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Dharma Talks / Criteria for Studying the Sutras

Sr Chân Đức

Dharma talk during the 21- day retreat.


What does it mean to be a soul-mate of the Buddha? It means have I understood the Buddha and his teachings? Do I give enough time and space to understand? Understanding very much depends on our practice, and our correct practice also depends on our deep understanding of the teachings. The Buddha taught for 45 years after his enlightenment, and for about 400 years his teachings were transmitted orally by his disciples before they were written down in Sri Lanka. Our ancestors throughout the generations have written commentaries and passed down guidelines to help us understand the deep teachings. Sr Chân Đức presented some criteria to bear in mind when reading sutras. They are guidelines to help us to know what level of teachings we are reading, and how they can help us (16:00).
1. Worldly convention. Language is a convention that is necessary for daily life, but sometimes it can be an obstacle to understand concepts like time and space, “you” and “I”. When the Buddha taught, he needed to use language to help people, but as a listener we need to be careful and not get caught in such conventions. For example, in one sutra the Buddha said there is no-self, and in another he used the word self.
2. Person. In the sutra, who was the Buddha talking to? (25:00) The Buddha taught people from many different backgrounds and for each person he taught it according to how the person can receive it. For example, there were two ascetics, a dog ascetic and an ox ascetic, who asked the Buddha about rebirth in the god realm. The Buddha said don’t ask me that question, but they insisted, so he said if you practice as a dog everyday it is sure that you will be reborn as a dog. The Buddha doesn’t give such teachings about rebirth, but seeing how they suffered he needed to give them a strong warning. We should read the sutra being aware of who the teaching was meant for, and not take it as absolute truth and apply to all.
3. Healing. Teachings of the Buddha are medicine, not dogma nor doctrines to be held onto as absolute truth. His teachings are like a raft to be used when crossing a river, but not to be carried around afterwards like a burden. It is also like a poisonous snake that one should know how to catch without being bitten by it. For example, the 5 Remembrances should be practiced when one is in good health and strong in order to touch the truth of life. If one is sick and not strong, a more appropriate practice is to look at the conditions of happiness in the present moment.
4. Absolute Truth, or the highest meaning truth cannot be expressed in words, and they are not really in the sutras. However, the sutras are there like the finger that points to the moon. We can be careful not to be caught in words, but words can help us touch what goes beyond words. For example, “Interbeing” is a teaching of no-birth and no-death, but the word “being” is still needed.

Sr Chân Đức also taught in relation to the Four Reliances (52:30) as rough guidelines.
1. Dharma (not person). This means do not get caught on who (their character or personality) gave the teachings or the reminders, but we can be grateful for what was taught or reminded.
2. Deep teachings are what we need to uproot the suffering, but we need the practices that can build up our mindfulness and concentration so that insight can arise. Don’t misunderstand that we should only study deep teachings.
3. Spirit (not letter). If we study the sutra and follow the spirit of the teachings, then it can help us not to be fundamentalists.
4. Rely not on consciousness (our manas) to read sutras, but we should let go of ideas to allow the Dharma rain to penetrate deeply into our store consciousness. This will help us to see things in a different way – insight.
Conventional and sublime meaning truths are not separate from each other, they are not right and wrong, but conventional can help us to touch the sublime meaning truth.

To download the retreat booklet: https://plumvillage.org/news/booklet-of-the-21-day-retreat-a-real-soulmate-of-the-buddha/

This video has english subtitles.

