Questions & Answers / Questions & Answers

Br Pháp Dung, Br Pháp Lưu, Sr Lan Nghiêm, Sr Lăng Nghiêm

Q & A session in the third week of the summer retreat 2018 in Plum Village France.

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[gong] [gong] [gong] [gong] Dear respected Thay, dear sisters and brothers welcome to the Q&A session of the third week of summer retreat I feel very honored to be here with my big brother and sisters. On the panel today we have Thay Phap Dung, he is born in Vietnam but he studied in the United States to become an architect. He's one of our elder brothers here in Plum Village Sister Lang Nghiem is also born in Vietnam but studied in the United States, and sister Lan Nghiem is coming from Holland she spent much of her adult life in France, and I'm brother Phap Luu, I come from the United States and I live here for maybe, 15 years. So we have a chance for you, the children, the teens, the parents, to come up here and ask the question of your heart. We know that when we look deeply into ourselves and we see that something's burning inside, some questions, something we need the community and our brothers and sisters to look into, then we can stand up and come up here and ask that question of our heart. It's not an intellectual question, something we can look up on Wikipedia, but something that is really about our daily life and the suffering and happiness of our practice. And a good question doesn't have to be long. So we'll start with the children and then invite some questions from the teens and the young people and then from the adults. And if you feel a little bit shy to come up here, then you can write down your question on a piece of paper and try to get it to the Bell master and he will bring it to us. So we might take some written questions as well. So we'll start with the children, are there any questions from the children? Yes? You want to come up here? We'll take maybe three or maximum four questions from the children. Please come up. If you speak English, or French, you can ask your question in that language, and we'll try to translate and if you ask your question in another language if you can bring a translator with you, that would be very helpful. so we can listen to a sound of the Bell, come back to our breathing and then we'll have our first question [gong] Lieve broeders en zusters, mijn vraag is: Wat betekent niets? Wat is niks? [translation by a person in the room] So I'll just repeat the question so that everyone can hear. She asked the question: Dear brothers and sisters, what is nothing? What does nothing mean? I invite Thay Phap Dung, I think Thay Phap Dung is very good about talking about nothing. I don't know what happened this summer but more and more children are becoming philosophical. I see my brothers and sister last two weeks up here, meeting young philosophers We use our language, like the word 'nothing', to describe many things, right? When we practice, we learn to look deeply and not get caught in the word 'nothing'. Sometimes we use the word 'nothing' to describe when something is not seen anymore, the food on your plate, you finish eating, you eat everything on your plate and then you say there's nothing on the plate, right? So we use the word 'nothing' to describe when we don't see something. Sometimes we have a cup, right? You say, there's tea in that cup and there's nothing in the cup, right, but is there something else in the cup? Air, right! So you can say there's nothing, but then you can say there is something, right? So we have to be very careful when we use a word, nothing, and don't let it stop you from questioning the meaning of the word, you understand? I believe your question is very, you want to understand and please continue to ask that question, okay? Well your plate is empty and you say there's nothing on the plate, and where did it go? That something, the food. Right, so the food comes into your stomach, it goes, and it doesn't become nothing. So nothing and something have a relationship, right? Like, there's nothing, but there's also something. So when you ask, there is nothing you have to ask, what is it, that is nothing of. So it doesn't really disappear but maybe we don't see it, you understand? So when you ask, what is nothing? then you have to also be open to say, what is something? Do you understand? A little bit yeah! I'm just basically sharing with you... Don't just take the definition of nothing, because in the dictionary they probably say, nothing is when the... What does it mean anyway? When something is the opposite of something, but sometimes you need to look more carefully so you don't get tricked. It's kind of like hide and seek, right? When you say something disappears, you have to go where did it go? It doesn't become nothing but maybe becomes something else, like when you see the cloud up in the sky, did you ever see a cloud disappear? If you sit in the right place, somewhere over a hill you see the cloud go. It appeared, and then you wait for a while and you look somewhere else, and when you look up, and then the cloud disappeared. And you say, there's nothing there now, but if you look closely, the cloud is still there. So please remember to not be caught when there is no cloud, okay? You can also look and see, where did the cloud go? Did it become the moisture? Sometimes it becomes the rain and sometimes, like right now, do you think there's a cloud here? There's nothing here, but I think if I keep doing this enough and you can see a very light cloud I try but you see that some time in a chemistry class or something, you do certain things and it makes the temperature change and the moisture happen like when you take a shower, sometimes you see the mist come up please know that sometimes, just because