Nourishing Your Mother and Father in You

The Sangha is gathered together at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2011 US Teaching Tour with the theme Cultivating the Mind of Love. This 88-minute dharma talk is from September 30, 2011 and both the audio and video are available with this post.

We begin with a 23-minute teaching for the children present at the retreat. Of course, everyone can benefit and enjoy this teaching regardless of age. Thay shares a story of bringing a bag of popcorn, but not to pop, to the children at an Italian retreat. The seed of corn that becomes the plant of corn. And how we can nourish our father and mother.

After the children leave, we continue with the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. Yesterday we learned the first eight exercises of mindful breathing – the realm of bodyand the realm of feeling. Today we continue with realm of our mind. Mental formation.

9. Aware of mental formation

What is “formation” – comes from samskara. Anything that is formed, is a formation. There are physical formations and mental formation. What are the mental formations? The good ones and the negative ones. Can we name our mental formations? Call it by it’s true name.

Store and Mind consciousness. What are the characteristics of these? A teaching on seeds (bija) and how we can use our practice. What is our the ways that we suppress our negative mental formations? The most common is to consume. But what can we do instead?

10. Gladden the mental formation

This is equivalent to the practice of Right  Diligence. There are four steps in this practice: First, not to give opportunity for the negative seeds to come up in the first place / in ourselves or in each other. What are the conditions we are creating around us? We should know how to consume. Second, if by chance a negative seed arises then try your best to help it go down as quickly as possible. This is the art of embracing the negative mental formation. We can invite a good seed to come up. Change the CD. Third, give the good seeds plenty of chances to come up. This is the art of flower watering. In ourselves and in the other person. Thay shares the story of the couple who came to Plum Village from the city of Bordeaux. The fourth aspect of the practice, of the good seed has manifested then keep it present as long as you can. If we can do this, then even more good seeds continue to grow.

11. Concentrating the mind / mental formation
12. Liberating the mind / mental formation

When we are concentrated, we discover the nature of what is there. We can see the non-flower elements of the flower. Happiness is made of non-happiness elements. Mindfulness can bring concentration. Liberation is the fruit of concentration. There are many forms and teachings in cultivating concentration. What are some examples?

There are three kinds of concentration found in every school of Buddhism: emptiness, sighlessness, and aimlessness. These are the Three Doors of Liberation. Insight arrives.

Impermanence is another concentration. When we look into the family album, are we the same or different from the baby in the picture.

The last four exercises of mindful breathing are about the objects of mind. Reality is not something outside of our mind — it is the object of our mind. These last four help with the practice to release and transform our suffering.

13. Contemplating Impermanence
14. Contemplating non-craving
15. Contemplating the ultimate (nirvana)
16. Contemplating letting go 

The talk concludes with an overview and teaching of these last four exercises, particularly our objects of craving. Money, power, sex. The conditions of our happiness are already present and available.

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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Call Your Cows By Their True Name

The Sangha is gathered together at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2011 US Teaching Tour with the theme Cultivating the Mind of Love. This 85-minute dharma talk is from September 29, 2011 and both the audio and video are available in this post.

We begin with a 27-minute teaching for the children present at the retreat. Of course, everyone can benefit and enjoy this teaching regardless of age.

When you love someone, what can you offer them? What is the most precious thing we can offer them? Thay offers a story of an unhappy child and his father – what does the child want for his birthday?

The first mantra of Plum Village is “Darling, I am here for you.” In order to do this, you really have to be present. We should all memorize this mantra. This is a meditation and does not take time and money. Mindfulness helps you to be there.

Thay teaches us about how and why to use pebble meditation. The first pebble represents a flower. What is a true flower? And the second pebble represents a mountain. Cultivating our stability. The next pebble represents still water. The last pebble represents space. Open your heart. A child can very easily lead pebble meditation.

We continue teachings on breathing exercises. This morning the guided meditation explored the first four exercises of mindful breathing. These first four have to do with the body. We first recognize our in-breath and our out-breath. What is the intention of this exercise? Then we move to breathing-in, I follow my breath all the way through. During this time, there is no interruption. You only follow the breathing.

With the third, we are aware of our body. Mind and body are together. To restore the oneness. And our body is a wonder. Thay shares of a recent visit to the Googleplex. Practiced these breathing exercises, especially helping them connect with the body as described in the third exercise. It is a reconciliation between the mind and the body. The fourth exercise is breathing in, I release the tension in my body. This practice is very relevant to our time. We can reduce the amount of pain.

Contemplation of the body. Revisit all parts of our body. How do we do this?

The next set of exercises are designed to help us handle our feelings.

