The Art of Being Peace

For the Fifth International Buddhist Conference in May 2008, the Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh was invited to offer the opening keynote address. The event took place at the National Convention Center, Hanoi, Vietnam with the theme Buddhist Contribution to Building a Just, Democratic and Civilized Society. Hosted by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and co-organized by International Organizing Vietnam Buddhist Sangha and National Coordinating Committee for the United Nations Day of Vesak. The date is May 13, 2008 and both audio and video are available below. The talk is 53-minutes. 

Thich Nhat Hanh

Promoting Peace

Practicing Buddhism is the art of being peace, the art of promoting peace, in the society and in the world. We all should learn this art. 
We all have elements of war in our body. Practicing Buddhism is recognizing these elements so that we can then transform these elements. In the Sutra on Mindful Breathing, the Buddha provided us the practice to release the tension in our body. It only takes a few minutes. If we can release the tension in our body, then our body can learn to heal itself. When we make peace body, we can begin to make peace with our feelings and emotions. Do you know how to recognize your emotions? This is the art of making peace with ourselves. Our body, and our feelings and emotions. The Buddha also taught in this sutra how to recognize and transform our mental formations. The Buddhist practice means going home to oneself. To restore peace. How does this work in the family setting? Or in the school setting? Why is it important for parents and teachers to learn this art of being peace? 

Deep Listening and Loving Speech

During our time teaching in the west, we have also taught listening with compassion and using loving speech to restore communication. In Plum Village, we have practiced this intentionally with groups in conflict – Israelis and Palestinians. What is outlined above is used to illustrate practical application with these groups. In Mahayana Buddhism, we have the Bodhissatva Avalokiteshvara – the bodhissatva of compassion. They do this practice in order to suffer less. 

Right View is the view of dependent co-arising, no-self, interbeing. Practitioners should always remember to maintain this right view in their daily life. How does this look between a father and a son? We learn that suffering is not an individual matter. Everything this is linked to everything else. To protect other species on earth, and the earth itself, is to protect ourselves. This is the insight of interbeing. 

The Five Mindfulness Trainings

Thay reminds of Unesco’s Manifesto 2000 which Thay helped to create with several Nobel Peace Prize laureates. There are six points and has been signed by 75-million people. This arose from the teachings of Buddhism and are very similar to the Five Mindfulness Trainings. If we practice these, we will have peace in ourselves and in the world. Just signing is not enough; we need to put it into practice. This is why we recommend forming ourselves into communities – in our families, schools, workplace, and within governments. These can all become a sangha and bring these six points (and Five Mindfulness Trainings) into practice. 

The practice of deep ecology, mindful consumption and the Five Mindfulness Trainings. The trainings also teach us not to exploit people or the earth. We have been talking a lot about peace, but we have not done enough for the cause of peace. Whatever we can do in terms of thinking, speech, and action could be considered as an offering to the Lord Budhha. As an example, we learn how Deer Park Monastery in California is using solar energy and having car free days. Reducing consumption, learning to live more simply, and to have more time to take care of oneself and our beloved ones is very crucial and is the way of peace. 

Living happily in the present moment. And taking care of the present moment is taking care of the future. This can assure a beautiful future.

We conclude with a short guided meditation offered by Thich Nhat Hanh. 

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What Does it Mean to be Free

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. It is the fourth day of the retreat. This 108-minute question and answer session is from October 1, 2011 and both the audio and video are available with this post.

A good question can help many people. It can be a question about our suffering and our happiness.

We begin with a few questions from the children.

  1. What are some of the traditional foods in a Buddhist monastery? (4:33)
  2. What helps to clear your mind? (13:55)
  3. Is it true that if you don’t believe in God that you go to the underworld? (17:32)
  4. What kind of Buddha’s are there? (21:40)

Followed by questions from teenagers, young adults, and adults.

  1. How can I relate to another person, and love another person, but not experience the three complexes – inferiority, superiority, and equality? (27:14)
  2. What would you advise someone who has been diagnosed with attention disorder, or any mental illness, that hinders a person from being in the now. And have had to rely on medications for their whole life. How can they live in the now? (32:40)
  3. What would you do if you had a friend who isn’t being loving to each other, and you are caught in the middle? (37:28)
  4. How can I not suffer when I see my 26-year old son’s life unraveling due to his drug addictions? I am overcome by grief and despair. (56:45)
  5. When facing a decision, where your only see two possible answers – the one you think is right and the one you feel is right – how can you know which one? (1:03:45)
  6. What does it mean to be free?(1:23:50)
  7. How can a Vietnam veteran, who still suffers from PTSD, communicate to the many generations of Vietnamese people at this retreat that he cared for the Vietnamese? (1:34:23)

We have one more talk in this series from Mississippi. Stay tuned.