you don't see it there, doesn't mean there's nothing there, okay? thank you for your question and please continue to ask your other friends maybe they have a very interesting answer thank you thank you [gong] [gong] why can't you cook fish in Plum Village? So the question is, why can't we cook fish in Plum Village? Why can't we cook fish in Plum Village? I think it's because we enjoy the fish alive and swimming in the pond more, than we do seeing the fish in a pan and it's not that we cannot it's that we don't want to we choose not to cook the fish and here we choose to eat what we call vegetarian Do you know what vegetarian means? It's just we don't eat meat, we don't eat fish, we try to eat in such a way that we minimize the suffering that we cause to animals, plants and minerals and even to people and that's why when we are here in Plum Village we choose not to cook the fish because we also want to prevent the fish from suffering a little bit can you imagine if someone put you in a pan and cooked you? Yeah not very nice right? So that's why we choose not to cook the fish. yeah, thank you [gong] pourquoi les moines et les nonnes ne peuvent pas avoir d'amoureux? Yes, so the question is, why can't monks and nuns be in love with somebody or be in love with each other or another person? Have a lover, okay. Thank you brother Dickian So why can't monks and nuns have lovers? I think this is for Sister Lan Nghiem. Dear Thay, dear sangha, dear children, I'm always very happy to listen to the questions of children but now to answer, that is something different and I do like the question and because I think it's not completely true that we cannot have a lover I remember a long time ago, I shared something about in a presentation that I shared that I had a secret lover and it was not really a man but it was a sister and it was a sister. One day I was a little bit upset things were not going well and I was upset and you know, I didn't want to talk to anybody and then I came in the study room and then I found a beautiful flower on my desk beautiful kaarsjeskruid in het Nederlands and I was so happy to see this flower and it changed immediately my whole mood because somebody had thought about me and knew that I was in a difficult mood and that it was not going well and so on and she put there a flower on my desk so in this presentation I spoke about, I do have a secret lover and that was this sister and a secret lover that is somebody, somebody who understands you and keeps an eye on you and if you see that you are not doing well then she is going to support you a little bit for example by putting a flower on your desk so this is about the sister and the second part of the question why can monistics not have a lover? I think it is because we have chosen to spend our time in a different way it's all about that we like to be a monastic we really like to practice we like to share the practice with everybody and maybe as you have seen, it's a lot of work here it's quite busy we have many big retreats during the year now like the summer retreat, many people, a lot of work so we have chosen to spend our time in a different way and to share the practice with you and imagine if I had this other kind of lover, a romantic lover then I would not have so much time then I would have to share my time with this man and with the Sangha so it's not so much time that I could be here and taking care of all the friends and so on so it's about this, it's a choice in life that we have to make and I have quite some peace with it thank you [gong] Warum ist mein Leben eigentlich immer schwerer als das von den Anderen? So please correct me if I'm wrong, the question is, why is my life always more difficult than the lives of others? so first, thank you for your question, and thank you on behalf of everybody here because when you ask a question like that then we all bring it into our heart and I think we all have gone through times in our lives where we feel our life is so much more difficult than the lives of other people is there anyone who has never felt that? ok, there's one person who's never felt that and for myself sometimes I feel I'm not good enough I feel I'm not smart enough I feel like I'm only average or maybe a little bit below average can you imagine, as a monk you feel like that? but it's true yeah and then I think in my heart, it's not fair because look at the kid look at him, look at her, they are so talented they're so intelligent, they speak so beautifully, they speak so.. they're so kind and compassionate, I'm very selfish sometimes I have that kind of thinking even as a monk do you believe me? yeah it's true and so, then I wish, you know, why? I wish to know why is it like that? why is my life so difficult? when I was young in middle school I was about eleven, twelve years old and there was a boy and he was a when I would walk down the hallway one day he punched me in the shoulder. I didn't see him, he's punching, ow, it's very painful. and then a couple days later, he did it again and then I started to have fear to see that boy if I was walking in the hallway and I saw that fear I started to arrange my life so I could avoid that boy and so I suffered very much and I said why is my life so difficult? why can't I be... at that time many of the boys they grew I was very young for my grade so many of the boys they grew up very tall and I was still very small and so I suffered for many weeks like that in fear that I would see that boy and he would punch me in the shoulder again and all I wanted was to be big and strong like the other boys and be really cool and talk with all the really cool girls yeah? Have you ever felt something like that? No, okay yeah you maybe you want well anyway, I felt like that and then, because I