Dharma Talks / The Four Principles of the Order of Interbeing

Br Pháp Dung

Help us caption & translate this video!


[The Plum Village Online Monastery] (Bell) (Bell) (Bell) Dear respected teacher, dear brothers and sisters, dear sangha, can you hear OK? This autumn retreat we are exploring for three months Thay's 14 mindfulness trainings of the Order of Interbeing. It's like a tradition that Thay founded. Some of you are new to our community, to Plum Village so, please, do your best. If you don't know what we are talking about, it is OK. But in the autumn time, for three months we brothers and sisters like to go focus on a particular topic so that it nourishes all of us to go deeper, to understand Thay, to understand our tradition. The Order of Interbeing is a kind of new vision of Thay. Thay is trying to - Back then he didn't really envision himself having monastic disciples. I think we've heard him share that, "There are already too many teachers with too many students. I will just teach the students of other teachers." So he really wanted to just to be doing the part of the teaching. Not having students. I think that during that time, he experimented a lot. You can see some old pictures of Thay, his hair is long. I think he is probably aware of the hippy movement. If you see Thay's old pictures sometimes he looks cool. Looks like a renegade. He didn't wear the formal robe like you see Thay does now, and with a OI jacket. We see Thay evolve from a hippyish monk traveling, experimenting and - Anyway, this is my perception, OK? (Laughter) You have to ask Thay yourself. For me that's how I begin to understand a little bit of the Order of Interbeing, as well as our tradition. To not to make such a distinction, but Buddhist teaching is to help us liberate ourselves and to relieve suffering within us and to relieve suffering in the world. That is the main purpose. Buddhism is not here to describe the world, the reality, the nature of things or how we came to be. It's not philosophical. When the Buddha found this path is to help relieve suffering. That's it. And as Buddhism evolved, it became more and more philosophical, academic, and theoretical. Thay's new Order of Interbeing is to revive that. It is something we need to look deeply, practice deeply, so we can understand our teacher more, to understand what we are doing here, in Plum Village as well as sangha building and so on. Today I will share about the four principles of the Order of Interbeing. The Order of Interbeing has precepts, the fourteen precepts, and the underlying foundation, the spirit of the 14 mindfulness trainings Thay has shared it, put it into four principles, or four spirits of the Order of Interbeing. Openness, direct experimentation, appropriateness and skillfulness. I will write that up. And before we - To understand those four, why they were so important to Thay we will look a little bit at some of the conditions that existed when Thay was becoming, evolving as a young monk. This is my own reflection to try to understand more and I leave it up to you to study more and to look more deeply why these four are so important during Thay's time as it is now in our time. The first principle is openness. [Openness] The second one is [Direct Experimentation] direct experimentation. The third one is appropriateness. [Appropriateness] And the last one is skillfulness. [Skilness] And these are things not to just write down in notes for us to reflect on in our practice. They are the spirit, the guides of practice. To understand a little bit, at least my own looking, I try to look at what was happening during Thay's time. The conditions. There is a misspelling, skill -ful. "Skilness" is not a word yet. (Laughter) Skillfulness. Two "l"s? Two two "l"s? Four "l"s? One "l" somewhere there, right? Maybe here. (Laughter) Yes? No? The other one! It's not very skillful. (Laughter) Voilà! So I was reflecting a little bit of - And we've heard Thay share how he was inspired when he learned about what Buddhism did one time during Vietnam's history. How it actually was very integrated in society, in politics. A lot of Buddhists were teachers of political leaders, so it was very integrated. So Buddhism was never something you do outside of what was happening in society. This is something - So during Thay's time, there was a war going on. [height war] This is in 1968. What we call the Tet Offensive. [1968 Tết Offensive] It's like a lot of violence happening. There is the - In the war's history they say this is the height of when the Vietnamese wanted to show America that they are not giving up. So there is a lot of atrocity happening in 1968. And just let us know that the OI order [OI Order] 1966. This is when Thay - I have a feeling Thay had formulated these teachings and trainings before that but we put there 66, it is when sister Chan Khong and the six - (Vietnamese) Six cedars? No. (Vietnamese) The first six OI members, three men and three women were ordained. So we look and we see that during that time there were bombs being thrown on the country and people were dying. We have to imagine that time. So, how to help? We all know the story of Thay saying that if you are a monk and you are sitting in the monastery and you are chanting and there are bombs and people being blown to pieces outside, you do not sit in the temple and continue to chant. This is just to understand a little bit Thay's intention. During this time, there are