5. Generating joy
6. Generating happiness
7. Recognize a painful feeling
8. Embrace a painful feeling

Can we recognize the conditions of joy and happiness? Living happily in the present moment. This is found right in the Sutra and is especially relevant for business people.

Mindfulness is being able to go home to the present moment. Mindfulness is not something you can buy. When you are mindful, you are there with your body. Mindfulness and concentration are two sources of happiness. Another practice is that of letting go. Here we have the teaching on the farmer who has lost his cows. To know our obstacles is also a path to knowing our happiness. Letting go is a good practice.

Once we know our joy and happiness, then we can more easily handle our pain. When the pain manifests, a good practitioner can recognize this and know how to take care of the painful feeling. We can hold our pain.

 

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The Way Out Is In

This talk from the Lower Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Sunday, March 30, 2014. The talk on this day is in English.

0:00 Present Moment
14:05 The Feelings
29:04 The Body
37:20 Mindfulness of Compassion (Listening)
1:12:45 Story of Suicide and Transformation

When you breath in, you bring your mind home to your body. A lot of time, your mind is not with your body. But when they are together, you are truly in the here and the now for your transformation and healing. It is wonderful be present and your breath becomes the object of your mind and you can become a free person. You can cultivate freedom. You don’t need to be influenced by your fear and anger. We can make good decisions. The bell of mindfulness can call you back to the present moment. Walking can also bring us to the present moment. Every step. This is the basic practice to touch the wonders of life. At Plum Village, we should learn to breathe and to walk in the present moment.

In the last talk, we learned the 7th and 8th exercises of mindful breathing. The 7th is being aware of the pain within myself. When we have a painful feeling, we know it! Do we know how to handle it or do we cover up the feelings with consumption? We can be stronger with the energy of mindfulness. The energy of mindfulness sees thee energy of pain. And the 8th exercise is to calm down the painful feeling. Holding the child of suffering – embracing tenderly.

What is exercises five and six? Five is to generate a feeling a joy. And the sixth is to generate happiness. We can always bring about a feeling of joy and happiness whenever we want. How? The oneness of body and mind. The sixth exercise is the art of happiness where the seventh and eighth are the art of suffering.

The first four exercises are about the body and the next four are about the feelings. The third is the awareness of body. When you go home to your body, you may notice pain and stress in your body. This makes you suffer. The fourth is to release the tension in your body. Calming your body. This takes care of our body. We them review the first two exercises. One week at Plum Village is enough time to learn the art.

Last time we also spoke about listening. When we have the energy of mindfulness and concentration we can look deeply into the nature of our own suffering. Understanding our own suffering lets us understand the suffering of our parents and our ancestors. We need mindfulness and concentration so we are not overwhelmed by the suffering of ourselves and others. This is the practice. Understanding brings about compassion. Everyone should learn to cultivate compassion. The practice of deep listening and loving speech can always restore communication and bring about reconciliation. What is loving speech? We practice mindfulness of compassion. Thay shares the story of being the Israelis and Palestinians together at Plum Village.

Thay then shares a story of a woman in America who wanted to commit suicide and how she was able to transform her suffering.

The way out, is in.

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The Voice of the Buddha

This talk from the New Hamlet of Plum Village is dated Thursday, March 20, 2014. The talk on this day is in English. In this talk we learn about taking refuge and exercises 5-8 from the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. Thay also teaches on inviting the bell (18-min) and the four qualities of happiness (13-min) – these two topics could be listened to independently from the other parts of the talk. Both the audio download and the video stream are available below. The time stamps listed here are for audio download.

0:00 Chanting
9:30 Inviting the Bell
27:02 Taking Refuge
37:27 Four Qualities of Happiness using Pebble Meditation
50:46 Practical Refuge
1:04:15 Mindful Breathing Exercises 5-8

When we hear the bell, we practice together listening to the bell. We invite the bell to sound. Before we invite, we breathe in and out to prepare three times. There is a verse to learn to be qualified as a bell master. We calm our body and calm our feelings. The sound of the bell is the voice of the Buddha inside calling us to come home to ourselves. If you are a bell master then please be generous. When we come home to ourselves, we can discover the island of self. The Buddha recommended, don’t rely on anyone or anything, rely on the island within. Every time we hear the bell, we can practice going home to the island within. We are protected. This is the practice of taking refuge. There is also the practice of deep listening. Every cell of your body can recognize and get in touch with your ancestors within. They can join you in listening to the bell. With this, peace can penetrator every cell. We can feel calm and light. Many people have a bell of mindfulness on their computer. It allows us to stop and breath in and out three times to arrive home in ourselves.

