Dharma Talks / The Four Immeasurable Minds – The Four Elements of True Love

Sr Diệu Nghiêm

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[gong] [gong] [gong] So, good afternoon, dear respected Thay, dear beloved brothers and sisters and friends Today is Thursday, the 26th of July 2018 We are in the Still Water Hall, meditation hall of Upper Hamlet and this is the last Dharma Talk of the third week of our annual Summer Retreat. and it's very hot. Thank you for coming to sit here, I try to keep it short and sweet, so we can all go out and enjoy some fresh air after this. Today I'll be speaking about the four Brahmavirahas, the four immeasurable minds that really are a guide to how we can respond to life situations with love and I think it's a hot day, so maybe we have to respond with love by keeping it short. Today we celebrate the Full Moon festival together, here in Upper Hamlet and that's why we have the Dharma talk in the afternoon, so the friends from the New Hamlet don't need to ride the bus back and forth twice. An expression of love and understanding. A good start. We started this week with a smile, do you remember? Sister Hoi Nghiem shared how every morning when she recites the ghata, waking up this morning I smile, 24 brand new hours are before me, I vow to live them fully each moment and look at all beings with the eyes of compassion. And when she notices that she forgot to smile, she will lie down again and start all over again. So my question is, how many times did you lie down again this week? Did you remember? But that story definitely brought a smile to our face, didn't it? Anyway, in case you missed the chance to smile, we're waking up. I thought, maybe we start by giving you a chance to smile and to enjoy your smile. A smile makes us feel better straight away. whether we're the ones who receive it, or the ones who offer it. or the ones who just smile because, why not? Why would we not smile? It makes us feel better straight away. and as we heard, it's the best way to start the day A smile can even turn "Monday morning", if that still exists, nowadays that we work from home Monday morning, not a too pleasant morning and I hope that it can also turn a hot Thursday afternoon into a pleasant afternoon. Let's start with a short meditation to bring our mind home to our body. Make yourself comfortable. and let's bring some loving kindness to ourselves by, during the meditation, going through our body and whenever we encounter a feeling of tension, on the outbreath, to relax the tension, to soften it and to smile to it, to say, "I know you're there, I love you too, you are also me. So let's start by enjoying a sound of the bell. [gong] Let us become aware of the air as it flows into and out of our body, and smile to our inbreath and outbreath knowing that we are alive in this moment. Let us become aware of our body and scan our body from the top of our head all the way down to the tip of our toes. And we sweep along any tension we may find on our way Maybe there's tension in our head, maybe behind our forehead, or around our eyes, behind our eyes, around our ears our jaws, maybe our neck, and on every outbreath, we smile, which helps to soften the tension we encounter. Become aware of our shoulders, and then sweep down into the arms, our hands and our fingers. On every outbreath, softening the tension by offering it a smile. We sweep down our trunk our back and our front. And then the lower part of our body, the buttocks and the abdomen. Softening any tension we may find in the buttocks or in the abdomen by offering it a smile. Then we sweep down into the legs, all the way down into the feet, to the tip of the toes. And here too, softening any tension we may encounter, and offering it a smile. Now become aware that we have arrived on our chair or on our cushion or on the ground, if you're sitting on the ground. Our body is here and our mind is in the now, in the present moment. Body and mind, relaxed. And we like to allow a smile to be born on our lips. [gong] We usually smile when we want to acknowledge the presence of someone, of someone we meet, it is very common to smile then. When we walk around the grounds of Plum Village we're bound to meet people, because there are many of us, here, So we have a lot of opportunities to smile throughout the day. A smile or a nod of the head, something like this. In some cultures they do that, not a smile. At home, when we walk in the streets and we meet a neighbor, we also smile, even if they're on the other side of the street Maybe we wave as well, but often, we just smile. To let them know, "I see you," "I've seen you, I acknowledge your presence," and this is very important. Everybody needs love, needs to be loved, and everybody has a need to love as well. But very often, the way we love ends up imprisoning the other person, and also ourselves. So how can we love and be free at the same time? What may happen when we meet somebody and we offer them a smile, tears