Thich Nhat Hanh Dharma Talks
Dharma offered by the Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.
Dharma offered by the Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.
Live Happily in the Present Moment
This 59-minute talk was given on May 13, 2004 in New Hamlet, Plum Village, France. The talk was given between retreats to the monastic community and a small number of lay residents and guests. Thank you to Chân Phúc H?i for writing the summary and providing a time-stamped transcript. Thay begins this talk with a description of the concept of Apranihita or aimlessness. Our tendency is to be constantly running, constantly searching. We need to stop and reestablish ourselves in the here and now.Walking meditation is a wonderful way to learn how to stop. Can we walk with freedom and happiness?The Buddha said it was possible to live happily in the here and now. In the sutra given to the White Clad People (Upasaka Sutra) “live happily in the here and now” occurs five times.The first time our planet was seen from space we were made aware of what a beautiful and precious place the Earth is. The Earth is the bastion of life. It is a real paradise. The pure land is right here. What are you searching for? Are you looking for love, for freedom, for understanding? We need to get in touch with the wonders of life. Our practice is to get in touch. Mindfulness is a very concrete way to go home to the here and now.Having a sangha is of great benefit. In a sangha we remind each other that it is fortunate to be alive. If we know how to stop running, how to take care of ourselves, how to water seeds of happiness every day, we can transform our suffering. Doing this together is wonderful.Thay tells a story about visiting a prison. Even in prison a person can be free. And even outside of prison a person can be a prisoner of anger, despair, and hate. Freedom is freedom from fear, from anger, from forgetfulness. And our practice is the practice of freedom. Our practice is the practice of awakening.The twenty-four brand new hours given to us every morning are a precious gift. The day when we lay down to die we cannot bargain for another day. Today is available, and if we are lucky, tomorrow will also be available.
How do we Practice as a Sangha
2000-06-03 (77-minutes) – It's been a long while since posting a dharma talk for you all, and for that I apologize. Today for our Day of Mindfulness at Deer Park Monastery, we heard this talk from June 3, 2000 at New Hamlet, Plum Village. The talk is part of the 21-Day Retreat that year with the theme of Eyes of the Buddha. For this talk, we take a deep dive into what it means to be sangha. Some of what Thay shares is for the monastic sangha, but can be equally applied to a lay community. Right out front, Thay says the very minimum number for a sangha is four people. He then proceeds to outline the steps for the Sanghakarman Procedure. From this presentation, the rest of the talk focuses on the Six Togethernesses. A real sangha must practice all six. Body. Being physically present in one place.Mindfulness TrainingsSharing. Dharma discussion. Nonverbal action. Presence. (View, insight, understanding, wisdom)Speech. Loving speech. Calm and gentle.Material resources are shared equallyHappy and joyful. Synthesis of all ideas. Toward the end, Thay explains the difference between the core sangha and the extended sangha. I hope you enjoy the talk.
Making Peace with Ourselves
The date is November 25, 2001 at Plum Village, Upper Hamlet. This is the first talk of the 3-month winter retreat. The talk is offered in English. 00:00 Connecting with Green Mountain Dharma Center and Deer Park Monastery09:10 Chanting34:12 Going Home to Ourselves41:08 Drinking our Tea43:22 Mindfulness of our Body46:04 Body52:50 Feelings56:26 Perceptions1:01:38 Mental Formations1:05:14 Consciousness1:06:01 Reclaiming Our Sovereignty1:14:01 The Sangha1:17:58 The Energy of Mindfulness1:24:55 Healing from Within1:29:04 Looking Deeply1:37:53 Building a Sangha What is the 3-month retreat? How do we practice together? Our practice is to build brotherhood. How do we know if we are succeeding in our practice? To practice to be happy together. It is a kind of daily food. Through our sitting mediation, walking meditation, eating in mindfulness. These help build our sisterhood and brotherhood. This is done by building peace within ourselves so it can manifest around us. The Energy of Mindfulness Buddhist meditation has a universal value. The energy of mindfulness help us to there, to be fully present in every moment of our daily life. To be there for us. Our body, our feelings, our perceptions - they are all there, but are we taking care of them? Our practice is to go home to ourselves and tend to our feelings, perceptions, and our body. Our tendency is to run away from ourselves. Drinking our tea. Are we fully present to drink our tea? Or are you drinking like a machine? Mindfulness of drinking. Everyone can do that. If we are not careful, we may follow our habit. Mindfulness is the energy to be there for what is going on. Through breathing, walking, eating, etc. Mindfulness is the kind of energy that helps you to be fully there. This is the first action for peace. Have you abandoned yourself? Mindfulness can help you come back to yourself. We start with our body. Your breath is part of your body. When you breathe in, bring your mind back. Mindful breathing. This is the best way to begin making peace. It is the door in which you can come back to yourself. We can restore ours sovereignty in the territory of ourselves. The Five elements (Skandhas) The first element is form - your physical body. Our physical body is like a river; it is always flowing. The first thing a practitioner should do is make peace with our body. Learn how to calm and renew your body. Learn the art of deep and total relaxation. Give our body a chance to rest and restore itself. It is an action of peace. In the Harvard medical school, they have studied the role of meditation in healing the body. Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile to my body. The second element of your person is feeling. The painful feelings, pleasant feelings, neutral feelings. All kinds of feelings. Like the body, there is a river of feelings. They are born, remain, and affect other aspects of our person. Are you taking care of your feelings? Your emotions? Our tendency is to run away. Breathing in, I am aware of my feeling. Breathing out, I calm my feeling. They are like a suffering baby and they have been left alone. We need to take care of this territory of feelings. The third portion of our territory is perception. We perceive realities, we have an image of ourselves. That is a perception. We have an image of the other person, or other group of people. This is a perception. And very often they are wrong. And because of our wrong perceptions, we suffer very deeply. There are a lot of contradictions. In the Buddhist tradition, the physical body is called a formation. Formation is a technical term that means anything that manifests based on conditions. For example, a flower. Our body is formation. Our feelings are also a kind of formation, but we call it a mental formation. The fourth element is mental formations. According to Buddhist psychology, we have defined 51 mental formations. And mindfulness is one of the mental formations; we s...
Happiness is Right Here
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. Birth and deathBeing and nonbeing Coming and going Sameness and otherness Sangha building.
Falling in Love with a Cloud
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.
The Raft is not the Shore
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.
The Wisdom of Nondiscrimination
A 15-minute segment on the Wisdom of Nondiscrimination. 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 one of a four-part series. The Wisdom of Nondiscrimination Togetherness is not possible without a kind of wisdom. The wisdom of non-discrimination. The practice of looking deeply helps remove our discrimination. Teaching on the umbilical cord. The art of being an expecting mother. Everything you do as a expecting mother, you do for your child. And the father is there to support. Even after the umbilical cord is cut, you are still linked very deeply with your parents. Even if we think are different person as we grow older. This is discrimination. And looking deeply we see are still linked. Non-discrimination. Teaching on Thay’s right hand. There is no inferiority and superiority between the two hands. Writing a poem. Hammering a nail. This is the wisdom of non-discrimination. Low self-esteem (inferiority) and high self-esteem (superiority). And even equality. In Buddhism, these three complexes are also a symptom of discrimination. If we have the wisdom of non-discrimination then we will not suffer. We inter-are.
Misunderstanding and Fear
We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this eleventh post, we hear a question on the theme of spiritual leaders being killed. Jesus, Martin Luther King and Gandhi were all killed and I know that you were exiled from Vietnam. Why do bad things happen to spiritual people? The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.
Sexual Abuse at the Family Level
We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this tenth post, we hear questions on the theme of sexual abuse in families. Earlier we had a question about transforming suffering from sexual misconduct at a community level. Now we have a question from several people about transforming this at an individual level and the family level. One person shared about being abused as a child and now as an adult, what can I do to help heal this scared little child who feels like the past is the present. Another person shared about sexual abuse in their family and I’m afraid for a new baby’s safety in our family. The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.
Working with Judgment and Fear
We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this ninth post, we hear two questions. Photo copyright Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism. Two years ago I was here extremely depressed and anxious. You said, people feel the storm of the mind when experiencing depression. For now that storm has subsided. I now have fear about losing my mother, and people in my family, and how can I transform this fear?Thank you for your light. Often times I struggle with judging, and I think I’m getting better, but when I do judge people I am happy to be proven wrong. The challenge is when I judge other people for being judgmental. How can I overcome this type of judging judging? The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.
