A Beginners Mind for a Beautiful Future

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. This 115-minute dharma talk is from October 2, 2011 and both the audio and video are available with this post. This is the last day of Magnolia retreat and may be a little difficult if listeners have not heard the talks from the previous days (video playlist).

The beginners mind. It is a source of energy. A willingness to practice. And to serve others. We are not afraid of obstacles in order to realize our dream and our intention. Siddhartha had this beginners mind, and we can too. The mind of love is the beginners kind. During this retreat has allowed this to arise in our heart. Do we know how to continue this mind?

In Buddhism, there are two kinds of truth: conventional and ultimate. Thay explains how it is similar to what we see in science. We can learn to understand the true nature of reality. When we come to the ultimate truth, we can leave behind our notions of birth and death, suffering and happiness, being and non-being, etc. How can we do this? We cannot be an observer, we must try to be a participant. The Buddha’s insight received under the bodhi tree was to be relieved of all fear. This cannot be learned from notions and concepts.

We learn of Right View, another element of the noble path. Thay tells a story of Katyayana, a student of the Buddha, asking about Right View. A teaching of no-birth, being and non-being, as illustrated by a cloud. Right View is being able to transcend all these notions: being and non-being, birth and death, left and right, above and below, subject and object, etc. All pairs of opposites. We cannot remove one without the other.

Story of a grain of salt wanting to know how salty is the ocean to illustrate the subject of cognition and object of cognition. Being a participant to truly understand.

Talking to a flame to illustrate this teaching of being and non-being.

Thay writes these pairs of opposites on the board: birth and death, being and nonbeing, coming and going, sameness and otherness. All these must be transcended to see the true face of reality.

A teaching on interbeing and four more notions – self, man, living beings, and life span. Thay explains each as outiined in the Diamond Sutra. This Sutra teaches us that humans are only made of non-human elements. This is one of the oldest teachings in deep ecology. The Buddha too is comprised of non-Buddha elements. This is why bowing to the Buddha is not worshiping, but is a meditation.

We have been talking of Right View and dualism. We turn now to three other elements of the noble eightfold path that arise from Right View. Right Thinking can help us remove all discrimination. It is thinking that can produce understanding and compassion. It can heal the world. From these two we can then practice Right Speech. To restore and reconcile. This element includes our ability for deep listening. And then we turn to Right Action. Anything we can do with our body to protect and save. These three are all forms of action, starting with our thoughts. Thinking is already action. And we produce each of these every day. The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said that man is the sum of his action. In Sanskrit, this is called karma. Everything we produce will continue us; it does not disappear. We are the author, and that is our continuation. If we can keep our beginners mind alive, surely we will have a beautiful future.

The other elements of the path, briefly outlined in this talk, are Right Livelihood, Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. This path can be seen very concretely in the Five Mindfulness Trainings. We also briefly learn of the Three Doors of Liberation — emptiness, signlessness, and aimlessness — in light of the retreat’s teaching.

We talk concludes with a couple of songs led by Sr. Chan Không.

Play

The Eyes of the Buddha – Interbeing

2000-06-13. This is the 9th dharma talk of the 21-Day Retreat, The Eyes of the Buddha, offered at the Lower Hamlet, Plum Village.

Our practice is to go back to the present moment in order to be aware of what is going on – whether they are positive or negative. The sangha eyes is the instrument in which we use to practice deep looking. And the Buddha eyes is the instrument we use in order to practice deep looking. We don’t only look as individuals.

The first issue we face is loneliness. The disintegration of the family. Individualism. Our families need to be rebuilt. Our communities need to be rebuilt. Our society need to be rebuilt. Our church need to be rebuilt. The second issue we need to look at is violence. There is so much violence. Violence leads to despair. What we consume feeds us with more violence, with more fear, with intolerance, anger, and despair. The dharma should be effective in helping us deal with violence and hatred. The teaching of the Buddha on consumption has much to do with the nurture of violence. The third issue is of fear/uncertainty. We are afraid of what will come in the future. Division and alienation is destroying our happiness. We should get together and build sangha. To learn again how to live as a community. The dharma should address real issues of our time. The dharma is not something for the future. The dharma is now. To take care of the present.

Anytime we hear the teaching of emptiness, interbeing, aimlessness, nirvana, we should bring our suffering in order to understand our suffering. Ask the question, what does this teaching have to do with our suffering – both individual and collective.

Interbeing. This teaching is an antidote to the situation of division, discrimination, alienation. It should be the medicine for individualism. Thay teaches on a gatha on dependent co-arising – pratitya samatpada.