continued like that for a little while then eventually we sat with somebody in the school and we tried to have a communication and you know what I found out? he didn't like my haircut can you believe that? he didn't like my haircut and he thought I was trying to be cool maybe I was trying to be cool and sometimes the boys are like that they want to put each other in their place, you know? like, you are not cool, you have to stay in your place I am cool anyway something like that and now when I look back at that, it looks very silly but at the time when I was that age it was very real for me everyday and I felt my life is so difficult and I said where did my happiness go I was a very happy boy and then suddenly my happiness disappeared because of not because of that boy, but because of my fear I let my fear take over what he did was very little but what happened inside of me was very big, the emotion and that is true most of our life we have a strong emotion and we think it's because of something out there but actually it's something in here maybe there's something inside we're not taking care of so that's why here in Plum Village, we learn.. I love to work with the children to teach them how to breathe mindfully you know, breathing in, breathing out Do you know? We sing that song and even when the kids are very noisy, when we start singing that song after a few bars, they calm down and they all start singing it and I feel so at peace at my heart because when I was that age I didn't have that practice I didn't have anyone who taught me how to come back to my breathing and be solid like a mountain I didn't feel I could be solid like a mountain I just compared myself to other people and I saw Who am I?, based on what I saw about the other kids. and so that's what here in Plum Village we learned you know we are solid like a mountain the mountain doesn't compare itself to the other mountains you understand? the mountain is solid, it doesn't say, why is that mountain more beautiful over there? you know, there's a mountain, Mont Blanc, in the Alps do you know that mountain, Mont Blanc? it's a very beautiful mountain and lots of people take pictures of that mountain. But you know, there's a mountain right next to it, but not many people take a picture of that mountain and so that mountain can say, why is my life so difficult? do you think the mountain says that? Yes? no, of course, it's the mountain next to Mount Blanc it doesn't say, why is everyone taking a picture of my brother? well I never heard it say that so when we are able to touch the solidity in ourselves and be like the mountain, then we don't compare, we don't compare we're happy, we're totally happy just who we are being who we are even if we have suffering, we have sadness but we see that that is a part of our life and we don't need to look anymore at the others around we can just breathe and we can still smile You can still smile, see? and just be solid like that mountain and then sometimes, someone will turn the camera a little bit and will say, wow! everyone takes a picture of Mount Blanc, but that mountain is so beautiful and they will take a picture of the other mountain. When you touch the beauty inside yourself then people start to pay attention they start to look and they see wow you are so special you're so beautiful you're so such a kind person yeah it's magical, but it works so please try that, try breathing, try just looking at the emotion when it comes up, when you feel your life is so difficult, just breathe, just remember the Bell and your breath and just pay attention to that emotion inside of you and you can smile to it just like you smile to me okay? can you try that? okay, good luck [gong] [gong] je voulais vous poser comme question, avez-vous des methodes pour gerer mes mauvaises humeurs et mes angoisses? So the question is, could you help me with a method to take care of bad moods and anxiety what is the method to help deal with bad moods and anxiety maybe... I'm not sure if they ever have bad moods and anxiety of course they do I think I'm in a bad mood right now and it's possible to smile to your bad mood it's possible to learn how to relate differently to anxiety or sadness or when you're feeling down or when things don't go your way and I think all of us, we have certain habit energies the way we react to for instance when we have a bad mood I'm asked to slow down and that makes me even more in a bad mood and so for myself I find I have to learn how to identify what triggers my bad mood very often it's because something happens that makes me uncomfortable like I cannot be myself like right now, I cannot speak at the speed I would like to speak so I feel a bit uncomfortable but at the same time I've trained myself for many years it doesn't mean that I'm good at it already, but it's a training to sit with this bad mood when it comes up I breathe through it and during those few seconds of breathing or just stopping and not being carried away by the bad mood then you can see it from a different side for instance, I'm uncomfortable speaking slow but it would help our translators so then I can speak slow just to help out and then, that kind of lifts my bad mood it doesn't have to always be about me, for instance. I find, all of us we have a tendency when there's a bit of suffering that comes up we want to get rid of it right away whether it's the bad mood or the sadness or anxiety we want to get rid of it right away and this causes us a bit more suffering I think but when we learn how to sit with it for a little bit just allow it to be for a little bit we can understand why it's there for instance your bad mood may be something very simple maybe you didn't get enough sleep last night or you've been asked to do too many things that