On Anger and War

Democracy Now post excerpt “Thich Nhat Hanh on Anger and War”

This speech by Thich Nhat Hanh was given at Riverside Church in New York in 2001. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Hanh urged the audience to embrace peace in the face of anger, citing his experience of witnessing suffering on both sides during the war in his native Vietnam. “The real enemy of man is not man,” says Hanh. “It is ignorance, discrimination, fear, craving and violence.”

There are ways that we can go back to ourselves and practice, so that we rediscover our calmness our tranquility, our lucidity – ways by which we can look deeply to understand the real causes of the suffering. That understanding will help us to do what needs to be done and not to do what could be harmful to us and to other people.

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The Old Mendicant

By Thich Nhat Hanh

Being rock, being gas, being mist, being Mind,
being the mesons travelling among the galaxies at the speed of light,
you have come here, my beloved.
And your blue eyes shine, so beautiful, so deep.
You have taken the path traced for you
from the non-beginning and the never-ending.

You say that on your way here
you have gone through many millions of births and deaths.
Innumerable times you have been transformed
into firestorms in outer space.
You have used your own body
to measure the age of the mountains and rivers.
You have manifested yourself
as trees, grass, butterflies, single-celled beings,
and as chrysanthemums.


But the eyes with which you look at me this morning
tell me that you have never died.
Your smile invites me into the game
whose beginning no one knows,
the game of hide-and-seek.

O green caterpillar, you are solemnly using your body
to measure the length of the rose branch that grew last Summer.
Everyone says that you, my beloved, were just born this Spring.
Tell me, how long have you been around?
Why wait until this moment to reveal yourself to me,
carrying with you that smile which is so silent and so deep?

O caterpillar, suns, moons, and stars flow out each time I exhale.
Who knows that the infinitely large must be found in your tiny body?
Upon each point on your body,
thousands of Buddha fields have been established.
With each stretch of your body, you measure time
from the non-beginning to the never-ending.

The great mendicant of old is still there on Vulture Peak,
contemplating the ever-splendid sunset. Gautama, how strange!
Who said that the Udumbara flower blooms only once every 3,000 years?

The sound of the rising tide—you cannot help hearing it
if you have an attentive ear.

—from Call Me By My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh (Parallax Press, September 1993)

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No Coming, No Going

Original post by Donovan Drow

No coming, no going,

no after, no before.

I hold you close,

I release you to be free.

I am in you

And you are in me.

–Thich Nhat Hanh

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Coming and Going in Freedom

Plumvillage.org post “Memorial Pins to Commemorate Thich Nhat Hanh

Monastics in Tu Hieu Temple, Hue, are offering memorial pins to those who come to pay respects to our teacher, Thay.

Den di thong dong” means “Coming and going in freedom”.

We are offering a graphic of the memorial pin for you to print out at home so that you can make your own pin. You may like to print it out on yellow coloured paper. You can wear it over your heart in remembrance of our teacher.

Coming and Going in Freedom

The phrase “Den di thong dong” originates in a letter Thay wrote to his students in 2001. We invite you to come back to your breathing and to read the letter below with an open heart.

April 22, 2001

“I am still coming and going in freedom,
Not concerning about being or non-being.
Come back with steps in freedom, beloved children.
Neither full nor eclipsed, it is the same moon.”

“Come back with steps in freedom” – this is your practice. The principle guide for this practice is entirely in the words “coming back.” Coming back means no longer wandering or seeking. Coming back means you have seen your path. Coming back means coming back to your true home, back to your island, back to your true nature. Coming back to the Ancestors, to your homeland, to your parents, to Thầy, to the True Dharma, to the Sangha. Home to love, warmth, peace and joy. Coming back also means coming back to your children and grandchildren. If you don’t come back to them, they will be so lonesome, and you yourself will be lonesome. The King Trần Thái Tông also shared that his practice was the practice of coming home (Việt Nam Phật Giáo Sử Luận, Book 1)

“Come back with steps in freedom” means that you do not have to hurry, because according to our practice, each step can bring you home. It takes only one step to arrive, to be home. That is why the two words “in freedom” here are also important.

The chant “Repentance and Taking Refuge for Life,” include these lines:

For a long time, we have gone against the stream of our true nature,
floundering in the ocean of sorrows and the river of confusion,
unable to see a way out or a path to our true home.