come to their eyes. Because they have a feeling that they haven't been seen or acknowledged in their being, for a long time. We may live with other people but we're so busy, we watch many things, we look at many things, but we don't look at the people we live with. We already heard it this week, but it also strikes me every time I travel, for instance, and I'm in the departure lounge, there are many people, and they're all sitting with their gadgets, Last time, when I came into the lounge, I tried to guess who was with who. That was quite difficult! Because they're sitting with their back to each other, doing this, and I thought, I don't think they came together. But when it is time to board, they speak to each other and they go off together to board. I said, "apparently they did come together." But it's difficult to tell. Usually I can tell if children and parents are together, because they sit together and they may say something, but they're also quite... immersed in whatever they're doing with their gadgets This is such a pity, because the most precious thing we can offer each other is our true presence. And when we sit in a departure lounge, a waiting room, we have nowhere to go and nothing to do until we board the plane. It's a very good opportunity to be there for each other. and to just offer each other's presence. Thay gave us a mantra that says "I am here for you." This is not a mantra in Sanskrit or some other language, this is a mantra in colloquial language, "I am here for you." In French, "Je suis là pour toi," and you can translate it into your own language. and to go to our loved ones, first, bring our mind home to our body, as we did just now. to be truly present, and then say: "Darling, I'm here for you." and then I leave it up to you to discover what happens after that, and then you can let us know next year. I'm truly here for you. To hear, to listen, to understand. True Love comes from understanding, and in order to understand, we need to listen carefully. We need to listen to what's being said inbetween the lines At the beginning of the week, we chanted Namo Avalokiteshvaraya, we invoked the name of the Bodhisattva Avalokitha, who has the capacity to listen, and, also, to hear what's being said and what is left unsaid. To really listen, because our loved one, or our friend, our parent or our child, may be saying something in words, may be saying one thing in words, but their eyes may be saying something else. So, being present and looking into their eyes, maybe their body language, we will be able to hear what's being left unsaid, but what actually wants to be heard. What wants to be heard. So let us enjoy a sound of the bell, and offer ourselves our true presence one more time. Bringing our mind home to our body. "Hello body, I'm here for you", making ourselves present for ourselves. [gong] When I wake up in the morning, like my sister, I don't always remember to smile. But I remember smiling in the morning, better, if I remember to smile before I go to sleep. So, if you didn't remember to smile in the morning, try smiling at night, and you may also remember better. But then, when I get to the bathroom, I see a mirror. When I first came to Plum Village, we didn't have so many mirrors, but now we have more mirrors, so I have a chance to see myself. Some of you who have been coming for a long time, remember this. We don't have any hair, I don't need to put on make up and things like that so I look in the mirror and I think, why should I look in the mirror? Oh, I could smile at myself, why not? "Hello! Good morning, how are you?" Why not? So that's what I do. I forget to smile when I wake up, I remember when I look into the mirror. Try it. It's bit kind of awkward in the beginning, smiling at yourself but it's worth the while. If we practise, if we're talking about true love maybe we can start by loving ourselves. So the least we can do, is offering ourselves a smile. And saying, ok, I know you're there, and I'm so happy. How are you today? When we smile, in the gatha, we smile to a new day. In the gatha, that's the little poem that the sister recited, waking up this morning, I smile, it's a little poem that we recite when we wake up in the morning. When we wake up in the morning, because we want to water the seed of compassion in us. To look at all beings with compassion, and I thought, well, since I'm the first being to meet this morning, why not smile to myself? So we wake up and we can smile to the new day. This is a new day. We could reflect, how did I live my day yesterday? This is a new day. I can live it with a little bit more compassion for myself and for others. We smile to the people around us, our loved ones, and smile to nature. Sometimes it seems much easier to smile to a singing bird or to a tree or to a flower than to the person who's right next to us. However, the person who's right next to us is also a flower. And our smile will make her, him, them, bloom. So we can practice smiling to nature