Last time we spoke of the mental formation called restlessness. The practice of mindful breathing and walking help us to calm down our feelings. In the Christian tradition, they call this resting in God. This is taking refuge. Taking refuge is an art. If you know how, you can have peace right away. The Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha are something solid. Very much the same idea as the Trinity for Christians. But resting does not mean doing nothing. Many people are looking for someone for refuge but many have chosen someone who is not stable. Rely on the island of yourself. Cultivate stability and solidity and also look for that in the other person. Learn how to breath and walk.

We have the practice of pebble meditation to cultivate the four qualities of happiness. The first is freshness – fresh as a flower. The second is stability – solid as a mountain. The third is peace/tranquility – still water. And the fourth is freedom – space. These qualities bring a happy person. The more you can let go, the freer you become.

I take refuge in the Buddha. What does that mean? Do we have an dea of the Buddha? Taking refuge in your in breath and out breath – this is much more concrete than an idea. With our breathing, we gain mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Buddha is mindfulness – this is taking refuge. This is the island within yourself. You can also take refuge in your steps. While making that step, you generate concentration and insight. I take refuge in my in breath. I take refuge in my steps. This is not abstract and it is our Buddhanature. Nirvana. No birth and no death. We are nirvana in the here and the now.

Review of the first four exercises of mindful breathing. We continue with the next set of exercises. The fifth and sixth exercises are to generate a feeling of joy and happiness. This is the art of happiness. The seventh is to recognize a painful feeling. We should not run away from a painful feeling or emotion. We don’t need to be afraid because we can also generate an energy of mindfulness. And the eighth is to calm our painful feeling or emotion.

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Nutriments for Healing

September 25, 2013. 130-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 first dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

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We bring our mind and body together and come back to ourselves in order to be truly there and be able to stop our thinking. We can get lost in our thinking. When we are mindful and concentrated of our in breath them our mind only has one object. Just breathing in mindfully we can get freedom from the past l, the future, and our projects. Freedom is possible and the healing can start.

Topics:

  • Conditions of happiness
  • Habit of running after fame, power, wealth, sensual pleasures
  • Deep looking – insight can release the tension and bring healing
  • Mindfulness is a method to insight using our in breath and out breath
  • Inviting our ancestors to listen to the bell and practice walking meditation with you.
  • Our presence is the most precious gift for those we love – to be there is a practice.
  • Freshness, beauty
  • Mountain, solid
  • Space, free
  • Sutra on Full Awareness of Breathing
  • Four domains – body, feelings, mind, objects of mind
  • First 8 exercise
  • Sangha – collective energy
  • You are not one emotion
  • The art of happiness and the art of suffering
  • Happiness and suffering interare
  • Happiness is made of non-happiness elements
  • The Four Noble Truths
  • The Four Kinds of Nutriments

 

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Creating Loving Relationships

August 30, 2013. 91-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 the final dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Transformation and Healing – The Art of Suffering.

Topics

  • How to love – Four Elements of True Love (also known as Unlimited Mind or the Four Brahma Viharas)
  • Maitri (loving kindness) – capacity to offer well being and happiness.
  • Karuna (compassion) – capable of removing the pain
  • Mudita (joy)
  • Upeksha (equanimity or inclusiveness)
  • Continue instructiom on the exercises of mindful breathing (#9-#16)
  • 9: Recognize every mental formations
  • 10: make the landscape of the mind beautiful – gladdening the mind. Watering good seeds.
  • True Diligence (four aspects)
  • 11: concentrate our mind on the mental formation
  • 12: liberating the mind
  • 13: contemplating impermanence
  • 14: contemplating non-craving
  • 15: nirvana
  • 16: letting go
  • Three Doors of Liberation (emptiness, signlessness, aimlessness)

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Meditation on the Corn Seed

July 16, 2013. 81-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village during the 2013 Summer Opening. This is the sixth talk of the summer and this is an English translation from the French. The recording begins with a talk for the children and then the main talk begins (at 18-minutes).

Meditation on the corn seed. Meditation is having the time to look and to listen. There is knowledge in this seed and it is alive. Does the plant remember when it was a little seed? Has the corn seed died? Meditation can help us see things that other people cannot see. Looking into the corn plant we can see the seed.

A teaching from the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. The exercises of breathing are simple yet can be very profound on us. The first is recognizing. Bringing our attention to our in-breath. We can let go of our past, of our projects, etc. and we can immediately be free. Buddhism is made of three kinds of energy: mindfulness, concentration, insight.

The second exercise is to follow the breath. We focus entirely on the in-breath and the out-breath. The third is awareness if body and then fourth we calm our body.

The next two are giving rise to a feeling of joy and happiness. We can do this anytime. The seventh exercise is recognizing a painful feeling. Then we calm the feeling in the eighth.