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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The Art of Mindful Walking

Thich Nhat Hanh at the BellWe begin this Public Talk at the World Forum Theatre in The Netherlands, dated April 28, 2006, with a 5-minute introduction on how we can listen to the monastics invoking the name of Avalokiteshvara. Listening can bring peace and well-being into ourselves. We can listen deeply with compassion to relieve suffering. Following the brief introduction, the monastics begin the chant.

31-minutes (bell)

Walking meditation is a way to move between one place and another. With Mindful walking we can enjoy every step and bring peace. It is an easy and effective way to learn how to live deeply in every moment of our daily lives. Even the children can enjoy this practice. Taking refuge in the Sangha through the collective energy of mindfulness through our mindful breathing. Walking meditation is a time when we can behave as one organism and we can feel the energy of this collective effort.

I have arrived.
I am home.

With one in-breath, you touch the earth with your step. Established in the present moment. I have arrived. This means I don’t want to run anymore. With one out-breath, you arrive in your true home. Right here in the present moment. We arrive in the here and the now. We can live deeply in our daily life. Happiness is possible.

We all have many conditions of happiness if we look for them. We don’t have to run around looking for our happiness. We can touch the pure land of the Buddha, the kingdom of God in each step. Touching the many wonders of life.

57-minutes (bell)

Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. And we can be mindful all day long. It is the kind of energy the allows us to be present in the here and the now. Anyone can generate this energy. It is the energy of the Buddha, and so any one of us can be a Buddha. Even if it’s a part-time Buddha.

Our spiritual leaders should offer the kind of teaching that helps us to enjoy the kingdom of God. Then many could possibly return to the church. Especially for our young people.

66-minutes (bell)

Freedom from our anger, fear, violence and despair. Our teachers should teach us how to handle these emotions. To be able to embrace and transform them. Peace should be cultivated in our daily life while we sit, while we drive, while we cook, while we wash the dishes. This only needs some training.

Compassionate listening. To have the capacity to listen with compassion. Avalokiteshvara is such a person. She can teach us how to listen in order to provide relief from suffering.

71-minutes (bell)

The art of mindful breathing is a method to cultivate this compassionate listening. To listen without blaming or judging. We can also use the techniques of loving speech. These tools help us reestablish communication. During a five-day retreat, we teach people how to do this work. Thay offers a very concrete example how we can do this in our family.

83-minutes (bell)

During this process, we may observe many wrong perceptions. What can we do? What techniques can we use to better practice loving speech and deep listening. Wrong perceptions are the foundation of fear, anger, and violence. We should know how to remove wrong perceptions. Even our own wrong perceptions. This practice is effective for individuals, groups, and even nations. Peace can become possible.

Why do young people who want to blow themselves up? What can we do? Do we blame them for the violence, hate, and despair? They need our compassion. A community of practice makes this effort much easier.

92-minutes

Thay answers a few questions from the audience.

  1. If you don’t have time to listen, especially to someone who is angry, then what can we do?
  2. Anger can be a very good energy. Can you explain more about this and transforming the energy?
  3. Can you say more about loving speech? Where can I learn more?

Su Co Chan Không concludes the evening with a song.

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How Do We Practice?

April 7, 2013. 86-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Mahachulalungkornrajavidyalaya University in Bangkok, Thailand. The sangha is in the 5-Day Applied Ethics Retreat as part of the spring Asian Tour. The talk is given in English with consecutive translation into Thai. Today is a session of questions and answers.

The questions

  1. When practicing deep listening and the other person uses words that hurt themselves and others then what should we do?
  2. How do I use skillful means and loving speech when the other person uses derogatory  speech in regards to women and people of color.
  3. With the hill tribes, they need to kill animals and cut the trees in order to survive. How to help transform their way of life that isn’t so harmful?
  4. How to work with schools that have rules and don’t allow applying mindfulness into the school environment?
  5. How do I practice when there is suffering in my life, in my students lives, and in my parents lives?
  6. When I practice, something happens for transformation but it doesn’t always stay and I feel discouraged. How can I keep the transformation?
  7. Living in a busy city it’s challenging to apply the mindfulness practices we learn here. Can you help?
  8. How do we practice reconciliation for children who have been abused by their parents?

The session concludes with an explanation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

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