in order to develop the capacity of smiling. We can also smile to our joy, as well as our suffering. And then we can just smile for the joy of smiling. Many years ago, this was before I ordained, but I already knew of the practice, I was walking down the street, and all of a sudden somebody stopped and turned around, and I thought, Oh, maybe I know this person, so I turned around and said: "Do I know you?" He said: "No - such a beautiful smile," and I said: "Oh? Ok." And I thought, I didn't even know I was smiling, but I was smiling for no reason whatsoever, just smile because I was feeling well, I guess. You know? I was smiling. So we don't need a specific or a particular reason to smile, we can smile just like that. Thay said: "Sometimes our smile is born from love, and sometimes love is born from our smile." I like that. So true love has four aspects, and these four aspects are within ourselves. They are within ourselves in the form of a seed. We already heard about seeds this week, in our store consciousness, that need to be watered in order to bloom, into a flower. That is to say, a seed is a potential. We have the capacity to love, to have loving kindness in our heart. We have the capacity to be compassionate. We have the capacity to feel joy, we have the capacity to feel equanimity and to be inclusive. It's in seed form, the potential, and when it's watered, when the seed gets water, then it manifests as a mental formation, or in other words, as a state of mind. So these four aspects of love, we call them: the Four Immeasurable States of Mind, the immeasurable minds. And they're immeasurable because we can extend these aspects to all beings and to everything that is, including Mother Earth. They have no limit, the unlimited minds. They're within us, so it's not something we have to get somewhere, they are in us in potential. So it's a matter of watering them. We can water the seeds by practising Deep Looking and Deep Listening The first aspect is Maïtri, also called Loving Kindness or, here in Plum Village, we sometimes call it Love. Just Love. It is the intention and the capacity to love. We may have an intention, but that doesn't mean we have the capacity. The capacity, we develop. And the capacity to love stems from understanding. The capacity to offer joy and happiness, in order to offer happiness to others, we have to understand them. We have to know their aspirations, their dreams, their hopes. What is it they hope for in their lives? What is it? Sometimes our parents have had dreams for their own future, as a young person, but maybe conditions were not sufficient for them to realize it. Then they hope, they wish so much that their children will be able to realize their dreams, but we may have our own dream which may not be the same, and although our parents want the best for us, actually, we suffer a little bit. We suffer a little bit. Here in Plum Village, Thay teaches us that we as elders need to look deeply to understand the aspirations and the joys and the suffering of our younger siblings. So we have to listen to them. And sometimes I encourage my younger sisters in the Dharma to do things that I think will help them to make progress on the Path. And that can cause them suffering. So as a practise as an elder, I'm practising looking and listening in order to understand what their dreams are and to see what would be the next step on their path, and how can I offer support. So this is my practise of making progress on the path, is, to listen to my younger ones. Here in Plum Village, we celebrate Christmas, and it's an opportunity to offer a gift to one of our sisters A few years ago I went shopping with another sister who had just arrived, and then she looked at what I put in the basket and she said "Sister Dieu Nghiem, that is not your taste at all, why do you buy those things?" and I said: "Because this is what my sister likes." And I realized, maybe in the past I have offered things to friends, to my siblings, that I like, this would be a wonderful present, because it's so beautiful, you know? And I give it to them, and now in hindsight, I think, hm.... maybe that was a present that came from a lot of love and a little lack of understanding. But I remember they all accepted it very gracefully, so, they may have realized it was a good intention. Maïtri is also friendship. There's the word Mitra that's connected to Maïtri, and it means Spiritual Friend. A friend is somebody, a heart friend, somebody that understands us, who understands our dreams and our aspirations, our joys and our sufferings, with whom we can share from our heart with whom we can share our joys and also our suffering and who will listen without judging or reacting and who will not give advice. "You know what you should do" But also, it's on the path in our life, it's also that they can point out to us something that we don't see. and they can point that out to us in a way that we can hear it. So, to be a true friend, to be a friend on