* Dependent Co-Arising
* Emptiness
* Conventional Designation
* The Middle Path

In the second half of the dharma talk, we turn our direction towards the reality of birth and death. Burning a sheet of paper to illustrate the teaching. We cannot kill Gandhi or Martin Luther King. We need to let go of the idea of form. We can transcend the notions of birth and death. This is a training.

Madhyamikakarikasastra

Play

Self and Non-Self: The Evolving Consciousness

The Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 5, 1997. This is the fourth talk (99-minutes).

Teaching on the Three Dharma Seals

  • Impermanence
  • No-self
  • Nirvana

The authentic teachings of the Buddha must contain all three of these. They are not only a description of reality but a way of seeing things.

Impermanence and nonself also contain the teaching of rebirth. What is impermanence? Is it the cause of our suffering? How do we practice with impermanence?

Impermanence and no-self are two sides of the a coin. And nirvana is the metal. The base. Nirvana is extinction. Extinction of notions/ideas. All the pairs of opposites.

Other topics covered in this talk:

  • Teaching of the Three Natures of Reality
  • 18 Realms of Being
  • Universal mental formations
  • Verses 23-25, 39-42 of the Fifty Verses of Consciousness

In the last 15-minutes, Thay offers suggestions for practice during the lazy afternoon and also outlines formal lunch.

Metaphors: a coin, the wave

Play

Interbeing and Store Consciousness

Seeds Another talk from the archives. The date is November 3, 1997 and the sangha continues a mindfulness retreat in Key West, Florida with the theme of Buddhist psychology. This is the second talk (96-minutes) where Thay introduces the interbeing and gives a teaching on store consciousness.

Seeing things in the light of Interbeing. The right is made of the left and the left is made of the right. They are not enemies, but they contain each other. Thay teaches in the context of politics. The Buddha taught, this is because that is. Then we move to body and mind – they are interbe. Non-duality. In each cell of our body is stored the whole cosmos. In the study of Buddhist studies of the mind, the body is always first an object of our perception. Teaching on object and perception.
Touching the present moment. Using the present moment to touch the past; including our past suffering. In doing this we can experience the Interbeing of past suffering. You can heal the wounds of the past by touching the present moment. How does this apply to the future?

Namarupa. The body and the mind. Contemplation. Observation of the mind in the mind and observations of the body in the body. Stresses non-duality.

The five skandhas. This is the Sanskrit word that means heaps. Can also be translated as elements or aggregates. What are the five skandhas? Remember these distinctions are only there to help us with our practice.what are formations? How are the five interare?

After this brief overview of the skandhas, the teaching shifts to focus primarily on consciousness. Specifically, store consciousness and seeds. Working with our seeds using mindfulness. For example, mindfulness of anger. What is store consciousness? Store consciousness is like a garden that is able to maintain and store the totality of all the seeds. The practice of meditation is being aware and recognize the seeds inside us and to water the good seeds. Recognizing and taking care of our seeds. Why do we do this?

Play

A Cloud in the Water

The fourth 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. In this talk on August 17, 2014, Thay teaches on dependent co-arising, interbeing, and the four pairs of opposites. Both the audio and the video are available below.

Topics

  • A cloud in the water
  • Two kinds of truth; conventional and the ultimate
  • How to suffer less
  • Right View and the ultimate dimension
  • Birth and death
  • The wisdom of adaptation and the art of looking deeply
  • Dependent co-arising
  • Interbeing
  • Emptiness
  • Four Pairs of Opposites
  • Sangha Building

Play

True Love and the Four Noble Truths

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.

Play

The Tea Inside the Calligraphy

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

Play

Teaching on Consumption and the Fifth Training

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

Play

Home is the Way

December 31, 2012. 120-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village in English. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat) and this is the special New Years Eve dharma talk (and the sixteenth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha?).

Dear friends, please smile. You are online.

How do we go home? Home is in the hear and the now. It is the practice of healing. Every step is healing. Every breath is healing.

Nirvana is available in the here and now. Nirvana is cooling down. Cooling the fire of fear, afflictions, and wrong views. This is the Third Noble Truth. We do not need to die in order to touch nirvana. Nirvana is a state of no heat. We use the noble eightfold path. How do see the path? We need our six sense organs and our mind to experience nirvana. The Five Mindfulness Trainings help us experience the path.

Right View. Notions of being and non-being. Notions of birth and death.

Right Mindfulness. This allows you to be fully alive. It is an art of living.

Play