[The bell is awoken.] (First sound of the bell) (Second sound of the bell) (Third sound of the bell) Most respected Thay, dear respected Sangha, There is the story that after the Buddha became enlightened, The Buddha did not want to give the Dharma talk, did not want to teach the Dharma. Buddha is recorded to have said to himself, "what I realized at the foot of the Bodhi tree is very deep and very wonderful. It cannot possibly be described in words." and that is why the Buddha did not want to teach. Because... the teachings that had liberated all the experiences that had liberated the Buddha were impossible to describe in words and then the God Brahma came to the Buddha and said, "People in the world, they suffer so much. They need the teachings very much. So, please Buddha be compassionate and teach the Dharma." And then the Buddha looked deeply. It said that the Buddha looked at the lake where the lotus were growing and saw that there were some of the lotus was still immersed in the water and some were on the surface of the water and some were right up above the water. And the Buddha contemplated that living beings are like that. There are some living beings who have little dust in their eyes and can see the wonderful teachings. And there are some living beings have more dust in their eyes And therefore, we need to give the teachings that are appropriate to the people that we are teaching. And the Buddha taught for 45 years. Some people say in that 45 years, he never said anything. The Buddha never said anything. Why did they say that? It's because as soon as we start saying the Buddha said this and the Buddha said that, we always put our own interpretation onto it. And so many people were saying what the Buddha said. And therefore, they wanted to be sure... The Mahāsāṃghika who said the Buddha never said anything wanted to be sure that people weren't too quick to receive what people said the Buddha said. Because maybe, they hadn't understood the meaning. So in the year 2012 - 2013 in the winter Thay taught for three months on a subject he called Tri Kỷ của Bụt We've translated as Soulmate of the Buddha I don't know if that is a good translation. So don't be carried away by the title of the retreat. Tri Kỷ is someone that understands the Buddha. After that retreat, Thay was hoping that we would translate the teachings into English And we were talking about What will we give as the title of this book? How will we translate this? And so we had a lot of ideas One idea is "Have we understood the Buddha yet?" was one idea. Another was... "Are we a good friend of the Buddha?" was another idea. So that is the question that we can all ask ourself. Have I understood the Buddha? and give ourself space and time to understand the meaning of the Buddha's teachings So we have the Sutras. We have the Theravada Sutras We have Mahayana Sutras And normally people say that Theravada Sutra are the word of the Buddha. Maybe the Mahayana Sutra people made them up later on after the Buddha was no longer on the earth But Theravada Sutra, the Buddha was on the Earth. So they must be the word of the Buddha and we have to accept every word like that as what the Buddha said. So the Buddha taught we are not quite sure in maybe in the 5th century BCE And none of the teachings were written down Then they were handed down for 400 years before they were written down in Sri Lanka. We're not quite sure when they were written down in Kashmir or in other parts of India in Sanskrit. But probably around about the same time, maybe a bit earlier so there were 400 years of oral transmission And so we we must understand that things were added and things were lost. And then, in the process of writing down, maybe things were added and things were lost. After that, when they had to be written down again, they were added a lot. So when we write down what the Buddha said, it also depends on our understanding of what the Buddha said. And our understanding depends on our practice. So if our practice is a little bit astray, then maybe our understanding will go a little bit of astray too. So after the teachings had been written down. then, they were ancestral teachers of us. That is the descendants of the Buddha and teachers who were making commentaries. And when they were making their commentaries and teaching, they also saw that It is not so difficult to misunderstand the Buddha. And so they wanted to give us guidelines to help us to not get lost in the ocean of the teachings. We all need those guidelines. So that is the the start that we have to make is to look at those guidelines and see how they can help us. And we are very lucky. Thay was a scholar of very high caliber and had studied both the Pali Canon and the Chinese Canon for a very long time and very deeply. Sometime when you have a bowl of soup, a fly will come and somehow drop into your soup. Thay said that we need to take the fly out of the soup. So this is the flies that flew in during the transmission and are not expressing the deep meaning of Buddhism because we