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Retreats

Sitting on our Portable Lotus Flower

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In this 95-minute talk we learn how to sit, how to practice with the love mantras, and how to practice insight in order to transform our suffering. The talk takes place on August 14, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is the second dharma talk of the retreat. We begin with the monastics chanting The Four Recollections.

Sitting on our Portable Lotus Flower

9:25 Thay leads us in a short guided meditation. To be alive is the greatest of all miracles. Please sit like a Buddha. Thay teaches us about the lotus (or half-lotus) position. Feeling solid and stable. This way of sitting influences the mind. We are sitting like a mountain. The solidity of the body has something to do with the solidity of the mind. It is like sitting on a lotus flower. What does this mean? 

16:15 A story of the time Thay visited a prison in Maryland. Sitting with a few hundred inmates, we learned how to sit like a Buddha on a lotus flower. How to keep our back upright and to release tension. We also learned how to practice a mindful meal. This visit later became a book called Be Free Where You Are

19:25 We describe the Buddha as an artist. Sitting on the lotus flower. As a friend of the buddha, it is nice to know how to sit like him. The Buddha is not a God. He was a human being. He did become a free, happy, enlightened person. The word Buddha is a title, not a name. Anyone can become a Buddha. Do you have a capacity to sit like a Buddha? What are the challenges we experience as students of the Buddha. 

21:57 When Mr. Nelson Mandela came to visit France, he was asked what he’d like to do the most. He responded by saying, to sit down. To rest. Thay said we need some training in order to sit well. To do nothing. To be a Buddha is to allow freshness, solidity and peace to manifest in us. Sometimes we are very close to this. Almost a Buddha. 

Love Mantras

25:13 When you love someone, the best thing you can offer them is your Buddhahood. To have a little Buddha as a present for our loved ones. In this moment, Thay is teaching this to the children present at the talk. The best kind of present is your beautiful presence. Our mindful sitting and walking can improve our presence. It just takes some practice. 

29:02 In Buddhism, we sometimes practice a mantra. It is something that can help transform a situation.

“Darling, I am here for you”

You can practice with this. To love is to offer your fresh presence. And when you are truly there, you may notice something else is there – your beloved one, and the world. This mantra is the first step. Then you can say,

“Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.”

To acknowledge the presence of your loved one. To be loved is to be recognized. We are reminded that you don’t need to go to the meditation hall in order to practice. No matter how old you are, you can still practice these two mantras. Without love, happiness is not possible. 

What would it be like to have a million dollars? Would this make me happy? Allow me to do more? Would it bring happiness? What Thay has is mindfulness, and this can bring us a lot of happiness. When we have enough insight, we are not caught up in difficult situations anymore. This comes from our mindfulness and concentration. We come to this retreat to learn how to do things with mindfulness. To create love, understanding, and insight. This is the gift of the Buddha. 

Contemplating the Body

38:59 In the previous talk, we were trying to learn just one thing – releasing the tension. The Buddha has much to teach us on healing. Every step we take can help us release the tension. Every breath that we take can help us release the tension. When we allow our body to relax, our body begins to have the capacity for healing itself. There are many ways to do this, such as deep relaxation practice. In the sutra on the contemplation of the body, the Buddha uses an example of farmer who went into the cellar and opened a bag of seeds. Thay teaches us this practice of scanning our body with a ray of mindfulness. How do use this practice? This practice will bring relieve. And if we know how to go a little bit further, into our ill-being, we may discover the roots of our ill-being. Looking deeply with concentration. What is the source of our ill-being. 

47:18 In Buddhism, we teach the Four Noble Truths. And the first is ill-being, and we have to call it by its true name. Sickness, anger, fear, depressions, etc. To recognize it and to name it. From that we can see the second noble truth; the roots of that ill-being. We look at this truth in terms of nutriments. Nothing can survive without food. If we have fear or depression, it is because we have been feeding them. Just practicing this, you are already on the path of healing. If depression is there, perhaps we have lived in such a way to make that possible, we ask what did we consume? What kind of contact did we have? We look at the second noble truth in terms of nutriments. How do we practice with this in order to transform the depression? The fourth noble truth cannot be seen unless we first see the second noble truth. Do not run away from suffering so we can begin to see the path of healing in the fourth noble truth. 

The Buddha is a Human Being

54:30 The second noble truth is the path leading to ill-being. The path of consumption. The Buddha spoke of four kinds of nutriments: edible food, sensory impressions. What is the importance practicing mindful consumption? How can we do this in our daily lives? Why do we consume when we don’t need to consume? 

1:01:04 Continuing from the previous talk, we look again at store and mind consciousness. When the seed of anxiety, fear, or confusion come up to our mind consciousness level then we feel uneasy. It makes us suffer. That is why we want to occupy the mind with another object (such as a film or a book). But this is a way to repress the feeling of uneasiness. To coverup the feeling of emptiness. We want to forget our suffering. The practice recommended by the Buddha, you should not try to suppress it with consumption, but invite the energy of mindfulness to manifest by mindful walking or mindful breathing. This can help take care of that energy that makes you suffer. We strengthen the seed of mindfulness through our daily practice so we can more easily apply it when we are suffering from fear, sorrow, despair. It is recognizing and embracing our suffering. The energy of mindfulness is something that can continue to grow inside of us. The Buddha is inside of you and you are capable of holding your pain, sorrow, and fear. We don’t need to practice consumption without mindfulness. We need to stop consuming toxins. We practice mindfulness to recognize and hold the pain and sorrow. That is the Buddha at work inside of you. The Buddha is a human being. 

