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Dharma Talks / Mindfulness of Sexual Desire

Br Pháp Lưu

Brother Phap Luu teaches on the 14th Mindfulness Training, True Love.

The 14th Mindfulness training, True Love, address our sexual energy, which is also the energy of reproduction, an energy that compels is to continue ourselves, and is a vital life force. Sexual energy is part of a human’s evolutionary history, it is directly transmitted to us as a need to continue and is an energy that is selected for in each generation.

It is important to understand and touch the nature of sexual energy, it does not need to be suppressed. We need to have a healthy relationship with it that does not cut it off or smash it down. It does not have to be bounded by the framework of family life, and within the context of a celibate monastic life, can find expression in being one with the Sangha, being part of the larger human family and cultivating a love that knows no bounds. We are free when we are not in love with an image.

Br. Phap Luu shares his practice with sexual energy using the 16 exercises of mindful breathing. The first four exercises address sexual energy within the body and learning to calm it down. The fifth to eighth exercises teach us how to generate joy and happiness not tainted by sexual desire. When we are aware that our sexual desire is being stimulated by our environment nearly constantly by images, we learn to recognize the mental formation when it arises and calm it down.

The ninth to twelfth exercises teach us that thoughts provide us with nourishment, so what is being cultivated in our mind’s eye? What we cultivate becomes a reality. Gladdening the mind is also a mind training, we are asked to find the root of our joy and happiness and this is a way to sublimate our sexual energy and channel it to the breath and spirit energies. A concentrated mind does not allow sexual energy to penetrate deeply into it, and a mind that is not enslaved by sexual energy is liberated from it.

Further reading:
The 14 Mindfulness Trainings
Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing


Help us caption & translate this video!

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(Bell) (Bell) (Bell) (Bell) Dear respected Thay, dear noble sangha, today is the 11th of November in the year 2018 and we are in the Loving Kindness temple, in New Hamlet, in our Rains Retreat. There is an interesting topic today. True love. Uh oh! (Laughter) I've been asked to share about the 14th mindfulness training. We've been studying the 14 mindfulness trainings during this Rains Retreat. We know that the order of the trainings is not so important, but how we practice them in our lives is very important. I was not there, at the meeting, when I was assigned to share about this mindfulness training. (Laughter) So I tried to look deeply and see what my older brothers and sisters have in mind. And what do I have to share about this topic of true love. Thay teaches us that the 14 mindfulness trainings are the very essence of the Order of Interbeing. They are the torch lightening our path, the boat carrying us, the teacher guiding us. They allow us to touch the nature of the interbeing in everything that is, and to see that our happiness is not separate from the happiness of others, to see that out happiness is not separate from the happiness of others. Interbeing is not a theory, it is a reality that can be directly experienced by each of us at any moment in our daily lives. The 14 mindfulness trainings help us cultivate concentration and insight, which free us from fear and the illusion of a separate self. So, during this Rains Retreat we've been studying how to let go of our views. Thay introduced these trainings in the middle of the American War in Vietnam, when the ideologies of Communism and maybe we can say Capitalism, or maybe Anticommunism, were dividing families, tearing brother from brother, splitting the sangha. And Thay and sister Chan Khong suffered very deeply because of this attachment to views that they saw around them. And they said, "How can we train ourselves in such a way that we do not become caught up in the views that are dividing our close friends, our family? It was not just a matter of sitting around and say, "Oh! Yes, I see there are some big points about Communism. I don't really like the Communists", is not really like that. It's a matter of life or death. Which side you are on. And that is something we are not very used to in the way of living that we are experiencing here in Plum Village in modern times, when we feel we can share our ideas just as we feel in our heart. So the first few trainings are dealing with our views, and how to become free from views. We also looked into consumption, how the things that nourish our body and mind, edible food, sense impressions, volition, consciousness, contribute to how we experience this present moment, and how we will continue into the future. So a lot of the trainings have to do with how we are nourishing through our eyes, our ears, our nose, nose... (Laughter) Tongue, body and mind. We know that we are what we ingest. Both in terms of physical food and in terms of sense impressions, in terms of how we set our mind, our volition, and in terms of consciousness. So today we are going to look into a very powerful and delicate topic, which is the energy that has brought us here over hundreds of millions of years. So it's not something to be treated lightly, to dismiss lightly. Sometimes we call it sexual energy, the energy of reproduction. Because it is a kind of vital life force. How really we want to call it, it is that which is impelling us from within to continue into the future, not just in this physical body, but in successive generations. So the fourteenth mindfulness training invites us to look deeply into this area, of sexual energy. So I'll start by reading the trainings, and then we will practice looking deeply into it together. The 14th mindfulness training: True Love. So there are two parts. There is a section for lay practitioners, and