have the Deep Buddhism and we also have a Popular Buddhism. Those flies they could come in for many different reasons and we will also have a little chance to look at what those reasons might have been. But if anybody is to be entrusted to the work of removing the fly from the soup, we can entrust Thay to do that. And therefore the teachings that Thay gave in 2012-13 are extremely precious. Because when we've understood the deep meaning of the Buddha then we can practice correctly according to that. In the first Sutra of the Digha Nikaya, it's called "The Net of Views" It's not in there (the booklet). Today I won't to use the booklet at all. The Net of Views like the Buddha had a big fishing net and in that he could catch all the views, the opinions that people had in that time that were leading them astray. At the beginning of that Sutra, there are some Brahmans who have criticized the Buddha, are criticizing the Buddha. In fact, there are two. One is criticizing the Buddha and the other is praising the Buddha. Some of the monks a little bit upset when they hear their teacher being criticized. The Buddha said, "Monks. Don't get upset when you hear me criticized because if you do your mind will no longer be clear and you will not see whether the criticism is correct or not." and also, "Monks, don't get too excited when people praise the Buddha because if you get excited your mind will not be clear and you won't see whether the praise is appropriate or not." And then, the Buddha said, "There are people who praise me for little things like I only eat one meal a day. That I don't sleep until noon in the afternoon and little things like that. But that is not the thing that the Buddha thinks we need to praise the Buddha for. But there are deep and wonderful truths and teachings that the Buddha has experienced and tries to transmit to people. That is what the Buddha would think it was more appropriate to praise the Buddha for that. We have different level of the teacher and now perhaps we should look at at the guidelines that the ancestral teachers have given us to help us to be able to know what level of teachings we are reading, and how they can help us. Siddhānta, it means criterion or criteria and these are the criteria that we want when we read a Sutra, we should bear in mind these different criteria. Before we said that the Buddha was reluctant to talk about what the Buddha had experienced and gave teachings. Often people would ask the Buddha, "What do you teach?" And the Buddha said I only teach one thing That is suffering and the end of suffering. It's very practical. So that is also a criterion that we need to bear in mind. When we read the Sutra, It is to help us to transform our suffering. If it doesn't, it just becomes more... more what?! It's like when you fatten up a goose for Christmas, like the knowledge it can come like that It's not really necessary for you. But we also know that the cream of the Buddha's teaching is the teaching on "Conditioned Genesis". This is because that is. This is not because that is not. Because it is the realization of this teaching. The teaching of interbeing that can relieve us of our suffering. We live in the world and and therefore we have conventions in the world. We have our language which is a convention. It's something we agree with each other. We will use it in order to be able to communicate. We agree that I am I and you are you to make it easy to communicate. I am going to the market this morning So please will you cook the lunch? We need that kind of language in order for our society to work. That is why we call the Worldly Criterion The Buddha had to use that language. He couldn't make up another language because it's not a convention that we've agreed with each other. So that is one thing why the Buddha found it difficult to teach. Another thing is why we may find it difficult to understand the deeper meanings of the Buddha. In the convention, we also have concepts like time and space and the Buddha gave deep teachings to help us touch a dimension beyond time and space But that doesn't mean to say that every time the Buddha taught, he had to stop and say "well, I don't really mean that." I don't really mean "I " because there's no separate self. I don't mean Ananda because there's no separate Ananda. The Buddha have just used like everyone else does. The word "I" "aham" (in sanskrit) and the word Ananda to mean separate selves. The concept of time and space, the Buddha also used concept like yesterday and tomorrow and over here, and over there so that is... Don't say, "oh the Buddha in one place, he says there's no separate self and then he's always using the word I 'aham' in the Sutras. That's a contradiction." It's not a contradiction. We know that the Buddha needed to use the conventional language in order to help the people the Buddha was talking to. And then the second criterion is... Who is the Buddha talking to? Who is the person the Buddha is talking to? Every time we read a Sutra. It usually tells us who the Buddha was talking