Buddhist Ethics / Talk 5: Letting go of rigid beliefs

Thay’s 2008-9 teaching on Ethics – Talk 5 – Rains Retreat 2023

Dear friends,

Today's talk in Vietnamese with English subtitles is part of Thay's 2008-09 teachings on ethics. It explores the insight of inter-being contained in the Mindfulness Trainings, and how to ensure they remain appropriate for the situation of our world.

We will continue to share related videos and excerpts throughout the coming months.

Breaking free from old knowledge to search for new knowledge

The view of Buddhism must also move forward. Why? If love is something limitless, then understanding and wisdom should also be something limitless. We cannot say that our understanding ends here. The view that we have been using as the foundation for ethics may be outdated.

The most important instrument is our mind.

When the mind is tainted with the afflictions of craving, anger and ignorance, it cannot realize deep insights. So if we know how to purify our mind, how to remove the dust of craving, anger, and ignorance, our mind becomes clear and bright. With that clarity, we can see more clearly.

In Buddhism it is said that the one is the all. Looking deeply into the one, we can see the all. And the all is inherent in the one. If we take away the all, the one no longer exists. When we can see the nature of inter-being – this is that, this embraces that – then we begin to understand.

Looking deeply into one flower, we can see that it contains everything: the cloud, the sun, the earth, even human consciousness. There is nothing in the universe that is not contained in this flower.

Once we see that the other person is us, we cannot possibly kill them.

Because killing that person means killing ourselves. It’s the same if we talk about man and the environment. And if we have wrong view (Tà Kiến, 邪見), we would say man is one thing and the environment is another thing. That is not a right view.

Without right view, ethics is not possible.

The Precepts (Mindfulness Trainings) are as vast as the ocean

In the beginning, we may think – what is the big deal about precepts? What’s so complicated about them that they need to be considered as vast as the ocean without boundaries, without limits?

The precepts are very deep. They contain concentration and insight. And insight is a treasure chest of understanding and love. Like precious treasures we never grow tired in their pursuit. The more we study them, the more we see how wonderful they are.

Renewing the Mindfulness Trainings

On the one hand, the Mindfulness Trainings must be in-line with the teachings (khế lý, 契理). And on the other hand, they should be appropriate to the situation of the world. In-line with the teachings and appropriate to our times (khế cơ 契機). That is called appropriateness. 

In 20 or 30 years, the situation in the world will change and it will require us to sit down again and revise the trainings again.

Thay ends the talk with the insight that
someone who practices the precepts will always be protected.

Excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh’s 2008 December 14 teaching –
Loving Kindness Temple, Plum Village France

Resources on The 5 Mindfulness Trainings

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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