a lot of young people's movements, students, [Young People (students)] who were going into the streets, in the Universities. [Univ.] This was happening in Vietnam and in the US. [VN U.S.] In the mid-sixties, this is happening. The young people were actually a great part of the - How many of you were part of that movement? Some of you here, yes? A few? Let's see hands! In America a lot of OI members were from that era. I remember Thay shared with me one time he was in Columbia University and there was a student protest. And Thay witnessed all that. This also informs the S-Y student, what is it? The S-Y-S-S? What it stands for? Social Service. School? Yes. School for Youth and Social Service. [Sch. Youth. Soc. Serv.) So in this you can see what Thay was trying to do. Trying to help bring - Have students gather to help. And this is also during the time when Thay envisions also a kind of Plum Village, "Phương Bối", Fragrant Palm Village in the mountains side. Because he saw as we were doing social service and I guess helping, we also needed a place to retreat and to revitalize ourselves. There was also religious persecution, [Religious persecution] between - There was a big attack because the person who came into political power had Catholic backgrounds. So there was a lot of tension between - and other Buddhist religious sects as well. So this was happening during that time. The big reason for all that was the political ideology. [Political Ideology] With the Communists, [Communist] the Democracy, [Democracy] and then of course the capitalism and so on. So there is a lot of that happening. Afraid of the - As you learn more of the war in Vietnam, the history, as things are coming out more, you see - I think there was recently a ten part series on the war in Vietnam. And we see that actually a lot of it was so unnecessary. There was a wrong perception, the idea that if you allow one country to become Communist, that was not even necessarily that assumption was true, that the whole, entire area was - They call it the domino effect. And you see how a concept creates a fear, as we are doing now with terrorists. But it's a new thing. It's not a domino effect, but it's a more - We don't know a term yet for it. But here you see the view, the things that make us have fear and we will not let go. Because of this fear, some political leaders, presidents and so on, were afraid and they got stuck in, and because they were stuck in, their pride came up. "No longer can I be the president that let America fail." So there is stuckness because of a view, an idea. And if you are working on the ground, and this is happening out there - Thay sees that it's not happening in Vietnam, it's not the only place where we are going to find peace and resolution to this. This moves Thay to go to the US to try to convince the intellectuals, the political leaders, the religious leaders to change the idea. These are some of the conditions that were happening at the time that the OI, the Order, the Trainings, the Charter - Thay writes the whole complete - Not just the trainings, but the Charter, how it should be organized, and so on. And this also, during this time, these movements in the US, Thay meets with Martin Luther King. [MLK] After the meeting, Dr. Martin Luther King gave a speech on Vietnam. So there is a lot happening as well. Thay came into contact with that while he traveled the US. But there were a lot of like-minded people doing the - Martin and so on. And Thay at this time also starts to look into forming the Van Hanh University. [Van Hanh Unv.] So Thay is trying also to re-envision a kind of Buddhism that is informed and interactive, engaged Buddhism is born during this time. Thay's engaged Buddhism in the sense of - with these conditions. Because Thay has shared that there is a movement like this happening also in China with another Buddhist monk. But this is to understand a little bit. Because when we look at how something manifests, we need to look at the conditions. That will inform us and we'll understand what Thay is trying to do. So those are external conditions in society. We can also look into Thay, what inspires him. The Lý and Trần dynasties. [Lý, Trần Dyn.] This is where Buddhism was very integrated with society. [B. - Soc.] Not separated. And Thay shares a lot about this. And during this time, Thay would begin to write - Before the founding of the Order, he wrote two books. "Modernized Buddhism", [Modernized Bud.] "Đạo Phật hiện đại hóa" in Vietnamese. [Đ. P. hiện đại hóa] And then he writes another one, "Socially Engaged Buddhism". [Socially Eng. B.] This one is "Đạo Phật đi vào cuộc đời". [Đi vào c. đ.] So here Thay is expressing and he is also in this time writing many articles in Buddhist magazines to share his vision of a Buddhism that is very connected to society, working in politics, social service as well as in education, in organizations and so on. This is a vision of Thay for the SYSS, the School of Youth and Social Service. In the School of Youth and Social Service they went into the villages and they helped organize the health care, the management as well as very practical things, helping the farmers deep wells. It was not just go there and teach Buddhism, but go there and you'll see. This was Thay's vision of monastics or OI members doing not just "philosophical ideas", but actually very practical. So it's an engaged, practical Buddhism that is not just in the temple, in the