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English/Dutch Retreats

The Palace of the Child

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August 13, 2012. 122-minute dharma talk given in English, with consecutive translation into Dutch (though the Dutch is muted in this recording), with Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the second Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Dutch Retreat on the theme Body and Mind Are One at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.

Teaching on the seed of corn and teaches the children about being a seed in the womb of your mother. We can use pebble meditation to learn how to breath again. To be fresh and beautiful. The children are excused about 42-minutes into the recording.

Thay begins with a story of a French journalist who wanted to write an article on the practice in Plum Village. Her article was titled “In the Country of the Present Moment.” She started with  walking meditation. I have arrived. How can we arrive 100% in each step? How do we train?

Right Diligence (Effort). In Buddhist psychology we talk about store consciousness and seeds (bija). Seeds for the soil of the mind. Seeds manifest as mental formations in the mind consciousness. Mindfulness is a seed that we can cultivate. How do we help  water the positive seeds in ourselves and others? What do we cultivate for right diligence?

(1:28) Right Speech and deep listening should go together. Thay shares the story of a soldier in the Vietnam war that poisoned children because he was so angry after his unit was ambushed, who then later came to Plum Village for a retreat.

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Plum Village Retreats

The Truth About Happiness

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July 9, 2012. 94-minute recording given at New Hamlet, Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is the third dharma talk of the Summer Opening. We begin with chanting and the talk begins at 15-minutes into the recording.

Bowing. Buddhahood. A lotus for you, a Buddha to be. The seed of Buddhahood.

Stories of being in Paris during the war. Supporting peace and practicing being together. Teaching on kingdom of God and the pure land. It is now or never.  This is the teaching of Plum Village. We can do everything  in the kingdom of God. Suffering and the noble truths. The buddhadharma can help you. We can love and understand our suffering.

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21 Day Retreats Plum Village Retreats

One Cell in the Buddha Body

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June 14, 2012. 86-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the tenth dharma talk (of 15).

The Four Recollections

Joy and happiness with the three kinds of energies: mindfulness, concentration, and insight. When we focus on our breath, we are only our breath. We are not our sorrow or our regret.

Joy while breathing
Happiness while sitting

Joy is the breathing
Happiness is the breathing

Thay tells a story of the Buddha visiting a disciple who was very attached to the Buddha, but was now dying. His name was Vakali to help him die peacefully. The story illustrates the concept of the dharma body (dharmakaya). Our practice is our dharma body. The sangha and our teacher can help is develop our dharma body. Our practice also creates the living dharma.

We also have a sangha body (sanghakaya); a community of practice. The sangha body is in yourself.

We also learn the last two of the Four Recollections: Buddha body (buddhakaya) and the Mindfulness Trainings (silakaya). We practice to cultivate these four bodies.

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21 Day Retreats Plum Village Retreats

The Temple of Brotherhood

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June 9, 2012. 127-minute dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet in Plum Village during the 21-Day Retreat with the theme The Science of the Buddha. The talk is given in English and this is the sixth dharma talk (of 15).

Just prior to this session, those attending the retreat received a 86-page booklet with sutras and a Letter to a Young Scientist.

Three energies of practice

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Concentration
  3. Insight

The practice of looking deeply along with a discussion of zen history. Tang Hoi, a vietnamese monk, brought zen to China. Zen. Chan. Thien. Dhyana.

Four Notions of Letting Go (from Diamond Sutra)

  1. Self
  2. Man
  3. Living being
  4. Life span

Thay spends the majority of talk teaching on self. A similar teaching is also found in Sutra #296 from Samyukta Agama.

We read from The Paramartha Gathss of Asanga Gathas on the Absolute Truth (verses 1-2)

1. There is absolutely no subject, no agent and no one who enjoys the fruit of action (no one who feels). No dharma (phenomenon, object of mind) has any function. Nonetheless the passing on of one effect to another does take place.

2. There are only the 12 limbs of existence, the aggregates, the realms (ayatanas) and the worlds (dhatus) that are always changing. When we observe thoroughly and contemplate these things we shall not find a separate self anywhere.

Twelve Ayatana

  • Eyes (form)
  • Nose (smell)
  • Tongue (taste)
  • Ears (sound)
  • Body (touch)
  • Mind (objects of mind)

There is no “self” in this. The 18 dhata includes all the twelve above plus the following:

  • Eye consciousness
  • Nose  consciousness
  • Tongue consciousness
  • Ears consciousness
  • Body consciousness
  • Mind consciousness

Why do you think the “self” doesn’t change when everything else does?

At 1:28, Thay reads (not provided in the book) the Sutra #300 from Samyukta Agama. We continue with verse 44 from the same text above, followed by a portion of the “Discourse on the Middle Way”

44.  Living beings is the name of a continuous stream and all phenomena as the object of perception are only signs. Therefore there is no real change of birth into death and death into birth and no person who realizes nirvana.

At the end of talk, Thay provides commentary on why the Buddha had to continue the practice beyond enlightenment.

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Day of Mindfulness Plum Village

Communication and the Mind

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March 25, 2012. 110-minute talk from Upper Hamlet in Plum Village, France. The talk is given in English. We begin with 10-minutes of chanting in Vietnamese and French.

Communication. We trust to much in our instruments of communication – mobile phone, email Skype, etc. Behind the instruments is our mind, and the question to ask is whether you can communicate with yourself. Many of us are angry or don’t respect ourselves. It is a mess inside. In that situation, how can we communicate with another person?

