Friday, 23 September 2011

Together We Are One Retreat, Deer Park Monastery


'This is the third Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Together We Are One Retreat at Deer Park Monastery on the North American Tour, given on Friday, September 9th, 2011. Thay shares with us about the nature of God and the nature of the Buddha, and how the we can find the Buddha-nature in everyone. He continues to share about the project of the Beloved Community started by Martin Luther King, Jr., and specifically the history of how Thay left Vietnam, was exiled, and met Dr. King. Everyone of us can make a step mindfully, everyone of us can look mindfully and recognize the beauty of life. If we can recognize the beauty of the Dharma, we can recognize the Kingdom of God--we get in touch with the Kingdom of God. We don't have to look anywhere outside, anywhere else.... You are the Buddha. You are the Dharma. You are the Sangha. Thay continues to share about store consciousness and mind consciousness, and specifically how they relate to the Four Noble Truths: 1) suffering, 2) the making of suffering, 3) it is possible to transform suffering into happiness, 4) the path to happiness. When you bow to the Buddha, you don't view the Buddha as an entity wholly separate from you. I am in you, and you are in me. There is no longer any complex. That is the wisdom of non-discrimination: nirvikalpajnana.'

'This is the second Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Together We Are One Retreat at Deer Park Monastery on the North American Tour, given on Thursday, September 8th, 2011. Thay shares with us the about the practice of looking deeply into the river of the mind, using the exercises from the Mindfulness of Breathing Sutra. As a practitioner we know how to practice selective watering of the seeds in our consciousness. Life is impossible without impermanence. Without impermanence a grain of corn can never become a plant of corn, and your little baby can never become a little girl. So impermanence is the nature of things. Your love is also impermanent. If you do not know how to take care of your love, your love will die. Things are impermanent; because we believe things to be impermanent we suffer. We can use impermanence to get out of anger. To get out of your anger, you can close your eyes and visualize the other person in 300 years. What will they become? Ash. And you too. It may take only 3-5 seconds for you to touch impermanence. That way you can see that it is not wise to let anger overwhelm you like that. Thay finishes the talk with the teaching on the Three Doors of Liberation: 1) emptiness, 2) signlessness, 3) aimlessness.'
'This is the second Dharma talk offered by Thay to the children in the Together We Are One Retreat at Deer Park Monastery on Thursday, September 8th, 2011. Thay speaks about how we are the continuation of our parents, using the example of a seed of corn that grows up to become a plant of corn. When you practice mindful breathing, we can invite our mother inside of us to practice breathing as well. Our father also.'
'This is the Dharma talk offered by Thay in the first talk of the Together We Are One Retreat at Deer Park Monastery on the North American Tour, given on Wednesday, September 7th, 2011. Thay shares with us the about the practice of mindfulness of breathing. It is always true that mindfulness and concentration bring insight; and insight is something that can liberate us. We do not practice like a machine: we are alive. We are not caught in the form of the practice. That is why every moment we experience nourishment and healing. He goes on to talk about the four practices of right diligence: 1) recognize the negative seeds and make sure they don't come up, 2) if a negative seed has already come up, embrace the formation and invite it to go back down, 3) invite good seeds to come up, 4) maintain the good mental formations for a long time. He also discusses in detail how we can embrace our difficult mental formations just like a mother embraces her crying baby.'
'This is the Dharma talk offered by Thay to the children in the first talk of the Together We Are One Retreat at Deer Park Monastery on Wednesday, September 7th, 2011. Thay shares with the children the practice of inviting the bell to sound, breathing and reciting the gatha beforehand in order to become fully concentrated. If you want to be a bellmaster you have to train yourself. You have to learn.'

Day of Mindfulness at Deer Park Monastery, Sept. 4th, 2011


'This is the Dharma talk offered by Thay in the first Day of Mindfulness at Deer Park Monastery on the North American Tour, given on Sunday, September 4th, 2011. Thay shares with us the about the nature of bread, that contains the whole cosmos: the Buddha, Jesus, all things are in the bread. You don't need to think, there is just awareness. Awareness and insight, but no thinking. No thinking is the secret. We can eat every morsel of our lunch in that way. He continues to share about the story of the young couple in the Sutra on the Son's Flesh who decide to move to another country with their son. Faced with starvation in the desert, they decide to kill their little boy and eat his flesh, crying and beating their chests as they do so. After the Buddha told this story to the monks, he turned to them and said, 'Dear friends, do you think the parents enjoyed eating the flesh of their own son?' 'No, it is impossible that they could enjoy it.' The Buddha said, 'Let us eat in such a way that we preserve our compassion and mindfulness, otherwise when we eat it is like we are eating the flesh of our own son.' We should be the aware that many of the items that we consume, with the eyes, the ear, the body, the mind, can be very toxic. A television program, an article, may be full of anger, hate and violence. If we allow our children to consume these items, the toxins will go into their consciousness. Even conversations can sometimes be very toxic.'

