Early Buddhism, Four Powers, and Two Truths

November 11, 2012. 99-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha had just begun the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the second 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.

At the time of the Buddha, he accepted many of the existing teachings such as reincarnation and karma. The gods were Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The Buddha took the teachings deeper. Thay makes the observation that at this time in history, the highest caste was the spiritual teacher and the business person less. It is the opposite today. Thay then teaches about the expansion and history of Vedantism and Jainism. The states of meditation in Jainism. Thanks to concentration, the practitioner can have joy and happiness. More inner peace. No suffering. No joy. Purification. The Four Brahma Viharas (Immeasurable Minds). The Buddha accepted their teaching but also created his own way.

The Four Powers.

  1. Deep Desire/Aspiration
  2. Mind
  3. Diligence
  4. Looking deeply

We’ve been learning the methodologies of Buddhism (last time it was the Four Criterion). Today we talk about the Two Truths: Relative Truth and Absolute Truth.

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One Cell in the Buddha Body

June 14, 2012. 86-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the tenth dharma talk (of 15).

The Four Recollections

Joy and happiness with the three kinds of energies: mindfulness, concentration, and insight. When we focus on our breath, we are only our breath. We are not our sorrow or our regret.

Joy while breathing
Happiness while sitting

Joy is the breathing
Happiness is the breathing

Thay tells a story of the Buddha visiting a disciple who was very attached to the Buddha, but was now dying. His name was Vakali to help him die peacefully. The story illustrates the concept of the dharma body (dharmakaya). Our practice is our dharma body. The sangha and our teacher can help is develop our dharma body. Our practice also creates the living dharma.

We also have a sangha body (sanghakaya); a community of practice. The sangha body is in yourself.

We also learn the last two of the Four Recollections: Buddha body (buddhakaya) and the Mindfulness Trainings (silakaya). We practice to cultivate these four bodies.

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The Temple of Brotherhood

June 9, 2012. 127-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the sixth dharma talk (of 15).

Just prior to this session, those attending the retreat received a 86-page booklet with sutras and a Letter to a Young Scientist.

Three energies of practice

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Concentration
  3. Insight

The practice of looking deeply along with a discussion of zen history. Tang Hoi, a vietnamese monk, brought zen to China. Zen. Chan. Thien. Dhyana.

Four Notions of Letting Go (from Diamond Sutra)

  1. Self
  2. Man
  3. Living being
  4. Life span

Thay spends the majority of talk teaching on self. A similar teaching is also found in Sutra #296 from Samyukta Agama.

We read from The Paramartha Gathss of Asanga Gathas on the Absolute Truth (verses 1-2)

1. There is absolutely no subject, no agent and no one who enjoys the fruit of action (no one who feels). No dharma (phenomenon, object of mind) has any function. Nonetheless the passing on of one effect to another does take place.

2. There are only the 12 limbs of existence, the aggregates, the realms (ayatanas) and the worlds (dhatus) that are always changing. When we observe thoroughly and contemplate these things we shall not find a separate self anywhere.

Twelve Ayatana

  • Eyes (form)
  • Nose (smell)
  • Tongue (taste)
  • Ears (sound)
  • Body (touch)
  • Mind (objects of mind)

There is no “self” in this. The 18 dhata includes all the twelve above plus the following:

  • Eye consciousness
  • Nose  consciousness
  • Tongue consciousness
  • Ears consciousness
  • Body consciousness
  • Mind consciousness

Why do you think the “self” doesn’t change when everything else does?

At 1:28, Thay reads (not provided in the book) the Sutra #300 from Samyukta Agama. We continue with verse 44 from the same text above, followed by a portion of the “Discourse on the Middle Way”

44.  Living beings is the name of a continuous stream and all phenomena as the object of perception are only signs. Therefore there is no real change of birth into death and death into birth and no person who realizes nirvana.

At the end of talk, Thay provides commentary on why the Buddha had to continue the practice beyond enlightenment.

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Each Day I Choose a Joy

June 23, 2011. 100-minute Dharma Talk in Vietnamese, with translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong, given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France.

Thay speaks about the life of the Vietnamese anti-war songwriter and musician Trinh Cong Son, and the experience of Thay, Sister Chan Khong, and Thay Phap An in the 1960s. Experiences such as being a child in the war and others writing anti-war poetry. One book of 60-poems by Thay had to be published underground – Joining Your Palm in Order for the Dove to Appear. We need to be aware of this era and the despair it caused. Sr. Chan Khong sings a couple songs but the recording is not so good because we are listening to translation; you can turn it up during this period. He goes on to share about the Great Requiem Ceremonies in Vietnam in 2007.

The rest of the talk Thay continues teaching about practicing while touring with the Sangha.

  1. Touring from the Heart
  2. Touring as a Practice. Everyday and second is a practice.
  3. Sangha happiness. The aim is to be happy.
  4. We are not tourists.
  5. Keep our seatbelt properly tight. Precepts.
  6. Fine Manners
  7. Practice Second Body system.
  8. Caring for Second Body.
  9. Walking meditation. Every step.
  10. Stop to talk
  11. Precious moment. Attend all activities.
  12. Sangha confidence.
  13. We are not performers of the dharma. We practice and teach with our heart. It’s not the form.
  14. Mobile Monastery
  15. All activities are equally important.
  16. Time to rest. Especially Thay…one activity per day.
  17. Keep our togetherness.
  18. Mindful electronics. Be discreet.

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

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