In the spring of 2000, practitioners came from across the world to Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Eye of the Buddha” retreat at Plum Village. If you have not had the pleasure of being on retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh (or if you have), here is an opportunity to read in succession each Dharma talk he gave at the 21-day retreat. We will be posting them week by week. Enjoy your reading the eighth talk...
The Eye of the Buddha Retreat
A 21-day retreat in Plum Village
June 2nd - 22, 2000
Transcriber: Tenzin Namdrol
Edited by: Mary Michal
Teachings by Thich Nhat Hanh
Tape 8, June 9, 2000
Le coeur de la compréhension parfaite
Le Bodhisattva Avalokita
En pratiquant la voie de la compréhension parfaite
Posa son regard éclairé
Sur les cinq skanda et les trouva parfaitement vide
Après cette pénétration il dépassa toute souffrance
Écoute Shariputra la forme est vide et le vide est forme
La forme n'est pas différente du vide
Et le vide n'est pas différent de la forme
Il en va de même pour les sensations
Il en va de même pour les perceptions
Il en va de même pour les formations mentales
Et la conscience
Écoute Shariputra tous les phénomènes ont pour nature le vide
Ils ne sont ni produits ni détruits
Ni impurs ni purs, ni croissants ni décroissants
Par conséquent dans le vide il n'y a ni forme ni sensation
Ni perception, ni formation mentale, ni conscience
Ni oeil ni oreille, ni nez, ni
Ni forme ni son ni odeur ni goût ni toucher, ni objet mental,
Il n'y a pas de sphères d'éléments des yeux à la conscience mentale
Ni d'origines interdépendantes ni d'extinction de ces dernières
De l'ignorance à la vieillesse et à la mort.
Il n'y a ni souffrance, ni origine de la souffrance, ni extinction de la souffrance
Ni voie, ni compréhension, ni réalisation
Parce qu'il n'y a pas de réalisation
Tous les Bodhisattvas grâce à la perfection de la compréhension
Ne trouvent aucun obstacle et surmontent la peur
Se libérant ainsi de l'illusion ils réalisent le parfait Nirvana
Tous les Bouddhas du passé du présent et du futur
Grâce à cette compréhension parfaite parviennent à l'éveil authentique
Et universel c'est pourquoi il est bon de savoir que la compréhension parfaite
Est un grand mantra, le plus élevé, le mantra inégalé
Le destructeur de toute souffrance, la vérité inaltérable
Le mantra de la prajnaparamita
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi soha 3x
Dear Sangha, today is June 9th and we are in the Lower Hamlet during our twenty-one day retreat. Breathing in, I know that I am alive; breathing out, I smile to life. That is a very nice exercise that we can practice at any time. Your in-breath is like a vehicle. You ride on it and you go back to yourself. Just breathing in, you come home to yourself, body and mind united. That in-breath produces the awareness that you are still alive. To be aware that we are alive is a wonderful thing, because many of us live like dead people. We live, we move around, we do things, we eat, we drink; but as in a dream. So your in-breath is able to produce that kind of awareness, that enlightenment, that there you are: alive! And that is a miracle. The French novelist, Albert Camus, in his novel, The Stranger, uses the expression, "he lives like a dead man." He was a prisoner who was about to be executed, and a Catholic priest came and tried to offer him the sacrament he needed before dying; but the man was enlightened before the execution.
Lying on his bed he looked at the ceiling and suddenly he saw the blue sky for the first time in his life. He was over 40 and it was the first time that he really saw the blue sky. He had committed a crime, killed someone because of the irritation in him was so big, and also partly because of the heat of the summer. It happened that he had a gun. So three days before his execution he was able to have that awareness, that enlightenment. Lying on his back he looked up and suddenly he saw the blue sky through a square of a window, a skylight. He was so happy that he was able for the first time to touch the blue sky so deeply, and the wonders of life that are in him and around him and he began to savor, to taste and to live deeply the moments that were left for him to live. And when the Catholic priest wanted to come, he did not want the priest to come, because he considered it to be a waste of time. He wanted to devote all the minutes that were left in order to live deeply, and he was aware that he was awake. But the priest was not and how can a person who is not awake save, help a person that is awakened? So he said, “he lives like a dead man,” describing the priest.