'This is the Dharma talk offered by Thay to the children in the first Day of Mindfulness at Deer Park Monastery on the North American Tour, given on Sunday, September 4th, 2011. Thay shares with us the 2 of the 4 mantras: 1) I am here for you, 2) I know you are there, and I am happy. He also suggests that each home have a breathing room, where we can go to to practice breathing and to restore peace.'

Body and Mind Are One Retreat - YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado


'This is the fourth and final Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Body and Mind Are One Retreat, given at the YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado, on Sunday, August 24th, 2011. Thay speaks about the lack of subject and object in our experience of reality. In breathing and sitting, there is no breather or sitter. There is just the breathing, there is just the sitting. When you say 'The wind blows', it is very funny. If it does not blow, how can it be the wind? It is like saying 'The rain is raining.' If it is not raining, how can it be rain? The same is true for thinking. The thinker and the thought---they are not separate things; they are one. Thay introduces and shares about The Sutra on the Son's Flesh, to point out the nature of nutriment. He continues on to discuss the three kinds of concentration: emptiness, signlessness and aimlessness.'

'This is the third Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Body and Mind Are One Retreat, given at the YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado, on Monday, August 22nd, 2011. Thay shares with us the 4th mantra - Darling, I suffer and I want you to know. I'm doing the best I can. Please help. We don't let others know about our suffering, or let them help us, because of our pride, because of our anger. A practitioner knows that when anger arises they should take good care of themselves and their anger with mindful breathing until their anger calms and they can see into the wrong perception behind their anger. Thay then shares about the 11th and 12th exercises of mindful breathing - 11) concentrating the mind and 12) liberating the mind. There are many objects of concentration but three are found throughout Buddhism - emptiness (sunyata), signlessness (animitta), and aimlessness (apranihita). These are also called the three doors of liberation. In the Sutra on Mindful Breathing, we are given four other objects of concentration - impermanence, non-craving, cessation, and letting go. We use these concentrations to free ourselves from the notions of being and non-being, birth and death, coming and going, sameness and otherness, and the four notions of self, man/human, living beings, and lifespan that the Diamond Sutra recommends that we remove. Freeing ourselves from these notions we are able to touch reality, to touch nirvana and realize our true nature - the nature of no-birth and no-death.'

'This is the third children's Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Body and Mind are One Retreat, given at the YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado, on Monday, August 22nd, 2011. Thay speaks about how to play in such a way that we maintain our joy and happiness during the whole time of playing, not letting anger overcome us. If we play and we are angry we always lose. Learn to play in such a way that neither the winner nor the loser suffer. That is the highest way of playing.'

'This is the second Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Body and Mind Are One Retreat, given at the YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado, on Sunday, August 21st, 2011. Thay speaks about touching the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land of the Buddha, right in the present moment. I have arrived, I am home: this is the shortest Dharma talk. Thay advises us, when we share, to not only share about our suffering but also to share our joy and our happiness. We need not only people with suffering to come on a retreat, we also need people with lots of joy, so they can help those who are suffering. Thay continues with the Sutra on Mindfulness of Breathing, with a recap of yesterday's teaching and continuing on with the 7th and 8th steps: becoming aware of a painful feeling or emotion and embracing it. The following steps are: 9) aware of mental formations, 10) gladdening the mind, 11) concentrating the mind, 12) liberating the mind. Thay shares about the practice of right diligence: not touching the negative seeds, making sure any negative formations go back down to store consciousness, watering the good seeds, and keeping the good mental formations manifesting as long as possible.'

'This is the second children's Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Body and Mind are One Retreat, given at the YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado, on Sunday, August 21st, 2011. Thay speaks about how we are the continuation of our parents, using the example of a seed of corn that cannot remember, once it is a plant, that it was once a seed. When you practice mindful breathing, we can invite our mother inside of us to practice breathing as well. Our father also.'