In Plum Village, we try to teach you how to come back to yourself. We learn to breath in mindfulness. We learn to eat in mindfulness. We learn to walk in mindfulness. We connect with our body and our mind. We need to let go our thinking – the practice of non-thinking.

Related to our suffering and being connected to our body is our consumption. We read a book, listen to music, drive the car, etc. We look to consumption to help us forget the pain their ourselves. Again, learning mindful breathing and walking we can gain the energy of mindfulness and be able to look at the pain and the sorrow. If you have mindfulness, you are no longer afraid.

Mindfulness is generated from your practice. And when we are together, we can generate collective mindfulness.

At 56-minutes, the talk switch to Vietnamese with English translation. [Editors Note: a group of Vietnamese exchange students were up for the day and Thay responded to some questions.] Questions about personal relationships, relationship with Vietnam and the Vietnamese government, ethics and relationship to the government

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Plum Village Retreats

The Real Kung Fu

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February 19, 2012. 58-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. A French translation is also available. This is the last dharma talk for the Winter Retreat.

We recognize the great happiness associated with spending three months together in practice. We also know people can practice at home and participate by listening online to the talks. This retreat goes all the way back to the time of the Buddha. If Thay is still in good health, maybe we extend to four months next year.

We can find joy and happiness with sitting, walking, eating. Every step and every breath is like a jewel. A jewel found in your heart. This is real kung fu – the regular, daily practice, training. The time for sitting is a time for training. Train to touch the joy. Our duty is to practice together, even if we have difficulties and suffering. We try to heal these together, even if it deep down in our store conciousness. The worldly way is to dig down and pull out this suffering and destroy in order to be healed. Sometime we can practice differently – we can lullaby them as sleeping seeds; we don’t need to pull them out. We can water with the beautiful things of life. Thay shares his great suffering of being exciled from his homeland and how he transformed. Slowly Thay learned to feel at home wherever he is – everywhere is my homeland.

Story of a lay practitioner asking Thay if he has any dream to complete before he dies? Thay does not desire anything – everything already exists right here now. When Thay was a young monk he had a dream of a fourfold sangha that could practice together. Thay continues sharing stories of being in Vietnam during the war and reconciliation.

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Plum Village Retreats

Making Plans in the Here and Now

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July 19, 2011. 120-minute dharma talk with Thich Nhat Hanh from Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The sangha is in the annual Summer Opening Retreat. This is the question and answer session.

Before we begin, Thay offers a teaching on ancestors because today is Ancestors Day. Every home in Vietnam, no matter how poor, keeps an altar for the ancestors. We have two kinds of ancestors: blood and spiritual.

Here are the questions:
1) If we are living in the here and the now, how can we make plans?
2) Why do I have nightmares?
3) How can I help my younger brother to be happy if he annoys me?
4) How to become enlightened?
5) What is freedom, and can you be free even if someone tells you what to do?
6) How can I be kind to myself when I lack confidence?
7) What to do when daughters are treated less equally than sons?
8) We are taught not to judge people and things, but how can we love them without judging?
9) I feel that I attract people who have difficulties. Where is the boundary between being selfish and protecting yourself?
10) I am very confused. I feel caught by impermanence. So when you become a full-time Buddha, you have a state of mind with ultimate freedom and true happiness. But doesn’t that state go against impermanence? When you become a full-time Buddha does the law of impermanence no longer apply to you?
11) I am 50 years old, and I have a 15 year-old son. I would like to become a nun. Can I leave him to take care of himself and come to live peacefully in the temple?

The talk was given in English and is available below. There is a video version available too.

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Day of Mindfulness Plum Village

Each Day I Choose a Joy

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June 23, 2011. 100-minute Dharma Talk in Vietnamese, with translation provided by Sr. Chan Khong, given by Thich Nhat Hanh in Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, France.

Thay speaks about the life of the Vietnamese anti-war songwriter and musician Trinh Cong Son, and the experience of Thay, Sister Chan Khong, and Thay Phap An in the 1960s. Experiences such as being a child in the war and others writing anti-war poetry. One book of 60-poems by Thay had to be published underground – Joining Your Palm in Order for the Dove to Appear. We need to be aware of this era and the despair it caused. Sr. Chan Khong sings a couple songs but the recording is not so good because we are listening to translation; you can turn it up during this period. He goes on to share about the Great Requiem Ceremonies in Vietnam in 2007.

The rest of the talk Thay continues teaching about practicing while touring with the Sangha.

  1. Touring from the Heart
  2. Touring as a Practice. Everyday and second is a practice.
  3. Sangha happiness. The aim is to be happy.
  4. We are not tourists.
  5. Keep our seatbelt properly tight. Precepts.
  6. Fine Manners
  7. Practice Second Body system.
  8. Caring for Second Body.
  9. Walking meditation. Every step.
  10. Stop to talk
  11. Precious moment. Attend all activities.
  12. Sangha confidence.
  13. We are not performers of the dharma. We practice and teach with our heart. It’s not the form.
  14. Mobile Monastery
  15. All activities are equally important.
  16. Time to rest. Especially Thay…one activity per day.
  17. Keep our togetherness.
  18. Mindful electronics. Be discreet.

The talk was given in Vietnamese with English translation and is available below. There is a video version available too.