The Way Out Is In / Free from Views in a Polarized World (Episode #36)

Br Pháp Hữu, Jo Confino

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Welcome to episode 36 of The Way Out Is In: The Zen Art of Living, a podcast series mirroring Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s deep teachings of Buddhist philosophy: a simple yet profound methodology for dealing with our suffering, and for creating more happiness and joy in our lives.

This time, the presenters, Zen Buddhist monk Brother Phap Huu and journalist Jo Confino, discuss views and perceptions, and how to move beyond them to find deeper meaning and truth in life.

Together, they provide the context for the Buddhist concept of right view, deconstruct ‘view’ and perceptions, including giving examples. They also share zen stories and practices (such as the Five Mindfulness Trainings – with a special focus on the first three) which can help us let go of views that bring suffering, while embracing the ones that can bring happiness.

Brother Phap Huu explains the Buddhist perception of view and the updated Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings for monastic and lay practitioners. He further discusses fanaticism; “seeing the world beyond our world”; the practice of compassionate listening and deep looking; true communication; freedom of thought and openness to learning; and collective awakening. And what is it about aligning with a particular viewpoint that makes people feel safe and secure?

Jo delves into the “terror of nothingness”; the sacred nature of things, and the fear of the sacred; the importance of connecting with and understanding our roots; holding more than one truth; and the accumulation of intellectual knowledge.

The episode ends with a short meditation guided by Brother Phap Huu.

Co-produced by the Plum Village App:

And Global Optimism: 

With support from the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation:

List of resources

Dharma Talks: ‘The Noble Eightfold Path’

Dharma Talks: ‘The Ground of Right View’ 

Sister Chan Khong 

The Beginner’s Mind 

The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings 



Leaders’ Quest 

Lindsay Levin 

Dharma Talks: ‘The Three Doors of Liberation or the Three Dharma Seals’ 

Old Path White Clouds 

Dharma Talks: ‘The Four Immeasurable Minds – The Four Elements of True Love’ 


“The Buddha once said that 95% of our perceptions are wrong; we are so quick in our judgment that we see things as we want to, but not as they are.” 

“Thay said, ‘I would never want to bring my students, my children, to a place where there is no suffering. In such a place, my children would never have an opportunity to grow, because they will not learn from suffering. And we know that life has a lot of teachings, and suffering is one of the teachings.’”

“Thay had told us a mantra should be, ‘You are partially right.’”

“We have to experience everything in life, not in concept.”

“Freedom of thought: aware of the suffering brought about when we impose our views on others, we are determined not to force others – even our children – by any means whatsoever, such as authority, threat, money, propaganda, or indoctrination to adopt our views. We are committed to respecting the rights of others to be different, to choose what to believe and how to decide. We will, however, learn to help others let go and transform fanaticism and narrowness, through loving speech and compassionate dialog.”

“Embrace your view, give it space, allow it to be, but don’t feed it. Don’t feed it and give it extra food, but question it and challenge it.”

“I always remember the Dalai Lama saying, ‘If you have a spiritual epiphany, let it go, because a spiritual epiphany can be an imprisonment that you spend your life going back to. And that’s where you get stuck.’”

“I wish everybody had the conditions to see the world beyond their world. When we are so attached to our views, it is because we haven’t yet allowed ourselves to be open.”

“One time, someone asked Thay, ‘What would you choose, Buddhism or peace?’ And he said, ‘Of course, peace. Because the essence of Buddhism is to have inner peace and outer peace. I’m ready to let go of Buddhism. If peace is there, then Buddhism is not needed, because Buddhism is also just a view.’”

“Thay was very, very clear that if you come to Plum Village and you become interested in Buddhist teachings and practices, do not let go of your own religious or spiritual traditions. Buddhism doesn’t [need to] take over from that; it can add something. But he has constantly talked about the importance of connecting to your own roots, of being aware of your own roots, of not distancing yourself. Because our roots are important and they help us to understand ourselves, they help us to understand what our views are. Even if they are views that we want to let go of, we can only understand them in the context of our past.”

“There is no one truth; there are many truths.”

“Aware of the suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, we are determined to avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. We are committed to learning and practicing non-attachment to views and being open to others’ experiences and insights, in order to benefit from collective wisdom. We are aware that the knowledge we presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Insight is revealed through the practice of compassionate listening, deep looking, and letting go of notions, rather than through the accumulation of intellectual knowledge. Truth is found in life, and we will observe life within and around us in every moment, ready to learn throughout our lives.”

“Life is always changing. Are we the same as we were yesterday, or different? The answer is, we are neither the same nor different, because we are always changing. We are the present moment, but we are also of the past, because everything that we have experienced is here. But we are not just that past, because we’re living in this moment, which we are organically changing.”

“The raft is not the shore. When you arrive at the shore, the shore which resembles liberation, we have to let go of the raft.” 

“If people are not deeply listening to each other, not incorporating ideas, not seeing a constellation or system of change, then actually people are just defending themselves.”

“When we want to teach something, we have to learn to walk the talk.” 


Dear friends, welcome back to this latest episode of the podcast series The Way Out Is In. I’m Jo Confino, working at the intersection of personal transformation and systems change.


And I am Brother Phap Huu, a Zen Buddhist monk in the tradition of Plum Village under the guidance of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.


And today, brother, we’re going to be looking at our views and perceptions and how, if we are able to transform them, move beyond them, how we can find a deeper meaning, a deeper truth.


The way out is in.


Hello, everyone. I am Jo Confino.


And I am Brother Phap Huu.


So, brother, today we’re going to talk about something called right view, which is in a sense what we’re going to try and do today is to look at all of our perceptions, all of our views, and to recognize actually they are just that, they are points of view. And actually behind that is deeper meaning, deeper truth. So, brother, I’m, maybe to start off, we should we should set this idea of right view within its context, because on its own it’s… How does it fit into Buddhist philosophy? So can you give us a little bit of a background as to why we are talking about this?


Yes, right view is one of the eight noble paths and is so important to understand that the eight noble paths is what we consider in Buddhism the way leading to well-being. And the Buddha, when he became enlightened, after finding his friends in the Deer Park, in India, this is 2600 years ago, he met up with his friends who were spiritual seekers and offered them the first Dharma Talk on the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Noble Path. And right view is the foundation of all of the other views. So we can also understand that, as humans, we have so many views, and because of our views, and because we live with certain views, we trap ourrself in a lifestyle, in a way of being that can offer suffering or offer happiness. So meditation, the first wing of meditation, is learning to stop. And the second wing is to learn to look deeply. So our view as ourself, if we don’t ever have a chance to reflect on our own way of how we see life, how we see our sources of joy, our sources of happiness, then we will never have a chance to broaden and be open to our own awakening. So practicing Zen, practicing Buddhism, is learning to be more open and more free of views because it can be such an obstacle to happiness, as well as an obstacle to peace. And hopefully, in this episode, we will also explore the first three mindfulness training of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing, which our teachers, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh helped put together while he was a peace activist during the Vietnam War, as he was looking deeply at the suffering of the situation and seeing a way out that can bring peace, nonviolence and reconciliation.