The art of happiness. The art of suffering.

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Five Fingers Living in Harmony

July 12, 2013. 100-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from New Hamlet of Plum Village during the 2013 Summer Opening. This is the fourth talk of the summer and this is an English translation from the French. The recording begins with four chants followed by a talk for the children (at 16-minutes) and then the main talk begins (at 28-minutes).

You should plant this question in our heart. A question is a seed. It’s a lesson from when Thay was a boy. In my hand are five fingers and each finger has it’s name. They live in harmony. How are they a able to do that?

We continue from a few day ago (July 9) when we learned about the Sutra on the Full Awareness if Breathing.  The last time we covered the first eight exercises. First we review briefly with mind and store consciousness and the role of seeds. The practitioner had to be present I recognize the mental formation.

  • Recognize each mental formation
  • Beautify/Gladden the mind

Watering the good seeds, especially in our relationships. Maybe sign a peace and happiness treaty. How do we work with our mental formations to have a happy and healthy life?

First, we try not to water the seeds of suffering.  Second, if a seed if suffering exists then we can invite a wholesome seed to manifest. Third, when a good seed is manifesting, we try to maintain the positive energy. Fourth, we try to keep the good seeds alive. This is the practice if right diligence. The art of happiness.

The first aspect of the noble eightfold path is right view. The insight of interbeing acquired through meditation. This is followed by right thinking. Free of all notions. No discrimination. The third is right speech. With these we can practice loving speech and deep listening.  The Five Mindfulness Trainings are an expression of the Noble Eightfold Path.

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Offering Beauty and Freshness

July 9, 2013. 103-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet of Plum Village during the 2013 Summer Opening. This is the second talk of the summer and this is an English translation from the French. The recording begins with two chants followed by a talk for the children (ends at 12-minutes) and then the main talk begins (begins at 33:40-minutes).

What does it mean to say I love you? What is the most precious gift? We can offer beauty and freshness. Meditation can help; the meditation on flower/fresh. How do we cultivate stability?

Peace in the body. Peace in the feelings. Peace in the perceptions. This is possible. Joy and happiness too. The practitioner should know how to generate these. What does it mean to cultivate? We need energy, and the first is mindfulness. The next energy, and linked to mindfulness, is concentration. And if these two are strong enough, we can bring about insight. There are 16-exercises of mindful breathing that can help is cultivate these three energies.

  • Recognizing breath is the first exercise.
  • Following breath is the second exercise. 
  • The third is recognizing your body. 
  • Calming the body is the fourth. 

With the next set of exercises we move from body to the realm of feelings.

  • Generating joy
  • Generating happiness 
  • Recognizing a painful feeling
  • Calm the painful feeling

Discussion and explanation of habit energy.

We now move to the realm of perceptions. The five universal mental formations: contact, attention, feeling, perception, volition. What are mental formations? Mind and store consciousness along with the manifestation of seeds. Buddhist psychology. Along with five universals are the five particulars: intention, determination, mindfulness, concentration, insight.

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Bringing the Practice to Life

July 12, 2012. 84-minute recording given at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the fifth dharma talk of the Summer Opening. We begin with chanting and the talk was originally given in French. This is an English translation.

With many questions about anger in yesterday’s questions and answers session, Thay offers a lovely 25-minute lesson for the children (and everyone of course!) on helping our friends who may have anger.

What can we tell our friends about meditation? Meditation is looking deeply with our eyes, mind, and your heart. Meditation is looking. We can see things other people can’t hear. Meditation is listening. Concentration. A person who meditates can see the cloud in the flower. There is much more there in the flower. To see the flower deeply you have to recognize the non-flower elements.

The same can be said about people. We all have non-human elements such as anger. We all have the seed of anger. What can we do to help those who suffer from anger and violence? If we practice meditation, we can see the seeds of compassion and kindness in that person. What can we do to water those seeds in him? We can water the seeds of kindness. We can practice selective watering of the good seeds. We can sign a peace and happiness treaty with our friends and our loved ones in order to support each other.

After the children leave, Thay reminds us that we need a spiritual dimension to deal with difficulties in our daily life. We need practices to deal with the difficulties. In the Buddhist tradition, we have a spiritual body in addition to our physical body. We are offered a teaching on dharmakaya (dharma body) and buddhakaya (Buddha body). If our dharma body is solid, we can deal with our difficulties. There is also a sangha body (sanghakaya). We should build and participate in a sangha to maintain our practice. Create a living sangha where we can generate mindfulness. We can use our time and energy to build sangha. To be a refuge.

We can use the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing to cultivate our Buddha body. Sixteen exercises. We learn the first eight exercises.

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