University, but actually embedded in society. So we can here begin to see these four principles based on these conditions. There was a very intense debate between two ideas. And Thay saw that very clearly, that it caused a lot of suffering just based on a viewpoint, having an agenda. So the first principle of the Order of Interbeing is openness. In Vietnamese it is "phá chấp". [phá chấp] It is very interesting. I read the Vietnamese. It's not "cởi mở", "cởi mở" is openness. But it is "phá chấp". "Phá" is to phá, right? (Laughter) To remove. But it also means to mess around. To "phá", to remove. [remove] And "chấp" is like stuckness. [stuckness] To remove stuckness. Thay would say it is also "thủ", a kind of grasping. It is very interesting, eh? Openness is to remove your - You know? Openness is like this. This way is describing "to remove your -". And everyone can relate to that. When you have a view and you think you're right, it's pretty tight. (Laughter) He is wrong! You hold your breath, right? When you are right, you hold your breath. (Laughter) You know that feeling, right? You see, openness is very - It's up to you! You want to hold? Or you want to -? You can see. This is easy to understand on the individual level, but when it happens on a mass level, when a whole nation, when a whole group of people is based on fear and wrong perceptions, they build walls, they make more guns, start to have cameras, start to search. You know, at the airport? This is to understand what Thay is looking at in terms of what is coming for the modern world. Because of the militarization, the fear, the wrong perceptions. This is the root of a lot of suffering in the world on the mass scale. And it begins with the individual scale. If you cannot handle this, if you go to education and you are not taught this, you will become a leader. And if you don't know how the mind works, you will be caught in a view. My sister Tue Nghiem will speak more about this next week so I will stop there. And of course, this you can understand more, the root of it, in the Buddhist teaching in the Sutra called the Kalama, [Kalama Sutra] where these monks from a different tradition, many teachers teach them many things and they don't know which one to follow because they all make sense. This is the Buddha teaching you need to test it yourself and see if it works. So it's a kind of a - The Sutra that shows the spirit of openness, of tolerance in Buddhism. Now we move into direct experimentation. In Vietnamese it's "thực chứng". [thực chứng] (Vietnamese) "Thực chứng" Real [real] experience. [experience] This is a heart of the Buddhist teaching as well. It's based on our own experience that we believe in something or not believe in something. This is also found in the Kalama Sutra. So it's not a belief based on what a teacher or what the Sutra or what someone says, but it is from your direct - And we need to keep this in mind. Because it's very easy just to follow. So the practice of meditation will help us know more and more what is appropriate for us. So these two are very linked to appropriateness and skillfulness. Sometimes we learn something and we have not fully tasted it and we are very easy to teach it. This is a danger. Also in our work of - how we call it- sangha building or helping the world, this is where it can be dangerous in terms of - If you have not found ease, found peace within yourself, have touched that within us, and we go and teach it, I think that's where it can become in Vietnamese they call it (Vietnamese). It's like you do the Buddhist work, sangha building for instance, and you see this a lot in sangha building. You come into the sangha, you join the sangha, and you learn about the 5 mindfulness trainings, you practice it but it's not fully ripe. And then you hear there is a 14 mindfulness training. Wow! 14! Bigger number! (Laughter) And you get involved. You have a good spirit, you want to continue Thay's engaged Buddhism! But because of this direct experience, direct [realization] ripening [ripening] Two "n"s? One "n". This is very important and it links to direct experimentation. We are very good to - How we called it - We like newness, we like - Once you know it, and we've done it once, like walking meditation, we've touched it, as, "Now I can walk in meditation". But we don't continue it. It's like, "Let's do something else, let's start jogging meditation. It's fast walking meditation". Or sitting everyday, you touch it and you get bored of it. "Let's go sit outside!". Or, "Let's sit -" We - Because of our restlessness, and our not-stillness, this direct experimentation can be a temptation. We haven't really touched this kind of stillness, this kind of calm, this peace, this freedom. It hasn't ripened in the Buddhist circle and we are too quick to start engaging in the world. Sangha building. What will happen is - Two of those elements come together and you have collision of views. This is something we need to know, because OI members, one of their fundamental- not fundamental, one of their misperception or kind a drive in OI members is to sangha build, and to engage in the world, and to help do what Thay did during his time. This is - It needs to be some caution with that. Because I think, as we talk with OI members and sangha builders, there is a lot of colliding of viewpoints if we are not careful. So this is direct experimentation. We like it. You can see how Thay was influenced by