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Dharma Talks / Compassionate Healthy Living and Generosity

Sr Từ Nghiêm

Everyone is capable of being mindful. Mindfulness helps us to live in the present moment and be truly present for life. The mindfulness trainings when practiced help us to be truly present.

Sr Tu Nghiem covers the 5th and 13th Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing. They are ‘Compassionate Healthy Living’ and ‘Generosity’ respectively.

The 5th Mindfulness training, Compassionate Healthy Living, leads us to examine our lifestyle and look what we are doing to nourish our daily life. Everything whether it be our happiness or suffering, needs food to survive. Looking deeply into the Four Nutriments (edible foods, sense impressions, volition and consciousness) enables us to identify the roots of our suffering and find ways to nourish our happiness. Turning vegan, reducing greenhouse emissions and saving water and electricity are ways to be healthy, reduce the suffering of other beings and protect the environment. Protecting our sense doors and examining our deepest wishes (volition) also help us to deepen our happiness and not repeat patterns of suffering in our lives. Finally our own thoughts and the collective consciousness in our surrounding environment also water our seeds of happiness or suffering in ourselves.

The 13th Mindfulness Training, Generosity, is also a lifestyle choice, it goes beyond offering money and material resources and is reflected by our way of thinking and our actions. We need to give to ourselves as well. Generosity can take the form of non-stealing (not having fear that we will not get what we need), gratitude, conscious consumerism, supporting humanitarian programs, and offering our presence and time for others.

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https://amara.org/v/mPer/

(Bell) (Bell) (Bell) (Bell) Dear respected Thay, dear brothers and sisters, dear friends, dear sangha, today is Sunday, the 4th of November in the year 2018, and we are in the Still Water meditation hall of the Upper Hamlet, during our three months Rain Retreat. This morning we shall offer the 8th Dharma talk of the retreat. Each Sunday we have been looking into the 14 mindfulness trainings of the Order of Interbeing, or the Tiếp Hiện order, as Thay named it in 1966, during the War in Vietnam. He formulated these trainings to meet the needs of so many people, the young and the older ones, who were searching for ways to understand and act with compassion during those desperate, challenging years. We know that even today, 52 years after the 14 mindfulness trainings, or the Tiếp Hiện precepts, were introduced and practiced, they still have enormous relevance for us in the world events we are witnessing and experiencing. Because they help us understand deeply and give us concrete practices to do in daily life. The essence of the practice of these trainings that we'd like to offer is to recognize what is happening in us and around us, and to know what is there. In the many retreats that Thay has led in countries around the world, for more than 60 years, he presented the practices of mindfulness as something all of us can do. Because we all have this capacity, this seed of mindfulness in our mind, in the depths of our consciousness. But how can we become aware of this energy of mindfulness, this capacity in us? We'd like to offer that we can become aware with the two simple practices of mindful breathing and mindful walking. We bring our mind back to our body with our breath and our footsteps. And we can live in the present moment. It is very interesting that one word in Vietnamese, one word for 'mind', is the word 'tâm'. And this word also means 'heart'. So that we can say that both our mind and our heart are unified with our practice in the present moment and with our mindfulness practices. When our heart and mind are established with mindfulness, we are truly present for sitting and walking meditation, for reciting the sutras, and for life. Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. There is no doubt in my mind. I am absolutely sure of my breathing in and breathing out, because I experience it. By experiencing something, I know it is true. In the world we are living in, we cannot always be certain of what will happen in the next moment. But while breathing in and breathing out, I am certain. I am certain I am breathing. This certainty lasts only for the length of my in-breath and out-breath. However, it can bring peace and stability. I am truly present for my breathing in and breathing out. Likewise, when I make a step, I place my foot on the earth and I experience the footstep. I am sure that I am making a footstep. There is no doubt, because my mind is concentrating on the experience of walking. I experience every step that I make. My heart and mind are established in mindfulness, and I am truly present for myself and for life in me and around me. I know that peace and happiness are possible by being truly present. With each step I arrive, I arrive in the here and now and in the present moment. Each step