GO BACK TO THE BODY

Breathing mindfully takes our mind back to our breath and, if we continue, to our whole body. We go back to our body and reconcile with it. We get to know what’s going on in our body, the wrongs we have done, the conflicts we’re having, and we’ll know what to do and what not to do in order to be on good terms with our body. With mindful breathing, we come to recognize our body as our home. We might say:

Breathing in, I am aware of my body.
Breathing out, I smile to my whole body.

—Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh

A message from Plum Village.

Dear Dharma Brothers & Sisters,

 

We’re very happy to announce the publication next week, on June 6, of Thay’s book THE ART OF LIVING, an edited selection of Thay’s unpublished teachings from 2013-14. It includes Thay’s remarkable teachings from the June 2014 21-day Retreat in Plum Village, France (the last 21-day retreat taught by Thay), with the theme “What happens when we die? What happens when we’re alive?” So perhaps the title of the book could also be, “THE ART OF LIVING AND DYING”

 

We hope those of you who were at the 21-Day Retreat will appreciate reading a full exposition of Thay’s teachings on the Cosmic Body, reincarnation, life-force, and so on. And those who missed the retreat will have a chance to discover some of Thay’s precious teachings before his stroke.

 

In THE ART OF LIVING, Thay’s insights are set within the context of the Seven Concentrations he focussed on in the last year or two of his teachings: combining the 3 Doors of Liberation with the last 4 Exercises of Mindful Breathing (making a total of 7).

 

We are grateful for the support of HarperOne publishing, in allowing us to produce an accessible yet profound Dharma book, that we hope will be an inspiration for Thay’s students everywhere, and a support for the deepening of our collective practice.

 

We hope that many of you will have a chance to read and study the book, as individuals and as sanghas. We invite you to get involved by writing an honest review on THE ART OF LIVING Amazon page, and by participating in discussions on the book’s Goodreads page. We’d especially love to see comments and reviews from those of you who attended the 2014 21-Day Retreat, and who’ve already had a chance to put these teachings into practice.

 

Perhaps, in the future, monastic and lay Dharma Teachers may be able to offer some structured study of the book, along the lines of Br Phap Hai’s wonderfully successful “The Sun My Heart” Book Club. If you have any ideas for this, please let us know.

 

We welcome your feedback.

 

With gratitude and appreciation,

 

Sister True Dedication

on behalf of the Plum Village Editorial Team

editors@plumvillage.org

 

 

 

A Lotus for you, A Buddha to be                  

by Thich Nhat Hanh

Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

The tradition of joining our palms together and bowing when we meet someone is very beautiful. Millions of men and women in Asia and around the world greet each other that way every day. Forming a lotus bud with your hands is very pleasant. I hope you will try it from time to time. If a tulip blossom is more familiar for you to envision, you may want to say, “A tulip for you, a Buddha to be.” A tulip possesses the Buddha nature just like a lotus.

When someone offers me a cup of tea, I always bow respectfully. As I join my palms, I breathe in and say, “A lotus for you.” As I bow, I breathe out and say, “A Buddha to be.” To join our hands in a lotus bud is to offer the person standing before us a fresh flower. But we have to remember not to join our palms mechanically. We must be aware of the person we are greeting. When our respect is sincere, we remember that she has the nature of the Buddha, the nature of awakening.

If we look, we can see the Buddha in the person before us. When we practice this way regularly, we will see a change in ourselves. We will develop humility, and we will also realize that our abilities are boundless. When we know how to respect others, we also know how to respect ourselves.

As I bow, mindfulness becomes real in me. Seeing my deep reverence, the person to whom I bow also becomes awake, and he may like to form a lotus and bow to me, breathing in and out. With one greeting, mindfulness becomes present in both of us as we touch the Buddha with our hearts, not just with our hands. Suddenly, the Buddha in each of us begins to shine, and we are in touch with the present moment.

Sometimes we think that we are superior to others – perhaps more educated or intelligent. Seeing an uneducated person, a feeling of disdain may arise, but this attitude does not help anyone. Our knowledge is relative and limited. An orchid, for example, knows how to produce noble, symmetrical flowers, and a snail knows to make a beautiful well-proportioned shell. Compared with this kind of knowledge, our knowledge is not worth boasting about, no matter how much formal education we have. We should bow deeply before the orchid and the snail and join our palms reverently before the monarch butterfly and the magnolia tree. Feeling respect for all species of living beings and inanimate objects will help us recognize a part of the Buddha nature in ourselves.

In the West, some people prefer to shake hands. Whatever form you use, if you greet others mindfully and respectfully, the Buddha is present.

 

Present Moment Wonderful Moment 

by Thich Nhat Hanh

#7 Looking in the Mirror

Awareness is the mirror

Reflecting the four elements.

Beauty is a heart that generates love

And a mind that is open.