And many of us without mindfulness, we live like dead people. We are sucked by the future, we are caught by the past. We are caught by our greed, our craving, our anger, our despair; we are not truly alive. And if we take one in-breath and go back to ourselves, and produce the awareness that we are there, alive, the miracle happens. Life is possible again, thanks to one in-breath. Looking around, we see that many people are circulating around us, but they are not truly alive. They look like they carry their dead bodies on their shoulders and they circulate around us. And that is why the practice of mindful breathing to become alive again is truly a practice of resurrection. Resurrection is not a commemoration, it is a practice of everyday life, and every time you go back to your in-breath and become alive, that is resurrection. That should be practiced every moment of our daily life; and if you are awake, if you are alive, truly present, truly alive, you begin to emit light around you. And when people see you, struck by a beam of your light, they will become awake also, and will be able to experience the miracle of life. That is why in a community, if we know how to be ourselves, if we know how to establish ourselves truly in the here and the now, breathing in becoming alive, breathing out smiling to life, then we help the community to become a bell of mindfulness for every brother or every sister around us. That is the best way to build a Sangha.
At the age of sixteen, when I became a Buddhist novice, I was given a little book to learn. The book is made of around fifty short poems to be memorized for the practice of mindfulness. Everything you do in your daily life as a novice should be done in mindfulness. Whether you are brushing your teeth, or putting on your robe, or taking a shower, or drinking your water, you should do it as an act of enlightenment. You drink your water in such a way that enlightenment is possible at that moment. And that is what every novice can do, that is what everyone of us can do. Drink your water, your tea, your coffee in such a way that life is possible, that enlightenment is possible. Enlightenment is not the business of Buddhas only. It is our business: drink your tea and become a Buddha at the very time you drink your tea. Breathe in and become a Buddha, because Buddha means the one who is mindful, who is awake, who is really alive. And Buddhahood is something very concrete, not an abstract notion. Buddhahood, the capacity to be awake, to be aware, to be mindful.
We have several occasions each day to sit down, whether on a bench, on the grass, on our cushion. We learn that when we sit down, we sit down in such a way that enlightenment becomes possible. And a small poem in the book for novices is like this: “Sitting here is like sitting at the foot of the bodhi tree, and I am fully established in mindfulness. There is no more distraction.” If you sit down like that you are sitting down in the style of a Buddha. You are a Buddha, and what prevents you from sitting down like that? Sitting down like that is an act of enlightenment that makes you fully alive, fully present.
Our twenty-one-day retreat should be an opportunity for us to learn to be Buddhas, Bodhisattvas; and this is possible. We should enjoy every minute of our daily life during the retreat. I see the twenty-one-day retreat as a Dharma festival. A Dharma talk is a festival. A Dharma talk is a time when we have the occasion to celebrate life just by allowing the soil of our consciousness to be watered by the Dharma rain. And it is very special that we listen to the Dharma talk in the context of Sangha. People can have access to the Dharma talk through the internet or through the magazine Mindfulness Bell, but when we are sitting together as an organism, as a Sangha body, a Dharma talk is quite different. Therefore, sitting together, sitting with Thay and enjoying the Dharma rain is a celebration. We should not suffer during the Dharma talk. Walking together, going up the hill, climbing the hill together as a Sangha, is a celebration. We celebrate life with every step we make. Enjoy! Happiness can be generated every moment. It is not hard practice; it is not hard labor. The practice is for here and for now, and not for the future. Therefore, walking meditation, joining the Sangha in order to work, it is a real celebration, and it should generate a lot of joy, nourishment and healing. Everyone is invited to join and walk, walk as a Sangha and not individuals, and the collective energy is wonderful.
When we have breakfast, that is a celebration, that is a Dharma celebration also. Eat your breakfast in such a way that the Pure Land, the kingdom of God, is present in the here and the now; that is what you can do. The twenty-one-day retreat is a wonderful opportunity for us to live in the Pure Land, in the kingdom of God, to profit from the energy of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. We are now on our second week of the retreat. I would like to urge, to suggest, that our brothers and sisters in the retreat make the most of the retreat, and enjoy every moment we are together as a Sangha. Whether you are sitting, whether you are walking, whether you are having your breakfast, be aware that this is a celebration of life and enjoy every moment of our retreat.
Shall we proceed with our sutra on the Discourse on the Absolute Truth?
Holding unto one's view and considering all other views as inferior, this attitude is considered by the wise as bondage, as the absence of freedom. A good practitioner never hastily believes in what is seen, heard and sensed, including rules and rites. "A good practitioner:" that is translated from the word bhiksu, or monk so that every one feels that he or she is the practitioner. The Pali original is bhikkhu monk, so I translated as "a good practitioner" never hastily believes in what is seen, heard and sensed, including rules and rites.
There are three things we remember: what we see, we hear. It may be a teaching, a doctrine, a dogma, a theory, an ideology. That is the first thing. We should be very careful not to get caught. It says indirectly that Thay's Dharma talk, you should not be caught by it. You have to make use of Thay's Dharma talk in an intelligent way, not to be caught, not to be a slave of that Dharma talk. The Dharma talk is a kind of device that can help you to allow the seed of wisdom and awakening in you to manifest, and not to take the Dharma talk as notions and ideas in order to make heavier your luggage of knowledge. That is the idea of the Buddha.