Great. And, brother, before we dive deeper in it, it’d be good, maybe for those of our listeners who don’t know what the other seven are, because actually, they, of course, all are in interrelationship with each other. But let’s give people just the context of what they are, just so we can sort of pinpoint right view amongst them.


Yes. So the first noble path is right view, which leads to the second, right thinking, and then right speech, right action, right livelihood, right diligence, right mindfulness, right concentration. So in this particular list, right view is called right view, but sometimes we also call it insight. And even though it is in that order, but they all are interrelated. But we do see that fundamentally we do live particularly based on views. And that’s why it is so important in meditation for us to have time and space to reflect on the kind of views that we are nourishing in our minds.


So, brother, I once went on a ten-day sort of training, not in a, it wasn’t related to Buddhism, but it was, it had a sort of spiritual grounding. And the whole ten days were about looking at our views and perceptions and starting to remove them and seeing what’s underneath them. And what was so interesting was it’s like the whole superstructure of our life is based on our views because every time we have a view, it’s like exactly in the noble path, that we have a view then, as a result of that view, we act according to our views, and then we get feedback according to that, and that drives the work we do, and the friends we have, and the thoughts we have, and then our actions. So actually we reached day seven of that workshop and we reached this point which they refer to as the terror of nothingness, which is that if you actually strip away all your views and perceptions, then actually, who are we? And there’s that moment of terror, because actually we are so associated, so believe that our views and perceptions are our truth, are who we are. But if you take them all away, well, there’s this terror of who are we? But the deeper truth is, if we go into that space, we, actually, into that space of emptiness, we realize actually some very deeper truth, that we are actually all interconnected, there is deeper interbeing, that actually our views and our perceptions separate us, and allow us to judge other people. So it would be good to get a sense, brother, at the beginning, about, you know, the Buddhist perception of views. So that was something I learned, but what our views? What are perceptions?


So perceptions are thoughts that we have that creates our reality. And a lot of the times we live based on a perception. And because of a perception, we create a lot of judgment, which then leads to a lot of feelings, a lot of emotions, and how we perceive each other. And so we know that our own mind is such, our mind is a vehicle for us to move. And most of the time, we never have the chance to even reflect on our perception, if it is correct. And believe it or not, the Buddha once said that 95% of our perceptions are wrong because we are so quick in our judgment that we see things as we want to see it, but not as it is. And so this is why for us, in Buddhism, when we speak about right view, we are also speaking about the mindfulness of looking deeply, seeing things as they truly are. And then when we look deeply at things as they truly are, we will have a deeper understanding, such as you just shared. So let’s deconstruct a view. So, us, humans, we like to own things and we like to see forms as just things for us to have and for us to show off and for us to be prideful of and to have ego, and to own and… But, you know, when I was being trained as an aspirant, we are taught to bow to our cushion before we sit down. And the first thought of it was really funny. I was like, Why am I bowing to a cushion? And you think that a cushion is a thing, it doesn’t have feelings, it’s not a self to it. So why should I even offer my gratitude towards it? But then I was taught later that everything needs conditions to be. So for me to practice meditation, I want to be able to sit with my legs crossed, so that I can have an upright posture, my shoulders relax, and so that I can come back to myself using my mindful breathing So when you look at it in this context, suddenly the cushion becomes more than a thing. The cushion becomes a spiritual support, it becomes a condition for you to enjoy your sitting meditation. And maybe without that cushion, I would never have insight. So suddenly, when I understand how the cushion is interrelated to my own practice, I have a connection to it. I start to value the cushion so much more deeply. I start to see my cushion as a friend, and I would treat it with respect. I will always lift the cushion with two hands. I would never throw the cushion around the meditation hall. Then, suddenly, yourself, you change your way of being, changed your attitude towards objects, towards things starts to change. You start to have the insight of interbeing that everything interrelates, everything supports each other. I cannot just say I want to meditate, and then not have a support. And suddenly, when I see that the cushion is such a condition, my way of understanding the cushion becomes more profound. And this starts to change you of how you view other objects in daily life, such as even food. We think of food as just a means for us to have energy, for us to be full and move on. But if we actually look deeply at the food, we can see the whole cosmos that is present in the piece of bread. The whole cosmos has come together to manifest this piece of bread, and, suddenly, your gratitude manifests. Your way of looking at a piece of bread, your way of eating the piece of bread changes. So having a view and having a transformation of view can really transform your whole mental attitude as well as your whole way of being. And that would then trickle on into the other path, which is your speech, your action, your livelihood, your diligence, how you take care of yourself daily, how do you nourish yourself. And so having right view is also for us to be able to distinguish what is unwholesome views. So we know that in life we have a lot of judgment, birth and death, good and evil, suffering and happiness, right and left. And going deeper into the teachings of right view is to see the interrelation between the two and not to discriminate even between birth and death. Because you see that these two opposites starts to support each other. So in the teachings of the Buddha, when the Buddha teaches on right view, is to also help us overcome all views and to have a deeper truth, such as the first noble truth it is suffering. Suffering is something that when we hear about it, it’s very bitter, it is painful, it’s hard to handle. But if we start to look at suffering differently, we start to see that suffering itself can be a teacher. It can teaches us what is right and what is wrong. Suffering can give us experience from action. If we do A, B, C and D, we will have suffering for sure. But if we change our way of looking, change our way of action, then suffering will be much reduced. So suffering becomes suddenly an ingredient to happiness. So we start to not discriminate with the idea that suffering is bad, and we start to see that even in suffering, there is goodness of suffering. And this is where it has really, truly helped me have deeper transformation, is when you start to see the goodness in suffering. Because wherever there is suffering, happiness is there. And wherever there is happiness, suffering is also there. So this teaches you about the organic nature of the two opposites and not to see that you have to remove one to truly be happy. You have to get rid of suffering, to truly be happy. And the reality that we have learned in Buddhism is that there is no such place, that there is no suffering. In Buddhism we do speak about this concept, about the pure land of the Buddha. It’s very similar to Christianity of the idea of the Kingdom of God. And the main concept of it is that in the pure land of the Buddha, everything is just flowers, birds are singing, trees are green, clouds are white, beautiful, fluffy, blue sky, and everything is happiness. But the reality is the pure land is not very far away. It’s already here. And it is only if we are available in the here and now can we be in touch with the pure land. So even the concept of this idea of a pure place is also a wrong view. And Thay once said this, and I’m forever grateful for Thay’s teaching because it has given us permission. Thay said that I would never want to bring my students, my children, to a place where there is no suffering. Because in such a place, my children would never have an opportunity to grow because they will not learn from suffering. And we know that life has a lot of teachings and suffering is one of the teachings. So when we have that new view, that new insight, that there is goodness in suffering, suddenly our way of looking at suffering is very different. And so with right view, we can deconstruct the idea of the opposites, which we are so divided by, the concept of left, right, up, down, good, evil, light, darkness. And it’s kind of like the yin yang. How that in everything there is already the element of the other. Last week in the children Q&A… We’re in the midst of a summer retreat, a child asked a monastic, Does a terrorist have a child in him? This was a very profound question by a young child in our summer retreat. And it took, we asked the child for a moment just to breathe mindfully. And the answer is Yes, because all of us, we have the nature of goodness and evil inside of us. But it is how we are conditioned and how we are nurtured by the views that is given to us, the idea that the concept of good and bad, rich and poor, happiness and suffering, poverty and rich. So all of these concepts have an impact on us. But our true nature is that we do have Buddhahood in us. We have awakened nature in us. But at the same time, we also have the seed of a terrorist in us where we want to protect what we see as the most profound and truth to us. And if anybody dares challenges that truth, we’re ready to fight and kill and die for. And that reality for some people is very real, and that’s why for us, as a practitioner, we have to have tools to measure and reflect our own views. Is our view giving us more lightness, more openness, so that we can accept more, so that we can embrace more? Or is our views, our thinking, becoming more dark, more small? We are becoming less open and our emotions are more disturbed. So we have to have time to reflect and look at our views. So it’s very good to always ask yourself, Is my view correct? And sometimes Thay had told us a mantra should be, You are partially right. Sometimes we think we’re always right and we’re very stubborn and arrogant. And because we think we have the truth, we are so caught in that truth and we become more isolated, and we don’t have a chance to grow, we don’t have a chance to become more enlightened, more awake. And we become less free. The more we are caught in a view, we are less free. And so the core of meditation is to be free from thoughts and views that bring us harm and bring us less freedom. So even a view of happiness can be a wrong view. So we do see paradoxes, but this is something for us to look deeply into. And for myself, I’m always, always coming back to this question, and this calligraphy that Thay has written is like, Are you sure? I always check in. Are you sure? And then why be so arrogant and just believe in yourself and not ask your peers? Not ask your community, not ask your friends, your brothers, your sisters. This is my view. Is that accurate? And we, in our tradition, in meetings, we always open the circle, like I would like to have the sangha eye on this. I would like to have the sangha’s input on this so that everyone can look at a topic and see it three sixty degrees. And we all are going to pitch in to bring us to the most harmonious view. So we know that views are so important as a way of moving projects, missions, and so for us to have a more collective view is always safer than an independent view.