is a step of freedom, of peace, of joy, of happiness. When I am established in mindfulness, sitting meditation is an opportunity to come back to myself, to experience my in-breath and my out-breath, and the calm and the peace that are available with our simple breathing in and breathing out. I can create peace in myself and offer peace to those around me and the world. No matter what we have experienced in the past, the present moment gives us the chance to renew our life, to be happy, to be peaceful and to be joyful. So let us live deeply in the present moment. Let us establish ourself in the present moment. When our heart is established in the present moment, we have a second chance, a third chance a fourth chance, to be happy. We only have to let go of the past, especially if the past has brought suffering. Letting go is a source of happiness and joy. We can just let go. And then, later on we'll be able to calm our mind and look deeply to discover the causes of suffering, the roots, what has contributed to our suffering. So let us have a moment of letting go, let us just be able to listen to the sound of the bell. I listen, I listen, this wonderful sound brings me back to my true home. I come back to myself. And as we are listening to the sound of the bell, we'll enjoy our breathing. (Bell) (Bell) So, what helps us to be present for life, and to live life beautifully and offer peace to the world, are the practices of the mindfulness trainings. We have the 5 mindfulness trainings, that were revised in the year 2009, and we also have the 14 mindfulness trainings. There are additional trainings for the monastics, the 10 Novice Precepts, mindfulness trainings, the 6 shikshamana for the nuns, and then, the full ordination for bhikkus, which are 250 precepts and for fully ordained bhikkshunis, 348. But today we will look into the 5th and the 13th mindfulness trainings of the Order of Interbeing, the Tiếp Hiện order. The 5th mindfulness training is: Compassionate, Healthy Living. We'll read the fifth mindfulness training. Compassionate, Healthy Living. Aware that true happiness is rooted in peace, solidity, freedom and compassion, we are determined not to accumulate wealth while millions are hungry and dying, nor to take as the aim of our life fame, power, wealth, or sensual pleasure, which can bring much suffering and despair. We will practice looking deeply into how we nourish our body and mind with edible foods, sense impressions, volition and consciousness. We are committed not to gamble or to use alcohol, drugs or any other products which bring toxins into our own and the collective body and consciousness such as certain websites, electronic games, music, TV programs, films, magazines, books and conversations. We will consume in a way that preserves compassion, well-being and joy, in our bodies and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of our families, our society, and the Earth. This training speaks to me of a lifestyle. Creating a happy lifestyle of healthy living, and learning how to take care of our body and mind, and cultivating understanding and compassion for all living beings, and other people on this planet who don't share the same favorable conditions that we have. Because there is poverty and hunger on this planet, and people are dying from these conditions. Excuse me. We want to live simply and create a lifestyle of peace, solidity and freedom that is also compassionate. To live this way, we will not chase after fame, power, wealth or sensual pleasure, but instead, cultivate our compassion and awareness of our connectedness with all of life. This is interbeing. We inter-are. Other people influence us and we are influenced by others, not only people, but all of life, animals, plants and minerals. The lifestyle that Thay created for us at Plum Village involves balancing four aspects of our daily life: mindfulness practices, study, service to the community, and play. I've added relaxation. Maybe that is a way of playing also. We have one day devoted to relaxation, which is Lazy Day. And that is tomorrow for all of us. By living with this balance, we have more inner peace and freedom. Freedom from stress and worry. Following the daily schedule here gives us solidity. We have heard from one of our brothers that the schedule is like our spinal column, the back bone providing stability to the community. Stability to our lives. And yet, at the same time, the schedule is flexible. Changes happen. And even with changes, everything is held together. So we ask, how can we nourish this lifestyle for ourself and others? One way is by practicing to look deeply into how we nourish our body and mind. And, what are the elements that will give us a healthy lifestyle? The Buddha said everything needs food to survive. Nothing can survive without nourishment, without food. Our happiness needs to be nourished by positive thinking. As one example, when we think negative thoughts of judging and blaming, we are in the process of nourishing our suffering. And when we speak using words of judgment, and blaming, and anger, we speak to others in that way, we nourish their