the spiritual path, it needs Deep Looking and Deep Listening, and some understanding, in order to point something out in a way that it can be received. I also noticed on my path, I have given some input and... it wasn't in a way it could be received. although I gave it with the best of intentions so I'm becoming more and more mindful of how I give some encouragements. However well meant, it needs to be in the right way at the right time But we may have a spiritual friend who we know very well. She can say a little bit more, because we have this friendship that holds all this and she can say, like one of my sisters said, "well, you could look at the habit energy. One of your habit energies is, sometimes you're quite impulsive. You react spontaneously to something, but it may not always be the right thing to do. And I said, "Thank you, I will look into that." I know it came from her care. So, having a good friend with whom we can share, so that we can grow. Our heart can become larger, we can embrace more, we can find more happiness for ourselves and for others So, to give some feedback, we have to be aware of from where we are giving that feedback. Sometimes someone in our community may be passing through a difficult time, therefore also cause some difficulties, some suffering to others and I'm becoming more and more aware of what this touches in me. Sometimes it touches a kind of annoyance, you know, can she not take better care of her suffering, instead of causing others also to suffer? And then, not so long ago, I thought, wait a minute. If I were suffering, and somebody wanted to point something out to me, how would I like to be approached? Then I thought, with kindness. With some love. So I took some time to be with my sister, to be able to touch her suffering. What is her suffering? The little I know about the roots, can I just touch it? and then I could interact with her, and a big smile came up on her lips, and I thought, yes, that was because I came with love in my heart, with compassion, and not with annoyance. and I thought just kindness, just plain kindness, how much does it take, and I asked myself, why does it take me so long sometimes? I realized, it takes long because I'm not very kind to myself. How can I be kind to others if I'm not kind to myself? Can I have a little bit more kindness and a little bit more compassion to watch myself? So lately I've been practising to look at myself with the eyes of compassion. and to see, why do I think the way I think, why do I speak the way I speak? Why do I act the way I act, in my interactions with others. What is happening for me? And when I look and I see my shortcomings, maybe a little impatience, a lack of understanding of myself also, I think, can I just accept myself as I am? I am as I am, because of many causes and conditions All the seeds that were watered in me during my lifetime, that I have allowed to be watered in me, during my lifetime, maybe seeds I have inherited from my ancestors I want something to be solved quickly, I'm very efficient. but that's not always the best way to approach an issue Sometimes you need time. One time I went to Thay and I said: "Thay, I'd like to address this issue with one of the sisters." And Thay said: "Too soon. Too soon, you have to wait." Thay told me: "Sometimes Thay also has to wait for six months." and I thought, ok, let me walk in the footsteps of my teacher, and practise waiting. Six months at least, you'll see when the time is right. I realized time needs to be right in me. When I can approach with loving kindness as a spiritual friend when I can approach with compassion, then the time may be right. It's not only the time for the other person, but for me, I have to be ready. So, to offer time. The second aspect of True Love is Karuna, compassion. It means the intention and the capacity to relieve the suffering. First of all, our own suffering. A lot of our suffering is caused by wrong perceptions, as we already heard. So it's always good to go and check our perceptions "the other day, you said this; can you tell me why you said that?" In the beginning I said, "You said that!" quite unkindly. "Why did you say this?" I realize it doesn't inspire the other person to reply because there is already a criticism in there, the tone of my voice, the words I use. So, to ask, to check my perceptions, I also need to come from a place of really wanting to understand and to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. I also am unskillful at times, not necessarily on purpose, and I also appreciate when somebody gives me the benefit of the doubt. So, trust the other person, we'll then be able to understand that sharing with us, why we said something, will help relieve the suffering in us. Sometimes we find it difficult to be with the suffering of someone else, and we like it to go away, because their suffering makes us suffer. We suffer because they suffer. We have the intention to help relieve their suffering, but