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English/French Plum Village Retreats

Nirvana and Samsara

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December 27, 2012. Dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat) and this is the the fifteenth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk was originally given in French and this is the English translation.

What does it mean to have a spiritual dimension in our life? Why is it important for daily life?

The Four Noble Truths and the path in the second versus the path in the fourth. Two paths to choose. To well being or to ill being. We in Plum Village look at these two paths with the eyes of Interbeing.

What creates suffering? How do we take care of our suffering? The path leading to awakening. How and how much time does it take to reach enlightenment? Enlightenment is available in every moment. There is no way to enlightenment, enlightenment is the way. This is the teaching of Interbeing.

Love and reconciliation. What is nirvana? Is nirvana possible? What is the relationship to samsara?

The Buddha taught the Three Dharma Seals.

  1. All formations are impermanent.
  2. All things are without self.
  3. Nirvana

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Plum Village Retreats

Just Walk and Heal

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December 24, 2012. 118-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat) and this is the special Christmas Eve dharma talk (and the fourteenth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha?)

Begin with a teaching on listening to the chant. Learning to recognize our own suffering and the suffering of the other person. We can then generate compassion. The monastics then chant the name Namo ‘valokiteshvaraya.

The practice of going home is a very deep practice. We need the energy of mindfulness. We don’t need a plane or train ticket to go home. There is a station – Radio NST – (non-stop thinking) and this doesn’t help us arrive home. Walking and breathing allow us to arrive. The more you are mindful and concentratesd the more pleasant. Help you stop the thinking and the worrying. Just walk and heal.

“I have arrived. I am home.” This is the best dharma talk we have in Plum Village. We do not have to force ourselves to breathe or to walk. It can be really pleasant. There is no way home, home is the way. The Buddha taught about the island of self.

Loneliness is an illusion. It is a wrong perception. Every breath and every step can help us see this. The teaching on “going home” is very strong.

Thay explores the living Christ. We reflect of the birth of Jesus into this world as the son of man. Did he exist before this time? What do we mean by birth?

Science and Buddhism. Matter and energy. Nothing is born. Nothing dies. Our true nature is of no birth and no death. This is the ultimate truth.

There is no being, no non-being, only Interbeing. When we celebrate the birth of Christ, we can look deeply into this teaching of no birth and no death.

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Plum Village Retreats

A New Teaching on the Twelve Nidanas

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November 29, 2012. 115-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the seventh dharma talk of the retreat with the theme  Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? We begin with chanting.

The Buddha has spoken about Mother Earth as patience and equanimity. The two great virtues of the planet earth. Our society is very sick and many of us need healing. Our body and mind have lots of poisons. We don’t know how to consume. But Mother Earth has the capacity to heal herself and can help us if we know how to take refuge in her.  She is not in a hurry. When we walk, we can be aware that the earth is holding our steps. Mother Earth is also inside of us. Walking meditation is one of the ways to heal and allow the earth to be in us and around us. We are the earth. Allow it to happen by itself; we don’t make the breathing in/out happen. We just enjoy the in/out breath. Mother Earth is a great bodhisattva.The healing begins when you are not trying anything. The practice of non-practice.

Thay summarizes the November 25 talk into English due to challenges with the translation in that talk.

There is a dimension of reality called the historical dimension. In the historical dimension we see things as separate – father is outside of the son. This is classical science as applied by Newton. But now we have  another kind of science that goes deeper; it has discovered a new kind of truth. This is represented by quantum physics. It seems to contradict the truth found in historical dimension. In meditation there are also two kinds of truth: the conventional truth and the ultimate truth. There is path that can lead us from historical to ultimate. The Buddha taught, “This is because that is.” This is the teaching of “genesis” in Buddhism. In Plum Village we use a sheet of paper to illustrate this teaching. So simple. Everything can be looked at in this way. It is the best practice of meditation because it can connect us with the ultimate truth.The Buddha used the notions of historical dimension to lead us to the ultimate. This was skillful means to helps us to release notions and concepts. The teaching of co-arising / inter-arising.