the West scientific rational thinking, to test everything. But do we need to test everything? Sometimes in Dharma sharing or consultation I hear someone describe their suffering and it's something I've never experienced. Do I need to go experiment with that? No, there is another thing going on. It is also a kind of intuition, our wisdom, our own deep looking. So this is out there. We just recently had a Wake Up retreat and a young man said, "I want to experience everything!", including open sex, open relationships. And I was like, "OK, good". It is quite interesting, because you hear a lot of sharing about the suffering surrounding that. But he didn't want to just believe in someone else, he wanted to experiment. I chose not to. It's very clear where it leads. Because there is a wrong perception. We don't look deeply that we are lacking something and we are chasing maybe a sensual pleasure. Anyway, certain things that you can look deeply into. And from the deep looking, we don't need - We can see clearly. So the experimentation doesn't- This is where there is a fine line. I think we all know this. It's obvious that there are certain things you can know it's hot. Don't touch it. But it's very tempting. So experimentation is very tempting. We will have a sound of the bell before we continue. (Bell) (Bell) One time I heard Thay share that before he brings out a new teaching, a new practice, he has practiced it for about ten years. I think it was during a Dharma talk, I've forgiven which practice it was. But that's pretty - And there are other instances where we've seen Thay held on to his insight for a long time. And then he revealed it to the sangha. That is something I'm learning. Because usually we find something, we learn something, we experience something and we right away, the way my education is, we share it out before it's ripe. There is something that is in the training that is very hard to transmit. And that is the thing that I'm learning here. There are certain things we have to cherish and keep practicing until it ripens. I know it's not always the case, but there are certain things you do, you practice and you find lightness, liberation, more insight. And it is amazing what happens when you keep it. Don't share it out too quickly. Have we ever thought about writing a book? Have we ever shared it with someone and then somehow the inspiration goes away? Or you want to do something and you get so excited and you share it to too many people and then we just don't do it anymore. I don't know, there is something psychological about that. In the mindfulness trainings, in our practice, it has something to do with intuition as well. There is an inner training that is happening. When you succeed, and you have an insight on one of the trainings, it is very tempting to share it in Dharma sharing right away. I know you are supposed to, and the monks encourage you to, but just - I throw that out there. To cook something, don't let people look in it. You are cooking potatoes, stop lifting the lid letting people look into it. It's not going to cook. I don't know how to share this way of training. Outside you don't train like this. In education, in university, you have something, Ah! You write it on Facebook and you let everyone know. You have lo live here at least five years for you to taste that. To have that direct experience. There was something I wanted to share about experimenting. When you discover something from your experience and from your experimentation, don't make a thing out of it. (Laughter) You know? You discover that these shoes are amazing! And you just go around telling all your brothers, "These shoes are amazing! They help you run, they keep your back, you will never have backaches again". You begin to form a theory around it. You make a thing out of it. You know what I'm talking about? You discover a new food, you went on the Internet and it starts so like - And it becomes something. That will make the openness less. Slowly, your thing you discovered, you hold it. That is so hard to do. So I'm very sensitive to that. I have suffered a lot because of my own "thing out of it". I helped form the teenage program, one of my sufferings as the abbot in Deer Park Monastery was I helped for six years to form the Teenage Program. Just the teenagers, no parents. I remember the teenagers came to us after a family retreat and they spoke to me, and they shared it to me, only me. And they shared, "Oh, we don't want our parents here". I remember it was very inspiring to see the young people, Vietnamese Americans. I really connected to them, I can feel they need space from their parents. Because the teenagers, with their parents around, they always get followed by their parents. "Do you drink enough water?", or "You're late for walking meditation!" So I remember hearing that from the teenagers and slowly we convinced the parents not to come. But some parents wanted to be staff, so they came in the staff to watch their kids. Anyhow, I was involved in this and I had to slowly, skilfully get rid of the parents. (Laughter) And after six years, we finally had real - And every year we would do it. And one year, the sangha decided, "Maybe we should combine the teenage program with the families, because we are doing too many retreats." And I got really upset. I was very, like, "You know how long it took to form that program?" I remember in that meeting I was quite not appropriate and not