The second element is rules. Rules, like the Ten Commandments, the Five Mindfulness Trainings, the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, like eating in silence. And many people look on rules as elements of salvation. If you just abide by the rules, then you will be saved. Meanwhile, you suffer because of the rules. You suffer because you try to observe and to live up to the Five Mindfulness Trainings, and you feel you are not free because as a Buddhist you have to practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings. You have to practice. You have to sacrifice your happiness. If you have that feeling, you are caught.
And the third is rituals. Whether it is the practice of Beginning Anew, Touching the Earth, the Eucharist, or Sabbath, the kosher meal, if you are caught, it will become an obstacle. All these should be devices that have been created in order to help you to bring life into yourself and into the world, to make happiness and enlightenment possible, and not the opposite. This is very important as a teaching. What the Buddha would like to offer you is freedom, nothing less than freedom; freedom even from the Dharma, from the teaching, freedom from the Mindfulness Trainings and rules, and freedom from rituals. It comes out very clearly in the sutra.
Later on when we speak of impermanence, no self, Nirvana, all these things, you will be able to see that these are devices helping us to transform and heal. They are not notions and not ideas, not ideologies that you have to revere, and to fight for and to die for. If you have studied the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, if you have practiced the Five Mindfulness Trainings, you understand perfectly the teaching of the Buddha in this discourse, and this is the attitude of the Buddha vis-a-vis the spiritual and philosophical situation of his time. A good practitioner has no need to set up a new theory for the world. It is a good feeling that you have when you think that you have got the truth as a theory, and you would like to be a kind of missionary in order to go into the world and propagate that ideology, that theory. People take a lot of delight in doing so: to believe that you have the truth and that your duty in this world is to go around and propagate the truth. Using the knowledge we have picked up on the rules and rites is practicing, and many of us are caught in that. We do not work for our real emancipation, our real transformation. We just want to promote an idea, to promote a theory, and many Buddhists are like that. We take delight, we serve a self, and this self is called Buddhism. And the voice of the Buddha still rings very clear, that that is not what we should do. What we should do is to receive the Dharma in such a way that we can put it into practice in order to get the transformation and healing that we need before we can really help people.
He does not consider himself as superior, inferior, or equal to anyone. A good practitioner abandons the notion of self and the tendency to cling to views. The words are very clear; he is free and doesn't depend on anything, including knowledge. Many of us are very proud of what we know. We have accumulated so much knowledge during our lifetime, and that is why we are not really free. He does not take sides in controversies and does not hold on to any view or dogma. In a conflict, you do not take sides because you are free, you are capable of accepting both. And having compassion towards both, you can embrace both, because both sides are suffering. Whether it is a military conflict or an ideological conflict, both sides suffer. If you are a free person, you are in a situation to help both; you don't take sides and you can practice reconciliation.
The teaching is rich, although the sutra sounds very simple. A good practitioner abandons the notion of self: this is at the heart of the Buddhist practice. You know, many of us, many people, operate on the ground of self, and that is why we make ourselves suffer and we make others suffer. If we look deeply into the nature of reality, we see that there is no self, and we can operate on the ground of no self. Then we avoid making mistakes and creating suffering for ourselves and for other people. If I like to talk about the life of these social insects, it is because when we look at them we see that they behave like an organism, they do not operate on self because they know that they are doing things, they are there for the Sangha body. That is why Hiller has used the word super organism.
People have found anthills to be very big. Communities of ants sometimes are very big. They have spotted one anthill that has twenty two million ants living together, more than New York City, and they operate in harmony. There must be some intelligence, some wisdom in their cells--the wisdom transmitted by many generations of ants, so that they can behave like that in a very natural way. And because there is a direct feeling that they are the hill, they are the community, they are the Sangha, that is why everything is going on smoothly, not operating on self. When they come together, they operate with intelligence. And you and I see the mass of ants think, create, act and react with intelligence, and we should look at it as an organism.
In the Buddhist tradition, organizing the Sangha, we want to look at the Sangha as an organism also. The Sangha is the real thing, the real organism, and each of us practices in such a way in order to become a cell of that body. You have observed the monks and the nuns in Plum Village and other lay friends, and you may have the impression that they are bees. They try their best to operate as cells of the same body, the Sangha body. They are not perfect. They are far from being perfect, I know, but there is an intention, there is a willingness to do so. And what makes us different from the bees or from the termites is that besides trying to be harmonious with each other, we try to be mindful in every moment of our daily life. Mindfulness is the main energy that animates our Sangha life, and if mindfulness is there, the Buddha is there and the Dharma is there. The Sangha always contains the Buddha and the Dharma within herself if the Sangha really lives in mindfulness. The anthill, the bee hive can be described as harmonious, but cannot be described as mindful. In a Sangha, harmony is born from mindfulness, and that is why instead of using the term “super organism,” you may like to use the word “mindful organism.” Sangha body defined as mindful organism. And if we are motivated by the desire to set up a mindful organism, that is the best thing that you can offer to the world because the world needs refuge.
