Tag Archives: science

What is Emptiness?

Originally given in Vietnamese, available from Lang Mai, the talk from Plum Village is dated Thursday, January 16, 2014 and is the eighteenth talk of the 2013-2014 Winter Retreat. English translation, available below, is by Sr. Tue Nghiem.  In this talk we learn about emptiness along with the continued theme of the winter retreat on consciousness, perception, and manas.

0:00-19:56 What is Emptiness?
19:56-30:40 Science and Consciousness
30:40-42:30 Suffering and Happiness
42:32-56:58 Mode of Perception
56:58-1:13:50 Manas
1:13:50-1:25:10 Subject and Object of Consciousness

Today we chanted the heart sutra. The most important word in this chant is emptiness; sometimes mistaken for nothingness. Emptiness is Sunyata in Sanskrit. Being as the opposite of non-being. Emptiness has no opposite. Right View is one of the elements of the noble eightfold path. The highest view of right view is to transcend the idea of being and non-being. These are two extremes and just notions that don’t describe reality. Right view helps us conserve a lot of energy. A practitioners we should practice slowly to transcend these notions. And this is called emptiness.

Form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Matter and energy. Cloud is snow but it is also rain and water. The sun is matter but it is also energy. Matter is energy and energy is matter. Science is getting closer to the nature of phenomenon. String theory. Everything has manifested from seeds. Manifestation only. There is also the law of thermodynamics.

Store consciousness is all the seeds. When they manifest, they are a formation. We can use the eyes of a scientist. Research of phenomenon. All phenomenon have the nature of no birth and no death. Consciousness and the object of consciousness cannot be separated. There still exists some duality in science between consciousness and phenomena. In manifestation-only teaching we are learning to erase that boundary. The two rely on one another to manifest. They are waiting for each other to manifest as a pair of opposites. Co-arising.

In the original teachings of the Buddha, they used very simple terms to explain. This is because that is. The conclusion is we should not wish for happiness without suffering but that suffering can be transformed. This is the art of suffering. If we know how to suffer then we suffer much less. In this winter retreat we shouldn’t think there is a realm where there is only happiness – there is no place like that. If we want happiness then we must also have suffering. Reciprocal by way of mutuality. Reciprocity. When we learn the Four Noble Truths, we have to see under  this light. The second noble truth talks of the path that leads to ill-being. It is because we live unmindfully. The presence of the second truth brings along the presence of all four which in turn brings along the noble eightfold path.

When we learn of alaya consciousness, we know that it holds all the seeds and energies and it can manifest the wondrous universe. Store consciousness can reach reality as it is. Things in themselves. This is a mode of perception and it is the nature of phenomena. A manifestation of the seeds from store consciousness. Direct and true perception of ultimate reality. All objects of store consciousness and store consciousness itself. Some examples drawn from Christianity and God are explained. The nature of all phenomena is no birth and no death. Neither pure nor impure. A direct and true perception of reality.

Manas cannot come in touch with reality as it is; it only grasps to part of store consciousness. In the sutras, there is an insight view of the body. Manas sees this body as itself. In the body, there is the five skandhas (form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness). In store consciousness, these are a wonder. But according to manas, the five skandhas are me – they are attachment. Where alaya is the beloved and manas is the lover. Store consciousness is the root consciousness and manas grabs ahold of alaya and says “this is me.” Manas represents the mud and is part of life.

Store consciousness holds all the seeds. It holds concentration and the five universal mental formations. The subject and object of consciousness. The foundations of seeds.

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The Practice of Compassion

November 3, 2013. 101-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Stillwater Meditation Hall, Upper Hamlet of Plum Village. We begin with two chants from the monastics followed by a talk on the theme of compassion.

Thay begins with a follow-up on the visit to Stanford University where we had the topic of compassion. Sr. True Dedication is asked by Thay to begin the sharing. The talk at Stanford was sponsored by the organization CCARE, The Center for Compassion And Altruism Research And Education

Empathy. Research of the human mind. Compassion, empathy, and altruism are innate in us. The nature of compassion is like thunder, according to the lotus sutra.

First lesson: There is a relationship between suffering and compassion. Interbeing is the ground of meta-ethics. Compassion is born from understanding. Understanding what? Suffering. And if you know how to suffer then you suffer much less. Second lesson: Compassion should be directed to yourself first. Our civilization has a tendency to want to run away from ourselves. But we can go home to ourselves without fear. Third lesson: As a community, you can generate energy of compassion. This power can help others much more quickly.

