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Retreats

Nottingham Retreat: Final Talk

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April 10, 2012. 97-minute recording given at The University of Nottingham by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sangha is on the UK and Ireland Tour and this is final dharma talk for the Cultivating Happiness Family Retreat.

In this talk we review the 16-exercises from the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing followed by the teaching on the Three Doors of Liberation: emptiness, signlessness, and aimlessness.

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Nottingham Retreat: Final Talk from Plum Village Online Monastery on Vimeo.

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Plum Village Retreats

The Perception of Images

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February 5, 2012. 92-minute dharma talk from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation. You may also listen to the French version.

In each of us we find an object to cover emptiness inside of us. We are like a pot without a lid, and we search for a lid thinking it will help us. As a baby we cried. Part of the reason for crying arises from fear. This fear comes into adulthood with us. We should reflect, use mindfulness, to realize we are no longer a baby. Our first mantra, I am here for you, it starts with ourselves. Being present for ourselves, what does that mean? Body and mind connects to recognize the miracles of life. We are an adult we can use out mindfulness to be present and let go of our fear. We can take refuge in the three jewels: the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha.

At 38-minutes we continue studying Dignaga’s Alambana-pariksa shastra, begun on February 2 dharma talk, with the third and fourth gatha. The things we see, they contain the four basic substances. When the atom comes together, it manifests these elements. Harmonizes. They are not only the production of conciousness, but the real thing. Fourth gatha. Images perceived. They are not something real. The accumulation of atoms are not different with the different sizes of the objects. For example, a dot can be made into a circle or into a square. The object is only a mental construction. This relates to the “universal” and the “particular” and their Interbeing. The images that we perceive in various forms are not real, but only a conventional designation.

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Plum Village Retreats

The Atom of your Consciousness

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February 2, 2012. 82-minute dharma talk from Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation by Sister Chan Khong. You may also listen to the Vietnamese or French versions.

I am here for you. This is a mantra of love. This is also taking care of yourself. If we can’t do this – our own presence – we can’t be there for another person. Invite yourself to be fresh. We entrust ourselves to the sangha. We don’t try to hide our weaknesses.

At 25-minutes, we begin looking at a shastra, or commentary. Thay provides instruction, corrections, and analysis of Dignaga’s shastra, a student of Vassubandhu’s, also of the Yogacara school. Buddhist logic. The commentary is Dignaga’s Alambana-pariksa, discussing substantialism, the nature of svabhava, and realism. The object of our Conciousness. We can only see the object, not the the smallest elements – dust, atom.

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Blue Cliff Monastery Retreats

You Have to Feed your Love Properly

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October 10, 2011. 122-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, NY. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the final dharma talk for the Stepping Into Freedom, Savoring Life Retreat.

“Walking on the planet Earth is a wonder. The Zen Master Lin Chi said the miracle is to walk on earth. Like Neil Armstrong on the moon, we should be mindful of each step. Happiness should be possible with each step.”

Time is a product of our mind. This is dualistic thinking, but we can touch eternity and transcend time. We can transcend birth and death, being and non-being. Walking can bring a lot of joy, but also the highest enlightenment. You can bring this practice home and enjoy every moment of daily life.

Before you bow to the Buddha, you have to meditate. You have to communicate with the Buddha. There is a verse we can learn to touch emptiness. A Christian can practice the same way when bowing to Jesus. Thay continues to share about the Three Doors of Liberation (emptiness, signlessness, and aimlessness) and the four signs, from the Diamond Sutra, in which we may get caught: the concept of a self, of man, of living beings, and of a lifespan.

You may listen or download the audio from this site or watch the video.

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Retreats

The River of Mind

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September 8, 2011. 87-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from the Ocean of Peace Mediation Hall at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the second dharma talk for the Together We Are One retreat.

Our father is inside every cell of our body and we can breathe in and out together. Our talk today begins with a guided meditation connecting us to our parents and ancestors.

A story about Italian retreats starts the talk for the children. Thay says there are always a lot of children at Italian retreats and he recalls giving them an assignment. . Thay speaks about how we are the continuation of our parents, using the example of a seed of corn that grows up to become a plant of corn. “When you practice mindful breathing, we can invite our mother inside of us to practice breathing as well. Our father also.”