are out of your capacity like you over stretch yourself and then your body is weary, your mind is weary, and then your bad mood comes up very easily. So, just to sit with the bad mood and to look a little bit into it and to see where it's come from and sometimes like I say it's something very simple so we all have to kind of train ourselves in this and not just to want to get rid of the bad mood right away but to identify the reasons why the bad mood came about in the first place and then it's easier to learn to be and to shift your mood yeah, thank you [gong] [gong] Est-ce que vous êtes devenus moines ou moniales pour combler une vide, ou pour aider les autres? So did you become a monk or a nun in order to fill a void in yourself? Did you become a monk or a nun in order to fill a void in yourself or to help others? I had a similar question but I phrased it differently when I first met the monks and nuns. I went to a retreat and I saw them smile a lot and I was raised in America so I'm very suspicious of everything not all Americans, but particularly I was very afraid of things that seemed too happy you know, like Plum Village is... if I was a stranger and I came here I would go... there's something very strange happening here so I came to Plum Village, I followed the monks and nuns for three months around America to find out what happened behind the retreat and I began to understand more that the monks and nuns are humans they do have suffering, they do have happiness and they also have an aspiration to have meaning in their life. so it's not like we are running away from society or we are trying to get something for ourselves but it's very linked because, if you can take care of yourself... I had anger issues so if I learn how to take care of my anger and be less angry of my father then I see that's very linked to my happiness so sometimes you remove the anger and what you're left with is a lot of space, to enjoy, right? most of my young adult life, I was very easily... it didn't look like it, but inside I was very frustrated and very easily anxious, we call it frustrated they call it urban angst, they call it now it's very easily... but outside I looked very happy. I do my job 9:00 to 5:00, but inside there was a void and it's related to the anger of not having any meaning so the monks and when I follow them I see that some of them do have suffering some of them know how to take care of this, some of them know how to enjoy life to help to be grateful with their life, with their parents so I begin to understand more on how to handle suffering and how to also live a life more meaningful, rather than work, spend, work, spend, work, spend so this for me... and then I came to Plum Village and I started to discover more about their lives and then I became a monk to kind of go undercover to see what they really do inside the residence so I'm still here researching whether... they haven't kicked me out of here yet yeah but I always tried to keep that in mind and I see more and more of my life, I became to be more true so it's not about empty or you're fulfilling your life but, what is the meaning of your life? what is your life for? and I see more and more I'm finding out that when you share when you can make another person happy when you help another person suffer less somehow their happiness, their transformation is also your happiness so I don't have to go around to try to fulfill my life and to achieve and then have success and I have a lot of money and have a car but now my life is, I fill it up with other people's happiness and also their suffering when I see a person can handle their suffering I saw a young woman come out to the meditation hall and she cry, at Lower Hamlet, when after the Dharma talk and she ran and her friend tried to grab her and she put her hand away and she told her friend, I think, from far away she say something and so her friend bowed to her and then she went and the young woman that was crying went to the bush in there and I saw her sit and she put her bag down and she sit there for a while and I was eating my orange and she sat there for a while and then she stood up picked her bag turned around and you can tell her face more peaceful and for me that is my happiness you see, so, I also have suffering and I learned how to take care of it so I can recognize when someone does that so the emptiness we sometimes feel is because we don't have meaning we don't know why we go to work we don't know why we do what we do sometimes we don't even know why we're going on vacation you just have to do it this is my life before it's time for vacation what should I do now? spend more money right and so this is what, as a young man, I became more empty because my life didn't have a higher meaning and this is why I kind of chose to become a monk not to run away from society but to live more meaningfully and sometimes people come here and they say we here are not really the world the world is out there now I have to go back to the world right, tomorrow or the next day and this is not the real world and that we have to question that I mean if you accept that that's why we have anxiety we have depression, we have a lot of... so we need to create a way of living that can help us have fulfillment and not to constantly be, have a void, an emptiness, no meaning vide, what do you mean with vide, emptiness, is a life without meaning so it's more or less philosophical it's like, what is the meaning of your life? what is my purpose every morning that I wake up you have to answer that question every day and you will see that it will link to your happiness and you'll see that it is not about you and your career and your thing but it's actually becoming more connected to other people strangers, people in need, people