a section for monastics. The 14 mindfulness trainings, one of their roots are the Bodhisattva Precepts, which are quite popular in East Asia, also in Tibet. Those precepts were for bodhisattvas, they included both monastics and lay practitioners. So the inspiration of the trainings are these Bodhisattva Precepts. And Thay has revised them, updated them for, to be relevant for our modern time. So this training in particular has a separate section for lay practitioners and for monastics. So, for lay members: Aware that sexual desire is not love and that sexual relations motivated by craving cannot dissipate the feeling of loneliness but will create more suffering, frustration, and isolation, we are determined not to engage in sexual relations without mutual understanding, love, and a deep long-term commitment made known to our family and friends. Seeing that the body and mind are one, or in unison, we are committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of our sexual energy and to cultivate loving kindness, compassion, joy, and inclusiveness for our own happiness and the happiness of others. We must be aware of future suffering that may be caused by sexual relations. We know that to preserve the happiness of ourselves and others, we must respect the rights and commitments of ourselves and others. We will do everything in our power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. We will treat our bodies with compassion and respect. We are determined to look deeply into the Four Nutriments and learn ways to preserve and channel our vital energies, sexual, breath, spirit for the realization of our bodhisattva ideal. We will be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world, and will meditate regularly upon their future environment. And the training for monastics: Aware that the deep aspiration of a monk or a nun can only be realized when he or she wholly leaves behind the bonds of sensual love, we are committed to practicing chastity and to helping others protect themselves. We are aware that loneliness and suffering cannot be alleviated through a sexual relationship, but through practicing loving kindness, compassion, joy, and inclusiveness. We know that a sexual relationship will destroy our monastic life, prevent us from realizing our ideal of serving living beings, and harm others. We will learn appropriate ways to take care of our sexual energy. We are determined not to suppress, or mistreat our body, or look upon our body as only an instrument, but will learn to handle our body with compassion and respect. We will look deeply into the Four Nutriments in order to preserve and channel our vital energies, sexual, breath, spirit, for the realization of our bodhisattva ideal. We can hear a sound of the bell. (Bell) (Bell) We know that the Buddha as far as we know, the Buddha had a partner, was married and had a child. And as a young man, he had the things that were considered appropriate for a wealthy young man, that is, access to many young women. A kind of standing in society. He had the experience before and during his marriage of sexual relations. And then he made a very interesting decision, to leave home and to go forth into the forest. He saw a monk, who was living very simply in the forest, he saw a kind of joy, maybe, happiness. And he realized that to realize that kind of joy he needed to change his life, he needed to make a deep change. And at that time in India, when a young man decided to go and live as a wanderer, that also meant a practice we call brahmacharya. It literally means 'moving with Brahma'. Brahma is like a god, or it could be the whole universe. But brahmacharya specifically meant to practice chastity. So specifically meant many of us know it from the Four Stages of Life in the tradition of Hinduism. Brahmacharya is the time when you are a student. You are expected to practice celibacy because you are learning and studying the way. And only when you complete that stage you go on to and have a family. So the Buddha followed his instinct. I'm not sure he had a very clear idea of what that would bring him. But he saw there was suffering in his life and I don't think he thought that suffering was only due to the fact that he was married, or because of sexual desire, but I think that he saw that it played a role. And he wanted to understand more deeply the nature of that suffering. And so I see that story not as necessarily as an invitation for us to leave our home and become a monk or a nun, although you're welcome if you want to do that. But it's a way of recognizing the importance of looking deeply into this energy within us that is transmitted to us in an unbroken chain for 1500 million years, more than two billion years possibly. That has arrived in the form of every cell of our body. And the need to continue, the need to reproduce for future generations. There are many living beings, or something like a living being, that didn't continue. And so they are not our ancestors. It's not that every one of our ancestors had strong sexual desire, but this desire has been transmitted to us. That is why we are here. Without that, that attraction between the male and the female of species is unlikely that we would bother to come together as two bodies in such a way that we can continue, in sexual intercourse. It's very unlikely without that desire, without those feelings. And so, it's quite understandable that we feel it very strongly, at least, many of us. Because through many generations that force, that energy has been selected over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. It is true that due to human culture, that had been that had been lying, which have continued, we are not so much based on sexual desire. For example, we know in Europe as well as India and China, many times marriages were arranged. That is, people had very little choice, maybe it had to do with diplomacy. But overall, I think we can safely say that the desire within us to come together as man and woman, or even... Yes. For the moment, we speak about coming together as man