There were a number of unanswered questions from the event that Thay spends time on now. Here’s a few of the questions:

  • Research has shown that compassion has extraordinary Health benefits, including a longer and have your life. From your perspective as a teacher, have you noticed this benefit of compassion?
  • Research suggests that the desire for compassion to help someone behavior is seen in primates and children. On the other hand we hear of adult capable of atrocious crimes. If compassion is innate, why do we not always display our compassion as we become adults?
  • Scientists have observed when compassion is more likely to manifest. The more similar then the more compassionate we may be.
  • Why are we able to feel more compassion when one person is in need of help versus a whole group of people in need of help?
  • What are the hindrances to compassion?
  • Is there such a thing as too much compassion, for example empathy fatigue?

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Domains of Mindfulness Practice

June 16, 2013. 112-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 final dharma talk of the German Retreat on the theme Are You Sure?

We start with the three kinds of energies — mindfulness, concentration, insight — and they can produced anytime while doing any activity. We can see things more deeply and remove wrong perceptions. Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. Concentration is the same.

Four Foundations of Mindfulness – the four domains or objects of mindfulness. The first domain is body. The second domain are the feelings. The mind is the third object. The final domain is objects of mind – in Buddhist psychology there are 51 mental formations. What is object of mind? The Five Skandhas (also known as the five aggregates). We discuss store consciousness and mind consciousness.

Science and Buddhism. Conventional truth and ultimate truth. Transmitter and receiver. What is emptiness? Birth and death. Being and non-being. These are just notions and can lead to wrong views.

Right View, part of the noble eightfold path, is the insight that is free from all wrong views. Right Thinking is the kind of thinking that is also free of notions of birth and death, being and non-being.

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Interbeing of Father and Son, Exploring the Fundamental Teachings of the Buddha

July 15, 2012. 121-minute recording given at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the seventh dharma talk of the Summer Opening and the talk was originally given in French. This is an English translation.

We begin with a talk for the children. What is the Buddha? How can we make use of suffering? What can we do with anger? What is loving speech? The story of the corn plant. The method of meditation called Signlessness. Uses the birth of a child to illustrate.

Following the talk for children, the main talk begins at 53-minutes into the recording. In classical science things are all outside of each other. In modern science, quantum physics, we see that things are inside each other. In Buddhism, we try to look this way. There is no separate self. Coexistence. This is, because that is. Interbeing.

A teaching in the Four Noble Truths. Why do we have suffering? Hiw do we get understanding and love? How can we see the all in the one?

The noble eightfold path beginning with Right View (the fruit of our meditation). The notions of being and non-being. Right Thinking. Right Speech. Right Action.

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Conditioned Genesis

June 20, 2012. 79-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the fifteenth dharma talk (of 15). No chanting. This is the final dharma talk of the retreat.

Topics

  • We are all cells in the sangha body. Sangha building.
  • Suffering and happiness.
  • The mind of non-discrimination.

Four pairs of opposites

  • Birth/Death
  • Being/Non-being
  • Coming/Going
  • Sameness:Otherness

Scientists and practitioners can let go of notions.

Thay reads from The Paramartha Gathas of Asanga Gathas on the Absolute Truth. This is because that is – Condition Genesis

Both the self and the elements that give rise to the self are empty. They are just constructions of our perverted (confused) mind. The separate-self nature ofall the sentient species is also empty. The only thing that is, is the causing andconditioning of one dharma upon another.

And the following from The Discourse on the Adaptation of Conditioned Genesis Connected with Emptiness

Profound indeed is this, namely conditioned genesis; even more profound,more difficult to see is this, namely the extinction of all attachment, the destructionof craving, the fading away of desire, the cessation of all suffering: nirvana.

Signlessness

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A Seed of Corn

June 20, 2012. 70-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the fourteenth dharma talk (of 15). No chanting, but began with some mindful movements.

True Happiness comes from understanding and compassion. I am capable of understanding. The seeds of Buddhahood are there. Right Thinking is the kind of thinking that can produce compassion. One in-breath can create compassion and we can create new habits.

The Four Attainments are the fruits of our practice.

  1. Dwell peacefully where you are. Froglessness.
  2. I have arrived.
  3. No birth

Does the soul exist?

