Practicing in a Stressful Environment

This 71-minute dharma talk in the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall takes place on Sunday, February 8, 2004. The monastic and lay community are practicing together during the 2004 Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 at Deer Park Monastery. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.

Thay has received many letters from those participating in the retreat. Some contain joy and some contain their difficulties. We begin with a review of some of these letters and picks three questions. 

If nothing is created and nothing dies, where is the beginning? What are the elements that form the beginning?

Continuing the teaching on the sixteen exercises of mindful breathing in the recent weeks. The last four are about perceptions, and this question is about our perceptions. A contemplation on the nature of reality. The objects of our perception, and look deeply, in order to touch the ultimate dimension. 

I often feel I have no reason to continue to live. If there is no birth, no death then I feel ready to live. 

This question too has to do with the ultimate dimension. This too is a good object of meditation. We can inquire about our body and our mind. We can water the seeds of love and understanding. This question is very important. 

For 15-years I have been working as a medical doctor with two other doctors in a health center. We provide care for immigrants, refugees and people who are destitute. The more patients who come, the more it costs the health center because the government only pays for a few per year. This leads to many long days, house calls, and financial challenges. Personally, I am tired and stressed out. 

We can have compassion and willingness to help, but this can lead to burnout. We cannot continue like this. Thay shares a story of the congressman who practices walking meditation in the capitol. 

How do we respond? The first thing is to look at how do we organize our day. We have to know how to preserve ourselves in order to continue. We do this with our practice – eating, walking, etc. Do we allow time for this? Can we incorporate into our daily life? The next step is to call upon others to help. We don’t need to do this alone. We could learn how to setup a Sangha to nourish our practice – an island and refuge for us. 

Thich Nhat Hanh

Last time we spoke about how to take care of our feelings. The four exercises in the realm of feelings are about knowing how to bring the feeling of joy and happiness. 

Five Kinds of Energy or the Five Powers 

  1. Faith (or confidence/trust) 
  2. Diligence
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Concentration
  5. Insight 

We begin to learn about store consciousness and the seeds contained therein. Followed by our mind consciousness and selective watering. Appropriate attention. Positive and negative seeds. 

Let us use the five power to create the source of happiness. And we can add “letting go” as the sixth power. 

Now we come to the 7th exercise – recognition of the mental formation. That feeling or emotion has its base in store consciousness as a seed (bija). The first function of mindfulness is to be aware, to recognize. It is a practice of love. 

  1. Recognize
  2. Embrace
  3. Relief
  4. Transformation 

In the seventh exercise, we are only doing the first step above. 

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.


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Call Your Cows By Their True Name

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 85-minute dharma talk is from September 29, 2011 and both the audio and video are available in this post.

We begin with a 27-minute teaching for the children present at the retreat. Of course, everyone can benefit and enjoy this teaching regardless of age.

When you love someone, what can you offer them? What is the most precious thing we can offer them? Thay offers a story of an unhappy child and his father – what does the child want for his birthday?

The first mantra of Plum Village is “Darling, I am here for you.” In order to do this, you really have to be present. We should all memorize this mantra. This is a meditation and does not take time and money. Mindfulness helps you to be there.

Thay teaches us about how and why to use pebble meditation. The first pebble represents a flower. What is a true flower? And the second pebble represents a mountain. Cultivating our stability. The next pebble represents still water. The last pebble represents space. Open your heart. A child can very easily lead pebble meditation.

We continue teachings on breathing exercises. This morning the guided meditation explored the first four exercises of mindful breathing. These first four have to do with the body. We first recognize our in-breath and our out-breath. What is the intention of this exercise? Then we move to breathing-in, I follow my breath all the way through. During this time, there is no interruption. You only follow the breathing.

With the third, we are aware of our body. Mind and body are together. To restore the oneness. And our body is a wonder. Thay shares of a recent visit to the Googleplex. Practiced these breathing exercises, especially helping them connect with the body as described in the third exercise. It is a reconciliation between the mind and the body. The fourth exercise is breathing in, I release the tension in my body. This practice is very relevant to our time. We can reduce the amount of pain.

Contemplation of the body. Revisit all parts of our body. How do we do this?

The next set of exercises are designed to help us handle our feelings.

5. Generating joy
6. Generating happiness
7. Recognize a painful feeling
8. Embrace a painful feeling

Can we recognize the conditions of joy and happiness? Living happily in the present moment. This is found right in the Sutra and is especially relevant for business people.

