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Retreats

Sitting on our Portable Lotus Flower

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In this 95-minute talk we learn how to sit, how to practice with the love mantras, and how to practice insight in order to transform our suffering. The talk takes place on August 14, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is the second dharma talk of the retreat. We begin with the monastics chanting The Four Recollections.

Sitting on our Portable Lotus Flower

9:25 Thay leads us in a short guided meditation. To be alive is the greatest of all miracles. Please sit like a Buddha. Thay teaches us about the lotus (or half-lotus) position. Feeling solid and stable. This way of sitting influences the mind. We are sitting like a mountain. The solidity of the body has something to do with the solidity of the mind. It is like sitting on a lotus flower. What does this mean? 

16:15 A story of the time Thay visited a prison in Maryland. Sitting with a few hundred inmates, we learned how to sit like a Buddha on a lotus flower. How to keep our back upright and to release tension. We also learned how to practice a mindful meal. This visit later became a book called Be Free Where You Are

19:25 We describe the Buddha as an artist. Sitting on the lotus flower. As a friend of the buddha, it is nice to know how to sit like him. The Buddha is not a God. He was a human being. He did become a free, happy, enlightened person. The word Buddha is a title, not a name. Anyone can become a Buddha. Do you have a capacity to sit like a Buddha? What are the challenges we experience as students of the Buddha. 

21:57 When Mr. Nelson Mandela came to visit France, he was asked what he’d like to do the most. He responded by saying, to sit down. To rest. Thay said we need some training in order to sit well. To do nothing. To be a Buddha is to allow freshness, solidity and peace to manifest in us. Sometimes we are very close to this. Almost a Buddha. 

Love Mantras

25:13 When you love someone, the best thing you can offer them is your Buddhahood. To have a little Buddha as a present for our loved ones. In this moment, Thay is teaching this to the children present at the talk. The best kind of present is your beautiful presence. Our mindful sitting and walking can improve our presence. It just takes some practice. 

29:02 In Buddhism, we sometimes practice a mantra. It is something that can help transform a situation.

“Darling, I am here for you”

You can practice with this. To love is to offer your fresh presence. And when you are truly there, you may notice something else is there – your beloved one, and the world. This mantra is the first step. Then you can say,

“Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.”

To acknowledge the presence of your loved one. To be loved is to be recognized. We are reminded that you don’t need to go to the meditation hall in order to practice. No matter how old you are, you can still practice these two mantras. Without love, happiness is not possible. 

What would it be like to have a million dollars? Would this make me happy? Allow me to do more? Would it bring happiness? What Thay has is mindfulness, and this can bring us a lot of happiness. When we have enough insight, we are not caught up in difficult situations anymore. This comes from our mindfulness and concentration. We come to this retreat to learn how to do things with mindfulness. To create love, understanding, and insight. This is the gift of the Buddha. 

Contemplating the Body

38:59 In the previous talk, we were trying to learn just one thing – releasing the tension. The Buddha has much to teach us on healing. Every step we take can help us release the tension. Every breath that we take can help us release the tension. When we allow our body to relax, our body begins to have the capacity for healing itself. There are many ways to do this, such as deep relaxation practice. In the sutra on the contemplation of the body, the Buddha uses an example of farmer who went into the cellar and opened a bag of seeds. Thay teaches us this practice of scanning our body with a ray of mindfulness. How do use this practice? This practice will bring relieve. And if we know how to go a little bit further, into our ill-being, we may discover the roots of our ill-being. Looking deeply with concentration. What is the source of our ill-being. 

47:18 In Buddhism, we teach the Four Noble Truths. And the first is ill-being, and we have to call it by its true name. Sickness, anger, fear, depressions, etc. To recognize it and to name it. From that we can see the second noble truth; the roots of that ill-being. We look at this truth in terms of nutriments. Nothing can survive without food. If we have fear or depression, it is because we have been feeding them. Just practicing this, you are already on the path of healing. If depression is there, perhaps we have lived in such a way to make that possible, we ask what did we consume? What kind of contact did we have? We look at the second noble truth in terms of nutriments. How do we practice with this in order to transform the depression? The fourth noble truth cannot be seen unless we first see the second noble truth. Do not run away from suffering so we can begin to see the path of healing in the fourth noble truth. 

The Buddha is a Human Being

54:30 The second noble truth is the path leading to ill-being. The path of consumption. The Buddha spoke of four kinds of nutriments: edible food, sensory impressions. What is the importance practicing mindful consumption? How can we do this in our daily lives? Why do we consume when we don’t need to consume? 