'This is the first Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Body and Mind Are One Retreat, given at the YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado, on Saturday, August 13th, 2011. Thay speaks about the term sahabhu, which he defines as co-being or co-interbeing. In Buddhism we practice mindfulness and concentration. Mindfulness is to be aware of what is there, and we can choose the object of our mindfulness. We can be aware of a flower or a cloud, or of our in-breath. The energy of mindfulness brings with it the energy of concentration. When mindfulness and concentration are powerful we get a breakthrough, an insight---we understand the nature of what is there. Thay continues to share about the dual nature of birth and death: We are experiencing birth and death at every moment. Death is now, together with birth. They manifest together at the same time. You cannot say the above exists, and then the below later. The have to exist at the same time. Why are we afraid of dying? Wherever there is death there is life. We are not used to seeing things and thinking of things in term of interbeing. That is why fear and despair are born. Thay speaks about the nature of the body, the mind, and the environment. In neuroscience they ask whether consciousness is created by the brain; whether the brain and the mind are the same thing. How can something objective like the brain create something subjective like the mind. So there is the 'in' and the 'out'; scientists are still caught in dualistic thinking. The wisdom of non-discrimination can help scientists to get an insight more quickly. Thay dedicates the second section of the talk to the concrete practice of mindful breathing, including the first few steps of mindful breathing as delineated in the Mindfulness of Breathing Sutra. Thay reminds us to practice mindfulness and meditation correctly: Life is already full of suffering, why do you have to suffer more with Buddhist meditation?'

This is the first children's Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Body and Mind are One Retreat, given at the YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado, on Saturday, August 13th, 2011. Thay speaks about offering our true presence, the best gift, to our loved ones.

Open Mind Open Heart Retreat - Vancouver


'This is the third Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, given in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Saturday, August 13th, 2011. Thay speaks about the steps in the practice of mindfulness of breathing: 1) aware of the in and out breath, 2) following the in and out breath, 3) aware of body, 4) releasing tension in the body, 5) recognizing joy, 6) recognizing happiness, 7) aware of painful feelings, 8) embracing painful feelings, 9) recognizing mental formations, 10) invigorating the mind, 11) concentrating the mind, 12) liberating the mind. Thay continues to share about the Three Doors of Liberation: 1) emptiness, 2) signlessness, 3) aimlessness. Emptiness does not mean non-existence. A glass can be empty or full of tea, but in order to be empty or full the glass needs to be there. So emptiness does not mean non-existence. This glass is empty of tea, but it is full of air. So it is helpful for us to ask, 'Empty of what?' To be empty is always to be empty of something. When we contemplate a flower like this, we see the flower is full of everything: the cloud, the sunshine, the Earth, time, space, the gardener---everything has come together to help the flower to manifest. Why do we say it is empty? It is empty of only one thing: a separate existence. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower is full of non-flower elements. It is clear that the flower has to be interbe with everything in the cosmos. She cannot be by herself alone. To be by oneself alone is impossible. So we begin to see the interdependence of everything. He uses the example of a match which requires the action of us striking it for a flame to manifest. In life we are the same: when we ask 'Where do we come from?' or 'Where are we going?' we see that we do not come from anywhere. When conditions come together sufficiently, I manifest. My nature is the nature of no coming and no going. When conditions are no longer sufficient, I just stop manifestation and wait for a chance to manifest again. My nature is no coming, no going.'

This is the Question and Answer Session offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, which took place in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Friday, August 12th, 2011. Thay answers questions first from the children, then from the young adults and the older practitioners: 1) How did Thay feel when he left his country? 2) Where did you learn to become mindful and to breathe? 3) Have you accomplished the highest level of Buddhism yet, and if you haven't, do you think you will? and will you play soccer with the kids today? 4) Do you believe you have reached the stage of enlightenment, and if not do you think you will at some stage in your life? 5) What was it like being on the Oprah Winfrey show? 6) What is the goal of Buddhism? 7) I sometimes find myself wallowing in self-doubt, and that keeps me from fully enjoying myself. Do you have any advice on how I can overcome my self-doubt? 8) I have a deep volition to practice, but I am very forgetful, and I lose connection with it. Among the many practices that Thay has given, what is the best way for me to connect with that volition? 9) I suffer a lot, and I realize it is part of the practice. I see that my suffering comes from a chronic illness that causes me a lot of physical pain, and also from my life as an activist. I feel at times a lot of despair about what is happening in the world around us. What advice would you have for those of us living with physical pain and despair in our care for the world? 10) For many years I have admired the way you treat children and have them be a part of the Sangha. I am wondering if you would talk with us about ways to bring the practices to the inner cities, practices like mindful breathing and walking that can help them have a better life? 11) I really feel that there is a shift in society from the ego and the intellect into the heart. Do you also feel this? Also, does what is happening in the environment reflect that shift?