In the ultimate dimension, we use words like Emptiness. This is the equivalent to God. It is the ultimate. It is the absence of notions and concepts. The teaching of interbeing – nothing by itself can be alone. Helps you to be connected to emptiness. This is because that is. Rebirth is possible without a self. Karma is possible without a self. Retribution is possible without a self. Many Buddhists still believe you need a “self” but this is a deluded belief. This is because of influences from pre-Buddhist teachings. Even for many people in the west, the first thing they think of in Buddhism is reincarnation. This is not the “cream” of Buddhism. The deep teaching is interbeing. No-self.  The wisdom of adaptation. To connect with emptiness. The teachings of the twelve links seem more at explain samsara rather than the ultimate truth.

Twelve Nidanas

  1. Avidya (delusion)
  2. Sanskara (impulses, actions, dispositions)
  3. Vijñana (consciousness)
  4. Namarapa (body and mind)
  5. Sadayatana (six sense organs and object)
  6. Sparsa (contact)
  7. Vedana (feelings)
  8. Trsna (craving, attachment)
  9. Upadana (grasping)
  10. Bhava (existence)
  11. Jati (birth)
  12. Jara-marana (old age and death)

This is the classical way of presenting the Nidanas. The first two links belong to the past. The next eight links belong to this life – the present. Then after this body disintegrates, the last two are the future. As a young student, Thay learned the three times past, present, and the future are represented in these twelve links. Thay also learned there are two layers of cause and effect within these twelve links. The teaching of three times and two layers of cause and effect. As a student, I just believed my teacher. But as Thay continued to learn and to practice, he learned this teaching will not help us touch the ultimate dimension. It can only be used on the level of conventional truth. We have to look at this teaching differently.

Thay provides a re-teaching of the twelve links to see them in the ultimate truth.

delusion <–> formations -> birth/death -> being/non-being -> samsara

wisdom <–> formations -> no-birth/no-death -> no-being/no non-being -> nirvana 

This is because that is. 

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20121129 from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

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Day of Mindfulness Plum Village

Buddhism is not a Philosophy

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October 11, 2012. 118-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is enjoying the Autumn Retreat and this is a Day

Teaching of suffering and the transformation of suffering. We don’t speculate on philosophical questions. We don’t only use our intellect. Buddhism is practical. How to handle a painful feeling? A strong emotion?

There is an insight on Interbeing. Non-self. Emptiness. What is true happiness? What is understanding and love? Practical application of the Four Noble Truths. When we are able to see our own suffering, we are better able to see the suffering of others.

Thay shares a few more stories from the time of the Vietnam war in terms of hope and despair. Generating joy and happiness through the exercises on mindful breathing.

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English/Dutch Retreats

The Body and Mind are One

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August 12, 2012. 90-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into Dutch, with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the first Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Dutch Retreat on the theme Body and Mind Are One at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.

Can the body be without the mind? Can you take the body out of the mind? And the mind out of the body? If we meditate on the question, we can discover the answer. The same inquiry can be applied to father and son, mother and daughter. Are they the same? Again, with meditation we can also see continuation. Interbeing. This was a very clear and gentle teaching for the children on a very deep topic.

The country of the present moment. Those who are in the present moment have body and mind together. Mindfulness helps this to happen. We can release the past, release our projects, and discover freedom. It only takes a few seconds. The conditions for happiness are present right here. Can we see the conditions for happiness?

The first eight exercises of mindful breathing and the three kinds of energy generated by meditation: mindfulness, concentration, and insight. The last segment is a teaching on the Four Noble Truths and the noble eightfold path.

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Plum Village Retreats

The Line of Life Meditation

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July 22, 2012. 97-minute recording given at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the twelfth dharma talk of the Summer Opening and the talk was originally given in French. This is an English translation.

We start with a 22-minute talk for the children. How we can share meditation with our friends when we go back home from Plum Village? What does it mean to love? Freshness of a flower. We can offer this and using pebble meditation to teach us about freshness. We also have mantras such as “I am here for you.” Solidity. Space.

What is the deep connection between suffering and happiness? In Buddhism, we speak of Interbeing. What is meant by Interbeing? Being and non-being also uses this principle of Interbeing. What is Right Thinking? Free of notions. Applying the teaching to birth and death.

The Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold path.

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English/French Plum Village Retreats

Interbeing of Father and Son, Exploring the Fundamental Teachings of the Buddha

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July 15, 2012. 121-minute recording given at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the seventh dharma talk of the Summer Opening and the talk was originally given in French. This is an English translation.