to whether it was a Brahman or whether it was a monk. We need to know that because everybody receives the teachings in a different way and we have to teach different people in different ways. If you are a school teacher, you also probably know that. If you give consultation in a retreat to people, you probably know that even though two people will seem to have the same problem ask more or less the same question. You may give a different answer depending on the the person who asked the question. One time... I don't know what to call..... ascetics 2 Śramaṇa who were practicing asceticism practicing a special kind of asceticism came to the Buddha. They told the Buddha what kind of asceticism they were practicing One of them said I'm a dog ascetic and the other said I'm an ox acetic. So they have many weird and wonderful practices in the time of the Buddha. It was a time of freedom from getting free from from Brahmanism and there are all kind of Brahmanism. and everybody experimenting with different spiritual paths. So for some reason there was this kind of dog asceticism and ox asceticism. It meant that the practitioner would practice being a dog or practice being an ox. So then they said that with this practice he will be reborn in the... in the God realm after you die. So one day, these two fellows they came to the Buddha and they asked, "Lord Buddha. Please tell us what will happen to us after we die." And the Buddha said, "Don't ask me that question." The Buddha could see the kind of suffering and what these two people were in. He said, "don't ask that question." But they asked three times. So the Buddha said, "ok, then I will tell you." "If you are practicing every day to be a dog like that, when you die, sure, you will be reborn as a dog." If, on top of that, you have the wrong view that practicing as a dog, you will be born as a god, you will be reborn in the hell realm. so That is not a kind of teaching that normally the Buddha would give, telling people how they will be reborn. Normally if you read the Sutra and people ask what happens after we die, the Buddha will say I only teach two things Suffering and The end of suffering. Don't speculate on what happens after you die. So why in this case does Buddha tell these people what is going to happen to them after they die. Because he needs to help them. He needs to give them a very strong warning that don't keep doing this practice it won't help anything, to help you suffer less. One thing. And the other thing makes it very strong is that If at the moment of death, we have a wrong view with all our life believed we're going to go to heaven. And then at the moment of death, we're not going to heaven and we become afraid. Then it's a like a kind of, like being in hell that state of mind. We're caught in a belief and then at the moment of death we have a doubt about that belief Or we begin to feel things are going which are not in accord with that belief. Then the amount of fear we can experience can be compared to be in hell. So the Buddha was talking in this way talking to that person. So we shouldn't read this Sutra and then say, "Oh! The Buddha talks about what happens after death And then in somewhere else, he says he never talks about that." The Buddha had a good friend who was a king whose name was Bimbisara Bimbisara. His son, the prince, was persuaded by Devadatta the monk who the cousin of the Buddha who was very jealous of the Buddha was persuaded by Devadatta to kill his father And the queen, her name was Vaidehi She must have suffered tremendously, She went to the Buddha. She asked, "Lord Buddha, is there a place where there is no suffering?" And it's reported the Buddha said, "Yes." "There is a Pure Land where there is no suffering." "Let us meditate together in order to touch the Pure Land where there is no suffering." So that is why in the Sukhāvatī Sutra, the Sutra on the Pure Land, it always says that "Shariputra. There is a place where there is no suffering. So we should also understand that someone is suffering tremendously. They need to have some kind of faith They come to the teacher and they need some kind of faith that I can get out of this suffering and so the Buddha out of compassion, he says... He says that there is a place of no suffering. And then we have that repeated in the Sukhāvatī Sutra, which could lead people astray if they're not careful. Because we know that suffering and happiness, they go together, like Brother Phap Ung, he taught us this morning. You can't have one without the other. But if I said that to somebody who's suffering incredibly, then it would not be compassionate. It wouldn't help. So the Buddha taught like that. Sometimes the Buddha was silent when people asked questions. "Is there a self?" The Buddha is silent. "Do you mean there's no self?" The Buddha is silent and then the poor person asking the question gets up and leaves. Not the poor person but lucky person who asked the question gets up and leaves. Ananda come to the Buddha and say, "Lord Buddha. You always taught that