'This is the third Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, given in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Thursday, August 11th, 2011. Thay speaks about Right Speech, the practice of speaking that goes in the direction of non-discrimination. It is an instrument we can use to restore communication. When you sit down to listen, you say, 'I listen like this with one purpose: to allow him or her to speak out and to suffer less.' He shares about the experiences of Israelis and Palestinians practicing together in Plum Village, and how they learn to listen deeply to one another. Thay continues through the Noble Eightfold Path, discussing Right Livelihood and then the four practices of Right Diligence: 1) refrain from watering negative seeds, 2) embracing negative seeds with mindfulness so they go back down (changing the peg), 3) inviting the good seeds to come up, 4) allowing the good seeds to stay a long time.'

'This is the second children's Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, given in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Thursday, August 11th, 2011. Thay speaks about giving children in Italy a grain of corn so they could go home to plant it. Their homework, when the seed grows into a plant of corn, is to look at the seedling and say: Dear plant of corn, do you remember the time when you were just a little seed? 'The plant says, Me, a tiny seed of corn? I don't believe it. We have to help the plant of corn to remember. Dear plant of corn, it is me who has planted the seed of corn in this spot, and I have watered it every day. And you have come from it. And the plant will remember that at one point in history it was a little seed. And you who are a practitioner, when you look at the plant of corn, you can see the grain of corn.' In the same way, we can see our father and mother in us at every moment.'

'This is the second Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, given in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011. Thay speaks about the nature of life and death. We think that now is life, and death will be later. But in fact, left and right manifest together, above and below manifest at the same time... Death is happening right here in every moment. Why are we afraid of dying? He goes on to talk about the nature of happiness: If a father does not understand the suffering of his son, then it is impossible for that father to love and make his son happy. So understanding is very crucial to happiness. To love means to understand. Right view is non-discriminative thinking. In Buddhism, thinking is already action: by your thinking you can destroy the world, by your thinking you can save the world. Thay goes on to share about the relationship between the Noble Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths.'

'This is the first children's Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, given in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011. Thay speaks about how to be truly present for our parents, and how to ask our parents to be truly present for us, using the four mantras. The first one: I am here for you. In order for the mantra to work, you have to be there. 'I am here' is not a declaration; it is a practice.' Sometimes your body is there, but your mind is not there: you are not really there. You may like to pat your father on the shoulder and ask, 'Is anybody home?' The second mantra: I know you are there, and I am happy. The third mantra: Darling, I know you suffer. That is why I am here for you.'

'This is the first Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, given in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Tuesday, August 9th, 2011. Thay speaks about the first few steps of the mindfulness of breathing sutra: 1) in/out breath, 2) follow the breath, 3) aware of body, 4) release tension in the body, 5) generate joy, 6) generate happiness, 7) recognize pain, 8) embrace pain. To support the cultivation of mindfulness, we should find a community of practice. Thay also shares about the Wake Up movement for young people. We have the conviction that parents and teachers have to master the practice, so that they can transmit it to their students and children. He also shares about a new program to bring Applied Ethics into schools through schoolteachers. After the talk, Thay Phap An introduces the European Institute of Applied Buddhism and Thay's Calligraphy Exhibition.'

This is the orientation offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, given in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Monday, August 8th, 2011. Thay speaks about the practices of breathing and walking meditation, and about how we can recognize the conditions for happiness that are already present in the here and the now.

This is the chant before the orientation offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, given in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Monday, August 8th, 2011. Thay describes, before the chant, how to put our attention while listening to the chant.

Materials from the Understanding Our Mind Retreat in Thailand



All talks from this retreat are available for viewing on the Understanding Our Mind Channel.

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