The moments during the day of looking in the mirror can be moments of deep awareness. The mirror can serve as a tool for cultivating mindfulness so that we develop a broad capacity to understand and love others. Anyone who maintains awareness in the present moment becomes beautiful and naturally emanates peace, joy, and happiness. A calm half smile and a loving heart are refreshing, and they allow miracles to unfold. The Buddha’s smile is beautiful because it expresses tolerance, compassion, and loving kindness.

In Vietnamese culture, the four great elements are earth, water, fire, and air. The Vietnamese poet wrote;

The flower with its ephemeral fragrance,

Is made of the four elements.

Your eyes, shining with love,

Are also made of the four elements.

 The four elements are neither mind nor matter. They are the universe itself revealed to us. When your mind is the clear mirror of meditative awareness, you will know that you are the outward expression of the essence of reality. So please smile. Smile with your eyes, not just your lips. Smile with your whole being, reflecting the four elements of the mirror of mindful awareness.

An excerpt: Beginning Anew, Ceremony for the Deceased,

Chanting From the Heart, Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practices

by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Monks and Nuns of Plum Village

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…With all our heart we go for refuge.

Turning to the Buddhas in the 10 directions

and all the Bodhisattvas, noble disciples, and self-achieved Buddhas

very sincerely we recognize our errors

and the mistakes of our wrong judgements.

Please bring the balm of clear water

to pour on the roots of our afflictions.

Please bring the raft of the true teachings

to carry us over the ocean of sorrows.

We vow to live an awakened life,

to practice smiling and conscious breathing

and to study the teachings, authentically transmitted.

Diligently, we shall live in mindfulness.

 

We come back to live in the wonderful present,

to plant our heart’s garden with good seeds,

and to make strong foundations of understanding and love.

We vow to train ourselves in mindfulness and concentration,

practicing to look and understand deeply

to be able to see the nature of all that is,

and so to be free of the bonds of birth and death.

We learn to speak lovingly, to be affectionate,

to care for others whether it is early morn or late afternoon,

to bring the roots of joy to many places,

helping people to abandon sorrow,

to respond with deep gratitude

to the kindness of parents, teachers, and friends.

With deep faith, we light up the incense of our heart.

We ask the Lord of Compassion to be our protector

On the wonderful path of practice.

We vow to practice diligently,

cultivating the fruits of this path.

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Bodhicitta (Sanskrit) is the mind of enlightenment, beginner’s mind. When we’re inspired by the desire to practice and transform our suffering so we can help the many people around us who suffer, the mind of that moment is very beautiful. It’s a mind of a bodhisattva, one who attains his or her own liberation in order to help all beings. Sometimes we call it the “mind of love.” It’s because of love that we practice. We’re not just trying to run away from suffering. We want more than that. We want to transform our own suffering and be free in order to help many other people to transform their suffering.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Your True Home, the everyday wisdom of TNH

img_0339Promise me,

Promise me this day,

Promise me now,

While the sun is overhead

Exactly at the zenith,

Promise me:

 

Even as they

Strike you down

With a mountain of hatred and violence;

Even as they step on you and crush you

Like a worm,

Even as they dismember and disembowel you,

Remember brother,

Remember:

Man is not our enemy.

 

The only thing worthy of you is compassion –

Invincible, limitless, unconditional.

Hatred will never let you face

The beast in man.

 

One day, when you face this beast alone,

With your courage intact, your eyes kind,

Untroubled

(even as no one sees them),

out of your smile

will bloom a flower.

And those who love you

Will behold you

Across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.

 

Alone again.

I will go on with bent head,

Knowing that love has become eternal.

On the long, rough road,

The sun and the moon

Will continue to shine.

 

-Thich Nhat Hanh, 1965

img_0339

Understanding is the fruit of meditation. When we practice deep looking directed toward the heart of reality, we receive understanding, we receive the wisdom that makes us free. If there is deep pain within you, meditate.

Meditating is not trying to run away, trying to ignore the presence of the pain, but on the contrary, it is looking at it face-to-face. You have to practice deep looking directed toward the nature of this pain because for Buddhists, we are joy, but we are also pain; e are understanding, but we are also ignorance. Meditating is not transforming oneself into a battlefield where one side is fighting another, where good fights against evil. This is not Buddhist meditation. Buddhist meditation is based on the principle of non-duality. This means that if we are mindfulness, if we are love, we are also ignorance, we are also suffering, and there is no reason to suppress anything at all.

When the seed of anger manifests on the level of our conscious mind, our immediate awareness, it is because the seed of anger is in the depths of our consciousness, and then we begin to suffer. Our immediate awareness is something like our living room. The task of the meditator is not to chase away or to suppress the energy of anger that is there but rather to invite another energy that will be able to care for the anger.