suffering. When we say kind things, how we appreciate others, how we love them, when we thank people, we are nourishing their happiness. All we know a very wonderful practice that Thay has given all of us, it's the practice of Beginning Anew. mindful communications. When we learn how to use language in a way that waters the very best seeds in our consciousness and, at the same time, the consciousness of other people. So the Buddha understood very deeply the truth that everything needs nutriments and he described four nutriments. These four nutriments are: edible food, sensory impressions, volition, and consciousness. Depending on what is consumed, what food, what sensory impressions, that means what we receive through our eyes, our ears, our nose, our tongue, our body and our thoughts depending of the nature of what is received or consumed, there will be suffering, or happiness. But the examples the Buddha gave were clearly to help us understand more what causes suffering. And it was connected to the Second Noble Truth, trying to find the roots of suffering by looking at our consumption. So we consume by eating edible food, with sensory impressions. The third nutriment is volition. And that is our deepest wish, our motivation. Then, the fourth food is our consciousness. It's both the individual and collective consciousness of society and the world. So, the first edible food, in this morning I will offer sources of suffering in terms of the four nutriments. And I will also offer ways we can nourish happiness with the four nutriments. Edible food. We want to have compassion for our body, and for what we eat. Every living being wants to live and suffers if they are killed. Animals suffer enormously in the slaughter houses hearing other animals before them being killed. They have fear and despair. The Buddha and his monastics went on a daily alms round begging for food. And that is how they sustained their life. They went from house to house to receive whatever the lay people had to offer for their nourishment and to give them energy to practice. It is said that the Buddha told his monks that, "If you suspect or even know that an animal has been killed by the householders, by that family just to feed you, please, do not accept that food. Do not eat it. Because we want to eat with compassion, and not be the cause of suffering to any animal or other living beings." So, for example, perhaps a housewife saw, "Oh! Maybe tomorrow the Buddha and the monastics will come to our house. They were in the neighboring village but perhaps today they will come, and I will have the honor, we will have the honor of offering a meal to the Buddha and his disciples, to receive merit." So maybe the wife thought: "Dear husband, can we kill three of our chickens to offer to the Buddha? Can we kill five chickens?" This may have been the thought. And the Buddha did not want that to happen. So we want to eat with compassion, and to eat so that while we eat, there has been the least amount of suffering. For example, we can reflect on a carrot. Perhaps a carrot suffers when it is pulled up from the earth to be prepared for our meal. Perhaps there is suffering. But when we compare the suffering of a plant, like a carrot, or the broccoli, or a potato, or... Asparagus, whatever. If we compare that with the suffering that a lamb, or a calf, or a cow experiences, we will choose to eat the food that has not suffered so much. In our daily recitation of the five contemplations before lunch, we hear the third contemplation, that says: We will keep our compassion alive, by eating in such a way, that reduces the suffering of living beings, preserves our planet, and stops contributing to climate change. In the year 2007, Thay requested that Plum Village and all of the Plum Village communities and monasteries changed from a vegetarian diet to a plant based vegan diet, based on the information, in that year, that the lay practitioners had given him. Twelve years ago, there wasn't as much information available. The information was just starting to be shared, things were beginning to be discovered about how animals are treated when they are raised for food for human beings. So based on what the lay friends had shared with Thay, Thay decided that it would be a more compassionate lifestyle for the animals and for us if we changed to a vegan diet. So all of our retreatants when they come to Plum Village, all of you, you have the opportunity to eat a vegan diet for one week or longer when you are with us, for your time with us. And we hope you enjoy it. It's wonderful cooking from our Vietnamese monastics and other monastics of the Asian countries. They offer the very finest recipes that they've learned in their home countries. We know that now there is a lot of information available on wholesome, healthy food, what to consume. At lot of research is being done on plant based diets, wholefood diets. Some people say that to eat more healthily we should reduce, limit or not eat any consumption of foods that have been processed, that have been manufactured, and are packaged. Because they can contain chemical additives to prolong