Thay reads from The Paramartha Gathas of Asanga Gathas on the Absolute Truth, verse 44, on Birth. Death. Nirvana.

Living beings is the name of a continuous stream and all phenomena as theobject of perception are only signs. Therefore there is no real change of birthinto death and death into birth and no person who realizes nirvana.

Being a seed of corn.

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Climbing a Mountain

June 19, 2012. 117-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the thirteenth dharma talk (of 15).

Thay announced the names of apprentice Dharma Teachers for the coming year. There will about 50 from the monastic Sunflower family and about 15 lay students (Belgium, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, and USA).  We are reminded that a dharma teacher can create happiness for those around them and can handle a painful/unpleasant feeling. Even with some suffering, dharma teachers can discover this is a happy moment.

Climbing a mountain, arriving with every step. Illustrated from a story of traveling China with the sangha.

Five Universal Mental Formations.

Always present and always together. A neural pathway that can lead to happiness or suffering. Creates a habit. We don’t need to focus on our suffering. Create a habit of happiness.

  1. Contact – eyes, ears, etc.
  2. Feeling
  3. Attention – To be able to select the object of your attention. This is good practice. Appropriate attention.
  4. Perception / Conception
  5. Volition

Five Particular Mental Formations

  1. Desire / Intention
  2. Resolution / Determination
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Concentration
  5. Insight

Types of Consciousness

  1. Eye
  2. Ear
  3. Nose
  4. Tongue
  5. Body
  6. Mind (this consciousness can instruct manas – the work of meditation)
  7. Manas (the ground the first six lean upon – wrong view; seeks pleasure)
  8. Store (everything manifests from here – all the seeds)
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Science of the Buddha: Questions and Answers #2

June 17, 2012. 93-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the twelfth dharma talk (of 15). This talk is a session of Questions and Answers.

Questions

  1. I want to go home because cooking materials needed for my special diet is being stolen from my tent in Lower Hamlet. I feel unsafe here. What should I do?
  2. How do we handle training people in mindfulness to address concerns of global warming, food shortages, war, etc.? How fast should we go? How much practice do we need before we can teach?
  3. Can you help me understand the new language in the revised Third and Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, especially the line about “being known to my family and friends” as it relates to LBGT community?
  4. I have my own ideas/understanding, I’ve been using the practice of “no” (koan) as you described in Zen Keys. Is this good practice?
  5. How to practice letting go?
  6. Three written questions on transmission and karma of illness through the family.  For example, suicide.
  7. What role does Parallax Press and your books have in sharing the dharma and the mindfulness Trainings?
  8. How do I work with internal anger (maybe manifested via external illness)?
  9. Dance and writing
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The Six Mantras

June 16, 2012. 99-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the eleventh dharma talk (of 15).

Four (six) Mantras of Love (45-minutes)

  1. Darling, I am here for you.
  2. Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.
  3. Darling, I know you suffer. 
  4. Darling, I suffer, please help. 
  5.  (This is a Happy Moment.)
  6. (Darling, you are partly right.)

The last one is new and for when someone congratulates or criticizes you.

Perception and our mind. Subject of cognition and object of mind. The mind can be both the observed and the observer.

Three parts acting together. The notion of superposition. Three but one.

  1. The observer
  2. The observed
  3. Consciousness

The third part is the base, the foundation, for the observed. Thay has used the example of a piece of paper. The first two are the right and left side and the third is the paste (the paper itself). The third part has many names – different types of consciousnesses. For example, store consciousness.

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One Cell in the Buddha Body

June 14, 2012. 86-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the tenth dharma talk (of 15).

The Four Recollections

Joy and happiness with the three kinds of energies: mindfulness, concentration, and insight. When we focus on our breath, we are only our breath. We are not our sorrow or our regret.

Joy while breathing
Happiness while sitting

Joy is the breathing
Happiness is the breathing

Thay tells a story of the Buddha visiting a disciple who was very attached to the Buddha, but was now dying. His name was Vakali to help him die peacefully. The story illustrates the concept of the dharma body (dharmakaya). Our practice is our dharma body. The sangha and our teacher can help is develop our dharma body. Our practice also creates the living dharma.

We also have a sangha body (sanghakaya); a community of practice. The sangha body is in yourself.

We also learn the last two of the Four Recollections: Buddha body (buddhakaya) and the Mindfulness Trainings (silakaya). We practice to cultivate these four bodies.

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