there's no self. Why didn't you tell him there's no-self?" The Buddha said, because it would just leave him in a state of absolute confusion. So that is why I remain silent. He's not ready for the teaching on the no-self yet. So that the third criterion of healing is very important. The teachings of the Buddha are medicine. They are not dogma that we hold on to as an absolute truth. We should always understand the teachings like that they are medicine and that is why the Buddha at one time said my teachings are a raft. You use them to get across the water. You don't cling to them as a dogma and carry them around with you wherever you go. The Buddha also said my teachings are like a snake. Did you ever hear anyone else say that about their teaching they're like a poisonous snake? You have to be careful if you're going to pick them up. Don't catch this snake by the tail. It will turn around and bite you. You have to know how to catch the snake. So this means the teachings are medicine. We have a wonderful teaching. It's called the five remembrances to remind ourselves everyday about impermanence. I am of the nature to grow old. I am of the nature to be sick. I am of the nature to die. Everyone I love and everything I cherish is impermanent and changing all the time. And we shall have to be separated I shall have to be separated from them. This is a wonderful teaching for you to do... when you are in good health when you are strong. But if someone is physically and mentally very weak, we would not give them that teaching. It might be like catching a snake. You might have to say to somebody you are certain things look at your garden, it has so many trees that are growing well. Just because one or two trees are dying. you don't give up on your garden. So look at the things that are going well in you. Look at the healthy genes that you've received from your ancestors. We might tell them like that to give them the medicine that they need. This is wonderful this criterion. It keeps us from being dogmatic and that is one very important thing about Buddhism. No Dogma. We could say that the first three criteria belong to the conventional truth and then we have the absolute truth. All teachings the Buddha gives us heal conventional and absolute truth and we might say Do you like the word absolute truth? paramārtha, paramārthasatya mārtha it means meaning and para means higher, highest highest meaning If we say absolute truth, it might sound a little bit dogmatic. so maybe we should use the word like the highest meaning truth. Or the... Something like that have the word meaning in. So the Buddha gave teachings If we talk about the highest truth, You can't put it into words. The Buddha couldn't really talk about it. So is not really in the Sutras, that absolute truth. But there are teachings that point to the highest meaning truth. Like a finger that points to the moon. That is why we also have to be careful when we talk about highest meaning truth Sutras, not to be caught in the words. Because the words are also fingers pointing to the moon. They are to help you. Help you realize the truth that goes beyond words. If you take the word "inter-being", for instance, that is pointing us to the truth of no being and no non-being But the word "being" is still there in "inter-being" We can't get out of using the word "being". But Thay put the word inter in front. It helps us. It's like pointing you the way "Inter-being". it's the same when you say "this is because that is" "This is not because that is not" You haven't really touched the truth. You would touch which goes beyond words. Because you still have the word "is " you still have the word "is not" You still have the word "this" and you still have the word "that". in fact, "this" is in "that" "That" is in "this" we cannot separate them but when we talk, we have to separate them. When we talk, we have to cut things up put them in boxes. Most of the Sutras that you have if not all of the Sutras that you have, in your bookleft, if you have it yet or not, they all belong to the criterion of absolute truth. In the sense that they are all pointing the way to the absolute for you to be able to touch the absolute truth. In the Kātyāyana Sutra, the Discourse on the Middle Way that you all know from the chanting book. The Buddha's teaching, One of his disciples, about right view and The Buddha says that right view is the what goes beyond Being and Non-being. That is something we have to go into slowly in this retreat. It's not my business to go into that. But, in that Sutra, Kātyāyana who is listening to the Buddha is able to go beyond the words of the Buddha and experience liberation. Because the words have helped Kātyāyana to to have that experience. So that's what the words are there for and Kātyāyana must have been mindful, concentrated, while listening to the Buddha in order to have that insight. and then the Buddha said this kind of insight doesn't come from other people. It's not something someone else can give to you. You have to touch it for yourself. You