and woman, has been selected and become stronger, perhaps, stronger and stronger. That doesn't mean that there are not other kinds of sexual attraction, like between two men, or two women. It seems clear that it is also part of the process. But such a need, the desire between a man and a woman has been cultivated. Because when we look deeply with the eyes of non-self, we don't see that this body is only me, but we see ourselves only as a stream continuing our ancestors. And we can look deeply into that stream, and we see that certain things have evolved. For example, certain things have fallen away. In the Summer Retreat I love to watch the children climbing trees. And when I look deeply into them, scampering of a tree, with such ease, and just hanging out there, sometimes swinging by one arm, when my worry and fear disappears, then I look deeply and I see that I can see my ancestors, our ancestors who also lived in trees. We started in trees. Who like me at that age were very adept at knowing where to put their feet, where to grab onto the branch. They could test whether the branch would hold, whether it's dry and may break or whether would limber but too thin. All that wisdom is past on to us in our hands. And the process of an embryo developing is often related to our own evolutionary development. It is very difficult to, for a non-trained eye, to tell the difference between the embryo of a human being and the embryo of a chicken, for example. So, in the same way, our evolutionary past can be viewed through the development of a young person. And so, as we go through puberty and our body develops, then, we lose that capacity somewhat. And that nears our own development as human beings, when we've... It seems because the climate became cooler in Africa, and we needed to go out into the grasslands and walk long distances to maybe find roots to dig for or even then we had to hunt, our Achilles tendon became longer, and the arch in our foot became more rigid. Our neck developed the capacity to keep our head steady, even when we are walking and running, and upright. And so, that development also came with certain things that fell away, which is our capacity to, for example, hold on to a branch with our feet. It's very difficult, if you have ever tried, climbing a tree only with your feet. It was no longer so useful anymore, or it was more useful that we could run across the savanna. So I share that story so we don't look at this process of impermanence, of the stream of ancestry as always going in the direction of things getting better. That is a wrong perception. It is selecting for what is appropriate in the present moment. That is a better way to talk about evolution. Selecting for what is most appropriate and adaptive to the present moment. But that takes time. Time much vaster that we are normally capable of imagining. So here we are, in this situation in the present moment, where our environment is changing more quickly than we are able to adapt. So it's a very interesting moment, and I think already in the time of the Buddha, the Buddha had an idea about that. He had an insight. He saw, we are not quite adapted to live in this dusty houses. And so he left the home and went to live in the forest, in a way reliving the ancestral evolutionary heritage, using his own body as a kind of laboratory for understanding who he really is. Another way of saying that, how am I most adapted to be? To live? So I invite you to look at the path of the Buddha and his life story, and the community he has built up in that light. In the light of the ancestors the ancestral lineage, and finding our true home. Finding our true home. We can listen to a sound of the bell. (Bell) (Bell) In the list of Buddhist mental formations, there is on called jivitendriya. [jivitendriya] 'Jiva' is life, and 'endriya' is faculty, the faculty of life, life energy, a kind of life force that is impelling us forward to have a continuation in the future. When I started practicing, I took this sexual energy as a core part of my practice. Looking deeply into it in my sitting meditation. Because I knew I wanted to become a monk. But about a year after I made that resolution inside, then the seed of wanting to be a father came up in me, to have a family. I was at Maple Forest monastery, in Vermont, sister Chan Duc was there, at the Summer retreat, and I remember being in the Dharma sharing, and there were a few monastic sisters there. And I shared about that. Somehow into that point, and I was I think, 26, maybe? 26 years old. Maybe it sounds a little bit selfish but I speak honestly as a young man, I didn't think very much about having a family. But that doesn't mean I didn't have sexual relationships. So, and... But actually, taking the decision to become a monk, somehow changed my mind. And over the course of a year of practicing, I saw this strong urge coming up inside of me. A lot of it was based on the happiness I had experience as a young man, in my family. You know, thinking about vacations, or going water skiing, and my house, my dad, and my mum. We going ice-skating in the winter, all those warm, happy memories of childhood. And they came up very strongly, a kind of a warm feeling inside of my chest. So I shared about it in the Dharma sharing group. And it felt so healing just to be able to share about that. First time I ever shared really I think to anyone. And one of the sisters there, sister Susan, some of you may remember her, she shared something that I always remember that affected me very deeply, which is, some of you may know she was in our community for many years, and she lived in a practice community before coming to Plum Village. And in that community, she was not a celibate nun, at first, she had a family. And what she shared with me was that as a monk or a nun, we become part of the human family. Our love knows no bounds. We're no longer just containing our love to one blood family. And we can see ourselves, in some way, in shape or form as the father, the brother, the mother, the sister, the daughter, the son in every