You can use the method of mindful breathing to make the seed of this other energy grow inside of you. It will then manifest in the form of energy, and this energy will embrace your energy of anger like a mother taking a baby in her arms. Then there is only tenderness, there is no fighting with, or discriminating against, the pain. The purpose of the practice of mindful breathing is to help to give birth to this precious energy called mindfulness and to keep it alive.

… Mindfulness is like a light, enabling concentration to really be there, and that also makes it possible for us to look deeply into the heart of things. From this looking deeply is born deep vision, understanding. Mindfulness brings concentration, understanding, love and freedom.

…when the energy of compassion and love touches us, healing establishes itself.

In Buddhism, we say that mindfulness is the energy of the Buddha. The seed of mindfulness is the baby Buddha that is in us. This precious seed can be buried very deeply under several layers of suffering and ignorance. We begin by looking for, by touching this seed of mindfulness, and everybody knows that all of us have this precious seed in us.

When you drink water, if you are aware of the fact that you are drinking water, mindfulness is there. Mindfulness is the energy that makes it possible for us to be aware of what is happening in the present moment.

When you breathe in and you are aware that you are breathing in, mindfulness is there. Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. When you are angry and yu know that you are angry, mindfulness is there. Anger is one energy, mindfulness is another, and this second kind of energy arises in order to care for the first like a mother caring for her baby.

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Digging Deep p66

Practicing loving kindness meditation is like digging deep into the ground until we reach the purest water. We look deeply into ourselves until insight arises and our love flows to the surface. Joy and happiness radiate from our eyes and everyone around us benefits from our smile and our presence. If we take good care of ourselves, we help everyone. We stop being a source of suffering in the world, and we become a reservoir of joy and freshness. Here and there are people who know how to take good care of themselves, who live joyfully and happily. They are our strongest support. Whatever they do, they do it for everyone.

Immeasurable Minds p81

Loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity are described as unlimited states of mind because they continue to grow and they cannot be measured. The more you practice, the more you see your love growing and growing until there is no limit. The more you practice compassion,  the more it grows. The more you cultivate joy the more joy you will feel and be able to share. The more you understand, the more you love: the more you love, the more you understand. They are two sides of one reality. The mind of love and the mind of understanding are the same.

Fulfillment p86

We should practice in such a way that every moment is fulfilling. We should feel satisfaction in every breath, in every step, in every action. This is true fulfillment. When you breathe in and out, there is fulfillment. When you take a step, there is fulfillment. When you perform any action, there is the fulfillment that comes from living deeply in the present moment.

Natural Happiness p87

If you walk with true awareness of every step, without having a goal to get anywhere, happiness will arise naturally. You don’t need to look for happiness. When we’re in touch with the wonders of life, we become aware of the many conditions of happiness that are already there, and naturally, we feel happy. The beauty around us brings us back to the present moment so we can let go of the planning and worries that preoccupy us. When you look at the person you love, if he is absorbed in anxiety, you can help him get out. “Darling, do you see the sun? Do you see the signs that spring is coming?” This is mindfulness; we become aware of what is happening now and we are in touch with the conditions of happiness that are there, inside us and all around us.

Heart Like a Rcffwindowiver, Page 8

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform. So the big question is: how do we help our hearts to grow?

Feeding our Love, Page 9

Each of us can learn the art of nourishing happiness and love. Everything needs food to live, even love. If we don’t know how to nourish our love, it withers. When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness.

Love is Organic, Page 14

Love is a living, breathing thing. There is no need to force it to grow in a particular direction. If we start by being easy and gentle with ourselves, we will find it is just there inside of us, solid and healing.

Be Beautiful, Be Yourself, Page 23

If you can accept your body, then you have a chance to see your body as your home. You can rest in your body, settle in, relax, and feel joy and ease. If you don’t accept your body and your mind, you can’t be at home with yourself. You n=have to accept yourself as you are. This is a very important practice. As you practice building a home in yourself, you become more and more beautiful.

The Practice of Metta, Page 64 

To love is, first of all, to accept ourselves as we actually are. The first practice of love is to know oneself. The Pali word Metta means “loving kindness.” When we practice Metta Meditation, we see the conditions that have caused us to be the way we are; this makes it easy to accept ourselves, including our suffering and happiness. When we practice Metta Meditation, we touch our deepest aspirations. But the willingness ad aspiration to love is not yet love. We have to look deeply, with all our being, in order to understand the object of our meditation. The practice of love meditation is not autosuggestion. We have to look deeply at our body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. We can observe how much peace, happiness, and lightness we already have. We can notice whether we are anxious about accidents or misfortunes, and how much anger, irritation, fear, anxiety or worry are still in us. As we become aware of the feelings in us, our self-understanding will deepen. We will see how our fears and lack of peace contribute to our unhappiness, and we will see the value of loving ourselves and cultivating a heart of compassion. Love will enter our thoughts, words, and actions.

 

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