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Retreats

Happiness is Right Here

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A 43-minute segment on the third door of liberation – aimlessness. The talk takes place on August 17, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is part four of a four-part series.

Aimlessness

You don’t put something in front of you and run after. It is a wonderful practice. It can bring you peace. We have the habit of running after something. Fame. Profit. Wealth. Even enlightenment. People imagine that monastics are running after enlightenment. But that is not the practice.

If you have received the Five Mindfulness Trainings, you belong to the lineage of Linji. His teaching is very strong on this aspect of running. Don’t run after what you already are. Stop running. Happiness is right here. In this very moment. Just one step. Peace. Joy. Healing. Enlightenment. Are all in the present moment. This is the teaching of aimlessness. 

Are you enlightened already? But how can we make plans for the future? The answer lies in the teaching of aimlessness. 

Enlightenment is not something you strive for. The moment you are aware you are breathing in, that is a moment of enlightenment. We also practice to be aware of the present moment. We don’t live in a dream anymore. There is no way to enlightenment. Enlightenment is the way. 

To be there for each other. At the breakfast table. There are things we can do so that mindfulness is there. If we organize well, breakfast can be a celebration of life. 

So, let us take care of the present moment. The future is contained in the present moment. And let us not lose ourselves in regret about the past. 

Nirvana 

In the Buddhist tradition they speak of nirvana. Nirvana is the absence of notions. Notions like birth and death. Nirvana is not a place or space located in time. We have a notion of time. That we have birth and death. 

We hear the story of the flame. 

Pairs of opposites. 

  1. Birth and death
  2. Being and nonbeing 
  3. Coming and going 
  4. Sameness and otherness 

Sangha building. 

Thich Nhat Hanh
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Retreats

Falling in Love with a Cloud

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A 13-minute segment on the second door of liberation – signlessness. The talk takes place on August 17, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is part three of a four-part series.

Signlessness

The second door of liberation. Sign here is the appearance. When we look deeply we have to see the nature of signlessness. The seed of corn has an appearance, we see it as a seed of corn. But when it grows, it no longer appears as a seed of corn. But the seed of corn is still there; it’s only changed how it appears. 

Say you fall in love with a cloud. Thay helps us smile by recognizing our beloved cloud. It has not died. A cloud never dies. This too has been confirmed by scientists. 

Piece of paper. Can you establish the birthdate of this sheet of paper? Was it at the paper mill? But the paper hasn’t come from nothing. Even if we burn the sheet of paper, it will continue. Being and non-being are just ideas. They do not apply to reality. These are conventional designations. 

More examples. A drop of water falls from the sky. What happens? Does it become nothing? Before you were born. Were you there? Did you exist before the moment of conception? It is all a continuation. The same applies to “so called” death. 

In the moment of great despair, great anguish, signlessness is there to rescue you. 

Thich Nhat Hanh
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Retreats

The Raft is not the Shore

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A 38-minute segment on the first door of liberation – emptiness. The talk takes place on August 17, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is part two of a four-part series.

Three Doors of Liberation

Today we are going to talk about the Three Doors of Liberation. In several discourses reminds us his teachings are only a device to help us liberate ourselves. They are not absolute truth. They are like a raft helping us to the other shore. The raft is not the shore. Make use of the raft. It is also like a finger pointing to the moon. It is not the finger. The finger is only a means to help us see the moon. Don’t be caught by the dharma of the Buddha. We can practice being non-dogmatic. 

The Three Doors of Liberation are like the finger or the raft. These three doors are in all schools of Buddhism. We can use any door to help us get out of suffering. The practice is to have real insight. 

Everything is impermanent. Intellectually we know this. But the notion of impermanence alone will not help us. We need to understand the truth of impermanence. We hear an example of our relationship with a loved one. We need to look deeply to see the true nature of impermanence. The insight will help us to behave wisely. Impermanence makes life possible. It gives us a chance to heal. 

Concentration is to focus your attention on one thing deeply. To see the nature of that thing. It could be your love, you hate, your depression, your fear. To discover the true nature of what is there. 

It can also be the guide offered by the Buddha. To see the true  nature of things. This can be liberating. 

The Three Doors of Liberation have also been called the three concentrations. 

Emptiness

The first door of liberation. Emptiness has to do with our suffering and our happiness. We can get out of our suffering through the door of emptiness. It does not mean non-being. Thay teaches us what emptiness means. 

Empty of what? The glass. The flower. Is there a separate existence? Thay offers several examples of emptiness ranging from parent/child, seed/corn, and cells. 

When we touch the true nature of emptiness, we transcend all fear, all discrimination, all suffering. Let’s be less busy in our daily life so we can touch this truth. But remember, it is only a device. Striking a match to get a flame. Making use of the match. The fire is what I need for my liberation. I don’t need the match. A concept. We live each day in a way so we can touch the nature of emptiness. 

Thich Nhat Hanh
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Retreats

We Contain the Whole Cosmos

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This is a 78-minute dharma talk from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism in the 21st Century” retreat. This is the sixth and final talk on May 11, 2008 and the talk is offered in English.

Thay and Su Co Chan Khong
Photo by Paul Davis

The Dharma is something you need to come and see for yourself. It is experiential. Meditation holds the keys. We can unlock the door of reality. Among them are the Three Doors of Liberation. Emptiness. Signlessness. Aimlessness. These are the keys.

What are these Three Doors of Liberation?

Along with this, we take a deeper look at several pairs of opposites (in the context of signlessness).

  1. birth and death
  2. being and nonbeing
  3. coming and going
  4. sameness and otherness

We can liberated from our fear, our anger, our despair.

The story of the flame is quite humorous and enjoyable.