1:01:04 Continuing from the previous talk, we look again at store and mind consciousness. When the seed of anxiety, fear, or confusion come up to our mind consciousness level then we feel uneasy. It makes us suffer. That is why we want to occupy the mind with another object (such as a film or a book). But this is a way to repress the feeling of uneasiness. To coverup the feeling of emptiness. We want to forget our suffering. The practice recommended by the Buddha, you should not try to suppress it with consumption, but invite the energy of mindfulness to manifest by mindful walking or mindful breathing. This can help take care of that energy that makes you suffer. We strengthen the seed of mindfulness through our daily practice so we can more easily apply it when we are suffering from fear, sorrow, despair. It is recognizing and embracing our suffering. The energy of mindfulness is something that can continue to grow inside of us. The Buddha is inside of you and you are capable of holding your pain, sorrow, and fear. We don’t need to practice consumption without mindfulness. We need to stop consuming toxins. We practice mindfulness to recognize and hold the pain and sorrow. That is the Buddha at work inside of you. The Buddha is a human being. 

1:12:23 Those who of us who don’t practice, we practice repressing our fear and anger. We cause bad circulation of our psyche because we suppress the negative feelings. With this bad circulation, symptoms of mental illness appear. The practice is to allow the pain to emerge. And if we are equipped with mindfulness, then we are no longer afraid. If we are still young in the practice, we can ask for help from the sangha to help restore the circulation of our psyche. With some months of practice, we can do this on our own. To use our mindfulness and concentration to look into the nature of our ill-being. The path leading to the cessation of ill-being is also the path leading to well-being. This is third noble truth. The existence of well-being. 

1:17:10 The beginning of well-being. This path is a noble path. Mindfulness always carry the energy of concentration. And if you live mindfully, then you can see through to the true nature of our suffering. This is insight meditation. It has the power to liberate. With this you can liberate yourself and you can help liberate other people. 

1:20:09 Remembering the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia. All of us suffer. We ask why did this happen and why did so many people die? We want to know why. Thay also suffered, but by practicing looking deeply to see that we too have died with them also. And we discover they died for us and that we should live for them. How are we living today so their death will have a meaning? This is interbeing. This is insight. We are all of the nature to die. We are all of the nature to get sick. We need courage to have the strength of our mindfulness. How do we die with peacefulness? Nothing is born and nothing dies. There is no birth and no death. This insight can remove fear and true happiness is possible. 

With our practice, we bring the element of non-fear. Thay teaches in light of climate change and the use of technology. 

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Day of Mindfulness Plum Village

Turn Every Cell On

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Dear fellow practitioners and friends on the path. In this talk we learn of the joy and the happiness of the practice. The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh offered this 107-minute dharma talk on December 11, 2005 from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village (France) during the annual Winter Retreat. We are reminded of the basic practices of walking and sitting followed by a deeper teaching on the Five Dimensions of Reality.

Touching paradise. When you practice walking, you involve your body with your practice. We can walk in the ultimate dimension. You turn on every cell in your body. Being completely free with the energy of mindfulness. Each step brings healing and nourishment to you. We use the techniques of mindful breathing.

We apply the same techniques to sitting. We turn on all the cells in our body to arrive in a unified state of being. All the cells will sing in unison and we are in a state of concentration. This is the foundation of enlightenment. Thay comments on sleepiness during sitting meditation. We have to make our sitting interesting. There is so much to enjoy. This state of being gives us the capacity to heal.

The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing offers us exercises to touch all the cells of our body.

Thay offers some reflections on neuroscience and consciousness and how the Buddhist tradition sees things quite different. The elements of the human are: Form, Feelings, Perceptions, Mental formations and Consciousness. The Five Skandhas. Perceiver and the perceived. We train ourselves in seeing the object of our perception. What is the object of our perception? Our consciousness? The Five Dimensions of Reality in Buddhism.

Thay offers a deeper teaching on consciousness and mental formations, including technical terms from Chinese and Sanskrit.

One lesson from this talk is we practice with body and mind together.

If you appreciate this teaching, please consider making a donation to support the ongoing efforts of the online monastery. Please make a note with your donation that it was because of this talk.

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Retreats

Enjoy Each Mindful Breath

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Thich Nhat Hanh - Key West - 1997The date is November 2, 1997 and the sangha is holding a mindfulness retreat in Key West, Florida with the theme of Buddhist psychology. This is the first talk (100-minutes) where Thay introduces the attendees to the basic practices of mindfulness. It’s a wonderful teaching covering breathing, sitting, walking, and silence.

We begin with a basic introduction, along with instructions, to the practice. How can we practice mindful breathing? Why is mindful breathing important? Breathe, you are alive. How do we practice sitting meditation? When we sit, don’t struggle. Breathing and sitting can both be very enjoyable. Sitting is not to become someone else but to be aware that you are alive. This is enlightenment.