situation. And that was... That feeling that I had so strongly that I could not separate from sexual desire, so it's connected, allowed it to suddenly be released. Not that it disappeared, but it just released, it no longer had a... I realized I put a boundary around that emotion, which was bounded by my memories of my family. Bounded by the the accepted norms of society, which don't include becoming a monk or a nun, at least where I grew up. And so, that bounds, I untied myself taking this path of awakening, which is outside of the boundary. That could not be easily explained to those around me. And I suddenly felt isolated, alone. And that warm energy, this kind of life energy seemed to be bounded within this idea, this framework of a family like I've known growing up. So in that moment, listening to that sister share, another sister share, I felt whole again, I felt like there was no longer a boundary there. And so this energy was able to manifest. So in the one hand I don't have to push it down. I can give it its true flowering, I can allow it to come out, not being separated from what I love, but I see myself as being one with it. One with the sangha, one with our teacher, one with the whole human family, all living beings, and so forth. So touching this vital energy, as Thay talks about in the trainings, is very important, and understanding its nature. Thay talks about three aspects of this energy. We will look deeply into the four nutriments. Remember we learnt a few weeks ago: edible food, sense impressions, volition and consciousness. In order to preserve and channel our vital energy, sexual, breath, spirit, for the realization of our Bodhisattva ideal. This is how we learn appropriate ways to take care of our sexual energy. This is a kind of tight. So the way that I practiced, and I learned from Thay to work and understand this energy, work with it, understand it, was by using mindfulness of breathing. So in the practice of mindfulness of breathing we start with awareness of the in and out-breath. [1 aware of I+O] The first step. Breathing in, I know I'm breathing in. Breathing out, I know I'm breathing out. So we start with the breath. In fact, the breath goes all through. So this vital energy that is nourishing every cell in our body, passing through our blood stream, generating respiration within every cell of our body, it is nourishing us. There is a story you might know. A species that reproduces on the planet Earth so successfully, that expands to fill every corner of its ecological niche. After it discovers a way to exploit the carbon it finds in its environment, its presence dominates to such an extent that it drastically changes the composition of the atmosphere. Other species must adapt to this new toxic environment, or die out completely. And extraordinary numbers of species do go extinct. Anybody know which species this is? Yes, someone is pointing this way. It sounds familiar. It's a species called cyanobacteria. Anyone has ever heard about cyanobacteria? Ok, one hand goes up. Thank you. A happy farmer. Not surprisingly. Hopefully he knows cyanobacteria. Now we call it chloroplast. And it is located in every plant cell. It is the motor and the energy generated in a structure within pretty much, I think, every plant on the planet today. And about 2.4 billion years ago, a little bacteria very much like modern chloroplast was floating around in the surface of the ocean. And it had evolved the capacity to receive sunlight and carbon from the atmosphere. So taking the CO2 from the atmosphere and releasing the O2, it means oxygen, the oxygen, out into the atmosphere. And eventually, when all the natural water and elemental repositories for binding that oxygen were filled, then that oxygen went into the atmosphere. It's sometimes called the Great Oxygenation Event. Before that, most living beings were anaerobic, they could not survive in an oxygen rich environment. Many people, many scientists now believe those organisms formed in deep ocean vents, where hot gases were coming up from the center of the Earth. And over billions, millions and billions of years they built out a kind of life like quality. And so out of that lineage came the cyanobacteria, which for the first time was able to take the energy from the sun, rather than energy from other sources, and release, transform carbon dioxide into oxygen. And that is why today we can breathe. So all that oxygen favored those species that could learn to respire. They were able to build up respiration. So in every cell of our body we have cells which are able to take oxygen, and use it in order to generate energy along with the sugars, from the food we eat. So without that great event, we would not be here. So depending on how you want to look at the situation, cyanobacteria was a great destroyer of the world atmosphere, or the great renewer. It depends on which side you take. The anaerobic side or the aerobic side. So I tell that story a little bit to understand why the Buddha emphasizes mindfulness of breathing. It is nourishing every cell in our body when we breathe in and out. And by being aware of our breath, we are also honoring our evolutionary heritage, our ancestral heritage as an aerobic living being. So we start with awareness of the in and out-breath, and then continue with following the in and out-breath. [2 following I+O] So we develop concentration. Thay would often say, it's like this marker is our breath, and our finger is our attention. So we, with the in-breath we become aware as the breath starts to come in, through the whole length of breathing in. Our finger stays with the breath the whole way. And then, with the out-breath is the same breathing out. And from time to time, our attention goes off. We start thinking, worrying about the future, the past, and so we just smile, because we are practitioners, and we know to bring our attention back to the breath as it goes in and out. That is the training, following the in-breath all the way through, and following the out-breath all the way through. Concentration is not so