Magnolia Grove Monastery Retreats

Nourishing Your Mother and Father in You


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 88-minute dharma talk is from September 30, 2011 and both the audio and video are available with this post.

We begin with a 23-minute teaching for the children present at the retreat. Of course, everyone can benefit and enjoy this teaching regardless of age. Thay shares a story of bringing a bag of popcorn, but not to pop, to the children at an Italian retreat. The seed of corn that becomes the plant of corn. And how we can nourish our father and mother.

After the children leave, we continue with the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. Yesterday we learned the first eight exercises of mindful breathing – the realm of bodyand the realm of feeling. Today we continue with realm of our mind. Mental formation.

9. Aware of mental formation

What is “formation” – comes from samskara. Anything that is formed, is a formation. There are physical formations and mental formation. What are the mental formations? The good ones and the negative ones. Can we name our mental formations? Call it by it’s true name.

Store and Mind consciousness. What are the characteristics of these? A teaching on seeds (bija) and how we can use our practice. What is our the ways that we suppress our negative mental formations? The most common is to consume. But what can we do instead?

10. Gladden the mental formation

This is equivalent to the practice of Right  Diligence. There are four steps in this practice: First, not to give opportunity for the negative seeds to come up in the first place / in ourselves or in each other. What are the conditions we are creating around us? We should know how to consume. Second, if by chance a negative seed arises then try your best to help it go down as quickly as possible. This is the art of embracing the negative mental formation. We can invite a good seed to come up. Change the CD. Third, give the good seeds plenty of chances to come up. This is the art of flower watering. In ourselves and in the other person. Thay shares the story of the couple who came to Plum Village from the city of Bordeaux. The fourth aspect of the practice, of the good seed has manifested then keep it present as long as you can. If we can do this, then even more good seeds continue to grow.

11. Concentrating the mind / mental formation
12. Liberating the mind / mental formation

When we are concentrated, we discover the nature of what is there. We can see the non-flower elements of the flower. Happiness is made of non-happiness elements. Mindfulness can bring concentration. Liberation is the fruit of concentration. There are many forms and teachings in cultivating concentration. What are some examples?

There are three kinds of concentration found in every school of Buddhism: emptiness, sighlessness, and aimlessness. These are the Three Doors of Liberation. Insight arrives.

Impermanence is another concentration. When we look into the family album, are we the same or different from the baby in the picture.

The last four exercises of mindful breathing are about the objects of mind. Reality is not something outside of our mind — it is the object of our mind. These last four help with the practice to release and transform our suffering.

13. Contemplating Impermanence
14. Contemplating non-craving
15. Contemplating the ultimate (nirvana)
16. Contemplating letting go 

The talk concludes with an overview and teaching of these last four exercises, particularly our objects of craving. Money, power, sex. The conditions of our happiness are already present and available.

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.

Plum Village Retreats

Embracing Emotions with Non-Violence


July 13, 2011. 74-minute Dharma Talk given in French, with English translation by Sr. Pine from Stillwater Meditation Hall in Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat.

Thay shares about the first eight steps of the practice of mindful breathing from the Anapanasati Sutta: 1) Recognizing the in and out breath. It’s not thinking; it’s an experience. The first exercise is the identification. 2) Following the in and out breath. 3) Breathing in, I am aware of the body. We get in touch with the physical body. We bring the mind back to the body. It is an act of reconciliation. We may become aware of tension or pain in the body. 4) Breathing in, I calm my body.

The next two exercises, the Buddha wants us to focus on pleasant feelings first – 5) Aware of joy, 6) Aware of happiness. If we can take a piece of paper and write down all the conditions of happiness we may discover that two sides of a piece of paper may not be enough. There are hundreds of conditions to see happiness.

The seventh exercise is (7) aware of mental formations – this is to recognize a painful feeling. These are zones of energy that manifest from deep in out consciousness. We can use the energy Mindfulness and concentration. The eighth asks us to embrace and soothe – 8) Calming mental formations.

Dharmakaya – the dharma body, bring wherever you go, you bring the practice with you. Like bringing your cell phone with you. We need a spiritual dimension in our daily life.

The Buddhakaya, the Buddha body. We all have a Buddha body. We all have a seed of Mindfulness. The Buddha nature. Mindfulness carries concentration.

The Sanghakaya – our sangha body. Without a sangha, the Buddha could nit accomplish his dream. Without a community, we cannot do very much. It’s a community, but it’s also a practice. How to build a Sangha near you.

The talk was given in French and the English translation is available below. There is a video version available too.