The Art of Suffering Retreat – Question and Answer Session

August 29, 2013. 117-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, New York during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is a session of questions and answers during the 6-day retreat with the theme Transformation and Healing – The Art of Suffering.

Children

  1. Why do people get so angry sometimes and their hearts filled with anger?
  2. Why do people have to suffer?
  3. What do you have to do to have a calm mind?

Teens

  1. If you could live your life again, would you choose the same path?
  2. My sister (a monastic aspirant) has been staying with the monastics and it’s been hard for me. How do I practice non-attachment?
  3. What made you decide to become a monk?
  4. What is the hardest thing that you practice?
  5. How have you detached from your strongest attachments in life?
  6. Can we be fast and mindful, especially with sports?

Adults

  1. A father who has suffered greatly from violence – his son died at Sandy Hook Elementary. What could have happened differently? What could we have done differently?
  2. Another parent shares about the teen child who died from leukemia. Her question is whether or not she can ever truly be happy again.
  3. If you were Obama’s spiritual advisor, what would you tell him? Referring to Syria.
  4. UN disarmament negotiator. How can we approach young men who are recruited by groups like Al Qaeda that can offer so much?
  5. How to practice joyfully with physical limitations?
  6. How do I forgive myself because of trusting someone who sexually abused him as a child?
  7. A question on depression and anxiety.

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Fear, Anger, and Suspicion

June 13, 2013. 76-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbrol, Germany. The talk is given in English with consecutive translation into German. This is the second dharma talk of the German Retreat on the theme Are You Sure?

We begin with a story of being in the womb and then our birth. A moment of fear may have arrived at the moment of our first breath after being taken care if the 9-months in the womb. A second emotion arose at that moment too. Desire. Many of our other emotions were also transmitted to us by our ancestors.

Obama said that “peace is possible” between Palestine and Israel. But how? Last month Thay also spoke about peace in Korea. The main issue is the amount of fear we have. With no fear, no anger, and no suspicion then we wouldn’t need to use nuclear weapons. It’s not the weapons. We need to remove the fear, the anger, the suspicion. This is how peace is possible. Right now, both sides are suspicious and fearfully but it has to be removed from both sides. Obama could do this in Korea but making nuclear weapons a condition of negotiation is not going to help in reducing fear. It’s not that people don’t want to reconcile but there is so much anger and fear. We have to reduce this fear.

The American nation is also suffering and experiencing anger, fear, and despair. In 2001, Thay suggested a session of deep listening for the American people and invite those who have compassion and understanding to be present to support the listening seasons. We have to understand our own suffering. This is the same recommendation Thay have to South Korea last month.

One solution is to train our leaders to reduce fear, anger, and suspicion. To call on those who know how to do these things. A retreat can be organized so people can come express their fear, their anger, their suspicion. We can practice compassionate listening and look at our block of suffering. When these emotions of anger and fear have a collective energy, it can be so dangerous and there could be a war.

Compassionate listening and loving speech. Thay gives a few more examples, such as the work done by Plum Village with Israelis and Palestinians, of how to do this in our lives. Today.

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