Love in Action

2008-05-09 | Love in Action

This is a 78-minute dharma talk from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism in the 21st Century” retreat. This is the fifth talk on May 9, 2008 and the talk is offered in English.

Teaching and Social Work

In 1964, Thay was teaching at Colombia University and my friends in Vietnam asked me to return home. In Saigon there was a school (School of Youth for Social Service) to teach engaged Buddhism and serve the communities in Vietnamese countryside. An expression of Love in Action. They did not want sponsorship from the government and didn’t want to be involved in the war. Inspired by compassion. Nonviolence and rural development. It started with 300 workers and expanded to 10,000 workers — these were volunteers. Thay shares some of the work they did during this time and where they learned to do this work. Some of these social workers died in service and there is a memorial at the Dharma Cloud Temple (Chua Phâp Van) in Ho Chi Minh City. Thay talks of the spiritual dimension to this social work.

This is where the Order of Interbeing arose and Thay talks of the first members and the first ordination.

In 1966, That was invited by Cornell University to teach a series of lectures. The purpose was also to help Thay get out of Vietnam and to speak out about the war in Vietnam. This was sponsored by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. After this, Thay was not allowed to return to Vietnam. At this time was intensifying and a young OI member immolated of herself – her name was Nhat Chi Mai. Also several members of the school were murdered.

Nhat Chi Mai Memorial

The School for Social Service setup pilot villages. One village was bombed multiple times after re-building. To help with farming, health, and economics. They also setup refugee camps to assist with resettlement of thousands of people. This too is Engaged Buddhism. And we must also maintain our spiritual development. Thay remained in France and raised money to help fund the work of the school and bring awareness of the real war in Vietnam.

After we setup Plum Village (1982) in France, they offered retreats for veterans, health professionals, business people, members of war-torn nations, congresspeople, school teachers, and young people. Buddhism is for all walks of society. We also reach into serving those who are imprisoned.

Releasing the tension. Holding the emotion. Heal yourself. Heal your family. This too is Engaged Buddhism. Engaged Buddhism is our business in every minute and every hour. It can even be practiced in a normal fashion, without appearing religious.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Manifestation-Only Buddhism

The first practice of Right Diligence is: the negative seeds, let them sleep. Don’t water them. They become weaker and weaker. This is an art. It is the practice of Right Diligence. It is continued practice.

Today we introduce the concept of manas. Sometimes this consciousness is called ‘the lover.’ It is born from a number of unwholesome seeds. For example, feelings of superiority, inferiority, and equality. We learn of subject, object, and emptiness. Thanks to emptiness everything is possible. But manas ignores this. Manas believes you have a self. It doesn’t see Interbeing. Manas is always seeking pleasure. It is always trying to run away from suffering and ignores the goodness of suffering. No mud. No lotus. Interbeing. We need the Wisdom of Nondiscrimination (gained through meditation).

Linked with Right Thinking and Mindful Consumption.

Changing the Peg

The second practice of Right Diligence is when a negative seed does arise, we help return the mental formation to our store consciousness. How? Thay provides an example. Change the peg. Mindful breathing and invite another mental formation to arise. Coming to a retreat is a good way to water a lot of positive seeds. Create a positive environment. We can do this at home too. Listen to a dharma talk, practice chanting, mindful breathing, etc.

Even with depression. Yes, it is more difficult but it is possible. The Buddha said, nothing can survive without food. By the way we live. Cut off those things that are the cause. Inquire about the mental formations.

A Wholesome Life

The third practice is to give the positive seeds a chance. Help them to manifest. Do something to touch them and to water them. They may be covered up with many layers of fear, worry, etc. This is compassionate.

And the fourth is to allow any wholesome mental formation that is present, keep it as long as possible. Why replace them? Let them stay.

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The Buddha in your Wallet

This is a 97-minute dharma talk from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism in the 21st Century” retreat. This is the fourth talk on May 8, 2008 and the talk is offered in English. 

We begin with Thay offering a short guided meditation that encourages us to bring our attention to our father and mother inside of us. 