their shelf life in stores, and may have too much salt, too much sugar and hydrogenated oils or trans fats that are not good for our health. But if you do this research, and truthfully I've only had the Web, the Internet, to look into this topics, I've discovered that some of the information is contradictory and confusing. So I share that with you, and then, we simply do our best. We know that if we follow a vegan diet, we need to supplement our diet with vitamin B12. And pay attention to getting all of the nine essential amino acids that are necessary for protein synthesis, for our muscles, for the neurotransmitters in the brain, and for a healthy immune system. A plant based diet will give us the amino acids, will give us enough, but perhaps not of all the nine essential, but we know we can get enough including beans, nuts, seeds, grains, and healthy oils, such as olive oil or flax seed oil, as well as avocados, vegetables and fruits. The plant based sources of amino acids that will give us the nine essential ones are, eating soy, tempeh, quinoa and () or pakchoi. But speaking of controversy, soy is somewhat controversial. Some people are not allowed to eat soy. But we have others - We know that by gradually shifting to a vegetarian or a more plant based diet, we can also contribute to preserving our planet, and help reduce the impact of global warming and climate change. There is information that with animal agriculture, which means raising animals so that they can be used as food, and this includes the "élevage", the raising cows and other farm animals, especially the cows, they discovered that the cows emit methane gas and carbon dioxide in their process of digesting the grass that they eat. And these gases are quite toxic to the environment, they increase the greenhouse gases. But they - But we know in practicing the third mindfulness training we don't force others to adopt our views. And it is a lifestyle for some people, cattlemen, the meat and dairy industry, it is a lifestyle. So we don't force others but we can make choices for ourselves. Here, at Plum Village we do the practices of recycling, we have one no-car day, we don't use the automobile and that reduces the carbon monoxide- carbon dioxide emissions. We conserve the resources of water by taking shorter showers. And one way to conserve water is we wet the body, turn off the water, soap, wash yourself, turn on the water and rinse. We used to do this in the Green Mountain Dharma Center, in Four Hartland - Four - Four Corners, in Hartland, Vermont. In this practice center were sister Chan Duc, True Virtue, was the abbess and this was already in the year 2003, when I was there. In the bathroom and the bathtub we had a very large container to hold the water. So, if we wanted to bathe, we would fill it up with hot water, and just like the kind of bathe that I just described, we wet, we soaped, and then we would rinse our body. And there was like a pitcher, and we would rinse ourselves in that way. This is very much like how they bathe in India. I remember during - bathing this way when we were in Vietnam, in some of the temples. And so, there are ways to conserve water not letting it run all the time during a long, long shower. Another way of taking a shower in the winter, I'll share with you. (Laughter) is every other day. (Laughter) Up to you. However, no. There is a third method, my friends. (Laughter) We learned this from one of our sisters who was a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine. She knew a lot. She had her own practice before ordaining. It's based on the meridians and everything that she understood. What she said was, to take a- To bathe in the winter with a shower, you first wet your body from the waist down. Okay? So with more warm that hot water you wet, turn off the water, soap, rinse. Okay? The next part of your body that you wet is from the neck to the waist. Okay? So, yes, the same. You wet, you soap, and you rinse but the other parts of the body are getting wet also, and that's fine. They've been wet and they're warm now. Because the hot water has flown over there, flowed over there. And the third part is that we wet our head. And we soap, and we rinse. So we really take the shower from the bottom up. A little bit opposite to gravity, but I do it. And I've discovered I don't have a chill. I do it that way. So, it's very interesting how we can conserve the natural resources. And I remember that there was a need to reduce the use of nuclear energy, so they produced the low wattage light bulbs now. And they've been available for many, many years. When these light bulbs were first produced, manufactured, I remember reading that the country of Australia, the Prime Minister decided that the whole country would change. Change and use the low wattage light bulbs. So, I was very impressed that the whole country did that. And now, we are using these light bulbs, and we are able to help the planet. Every effort helps, even if we do not see the immediate global results. What if we have a pause now. We can develop the habit of pausing, and bring the pause habit back to your daily