skillful. (Laughter) This is sangha building, you know? I was doing good! I was building the sangha! Doing what Thay wants! But I didn't listen to anyone else. I pretended I listened, but I think I came back really hurt. I made a thing out of it. It's a good thing, but still not good, because - I was - Anyway, that is where the phrase "Don't make a thing out of it!" comes from. Don't make your thing become a "thing". (Laughter) I know this is hard to translate. (Laughter) That is involved with dogmatism. It is the technical word for it. Right? Dogmatism, and other ism. The ism is you make whatever it is into an ism. That is to be careful of. So we move into appropriateness. Appropriateness in Vietnamese is "khế cỏ". [khế cỏ] I've just learned this morning "khế" is like - I said, I know what "cỏ" is, like (Vietnamese) But what is "khế"? It's appropriateness, right? But I don't know why there is two words. But it goes with "khế Lý", [khế Lý] which is - I keep forgetting that something today. "Khế cỏ" and ""khế Lý", this is appropriate, [app.] to the situation. [situation] And this is appropriate [app.] to the principle, to the spirit, to the principle, Lý. [principle] Spirit. [spirit] Or in the Buddhist circle, we say maybe to the Dharma. [Dharma] To whatever it is that makes you it feels OK. So there is a situation. And there is also the Dharma. Sometimes, the Dharma, if you teach it and it is not appropriate, then it becomes - I don't know, it's hard, but like poisonous. Like you do harm to the Dharma. For instance, you go home and you are so inspired after two weeks in Plum Village, mindfulness! Plum Village! And you go home and you tell it to your family, "Eating in silence is so good for you! You touche peace." But you don't know the situation, the person. You don't know the situation of your family is not appropriate. It is not skillful, it is not appropriate, they are not ready. The Dharma is not for that. You go to the Dharma but it is not something you put in the Dharma. We hear this all the time from - That's my own experience as well as many consultations and Dharma sharings. So knowing what is appropriate for the situation, for our time. I remember first learning about the practice, my first retreat. I came home, and I organized everything in our house. I put everything back to where it should go, the shoes. And then the closet, I helped my mum redo her food stuff, the cans, can food. It became an obsession. Because I had an idea that when you put things mindfully, it goes back to where it should be. You all have that idea? As a beginning practitioner? It's the most beautiful and tempting idea. To practice mindfulness when you put a cup down, it has a place. I mean, it makes sense, right? But when it becomes an obsession - Ow! OK, that toothbrush is not - It goes in here, eh? The shoe, it goes there! These mats should be straighter. So we begin to - And then I go home and I do this to the house. My two brothers were back from college, back for the summer, and we shared the same house. (Laughter) And the story, you know. We had a lot of interesting conversations. They were fully not open. (Laughter) So I caused a lot of suffering because of my "Lý" law. I had a reason for everything. And because it's "Lý" - So when something is appropriate, it is also in line with the Dharma, in line with something more true, more human, more open, more whatever, less suffering. If it is appropriate, it will not cause suffering. This is something we need to ingrain in ourselves. Because we believe so much in truth, we believe that this really happened, and we say it. "But it is the truth!" But the person is not ready for it. So we cause suffering. Truth does not harm. But we have an idea about truth, that it is objective. Somewhere there is a truth. "This is really what happened!". And we cause suffering because of our truth. There are many truths. And that is very hard to believe. Specially when you are right. (Laughter) When you are right, it is like, "OK, I give it a year, but I'm still right." A lot of suffering, for yourself as well, because you hold it like this and when you see that brother you kind of- You see that sister, you kind of- because you are holding on to something. Remember that image, eh? You have a choice! Relax. It's true, but, you know, there are many truths. It is such a hard training. If you want to taste it, come and stay here one year. We will put you in the cooking team. (Laughter) Like the brother shared. Advance training. I already shared that in the lay - No, he shared - The cooking team is the most advanced training. It's strange for a monastery. It is supposed to be in the meditation hall. Sorry, I'm a comedian. (Laughter) When we say "khế Lý", how do we know it is appropriate? This requires us to go deeper and deeper as we do the sangha building, as we become OI members, to touch interbeing, and so on. The three, the six, the three, the two threes. Just remember, the three seals and the three doors. And you use that to test everything. You want to experiment? Go ahead, but use these to test. In chemistry it is called litmus paper. You throw it in to see if it is the right thing. In Vietnamese, they say, "Use fire to test gold." (Vietnamese) It is a beautiful saying. You want to see if it's real gold? Put fire to it. And all the impurities, they separate and the gold collects. So the three seals, I think you know them already. Some of you. Three Seals. [3 