There is a school of Buddhism called “Mind Only” and that school studies our mind in depth. Another name is “Manifestation Only” school. No birth and no death. We are not a creation, we are only a manifestation. What does Thay mean by “manifestation” and how is it present in our lives? Before things manifest themselves they can be conceived in the form of Seeds. Bija. When the seeds manifest themselves, they become dharma. Samskara. This teaching of manifestation only could be easily applied in our daily life. And this is part of the practice of engaged Buddhism. In work. In family. In the May 7 talk, we explored the 51 forms of mental formations. Seeds. 

This is illustrated with the story of a young couple where the woman is pregnant with a child. Thay recalls her niece who was pregnant and how she used the Lotus Sutra to nourish her unborn child by reciting the sutra regularly. 

In Buddhism, we learn that understanding is the foundation of love. How do we practice this within our families? We can adopt loving speech. Concrete examples of how to do this is offered. We learn of the “Peace Treaty” used in Plum Village. And of flower-watering, or selective watering. It can be practiced in on our own. 

What is buddhanature? Do we all have buddhanature? Illustrated by a couple who lives in Paris. They are well to do and have been married a long time. But they are not happy. They do not know the art of selective watering. How language and loving speech can impact their relationship. The language of love. 

We receive a lesson on writing a letter of love. Thay shares the story of giving the monastics a “homework” assignment to write a letter to their parents. 

Conditions of happiness. We have more than enough conditions of happiness. The practice of mindfulness is very crucial. The Five Mantras. Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy. A young man who suffered greatly because of his father — they were very rich but his father was not available to his son. His father was completely absorbed with his business. The young man asked for his father to present for him. Darling, I am here for you. That is what he was asking of his father. To love means to be there. Your presence. 

True love. Overcoming pride. In Plum Village we have a formula, a practice, for overcoming anger. Asking for help. The fourth mantra. 

The Buddha in your wallet. 

Story of Mr. Trung from many centuries ago in Vietnam who had returned home after being gone in the army a long time. A tragedy of misunderstanding and miscommunication. Wrong perceptions. They did not know how to practice the fourth mantra. 

After 9/11 Thay tried to get America to practice the fourth mantra. Only a few days after 9/11, Thay gave a talk on holding our anger in Berkeley, California. To help people to calm down. Collective anger and collective fear. This is very dangerous. We calm down first and then practice the fourth mantra. 

Loving speech and deep listening is effective for anyone in relationship, including nations. This is engaged Buddhism. 

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Rebuilding our Health

November 17, 2013. 82-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Stillwater Meditation Hall, Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. This is the first talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

Rebuilding our health – mental and physical. Our society seems to be not very healthy. Some come to our retreat to heal and mindfulness can help you heal. If we are mindful, we may see that we are running. Running into the future. We have a habit of running.  So our mindful breathing can help us to stop the running. Breathing is an art.

Mindfulness has to go with insight. Insight can get you out of your suffering. This winter we will look at the 51-mental formations. The first five are called universal.

  1. Contact
  2. Attention
  3. Feeling
  4. Perception
  5. Volition

Then we have five particulars.

    1. Intention
    2. Determination
    3. Mindfulness
    4. Concentration
    5. Insight

Right now we are talking about mindfulness. Our consciousness has two parts – store and mind. Our mental formations can move from one part to the other. Each formation is known as a seed in the store consciousness. There are conditions that cause a seed to manifest in your mind. Mindfulness is the capacity to see what is going on in your feelings, your perceptions, and around you. We can also use the mindful waking to heal and stop the running. We can allow nature to heal us.

The earth is not just the environment, the earth is ourselves.

A good mental formation is ease. We need to practice to cultivate this kind of energy. This is one of the seven factors of enlightenment.

An opposite mental formation is called restlessness. Mental excitement. This prevents out mind from applying itself to good mental formations. Our society suffers from restlessness and that is why we run after the consumption, the internet, work, etc.

Mindfulness to release stress is good, but it is not enough. We need the insight in order to be able to truly release. Without the insight we will not stop running.

Time is more than money, time is life.

In this winter retreat, we will look with a critical eye at the manifestation-only.

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