What Does it Mean to be Free

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. It is the fourth day of the retreat. This 108-minute question and answer session is from October 1, 2011 and both the audio and video are available with this post.

A good question can help many people. It can be a question about our suffering and our happiness.

We begin with a few questions from the children.

  1. What are some of the traditional foods in a Buddhist monastery? (4:33)
  2. What helps to clear your mind? (13:55)
  3. Is it true that if you don’t believe in God that you go to the underworld? (17:32)
  4. What kind of Buddha’s are there? (21:40)

Followed by questions from teenagers, young adults, and adults.

  1. How can I relate to another person, and love another person, but not experience the three complexes – inferiority, superiority, and equality? (27:14)
  2. What would you advise someone who has been diagnosed with attention disorder, or any mental illness, that hinders a person from being in the now. And have had to rely on medications for their whole life. How can they live in the now? (32:40)
  3. What would you do if you had a friend who isn’t being loving to each other, and you are caught in the middle? (37:28)
  4. How can I not suffer when I see my 26-year old son’s life unraveling due to his drug addictions? I am overcome by grief and despair. (56:45)
  5. When facing a decision, where your only see two possible answers – the one you think is right and the one you feel is right – how can you know which one? (1:03:45)
  6. What does it mean to be free?(1:23:50)
  7. How can a Vietnam veteran, who still suffers from PTSD, communicate to the many generations of Vietnamese people at this retreat that he cared for the Vietnamese? (1:34:23)

We have one more talk in this series from Mississippi. Stay tuned.

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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Reconciliation

The Retreat on Buddhist Psychology continues in Key West, Florida. The date is November 8, 1997. This is the seventh talk (115-minutes). Audio is posted below and the video is available for our donors on Patreon.

We begin with the story of David, an America who came to Plum Village and was given he assignment to write a Iove letter to his father. He thought he couldn’t do this to reconcile with him father. Thay had him practice as a 5-year old boy for a week so to touch the vulnerability and fragility in himself. We smile and identify the little child inside of us. This practice is followed by seeing our parent/father as a 5-year old child as well. Maybe we need a picture to help us truly visualize this our parent.

The teaching of emptiness of transmission. Everything depends on everything else. It always includes a transmitter, an object, and a receiver. But these three elements cannot be separated.

Another story, this one of Michael, another American, where he was asked to list the wholesome qualities of his father and mother. He had a challenge doing this for his mother because of some anger and resentment. This exercise can help repair our resentment and anger. And he was able to write a beautiful love letter to his mother. The practice has the power to liberate and bring non-fear and joy.

When we feel that we have been abused, when people have treated us with violence, anger, hatred, discrimination then a block of suffering is within us. The negative energy is in us. And if you don’t know how to handle and transform the violence within us then that violence will destroy us and the people we love. The criminals, the terrorist, they have not been able to transform the violence. We have to learn how to handle and transform the violence in us and to help others do the same. In our schools, in our prisons, and in our police departments. Mindfulness practice must be offered to society and it can be done in a non-sectarian, non-religious form.

Thay shares his idea for an Association of Mindfulness Practice Centers and what that would look like in practice and reality. He shared about three mindfulness practice centers taking shape in America (DC, Vermont, and California). Living according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings. We need to be affiliated with a group of people, a sangha. It is essential to our practice. The sangha is our refuge.

At 58-minutes we resume the teaching on the 50 Verses. We begin with verses 15-22 – about the seventh consciousness of manas. Then verse 23 is about the sixth, mental consciousness. Thay repeats a little on the three modes of cognition – the realm of things in themselves, the realm of representation, and the realm of mere image. Verses 25-27, the root of all actions. With verses 28-30, we move to the five consciousnesses of sensations.

Historical Perspective
During this talk, Thay announces the 21-Day Retreat planned for May 23, 1998 that took place at St. Michaels College in Burlington, Vermont. The theme of that retreat was the Sutra on Mindful Breathing. This was the first time the 21-Day occurred in North America. He also announced that 200-acres are being donated in Vermont for a practice community.

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When You Breathe You Can Already Celebrate Life

September 11, 2011. 120-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 final dharma talk for the Together We Are One retreat.

We begin with a guided meditation looking deeply at ourselves and our ancestors.
We need to cultivate love and compassion. Love and compassion are an essential element of happiness. Maitri has the power to bring happiness. We must understand our suffering, we cannot understand the suffering if others. We must begin with ourselves.

In true live there is no individual suffering; you can’t say it’s not my problem. Understanding is the foundation of love and mindfulness and concentration are the two elements that can bring about understanding.

The roots of terrorism ate wrong views, wrong perceptions. We use loving speech and compassionate listening to help get rid of wrong views. This too is the practice of true love. The path proposed by the Buddha is a noble eightfold path. It has Mindfulness, concentration, and insight. We can travel to the shore of liberation and non-fear. Paramita.

Right view is an element of the noble eightfold path. The Five Mindfulness Trainings are a very concrete method to have right view. Thay talks about being and non-being as it relates to out way of thinking. Right thinking is another part of the path. To continue the explanation, Thay tells a story of a cloud. The nature of a cloud is no-birth, no-death. Our cloud has not come from non-being. A cloud can never die. Being and non-being are just notions. When conditions are sufficient, I manifest myself. My nature is non-local. Right view can liberate us from fear, despair, anger.

In the mind of discrimination, we always want to choose only happiness. We want to ban the suffering and only have happiness. But happiness and suffering inter-are. It is the understanding of the suffering that compassion/happiness can arrive. We do not discriminate against suffering. Birth is now. Death is now. We can touch that fact. Being and non-being are notions and cannot be applied to reality.

Right speech, the next in the path, means speech without discrimination. Next we look at Right Action. What we do with our body should reflect our right view. No discrimination. The same can be said about Right Livelihood, Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.
Finally, Thay talks about karma.

In addition to the audio, a video version is available.

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