complicated. You don't have to go like this to concentrate. You just continue to maintain your mindfulness over time. And then, we become aware of our body. So this awareness of the breath, actually brings us in contact with our body. We see that this process of respiration is not only the air moving into our mouth and into our lungs, but it is also continuing into our bloodstream to relax our body, to generate energy, to contribute to this vital energy. So breathing in, aware of the body. [3 aware of body] One thing that is so relaxing about listening to our teacher talk is that during the whole time of talking, Thay maintains his awareness of his breathing. He is relaxed. Usually when we hear people speak, they speak very quickly, just to get out the information. And you feel more stress and everybody is stressed and they want just to get out of there. But with Thay, you want to stay there for longtime, sometimes an hour, two hours, almost three hours. And somehow you feel calm and at peace. So that is how Thay train us. Even when we are speaking, or whether we are walking, or whether we are eating, to maintain this awareness of the body and the breath. And by doing that, we relax our body. [4 relax body] We calm the body. I mean calming. [4 calming body] When our mind is caught in an emotion like anger, we don't need to go much further than the breath to understand what is happening. Our breath becomes short. Our muscles constrict. So by being aware of the body, we can tell anger is manifesting. Our body is telling us. Sometimes the mind is quite tricky. It says, "Me? I'm not angry!" But the body knows. The breath knows. So that is why we start by being aware of the body. And when we are relaxed, when there is nothing disturbing our mind, and our attention is fully on our body, then we naturally become calm. So this is developing the breath. Throughout all the 16 exercises of mindful breathing, we're developing the breath, the vital energy of the breath. And understanding of this breath. But particularly, as we start out, we start with the breath. [BREATH] And the next section of practice... Everybody got this? I think you all know this, right? We learn to generate joy. [5 generate joy] I remember when I first practiced mindfulness of the body, the feelings, the mind, and phenomena, when I first discovered the establishments of mindfulness sutra, I discovered that it was possible to generate joy within me without depending on anything outside. Nothing that I bought, no movie that I watched, not even a thought like a memory of a happy time, or a happiness in the future. That is was actually possible to learn to touch the source of joy in my mind, in my body, and allow it to come up like a wellspring. For me, that was a huge freedom. Suddenly I felt not bound by outside circumstances. Of course, it didn't last so long. Because I tried to went away and then I learned I had to do this regularly. So I committed right away to sitting every morning, when I woke up in the morning, and also in the evening. I was very diligent, I was quite strict. Because of that joy, touching that joy, and I didn't need any other, anyone else to tell me what to do. It came from within me. It wasn't like the brothers knocking on my door, "Eh! Get up for sitting meditation!" Or my mental yelling at me because I'm sleeping in. That joy, that's what I wanted. I wanted to be able to cultivate that joy, so it could stay around for a long time. And I wanted to learn how to do it, I wanted to learn techniques that would help me to do that. And the next one is generating happiness. [6 generating happiness] So, most of us have learned these before, but I share them again in order for us to create a foundation for looking into the sexual energy. Because when we are able to generate joy and happiness that is not dependent on sexual craving, that is the first step of freedom. Nowadays there is images and sounds we can get at the touch of a button on the Internet. I can touch the seed of sexual craving in us. In a moment of - We are tired, we are lonely, we are looking for some joy, some happiness, all we have to do is press one key and there it is. Even I've heard of some men that even just opening their computer touches the seed of sexual desire in them. The conditioning is so strong, they don't even need the image, just turning on the computer touches the seed of sexual desire. We can listen to a sound of the bell. And I invite you to look in yourself, now we will go into looking at the sexual energy in our own body and mind, to see if you can look deeply and touch its nature in your mind's eye with the sound of the bell. (Bell) (Bell) So, was your meditation successful? It's a... For me, it's not difficult. Right away I can get in touch with that energy in my body, because is something that I practice with almost every minute throughout the day, at least once. And I'm not embarrassed to say that, that is it's part of... I've been a monk for 15 years, so it's 15 years of celibacy. And not a single day has gone by where I haven't, to some degree, had to look deeply into the energy, this sexual energy in my body. So that is a very actually easy meditation for me to share about, I never talked about it so much, like in a big Dharma talk like this, but... (Laughter) But I feel very at ease, because I know, I know when I'm touching that seed of sexual desire. Inviting it to come up, I know how to invite it to back down. I know when there are moments when I'm sad, or angry, or lonely, and I'm just looking for some way to stimulate that seed of sexual desire. But I know also how to, when that fever passes, my brother the other day described it like a fever, when we get sick and then the temperature of our body goes up. It's a little bit like that. You feel the fever, it comes and then it goes. And so, as monks and nuns, we become skillful in how to handle that energy with love and care. Not pushing it down, but knowing how to remove the... the water, the nutriment to that seed. So that is the next part. When we've learned how to touch the seed