actually, underneath, there's the wish that if they don't suffer anymore, then I feel better. So we're doing it with a self-interest. My experience is, when I do this, it doesn't work. It just doesn't work. I think, when we suffer, we're very sensitive to with what kind of energy someone approaches us. If they want us not to suffer, because our suffering is causing them difficulties, is causing them suffering, so, "stop suffering please, so I can be happy", it doesn't work like that. If we listen in order to help relieve the suffering, it's with the sole purpose that we would like the other person to be relieved of their suffering, not because of us. If we find it difficult to be with their suffering, we have to look, why is it difficult to be with the suffering of the other? to understand, and to look after ourselves in a way that we can take care of our suffering, and then, maybe we're able to be with their suffering. At times, when we are with somebody who suffers, we just need to be with them. Just sitting next to them, breathing, not being overwhelmed by their suffering, not being carried away by their suffering. Maybe just an arm around their shoulders. Just to know that we are there for them. and that's all. Many years ago, I lived in a small center with some other monastics, and we had a neighbor, and the wife was ill, she was dying. Whenever he wanted to go shopping, he came to our door to ask one of us to be with his wife. So we would sit at her side and breathe, and just be there. Maybe hold her hand. Not really saying much. One day, he came again, and he said: "Sorry, I always come to ask one of you, because Lucie is so calm and peaceful when one of you is there." So I spoke to the other sister and said: "What do you do?" She said: "Nothing. I just sit there." I said: "So do I." And I asked her: "Are you afraid?" and she said: "No." I said: "Neither am I." So we could be with her fear. We could just be there. We didn't need to say much. And she was peaceful, and at ease. So, we don't always need words. Our true presence is already here, and soothing. Maybe we can enjoy a sound of the bell, and bring our mind home to our body, so we can make ourselves truly present especially present for ourselves, and maybe we don't need to say anything to ourselves, but just be there. Be with whatever is present in us. [gong] Boddhisatva As I was sitting here, I was saying, "just be with the heat," and then, "but look at the people in front of me, it's much hotter there." You're surrounded by 37°, many and I have a fan. One time, one of my sisters came to share her suffering with me, and I jumped into action, I came up with a number of solutions. She said: "But Sœur Dieu, I just want you to listen to me." I thought: "Oh yes, of course." That's all. That's more precious than anything else, my solutions are my solutions, not hers. So, let's imagine, that we're faced with a difficult situation. How would we like to be approached? What kind of action or non-action would help us to embrace our suffering? It could be a bigger or smaller suffering. Maybe it's something that you can offer yourself. So, maybe we'll just close our eyes and have another sound of the bell, and let's just go to ourselves, how would I like to be approached? [gong] As I said before, what came up for me this time again, is the question, do I understand you enough? Do I understand myself enough? What can I offer myself? The third aspect of True Love is Muditha, it means joy. Muditha, it means joy. Joy and happiness, born from letting go. Many small things can bring joy. Coming back to the present moment, we can nourish our joy with the beauty around us, we can nourish our joy with the presence of our loved ones around us. We feel the gratitude and the joy of their presence in our lives. And the joy that is an immeasurable mind, is the joy that is filled with peace and contentment. So it's not the joy that has excitement it is this peace and contentment. And we feel this joy for ourselves and for others. It's also the joy, when someone we love is happy, when someone we love maybe went through a difficult time and then is happy. We feel this joy for them. "I'm so happy for you." That kind of joy. We rejoice in the well-being of others, that kind of joy. In our daily life we'll see there are more opportunities than we think to have joy and to rejoice in the happiness of others. The last aspect of True Love is Upeksha. Upeksha. It means inclusiveness. It means "we love everyone equally." The ones we find easy to love and the ones we find more difficult to love. As I said, we have the potential to do this already, right? It needs to be watered, that seed needs to be watered in order to manifest as a state of mind. If, at the moment, we say: "To love everybody, to be inclusive, I'm not there yet", That's alright, because we're still practising, we're going in the direction. To love everyone equally also stems from compassion. How can we be compassionate to somebody who behaves