Seals] What are they? Impermanence, [Impermanence] Non-self, [Non-self] and Nirvana. [Nirvana] This is 3 Doors. [3 Doors] "Trois portes." Just remember the "s"s. [ss] Right? Empty, [E] signless, [S] Aimless. [A] That is how I remember it, sorry. I just remember the three doors, "ss", remember. Emptiness, signlessness, aimlessness. And this helps us in our practice. When you make a thing out of it, it's no longer very related to other things, right? And we become caught by it. "Sign" here also represents words, concepts. There is one word that challenges people. When we do the morning recitation, before the nuns and monks chant, we say, "Remove your inferiority complex, superiority complex and your equality complex." When Thay first came out with that text, and we had to tour the US, many people asked this question, "What's wrong with equality?, How is that a complex?" The word "equality" or the idea of equality can be a thing. Who has a thing about equality? How come the monks are sitting at one side, at the non-monks and the nuns sitting at the other side? Or, how come the nuns have smaller bowls and the monks have bigger bowls? Or, how come the bell is always on that side?, or, what else? There are so many. How come the grass is greener on this side? (Laughter) There are some good ones, eh? I used to have a - We should make a catalog of equality as a thing. It is a complex. Equality is good, and getting people to - Injustice causes suffering. Inequality can cause suffering. So it's not to deny that that is happening in our world as well. But just don't make a thing out of it. Going everywhere to always look for - This is not to be caught by dualism. It is all skillful means. We wear this just for a way to skillfully do something, to manifest something. When Thay was in Vietnam, or in America touring, a reporter asked him, "Are you from the North or from the South?" Do you know that story? And Thay says, "I am from the Center." He is from the center. From Hue, or something like that. He is from the center. And we love that story, I love that story. If we are not careful, we can make the "center" become a thing. And I've seen that, living in the monastery. You don't want to choose left or right, then you choose the middle. And you are always choosing the middle. You make a "thing" out of centralness. You are- We get caught, so the idea of centralness is to help the reporter in that situation. To take away his idea that there is just North and South. So that is the means. Thay uses that answer to help that reporter in that moment to let go of his North and South. But us, when we hear the story, we love it and then we hang on to centralness. And we go around being careful. "No, I'm not choosing! No!" And that becomes an obstacle. We become like relative, liberal, not always - Let's see. It seems like I'm open, but actually I'm very tight. That is stuckness. This is from my own suffering of practicing with that. Of always avoiding each team to the point where - You know what is the right thing to do. There is also - The idea here is when it is true to the Dharma, is to not be caught by the word by the sign. Therefore, you don't grasp. That is the aimlessness. You need a little freedom from that. These are all - These three, three, are - Thay would say concentrations, they help us. You may choose a week to contemplate signlessness. To look and to see where you are caught with signs and to test for yourself. Or aimlessness. In a way, they are like Plum Village's koans, something that you can hold here like a mother carrying her child around. And you begin to look like that. You look and you discern when you are being not aimless. You want something, so you come back to your steps. The tea will still be there, the hot water will still be there, so you slow yourself down. So these practices, these ideas here are for us to practice. What I share with you is - Watch when you are not being aimless. But how to touch aimlessness while we walk? You make a step, a left step, a right step. Or aimlessness when you eat. When you put a morsel in your mouth, you put the spoon down. And you chew. And you put a hundred per cent in the act of chewing. Savoring the food, contemplation with nature and Mother Earth, the sun, before you take the next spoon. I remember having to train this. When I'm chewing, I'm preparing for the next one. It's a big habit I had to remove. The same thing with our walking. These two are very trainable. But they can help us also when we have ideas and concepts. When we practice the trainings, and we will learn more these coming weeks, they speak of a truth, of a way, but we need to know when to apply it, so that it is appropriate for the situation with the people, and if it is appropriate to the Dharma, to the guiding spirit of the Buddhist teachings. I think Thay has shared - To prepare to operate on someone they need to be healthy. You prepare and you - That's kind of - That is tough, eh? But sometimes it's like that, I think Thay's method, I sensed that. When we first come in the community Thay is very gentle with us. He nurtures us. Everything, he flower-waters us. He pushes it. And then, when we have enough strong roots, Thay starts to trim. (Laughter) Have you been trimmed by Thay before? You're lucky. Because it is painful. (Laughter) Operation. Because you have something you're holding on to. And - (Laughter) And one mourns. It touches your ego. So there is not enough