life. And when we pause, we will simply stop and enjoy our breathing. We'll listen to a sound of the bell. (Bell) (Bell) So the second nutriment that the Buddha described is the food of sensory impressions. Just as suffering can be caused by eating without compassion, the Buddha said that suffering can be caused and will be caused if our six sense organs, our eyes, our ears, our nose, our tongue, our body, and our mind are in contact with objects that are harmful, such as seeing violent movies, hearing people fighting, arguing and yelling, smelling unpleasant odors from decaying material, tasting food that is absolutely too sour or not fresh anymore, or violence against our body with physical abuse. And then, with negative thinking, this thinking that we cannot stop for ourselves. So what we receive through our five sense organs will water or wake up or activate seeds that contain the experience and memories that normally lie sleeping in the depths of our consciousness. If what we receive is frightening, violent, and has craving, then, if we have had these experiences in the past, like these experiences that we are seeing now, the past experiences may manifest and come up again. And we will live those experiences from the past. So we have our practices of mindfulness to help us be in touch with what emotion is coming up, what thought, or what feelings. And we can take care of whatever is coming up from the past by stopping, by calming, by nourishing, our confidence that the past is no longer there. We are living now in the present moment, things are different, it is safe now. So we use our mindfulness, basic simple practices to calm our mind. And to help us come back to the present moment. The mindfulness training advises us to not go to certain websites, see films or read certain books or hear conversations that create suffering in us. We need protection. Just as our skin protects our body from harmful elements, we need our mindfulness energy to help us not water our seeds of suffering by being in contact with what is toxic. I'd like to share with you an experience that some of us, a small group of monastics had. Once we went to a country to share the practices, lead retreats and days of mindfulness with the local sangha. And we were coming back from one of the afternoon activities. To return to the place where we were staying during our time there, we had to use the metro, the subway system, the underground. And the brother who was very familiar with this city knew how to guide us to make the change to the next metro line that would take us back. So he knew exactly what hallways we had to go into, what stairs, he knew very well. And we were following him. At one point, he was ahead, at one point he turned around and he said to us, "Look straight ahead". We were in a hallway, a corridor, we hadn't entered there yet. "Look straight ahead", he said. Wow! We were so curious. (Laughter) What is it that we shouldn't look at? So we were so curious, we looked. (Laughter) To the right and the left. We looked to see what it was we shouldn't look at. So what we saw was advertising, yes. And, on both sides, on the right and the left, there were photographs of young women in their 20 wearing bikini bathing suits. And there was no space between the young women, they were just - You couldn't put your eyes between the bodies, they were just so close. No place. On both sides, right and left. And - So, our brother knew the practice very well of protecting the eyes, protecting the sense organs. After we saw what we shouldn't look at, we looked straight ahead. (Laughter) So it was in the month of May, and, of course, it's the time when people begin to think of going to the beach, and buying bathing suits, so, yes. Advertising. If we are living in cities, we can be aware of advertising, and to know whether to look, how long to look, or don't look. There is a wonderful verse that we read, to protect and transform we must always pay careful attention when sense organs touch sense objects. So habit energies can gradually be transformed. So, we may have habit energies related to our senses, in terms of taste, eating, drinking, or whatever habit energies that are formed when we use our sense organs, and when they have contact with sense objects. We have received habit energies from our parents, our ancestors, and from society. We know that our sense organs can also bring us happiness, so it's not just a matter of their bringing suffering, when we have contact, no, they can bring us happiness. There are five universal mental formations that are always present. And they are, contact, we have contact with our eyes with what we see. Contact, and then we may pay a little more attention to what is before us. Contact, attention. Feeling. If it is pleasant, maybe we'll feel a pleasant feeling. Perception is the next. We mat think, "Oh! This is very nice". Volition is the final. Volition will lead to action sometimes. Contact, attention, feeling, perception, volition. But we can always be aware of all five steps to stop it. My experience and my practice, when I'm weak, there is contact, volition, action. Contact, I