in a way that causes suffering to other people? If we try to put ourselves in the skin of that person, and try to imagine, what was the kind of family this person may have been born into? What was the childhood like? What was their environment when they grew up? What were the people they interacted with? What kind of education did he have? The environment forms us, so what is the environment they grew up with? Was it an environment that was full of understanding and love, or was it an environment where there was hatred and violence? If there was hatred and violence, the seed of hatred and violence was watered in them The seeds of discrimination was watered in them. So, no wonder they are the way they are. If we can really put ourselves in the skin of the other, understand how they came to be as they are, then we can include them in our love. Because we have compassion. Compassion does not mean that we condone the act, what they did is not right, but we can understand what brought them to that point what kind of mental food did they get, to what were they exposed? Thay says: "If we were born where they were born, in the family, in their environment, we would do exactly the same." [alarm clock sounds] This is my alarm. We would do exactly the same. In the beginning I thought, no, I won't. And then I thought, ah! But that means, I'm not putting myself in the skin of the other person. I haven't looked deeply enough. And, there is compassion and there is pity Pity doesn't go anywhere, but compassion motivates us to do something, to act. Maybe that person who does something to cause suffering to others needs our help, because there's a lack of understanding. You do suffering to the others, you're doing it to yourself. If you think, causing suffering to somebody else is bringing you happiness, it's not. Maybe they don't know, and we need to help them. And that's our engagement, and Thay is very engaged. Thay has spoken to politicians, to business people. In many countries Thay has adressed issues that were happening in the country, in order to help the politicians understand, and the people to understand what we can do, and also what maybe would be better not to do. So, with compassion and understanding how things come to be, our love can become inclusive. Of course, as I said before, the foundation for that is, can we include ourselves in this love? With all our strengths and weaknesses, can we do that? So, practising and developing these four immeasurable minds is the best way to take care of ourselves our loved ones, and all other beings. So they're not a kind of tools that we have, like, "oh I think we need loving kindness here," "oh, I think I need compassion," "oh, I think I need joy, or inclusiveness." No. It is, developing these aspects of love in ourselves so that we can respond to life from these aspects. To bring these four aspects of love to mind, every day, to water the seeds, to remember that we can respond with loving kindness we can respond with joy to the joy of others we can respond with compassion to the suffering, we can respond with inclusiveness to all beings, including Mother Earth. They become a state of mind. And when we bring them to mind often, the Buddha said: "Whatever we think about, or ponder upon, becomes the inclination of our mind. Becomes the way we respond to life." So we may like to look, how do we respond to life right now? Is it with fear? Is it with worries? Is it with anger? Is it with love? How do we respond to life? Just to know and say: "Ok, this is where I stand now. Practising the Four Immeasurable Minds, I go in the direction of responding to life with True Love. It's not only to life, but also to individuals, the person who's right next to me, next to us, the person we hope to spend our whole life with, can we have this mind of love towards them? This True Love, that is not centered on just ourselves. Instead of our love being like a cage, robbing our loved one of their freedom, our love is wide and embraces all aspects of them. Maybe we can think of our loved one as... a nice breeze that you hopefully will experience soon If we want to catch the breeze and consider it our own, it's like putting the little breeze in a little cage, and what happens when you put it in a little cage... it dies. In fact, I reflected on this, if we love like that, then the things we love in the other person, will no longer be there. as you will stop loving her very, very soon. We will stop loving them very, very soon. So, let's infuse our minds with these four aspects of love, so that we can love, and be loved and offer True Love to ourselves and others. And now I'm going to offer you a nice breeze outside. Thank you for being there, free as the breeze. Happy continuation on your path, may every step bring you peace and happiness, and remember, smile, breathe when you look deeply, and enjoy every step you take. Thank you very much. [gong] [gong] [gong]

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