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Dharma Talks / Right View: Understanding the Roots of Our True Happiness

Sr Chân Đức

— Description

Which actions in our daily life nourish lasting happiness? Which of them contain seeds of suffering for ourselves and others? How can we understand this more clearly, and what does this have to do with the deepest fruit of mindfulness practice, Right View?

In this talk, our respected elder Sr. Chân Đức carefully explains the Four Noble Truths. She helps us understand the relationship between “collective” and “individual” suffering as well as their roots. She draws on the “Discourse on Right View” (Majjhima Nikaya 9) to illuminate the connection between Right View, the actions of our daily life, and the suffering and happiness which they bring about.

In this Discourse, the Buddha’s chief disciple Venerable Sariputra shares that “Right View is to understand the roots of the wholesome and the unwholesome”. Sr. Chân Đức explains that “wholesome” and “unwholesome” here can be understood in terms of the Five Mindfulness Trainings (https://plumvillage.org/mindfulness-practice/the-5-mindfulness-trainings/), whose essence can be found with surprising universality across many faith traditions from both East and West. She shares that to “understand” means to be truly “aware of the suffering [or happiness] caused by” particular actions. With this kind of understanding, we aren’t caught in black-and-white moral categories, to which we assign different actions. Rather, we are able to see deeply and clearly the effect of an action in its full context and complexity.

Sr. Chân Đức tells us that when Sariputra was asked to share further about Right View, he explained that “Right View is to understand the Four Nutriments”: namely, edible food, sense impressions, volition, and [collective] consciousness. Our sister invites us to reflect carefully on which aspects of our daily lives nourish our happiness, and which bring about suffering. She shares her own experience of “storing up wood for the winter”: by being in touch with the wonders of life available in the present moment, we create a reserve of happy memories which can nourish and sustain us later in difficult moments.

Sr. Chân Đức offers us the words to a song she composed based on the Avatamsaka Sutra, in which she likens the mind to a painter that paints our world. She shares that for her, rather than making life less wondrous, the awareness that the world comes mostly from our mind actually deepens her appreciation and enjoyment of its mystery and beauty. She shares how this awareness has empowered her to take care of her own periods of episodic depression, by recognizing both the triggers of the depression and its roots in her own way of perceiving and responding to those triggers. She explains further how listening deeply with this kind of compassionate understanding can help us heal our relationships, and contribute to broader healing in our society. To conclude, she sings for us this simple and touching song:

“The mind is painting a picture
The mind is painting a picture of sunshine and showers
The mind is painting a picture of days and hours

The mind is painting
The mind is enjoying
The mind is painting a picture of living and dying
The mind is painting a picture of laughing and crying

The mind is painting
The mind is enjoying
And all is here in this moment
A fleeting lifetime encapsulating thousands
and thousands of ages
We touch the Earth
We reach the sky”

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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