Wow, brother. There was so much.


So much to take in.


I want to just go and unpick some of those things because that was a lot, and it was beautifully spoken, if I’m allowed to say so. So first thing that I heard is to differentiate between things and their sacred nature. So actually everything has a sacred nature, but it’s just us who is not seeing that. And to give you an example, because you were talking about food, brother, and I have had that experience when I go shopping. There’s a big vegetable market nearby, in Bergerac. And so I get my trolley and I have noticed, more so in the past, but I still fall into that trap, that I go round and I pick through, bag it, chuck it in my shopping basket. And I’m not thinking at all about the nature of the food. I’m just buying stuff that I can… Well, if I buy a cauliflower, what will go with that when I buy a broccoli? And then I just chuck it in. And then it goes the check out and I’ve run it through and bag it. But there’s no appreciation, really deep appreciation for me in that food itself. And I’m learning more and more in life to say, actually, everything is sacred. So I love that example of the cushion because it’s so easy to see that as an inanimate object. But, as you say, if you see the sacred nature of the cushion, actually, you’re seeing also the sacred nature in yourself. Whereas if we keep seeing things outside of ourselves, then actually, in some way we’re commoditizing our own beliefs about ourselves. Who are we? Well, we’re just a thing and we’re just a view, rather than actually our own sacred nature. The other thing I heard brother was, and Thay talks about this: We have to experience everything in life, not in concept, because a view, often we’re given views. We take on the views of our ancestors. We take on the views of our society. We take on the views of our peers, take on the views of our older siblings, occasionally, our younger siblings. But it’s this idea that we are a bunch of views, but often without any experience of them. You have people who are racist, who maybe have never met somebody of color, but they’ve been transmitted that racism. So what I heard very deeply and what you said is that the only way we will find meaning or deeper meaning in life is if we’ve actually personally experienced it. And I think Thay gives the example of an orange. He says, You can try and explain for a hundred years to someone else what an orange is, what it tastes like, but actually it’s meaningless. But once you’ve tasted an orange, you know what an orange looks like, you know the weight of an orange, you know the texture of an orange, you know the taste of the orange, you know the sweetness of the orange. And I think that’s so true of everything in life. Unless we personally experience it and are able to be free of our views and experience everything. And also I love that idea of, the Zen idea of the Beginner’s Mind that actually we might have an experience of something once, but actually if we keep on coming to the experience, because it’s like a view, isn’t it? You can buy a house with a beautiful view and if you just get used to the view, I don’t mean view as in perception, I mean the actual view itself, you can often just not even notice anymore. So actually views are also about we change, the world changes. Is that view still the same? Is it still relevant? And one of the things I love about Thay’s teachings is that nothing was ever static, that he was constantly looking at things, saying, Is it still relevant? Is it still in my experiences? Have I learned something new? Should I change? And people sort of define themselves so much by their views that almost they hang on to them. And if they let them go, if they see a deeper truth, then actually, you know, people find it very difficult to let go. And also, brother, the other thing I heard you say is about the collective idea of views. So Thay also talks, but we all talk about the sentence a point of view, that is a point of view is not the view. And one of the sort of my memories of that experience was I did a master’s degree in sustainability. And so they were, the whole body of the training was about world views. So, for instance, we would look at, let’s say, economics, and you would see that all the economics I’d ever been taught was from a Western colonial perspective. And so actually then we brought in economists from developing countries. What did economics mean to them? And it was completely different in perception. And it’s only when we have all these different views that we are able to see things in the round. And he way you described sort of trainings, the way you reach decision making in this community, you know, I’ve been so impressed by that because it is, it’s saying, actually, I need to let go of my view in order to hear other people’s views. And I see that, for instance, in the climate movement. I mean, people are still stuck in their own individuality and ego, as you described. So their project is the answer, and as soon as someone believes their project is the answer, then it makes the other person’s project less than and not the answer. And if I have a view that in my relationship with my wife that I’m right, I can only be right if she’s wrong. So we actually, our views create, as you were describing, that duality. If I’m right, you’re wrong. And if you’re wrong, I’m right. So actually, by making you wrong is not so much I’m right, you’re wrong, it’s often by making you wrong I can feel I am right. So I just want to tease out because you said so much, but I just want to come back and sort of run over it. So brother, I think maybe we should, you mentioned at the beginning about looking at the three mindfulness trainings because actually they strip out and go into more detail of some of this. But maybe before we do that, it would be worth for our listeners who don’t know actually that you mentioned it briefly, but what are the 14 Mindfulness Trainings? And why are the first three about view? So it’s not only the views come first in terms of foremost in the noble path, but they’re also the first three of the trainings in the 14th. So give us a bit of a flavor of what these trainings are and then we can go into them one by one.