in other countries who do not have what we have here this is what the children are needing to learn that's why there's young people asking questions like that because they have not seen suffering so sometimes as a young person I encourage you to travel to India, to Laos, to Vietnam, to see where we live in so that's what happened to me in America I became very closed so when I traveled, I began to see really the suffering in the world and then that will open a new way of looking so, our view, we need to always open more so I hope I guess that's my experience of handling my emptiness, by more bringing meaning so please, you're still young so really ask your question what is it that brings meaning to my life? and it doesn't have to be saving the world it could be meaning, between your father and you, your mother and you so to reconcile with your father all of a sudden your life is more fulfilling so when I succeed in something it's for my father you see when I play with the young boy, that is my father so you connect with your father so it doesn't have to be a grand meaning it could be very simple please take care [gong] [gong] Dear respected Thay, dear respected teachers, community I'm trying to make my question as clear as possible but I feel I need to explain a bit the situation my question is about the relationship to my sister, and it's very difficult, she has been suffering from deep depression for many, many years now and a long time I put a lot of effort into being active and helping her which only took me energy and there was nothing that could help her and I realized that she needs to help herself and I could only be there, at her side but she doesn't let me be there. she doesn't talk to me there and at the moment there is no contact and I feel I'm not happy with that situation because I would like to be there for her and I told her, but she doesn't talk to me and last winter retreat I sent her a letter I tried to practice beginning anew and I shared with her the relationship feels for me and that I wish to change it but I have no ideas anymore and I asked her if she has any suggestions how we could have a relationship how we could talk to each other and she didn't react and I sent her a message and I said I felt sad that she didn't react and then she said I'm sorry, but I cannot do that and yeah, since then we didn't talk to each other I guess we both didn't know how to do it and, so my question is, if you could recommend any practice for me that I could do I would like to practice something like loving speech, deep listening, but how, if there is no contact and what happened, what I did was, trying to be happy myself with my life but now I feel like, how can I be truly happy if it's only possible that I exclude that from my life it doesn't feel honest, doesn't feel right to me yeah so I guess there are two parts about the question is there something I can do I can practice with my sister or how could I feel less selfish and guilty, feeling letting her behind, alone? Dear... I do not know, what is your name? Antonia? Sonya Dear Sonya, if I listen to you and it sounds like you have tried many, many things already you have a very long breath and you have not given up it's not so easy to come with a ready answer, but I think there are two aspects in this question. I think you can look into how, in the meantime, you can take care of yourself that you do not also become like, maybe in a depression and so on, I would say that it's possible that we overcome all difficulties that there's always an end to that but of course sometimes it takes much more energy and much more time than in other cases sometimes in difficulty, like a problem that you have with your sister that looks very difficult and that you have tried everything and you cannot come to a solution I think we can finally overcome all difficulties and that is also exactly the way that we grow if you manage to overcome this difficulty and then we can grow I would like to give an example for myself a very long time ago, I had also a big difficulty I remember like really big I found that, at the time I just came to France and I was doing a course in France, in French and it was at a university and we were asked to give a presentation and it was like divided in Dutch people and German and French and so on and we were only with the two of us, the only two Dutch women so it was a kind of 'be-in' or bonte avond and we had decided to give a presentation on how to make Dutch pancakes and a woman with whom I was she said very quickly okay I will bake the pancakes here behind and you are going to stand in front and I had to explain in French how we were doing that in Holland, to bake pancakes well it was for me the very first time it was just after, after college that I came here in France so I had never given a presentation like that and not at all in French I will speak a little bit slower but I remember that I was standing over there and while explaining, that my legs came to tremble and not a little bit , but they started to tremble enormously and I was standing there in front and I did not know how to stop this was really like very badly I did not manage on that evening and I had a very unpleasant feeling about it and it has also afforded me to come out again later because I was afraid that the same thing would happen again and that I could not survive. later on I have survived and now I'm sitting here on this chair and I'm still, I'm still alive so it is possible to overcome very difficult things I think for yourself, and in this meantime you have to take good care of yourself and that you will need a lot of joy like a counterbalance to that the depression of your sister so maybe you can do something to have more joy and it can be like going