see the chocolate. I take the chocolate. But if mindfulness is there, contact, I don't want sugar, I don't touch it. So, we can use our mindfulness, our mind consciousness, to help us. I'd like to share a very short event that was very pleasant. Using the ears. There is a story of a seeker who went to a Zen master, and said: "How can I enter the way?" The master said: "Do you hear the sound of the mountain stream?" - Yes, I hear the sound. The master said: "Enter there." That's beautiful, isn't it? The master said: "Be present. Establish your mindfulness. Go to the stream. Sit down. Listen to it with all of your attention. Listen to it with your heart. Listen to it with your heart and mind established in mindfulness, stop thinking of the past and the future. Just be present. Then, you have entered the way. The way of living deeply in the present moment with peace, solidity, and freedom." We know the master did not mean: "Go to the mountain stream, take off your sandals and step in the water." He didn't mean that. He meant enter in another way. So the third nutriment is volition. Volition can be described as our deepest wish, our aspiration, what motivates us to think, to speak and to act. It could be described as the aim of our life. If we want fame, power, wealth, or sensual pleasure, and we have so much ambition, then we will pursue these things at any cost, even if that means we have no time to be present with our family or loved ones, or to be present for ourself. Then, this kind of volition brings suffering. So we don't want to have to chase after earning more money, or having more material possessions. But sometimes we can't stop ourself. Volitions are sometimes connected with strong habit energies. So the habit energy compels us to do and repeat what causes suffering. So one way to change our volitions is to change our lifestyle. And to recognize the suffering that our lifestyle may be causing to our family and friends. So we look deeply to see what is preventing our freedom. Where we are caught, and what ideas keep us so attached to our achieving or obtaining this or that. And then, we need the help and the support of our family and friends, and sangha to help us remember we need to observe we're following the patterns of behavior that we want to change. We need a sangha, spiritual friends, who won't judge us or criticize us, but will lend their compassionate, mindful support as we practice to transform these habits. We know volition can have a very positive way of expressing itself. If we want to help others, to offer happiness and joy to others, and relieve their suffering, and if we have a deep aspiration to work for the healing of our planet, protect the lives of animals, we can do this by working in permaculture farms, happy farms, and these volitions will not create suffering. These are the deepest volitions of a bodhisattva, an awakened being. These expressions will help us take care of ourselves and also others. Ten days ago, there was an ordination of ten novices, seven monks and three nuns. They have the deep aspiration to be bodhisattvas, and they have chosen a lifestyle that will facilitate their realizing their aspiration. In their ceremony, they repeated the vow, "Shaving my hair completely, I make the great vow today to transform all my afflictions in order to bring happiness to all beings." Everyone who is here, everyone who has come to Plum Village or other centers, you have the volition to practice, to learn more about mindfulness, to transform your suffering, to bring happiness to all beings. So, it's not limited to any group of people. We all have this volition. The members of the Order of Interbeing also have this volition. And they are leading the practices in the world to help people with the practices of the 5 and the 14 mindfulness trainings. So, the truth is we're bodhisattvas. Let us enjoy our lifestyle. The fourth nutriment is described as consciousness. Our consciousness, our mind is influenced by the environment in which we live and work, as well as by the thoughts we think. So we should be very attentive to the environment in which we spent our time. Working environments and home environment, because it will water the seeds in the depths of our consciousness. If we are in an environment for the most part where people practice the 5 and the 14 mindfulness trainings, where there is respect and reverence for life, and people's property, and relational commitments, and with deep listening, loving speech, mindful consumption, then, our consciousness will be nourished. It will be healthy. It will be nourished by what is true, and beautiful, and suffering won't be produced. However, if we are in a collective environment that is full of hatred, violence, fear, discrimination and intolerance, this suffering will be - This environment will bring suffering to our consciousness. And this kind of environment will also bring suffering to our families, society and the Earth. So we want to transform the collective consciousness of this planet, and we can do it, we are doing it by nourishing our body and mind with our practices of