Do we know how to allow our body to rest? Do we know how to trust our bodies in order to rest?

To worry too much has become a habit for us? We have learned to worry too much. This energy of worry has become to strong and preventing the healing of our body and spirit. We also have a habit of rushing and restlessness. Buddhist meditation can help us deal with these habits of running and worry.

It is possible to live happily in the present moment. The boat of mindfulness can help us not to sink into the river of suffering. The energy of mindfulness that we can generate within us that we cultivate through meditation.

In addition to our meditation practice, we also have a sangha. What is the sangha? The sangha is another component of the boat that supports you to not sink into the river of suffering. Our brothers and sisters are a source of support. Sitting together. Eating together. Walking together. Breathing together.

The practice of mindfulness is, first of all, the practice of going back to the here and now. Our habit energies are obstacles to our going back to the here and now. The address of happiness, peace, and stability is the here and now.

Instructions for walking mediation. I have arrived. I have arrived. I am home. I am home.

Instructions for eating meditation and eating together in community. This too is an opportunity for being aware of our breathing and it is a moment of practice. A moment of joy. There is no waiting.

Listening to a dharma talk. This is an opportunity for the most precious seeds to grow in us. We don’t need to use our intellect. Allow the dharma rain to fall on your consciousness.

A short teaching on the historical and ultimate dimensions followed by Thay leading everyone with a song – “I Have Arrived, I am Home.”

The last topic is on the practice of purification of speech. How do we practice with silence during the first four days of the retreat. In the retreat, we will use a notebook to write down the things that we want to say – we can observe the habit energy in us. We can also use the notebook to communicate with others if it’s absolutely necessary. Learning to observe your feelings and ideas during this period of silence. Do you know how to observe and look deeply at your feelings? We can train ourselves to recognize and embrace our feelings.

The conditions of our lives don’t have to make us suffer and we can transform the situation.

If you appreciate this teaching, please consider making a donation to support the ongoing efforts of the online monastery. Please make a note with your donation that it was because of this talk.

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Plum Village Retreats

Geese Flying South

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Thay Reading a TextOur talk today is from 16-years ago and begins with a reading, first in English by a nun, and then in Vietnamese by Thich Nhat Hanh. It is 23 January 2000 and the sangha has gathered in the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village for a dharma talk during the winter retreat. The talk is in English.

The main talk begins with Thay sharing an article from a magazine about geese flying south. This story is used to illustrate the wisdom of the animal kingdom and they know about how important sangha is for the individual. There are things that are difficult to do alone but will be easier with the sangha. Why is important to eat with the sangha? Why is important to walk with the sangha? How does your sitting with the sangha help both you and the sangha?

We learn more about sitting meditation, the miracle of walking with the Buddha, and living in community within the monastery. Living in these 24-hours. Even how to enjoy brushing our teeth.

Below is a general outline of the topics covered in this talk.

0:00 English Reading
7:44 Vietnamese Reading
15:00 Geese Flying South and Sangha
26:00 Walking with the Buddha
37:08 Sitting in the Meditation Hall
40:48 The Miracle of the Orange
52:07 Everything is the Practice
56:40 How to Sit
1:05:43 Listening to the Bell

If you appreciate this teaching, please consider making a donation to support the ongoing efforts of the online monastery. Please make a note with your donation that it was because of this talk.

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Uncategorized

How to Sit

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In this short audio clip from 2000, Thay instructs us how to sit. We will be posting the complete talk in a few days. Or, simply wait a few days. Enjoy the weekend.

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Magnolia Grove Monastery Retreats

Introduction and Chanting in Mississippi

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September 24, 2013. 120-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the orientation for the 6-day retreat with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World.

Try the BetterListen Version of this entire retreat – click the image below

Better Listen

Creating a healing environment in our physical and spiritual spaces. How do we produce a thought that is filled with understanding and compassion? Building a sangha or a practice center is one method. In our tradition, we begin by looking at our suffering. We can then recognize the suffering in the other person. This is the first and second noble truth. With this, the energy if compassion arises because you have touched and understood suffering.

Tonight, the monks and nuns will chant the name of Avalokitesvara in order to get in touch with suffering and help relieve the pain and suffering of others. As we listen, we should stop our thinking and be concentrated on our breathing. The chant begins at 19:44.

The talk resumes at 48:30 with an orientation to the practice with Br. Phap Dung and Sr. Dang Nghiem.

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Retreats

Orientation for Applied Ethics Retreat

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April 4, 2013. 116-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh, Brother Phap Dung, and Sr. Tue Nghiem from Mahachulalungkornrajavidyalaya University in Bangkok, Thailand. The sangha is in the 5-Day Applied Ethics Retreat as part of the spring Asian Tour. The talk is given in English with consecutive translation into Thai.