I already talked to you about the wisdom of non discrimination Nirvikalpavijnana, we can observe and realize that wisdom in every cell in our body. Cells in our body do not operate on discrimination. Let us, for instance, observe the blood cells, the red blood cells, ¨les globules rouges.” They are very active in us: their role is to bring to all the cells in the body oxygen and other substances of nutrition. They are always moving together to do the same thing. From the heart, they go out to the cells, and they go back to the heart after having gone through the lungs. They have to go through the lungs in order to renew their oxygen. The moment when the heart pumps, they start the trip, and they are of a bright red color because they have just got filled with oxygen. They have come back from the lungs. It means they stay in the lungs very briefly, just one or two seconds, they get the oxygen, and that is why they become very bright red and they are ready to go. After having released the oxygen to the cells, because the cells need oxygen for combustion (because life is a process of combustion), they lose their bright red color; they become dark. They go back to the lungs and after having received the amount of oxygen they need, they become bright red again. They go back to the heart, ready to start another round trip. The round trip of blood cells is just about forty, forty five seconds. Every forty five seconds they complete one round trip. They operate on the ground of no self.
When you observe my right hand, my right hand has the wisdom of non discrimination. My right hand operates also on the ground of no self, no discrimination. That is why there is no complex of superiority, or inferiority, or equality. You are surprised to see that the surprise of being equal is a bad complex. It is a complex; therefore it is bad. Because, the wisdom of non discrimination is the wisdom that allows you to see that you belong to the same body, to the same Sangha, to the same reality. You see, he is you and "you" is him. Therefore, there is no need to compare. When you say that I am as good as he is, you operate on the notion of self; and therefore the complex of equality is also a disease, a sickness. You just rejoice, whether your big sister or your younger sister is beautiful. Operating wonderfully as a practitioner, you rush to rejoice; you don't have jealousy, you don't compare. Everything she achieves, you achieve; everything you achieve, she achieves. And that is the spirit of non discrimination.
Self is defined as a permanent entity, never changing. There is a definition of self that Thay learned from the time he was a novice… I would like to share it with you: self is something that remains the same forever; self has the function to be the boss, to be oneself. 常一之体 thường nhất chi thể, 体 thể means permanent and 一 nhất means one. You remain always identical to yourself. One. Nothing can penetrate into you, nothing is taken out of you, you remain absolutely the same one and you are permanent, you last forever, you don't change. 有主宰之用 hữu chủ thể chi dụng You have the function, of being the chief, the boss, the king, and you have absolute power over yourself. If you don't want to get old, you don't get old. If you don't want to die, you don't die. If you want to be happy, you are happy. You have that power. That is an ancient definition of self that Thay learned when he was a novice. But when we observe ourselves, we observe our five skandhas, namely elements. We don't see anything like that, whether when they come together, or when they are seen as separate elements.
The five skandhas. Let us visualize an orange with five sections. The first section represents the form, namely our body; the second section represents feelings; the third perceptions; the fourth mental formations; the fifth consciousness. You are advised to observe these five rivers that flow in us day and night. There is a river of form that flows in us, and every cell is a drop of water. They operate in harmony, and if you look deeply you see that birth and death happen every moment in our body, in our form. There is nothing permanent in it. There is no boss conducting; it is like an orchestra coming together like that, without any conductor. Neurologists of our time, when they study the brain, the way cells operate, they see it like that, the neurons. There are a lot of neurons in our brain, and no neuron plays the role of the boss. There are moments when every part of the brain comes together and produces a moment of thought, of consciousness, of awareness. And the neurons are linked to each other in such a way that we could not imagine. Suppose you imagine the population of New York City: one New Yorker has a string that connects him/her with all other New Yorkers (at least they should have twelve million strings in order to get connected to all other New Yorkers). When every New Yorker is like that, having connections to all other New Yorkers, you see the web of connections and they communicate with each other permanently. And little portions are sent to other neurons with the speed of 400 kilometers an hour, and it is in a vein a few seconds later. So communication is permanent between the neurons, and looking deeply you don't see any conductor; it is like an orchestra coming together, it is wonderful, but there is no chief of the orchestra. And the body is the same. Science of our time has found the reality of no self.