So the 14 mindfulness trainings of the Order of Interbeing, so you can hear the word interbeing, is this word that our teacher came up with, which is from, it’s not a new word in Buddhism, but it wasn’t in English, and it was present in the Buddhist scripture, the Buddhist sutras, and in Vietnamese it is […]. And as Thay was renewing Buddhism and teaching mindfulness in the West especially, he came up with this word when he was in the USA and he was looking for a word to bring the insight that everything is interrelated. And suddenly he had an insight. He’s like, Interbeing, because we have the thought that we are our self, we be by ourself, but the reality is we cannot be by ourself. We have to interbe with everything in order for us to be so. In Mahayana Buddhism, we have many different precept bodies, or we call them mindfulness trainings, rules that help us stay on the path. And monks and nuns, we have our own set of precepts. And then for the non-monastic, we call them lay practitioner, the traditional trainings are from the Buddha’s time, it’s the five mindfulness trainings, which is based on compassion, not killing. The second is not stealing, not taking what doesn’t belong to us. The third is true love, which is respect, reverence in a relationship and not to break our commitment to one another. And the fourth is about speech, not to lie, not to use words that are harmful, are aggressive, and to bring more dialog, compassionate dialog, and deep listening. And the fifth one is about mindful consumption, which is about how we take care of our well-being in body and mind. So when we talk about consumption, it’s not just about the food that we take in and the drinks that we drink, and the drugs, but is also about what we watch, what we hear, the kind of environment we are in, because it all has an impact on us. So this is the traditional five mindfulness trainings, but our teacher and Plum Village, we have really updated these five mindfulness training that it is relevant for our times. And even we have just newly updated our third mindfulness trainings which teaches us to learn to love all human experiences and human sexual orientation, not to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. And so we always have to be so aware and present of the modern time and the suffering of today and to adapt our mindfulness trainings. So the 14 mindfulness trainings, it takes the backbone of the bodhisattva vows of the Mahayana tradition, and bodhisattvas are awakened beings who still want to be a part of the world and will do everything in their power to continue to bring peace, compassion and nonviolence to the world. So they are like the modern activists of today. So that was the language they use back in their day. And someone who was very selfless, who worked for the well-being of others. And when I say others, it’s not just humans. It is very collective, it is everything, the whole cosmos. And, you know, the one of the ingredients for our teacher to come up with the Order of Interbeing was the suffering of the war, of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. And Thay had a very big community. His first sanghas of young activists, and they were peace activists because Vietnam was burning because of the war. And our dear elder sister, Sister Chan Khong, shared with Thay that she is a young activist, but she doesn’t only want to be seen as an activist because many activists get burnout and they lose their path after a few years of working because it’s such a tough journey the path of an activist. So she share to Thay, Thay, right now you’re not receiving monastic… And this is when Thay wasn’t receiving monastic students. She said, But I want to be a part of your community. Is there a particular training that I can make vows to so that I can keep my path, my life in the direction of mindfulness, concentration, and insight, and nonviolence? So it was the call of the young activists that were asking Thay, Thay, please, lead us, please, guide us, please give us trainings that is modern and that will speak to today’s suffering. And it was because of this request that our teacher started to look deeply and to put together these 14 mindfulness trainings. And the first three is on views because Thay realized that the Vietnam War is being fought based on views, Western views, not even the views of the Vietnamese, and that the cause of the war was because of views. And so Thay saw that very concretely, leading to peace or leading to destruction is based on views. How I see you as an enemy is also because I see you have a different view than I do, and I’m ready to kill you because I believe my view is the ultimate. And in the first three trainings you will hear the insight of openness and the teachings very concretely in Buddhism, not to be caught in views, even Buddhist ones.


Yeah. Thank you, brother. And I think that what’s most powerful is actually that, isn’t it? Don’t, even if you, as a Buddhist monk, and you’ve devoted your life to it, only believe something if it actually works for you in the real world. And I think that comes back to the essence of Thay’s teachings, isn’t it? That this is about saying my experience, my experience is much more important than a view I’ve been given from someone else. And I think the 14 mindfulness trainings are wonderful example of that, that they’re not there as as an idea, they’re there to translate the Buddhist philosophy into daily action, which is the heart of Thay’s sort of engaged or applied Buddhism. It’s saying actually there’s no point just sitting on a cushion, and also there’s no point acting in the world without a spiritual grounding. And so, as you describe sort of Thay and Sister Chan Khong coming together was the spiritual grounding with the activism and just that sort of union of ideas and spiritual grounding actually led to the trainings which leads to the community today. So it’s just interesting to see that is based very much on the wish of people in the real world to say, How do I stay fresh? How do I stay peaceful, even in the face of real suffering?


What I would also like to just add is that even the mindfulness trainings that we will read today have been updated about ten years ago, starting 2011, and then finalizing it in 2012. So even the mindfulness trainings that our teacher wrote is not the absolute truth. And Thay continued to observe the suffering of the times and to adapt the language so that it addresses the suffering.


And brother, just… And we will get into it. But, you know, the importance of that, which is so many traditions are based on teachings that were, are thousands of years old, or hundreds of years old, but are solidified. And actually, young people come across and we see that a lot in religion. Isn’t it? That people don’t feel connected to religion unless it’s meaningful to their lives now. Because why would you? Why would you believe something out of pure faith if it’s not relevant to your life now? And I think that I have so much respect for Thay and you, as the monastics, that you’re saying actually this is relevant now, but it may not be. And when it’s not, we will change it. So let us go through each one of these and perhaps, brother, I can read them out and then we can sort of discuss them. So the first mindfulness training of the 14 is openness, and it goes like this. Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory or ideology, even Buddhist ones. We are committed to seeing the Buddhist teachings as a guiding means that help us learn to look deeply and develop understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill or die for. We understand that fanaticism in its many forms is the result of perceiving things in a dualistic or discriminatory manner. We will train ourselves to look at everything with openness and the insight of interbeing in order to transform dogmatism and violence in ourselves and the world. So, brother, that is so relevant to today, isn’t it, where we see increasingly this fanaticism come. We have the, as you say, the far right, the far left, the center is being hollowed out and people are going to one camp or the other. And they, if you’re in one camp, you think the other people are completely wrong, if you are in the other camp vice versa. And we are in this time, isn’t it, at the time when we need to come together to solve the many issues like social injustice, climate change, biodiversity loss, is also the same time where people are actually moving away from the center into camps where people are literally shooting at each other now and where, unless we find common ground, things can get a lot worse. So, brother, what’s your sense of maybe just sort of what is it about fanaticism? What is it about why people hold onto their views? Why is that people would rather have a view that they can hold over rather than find happiness? What is it about having a view that makes people feel safe and secure?