out or go into the nature, maybe you have to move or do another study or just you know something like a move, like a change in your life that can bring you more happiness and what is happening then if you have much more happiness, then something's happening here in your head now it sounds like it's quite full with this whole difficulty with your sister and you're going to make a little bit of space for this I think it will go away a little bit you will send your energy not anymore to the difficulty in your head but more to the things that you plan to do so please try to focus on that bring some air, some freshness into your life more joy and I think you will be more capable of trying to overcome this difficulty so this is the aspect for yourself please nourish your joy and happiness every day take good care of it. The second part is the relationship with your sister. It looks like you have done many things already you have come to her, you have spoken with her and she did not want to speak with you anymore, you have written a letter that is our practice, we try to write a letter, we call it a love letter if it is difficult to communicate with somebody we can put in a letter how we love the other person maybe some qualities of her, you can also put souvenirs in this letter, souvenirs from the past maybe you have done many things together I do not know about her age, if there's a big difference in age between you and your sister maybe you have done many things together in the past and you had a lot of joy and fun and adventures so you can recall that in the letter nice things that you've done together and that you have very good memories about that can help her, that can help her to overcome this... it sounds like she's very sad and depressed, to overcome, to lift up her mood you said you have tried it already but maybe you have to try a second time if I was you, as long as there is no communication, no oral communication, to keep writing her and maybe to try with a different letter [gong] So dear Sonia, I just continue and so I would like to encourage you to keep going on with writing maybe an other letter in the style that I just have painted with her qualities, with sweet memories and so on maybe for yourself in the beginning it's difficult to write this because you have done already and no result up until now but you will see, if you really take time to write a letter like this, like a whole afternoon, you lock yourself in a room with chocolates, and you do not come out of the room before you have finished this letter and then you go, you will notice by writing down all those good memories that you have of her, you know, that something will change in you something will change in you and you'll feel a lot of compassion for her and this compassion, she will taste from the letter she's going to receive so please do not give up I really would like to you to continue with her, keeping contact and maybe in this way, and maybe later she's going to respond I think you have to water this, water this and keeping contact every day and in the meantime, take good care for yourself and that you do not lose hope or that you become desperate thank you I'm just gonna share that, you know, when we, the monks and nuns, are up here for a question-and-answer session we are all human beings and we all have our own experience so we shouldn't mistake when we give an answer that it is like the absolute truth we are sharing from our heart, from our own experience as human beings just as we all have the opportunity to do while we're here this week so we don't need to think that one answer is is absolutely the only one and there's all beautiful experiences personal experiences that we have here and that's all we're here to offer so thank you for your question So there's a few written questions, I kind of grouped them on similar topic so the first one is "dear sister, brother, may you please share with us about the practice of mindfulness at work" and "please could you talk about the organization of time" "in my life I always live in a quick speed mode. although I practice meditation everyday and I breathe consciously I'm still living in a hurry because I have too much work in this time of my life thanks a lot, a lotus for you" Dear Thay, dear Sangha, I grew up in America, educated and worked as a architect for four years before meeting Thay and so you know the whole system of having a job and work is the whole education system too, and please know this is a very biased answer so please take it lightly I chose to leave all that, so it's very biased okay so, we dream to always run after time as if we don't have enough yesterday was lazy day lazy days that is one of Thay's... was it technics up, was it a shot you take so you don't get sick? it's a kind of a lazy day, it's a real... one time the monks came to Thay because we heard a lot of people don't like the word lazy and we asked Thay, Thay can you change, can we change the word lazy to, maybe, rest day or something more... because people feel lazy you know, and Thay said: "Don't ever change the world lazy" I've never heard Thay so strong he said because people feel guilty to be lazy and he said that's good they should need to look at their guilt because the society is over developed over, over productive, right? so we think we're advanced, our culture is developed right but I think now it's another way of looking we're over developed and we're not looking down at those other southern countries and nations saying they're underdeveloped in fact they're fine we're going there to develop them and we're making them lose a lot of their environment so in a way we have to relook we are overworked, we're over developed, we are over timed over schedule every time I visit my family nowadays