1:12:23 Those who of us who don’t practice, we practice repressing our fear and anger. We cause bad circulation of our psyche because we suppress the negative feelings. With this bad circulation, symptoms of mental illness appear. The practice is to allow the pain to emerge. And if we are equipped with mindfulness, then we are no longer afraid. If we are still young in the practice, we can ask for help from the sangha to help restore the circulation of our psyche. With some months of practice, we can do this on our own. To use our mindfulness and concentration to look into the nature of our ill-being. The path leading to the cessation of ill-being is also the path leading to well-being. This is third noble truth. The existence of well-being. 

1:17:10 The beginning of well-being. This path is a noble path. Mindfulness always carry the energy of concentration. And if you live mindfully, then you can see through to the true nature of our suffering. This is insight meditation. It has the power to liberate. With this you can liberate yourself and you can help liberate other people. 

1:20:09 Remembering the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia. All of us suffer. We ask why did this happen and why did so many people die? We want to know why. Thay also suffered, but by practicing looking deeply to see that we too have died with them also. And we discover they died for us and that we should live for them. How are we living today so their death will have a meaning? This is interbeing. This is insight. We are all of the nature to die. We are all of the nature to get sick. We need courage to have the strength of our mindfulness. How do we die with peacefulness? Nothing is born and nothing dies. There is no birth and no death. This insight can remove fear and true happiness is possible. 

With our practice, we bring the element of non-fear. Thay teaches in light of climate change and the use of technology. 

Categories
Questions and Answers Retreats

Practicing in the Present Moment

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The monastic and lay community are practicing together during the 2004 Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 at Deer Park Monastery. This 95-minute event took place outdoors at San Dieguito County Park, Solana Beach in the afternoon of Saturday, January 31, 2004. Because the event is outdoors, there is some wind noise on the microphone from time to time. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.

00:00:00 Slideshow of Alms Round (music)

00:01:51 Chanting

00:10:15 Introductory Words from Thay on Asking Questions

  • Are we supposed to spend all our time in the here and now?
  • How to help someone get rid of the anger?
  • How do we practice to do the right thing, even when it is difficult?
  • How do we practice when someone we love dies? 
  • Can there ever be a positive benefit to anger?
  • How do we keep a balance with the practice and personal fulfillment, especially in professional efforts?
  • How do I forgive myself? 
  • Sometimes I have difficulty in believing in myself; how do I believe in myself?
  • My son wants to marry a Catholic and I want him to be in front of our ancestors first; what can I do?
  • What do you think of humans living in this place and time; the wrong frequency?

00:19:25 Dharma Talk in Response to the Questions

The past is already gone, and the future is not yet here. There is only the present moment. Being in the present moment doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the past nor that you can’t make plans for the future. We can be grounded in the present moment and not get lost in the past or the future. The past can even be the object of your practice in the present moment. 

Suppose you have anger at your grandmother, in the past, and she is no longer alive today. But if you practice deeply you can see she is still alive inside of you – in every cell of your body. Nothing is lost. We can practice to heal our suffering and out anger. 

Understanding and compassion are the answer to our anger. Where does anger come from? It arises from the things we consume. We can practice mindful consumption to protect ourselves and our families from anger. This is the first thing to do when practicing when anger. The second second part is to work on transforming the anger that is already present inside of us. The fifth mindfulness training can help us practice with consumption. 

It is important to not suppress our anger; this can be very dangerous. We use the energy of mindfulness to recognize and embrace our anger. This is much safer. Then we can learn to use loving speech to better express our feelings. Thay shares how to go about skillfully responding to another person with whom we are angry. Some think the energy of anger is a powerful tool, but this can be dangerous. 

00:58:19 You might think your practice of meditation might contradict your eagerness to succeed in your career. How to practice and succeed in your business? These can come together perfectly. Business leaders suffer like any other person. And if they suffer less, they can succeed more in their business. Career does not need to be an obstacle for your practice. There are ways to practice in order to have time for your families, your practice, and your business and career. Thay shares a story of offering a retreat for members of congress and some methods for practicing mindfulness in the work environment — mindful walking and mindful breathing. Taking care of yourself is taking care of your career. Mindfulness brings about understanding and compassion. Happiness is possible only when we have good communication, mutual understanding. Employees should be taken care of in the same way we take care of our families. 

Practicing with our grief. Our true nature is the nature of no-birth and no-death. Illustrated by a cloud in the sky. 

The last story of the dharma talk is one of a Vietnam veteran who attended a retreat in the 90s and shared about having killed some children during the war. The transformation of the veteran can also be the transformation of our society. 

01:31:50 Sangha Practicing Walking Meditation (music)

Categories
English/Italian Plum Village Retreats

The Practice of True Presence

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This is the second dharma talk of the “The Mind of Love Transforms All Difficulties” retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh at the New Hamlet of Plum Village in France. The talk is given in English with consecutive translation into Italian. In this very short talk on August 29, 2014, Thay teaches on the elements of love and the four mantras. Both the audio and the video are available below.

Mind of love – bodhicitta. Why not the heart? Bodhi is to wake up. It begins with understanding the suffering in ourselves and then we can begin to see the suffering in the other person. Then we can help him or her to suffer less.  What is love? Love me to be there. The practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking can help us to be there for ourselves and for our loved ones. What are the elements of true presence? Am I a true lover?  You can answer this question yourself by looking to see if you have these four elements.

The four mantras of Plum Village.