Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

The Effectiveness of Prayer

From the Thursday, March 9, 2006 dharma talk at the Assembly of Stars meditation hall, Lower Hamlet, Plum Village. The theme for this talk is the practice of prayer and we are guided by a series of questions asked by the magazine Publishers Weekly.

Questions

How is prayer related to peace and peacemaking? How do you see the relationship between mediatation and prayer in your own life? Why is it important to pray with the body? How can you avoid falling into the trap of routine when you are praying? The words and motions without attention. Some Christians think of God as external, powerful and transcendent would be surprised to hear that Buddhists pray. What would you say to them? How can people find the time to pray every day? What is the one thing people can do everyday to bring them closer to the happiness they seek? Should Christians attracted to Buddhist teachings become Buddhists? What did you find in Vietnam when you returned in 2005? What were your impressions? You will 80 this year, do you plan to retire as a spiritual teacher at any point?

We begin with the fifth question. When we pray, we ask the sangha to help us, we ask the Buddha to help us. We do this first by being truly present; established in the here and the now with a clear intention. Though we do not speak of God, we do recognize the collective mind from which everything manifests.

At 24-minutes, Thay addresses the third question. Why is it important to pray with the body? There is no separation of the body and the mind.

In the spirit of Buddhism, anything you do that is accompanied with mindfulness, concentration, and insight can be considered a prayer. It also removes the distinction between the one who prays and the one who is prayed to. Every step can be a prayer.

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Happiness is Found in the Present Moment

In this December 10, 2006 dharma talk from Lower Hamlet, Thay reflects on the 2005 trip to Vietnam followed by a teaching on mindfulness of walking and eating. The sangha is in the Annual Winter Retreat and the talk is 77-minutes.

It was a warm winter at Plum Village in 2006 and Thay reflects on walking meditation on the grass and the leaves. We can enjoy every step we make on this planet. When a novice monk at the root temple in Vietnam, Thay did not know the practice of walking meditation. As a you don’t no Dharma Teacher, Thay still did not find the time for waking meditation. But when he returned to the root temple in 2005, it was wonderful to practice walking meditation on the hills with over 900 monastics. What is important, there is no need to make any effort and the practice is perfect. Only you can produce this step in mindfulness and concentration. Thay shares of returning to Vietnam and of bringing the monastic sangha together in harmony. The happiness and the joy of they incorporating some of the Plum Village practices, such as practicing as a fourfold sangha and gender equity.

Mindfulness is a mental formation – one of the fifty mental formations. When we are inhabited by the energy of mindfulness, we can have the eyes of the Buddha and the feet of the Buddha. We know how to generate the energy of mindfulness from our seed of mindfulness. Walking like a Buddha can happen right now. We don’t have to force ourselves. It is a pleasure.

Walking meditation is not a practice, it is an enjoyment. The best reason to do walking meditation is, because I like it! The same is true of sitting meditation. We don’t force it, but we enjoy it. It is an act of love.

Getting in touch with the food and our ancestors through eating meditation. Thay recalls his mothers cooking. A meal is a time to know who we are – through what we are eating and how we are eating. Eating can nourish our compassion. We can get in touch with the nature of reality. Are we eating in a way to nourish our compassion? We can get enlightenment just by eating. It should be a relaxing time, to eat as a sangha. To allow more time. For sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Plum Village tradition, eating is a deep practice. How?

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Transforming Our Suffering

In this 65-minute dharma talk from the New Hamlet of Plum Village, Thay teaches a message on transforming our suffering. The date is Sunday, November 26, 2006 and the sangha is in the Winter Retreat.

Dhyana is the Sanskrit word for meditation. In meditation, we have stillness. We have relaxation. We have mindfulness, concentration, insight, joy, and happiness. These virtues can be cultivated. How can we do this? The practice of “leaving behind.” This is the first act of meditation. Joy and happiness is born from this practice.

Many young people have this aspiration to “leave behind” and want to become a monastic. They have experience joy and happiness. But after two or three years, the joy and happiness are not deep enough to reach down into our blocks of suffering. We have this stillness for a period of time but then the block of suffering will emerge. What is the nature of our suffering? Hidden in the depths of our unconscious. If we can’t move into the deeper practice, we begin to blame and point to problems, we then sometimes see monastics leave the community. We have to go home to ourselves and try to recognize our suffering and embrace it. Thay illustrates this teaching through bitter melon. Our natural tendency is to run away of suffering and we don’t know the hidden goodness of suffering. Suffering can heal us.

We in the Plum Village tradition belong to the School of Linji. We have to use our intelligence, our insight in order to transform our suffering.

In Buddhism we have the notion of the three worlds. Desire. Craving. Form. We may leave behind the world of desire but still have mental discourse. We practice stillness. It is made of two elements: vitaka and vijara. Thought and reflective thinking.

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Continuing our Spiritual and Blood Ancestors

In this 53-minute dharma talk from the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village, Thay teaches a message of love. The date is Sunday, November 12, 2006. We begin with two chants from the monastics.

You are a continuation of your father. Intellectually we know this to be true. And yet we feel that we are different. It is because you have a notion of your father – you haven’t looked deeply enough at your father. Who is the father inside of you? Can you practice for your father? Transformation of your father inside of you also helps to transform the father on the outside.

How can you can get in better touch with your father? First, we need to be aware. Thay shares about how he practiced regarding his own father. Creating a conversation with your father can occur anytime, whether they are alive or not.

The same practice can apply to your mother. Begin a conversation with your mother inside of you. And if she is still alive, you can talk with her too. Thay offers specific.

You also have a spiritual teacher inside of you who is also outside of you. How are you carrying your teacher into the future? How is your teacher evolving inside of you? How are you practicing for your teacher? We should not be exactly like our teacher. We should learn and transform for the time. To see the suffering of our time.

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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.

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