can only touch it for yourself. Once Kātyāyana has touched that insight. Then he understands the Buddha. You could say that he is a good friend of the Buddha has understood the Buddha. Actually, that Sutra, because of that Sutra, became very important In the years after the Buddha had passed away was no longer on the earth. Many of the foremost disciples of the Buddha who would understood that Sutra they could pass it on to others, but there is also a little fly that got into the soup of that Sutra, but it's not for me to talk about now. But that is why that got in there is because something was added afterwards that shouldn't have been added. You know when disciples of the Buddha they had to recite the Sutras in order to remember them. They had to keep reciting them, reciting them to learn them. There was certain... It's like when you're trying to learn a poem or you're learning a song if there's a refrain that comes up after every verse and you sing that refrain. Because you sing it many times, you learn it very quickly. While you're singing the refrain, your store consciousness is working for you to be able to remember the next verse. So that's why we need the refrain and in the Sutras we have the refrain. Because the monks would use that to be able to repeat something many times in order to remember the next verse, next part. So in the sutras we have refrains and we have to be careful of those refrains because sometimes they're taken from one Sutra and put into another Sutra where they don't belong. So someone who is of understand the Buddha will be able to see of this refrain. It doesn't belong in this Sutra. It belongs in another Sutra. So these are rough guidelines, we don't have to take them too completely seriously We can add our own insight to them. So first one, when 400 years after the Buddha had died, they decided to they were now going to write down what the Buddha had taught. It is said there was only one monk left who remembered everything that he was supposed to remember. it's not everything but... And he was very arrogant. He wasn't easy. So the monks had to be very skillful and use a lot of carrots to persuade him to be able to recite the whole canon. The Precept, the Sutra and everything. So at that point we can see that the reason why we have this first reliance, which says "Don't rely on the person who's giving the teachings." "Rely on the teachings." So sometimes somebody especially in that time would remember something that had been taught, shall the people have forgotten. Even though that person wasn't practicing very well, we're very grateful that that person has remembered it can hand it on to us. Even if he's not practicing it, she's not practicing it, at least I can bring it into my practice. So that is why we have this reliance. But it's not a reliance that as a Dharma teacher. You need to say to yourself. Okay, it doesn't matter how I practice as long as I've learned it all of by heart. I can go up there and teach it. Because that is not the best way. Usually when I give a Dharma talk, I tell myself I'm giving the Dharma talk for me. I'm teaching me Because it is... very funny if I teach something, and then, I go out and I don't do it. If you see me go out and not do what I taught, you may lose some faith in the teaching. So that is why I say we don't have to take these reliance so seriously but we should always be respectful to to someone who can give us and grateful to someone who can give us some reminder. and don't judge the person who give us the reminder but just use it in your daily life to help your practice. Then everyone can be your Dharma friend. We've already talked about how there are Sutras that can use as fingers pointing to the moon. That can help us. Show us the way to the ultimate truth, the deep meaning of how things are, which we really need in order to be able to uproot our suffering. One time, someone who had suffered from losing the husband and two children, I think. They were suffering tremendously from bereavement and from grief. And they went to a retreat of the practice of mindfulness. Afterwards someone asked them What was it that helped you to transform your suffering. She said the practice of mindfulness, dwelling in the present moment. Walking, dwelling, mindful of every step, every breath was a tremendous relief for my suffering but it was not what uprooted my suffering. What uprooted the suffering was the insight into the nature of how things are, the insight into No birth and No death. That is why we need the deep teaching they bring us this. But without mindfulness, without concentration, we cannot have the insight. So, we need the Sutras that teach us - the Satipatthana. Anapanasati is basic first the practice of mindfulness, dwelling in the present moment and then the insight will come. That is why here it says... We should rely on the deep teachings but that doesn't mean to say that we throw away all the teachings that are not deep teachings like the five mindfulness trainings, the four establishments of mindfulness. They