It’s because we have such dualistic thinking. We think that if they don’t see the same as I do, then we’re not on equal grounds, and that we are different. And because of that we have complexes, superiority, inferiority, or even equality. And these complexes pushes us away from each other, which pushes us away from our truth, which is we interbe. And it is beautiful to have differences, it’s beautiful to have so many different culture, understanding, teachings, religion. I think about food, like we live in such a time where we can enjoy so many different dishes of food and experience somebody’s whole ancestral lineage through just their cuisine. But if we are so dogmatic, and have such a dualistic view in separation, we see that what they are eating is not, I don’t know what’s a nice way to put this, but it’s not up to date, or is not of our times, it is so old fashioned, it is so tribal or something. And we push ourself away from such richness of different experiences. And because we have such a discriminative manner, because of a dualistic view, this is where we base our truth on where we think we are right and they are wrong. And this is where suffering starts to manifest. And once we have such a view, our thoughts become very toxic. They are very dividing. Our speech is very dividing. Instead of bringing unity, we bring division. We discriminate, which only leads more to separation, racism and so on. And because of that, we start to live and look at each other with discriminative eyes. And that is very painful. And that is because of the view that we are so attached to. We think we are more superior. And our way of looking, our energy that we produce when we see someone that doesn’t look like us or don’t speak like us, we see them as someone, not a part of our circle. And right away we judge and we discriminate. And with such a view, it only leads to more suffering and more division. And I truly believe that we have to change this view in this generation and to teach the four immeasurable minds of true love. And the fourth one is inclusiveness. We have to see that our happiness and suffering is not an individual matter, it is a collective matter. When we see that suffering is a collective matter, we start to change. But because our ego and our self is so big that we think that we don’t suffer and that’s fine.


And, brother, I think, you know, as you’re talking what comes to mind and we were mentioning it a bit earlier, you were talking about the cushion and about, you know, we’ve talked about the sacredness of life. As you were talking, one of my things I’m feeling is that the reason people hold on to their views so tightly is because they think that’s what they are. And why would we hold on to a view is because we don’t think there’s anything beyond our views. So in a sense, our views are, in a sense, a defense from feeling the sacred. So, you know, is that classic thing, isn’t it, that everyone says, Oh, I would love to feel the sacredness of life, but actually when we see the sacredness of life, often we get scared of it because we have to let go of so much to feel the sacredness of life, because we have to let go of all our views and all of our perceptions. And that is actually very, that’s when I mentioned the terror of nothingness. It’s actually there’s a terror there because we’re so used to experiencing ourselves through our views and perceptions that we we think if we let them go, we won’t know any longer who we are. And as you say, talk about paradox, the paradox is that actually it’s the only time we get to learn who we are is when we move beyond that. So, brother, let’s just imagine that I’m partly right, that people are actually more fearful of the sacred and actually they hide behind their views in order so they don’t touch something deeper because they feel they’ll get lost there because they’re no longer in charge of themselves. So what practically may help people? What Buddhist practices would you recommend that would help people to actually start to let go of of a particular view, start to be able to incorporate other people’s perspective, start to see life with this more sacred way?


I wish everybody have enough conditions to see the world beyond their world. And that is very practical. And because when we are so attached to our views is because we haven’t yet allowed ourselves to be open. And practically, if we have a good friend who tells us, My dear friend, the view you have, I think it is just one truth. But to life there are so many truths. And please allow me to introduce you to other views of different culture, different ways of life, different nations, different religions, different experiences. I believe that experiences, direct experiences, can let us open our minds. And one of the experiences is to allow us to see the suffering of other people, other communities, other nations, other ethnicity, see the suffering of all. Then your understanding becomes bigger, and your compassion that we all have in us becomes more and more big to embrace the reality of life. I think one of my greatest blessing in Plum Village is we get to welcome the world here. And I have been able to see so many walks of life, so many different experiences through the practitioners that come by and they get to share with us their suffering. And when I listen to their suffering, I listen with full openness to experience them and to see what they go through. Suddenly, my understanding becomes more and more wider and the truth becomes more and more varied, in different layers. And so, suddenly, you become richer. So to experience, to see the different suffering and the different happiness only adds richness to your life. And we may need a very good friend that can help us open our minds, open our views. And I think that when we touched the truth, which is that we all want to belong, you know, what you share, because we’re so attached to our views, because we want to have a sense of belonging. And that’s why I will tie myself to this truth and I would do anything for this truth. But the reality is that maybe what we really want is to be loved and to love and to offer peace, offer a place of safety. That is where we feel most at home. And, you know, one time someone asked Thay, Thay, what would you choose? Buddhism or peace? And he said, Of course, peace. Because the essence of Buddhism is to have inner peace and outer peace. I’m ready to let go of Buddhism. If peace is there, then Buddhism is not needed because Buddhism is also just a view. So this concept, this teaching that Thay wrote in the first trainings, we are committed to seeing the Buddhist teachings as guiding means that help us develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill, or die for. That is one of the essence of our engage Buddhism, applied Buddhism. And for us, his students, to really take into heart and to practice it as we continue to be a part of the world and grow our understanding.


Thank you, brother. And also, Thay has been very, very clear that if you come to Plum Village and you become interested in Buddhist teachings and practices, do not let go of your own religious or spiritual traditions. That Buddhism doesn’t take over from that, it can add something. But he has constantly talked about the importance of connecting to your own roots, of being aware of your own roots, of not just distancing yourselves. Because our roots are important and they help us to understand ourselves, they help us to understand what our views are. Even if they are views that we want to let go of, we can only understand them in the context of our past. But brother, I also want to give an example because as you were talking so beautifully, this example came to mind and it had a really powerful effect on me that when I was living in New York, I went to an event at the home of the head of Leaders’ Quest, Lindsay Levin, who was on one of our previous podcasts on Wise Leadership. And she had brought together a right wing rabbi living in the West Bank, in the Middle East, and also a Palestinian activist. And they were both standing there, and I was thinking, Wow, well, what’s going to happen here? Right-wing rabbi and a Palestinian activist, they don’t normally stand in the same room together and look at each other kindly as well. And the rabbi started out in a way that I thought, Oh, god, you know, what’s going to happen here? Because he said, I’m an American. I came to live on the West Bank because I don’t actually believe it’s the West Bank, I see it as Judea and Samaria, this is the land that God gave us. This is our land, the land of the Jewish people. And you think, Oh, dear, this isn’t going well. And he said, and, you know, But our community buttresses up against the Palestinian community, and I had never met anyone from that community. And then one day he met this Palestinian activist, I can’t remember in what circumstance. And he listened to the Palestinian man. And he said, what he said to me, he said, This is the land that God gave us. This is not the West Bank. This is Palestine. And I’m here because it’s God’s will that I’m here. And he said it was such a shock to him because he realized that exactly what he was saying was his truth was mirrored in the Palestinian’s truth. And he said it just completely changed his mind because he suddenly, he said, I haven’t changed my view for myself. I’m still here because I believe it’s God’s will. But I have been forced now, because of this awakening, to recognize that this is also his truth. And I have learned that I have to hold more than one truth in my hands. And clearly, that was such a transformational moment, because it’s like there are many truths, as you say, brother, it’s not that your truth is therefore meaningless. You can still have something that is deeply meaningful for you. But then if you add in someone else’s truth and then someone else’s truth, and you start to build this extraordinary mosaic of life that actually enriches everybody exactly as you say. So it was, and I remember I was so struck by that moment because there is no one truth. There are many truths. So, brother, should we go to the secondar training?