the mindfulness trainings. Let's have a moment of nourishing peace and relaxation by listening to a sound of the bell. (Bell) (Bell) The next mindfulness training we will look at this morning is the 13th, called Generosity. "Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, we are committed to cultivating generosity in our way of thinking, speaking, and acting. We will practice loving kindness by working for the happiness of people, animals, plants, and minerals, and sharing our time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. We are determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. We will respect the property of others, but will try to prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other beings." In a sense, this mindfulness training is also a lifestyle. It invites us to cultivate the quality of generosity in ourselves, and to bring happiness to others. We can notice that we have this quality when we are willing to share our time, and energy, and material resources, to help others. But it does not require that we have money or material resources to give. Generosity is reflected in our way of thinking, speaking, and acting. I've noticed when I have gratitude in my heart, I am so thankful for all the conditions that are available for me to practice, to be in the sangha, to have the basic necessities, and even more, to live in a beautiful environment, to have the love and support of others, then, naturally generosity flows. It flows easily from our hearts. We've seen how beautifully our friends who come to practice with us are so generous in sharing their time and their energy. They have already given material support, they do it in so many ways. During our big retreats, we receive many- We receive volunteers who come to support us in the service, and the sharings, and the practice. In our hamlet, there are friends who are sharing their time now to share their skills with languages. So our sisters practice pronunciation in English and French. Yes, there are so many ways that generosity is being offered. We learned from one of our senior monks, I remember this was in one of his Dharma talks, that a man came to him and said that he wasn't able to give. He had a lot of difficulty giving, and he wanted help to be able to change and to be able to give. So the brother told him, and I hope I have the story right, but it sounded good to me, so I share it with you. So the brother told him, gave him an apple and said, "Okay, put the apple in your right hand. Now, give the apple to your left hand. Then, give the apple back to your right hand. And continue to do that. Keep giving yourself the apple. Letting the right hand give to the left hand and the left hand give to the right hand." And the retreatant said it was very effective. So we want to give ourself also what we need. Sometimes we need a little bit more time for ourself, a little bit more space, a little bit more rest, a little bit more of this or that. But it means we've taken the time to get in touch with what our needs are. And then when we know a little bit more what our needs are, we can ask others for their support or let people know how they can provide a little need and make a request. I also discovered when there is generosity in my heart and mind there is no thought of stealing. Some times we steal because we have fear. Fear that we won't have enough, we can't meet our needs or the needs of those we love, fears that others will get what we should have. So the stealing is perhaps based on fear and anxiety in the future. Or even in the present moment. Now, there are many more forms of stealing. In the past we thought of the big stealing as robbing a bank. But now there are others ways there, with the world of the Internet and electronic devices, there is the possibility of stealing electronically, pirating email accounts, viruses, hacking, all that sort of stuff. We can't see the person or the persons but our server will let us know, "Someone has just entered your account. You want to secure it?" "Yes." But we don't know enough, really. In our precepts we know that something is not stolen as long as it has been given to us. So we ask permission. May I borrow this? May I use it? If we can't find the person to ask permission to borrow or use something, then we leave a note. "I couldn't find you, so I borrowed your pen and I will return it." So, again, our mindfulness practice and reading the mindfulness trainings helps remind us that we don't have to steal. We can take time to see that we have enough already and we can ask if we need something. Generosity and gratitude are one way of cultivating the opposite energy of stealing. Last summer we learned from one of the retreatants in our discussion group that in her family they have a gratitude jar. And the whole family, each member in the family takes turns of writing a gratitude, something they are grateful for. As soon as a gratitude comes up. And they write their gratitude, they put it in the jar and then, the family gets together and they take out all the gratitudes of the family members and they read it together in their circle of