Chronic Depression and Medications
We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this eighth post, we hear one question. Many of us experience chronic depression. Earlier in the retreat you talked about what is feeding that depression. For me, there is also an underlying biochemical component. Do you think I should not need medication and heal from the practice only? The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness.
Living with Cancer
We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this seventh post, we hear one question. The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness. There are 10-million people with cancer. Recently I was diagnosed with late-stage cancer and given a period remaining to live. And yet I am still alive today. Is there a path for me to do my spiritual work before I pass on?
We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this sixth post, we hear one question. The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness. Question about healing within my church community. A church leader who has acted inappropriately with sexual misconduct. The person is now gone, but we still need a healing process. Is that important even when some don’t want to or with people who didn’t even know the person?
We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this fifth post, we hear two questions. The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness. 1. How can we influence other members of our family, especially other adults, who want to avoid toxic inputs such as television shows, alcohol, etc. often they are not interested in changing their lifestyle or the practice. How can handle this in our home. 2. What should you do if someone feels bad and you want to make them feel better.
Aware of Suffering Surrounding Death
We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this fourth post, we hear one question. The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness. Aware of the suffering surrounding death. Are we forced to see our friends and loved ones as impersonal parts that will manifest in other ways or are we able to take comfort in the idea or notion that their energy will live on and are we attaching to them as a notion to much?
Living with all the Madness
We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this second post, we hear one question from a teen and another from an adult. The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness. Why are some children born handicapped? With all the madness in the world today, how do you keep from losing faith and giving up on humanity all together?
I Have a Big Family
We continue our series of posts with questions and answers. In this second post, we hear three questions from children. The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness. What do you do when someone is annoying you?Do you see your family much? How often do you travel in a year?
How Can I Control my Temper?
We are beginning a series of posts with questions and answers. In this first post, we hear three questions from children. The session takes place on August 16, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness. Why is the bell so important? What do you do when you are angry or scared?How can I control my temper?
Sitting on our Portable Lotus Flower
In this 95-minute talk we learn how to sit, how to practice with the love mantras, and how to practice insight in order to transform our suffering. The talk takes place on August 14, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is the second dharma talk of the retreat. We begin with the monastics chanting The Four Recollections. Sitting on our Portable Lotus Flower 9:25 Thay leads us in a short guided meditation. To be alive is the greatest of all miracles. Please sit like a Buddha. Thay teaches us about the lotus (or half-lotus) position. Feeling solid and stable. This way of sitting influences the mind. We are sitting like a mountain. The solidity of the body has something to do with the solidity of the mind. It is like sitting on a lotus flower. What does this mean? 16:15 A story of the time Thay visited a prison in Maryland. Sitting with a few hundred inmates, we learned how to sit like a Buddha on a lotus flower. How to keep our back upright and to release tension. We also learned how to practice a mindful meal. This visit later became a book called Be Free Where You Are. 19:25 We describe the Buddha as an artist. Sitting on the lotus flower. As a friend of the buddha, it is nice to know how to sit like him. The Buddha is not a God. He was a human being. He did become a free, happy, enlightened person. The word Buddha is a title, not a name. Anyone can become a Buddha. Do you have a capacity to sit like a Buddha? What are the challenges we experience as students of the Buddha. 21:57 When Mr. Nelson Mandela came to visit France, he was asked what he’d like to do the most. He responded by saying, to sit down. To rest. Thay said we need some training in order to sit well. To do nothing. To be a Buddha is to allow freshness, solidity and peace to manifest in us. Sometimes we are very close to this. Almost a Buddha. Love Mantras 25:13 When you love someone, the best thing you can offer them is your Buddhahood. To have a little Buddha as a present for our loved ones. In this moment, Thay is teaching this to the children present at the talk. The best kind of present is your beautiful presence. Our mindful sitting and walking can improve our presence. It just takes some practice. 29:02 In Buddhism, we sometimes practice a mantra. It is something that can help transform a situation. “Darling, I am here for you” You can practice with this. To love is to offer your fresh presence. And when you are truly there, you may notice something else is there – your beloved one, and the world. This mantra is the first step. Then you can say, “Darling, I know you are there and it makes me happy.” To acknowledge the presence of your loved one. To be loved is to be recognized. We are reminded that you don’t need to go to the meditation hall in order to practice. No matter how old you are, you can still practice these two mantras. Without love, happiness is not possible. What would it be like to have a million dollars? Would this make me happy? Allow me to do more? Would it bring happiness? What Thay has is mindfulness, and this can bring us a lot of happiness. When we have enough insight, we are not caught up in difficult situations anymore. This comes from our mindfulness and concentration. We come to this retreat to learn how to do things with mindfulness. To create love, understanding, and insight. This is the gift of the Buddha. Contemplating the Body 38:59 In the previous talk, we were trying to learn just one thing – releasing the tension. The Buddha has much to teach us on healing. Every step we take can help us release the tension. Every breath that we take can help us release the tension. When we allow our body to relax, our body begins to have the capacity for healing itself. There are many ways to do this, such as deep relaxation practice.