liberation. You had an idea about it. Something, whatever that is you're holding on too tightly. In the sangha building it is very important that we get this one done. Because we sometimes bring the stuff that has not ripened, has not let go yet, and we start to sangha-build, we make sangha become a thing and so on. But inside of us it is not fully, still, fully - There are certain things still - And that can come and bite you. The Buddhist teaching is not for us to do (Vietnamese). It's to help us relieve our suffering and in doing so we - inter-be with the world. And how we do it? You can see this in today's society. People build up, fame, power. After ten, twenty years, what happens? They did not ripen. Sexual scandals, political scandals, corruption. There is a movement going on that is so beautiful in society. It is like the rain washing and revealing. Other things are going on underneath of that fame, power, wealth. Political and- In the political world, in the corporate world as well as in the entertainment world. This is because the person did not do the homework. Did not care for the ripening inside. But they were tempted with external achievements, success. This is where direct experience, direct liberation, direct touching of peace, happiness. When you do this, you become more appropriate, more skillful. We are moving to skillfulness in here. In Vietnamese, is "phủỏng tiện". [Phủỏng tiện] These are the methods and practices to help us teach, to guide and to apply the Buddhist teachings. These are the ways we do it. Skillfulness here can be seen as a means, skillful means. [s. means] I think it is very fundamental in the Buddhist teachings and it has great examples. The raft, when you get to a river and you see you need to cross, and you build yourself a raft. It helps you cross the river. And you get attached because the raft is so cool. You did it by yourself, by hand and you start carrying the raft around even though you don't need it anymore. And the Buddha says, "It is a wise thing to do, brothers and sisters? To carry a raft around?" And, of course, the students reply obediently, "No, no, it's not a skillful thing to do. You should leave it there and share it with others, be generous because they might need it." But we have to ask ourselves, do we do that? So there are skillful means. It's very easy to get caught by the raft. So appropriateness and skillfulness. I think those are areas where we learn a lot from living in the sangha. We make mistakes and we adjust. They allow us to be creative, allow us to - It's not a perfection in our rhythm and there is no manual. So we can always continue to be more appropriate, more skillful. I'll read you a text from the book, Interbeing book, Thay wrote: "The spirit of non-attachment to views and the spirit of direct experimentation lead to open-mindedness and compassion, both in the realm of perception of reality and in the area of relationships." So openness and direct experimentation, it keeps us open to experiencing life, experiencing, being alive, interacting. And there is the word compassion in it. It helps us be compassionate. Very important. So it's not to experiment to be open like a scientist, but in the Buddhist tradition it is based on compassion. It is to relieve suffering, it's not just to describe reality and the world, or how the mind works and so on. But just enough so that there is compassion in the world, in society, in our families, in ourselves. This is a distinction from the scientific endeavor, which is to try to figure out how this thing works, where do we come from, and so on. Sometimes interacting with scientists and the sciences, if we are not careful, we can also lose a little bit of the "khế Lý", the primary reason for the Buddha's finding the teachings and the practices to help relieve suffering. It is not to come up with a new theory about the world or about our minds and how things work. "The spirit of appropriateness and skillful means lead to the capacity to be creative and to reconcile, both of which are necessary for the development and the effective realization of the idea of serving living beings." This is very Mahayana. Save the world! "Reconcile" here can be incorporate, to integrate. So appropriateness and skillful means help us be in touch with what is happening in our world. And to find ways to help relieve the suffering. I think most of you know, who are here, that one of the primary sufferings in the world now is climate change. You can hear it already in weather reports. It seems like they are from movies, but they are not- Climate change isn't going to come anymore, it is here. And many of us may have families in some parts of the world. Indonesia recently, I think two days ago, had a big tsunami. This will, scientists predict, will occur more regular and more regularly. That means displacement of population. So we have to prepare us so, not to be in despair, to be aware, to be mindful of the present moment. And adjust. We have suffering, we have some healing to do, we have some transformation. That is why Thay has dedicated his whole life to building the sangha, to building a refuge. So climate change, alienation, loneliness, despair, depression, suicide, these numbers are on the rise. Because of urbanization and the breakdown of families. Whatever in your field you're working on. These are real issues of our society and they are not happening out there. They are very connected