Joy and Ease for Enlightenment

This is a 82-minute dharma talk with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh from Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism” retreat. This is the third talk on May 7, 2008 and the talk is offered in English. 

Walking Meditation

How can we enjoy walking? How can we use breathing?

Every step is life. 
Every step is a miracle. 
Every step is healing. 
Every step is freedom. 

We learn how to use this gatha with our walking – whether alone or in a group.

Walking in Hanoi with Thay on May 12, 2008.
Photo by Paul Davis

Seven Factors of Awakening

The Buddha taught of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. Buddhism is about enlightenment and mindfulness is already enlightenment. Awareness of breathing is already enlightenment.  

We explore mindfulness, joy, and ease. How does this link with the Four Noble Truths? Ill-being and well-being. Relaxation, lightness, and peace. We have methods for reducing stress. This is the path – The Path of Well Being. We have very concrete practices to assist.  For example, the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. In this talk, we touch on several of the methods for breathing. This is a Noble Path.

You don’t have to be a scholar, you simply need to be a practitioner. We have all experienced ill-being. How can we do this as practitioners? 

Engaged Buddhism in Vietnam

About 45-minutes into the talk, we turn back toward the history of engaged Buddhism. In the 1950s, Thay began writing about religious belief and society. In the mid-60s, we established the Order of Interbeing arising out of war and ideologies.  We can look at the precepts of the Order as a direct response. What is the teaching on views from the Buddha? To be free from views is a basic foundation of Buddhism. In 1965, I wrote the book Lotus in a Sea of Fire. The war in Vietnam was raging. Our enemies are not man, it is hate and violence. We needed more international support to hear us say we don’t want this war. The peace movement in Vietnam was the lotus. The book was released underground in Vietnam. Sister Chân Không was arrested for having the book. In 1964, we also establish the School for Youth and Social Service to focus on education, health, economics, and organization. 

Thay shares of the creation of a new group for today’s youth – now known as Wake Up!  And there are also new courses coming from the Institute of Applied Buddhism. These are building upon these early days in Vietnam. 

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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Practicing in a Stressful Environment

This 71-minute dharma talk in the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall takes place on Sunday, February 8, 2004. The monastic and lay community are practicing together during the 2004 Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 at Deer Park Monastery. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.

Thay has received many letters from those participating in the retreat. Some contain joy and some contain their difficulties. We begin with a review of some of these letters and picks three questions. 

If nothing is created and nothing dies, where is the beginning? What are the elements that form the beginning?

Continuing the teaching on the sixteen exercises of mindful breathing in the recent weeks. The last four are about perceptions, and this question is about our perceptions. A contemplation on the nature of reality. The objects of our perception, and look deeply, in order to touch the ultimate dimension. 

I often feel I have no reason to continue to live. If there is no birth, no death then I feel ready to live. 

This question too has to do with the ultimate dimension. This too is a good object of meditation. We can inquire about our body and our mind. We can water the seeds of love and understanding. This question is very important. 

For 15-years I have been working as a medical doctor with two other doctors in a health center. We provide care for immigrants, refugees and people who are destitute. The more patients who come, the more it costs the health center because the government only pays for a few per year. This leads to many long days, house calls, and financial challenges. Personally, I am tired and stressed out. 

We can have compassion and willingness to help, but this can lead to burnout. We cannot continue like this. Thay shares a story of the congressman who practices walking meditation in the capitol. 

How do we respond? The first thing is to look at how do we organize our day. We have to know how to preserve ourselves in order to continue. We do this with our practice – eating, walking, etc. Do we allow time for this? Can we incorporate into our daily life? The next step is to call upon others to help. We don’t need to do this alone. We could learn how to setup a Sangha to nourish our practice – an island and refuge for us. 

Thich Nhat Hanh

Last time we spoke about how to take care of our feelings. The four exercises in the realm of feelings are about knowing how to bring the feeling of joy and happiness. 

Five Kinds of Energy or the Five Powers 

  1. Faith (or confidence/trust) 
  2. Diligence
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Concentration
  5. Insight 

We begin to learn about store consciousness and the seeds contained therein. Followed by our mind consciousness and selective watering. Appropriate attention. Positive and negative seeds. 

Let us use the five power to create the source of happiness. And we can add “letting go” as the sixth power. 

Now we come to the 7th exercise – recognition of the mental formation. That feeling or emotion has its base in store consciousness as a seed (bija). The first function of mindfulness is to be aware, to recognize. It is a practice of love. 

  1. Recognize
  2. Embrace
  3. Relief
  4. Transformation 

In the seventh exercise, we are only doing the first step above. 

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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Turn Every Cell On

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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Enjoy Each Mindful Breath

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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Geese Flying South

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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Solidity and Freedom – German Retreat

The first dharma talk of the Nourishing Happiness in our Hearts retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbrol, Germany. The talk is given in English with consecutive translation into German. The talk was given on August 13, 2014 and both the audio and the video are available below.

Topics

  • Story of the corn seed.
  • The realm of Dharma. Everything is a wonder.
  • The kingdom of God and the cosmos.
  • Living happily in the present moment.
  • Three kinds of energy; Mindfulness, insight, and concentration.
  • The art of happiness – being able to generate a feeling of joy and a feeling of happiness.
  • The art of suffering.
  • Interbeing
  • Elements of meditation
  • Freedom and walking meditation.