Unfortunately, scientists are not capable of applying this to their daily life, to their personal life. It is the Dharma that can help them to live up to their insight of no self. It would be very wonderful to have a retreat just for scientists, because they do have that insight of no self but they don't know how to apply it to their personal daily life. And if scientists can experience the happiness of that insight, then they can be very helpful to all of us, because we have the tendency to believe in science, to trust science. When we practice looking into the river of form, we see that birth and death happen continuously every moment, that there is no chief of orchestra, and we can witness already to the reality of no self. When you practice mindful breathing and observing, you are nourishing yourselves with an element of mindful awareness. And you help with the capacity of being mindful if mindfulness is there in every cell of our body. Buddhahood is there in every cell of our body. Greed, anger and despair are also in every cell of our body, in the form of a seed.
The other river is the river of feelings, flowing day and night. You have many kinds of feelings: pleasant, unpleasant, mixed feelings and neither pleasant... neutral feelings. In the Buddhist literature they speak of two kinds of feelings, three kinds of feelings, four, five kinds, but I prefer four: pleasant feelings, unpleasant feelings, neutral feelings and mixed feelings, because there can be a mixed feeling like in acupressure. When they push hard on you you feel wonderful, but if it hurts…… (laughter). Every feeling is drop of water and meditating on the feelings is to be aware of the rise and fall of every feeling. Every feeling is born, and stays for sometime, and then dies down. They don't really die, they just hide themselves. They just come back to the state of being a seed in order to be reborn again.
Observing the feeling and not being carried away by the feeling is very important. To be aware that a feeling is only a feeling helps us to retain our feeling. We are not drowned in the ocean of feelings. In the sitting position you practice freedom so that you can observe feelings with calm and you do not identify yourself with one of the feelings because you are much more than that feeling. If you have the feeling of despair, of fear, please breathe in and out and recognize that feeling: breathing in, I recognize there is a feeling in me; breathing in, there is a strong emotion in me; breathing out, I know this is only an emotion.
Emotion is a very strong feeling, and many people do not know how to handle their feelings, their emotions. And they suffer so much that they are tempted to commit suicide, because they believe that to die is the only way to end the suffering. Meditators are those who know how to handle feelings and emotions. When the energy of the emotion emerges, they know right away what to do in order to take care. They don't have to fight the emotion or the feeling; they just invite the energy of mindfulness to come and take care of the feelings, because they know that mindfulness is the Buddha in the form of energy. Mindfulness carries concentration and insight, having the power to relieve, to comfort, to understand, to liberate. The Buddha is within every cell, and that is why when the energy of suffering arises, we should know how to invite the energy of the Buddha to come and take care. Breathing in, I know the feeling of despair is in me; breathing out, I know this is only one feeling and I am much more than one feeling. It is very important. And every feeling is born, stays for sometime and will go away. Why does someone have to die because of one feeling?
Each one has to succeed in this practice. It is very important. We have to survive our emotion, our feelings; we have to go through the storm. We should be equipped with the practice. We should master the art of mindful breathing, mindful sitting, mindful walking, so that we can encounter our strong emotions with ease. We don't fight. We are capable of embracing, recognizing and smiling to them. This is possible. Many generations of practitioners have been able to do so, and we should be able to do so ourselves. Whether in the sitting position, or walking position, or lying position, we should be able to handle our emotions. We cultivate our capacity of mindful breathing, mindful smiling and mindful embracing of our emotions and our feelings. If you succeed, then you can help many people, especially the young people. Too many young people kill themselves because they don't know how to handle their emotions. The rate of suicide of young people in our time is very high, and you should be able to help them. They are around you all the time, tempted to kill themselves every time they feel they cannot handle their emotions. So every moment that is given to us to live, we can use it in order to practice cultivating the energy of mindfulness, the capacity of being in the here and the now, the capacity of recognizing, embracing and smiling to whatever happens to us. And within the Sangha it is very easy, because everyone is supporting you to do so. Allow the Sangha to embrace your despair.
You have pain in your heart, you have suffering and ill being in your heart. You come and sit close to the Buddha, and after some time sitting with the Buddha in silence, you may say, "Dear Buddha, I suffer." That is what you should say. Tell him, "Dear Buddha, I suffer." Because the Buddha may not be another person not having anything to do with you. The Buddha may just be in yourself and talking to the Buddha is very important. Everyone has the Buddha within and the Buddha is in every cell in your body. "Dear Buddha, I suffer" and if you are attentive, you will hear him saying, "I know. Show me your suffering so that I can see and embrace it." And you show him your suffering, your despair, your anguish, and he will embrace it. You don't rely on you alone to embrace your suffering; you rely on the Buddha to embrace, and the Buddha is there in every member of your Sangha. You have to behave like that with the Sangha: "Dear Sangha, I suffer." You have to be able to communicate like that, and your Sangha will communicate with the same amount of compassion: "Dear brother, show us your pain; allow us to embrace your pain." It is very comforting, very healing when you have the Buddha to rely on, when you have the Sangha, because they are gems. They are jewels, the Three Jewels.
