The Flower is Full of Everything

August 14, 2011. 86-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from War Memorial Gym at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the final talk of the retreat.

Exercises of mindful breathing from the Anapanasati Sutta: the first four are (1) identify your breath, (2) follow your breath, (3) aware, and (4) release. From here we move to the feelings. They are (5) generate joy, (6) generate happiness, (7) aware of painful feelings, and (8) embrace the painful feeling. We then (9) recognize joy, (10) gladdening the mind, (11) concentrating the mind, (12) liberate the mind.

There are at least three types of concentration in Buddhism known as the Three Doors of Liberation: Emptiness, Signlessness, Aimlessness.  Thay provides an detailed explanation of each door.

The next four exercises are concentrations proposed by the Buddha, but we do explore these in depth during this talk. We also hear about no birth/no death, being/non-being, coming/going, and sameness/otherness.

Emptiness does not mean non-existence. A glass can be empty or full of tea, but in order to be empty or full the glass needs to be there. So emptiness does not mean non-existence. This glass is empty of tea, but it is full of air. So it is helpful for us to ask, ‘Empty of what?’ To be empty is always to be empty of something. When we contemplate a flower like this, we see the flower is full of everything: the cloud, the sunshine, the Earth, time, space, the gardener—everything has come together to help the flower to manifest. Why do we say it is empty? It is empty of only one thing: a separate existence. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower is full of non-flower elements. It is clear that the flower has to be interbe with everything in the cosmos. She cannot be by herself alone. To be by oneself alone is impossible. So we begin to see the interdependence of everything.

He uses the example of a match which requires the action of us striking it for a flame to manifest. In life we are the same: when we ask ‘Where do we come from?’ or ‘Where are we going?’ we see that we do not come from anywhere. “When conditions come together sufficiently, I manifest. My nature is the nature of no coming and no going. When conditions are no longer sufficient, I just stop manifestation and wait for a chance to manifest again. My nature is no coming, no going.”

This concludes the retreat in Vancouver. After a public talk on August 14, the sangha will travel to Colorado for a retreat at Estes Park.

The talk is available below. There is a video version available too.

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The Good News of Oak Leaves Falling

January 6, 2011. 70-minute Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, from New Hamlet, Plum Village, France.

On the moon, now, there is no flower, no oak tree, no cloud. On our planet we have all these things. Every time I go out for walking meditation, I feel so happy to step on the oak leaves, to see the tiny stream by my hermitage. Everything is so beautiful. We can see that in the entire universe there is not another planet so beautiful. We are so lucky. Every day, though, we live on this planet, but we don’t realize how lucky we are. I wonder if the fish in the pond can see that beauty, the bird flying in the beautiful empty space, the deer in the field browsing. Do they know? But we, we know. Human beings, before, we were apes. We walked with four limbs. Then, at a certain moment, we stood up. Instead of having an ape’s name, we then had the name “Homo erectus“. We could use our two limbs in order to do things. Eventually we became “Homo sapiens“, humans who know. When we are mindful, we can call ourselves “Homo conscius.” We enjoy the manifestation of all these gifts in nature. This is mindfulness: being aware of what is going on. When we get in touch with what is beautiful, we transform the anguish in us into joy, happiness, and love.

Dharmakaya. The body of the dharma. One if three bodies – Buddhakaya. Sanghakaya. Each of us have these three bodies. The practice is to bring these bodies into harmony.

Understanding the Buddha body. All the species can become Buddha. In Buddhism, life is one. All have Buddha nature. People, animals, plants, minerals.

The dharma body is your spiritual practice. If it is strong, you can live with ease and lightness. Dharma body is also the teaching of the Buddha and can help you build your spiritual practice. Each day is a day for growing your dharma body.

The third body is the sangha body. Thay emphasizes this body in our community. If you have the sangha in your heart, you do not lose anything when you are away from the sangha.

As humans, we have the ability to see the beauty in the world around us. We can appreciate the beauty of this world. We are mindful. We are aware. I am present with the sky and the earth. Our consciousness allows us to do that. Other species may not be able to do that like homo sapiens.

Continue to grow the three bodies and you can ride the ocean of birth and death. The nature of the practice is to be in touch with nirvana.

The last twenty minutes of the talk is a Sutra commentary. Today we discuss stanza 9 and 10.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below (French and original Vietnamese audio are also available, as well as video version).

Editor’s Note: The talk is actually on January 6 though the translator says January 7. Also, the talk is cut-off before it is complete and we are missing the last ten minutes. You may need to listen to the French, Vietnamese, or watch the video to catch the very end.

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