiness at any moment. The practice of walking is another method to discover a moment of happiness. I have arrived.

True happiness is made of mindfulness, concentration and insight. And this will bring compassion, love, and joy.  This is the art of living. With this practice, you can also handle a painful feeling or emotion. Many of us consume in order to not encounter our suffering. We are afraid of our own suffering. Mindfulness can help you know how to suffer. How do we do this? We can use mindfulness to not be overwhelmed by the pain inside. We can recognize and embrace the pain. Once we learn this practice, we can do the same for our students and help our students to suffer less as well.

Understanding will always bring about compassion. Compassion is the fourth kind of energy and has the power to heal and transform anger. Once we know our own suffering transformed, how can we help another person to suffer less.

Thay draws a circle representing the school teacher. How do we work with difficult aspects in our school environments. We can start with our loved ones, then our colleagues, and finally our students. The first thing to do is going home to ourselves through the practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking. We can do this with the support of co-practitioners.

Instruction on walking meditation, mindful eating, and listening to the bell.

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The Breathing Room

This talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, March 27, 2014. The talk on this day is in English.

14:44 The Breathing Room
22:54 Inviting the Bell
33:10 Conditions of Happiness
43:30 Mindfulness of Suffering

Thich Nhat Hanh begins with a recollection of a retreat for children. During walking meditation, we proposed they use “yes, yes” and “thanks, thanks” for each of their steps. We can say yes and feel thankful. There are so many things we can say yes to. We can appreciate these things – our body, our eyes, etc. With our eyes we can see the blue sky and the mountains. The practice is breathing in, I am aware of my eyes and am grateful they are in good condition. We do the same with other parts of our body. Like our heart. With this awareness, we can take better care of our body and allow it to be restored. In the “Sutra on the Contemplations of the Body” the Buddha taught us how to look at all the parts of the body. We use mindfulness to project light onto every part of our body. This can bring us happiness, love, and compassion. Thay provides more instruction on this practice.

If you are a leader of a corporation, you may wish to incorporate and offer a session of total relaxation. This is not a loss of time. The same can be done by a school teacher for the students. Parents too, if they know the practice, can offer a session for the family. In a civilized society this can be very good. We can also create a tiny meditation hall in the home; a space where the bell can be located and we can practice in a safe space. Every time you feel restless or confused or irritated, we can walk to that place – the breathing room – and stop all the thinking and calm our body and mind. Thay recalls a story of how to open/close the door when he was a young novice that he then relayed to Thomas Merton.

In our small breathing room, we should also have a bell. This is a territory of mindfulness. There are four lines to learn when inviting the bell after we breath in and out three times before Inviting the Bell. Thay teaches us how to invite the bell and why mindful breathing is so important.

There are many conditions of happiness. In Buddhism, we have many versus to help us practice mindfulness. For example, for when turning on the water faucet. Are you aware of your conditions of happiness? Teaching continues on how this related to the breathing room and why it’s important for the family. This is the art of happiness.

This is part of the 7th & 8th mindfulness exercises in the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Mindful Breathing. We should not run away from our suffering. We can learn from our suffering. This ties right into the Four Noble Truths. We can learn to listen to our suffering without fear without running away through consumption. With mindfulness we have the energy to take care of our suffering.

The practice of looking and listening deeply. Meditation is the time to look and listen to understand our suffering. This brings about understanding and compassion. If you know how to suffer, you suffer much less. You cannot take happiness out of suffering and cannot take suffering out of happiness.

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The Voice of the Buddha

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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