We begin with an introduction to listening to the chant by Thich Nhat Hanh. How do we move from mindfulness of suffering to mindfulness of compassion leading to our transformation and healing? We hear the monastics chant the name of Avalokiteshvara at 14-minutes.

The main talk by Thich Nhat Hanh begins at 36-minutes. Happy teachers will change the world. What to do when we hear the bell? How will it help our breathing? Being established on the present moment. Gives us the power to heal. What is walking meditation? Why do we practice walking?

Beginning at 60-minutes two monastics, Brother Phap Dung and Sister Tue Nghiem, teach about the breathing practice, sitting practice, eating practice, and noble silence practice.

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Plum Village Retreats

Joy in Resting and Sitting

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January 6, 2013. 88-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet at Plum Village. The sangha is in the 90-day Rains Retreat (Winter Retreat). This is the eighteenth dharma talk of the retreat with the theme Are You The Soulmate of the Buddha? The talk is given in Vietnamese and this is a translation provided by Sr. Chan Không.

Editorial Note: the recording is currently missing the first part of the talk (not much); if I am able to secure a complete file then I will repost. 

The joy of sitting and resting. When you sit down and you know how to harmonize your body and breath, you can have nirvana. Walking for ourselves, our ancestors, our nation. Every step is healing. Every step is nourishing. Taking care of the earth. Thay tells a few stories of astronauts. Earth gazing and seeing that the earth is alive. We learn a walking gatha.

At about 48-minutes, we transition to sutra study. Upadi means caught or grasping. It means here grasping an object of your observation. Your Five Skandhas. Set them free. It’s not the five Skandhas that are wrong, but it is the grasping.

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Plum Village Retreats

To Express Our Love For The Earth

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November 27, 2011. 100-minute dharma talk from Lower Hamlet of Plum Village, France. This is the second talk offered in the 2011-2012 Winter Retreat. The talk is given in Vietnamese with English translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong.

Thay shares hows to practice when entering the meditation hall for sitting meditation: quietly, stopping our thinking, and at peace. “We want to express our love for the Earth, so we have to walk mindfully, with gratitude.” Entering the meditation hall and settling. Calmly. Mindfully. Paying attention to your breathing and your sitting position. This brings peace to your body and to your mind. Every breath. Every step. We can use the breathing sutra. We can see our mental and body formations. The entire cosmos is inside of you and inside the earth. What is bodhisattva? Enlightened being. An being who has awakening, peace, understanding, love.

At about 38-minutes, Thay continues sharing on the Paramartha Gathas from the Yogacarabhumi Sastra of Asanga. “Yoga means coming together appropriately.” He teaches how subject and object cannot be separated. “Don’t think there is a subject outside of the object. That is wrong thinking. They manifest together, like left and right. Without the left there is no right, and vice versa.”

“Self (?) has various meanings: 1) owner, 2) actor, 3) inheritor. We should understand correctly: There is rain, but there is nothing that rains. There is blowing, but nothing blowing. There is feeling, but there is no one feeling.”

We can let go of conventional designation. Father and son are born at the same time. Subject and object. We have this idea this is my home, my child, my bank account. But there is no owner. There is feeling, but no feeler. There is action, but no actor. There is thinking, but no thinking. The self has an ego that gives you the idea of a separate self. We are not our feeling. This is a construction of our mind. Your presence is your function.

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Day of Mindfulness Plum Village

A Bodhisattva in Every Step

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November 13, 2011. 80-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet in Plum Village, France. The sangha has just returned from the North American Tour and this is the first dharma talk. I am a little hesitant to post because the sound is a bit challenging. The talk is given in Vietnamese and with consecutive translation into English by Sr. Chan Khong. The challenge being you can hear Thay very clearly and it is occasionally difficult to hear the English clearly. It is a lovely talk and a slightly fresh view from his typical dharma talk, so I hope you enjoy it despite the sound issues.

Thay shares about the practice of sitting meditation, and about the beauty of what the Earth offers to us when we are able to overcome our human pride.

You are very proud of your science, your math, but if you look at one petal of a flower you realize that you would have to be an extremely talented mathematician and artist to create such a thing. Human beings are very proud to be the heroic soldier who can do everything, but the Earth is also very powerful. It has created millions of species. Mother Earth offers us air to breathe, water to drink. We have to recognize the planet Earth as a wonderful mother who can host us, who can give us everything we need.

“In every speck of dust there are countless Buddhas. During walking meditation we can touch the Earth in us. We have to be realistic. Don’t search for a bodhisattva in your imagination. It is there in every step.”