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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Recognizing the Fruit of Our Habits

June 16, 2011. 70-minute Dharma Talk in Vietnamese, with translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong, given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall, Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France.

In this talk we study the Sutra on Keeping a Pure Mind While Doing Alms Round (#236). The sutra demonstrates that the practice is all day long and in all positions. Walking. Sitting. Eating. Etc. The practice today is the same as the time of the Buddha. The sutra also speaks of emptiness samadhi (deep concentration). Recognizing and embracing is the third aspect of the sutra.

Impermanence, Non-self, and Nirvana. The Three Dharma Seals. Some schools call the third as suffering, but Thay feels this is not correct. Emptiness, Signlessness, and Aimlessness. These also are known as dharma seals (Tripitaka) – sometimes called the Three Doors of Liberation.

We then move to another sutra (#293), a sutra about interdependent co-arising conditions, and Thay recognizes this is very difficult. At the end he reminds us to drink some tea.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below. There is a video version available too. Please note, we are missing just the first minute or two of the recording.

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Maintaining Awareness, Transcending Discrimination

May 26, 2011. 90-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into Dutch, with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the second Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Dutch Retreat at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.

Thay shares about the notions of birth and death, creator and creature, and the practice of cultivating right view with regard to these notions. How do we transcend ideas of suffering and happiness, being and non-being, birth and death? Compassionate listening. Applying what we learned from Israeli and Palestinian retreats. Thay also touches on the three actions of body, speech, and mind as our true continuations.

The talk was given in English and Dutch at the same time and is available below for listening or download. You may also view the video.

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