of joy and the seed of happiness, we can become aware of the sexual energy, sexual desire. [7 aware of sexual desire] It has a form. It feels in certain way. And in the body, when we learn to understand it, and specially, when we learn to cultivate joy and happiness without touching that seed yet. So you touch joy and happiness that is not... not tainted by sexual desire. So that helps you to grow your understanding of its nature. You learn how to be a skillful gardener in the garden of your mind. Many people don't know how to separate, they don't know what is oregano, and what is basil. For example. How many of us don't know what oregano looks like? You can be honest. Thank you. Right, so if you don't know what oregano looks like, and you don't... Most of us know what basil looks like probably. Because sometimes they put it on the pizza, so it's easy. They put oregano, but it's already ground up, so it's not so clear. So a good gardener knows what to do to plant oregano, and what to do to... Actually we don't have to plant it here in France, you find it everywhere in the ditches. But we know how to plant basil. So, we also know to tell the basil from the weeds. Maybe there are certain weeds that are coming up in our garden, and we don't want... We want to favor the basil. So then we come back to what I shared at the beginning about our modern situation. The human body is not quite adapted to the environment in which it finds itself. So when we go down to Leclerc, to go shopping, and we hear the sound of a love song as we go along, and we just feel, "Oh! I feel so pleasant! Why not I just buy that?" Because they are very skillful, they know how to water the seed of, not too much, just a little bit, just enough, sexual desire in our consciousness, so we have a nice, pleasant feeling. We think about somebody who is moaning on the loudspeaker about the love, I will love you forever, and ever, and ever. And then we think... So it touches that seed in us of our relationships from the past, of love, when we had that feeling, and so we just want to buy everything because we feel so good. Ah! That wonderful relationship I had in the past! So I try to go to Leclerc as little bit as possible. Then, along the highway we see signs, like we talked already about the computer, at the push of a button. We see all kinds of pornography. So in this modern environment that we find ourselves in, we are actually not adapted very well to it. When I used to be stimulated sexually almost non-stop throughout the day in all this subtle ways. So this original energy, which is there to help us to continue into the future is being co-opted by our environment. It is being conditioned by our environment. So I want to ask you, when you look and you are aware of sexual energy, is it really that life force, or is it just an ad? Is it just a love song? Is it just an image of the one you love? Or is it really them? Thay said that we don't fall in love with another person, we fall in love with the image of the other person. And overtime, when the image starts to look different than the reality, then suffering appears. So we've already been conditioned by the pictures in the magazines, by the pornography on the Internet. We narrow down our search on Google to exactly that image of that perfect person. So when we see her, or we see him, we cannot control ourselves. We are overwhelmed. It is "the one", the one I've been looking for! (Laughter) But is it that one? Or is it just an image in our mind? So that is what the Mindfulness of the Breathing Sutra invites to look into. I put in sexual desire here as one of the mental formations. The seventh step is to be aware of mental formations. So in this case, we are looking into the mental formation of sexual desire. And we learn to calm, we learn its nature, so we can calm the energy of sexual desire. [8 calm sexual desire] So there are many ways we can learn to do that. In the mindfulness training it says, "We must be aware of future suffering that may be caused by sexual relations." But this is the training. Nobody is forced to train in the 14 mindfulness trainings. A lot of people complain, "Long term commitment?" (Laughter) "Why can we just be free?" Okay, we can be free as long as you are not in love with an image. And I challenge you to prove that you are not in love with an image of that other person without committing over long term. I challenge you. Good luck! Because the - When I first took the 5 mindfulness trainings, wich had a very similar line, when I first read them, I did not take them right away. But I practiced for a year and I did an experiment. Sometimes I would fall back on my old habit energies, and then I practiced, just like we learn, following the in- and out-breath, I practiced to maintain mindfulness throughout the whole experience of that sexual relationship. Not just the moment that is really interesting, but also the parts that are not so interesting, that maybe are related to that experience, right? The ones that come after, sometimes days after, sometimes weeks after, sometimes months. And I can tell you, as a monk for 15 years, sometimes 15 years later, when I'm sitting in meditation. That was because I was in love with an image of the other person. And sometimes that image still comes back. And the infatuation returns, that seed comes up, and I think, "Oh! It was so lovely!" So somehow this hidden infatuation blinds us to what is really going on. What we are really doing in the present moment. And we need to be very careful. So, monks and nuns, we train in that, to recognize infatuation, attachment when it arises, and not to smash it to the ground with a hammer, but to just take care of it, to hold it, to embrace. That is the beauty of Thay's transmission to our sangha, because in many traditional Buddhist monasteries you just smash it down. You cut it off! And, as we know, when we try to keep the seeds in the earth from expanding up, then they just spread their roots out, sometimes farther. Sometimes people try, with bamboo, you try to - You cut it and then you