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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