With this practice, you realize that you are much stronger than you had thought. When you observe a tree blown in a storm, and you focus your attention on the top of the tree, you have a feeling that the tree is going to be blown away. The wind makes the little branches and leaves swing back and forth like that with violence, and you are afraid that the tree will be broken, blown away. But if you direct your attention to the foot of the tree, and if you are aware that the tree is deeply rooted in the soil, you have another feeling. You know that the tree is going to stay. Each of us is like a tree. If we stay on the level of our brain or our heart, we may feel that we are vulnerable; we could break a bough at any moment, especially when the strong emotions come up like that. We feel that we cannot handle it and the Buddha advises us in these critical moments not to stay at that level of your tree, but go down to the trunk. And the tree is here, a little bit lower than the navel, a place called 丹田 Đan Điền. Focus your attention on this spot, and begin to breathe in and out, and invest one hundred percent of your attention on the rise and fall of your abdomen. Sit in a stable position because the stability of the body helps with the stability of the mind. Go down, enjoy breathing in and out with the awareness that this is only a storm among the many storms that can blow through my life. I have survived; this time also I can survive. The storm is something that comes, stays for some time and will have to go. Why do I have to die because of that? It may be helpful if you write down these words on a small sheet of paper and slide into your wallet. And when the storm comes, just think about it, and breathe and read, and you know what to do. That is a bell of mindfulness.
You can hear the voice of the Buddha, you can hear the voice of your teacher, just by reading that small piece of paper. And you know how to sit down, smile to your pain, your sorrow, your fear, your despair, your strong emotions. And after having succeeded, gone through the difficult moment, you have confidence in the Dharma, and you are no longer afraid. Next time it comes, you know what to do, how to do, and what not to do. And then you are in a position of helping the young people, because they don't know yet how to handle their pain and their emotion. My recommendation is that we shouldn't wait until the strong emotion comes in order to begin the practice, because naturally, you will forget the practice. You have to practice right now, when the storm is not yet there. And if you make it into a habit practicing something like two weeks, and continue, then when the emotions come, you suddenly remember to practice. It should be made into a tradition, a good habit.
We have the tendency to think of our strong emotions, our pain and our suffering, as only having negative effects on us. So we are tempted to run away from them, to consider them our enemies, and to discriminate against them. But with the practice of recognizing, embracing and looking deeply, we feel that our suffering, our fear, our despair, they do have their contributions to make, and they have the power to give us the capacity of being immune to suffering. Immunization is what they can provide, so we have to know how to make good use of our suffering. Scientists of our time have tried to look already deeply into our genes and we are very tempted to remove the bad gene, we are tempted to create a new “super baby.” We want to remove all genes that are not being wanted, to retain and pick up only the good genes, in order to mold ourselves into a perfect human being, a human body. It is the greatest temptation of our time. And I need our friends who are biologists to come together and give us an update of the situation. The Sangha needs your help. The scientists as well as doctors, healers, have also looked deeply into the nature of our cells, the so-called negative genes. They have found out that these negative genes, although they are in a situation that they can give us sickness, do have the power of helping us to be immune to the same kind of disease.
To throw them away may not be a wise thing to do. Genetic manipulation… you have to be very careful. It is suffering that can make us into strong humans, capable of loving, of understanding. And suffering in the light of the Four Noble Truths is a Noble Truth. People who don't understand will ask, "what is so holy, what is so noble about suffering?" because sometime we call it the holy truth. What is holy in suffering, what is noble in suffering? The answer is direct. If you do not have real contact with suffering, you do not understand the making of the suffering, and then there is no way that you can see the path of transformation and healing. That is why suffering is a holy truth. Ill being is a noble and holy truth. Therefore we have to look as practitioners, look upon our suffering, our so-called negative energies, with that kind of eyes and with thanks. And many of us know that suffering makes us into good humans, and we should not be too afraid of it. We should not try to run away from it. We should, instead, cultivate ourselves in such a way that we are capable to welcome, to recognize, to embrace, to understand; and that is for our growth, our spiritual growth also.