Mindfulness is being able to go home to the present moment. Mindfulness is not something you can buy. When you are mindful, you are there with your body. Mindfulness and concentration are two sources of happiness. Another practice is that of letting go. Here we have the teaching on the farmer who has lost his cows. To know our obstacles is also a path to knowing our happiness. Letting go is a good practice.

Once we know our joy and happiness, then we can more easily handle our pain. When the pain manifests, a good practitioner can recognize this and know how to take care of the painful feeling. We can hold our pain.

 

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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.

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

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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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The Dharma Body

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Upper Hamlet, Plum Village is dated Thursday, January 9, 2014 and is the sixteenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem.  Today we learn about the dharma body and the practices of letting go, concentration, and insight.

0:00-10:00 Two Chants from Monastics
10:18-20:40 What is Dharma Body?
20:40-34:40 Nourishing our Dharma Body
34:40-56:25 Joy and Happiness – Letting Go
56:25-1:06:36 Joy and Happiness – Concentration
1:06:36-1:19:25 Joy and Happiness – Insight
1:19:25-1:22:30 Walking Meditation

The dharma body is bringing morning light – this is part of the morning chant offered each day. What is this “dharma body” that shines brilliantly in the morning light? It is the teaching body. There are two kinds: the living dharma and the dharma that is written or recorded. Whenever we breathe peacefully, walk in meditation then this is the living dharma. Another meaning is our own practice – each one of us has a physical body and if we are a disciple of the Buddha then we also have a dharma body. The practice body. As students of the Buddha, we have the capacity to generate joy and happiness. So, in the morning when we go to meditation we want to allow our dharma body to shine brilliantly. The morning is a good time to study and our practice strong and solid.

Everyday we have to nourish our personal living dharma body. In the winter, the trees grow very slowly and in spring they grow very fast. Like the trees, we have to allow our dharma body to grow even in the winter time. When we walk, breathe, eat, and work then our dharma body is growing. If we don’t nourish it then it weakens. What are the conditions for the dharma body to grow? We have to be active in making it grow. For example, what is our reflex when we hear the sound of the bell. Create conditioning and reinforcement to allow our dharma body to be strong. This can also help us when we are away from the sangha even when nobody is around us – operant conditioning. The wonders of the universe is the second type of dharma body. The clouds, autumn leaves, a rose, the birds, etc. They are all giving talks on impermanence, four noble truths, non-self, and eightfold path. We may see the written dharma and then our personal dharma body then we may be able to see these wonders of the universe.

How do we generate joy, happiness, and peace? If we have a sangha then it can make it easier to generate these conditions. We can then offer this practice to our families, to our work, and the larger society. This practice can help us to manage our suffering – feelings of suffering and strong emotions. When we come to Plum Village we can learn these things in just one day by doing our practice. Each step. Each breath. If we cannot generate these three elements then we don’t have a dharma body yet. The first step is the practice of letting go and gives birth to joy and happiness. What is this letting go? What are the things that we can let go? What is preventing us from being happy and joyful? Perhaps they are ideas and notions of happiness. This is the main obstacle to our happiness. Practice is bringing a piece of paper out and writing down all our ideas of happiness.

In the sutras it also states that concentration also gives rise to joy, happiness, and peace. This is the art of meditation. In Zen tradition, they say that concentration is food – the joy of meditation. We nourish this every day and not by power, fame, position, or sex. While we sit, while we walk, while we chant … it is not to “get” to happiness but it doing these activities in themselves. If you have mindfulness, then you can have joy and happiness throughout the day. It’s up to you. Our friends in the practice can help remind us.

Letting go gives rise to happiness. Mindfulness and concentration also gives rise to happiness. Then we have insight. Everyone can have insight. Do we know how to make use of our insight? Do we know how to make use of our suffering? The Art of Suffering.

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Breathing and Interbeing

September 18, 2011. 115-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 second dharma talk for the Vietnamese “Opening the Heart” retreat. The talk was originally given in Vietnamese and this is the English translation provided by Sr. Dang Nghiem (except the first few minutes).

We begin with a guided meditation and see our father as 5-yr old child. We cannot take the father out of the son. Today, we continue learning about the breath by using the Sutra on Full Awareness of Breathing. Thay walks us through the first eight exercises; the first two being about right mindfulness. The fifth and sixth are about joy and happiness. We get there by letting go. Let go of our ideas. We can also look for conditions of happiness. concentration can also bring. Then insight.

The talk ends with a few stories on Interbeing nature of our families, true love, and understanding.

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