to how we are in the world now. Young people having no direction, being restless because of the media industry. These are all thought about and mastered. It is not coincidental, the mechanism that drives capitalism while we are so like - My niece, it is hard for her to put down the gadget, the screen. This is not - We have, we do have some contribution to make. It's not to say just - And this is what I love about Thay's work. We don't wait until we are liberated, or find peace and then do the good work. Actually, interbeing is we transform ourselves and we help transform the world. Whatever scope your are in. It can be on your individual level, because so much suffering you cannot be involved, and you take care of yourself. Make yourself less grumpy, less obnoxious, less whatever, less provoking, reactive. Personal level. Or group level, family. Work on the family level, work on your neighborhood, what can you do for your neighborhood? How can you help build a sangha to be a refuge in your city for the neighborhood? Because you see young people no longer going to church, going to temples. And they are looking for a spiritual direction. Building sangha, Thay has shared, is the most noble task, because they are refugee camps, they are like refugee camps. Refugees in the media are lot lately. And there is a refugee going on now. People coming to monasteries retreat centers, finding refuge because of the war going on a war on restlessness, discrimination, or no break from rushing energy. So there is another war going on. In Thay's time, it was the war in Vietnam. In our time, what is the war? Or what is the peace? This is something for us to reflect on as we engage and build the Order of Interbeing. It's very tempting to do the outer work. (Vietnamese) Buddhism goes into society. This goes hand in hand with Buddhism that goes inside in our heart. (Vietnamese) Thay has a saying, "The way out is in." It's not surprising that it's a very visited calligraphy of Thay, to remind us, "Don't forget to do your homework". Because building sangha and doing the great things is very glamorous. People prays you, there is result. It gets - But if we don't do our homework, when the time comes - Very unstable. Your emotion will come up. You won't let go. That is why the sangha is very important. They are a protection and they help prevent us from going - And holding on too tightly. The vision of Thay, the Buddha as a sangha, is doable. We don't all have to be the Buddha, which is needed is to be part time. And we take turns. I mean, it's OK. So it's our protection from becoming dogmatic and so on. My gratefulness to Thay to emphasizing building sangha as a way to keep us in line with the spirit. That is why in the Charter of Interbeing it's very important that when you become an OI member, you grow from the sangha. But now lately there is a trend that the people want to receive the OI membership or become an OI member like the world, it's very worldly. It is like, "Oh! I want to be an OI! How do I become an OI?" It's like very isolated. An OI member or a person who grows in the Dharma grows from the sangha. That is why you cannot become an OI member out of thin air, it comes from the sangha. I mean, I guess you can. I don't want to be dogmatic about it. Maybe in Alaska or somewhere there is no sangha. You can become OI member. But the intention there is that you come from a culture. You have support, you have brothers and sisters that know you. They know you very well. They are your protection. They understand you, they know your weaknesses, they know your strengths. It is very easy to just - Be by yourself and operating on your own. Because it's very hard to live with those who know you. (Laughter) Sangha is all nice. Plum Village is all nice. Wait until you live here. (Laughter) It's very easy but difficult, because your brothers know you. It's easier to live as a tourist. Ah! Nice! So beautiful! Everything is so wonderful! Plum Village is so nice for one week! (Laughter) You stay here and we get to know you and we let you grow some roots, and then we start trimming. (Laughter) "You don't show up on time. Why is that? Look at your room! How do you live inside your room?" You look very good, when you see the monks walking around, all like that. But take a look at your room, how do you live inside your room? That's the in. The way outside needs to be inside. If you cannot do the little work, when the tsunami comes, no foundation. So in our sangha building, please do your homework. That wasn't too intense? I did shining light too intense sometimes, so I apologize. But this is me speaking to myself, so I need to be careful. Thank you, sangha for being here with us. Please enjoy breathing and let go of everything I say. Please, dong hang on to it. OK? Oh, it's quite - Throw it away. (Laughter) (Bell) (Bell) (Bell) (Bell) (Bell)

You can help us caption and transcribe this video on Amara

— More from Br Pháp Dung

Reverence is the Nature of Our Revolution

Br Phap Dung teaches on community living and reverence in our life and in our practice. Br Phap Dung encourages us to give 100% of our being to the practice, much like a newly ordained novice. The Plum Village community is a community of resistance, a radical, non-violent, 2,500...

Br Pháp Dung

November 3, 2019
— Discover more...

Hide Transcript

What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

00:00 / 00:00
Show Hide Transcript Close