Non fear is a gift. In the Buddhist tradition, it is the highest kind of gift that you can give yourself and you can offer to others. Material well being is the first kind of gift, dana. The Dharma to help you to understand, to transform, is the second kind of dana, of gift. It is more important than money, medicine and lodging. The Dharma is the second kind of gift, but the most precious gift of us is called non fear, abaya in Pali. Non fear cannot be possible without our deep understanding of reality, and the Bodhisattva Avalokita is renowned as someone who gives the gift of non fear. You are not afraid of anything, including birth and dying, ups and downs. You smile through everything because you know how to recognize the nature of impermanence, of no self, of interbeing. So you are not drowned any more in this kind of manifestation. Non fear is the ultimate gift, the ultimate realization. "Riding on the waves of birth and death and smiling:" that is a beautiful description of the person of the Bodhisattva. Riding on the waves of birth and death, with no fear, with a smile. Bodhisattvas engage themselves in order to help living beings, in the spirit of Mahayana Buddhism.
A good organic gardener would have the same kind of insight. He does not dislike the garbage because a garden always produces flowers and garbage. And she sees the nature of interbeing between garbage and flowers. Flowers cannot be without the compost made of garbage, and garbage is made of flowers and roots and so on. They are all organic and therefore a good organic gardener will preserve all the garbage, and she will know how to transform this back into compost for the nourishment of flowers and vegetables. There is no discrimination at all on her part concerning the garbage, and we should act in the same way, with the wisdom of non discrimination. There are feelings in us that are termed as negative: jealousy and anger, fear, despair, and so on…. There are so called positive elements within us: tolerance, compassion, enlightenment and so on, but looking deeply we see that all the mental formations, mental phenomena, are also of an organic nature. They are all organic. Love can be transformed into hate in just a few months, you know that? In the beginning you say, "Without him, how can I survive?" And now you hate him so much you say, "With him in my life, how can I survive?" So if you don't know how to handle, if you don't know how to nourish love, to take care of love, love will turn into hate very soon, very easily. So we should be the gardener, the good gardener in the garden of emotions and feelings. You do not discriminate against any emotion, any feelings, you know all of them are organic. You have a nice feeling and then you have to take good care of the feelings that are not so nice. “Dear, not-so-nice feelings, I know that you are there. I take good care of you. I embrace you and I make you into a very nice feeling.” And you know, hate, despair, can be turned back to hope and love, and that is the job of a meditator, because Buddhist meditation is based on the insight of non duality. To meditate does not mean to transform yourself into a battlefield, the good side fighting the evil side to death. That is very anti-Buddhist.
You have to be there and embrace the other, whenever suffering, despair, show themselves. You have to be there as mindfulness: "Dear anger, dear despair, I know you are there. I understand. I'll take good care of you, let me embrace you.” This is what we should do, and the relief can come right away. If you continue, transformation and healing is possible in a few days or a few weeks. When you have cells in your body that are not so healthy, you have to call on other cells to take care of them in exactly the same way. You have to do everything that you can do in order to allow the other cells that are still healthy to take care of the cells that are not healthy, that want to go astray and to cause cancer.
You have a grandfather who lived a long life, 110 years old; and your grandpa is in you. His cells are in you, and when you direct some of the cells in you which are tempted to go astray and become cancerous, call on your grandpa to help: "Grandpa, please help, I know you are there!" And that is one of the ways for you to take care of the cells who are not healthy, because in the past you have not lived so mindfully. That is why it has made it possible that some of your cells want to go astray and to become cancerous. Now with mindfulness, you don't allow that to happen anymore, you don't fight the good cells. To the cells who want to go astray, you say, "Just be there, we know that you are there, we will try our best to embrace you." That is the way we do: not fighting, not trying to take them out as an enemy. As far as the body is concerned, we do exactly what we do with our mental formations, our consciousness; because in our consciousness, there are cells that are pleasant to be with, cells that cause us suffering. There is a cell that is not pleasant like anger, like fear, that you have to invite all the healthy cells like understanding, compassion, attention, to come up and to take care.
The practice is the same with the consciousness and with the body. Call on the healthy cells in you to come and help and embrace. I hope that doctors, healers, and therapists know this principle. You have to look into the person of the patient to recognize that in him or her there are good elements, good cells, transmitted by their ancestors, their parents, their teachers. Make good use of them in order to help heal the patient, and don’t just bring things from the outside to put into his or her body or consciousness. Your body has the power of self healing. The same thing is true with your consciousness. The natural power of healing is there if only you know how to allow it to operate. It is we who prevent our bodies from healing due to our way of living. We have lost our power, our capacity of resting, of renewing our body and our cells. We know that when an animal in the forest gets hurt, she knows how to look for a quiet place and lie down. She does not think of eating, of running after prey. She knows, because the wisdom is there: "Just lie down; allow yourself to rest.” The animal doesn’t need any doctor, any nurse, she just lies down like that, not eating, not doing anything, and the power of healing in her body begins to work. A few days later the animal gets up and is able to run and to look for something to eat again.