We begin with a talk for the children. What is the Buddha? How can we make use of suffering? What can we do with anger? What is loving speech? The story of the corn plant. The method of meditation called Signlessness. Uses the birth of a child to illustrate.

Following the talk for children, the main talk begins at 53-minutes into the recording. In classical science things are all outside of each other. In modern science, quantum physics, we see that things are inside each other. In Buddhism, we try to look this way. There is no separate self. Coexistence. This is, because that is. Interbeing.

A teaching in the Four Noble Truths. Why do we have suffering? Hiw do we get understanding and love? How can we see the all in the one?

The noble eightfold path beginning with Right View (the fruit of our meditation). The notions of being and non-being. Right Thinking. Right Speech. Right Action.

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Retreats

The Noble Eightfold Path

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April 15, 2012. 106-minute recording given at Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney, Ireland by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is the third (and final) dharma talk for the Mindful Living Today retreat.

Thay begins with an explanation of no-birth and no-death, including a teaching on energies we produce in our daily lives. Thoughts of healing an compassion can heal the world. Thinking is already action. Karma has three kinds of action. We continue with a teaching on the noble eightfold path and mental/store consciousness. we conclude with the last eight exercises on the full awareness of breathing.

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Retreats

Hands Practicing Non-Violence

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April 7, 2012. 130-minute recording given at The University of Nottingham by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is second dharma talk for the Cultivating Happiness Family Retreat. We begin with the new chant by Br. Phap Linh called “Praising the Three Jewels,” followed by a short talk for the children. The main talk begins at 54-minutes into the recording.

Flower Fresh. Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh and I smile. The whole body of a child is a flower. We are all flowers in the garden of humanity. With meditation, we can keep our flowerness for a long time. Thay teaches us how to offer each other a greeting in mindfulness by offering each other a lotus flower.

“I don’t think that the Buddha is outside of me. He is inside of me. Because I got a lot from the Buddha, I learn a lot of the Dharma, if I have compassion, understanding and non-discrimination, that’s thanks to the Buddha, so the Buddha is in me. And my hand also contains the hand of the Buddha. This hand has been practising non-violence. My two hands have not for a long time harmed any living beings. They practise protecting life, not killing. There is a compassion, there is love in my two hands. So I know the Buddha is in my two hands. So every time I want the Buddha to touch me, that is easy. I just put my hand here and I see the hand of the Buddha touching me, it’s wonderful. Now you might like to try.”

The most tricky word is “to be” because nothing can be itself alone. Everything is composed of everything else. Interbeing. This is because that is. This is the foundation of Buddhist ethics. Both The Five- and Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings are grounded in this concept of Interbeing. Birth. Death. Being. Nonbeing.

Thay outlines some important aspects and teachings from the five mindfulness Trainings. In particular, the fourth training on loving speech and deep listening.

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Hands Practicing Non-Violence from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

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Retreats

Applying Buddhist Teachings to the Classroom

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April 2, 2012. 115-minute dharma talk given at The American School in London by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is part four (and final part) of the Educators’ Retreat: An Exploration of Mindful Education.

Memorizing gathas to help us establish mindfulness. There are four domains of mindfulness: body, feelings, mental formations, and objects of mind. Mindfulness can help us be together in these four realms. Once we have established mindfulness, we can have concentration. The final kind of energy is insight – this can liberate you from your fear. This is not the product of your thinking, it is the insight of Interbeing. True education should be based in this insight of Interbeing.

In order to see things, we need an organ (for example, the nose to receive oder). The organ of thinking it is called manas, and there is a lot of mis-perception in this organ. For example, the view of a separate self – this is at the base of all our complexes (inferiority, superiority, and equality). We can use mindfulness to gain the insight of non-discrimination. In the field of education, it is the same thing. The happiness of the students is the happiness of the teacher. We need non-discrimination to enjoy the teaching and the learning.

In the teaching of the four noble truths, the first truth is there is suffering. In education, the first thing we should do is identify the suffering and acknowledge it to each other. We have to see the truth so that real change can happen through a collective awakening. Thay continues with the application of the second, third, and fourth noble truth in our lives.

We learn about what is meant by sangha and how it can be applied to the community of teachers. What is suffering and why is it important? The last part of the talk looks closely at the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

Happy teachers will know how to generate understanding and love that will help the younger generation change the world.

A video version may be available.

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