I hardly can squeeze off some time from my niece and nephew because they go to soccer and the Saturday piano and ballet on Sunday I mean even the weekend, the mother has to run to take them to and I have to go with them because I want to be with my niece and nephew and I watch them play soccer it's good you know to have activity for the kids but it's a little bit over, over worked, over, I think you know what I mean that's probably why you're here right? so I don't have to try to convince an orange that it's an orange so... for working we also need to look at the way we do need to work, we're not all lazy it's only one day of the seven day and so when we work, we have to reorient ourselves like washing the dishes you know one day somebody will propose, why doesn't Plum Village buy a big washing machine, and it could get done quickly, right? no buckets and cleaning and then give it to the kid to take it, to put it in the thing and it's a lot of work, right? you need 20 people to wash a few dishes but there's enjoyment while we wash the dishes it's kind of like a waste of time, God, get it over with so why do we make you wash dishes? we could buy a machine, right? same thing, convenience can sometimes actually diminish your enjoyment, your happiness so this is work, this is just like the meditation hall, we had a discussion yesterday about working in the meditation hall and not rushing because maybe there's not enough time and we have to catch the bus, so sometimes you know reality you have to do it and you have to rush but your attitude is... it depends on your mental attitude you do it and some people do have habits and there are different levels of rushing there's some people who rush it looks like they're rushing but they're not rushing some people, it looks like they're really doing it slow but they are rushing this is a my experience there's a lot of, ... how come you're not doing it right? how come they're not doing it mindfully? you look like you're doing mindfully but that's not really mindful so you have to be careful some people can do a lot of work and look like they're rushing but their mental attitude is enjoyment they're doing it for others so it depends you're washing the dishes you're doing it for the community you're doing a carrot you're doing it for the community, for other people to eat but you know you don't have to do it like peel the carrot like this, you know that means you're stuck with an idea so work doesn't mean... so we have to be very careful mindfulness at work, we have to be careful so of course you know take a break on the computer and so many things you have to use your mindfulness, your intelligence to find a balance in yourself, to not lose yourself in the work so how you sit on the front of the computer how you brew brush so look at the way you work so that's just the mechanics of work okay and there's also the meaning of work so also we have to look at why you're working what are you working for you want more money, you want more you have an idea, you want a bigger house, you want a retirement plan, these ideas you have to look at that's maybe pushing you to sacrifice the present moment for the future, you see? so we need to look at this this is what I had to wake up from 9:00 to 5:00 retirement plan two garage house a nice family and you know these kind of what do they call it, American, America dream is this still called the American dream? so these are things, with the practice, with the deep looking, we begin to look at work so I'm sharing is also the meaning while you work and it is also looking at our relationship with the watch with your planner, your schedule these are things that you learn and we become very mechanical and we don't know why we do it we just wake up, do it, do it, do it and so we need to look at this so find time, so I encourage all the families, everyone to, you know, reduce a little bit you don't need to have everything, just enough and if you do succeed, use that to help other people and that will bring more meaning to your work you see that the cycle it needs to go in circle like this you know the system now is very capitalistic to save, save, save, hold everything and you see, there's only a certain amount and after that, the happiness don't increase I think more and more we know that, right? after 10 shirts that you have, it's become very hm, another shirt, another shirt so please know why you're working and how much you should work to maintain kind of enough for your family so that you don't sacrifice your present moment, happiness with your family, with your loved one, with helping other people so your time is not just to..., you should spend meaningfully to help other people, to help your friends, your relatives, your brothers and sisters, other families so you might have work that might not be the most meaningful but it pays your thing and then you take the money you take some of the time and you help, you see so don't try to always, you have to find the work that is the most meaningful in fact the meaning is what you put into it so you could be a bus driver and you could be a very good bus driver if you remove the idea that you have to be a successful businessperson you see the work you enjoy washing your dishes, driving the bus so it's all based on the quality of your attitude and you can always learn more thank you [gong] [gong] (in Japanese) dear Thay, dear brothers and sisters, dear friends he asked the question is there any condition to make people satisfied and then become happy is there any conditions that can make people satisfied and they feel happy Dear Thay, dear... what's your name? Ray? dear Ray, arigato for your question so this question is very important and we know the Buddha sat with this question as well he asked