So, the second mindfulness training, non-attachment to views. Well, that’s relevant. So, here we go. Aware of the suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, we are determined to avoid being narrow minded and bound to present views. We are committed to learning and practicing non-attachment to views and being open to others’ experiences and insights in order to benefit from the collective wisdom. We are aware that the knowledge we presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Insight is revealed through the practice of compassionate listening, deep looking and letting go of notions rather than through the accumulation of intellectual knowledge. Truth is found in life, and we will observe life within and around us in every moment, ready to learn throughout our lives. So, brother, there are two things I want to bring up, because obviously we’ve talked about this in general, but there are two aspects which I think are really important. One is the accumulation of intellectual knowledge. So, in Western society, often intellectual knowledge is everything, is the most important thing. And here Thay is saying to let go of notions rather than through the accumulation of intellect, intellectual knowledge. So that’s one thing. And the other thing is Thay talking about the practice of compassionate listening and deep looking. So here we go. This is deeply important, isn’t it?


Very important.


So do you want to discuss those two aspects? Because I think those are so critical, deep, deep looking, deep listening, and also non-attachment to that intellect being…






When we only bring our intellectual knowledge to a conversation, we’re not connecting to each other, we are just going to battle out our views. And this is when I’m sure, like there is a place for that, debates and whatnot, but in our tradition, we believe that to connect is to have true communication. And true communication comes from a place of heart. And to touch that place of heart, we have to listen with compassion. If we listen to the other person with our true presence, with a non-judgmental presence, we let that person share even if it is their truth, but for us, we see it differently. We listen just to hear them and to experience them. And most of the time, we’re listening to them with how we want them to be, not how they are. And this is where we break connection. And this is where we once again are caught in our dualistic thought because he or she or they don’t think like us. Okay, you’re out of my books. You’re out of my circle. And deep listening is one of the element of true presence. In mindfulness we talk about learning to be present, which is the seventh mindfulness training of the 14 mindfulness trainings, one of the heart of it, which is learning to be present. And first of all, we have to learn to be present for ourself, to listen to ourself, and then we bring that to others. And when we come with intellectual knowledge, then it’s a very classical Zen story. It’s like this one governor from the royal family kingdoms comes to meet a zen master, and ask the zen master for a teaching. And the zen master invites him for tea first. And the zen master is pouring him a cup of tea. And as he’s pouring, he won’t stop. And the cup of tea overflows. And the governor tells the zen master, I think my cup is full. And the zen master said, Exactly. You are like this cup. You’re coming to me with intellectual knowledge. You’re not here to learn. Empty your cup, and then you come to me. And then I will teach you. So our education and our experience of life sometimes become the barrier for openness because we’re so attached to what we have learned. But the line here that really hits me is that truth is found in life, and we will observe life within and around us in every moment, ready to learn throughout our lives. So it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have intellectual knowledge, right? I’m not saying that I’ll just stop learning, stop going to school. But it is a means to help us grow our understanding. But once it becomes, it becomes a burden, we also have to learn to let go. And in this training, non-attachment to views is another way of saying we have to learn to let go. We have to be ready to let go of our views, to have more views. So, sometimes we’re even attached to our suffering. So, I’ve experienced this as a monk and giving consultation where somebody comes to me and shares with me their suffering and their experiences. And then I go and I listen to them very deeply, and then I offer them, and I tell them from the get-go, I said, This is not the ultimate truth. This is just my experience. So please listen and see how you can apply it to your life. And as I offered it to him and he put into practice, but then afterwards I see him signing up for another consultation, and then another consultation, and another consultation, and repeating the same story again and again and again. So sometimes our suffering is a view and we’re so attached to it that we identify with it so deeply that even though we’re asking for help to let go of our suffering, but we’re not ready to let go of it, then we’re not free. So then we are attached to a view. So even suffering, even though we want to let go and we want to transform it, but we’re not ready, then we have to see why are we so attached to this? How are we identifying as who we are? Do we see if we are not that suffering, we are nobody? So that really gave me a lot of insight. Even I reflected on myself. I’m like, What are the stories that I keep telling? Am I ready to let go of that story? Because we’re always changing. Life is always changing. We are the same of yesterday or different? The answer is we are neither the same, nor we are different, because we are always changing. We are the present moment, but we are also of the past because everything that we have experienced is here. But we are not just that past because we’re living in this moment, which we are organically changing. So, you see, this is a truth, and it’s a very hard truth to touch in reality, though, because we’re so accustomed to having an image of who we are. And that’s why one of our Dharma seals is signlessness. We’re always changing. We shouldn’t be so attached. And insight, even insight, we have to learn to let go. Thay once taught us that when we have insight, it is insight of the present moment. But insight is also always growing. Your awakening is also growing. So if you want to continue to grow as a human being, you also have to be ready to let go of your own insight, of your own understanding. And practically, I saw Thay’s teaching grow through the years. You know, one time Thay told me, Phap Huu, if I was to write again Old Path, White Cloud, which is one of Thay’s masterpieces, is one of my favorite book of Thay. So if anyone wants to read a book about the life of the Buddha, please find the book Old Path, White Cloud. Thay tells the story of the Buddha through the eye of a buffalo boy, an untouchable. And Thay told me that if Thay is to rewrite it, it would be so much better because Thay’s understanding of a teacher has grown so much through the 40 years. At that time, the 30 something years of Plum Village, Thay has experienced so much more of what it means to be a teacher. And Thay would go even deeper into telling how the Buddha had to have patience and love for his disciples. And we think that when Siddhartha became a Buddha, he was a perfect human being, he was, some people considered him a god, but the Buddha never saw himself as a god. He saw himself just as a teacher that has understood the path and is walking the path. And because Thay has experience himself, now, the practice Thay has touched his own awakening inside, his own understanding has developed. So Thay would be able to go even deeper into the psychology of a teacher and put it in the sense of how the Buddha had to take care of his monks and nuns. And so when Thay shared with me that I was so moved because I saw that even Thay saw that his understanding continues to grow. And so Thay is even not attached to his teachings. And when I look at his calligraphies is the same that his early day calligraphies are much more stiff in a way. And in the late 2012 and onwards, Thay’s calligraphy was much more free, that’s the word I would describe. It’s very free, and it’s his essence. And so we can see that even as a practitioner, we’re always growing, and we should never even be attached to our awakening. And the Buddha has taught in the sutra of the better way to live alone, is that do not be caught in even the present moment. And so, not talking even about the past or the future, but even our own insight, what we have established today, we know that if we want to continue to grow, one day we have to let go of that. Thay said, The raft is not the shore. When you arrive at the shore, the shore which resembles liberation, we have to let go of the raft.