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Magnolia Grove Monastery Retreats

Nourishing Your Mother and Father in You

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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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Magnolia Grove Monastery Retreats

Exploring the Joy of Practice

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monasticFrom the Rising Tide Meditation Hall at a retreat at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the third dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Healing Ourselves, Healing the World. The date is September 27, 2013. We begin with seven minutes of chanting from the monastic brothers and sisters.

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

Better Listen

Thay introduces and explains the process for the Novices and Aspirants along with the 5-year program of training as a monastic. It can bring you a lot of joy. They practice the Ten Precepts of a novice. The third source of nutriment is volition – deepest desire of your life. What you want to do with your life? Knowing what you want to do can give you energy. Brotherhood and sisterhood creates a very deep love. What is life as a monastic like, how are decisions made, how do you practice? Why did Thay begin to take students after living in exile in the west? The need for dharma teachers across the world is great. Thay invites you to join the five year program.

At approximately 38-minutes into the recording, we turn to a new topic. We have talked about the art of suffering – if we know how to suffer, we will suffer much less. The art of suffering is linked to the art of happiness. Skillfully we can create joy for ourselves and others. There are many ways to create joy and happiness. The first method is to let go, to leave behind. Letting go will give birth to joy and happiness. If you let go, happiness can come right away. What are holding onto that we think is crucial for our happiness? The practice of releasing our cows. We can practice using sitting meditation and learn to release our cows. A whole country can even be caught my a cow – our ideology. The teaching of the monk Badhya who exclaimed “Oh my happiness!” during his meditation. He was able to let go.

The second way to joy and happiness is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a source of joy and a source of happiness. This is our practice. Then we have concentration – if you are very mindful, then concentration can be born. From concentration we then have insight – it can liberate us. Joy and happiness can arrive.

in the teachings of the Buddha, there are five types of energies that you can generate. They can help generate joy and happiness. The first three were covered earlier – mindfulness, concentration, and insight. The other two are faith and diligence. Faith here means confidence. The other teaching on power is cutting through / letting go. The power to cut by brought requires courage and courage requires us to have insight. The second power is wisdom. The third power is the power to love, to forgive.

How do we listen to a dharma talk? What is the zen way? We continue with a brief review from the exercises of mindful breathing.

At 86-minutes into the recording, we turn to a teaching on the three doors of liberation – emptiness, signlessness, and aimlesslessness. We hear an explanation and teaching on each of these doors.

No video is available for this talk.

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Deer Park Monastery Retreats

Can There be Peace without War?

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October 16, 2013. 111-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the fourth and final dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Finding Our True Home.

A lesson for the children for when they return to school and how to deal with aggression without being angry or violent. If we do that, then we win. After about 10-minutes we continue with just the adults.

We begin with a few unanswered questions from the previous session of questions and answers: I can be mindful of my breath when I sitting or walking but how do I keep mindful of my breath when speaking? Political discourse is deeply toxic and intolerant; how do we consume without the negativity? How can we still be engaged? Please talk to us about grief.  What can you share with teachers and youth so they can walk away and take care of their fears and stress? Can there be peace without war?

The topic of our talk today is birth and death. These two happen at the same time; even a scientist can see this through the continuous birth and death of the cells of our body. Where there is death, there is birth. In our tradition, we speak of two kinds of truth: conventional truth and ultimate truth.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings represent the path of transformation and healing. A path of happiness. The Noble Path has eight elements. The first is Right View. It is the insight that transcends all discrimination. If you think war and peace as two deprecate entities, that is not right view. There is Interbeing. There are four pairs of opposites that can represent all kinds of opposites.

  • Birth and death
  • Being and nonbeing
  • Coming and going
  • Sameness and otherness

Right view transcends all these opposites. From there, you can practice Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right livelihood, Right Diligence, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

We continue now with the exercises of mindful breathing where we left off in a prior dharma talk. With the ninth through twelfth exercise, we come to the realm of the mind. The last four (13-16) are about the objects of mind with impermanence, non-craving, nirvana, and letting go.

We resume the teaching on the four pairs of opposites fooled by the Three Doors of Liberation. Emptiness. Signlessness. Aimlessness.

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Blue Cliff Monastery Retreats

Creating Loving Relationships

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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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Retreats

True Love and the Three Doors of Liberation

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August 16, 2013. 82 -minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario during the 2013 Nourishing Great Togetherness teaching tour. This is the fifth dharma talk for the 6-day retreat with the theme Happy Teachers will Change the World.

Topics

  • Third Mindfulness Training – True Love
  • Four Elements of True Love
  • The Kingdom of God is Here and Now
  • Nirvana is the true nature
  • Three Doors of Liberation (Concentrations)
  • Man is made of non-man elements – Deep Ecology
  • Ancestors are alive
  • Birth and death
  • The Three Jewels
  • Sangha

Categories
Retreats

To Connect

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May 26, 2013. 86-minute dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh from Hong Kong. The sangha is on the spring Asian Tour and this talk is given in English with consecutive translation into Chinese. The theme of the retreat is Happiness is the Way.

How do we connect with the Buddha? How do we bow to the Buddha? Emptiness. Right View is the ultimate aim of practice. To gain insight into Interbeing and emptiness. What is emptiness? How does this help us remove anger and discrimination?

Concentration allows us to discover this insight. These three practices (samadhi) to Right View are available in all Buddhist traditions. Emptiness. Signlessness. Aimlessness. These are the Three Doors of Liberation.

Mindfulness. Concentration. Insight. A good practitioner can generate these three kinds of energy. If we practice, we can produce Right Thinking and the Noble Eightfold Path. We are free of the notions of being and non-being. We hear the story of Anapindika when he was dying and how Sariputra helped him understand no birth and no death.