These lines in the chant also call you to come back to your true nature. With each step in freedom, you come back each second, each minute. This practice brings about happiness, peace and freedom. These elements can nourish you, the Sangha, Thầy, your parents, your Ancestors, and your descendants.

Thầy’s practice is no different. “I am still coming and going in freedom.” As long as Thầy is still coming, going, moving around with freedom, Thầy is still a place of refuge for you, for all of you. And as long as you still come back with steps in freedom then you are still a place of refuge and continuing Thầy. And even though the outer appearance may have the sign of fullness or eclipse, but in essence, the moon is still the moon, not obscured by the notions of fullness or eclipse. “Neither full nor eclipsed, it is the same moon.”

Lovingly,
Thầy 

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What Can I Say About My Beloved Teacher?

by Larry Ward on January 22, 2022, the day of Thich Nhat Hanh’s passing https://www.thelotusinstitute.org/poem-for-thay

I can say that the soft whisper of
His voice in the dark night of confusion,
fear and violence calls us home to
Our True Selves.

I can say that his Teaching brings
The dharma rain and I invite all
Of us to bathe in its healing waters.

I can say that his gentle footsteps
upon the earth, bring the winds
of peace, the thunder of compassion
and the powerful moonlight of understanding.

I can say that I have been Graced
To enter the stream of awakening,
Finding the Sun of Love in my heart
And the Miracle of Mindfulness in my very breath.

I can say that he tirelessly
engages with this whole being in the
noblest of callings, healing and
Transforming the breaking waves of our shadows.

I can say that I have seen
My teacher because he
has CAUSED the Noble Teacher
In me to wake up, to wake up, to wake up.

I can say that his practice,
Prose, Poetry and Pedagogy
speaks with the clarity and honesty of the Buddha within.

I can say that on this very day
We are blessed to be everywhere with him
and to be here together in this holy moment
witnessing no coming and no going.

Poem
By Larry Ward

–Written on January 22, 2022, the day of Thich Nhat Hanh’s passing

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how to die peacefully

Excerpt from post “How to Die Peacefully” on plumvillage.org of Vox interview with Brother Phap Dung and Eliza Barclay

Eliza Barclay
Tell me about your teacher’s decision to go to Vietnam and how you interpret the meaning of it.

Phap Dung
He’s definitely coming back to his roots.

He has come back to the place where he grew up as a monk. The message is to remember we don’t come from nowhere. We have roots. We have ancestors. We are part of a lineage or stream.

It’s a beautiful message, to see ourselves as a stream, as a lineage, and it is the deepest teaching in Buddhism: non-self. We are empty of a separate self, and yet at the same time, we are full of our ancestors.

Eliza Barclay
So he is reconnecting to the stream that came before him. And that suggests the larger community he has built is connected to that stream too. The stream will continue flowing after him.

Phap Dung
It’s like the circle that he often draws with the calligraphy brush. He’s returned to Vietnam after 50 years of being in the West. When he first left to call for peace during the Vietnam War was the start of the circle; slowly, he traveled to other countries to do the teaching, making the rounds. And then slowly he returned to Asia, to Indonesia, Hong Kong, China. Eventually, Vietnam opened up to allow him to return three other times. This return now is kind of like a closing of the circle.

It’s also like the light of the candle being transferred, to the next candle, to many other candles, for us to continue to live and practice and to continue his work. For me, it feels like that, like the light is lit in each one of us.

Eliza Barclay
And as one of his senior monks, do you feel like you are passing the candle too?

Phap Dung
Before I met Thay in 1992, I was not aware, I was running busy and doing my architectural, ambitious things in the US. But he taught me to really enjoy living in the present moment, that it is something that we can train in.

Now as I practice, I am keeping the candlelight illuminated, and I can also share the practice with others. Now I’m teaching and caring for the monks, nuns, and lay friends who come to our community just as our teacher did.

Eliza Barclay
You are also in this process of letting him go, right?

Phap Dung
Of course, letting go is one of our main practices. It goes along with recognizing the impermanent nature of things, of the world, and of our loved ones.

This transition period is his last and deepest teaching to our community. He is showing us how to make the transition gracefully, even after the stroke and being limited physically. He still enjoys his day every chance he gets.