cover it up and then the roots keep growing out, and they find a new place to come up, maybe sometimes 10 meters away. So our sexual desire is like that. If we just push it down like that, it will find other ways to come up. So there is not a healthy circulation of our mental formations, there is no a healthy circulation of this sexual energy. And Thay trained us, as monks and nuns, to have a healthy relationship with our sexual energy. And then the aspect of spirit. So we touched on the breath, these four is to looking to our sexual energy. And then Thay provides us - [SEX] Energy called spirit. Spirit. We can listen to a sound of the bell. (Bell) (Bell) [vital energy] [SEXUAL - BREATH - SPIRIT] Spirit. The word comes from the same root for 'respire'. The breath. It has to do with our mind, it recognizes that our mind is connected with our breath. So in the next steps of mindful breathing, we become aware of the mind. [9 aware of the mind] We are aware of the thoughts that are appearing. When we look deeply into those thoughts we see that they are providing nourishment for our mental formations, like sexual desire. So we are aware of what our mind is attending to. Do we have an image in our mind? Maybe an erotic image. We hold that and then we notice that that waters a seed of sexual desire in us. It's very simple! We just don't recognize it. We don't take a step back and shine the light of mindfulness on it. So that is what the sutra invites us to do. As we breath in, I'm aware of my mind. Breathing out, I'm aware of my mind. So aware of what has been put there in our mind, in our mind's eye. When we are attending to the breath, then the breath becomes the object of our meditation. Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. So we can be mindful of our breath, we can be mindful of - We can imagine the face of someone that we find very attractive, and then I can water that seed of sexual desire. So it becomes a source of nutriment. That's what we are doing day in and day out. And then when we stop, when we shift our attention back to the breath, that seed is no longer watered. We think this is our 'me' who is doing it for us, like I am the one doing this. But this is a process of conditioning. The nutriments, they come in, sense impressions, volition, consciousness. If we cultivate the seed of having many sexual relations, that becomes a reality. If we cultivate the seed of being aware of breathing, of calming our body and mind, then that becomes a reality. So where we put our attention, what is there on the plate of our mind, it's like we have food on a plate in front of us. Or maybe it's whatever is open in our computer. It is coming up on the screen. That's what this is training us to do, at every moment, to be aware of what is present in our mind. And then, we learn to gladden the mind. [10 gladden the mind] So we learn to bring up those kinds of thoughts, or to give attention to those things which actually bring about happiness and joy. So we are going down to the root. We learn to generate joy and happiness, and now we are going down to see, what is really going on there, at the root? How can we provide a kind of nutriment in our thinking, in our attention, that nourishes joy and happiness? So, mind training, training the mind. So we are learning how to sublimate this vital energy which has the manifestation of sexual desire. And we are directing it towards the breath, towards the spirit, towards being aware of also the sexual energy. But not being swept away by that energy, or being just pulled away by the images that we are attached to, infatuated with. And by gladdening the mind, the mind becomes peaceful, it is not searching for things outside of itself. It's no longer searching for those images, it is not easily carried away by that music in the supermarket, or the advertisements that you see alongside the road. I read a story yesterday from an old student of Thay's. Many of you know Thay is in the root temple, in Vietnam. He has committed to going back there for the rest of his life. So many brothers and sisters in the community are in this moment to prepare for maybe many people becoming very interested in Thay's life, suddenly, to explain some things about the history of Thay's life. And one of the sisters doing that sent me a link of an old student of Thay, named Jim Forest, who studied at (), and also the Buddhist Peace Delegation, in Paris, in the 1970s. And he told the story where they were walking in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, which is a, I think still is a little bit - Michael has said. It's an area - I think that is a little bit with kind of sex shops, and, you know, shows and things like that. I think in Paris you also have something like that. And somehow they ended up walking through San Francisco and they ended up at that - And, so Jim told the story where he thought, "Oh gosh! How did I end up with Thay here, in this district!" (Laughter) And he just kept his view very straightforward and he just kind of was walking by. But then, they came to one shop where there was a show inside. And then Thay turned and he looked. And, I get the impression Thay was just looking at like Thay would look at an autumn leaf, or a blade of grass. (Laughter) Just with these eyes of wonder. Because I think in Vietnam it's not very common to have out in the street - And Thay seeing images of women to go into the shop. And it said underneath, it said, "Only people over the age of 21 with an ID are permitted to enter". So then, Thay turned to Jim and said, "Jim, are you older than 21?" (Laughter) And then Jim said, "No, Thay". Of course, Jim was older than 21. But Jim had a deeper insight into Thay's question. Thay was not asking Jim literally are you already age of 21. When a Zen master asks you a question, there is many layers of meaning. So Thay said, "Good. Neither am I." (Laughter) Of course, Thay was in his 40s. But Thay said, "Neither am I. So we don't have to go in there" And they continued walking. I love that story, because a normal way of practicing is