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The Mark of Suffering

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the fourth week of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. This short 45-minute talk on July 27, 2014 is in English with a focus on using the practice of walking meditation in order to be free. Both the audio and the video are available below.

There is the habit energy of running in all of us. We’re not comfortable in the here and now. Many are caught in regret and sorrow concerning the past. The mark of suffering is very deep. How can we get out of that prison of the last? The same can be said about the future. Life is only available in the here and now. In the present moment. The practice of mindfulness can help us live in freedom.

The practice of mindful walking can be very helpful. We can learn how to combine the breathing and walking together. We learn the practice. I have arrived. I am home. Teaching on the Kingdom of God as it relates to walking. Are you able to experience the wonder of life? In the here. In the now. If you know how to stop running, then you can heal yourself. I am solid. I am free. Each step made like this will cultivate more solidity and stability. These words of the mantra are not just wishful thinking. To be a Buddha is possible and to enjoy every step. In the ultimate, I dwell. What is the ultimate? Teaching of the wave.

Learn the art of walking. Walk like a Buddha. Don’t walk like a sleepwalker.

 

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What is Man?

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the third week of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. This short 45-minute talk on July 20, 2014 is in English with a focus on our action. Both the audio and the video are available below.

What is man? What Sartre said is very close to Buddhist teachings. Action. Karma. There are three aspects. (1) Thinking. Your thought is an action. It is an energy. We practice in such a way so to produce good thoughts. (2) Speaking. This is the second form of action. Words can kill and destroy or bring beauty and full of non discrimination, understanding, and forgiveness. We should produce speech that can heal. (3) Body action. Acting. With our body we can help with our efforts. How we consume. Are the totality of our thoughts, speech, and action.

Mindfulness can shed light on our action. When we walk with the sangha, we are using these three aspects. We can be fully concentrated in our steps with these three aspects to arrive fully in the here and now. I have arrived. And we see we have enough conditions to be happy? Arriving 100% in the here and the now with concentration. How do we enjoy life in the present moment? With our next step we can say “I am home.”

I have arrived.
I am home.
I am solid.
I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.

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I Have Arrived. I am Home.

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is the second week of the annual Summer Opening retreat at Plum Village. This short 47-minute talk is in English with a focus on arriving in the present moment with walking meditation. Both the audio and the video are available below.

I have arrive. I am home. We have spent so much of our time running and looking for something. We can learn to stop and see the wonders of life in the present moment.  We may miss our appointment with life. Mindfulness helps us enjoy the present moment.  The purpose of the practice is to always go home to the here and now. If you live like that, you can have peace and joy.

Teaching on the practice of the “waking up” gatha. Other verses are mentioned, including a “walking” gatha. Arriving in your true home. With each step we have solidity and freedom.

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Stepping into Freedom

From the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall at Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. This is a day of mindfulness between the close of the 21-Day Retreat and the Summer Opening. The sangha is preparing for an ordination ceremony for monastic novices on July 2 followed by summer opening on July 4. This 80-minute dharma talk is dated June 29, 2014. The focus of the talk is on the monastic life. Both the audio and the video are available below.

Where can we focus our attention when starting to breath mindfully? The tip of the nose versus the abdomen. We stop our thinking and are fully aware. No thinking is a secret of success. We can enjoy being alive in the here and now.

What is the object of our mindfulness when we walk? How can we touch reality? Thay tells the story of a 13th century king in Vietnam who practiced very well as a lay person. How can we practice everyday? Touching the ground of reality with every step and not lose ourselves by daily life.This kind of walking can be very healing.

The triple training is mindfulness, concentration, and insight. These three work together. These are three of the eight elements of the noble path – the Noble Eightfold Path. They also exist in the Five Powers (the other two are faith and diligence). This is the heart of Buddhist practice. The practice of mindfulness can also be seen concretely in the practice of the precepts and that is why we usually use the words “mindfulness” trainings. The precepts are the 5 trainings for the lay students (and the 14 for the Order members), the 10 precepts for novice monastics, 250 precepts for monks, and 380 for nuns (Some may ask why the nuns practice more? Is that not discrimination? The nuns created their own precepts). Each precept guarantees a zone of freedom. The precepts are seeking freedom. But we need to live mindfully. Thay recently wrote a new calligraphy. “Each Precept Guarantees a Zone of Freedom”.

There is joy in practicing and reciting the precepts. The manual we use for training the novices is called “Stepping into Freedom” (and is available from Parallax Press). The practice of the precepts is also the practice of mindfulness and is connected with mindful manners (outlined in the manual). “Be beautiful. Practice the Precepts.” Thay discusses some of the mindful manners for monastics.

The manual has four parts. The first part is a set of verses – the essential of the daily vinaya practice. The second part is the ten novice precepts. The third section is mindful manners – many chapters on this. The fourth part is a beautiful text to remind monastics why they are a monk or a nun. The book was originally in Chinese from more than 400 years ago. It has been updated by Plum Village. In the Christian monastic tradition, they have some of the same precepts.

Thay shares further of the big commitment to become a monastic. It is like a marriage. You are part of a sangha and you can realize your dream of helping people. To practice as a monk or nun is easier than a lay student because you have the support of the sangha.

This is a happy and beautiful moment.

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