Thay shares with us the about the practice of looking deeply into the river of the mind, using the exercises from the Mindfulness of Breathing Sutra. At the beginning of this portion, Thay writes down the first 8 exercises on the board (the audio is cut on the first two, but only for a moment). Today we continue with the 9th exercise – this is about recognizing the mental formation that has manifested. There are 51 categories of mental formations in our tradition of practice. There are positive and negative mental formations. Every mental formation is like a drop of water in the river of the mind. The practitioner sits on the bank of the river and watches and observes. Aware of the mental formations. We continue with exercises 9-12.

“As a practitioner we know how to practice selective watering of the seeds in our consciousness.” “Life is impossible without impermanence. Without impermanence a grain of corn can never become a plant of corn, and your little baby can never become a little girl. So impermanence is the nature of things. Your love is also impermanent. If you do not know how to take care of your love, your love will die.

Things are impermanent; because we believe things to be permanent we suffer.” We can use impermanence to get out of anger. “To get out of your anger, you can close your eyes and visualize the other person in 300 years. What will they become? Ash. And you too. It may take only 3-5 seconds for you to touch impermanence. That way you can see that it is not wise to let anger overwhelm you like that.”

Thay finishes the talk with the teaching on the Three Doors of Liberation: 1) emptiness, 2) signlessness, 3) aimlessness.

The talk is available below. A video version is available in two parts: children’s talk and river of mind.

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Retreats

The Buddha is the Sitting Itself

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August 24, 2011. 122-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. The sangha is on the North American Tour and this is the fourth and final talk of the Body and Mind Are One retreat.

We begin with a short guided meditation.

I invite the Buddha to breathe. I invite the Buddha to sit. I don’t have to breathe. I don’t have to sit.
Buddha is breathing. Buddha is sitting.
I enjoy the breathing. I enjoy the sitting.
Buddha is the breathing. Buddha is the sitting.
I am the breathing. I am the sitting.
There is only the breathing. There is only the sitting.
There is no-one breathing. There is no-one sitting.

We are our action. We are our karma. Everyday we produce speech and our action. There is no thinker outside the thoughts. The act of breaking the bread is Jesus. The quality of the sitting is the Buddha. When there is an in-breath is there, you know the Buddha is there. We don’t need a breather. This has to do with the lack of subject and object in our experience of reality. “In breathing and sitting, there is no breather or sitter. There is just the breathing, there is just the sitting.” “When you say ‘The wind blows’, it is very funny. If it does not blow, how can it be the wind? It is like saying ‘The rain is raining.’ If it is not raining, how can it be rain? The same is true for thinking. The thinker and the thought—they are not separate things; they are one.” We can touch the nature of no-self. Emptiness.

A teaching on deep listening and loving speech is illustrated with stories of people attending retreats and transforming their communication. We also hear examples of Israeli and Palestinians coming together. In a discussion about the Five Mindfulness Trainings, particularly the fifth, Thay introduces and shares about The Sutra on the Son’s Flesh, to point out the nature of nutriment and the Four Kinds of Nutriments. He continues on to discuss the three kinds of concentration: emptiness, signlessness and aimlessness.

The talk is available below. A video version is available: Buddha is the Sitting.

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Retreats

The Flower is Full of Everything

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August 13, 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.

Categories
Retreats

Now is the Time: Both by nature empty

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April 21, 2011. 104-minute question and answer session given in English, with consecutive translation into Mandarin, with Thich Nhat Hanh and others. This is the fifth day of a five-day retreat in Taipei, Taiwan.

The Sixteen Exercises of Mindful Breathing (Anapanasati Sutta) – we are encouraged to memorize these exercises. Here we review each of these again. For example, the concentration of impermanence (13th exercise) should not just be an idea.

In addition, there are other meditations (concentrations) that can help us liberate ourselves. Emptiness. Signlessness. Aimlessness.

Mindfulness brings about concentration and we gain wisdom of Right View and we can be liberated.

With signlessness we can see the impermanent nature of all beings.

No birth. No death.
Being and nonbeing.
No coming. No going.
No sameness. No otherness.

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