a kind of like a spiritual by-passing. We just want to walk by. We have a fear, right? Like the mindfulness trainings talks us that we have a fear, and illusion of a separate self. So in that fear, in order to maintain our illusion of a separate self, we just close off our vision. We just look like that. But Thay stopped and looked. Thay wants to see what is really going on. So there is someone in us that really wants to see what is going on. We don't want to just blind ourselves to the reality. There are young women in there, they are making their living by doing these sex shows. Thay is looking deeply into the situation with compassion. And if we are solid in our practice like that, we are not enticed, we are not pulled in, we are not pulled away by the emotion. And we can smile with this wonder, these eyes of wonder. Here, not being over 21 means we maintain our innocence, our joy, our wonder of looking at the world. Even if we have suffered in the past, even if we've been over 21 in the past, we can return to that childlike wonder. And look at another human being, and look at the situation with the eyes of understanding and love. And see the suffering that is there. So if we are able to gladden the mind in that way, if we are happy, and solid in our joy, then we are not pulled away by these things. And the 11th is concentrating the mind. [11 concentrating the mind] So we learn to maintain our awareness over time. This is connected to following the in-breath and the out-breath. We can become aware of in-breath, and then we maintain that attention over time. And the more we train in that way, the more our concentration becomes steady, and solid, we are not easily distracted. So even if these images come, like Thay standing there, looking at the image of a woman, we are not pulled away. We are not - The image is there to pull you in. So you pay your money, so you can go in and that seed of sexual desire can be watered in you. But if we know how to maintain concentration, then we know when things come in, and they are trying to nourish our seed, and we don't allow them to continue to manifest in our mind consciousness. It will not penetrate deeply. The Buddha often said, it is not that the Buddha doesn't have sexual desire, or anger, or sadness, it is that he does not allow those emotions to overwhelm his mind anymore. He has made the decision to cut them off. He can see a naked woman, but it doesn't penetrate into touching the seed of sexual desire in his consciousness. He knows that that is not true freedom. That he cannot find true happiness in a sexual relationship. Only - True happiness is only found in ourselves, in this body, in this mind, in cultivating peace, joy, calm, and understanding the nature of our mind. So we are no longer pulled away by these temptations. And if we do have a sexual relationship, we are also not pulled away by the image we have of the other person. We are able to look into their eyes, and see them as they truly are. We practice it as a meditation. If we are lay practitioners, we are not committed to, like we as monastics. So I don't want you to go away and think, "Oh my gosh! I have to become a monk or a nun right away!" But we have to learn how to take care of that desire within us so that we are not blinding ourselves with infatuation. That is understanding this vital energy of spirit. Understanding our mind. We have to understand how these things in every moment are stimulating seeds in our consciousness. And then, we touch freedom. Liberating the mind. [12 liberating the mind] The mind is no longer enslaved, we are no longer easily carried away by the images. So, dear brothers and sisters, thank you for being here, helping to look deeply into this energy of sexual desire. I encourage you to look into the remaining steps of mindful breathing, concentration on impermanence, letting go, abandoning desire, extinction of notions, nirvana, in you own practices here. Out of time. But I want to share that as a man, and a monk, I'm aware that in our ancestral history, that we have a lot of Beginning Anew to do around this topic. And going into this XXI century, I hope we can do it together, that we can learn of these seeds, how we've used violence, power, fear in the past, because we didn't understand what the Buddha was teaching. We didn't know how to put into practice this understanding of sexual desire. So, it is with a lot of humility that we need to learn to Begin Anew as men, specially. With the Me Too movement, it is helping us, it's like a bell of mindfulness to help not only men, but mostly men to look deeply into this as a training so that we can transform going into the future, and live again, or maybe for the first time, in real harmony and peace, with brotherhood and sisterhood. I just end with asking you to support. Two of us are going this coming week to a conference, On the Dignity of the Child in the Digital World. It is taking place in the United Emirates. Thay has been invited to represent, as a Buddhist leader, to represent the community in looking deeply into the situation with children who are being abused for pornography online. This is a meeting of many leaders from many different traditions, from Muslim, Christian, and Jewish and other traditions, Buddhists, so Thay will not go in person but two brothers will go and will support. So I thank you for being able to share about this topic here today, because - And I'm grateful for Thay, for putting right in the trainings, "We will do everything in our power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct." So I ask you to send energy for the children everywhere who are in a situation like that because of our own incapacity to take care of our energy of sexual desire. They are enslaved to be put online for our own sexual desire. And that is a big bell of mindfulness for us all. Please, enjoy walking meditation, and we will continue next week with more looking deeply into the mindfulness trainings. Thank you so much. (Bell) (Bell) (Bell) (Bell)

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