So, brother, it’s so interesting because we know that throughout history that what was once believed to be the truth is now no longer the truth. And we probably know that whatever now we believe to be the truth will one day be seen not to have been the truth. So actually, all through our lives, we have constant experiences that show us that actually a fixed view is, in a sense, madness because there’s no such thing. But yet, we really want to have a fixed view because it makes us feel safe. It allows us, as you say, to feel the self, to say, I know who I am. And there’s such a value in Western society about expertize. But that expertize in itself is constantly changing. And if we have people who, you know, in Western medicine, you have someone who’s an expert in your left hand. But if there’s a problem with your right hand, you have to go see the expert in your right hand, because it’s different from the left hand. And so we have this separation where people have actually lost sight of the whole, and they drill deeper and deep into their own little segment. And by doing that, they completely lose the sense that actually what is the body and how, what drives the body and what influences the body. And it becomes this mechanistic view of life. And again, is this great example of moving away from the sacred and moving away from the holistic and moving away from this understanding that everything is interconnected. And at the end of the day, it’s just people, I think, being scared. And, as you say, a fixed point allows people to feel safe. And you talked about one example, brother, you talked about how people, even their view of their suffering, they have a view of their suffering that they’re attached to even when it’s not helping them. And one of the dynamics I saw, which was a very deep dynamic, is when people have a judgment against their parents that their parents did something terrible to them, and that their life could not be happy, that their parents ruined their life. And even when the parents have passed away, they still have this belief that their parents have ruined their life. So they keep on sabotaging their life, even when their parents are long dead. And it’s like, again, when you stand back from it, it’s, in a sense, a madness, because people would rather hang on to something, as you say, that is hurting them rather than let go. And it’s like when we let go of our views, we’re free, brother, we’re free. Because as soon as you have a view, you have to defend it. And you talked about the intellectual dueling. That’s all it is, is people just, and in a sense, portraying, showcasing that they’re better than someone else. But actually has no… No one wants to know the truth. And even in the climate retreat, brother, we had a few weeks ago, people were saying as soon as someone was, as soon as they opened their mouth about saying what they are doing for climate change, the other person is already judging them, already having announced, already having a viewpoint about their viewpoint. And this is why things don’t change. Because if everyone is already… If people are not deeply listening to each other, not incorporating ideas, not seeing a constellation, or system of change, then actually people are just actually at the end of it, just defending themselves. So, brother, let us move on to.


The third.


The third, the third mindfulness training. Freedom of thought. Aware of the suffering brought about when we impose our views on others, we are determined not to force others, even our children, by any means whatsoever, such as authority, threat, money, propaganda or indoctrination to adopt our views. We are committed to respecting the rights of others to be different, to choose what to believe and how to decide. We will, however, learn to help others let go and transform fanaticism and narrowness through loving speech and compassionate dialog. So, brother, a lot of people who are parents say, What are you on about? Let me just read that bit again. We are determined not to force others, even our children, by any means whatsoever, such as authority, threat, money, propaganda or indoctrination to adopt our views. Now, brother, let’s go a bit into, let’s just go into that bit about kids.


That segment right there. Yeah.


Because people will say, but how am I going to parent people if I can’t use my authority, if I can’t threaten them occasionally, if I can’t bribe them with some money, if I can’t use propaganda like This is how it is, kids, just get used to it. Or indoctrination. For most people, those are the toolbox of parenting. So how do we parent people without those?


Why are you asking a monk this? I should be the one asking you, Jo. Because you’re a father.


Well, yeah. Okay. Okay. Thanks for turning it back on me. Well, because when you look at it, brother, nobody actually learns to be themselves by being told this is the way it is, by being threatened. Money, propaganda, indoctrination. That is no way that people actually learn in life. That’s the way people either fight back or withdraw. And, you know, there are all sorts of reasons. If we’re leading busy lives as parents that we want to control, because actually that’s our coping mechanism. And it’s not a, it’s not that we think, Oh, this is the best way to parent. It’s a coping mechanism. But actually we also know that if actually we try to parent with threats, propaganda, indoctrination, money, and I tried them all, and my kids will probably testify much better than I do, but actually that doesn’t help an individual to find themselves. It doesn’t help an individual to see life clearly and with pleasure. It forces you into a box that you then feel you can’t escape from. And if you try to escape from it, you’re you’re being told that you are sort of disrespectful or that you’re not prepared to listen. But actually, all those are actually a way of controlling someone and forcing someone to adopt your own views. Oh, dear. Kids, don’t listen to this. I’ve been forced to say this. I hope my sons don’t listen to this one. They’ll be on the phone straightaway.


They’ll be calling The Way Out Is In podcast. Brother Phap Huu and Jo? Yes, I think, you know, we know that authority, threat, money, propaganda and indoctrination, to adopt a view is not sustainable. It doesn’t last. And everyone also has the seed to rebel. Right? All teenagers, we all went through this stage. And we all want to challenge things because there is a moment when we are so curious and we are questioning everything, and we also have to let them experience it. I think the three trainings are also interrelated. They all support each other to help us not be attached to our views as well as to learn. So the first two is about not being attached to a view. But the third one, freedom of thought, is also the openness to learn. We do have to educate, we do have to present a way of life that can lead to sustainability, that can lead to stability, that can lead to peace, can lead to love, can lead to understanding. But what we have learned is that that doesn’t come with pressure, that doesn’t come with this authority, but it comes by example. And this is very important. When we want to teach something, we have to learn to walk the talk. And I think why Thay was so successful as a teacher is because Thay walked his talk. Everything that Thay taught us through his hundreds of Dharma talks, and through his hundreds of books, is everything that Thay applied and Thay practiced. It is his blood, sweat, and tears that we get to experience. And I had the privilege to be in his presence for years. And when I’m with someone with that virtue and that energy, I know that what Thay is teaching me is not a view that will lead to suffering, it is a path that will lead to transformation. And it is through his way of being, if I’m here to learn about peace, and harmony, and mindfulness, but Thay is not mindful and Thay’s community, Plum Village, there’s no harmony, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have stayed. I wouldn’t have felt like I want to be a part of this community. So what we see is that in this training is that to offer the change we have to be the change and to have the freedom of thought. We can speak our truth, but we speak it in a way that offers that person, do you want to try it or not? And I think this is where I was so drawn in to the teachings of Plum Village and the teachings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, which was everything Thay offered. It was always like an invitation. And I never felt like force, and I was never even, Thay never said, Do this and become enlightened. Thay said, Do this, and you will learn to look at your suffering and transform your suffering. And it was always an invitation. So there is a way of dialog, there is a way to use language to bring people into the path that still offers freedom. And so when they’re in the path, because they are the ones that still have to walk it. I’m not going to walk it for them. I can’t, I can only show them, I can only offer my experience. And so what we are learning from these trainings is that experience also offers views and truth. And experience can change our views and our mind. And a lot of the teachings of Buddhism and the practices of mindfulness always allows us to catch one truth. And I think this truth is still acknowledged by all, is that we all have suffering and we all want well-being. And that is a truth. And that’s why I think the teachings of Buddhism, the teachings of the Buddha is still alive today and is still relevant today. And the way that we teach now is a way of showing and not just through the words, but through a way of life. And so, for me, I now understand there’s this language in Buddhism, it says that we all have a Dharma body. The way we are in life it can represent our practice. I don’t have to show off by meditating and sitting. It’s just, is my practice alive when I open the door? Is my practice alive when I greet someone and I listen to them? Am I present when I want to share something? Am I sharing it with anger, with criticism, or am I sharing it in a way to help them see the suffering that is being created? So the third one is about the freedom of how we offer each other thoughts and views.