My practice is not to wait for the moment when he takes his last breath. Each day I practice to let him go, by letting him be with me, within me, and with each of my conscious breaths. He is alive in my breath, in my awareness.

Breathing in, I breathe with my teacher within me; breathing out, I see him smiling with me. When we make a step with gentleness, we let him walk with us, and we allow him to continue within our steps. Letting go is also the practice of letting in, letting your teacher be alive in you, and to see that he is more than just a physical body now in Vietnam.

Eliza Barclay
What have you learned about dying from your teacher?

Phap Dung
There is dying in the sense of letting this body go, letting go of feelings, emotions, these things we call our identity, and practicing to let those go.

The trouble is, we don’t let ourselves die day by day. Instead, we carry ideas about each other and ourselves. Sometimes it’s good, but sometimes it’s detrimental to our growth. We brand ourselves and imprison ourselves to an idea.

Letting go is a practice not only when you reach 90. It’s one of the highest practices. This can move you toward equanimity, a state of freedom, a form of peace. Waking up each day as a rebirth, now that is a practice.

Eliza Barclay
What are some of the most important teachings from Buddhism about dying?

Phap Dung
We are aware that one day we are all going to deteriorate and die — our neurons, our arms, our flesh and bones. But if our practice and our awareness is strong enough, we can see beyond the dying body and pay attention also to the spiritual body. We continue through the spirit of our speech, our thinking, and our actions. These three aspects of body, speech, and mind continues.

In Buddhism, we call this the nature of no birth and no death. It is the other dimension of the ultimate. It’s not something idealized, or clean. The body has to do what it does, and the mind as well.

But in the ultimate dimension, there is continuation. We can cultivate this awareness of this nature of no birth and no death, this way of living in the ultimate dimension; then slowly our fear of death will lessen.

This awareness also helps us be more mindful in our daily life, to cherish every moment and everyone in our life.

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“I am in your mindful breathing and peaceful steps.”

“Please do not build a stupa (shrine) for me. Please do not put my ashes in a vase, lock me inside and limit who I am. I know this will be difficult for some of you. If you must build a stupa though, please make sure that you put a sign on it that says, ‘I am not in here.’ In addition, you can also put another sign that says, ‘I am not out there either,’ and a third sign that says, ‘If I am anywhere, it is in your mindful breathing and in your peaceful steps.’”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Excerpt of post by Mark Beré Peterson

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The Teach­ings to be Given to the Dying.

Excerpt from “No Death, No Fear” by Thich Nhat Hanh

Watering the seeds of happiness is a very important prac­tice for the sick or dying. All of us have seeds of happiness inside us, and in difficult moments when we are sick or when we are dying, there should be a friend sitting with us to help us touch the seeds of happiness within. Otherwise seeds of fear, of regret or of despair can easily overwhelm us.

When Shariputra learned that Anathapindika was fast approaching death, he asked his younger brother in the dharma, the Venerable Ananda, to go with him to see his old friend.

Shariputra then said to Anathapindika, “I suggest we practice a guided meditation on the Three Jewels.” He began to offer a meditation on the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha, with the support of the Venerable Ananda sitting beside him.

“Dear friend, please practice together with Ananda and myself as follows. Breathing in, I see that this body is not me. Breathing out, I am not caught in this body. I am life without limit. I have never been born and I will never die.”

Practice with our eyes, nose, ears, tongue, body and mind: “These eyes are not me. I am not caught in these eyes. I am life without boundaries. These ears are not me. I am not caught in these ears. I am life without limit. This nose is not me, I am not caught in this nose and I am life without boundaries.”

“Dear friend, let us continue our meditation. The element earth in me is not me. (Here ‘earth’ means everything that is solid: flesh, bones, muscles and organs.) The fire element or the heat to keep warm and digest food is not me. I am not caught in the fire element or the heat in me. The water ele­ment in me is not me. There is water everywhere in and around me. I am free of the element water. The air element in me is not me because I am life without boundaries.”