We humans, we have that kind of wisdom. We had it, now we are too civilized and rely more on the things outside of us. We don't believe any more in our capacity of self healing as far as the body is concerned, as far as consciousness is concerned. Remember? That day you thought you could not survive with that kind of bad news; how can you survive with that kind of bad news? You have lost someone who is so dear to you, and the grief that you have in your heart tells you that it is impossible to go on living. Life could not be possible without him or her around. That is how you think, how you thought. But a few months later, one year later, you feel that it is possible to survive. So your consciousness has the power of self healing if you just allow her to do so. Your body also: if you have a cut, you are confident that your body can mend the cut very easily. You just clean the wound; that is about everything you should do. You have to trust the body. Maybe a few hours later, it is mended. Maybe it takes one day or two. So the power of self healing is there. Call on it, call on it to help. Call on your grandpa to help. Call on your grandma to help. Because the healthy cells of your grandpa are still alive in you, capable of healing the other cells. And you know your promise that you will lead your daily life in such a way that it will not bring that situation to you any more. A healthy life, the help of the practice of mindfulness, concretely made possible in the Five Mindfulness Trainings.
The third river flowing day and night in us is the river of perceptions. You have ideas about what you see. You have notions of what you see, you hear, you touch. And you think. And very often, we have wrong notions of what we see, what we hear, and that brings a lot of suffering to us. Most of our perceptions are wrong, most of our ideas are wrong, and scientists help very much for us to recognize that. Science can be very helpful. If you don't know how to apply science, it may be very dangerous. But it is possible to make use of scientific discoveries in order to better understand ourselves and the world. We live in a web of illusion, and we act on the ground of delusion. That is why we suffer so much, and we make other people suffer so much. That is why we need the Buddha eyes. The Buddha eyes are in us. We have to restore them, to cleanse them, and to begin to use them. And if we know how to use our Buddha eyes, our perception will lose its wrongness. And we begin to understand reality as self, like the Buddha, in yourself.
When we contemplate a star, we have the feeling that we actually see the star as a reality that is there. But maybe the star is no longer there. It has vanished one thousand years ago, and yet the image of star is reaching us, and that is what scientists tell us. When we look at the beautiful sunrise in the morning, we have the impression that the beautiful sun in the horizon is the sun of the present moment, but all of us know that the image of the sun striking our eyes is only the sun of eight minutes ago. That is the image of the sun eight minutes ago, and science can help us to verify what the Buddha said if we know how to handle it carefully.
The other person--we have a lot of wrong perceptions concerning him or her. We don't understand him or her enough. And how can we understand him or her when we do not understand ourselves, who we are? We have the illusion that we have understood ourselves, but we do not understand ourselves. We have not taken a deep look into the nature of the five skandhas: namely, form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. We are still very ignorant about ourselves, our body, our feelings, and we pretend to understand the other person. You don’t understand yourselves and the practice of coming back to oneself, body and mind united. Becoming mindful and beginning to look deeply gives rise to understanding, insight; and that is why the five elements, the five skandhas are the objects of your inquiry, your understanding; and science can help to some extent if you know how to handle it with skill.
When you are in love with someone, you really want to keep that love alive, because you think that love is so precious to you and to him. You know that love can turn to hate because it is an organic phenomenon, so we have to practice looking deeply into the nature of your love. You have to be very careful because you know that love is possible only with understanding. If you don't understand him or her enough, your love is not true love. Therefore inquire about her: "Darling, do you think I understand you enough? I confess that I am still ignorant. Darling, help me to understand you more. Please tell me of your suffering, your difficulties, your hope, your fear. I am in the process of learning to understand, because I know that if I don't understand you, I will make you suffer. I cannot love you and make you happy." This is the attitude of a good practitioner of meditation, and you have to ask you that same question: "Dear me, do you think I understand you enough? Do you think I understand you as form, as feelings?" And you know that you should be very humble. The Buddha is someone who has got to a high level of understanding of self and therefore he can understand others. And in the West, we have that same tradition "connais-toi toi-même tout d'abord" You have to know yourself: "Know thyself."Iit is very good advice. We will continue tomorrow.
- 25/10/2009 06:59 - Eye of the Buddha Retreat - Discourse on the Absolute Truth (1)
- 22/09/2009 10:15 - Eye of the Buddha Retreat - Enjoying your Enjoyment Body, Five of the Six Eyes
- 16/09/2009 03:41 - Eye of the Buddha Retreat - Non-discriminative Wisdom. The bodies of the Buddha
- 10/09/2009 00:00 - Eye of the Buddha Retreat - Practicing as Sangha & the Six Harmonies
- 02/09/2009 15:18 - Eye of the Buddha Retreat - Taking Refuge in the Sangha as a Practice
Last Updated (Tuesday, 03 November 2009 19:32)