Thank you, brother. And what comes to mind as you speak is one of the most important things is to recognize we all have views and perceptions and not to beat ourselves up about it. Because I’m very aware that with all the Buddhist teachings, we can use it either to free ourselves or to deepen our imprisonment. And if we say, Oh, well, I’ve still got all these views and perceptions, then we can use it as a chain to beat ourselves with. And the fact is, yes, we all have views and perceptions, and the most important thing is not trying to eradicate them because we continue to have them all our lives, they’re deep in our patterns that have been handed down to us through generations. But to be aware of them and to just, and then just to work with them and to, as you say, you know, if we see a view that needs working on, that’s something that we can start to enjoy working with rather than seeing it as a problem. Say, I have a view and this is the beauty of Thay’s teachings. Embrace that view, give it space, allow it to be, but don’t feed it. Don’t feed it and give it extra food, but just to question it and to challenge it. And so that… And also I think to recognize, you know, it’s interesting, this parenting one has really set me off, because I think of all my failings coming to light very, very quickly. But, you know, it’s a tough gig. You know, when you’re tired and you’ve come back from work and your child is sort of at your shoulder, sort of demanding things, you know, that is tough to say, actually, I’m not going to respond to that. So I think we have to allow ourselves to recognize that, and also we have to recognize, you know, it’s difficult finding the right balance because children need strong boundaries. And this is not, that teaching is not an excuse to say, Oh, let your child do whatever they want, whenever they want. And, you know, don’t worry about it. It’s saying, actually, love is about fierceness and sometimes providing the boundaries, but within that boundaries, recognizing that each child has their own path. And if you try and force your path onto that child, then that’s, by its nature can’t work because we’re all different. And if you try and force someone else to have your path or to have your career or to do what you never did yourself but wished you had, than all you’re doing is imprisoning them in their own cage. So I think there’s something really important here about sort of saying, Yes, look, we have views, we have perceptions, allow them, but don’t get caught in them so much. And the other thing, brother, you talked about Thay and about don’t hold onto even beautiful experiences, never mind sufferings. And I always remember the Dalai Lama saying, you know, if you have a spiritual epiphany, let it go, because a spiritual epiphany can be an imprisonment that you spend your life going back to that. And that’s where you get stuck. And so I just want to reiterate what you were saying, which is even if you have the most beautific experience, don’t be imprisoned by it, let it go, because if you stop there, then that’s where you’ll stop. And if you let it go, you already have a path into the future.


Yeah. Yeah. And also just saying that there are views that are very beautiful and that needs to be nurtured, and it needs to be spoken. There are some truths that we know can help change the world, that can bring us into a more compassionate society, a more inclusive community, and nation. And so there are truths that we have to continue to speak, and that’s why there is other trainings in this 14 mindfulness trainings. You know, there’s one training that says, I’m even ready to fight injustice, even if it brings harm to me. So just to know that there are some views that we know can really help change, but of course not to be attached to it also. So I know a lot of it, a lot of this episode that we’ve been going on about, it’s about views that bring a suffering, but there are views that can bring us happiness and change. And he says he believes that our society needs a collective awakening. And for that to happen, we all have to have space to have a change of view. And that change of view in the way we consume, the way we take care of each other, the way we perceive life. Right now, our society is so fast-paced, we’re always running towards the future rather than stopping and pausing and looking deeply at how we can have impact right here, right now. And so even a view that can be nourishing to oneself may not be to others, and this is where we have to learn to let go. And I give you one example, very concretely, is in the monastic order, every year we have monks and nuns leaving the monastic order. And at first, I suffered every time a brother or a sister leave the path, because for me is such a holy and beautiful path. And I see so much transformation in my own self and I see so much richness towards this life and I feel so fulfilled, but that’s my truth, and it might not be the truth for the others. And as I’ve developed in my role as a monk and as an abbot and as an elder brother, there are moments when I see brothers suffer because they are a monk, because they have such a view of how monastic should be, and they beat themselves up every time they are unmindful, every time they have a thought that is very negative and their energy, their well-being just decreases through the years. And there were moments when I had to say, Brother, maybe this path is not for you. Let’s reflect on it. And I have seen brothers who left the monastic path, who have become happier as a lay practitioner, and is still very a part of the Sangha, offers more as a lay practitioner than as a monk. So even the idea, the truth that you have is nourishing for you, but it may not be the right antidote, the right medicine, right vitamin for the other person. And this is where we have to be so open to each other’s experiences, because our truth may work with us, but it may not work with others. And this is where we have to also be free of views for others also.


Yeah, brother, that was a very powerful, you know, that acceptance of people as they are rather than how you want them to be or how we want them to be. Well, thank you, brother, for another amazing episode. We traditionally have a view and a perception that every episode should end with a short guided meditation by you, brother. So this may be is a good view that we continue to have this practice. So if you are able to offer us a few minutes just to come back to ourselves in this moment.


So, dear friends, if you accept this view, please join us in this meditation. Whether you are sitting, walking, jogging, cleaning your house, whatever you may be doing, if you allow yourself to just be still in this moment. You can remain standing, find a bench, find a chair, find a cushion, or even lay down. And just relax your whole body. Let the tensions relax, release. Let your muscles ease into relaxation. And in this moment, I invite you to become aware of your breath. As I breathe in, I am aware this is my inbreath. As I breathe out, I’m aware this is my outbreath. Breathing in, breathing out. And as I breathe in, I can allow myself to be more invested in my inner breath. I follow it from the beginning to the end. And as I breathe out, I fully take refuge in my outbreath, from the beginning to the end. Fully, one with inbreath, one with outbreath. And as I breathe in, I can say I have arrived. I arrive here, in my body. And as I breathe out, I can say I am at home. Home here is the present moment. In, I have arrived. Out, I am at home. As I breathe in, I can feel safe in my home. As I breathe out, I smile to this place of safety, this refuge inside of me. In, safe. Out, I smile. As I breathe in, I let go of my thoughts and I am just with my breath. And as I breathe out, that is freedom. Freedom of thought. In, letting go. Out, freedom. As I breathe in, and let this inbreath refresh my whole body. And as I breathe out, I am one with life inside of me and life all around me. In, refreshing. Out, life.


Thank you, dear friends, for practicing, for joining us in this episode.


Yes, dear friends, we hope you enjoyed this. If you did, there are many other episodes you can tune into. You can find us on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, on other platforms that carry podcasts, and on our very own Plum Village App.


And this podcast was brought to you by the generous donors of the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation. If you would like to support future episodes of the podcast and the work of the international Plum Village community, please visit Thank you and see you next time.


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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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