friendship. It's so wonderful, and it's a happy moment. So some of us are doing that this winter with our three months retreatants. Inviting everyone to write a gratitude daily, if we can. We put the gratitude in the jar, and once a week we read all the gratitudes. Continuing with looking into generosity, it's a practice we do when we want to help alleviate the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression. When we want to think of ways that we can give in order to help others. Exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression come in many forms now, and create much suffering for those who are caught in those situations. These situations exist now in many countries, and in countries that are described as developing. Countries of Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Dominican Republic, as I've read are such countries. So, with our bodhisattva aspiration we want to see how we, as consumers, can help end the inequalities and exploitation that have existed there. So, we now know that there is something called The World Fair Trade Organization. Fair Trade is now a global network of 324 organizations in over 70 countries. And in France, I believe the organization is called 'Équitable', something like that. So, if we see a product that has this logo, this word, Fair Trade, we know that the farmers and the workers have worked under conditions that have given them a decent salary, a fair salary, they have not been exploited, a good wage. They've had good working conditions and they have a voice in selling their products to the world market. And not only that, but they have decent housing and medical care. We know it's not perfect everywhere, but there has been some wonderful changes. So if we want to purchase in a mindful way, we can look for this assurance. Work of the fair trade products that we can buy, that are available, they are bananas, coffee, cacao, the chocolate, tea, cotton for making fair trade clothing, flowers, sugar and gold. So as consumers, we know we can perhaps pay just a little bit more, this is the expression of our generosity, by buying these products. And we know that the people in the developing countries will benefit. This is what we are told. Another example of practicing generosity is available to us when we support the humanitarian programs in Vietnam that Thay and sister Chan Khong started to bring hope and relief to families and children in Vietnam after the war. These humanitarian programs have existed for 42 years now. And we can support and sponsor a young child 2 or 3 years old up to 6 years old in nursery schools who live in remote mountain villages, but also in small fishing villages in Central Vietnam. These children have parents who have to work during the day. So the children are left alone. But with our sponsoring and support, nursery schools and creches have been developed where they go and the children have activities and are assured a nutritious noon meal, a nutritious lunch and a snack. And they have teachers looking after them. So, for as little as 1 euro a day, 1 euro, we can support a child. But if we don't have 1 euro a day, we can give 10 euros a month, which is about 33 euros () a day. This generosity on our part goes a long, long way, to create happiness and well-being for the future generations. We know that Thay is now in Vietnam, in his root temple. And everyone is benefiting from his generosity to go there, to be with the people, with the - He will offer his time, energy and presence to be there, to support everyone. There is a wonderful web page. In French, there is one word, it says, pourlesenfantsduvietnam.com. One word. I don't know the English web page but I'm sure every country, European countries have this program, Germany, Italy, and the UK have it as well. Let's enjoy the sound of the bell for the conclusion. Thank you for your patience. These trainings contain a lot. So I found myself giving my time, energy, to understanding them, and creating this sharing. (Bell) (Bell) So to conclude, let us invite Thay, so to speak, to end this Dharma talk by listening to some selections from his poetry. So we'll be using our ears listening to some very beautiful lines he wrote that will nourish our appreciation of beauty and happiness. We remember the Zen master who invited his student to listen to the mountain stream as a way of entering the way. We know Thay already entered the way a long, long, long time ago. As a young monk, he was already - He had already entered the way. But he wrote in one of his poems: "I see a clear stream, flowing between cracks in the rocks, its water laughing, while the trees whistle. I see a clear stream, flowing between cracks in the rocks, its water laughing, while the trees whistle. Together we celebrate a morning of peace. Let us accept one another. Let us share the vision and make it possible for Great Love to arise." Thank you, dear friends, for your listening. (Bell) (Bell) (Bell) (Bell) (Bell)

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Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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