himself is there any condition for my fulfillment for my complete happiness and at that time he had a wife and he had a child and he had a pretty good career maybe he was gonna be the chief of his village, like his father so he seemed to have many good conditions that most people spend their whole life trying to obtain thinking that that will bring them happiness and yet he wasn't happy and that's why we're all here today because he saw that those conditions were not sufficient for his happiness, for his true happiness and so he decided to leave behind his family to cut his hair and to live in the forest he tried looking for roots in the ground to eat he went to live in different spiritual communities and he always sat with that question how can I find true happiness? or another way to phrase is, why is there suffering? what is the nature of this suffering? and our teacher Thay, he often talked about the happiness and suffering like the sides of a coin you cannot have happiness without suffering you cannot even imagine suffering without happiness they inter are it means that, looking into our situation of suffering, we can find happiness so you could say that suffering is a kind of condition that can lead us to happiness actually as monks and nuns I know myself and many of my brothers and sisters we also ask this question because actually we can get quite comfortable as a monk or nun you see, here in Plum Village we eat delicious vegetarian food and we live with many people who are very understanding very compassionate very kind smiling a lot and we don't have to do too much work at least we don't get fired if we don't do too much work so, actually many people come here because they think wow, these are good conditions for me to be happy and then and then they find out they have to live together with other people for the rest of their life and they start saying why? look at Thay, Thay teaches this but look, look... they look and they say.. and so, somehow, even if they have all these good conditions of good food, place to sleep, go to the doctor if they're sick but they still are not happy they're not able to live together with their brothers and sisters and that is a pity and so we have to sometimes look and see is my happiness dependent on outside conditions? even here in Plum Village we have to ask ourselves because we have.. you know monks and nuns, they haven't always enjoyed such good conditions as we have in Plum Village to practice sometimes they lived in a very authoritarian regime where they wanted to destroy the Buddhist temples they wanted to make the monks and nuns marry each other to give up the celibate life that happened many times in history of Buddhism and that continues to happen today, in some places and so even in those conditions, those monks and nuns were able to touch deep happiness even like, I remember always a story of one of Thay's students who was put in jail She only had a little bit of space, and she practiced walking meditation every day just breathing, and being with her step and she was able to generate happiness even just in that tiny space with only a little food to eat she kept her mind clear and she enjoyed every step and so anytime that I feel that I'm a little bit upset because my conditions of happiness are not sufficient then I remember that nun, practicing in the jail and I feel a little bit of shame how could I be so greedy and that helps me to remove the external conditions of happiness and to see that actually I can generate a kind of unconditioned happiness something that's not dependent on external or even internal conditions and sometimes we touch that that is a beautiful moment when you touch that you need to remember it maybe you stop and you take 12 breaths my happiness has not come from anywhere and my happiness is not going anywhere there are moments like that in life and in my experience, when we practice they become more and more and bigger and longer and that's why I love the practice so much because touching this kind of unconditioned happiness but it takes practice because we are conditioned to like conditioning we are conditioned to like our habits even people condition themselves to like their own suffering can you imagine that? they fall in love with their own situation of suffering and when you want to help them to come out of it, they prefer to stay there and that is a funny quality of human beings so keep that question, it's a beautiful question like the Buddha you can be a Buddha and ask, what is this unconditioned happiness? keep asking yourself that question you look at your suffering you see it transform and you hold it there it's very beautiful that's the secret of the universe, okay? good luck dear friends it's quarter after 11 and we have a beautiful walk for the community today to go down to Son Ha and enjoy the garden there and maybe some music so we know there are other questions to be asked and we encourage you to bring the question up in your Dharma sharing group if you feel courageous enough there are also wonderful other monks and nuns who can share their experience and help with the question there are also a number of written questions we didn't get to I will give them to the brother or sister giving the Dharma talk tomorrow so they can keep it in mind and hopefully be able to answer the question in the talk tomorrow so I'd like to thank my elder brothers and sisters for coming up here today and sharing their experience and thank you all, for we do this together this is a process of deep looking and we continue as we finish the last two days of this third week together we will finish by listening to three sounds of the Bell

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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