Breathing Begins Transformation
In this 2-hour dharma talk, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches how important our breathing is for transformation. The talk takes place on August 13, 2007 during the Stonehill College retreat during the U.S. Tour. The retreat theme is Mindfulness, Fearlessness, and Togetherness and this is the first dharma talk of the retreat. Eating Breakfast We begin with a brief reflection on Lazy Day at Son Ha Temple in Plum Village. Being lazy can be difficult for some people. In Plum Village it means to take your time in every moment. Whether we are brushing our teeth or eating our breakfast. Each moment is a moment of joy, of peace, of freedom. Thay has discovered that he loves french toast, but he’s been unable to find french toast in France. I eat breakfast because I like breakfast. In the Buddhist practice, we take time to enjoy our breakfast. We don’t eat in a hurry. During this retreat, we also eat in silence. This is known as noble silence. We practice being mindful of every morsel of food we eat and also mindful of the people around you. The same is when we drink tea – to be truly present in the here and the now. True life is there in the present moment. Drinking mindfully I can see the cloud in my tea. Many of us are running after something, such as a diploma. When we are running, we missed the opportunity to be in the present moment. To stay with my breakfast or with my tea. This is called mindful eating. Walking Meditation 14:25 – Today, we started with walking meditation early this morning. The purpose of walking meditation to arrive in every moment. To arrive in the here and the now. There is always something in the here and the now. Our habit of running causes us to missing what is happening in the present moment. I have arrived. I am home. When you have arrived, happiness becomes a real thing. We arrive in every moment. This is called mindful walking. Lazy Day 18:43 – Mindful breathing is also enjoyable. We need some training. In the beginning, we may still feel the energy of running. To do things quickly. Stop running and learn to breathe. Thay uses the example of brushing our teeth. We enjoy every moment of the day, whether we are washing or sitting or walking. And on the other days, not the lazy day, you simply follow the schedule. And you profit from the collective energy of the sangha. You can cherish every moment of your lazy day. Are you lazy enough today? Nowhere to go, nothing to do. There is a tendency in every one of us to run. A kind of energy that is pushing us to run after something. The practice of Buddhist meditation is to be aware of this tendency and be able to stop. Stopping is a very important practice. We can stop running. I have arrived. I am home. Slow Walking Meditation 27:28 – When you are alone and you have 5-10 minutes, you may like to practice slow walking meditation. You breathe in, and you make one step. Bring attention to the sole of your foot. Become aware of the contact between your foot and the ground. And say silently, I have arrived. Invest 100% of your body and your mind into the step. The running has become a habit in our body, our mind, and our consciousness. We can create another habit, of arriving and stopping, to counter that habit of running. This practice of slow walking meditation is one of the methods to form a new habit. Stay in that first step until you have fully arrived in the moment. With this practice, we can begin to heal. The practice of stopping. It is a training. We need to allow our body to do the healing. Resting. Our body and mind have the capacity to heal itself by allowing our body and mind to rest. Mindful Breathing 39:08 – In the “Sutra of Mindful Breathing,” the Buddha offers a method to release the tension in our body. To allow our body and mind to rest. Breathing in, I am aware of my body. This is one exercise described by the buddha. When you breathe in, you bring your mind to your body. This is a basic practice. Breathing in,