are so important. So we must not misunderstand this and spend our whole day reading discourses on the outer meaning we feel very good. But then, when we put the book down and we wake up the next morning, we as grumpy as ever. So we really need the other teaching. And the third thing there is a quotation in Vietnamese which I have, now it is gone out of my head "Rely on the spirit and not on the letter" Anyway, then this thing is also very important for us Of course, we need to understand the spirit. When we practice the five mindfulness trainings, we have to understand the spirit. We can't get caught in each word. But if we remove one word of the five mindfulness trainings, it might be very dangerous also. So we shouldn't just say I'm just keeping the spirit and I don't care about the word. But on the other hand, we don't want to become a Fundamentalist and say the Buddha said this... you have to do that... Because if you become a fundamentalist, somebody else will come and say to you, in all 45 years the Buddha was teaching, he never said anything So that is what we say to fundamentalists. But... Here this is to stop us being a fundamentalist and caught in in words. But at the same time we have to be very careful when we remove words when we change words. And when Thay gave these teachings in 2012-13 and Thay changed some words in the Sutras. At that moment many people were relieved of their suffering because that word was moved from the Sutra and it was put in a different way. Many people had deep insight into what the Buddha was teaching and able to make a breakthrough. So the time when we need to remove words, but we have to be very careful and I wouldn't myself be so brave to do that on my own. I would need to have many other brothers and sisters who had studied and practiced for a long time to help me to do that. We do it as Sangha eyes because I don't think my eyes are enough. But, of course, Thay also. When he did that, he was also relying on other Sutras. In order to remove word from one sutra, he would rely on another sutra which made it clear that that word wasn't necessary or was ... misleading. The last thing is we rely on our... We don't rely on our consciousness. We rely on our insight which come from mindfulness and concentration And Consciousness here. We have to ask for this consciousness mean because you may say well without consciousness you wouldn't have insight. but here consciousness means something like Manas The seventh consciousness. We have different levels of consciousness and we have one level of our consciousness which believes very strongly that I am a separate self. It's always thinking. it thinks and thinks and round and round in circles in order to reinforce the fact to myself that I am a separate self. This body is me. This feeling is me, is I. This body is mine. This feeling is mine. So there's a part of our consciousness, which is responsible for that feeling of being a separate self and if we rely on that when we read the Sutras, it won't help us to be released from that feeling I'm a separate self, I inter-am. So it's important we don't rely on our old habit energies of being a separate self. When we come to a Dharma talk, we say, "oh, it's wonderful. Dharma talk. Oh, it agrees with everything that I believe." and then say, "Oh, dreadful Dharma talk. Oh, all the ideas I had before, none of them were mentioned." So that is "Manas". This "Manas" for this perception is I, this perception is mine. So, in Dharma talk, the best thing is just let go of all your ideas. Just let the the Dharma Rain help you to see things in a new way. To me, that is the best thing about a Dharma talk. Not that I remember what was said in my conscious mind but when I go outside of the Dharma Hall, I feel that I see things in a different way. So that is why we say rely on the insight and not on the consciousness. So one more thing that we need to say before we end that is that the conventional truth and the sublime meaning truth, they are not separate. It's not that the sublime meaning truth is right and the conventional truth is wrong. Thay compared this, when Thay was teaching, to the physics. It's not that Newtonian physics is wrong and that Quantum physics is right, modern particle physics is right We've able to do many things dependent on Newtonian physics. It works. Technically it works. So it's like the difference between the conventional and the ultimate meaning truth But in science, somehow, they didn't find ... I think many science want to do this and some way to connect Newtonian physics and quantum physics to make some kind of connection between. See how one can lead onto the other. Well, in Buddhism, we see how conventional truth can lead on to Ultimate truth. So if we come back to the example of the 5 Remembrances Or we can take even more simple. We can take the song with singing every day "I have arrived, I am home. In the here, in the now" So there is a conventional meaning of "here and now". "Here" will mean in the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall and "Now" will mean 11:30am. I know I should have stopped but I haven't stopped yet. (laughter) I didn't want to tell you that. Anyway, So that, if we look deeply, we can say in the Assembly of Stars Meditation Hall, but we also have to say in Lot-et-Garonne, and we have to say in France and we in Europe and on the planet Earth. So in fact, "here" it is difficult to grasp even in the conventional sense is difficult but that is conventional meaning. But when you practice "I have arrived, I am home, in the here" it's not you think, "oh, I'm in the Assembly of Stars." "Oh, I'm in France." It doesn't mean that because you go deep into the meaning of here, and I can't tell you in words what it means because we're beyond space and time. We needed the feeling of sitting "here". We needed our... proprioception to tell us, "oh, I'm sitting" in order to be able to touch something that goes beyond time and space and the same is true with "time" we say "now" In order to be able to touch something that goes beyond present, future and past, might say "now" is the present moment . But, in fact, we want to go beyond the present moment to touch something that contains all three times. So we use the conventional in order to touch the ultimate. The other thing about the 5 Remembrances is that I am with the nature to get sick,. I am of the nature to die and we meditate on that deeply. Actually, this is in one of your Sutras but we don't need to know which one now. Who is it that doesn't get sick? who is it that dies? When we look deeply, we see there is no separate self to get sick. There is no "I " who dies. In fact, while we do that every day meditation on the 5 Remembrances, which is completely conventional truth. I died. I get sick. I get old. At the same time, by doing that meditation , by using the conventional truth, we are able to touch the ultimate. I don't actually die. There isn't death. There isn't that thing which people normally think of us death. So, that is why one monk said to his disciple the way to touch "no birth and no death" is to go deeply into "no birth and no death". So we just said that you can go from the conventional into the ultimate. and you need the conventional in order to touch the ultimate. You cannot remove the conventional. If you did, there would be no way for you to touch the ultimate. However, we also have to understand that here the nature, it means a little bit alike like the ultimate and the phenomenal means which... maybe, I should have said the noumenal, the noumenal and the phenomenal and borrow the Kantian language but it's not exactly the same as what we mean. So, what this means "here" is that when we are talking about conventional things. Convention. We should not mix it up with when we are talking about noumena. We talk about phenomena in a different way than we do about noumena. If we mix up the two, we will get in a muddle. 1:14:39.360,1:14:44.640 Here we can take us examples of nature or noumena We can take the example of God or Nirvana in Buddhism. So there are certain concepts that if we use them concerning God or Nirvana, we will get in a real muddle. Many Western scholars, they have got in that muddle with Buddhist nirvana. Many theologians have got in that muddle when talking about God. So we know that Being and non-being are conventions. Conventional language. Interbeing is used to help us not be caught in being and non-being So, Interbeing is to be used to help us get in touch with the ultimate dimension to help us be in touch with God to help us be in touch with Nirvana. So we cannot ask questions like... Does Nirvana exist? Does God exist? Because we are mixing up God and Nirvana with conventional language, which is not appropriate... It's inappropriate So you ask question, "where is...", like Western scholars that sometimes ask this question, "Where is nirvana?" "How long does it take to realize that nirvana?" "What kind of person realizes nirvana?" These questions. "Does God exist?" or "Does God not exist?" We are using the wrong kind of language. Actually, we cannot talk about God. We cannot talk about near Nirvana, but we can use language that leads that shows us the way how to touch God and nirvana. That kind of language is language of interbeing. Not the language of being and non-being. So this retreat is an opportunity for us to practice. We know that the motto of plum village is "Home, arrived." and we can practice this in order to be mindful of everything we do. We have each other's support. We support each other and this practice of mindfulness and concentration will help us along with some of the words that we hear or we read to touch the ultimate dimension. Beyond any kind of doctrine or dogma, any kind of separation deficient. We're very lucky that we have three weeks because we need space we need time and above all we need each other. (First sound of the bell) (Second sound of the bell) (Third sound of the bell) The Plum Village Online Monastery Thank you.

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