Dharma Talks / “How to be Happy as a River”: The Second Dharma Seal of Plum Village (40 Years Retreat #3)

Sr Dinh Nghiem


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Have you ever felt a sense of deep belonging to a group with a shared aspiration and way of living?

Did you feel safe enough to entrust yourself in that group and flow together in the same direction?

How can we “go as a river” in a way that brings happiness and helps realize our dream to serve?

This talk in our 40 Years of Plum Village Retreat, “Now We Have a Path; We Have Nothing More to Fear”, is offered by our elder sister Định Nghiêm, who spent more than six years alongside of our teacher Thay (zen master Thich Nhat Hanh) after his strokes in 2014. Returning to Plum Village after an absence of several years, Sr Định Nghiêm conveys a deep warmth and understanding of Thay and the community in this intimate sharing. We hope you will be able to offer yourself the time and space to fully savor and enjoy this talk with us.

Sr Định Nghiêm tells us that a drop of water may evaporate or lose its way, but if that drop of water can become part of the river, it will reach the ocean. The river of sangha, community that practices the way of non-violence and compassion, has been flowing for a long time. We may fear that by harmonizing with, by becoming one with the river we will lose our individuality and beauty. Yet when we look at the sangha around us and reflect on our experience in the sangha, we may see that it is watering our good seeds and helping bring out the best in each of us; that together, we are much stronger, more able to find healing and joy, to relieve the suffering around us and be of service to the world.

With gentleness, skill, and warmth, Sr Định Nghiêm tells us the story of our own sangha river as it has widened and deepened, from Thay’s youth, through the crucible of war and violent resistance, to the present day. We listen to a beautiful recording of a brother singing Thay’s poem “Recommendation”. Thay wrote this poem as a young monk in 1965 to offer guidance to the many students continuing his work in Vietnam, shortly before learning that he had been his exiled from his homeland

Sr Định Nghiêm shares about the essence of Plum Village practice, Thay’s great joy upon discovering such jewels as the “Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing”, and how to live happily in the sangha, “as a river”. She concludes by reminding us of all the favorable conditions we have inherited after so much struggle, and by singing the same deeply moving song she sang less than five months ago at Thay’s memorial service near Hue, Vietnam: “Chanson du Bonheur”

Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing: https://plumvillage.org/library/sutras/discourse-on-the-full-awareness-of-breathing/

Thay’s poem “Recommendation”, with his description of its origins and meaning: https://plumvillage.org/articles/recommendation/

— More from 2022 "Now We Have a Path": 40 Years Retreat

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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