Then we look at and see what else we might think is our identity. Beyond the body and the senses are the five aggre­gates of form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. We have to look deeply at each one and say, “These things are not me.” Perceptions, feelings, ideas come and go. They cannot be me. Consciousness, just like percep­tions, feelings and mental formations, is just a manifestation. When conditions are sufficient, these manifestations are pres­ent. When conditions are no longer sufficient, these manifes­tations are no longer present. Present or not present, these manifestations are not me.”

Finally, Anathapindika was guided in the meditation on Interdependent Origination. “Dear friend, let us look more deeply. When conditions are sufficient, my body manifests itself. It does not come from anywhere, and after disintegra­tion it does not go anywhere.” When things manifest, we cannot really call them being. When things stop their mani­festation, we cannot really describe them as non-being. We are free from notions of coming, going, being, non-being, birth, death, same and different. It was exactly the kind of practice and teaching that we understand when we contem­plate a cloud, a flame or the sunflowers.

Shortly after the visit of the two monks, Anatha­pindika died peacefully and without pain.
This story is recorded in a discourse called “The Teach­ings to be Given to the Dying.” I would like to advise anyone who is able to please study the discourse and to practice it. Please do not wait until you have to face the problem of dying in order to study and practice it.

I have taken the words and teachings from this sutra “The Teach­ings to be Given to the Dying” in the Anguttara Nikaya and made them into a song. It is a lullaby song that can be sung to the person who is nearing their last breath:

This body is not me; I am not caught in this body,
I am life without boundaries,
I have never been born and I have never died.
Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies
All manifests from the basis of consciousness.
Since beginningless time I have always been free.
Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out.
Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek.
So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye.
Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before,
We shall always be meeting again at the true source,
Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.

Singing this song to a dying person can help them be free from thinking that they have a permanent identity that is con­nected to any part of the body or mind. All things that are com­posite decompose, but our true selves do not disappear into oblivion. This kind of guided meditation helps us to avoid being caught in the idea that we are this body, we are this thought, and we are this emotion. We are actually not these things. We are life without limit. We are not caught in birth, we are not caught in death, we are not caught in being, and we are not caught in non-being. This is the truth of reality.

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You Are Like a Candle

Excerpt from “”No Death, No Fear” by Thich Nhat Hanh

If you light a candle and the flame keeps burning until the whole candle is finished, is the candle still there or not? The Buddha says there is no annihilation. We have seen that this is true. And also we have seen that the concept of perma­nence is not applicable to things as they are. So the truth lies somewhere in between. Here, we must look deeply with all our concentration.

Do you think that the flame on the candle is going down only in a vertical direction? If you think so, then you are fol­lowing the flame in time. You may also think in this way about your own life span: that it is going in a linear direction and that one day it will end. You may think that you were born on a point on a vertical line, a point you may call 1960. You may think that you will die on a point somewhere far­ther down on that line, which you may call 2040.

All you can see is yourself moving in time like the candle.

But you are not just moving in a linear direction. You might think that the flame is just going down. You might think that the candle will die. In fact the flame is going out in many other directions. It is giving out light all around itself to the north, south, east and west. If you had a very sen­sitive scientific instrument, you would be able to measure the heat and light that the candle is sending out into the uni­verse. The candle is going into you as an image, as light and as heat.

You are like a candle.

Imagine you are sending light out around you. All your words, thoughts and actions are going in many directions. If you say something kind, your kind words go in many directions, and you yourself go with them.


We are transforming and continuing in a different form at every moment.

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The Three Earth Touchings

Excerpt “The Three Earth Touchings” Practice Guide by plumvillage.org

To begin this practice, we invite you join your palms in front of your chest in the shape of a lotus bud.

With others, you may like to take the role of bell master, and invite the bell and read the text for others to practice. If you are alone, you may like to invite the bell, and read the text out loud.

Then, gently lower yourself to the ground so that all four limbs and your forehead are resting comfortably on the floor.

While touching the Earth, turn your palms face up, showing your openness to the Three Jewels — the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

When we touch the Earth, we breathe in all the strength and stability of the Earth, and breathe out our suffering – our feelings of anger, hatred, fear, inadequacy and grief.

I.

Touching the Earth, I connect with ancestors and descendants of both my spiritual and my blood families.

II.

Touching the Earth, I connect with all people and all species that are alive at this moment in this world with me.

III.

Touching the Earth, I let go of my idea that I am this body and my life span is limited.

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