Nourishing Diligence through Joy and Interest.

Excerpt from “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh

Right Diligence (samyak pradhana), or Right Effort, is the kind of energy that helps us realize the Noble Eightfold Path. If we are diligent for possessions, sex, or food, that is wrong diligence. If we work round-the-clock for profit or fame or to run away from our suffering, that is wrong diligence also. From outside, it may appear that we are diligent, but it is not Right Diligence.

The same can be true of our meditation practice. We may appear diligent in our practice, but if it takes us farther from reality or from those we love, it is wrong diligence. When we practice sitting and walking meditation in ways that cause our body and mind to suffer, our effort is not Right Diligence and is not based on Right View. Our practice should be intelligent, based on Right Understanding of the teaching. It is not because we practice hard that we can say that we are practicing Right Diligence.

There was a monk in Tang Dynasty China who was practicing sitting meditation very hard, day and night. He thought he was practicing harder than anyone else, and he was very proud of this. He sat like a rock day and night, but his suffering was not transformed. One day a teacher asked him, ”Why are you sitting so hard?” and the monk replied, “To become a Buddha!”

The teacher picked up a tile and began polishing it, and the monk asked, “Teacher, what are you doing?” His master replied, “I am making a mirror.” The monk asked “How can you make a tile into a mirror?” and his teacher replied, “How can you become a Buddha by sitting?”

The four practices usually associated with Right Diligence are:

(l) preventing unwholesome seeds in our store consciousness that have not yet arisen from
(2) helping the unwholesome seeds that have already arisen to return to our store consciousness,
(3) finding ways to water the wholesome seeds in our store consciousness that have not yet
arisen and asking our friends to do the same, and
(4) nourishing the wholesome seeds that have already arisen so that they will stay present in our mind consciousness and grow stronger.

This is called the Fourfold Right Diligence.

“Unwholesome” means not conducive to liberation or the Path. In our store consciousness there are many seeds that are not beneficial for our transformation, and if those seed are watered, they will grow stronger. When greed, hatred, ignorance, and wrong views arise, if we embrace them with Right Mindfulness, sooner or later they will lose their strength and return to our store consciousness. When wholesome seeds have not yet arisen, we can water them and help them come into our conscious mind. The seeds of happiness, love, loyalty, and reconciliation need watering every day. If we water them, we will feel joyful, and this will encourage them to stay longer. Keeping wholesome mental formations in our mind consciousness is the fourth practice of Right Diligence.

The Fourfold Right Diligence is nourished by joy and interest. If your practice does not bring you joy, you are not practicing correctly.

The Buddha asked the monk Sona, “Is it true that before you became a monk you were a musician? Sona replied that it was so. The Buddha asked, “What happens if the string of  our instrument is too loose?”
“When you pluck it, there will be no sound,” Sona replied.
”What happens when the string is too taut?
” It will break.”
“The practice of the Way is the same,” the Buddha said. “Maintain your health. Be joyful. Do not force yourself to do things you cannot do”.

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“no idea”

Excerpt from “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh

To practice is to go beyond ideas, so you can arrive at the suchness of things. “No idea conception. As long as there is an idea, there is no reality, no truth. “No idea” means no wrong idea, no wrong conception. It does not mean no mindfulness. Because of mindfulness, when something is right, we know it’s right, and when something is wrong, we know it’s wrong.

We are practicing sitting meditation, and we see a bowl of tomato soup in our mind’s eye, so we think that is wrong practice, because we are supposed to be mindful of our breathing. But if we practice mindfulness, we will say, “I am breathing in and I am thinking about tomato soup.” That is Right Mindfulness already. Rightness or wrongness is not objective. It is subjective.

Relatively speaking, there are right views and there are wrong views. But if we look more deeply, we see that all views are wrong views. No view can ever be the truth. It is just from one point; that is why it is called a “point of view.” If we go to another point, we will see things differently and realize that our first view was not entirely right.

Buddhism is not a collection of views. It is a practice to help us eliminate wrong views. The quality of our views can always be improved. From the viewpoint of ultimate reality, Right View is the absence of all views.

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Ten Mindful Movements

This video is included as an alternative for the Yoga practices of the free online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR) by Palouse Mindfulness ( The movements are demonstrated by Thich Nhat Hanh himself. This video is bundled with the Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, “Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises for Well-Being“.
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You and Your Object of Love Cannot Be Two

Excerpt from “Teachings on Love” by Thich Nhat Hanh and posted on “Clouds Flowing Free Sangha

Ask with your whole body and mind…

Ask the person who causes you the most suffering these questions: “Who are you who brings me such pain, who makes me feel so much anger and hatred?”

To understand you have to become one with your beloved, and also with your so-called enemy. You have to worry about what they worry about, suffer their suffering, appreciate what they appreciate. You and your object of love cannot be two. They are as much you as you are yourself.

Continue until you see yourself in the cruelest person on Earth, in the child starving, in the political prisoner. Practice until you recognize yourself in everyone in the supermarket, on the street corner, in a concentration camp, on a leaf, in a dewdrop. Meditate until you see yourself in a speck of dust in a distant galaxy. See and listen with the whole of your being.

If you are fully present, the rain of the Dharma will water the deepest seeds in your store consciousness, and tomorrow, while you are washing the dishes or looking at the blue sky, that seed will spring forth, and love and understanding will appear as a beautiful flower.


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Excerpt from “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh

The Third Door of Liberation is aimlessness, apranihita. There is nothing to do, nothing to
realize, no program, no agenda. This is the Buddhist teaching about eschatology. Does the rose have to do something? No, the purpose of a rose is to be a rose. Your purpose is to be yourself. You don’t have to run anywhere to become someone else. You are wonderful just as you are.

This teaching of the Buddha allows us to enjoy ourselves, the blue sky, and everything that is fresh and healing in the present moment. There is no need to put anything in front of us and after it. We already have everything we are looking for, everything we want to become. We are already a Buddha so why not just take the hand of another Buddha and practice walking meditation? This is the teaching of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Be yourself. Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just be. Just being in the moment in this place is the deepest practice of meditation.

Most people cannot believe that just walking as though you have nowhere to go is enough. They think that striving and competing are normal and necessary. Try practicing aimlessness for just five minutes, and you will see how happy you are during those five minutes. The Heart Sutra says that there is “nothing to attain.” We meditate not to attain enlightenment, because enlightenment is already in us. We don’t have to search anywhere. We don’t need a purpose or a goal. We don’t practice in order to obtain some high position. In aimlessness, we see that we do not lack anything, that we already are what we want to become, and our striving just comes to a halt. We are at peace in the present moment, just seeing the sunlight streaming through our window or hearing the sound of the rain. We don’t have to run after anything. We can enjoy every moment. People talk about entering nirvana, but we are already there. Aimlessness and nirvana are one.

Waking up this morning, l smile.
Twenty four brand new hours are before me.
l vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with the eyes of love.

These twenty-four hours are a precious gift, a gift we can only receive fully when we have
opened the Third Door of Liberation, aimlessness. If we think we have twenty-four hours to achieve a certain purpose, today will become a means to attain an end. The moment of chopping wood and carrying water is the moment of happiness. We do not need to wait for these chores to be done to be happy.

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Stopping, Calming, Resting, Healing

Excerpt from “The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh

Buddhist meditation has two aspects — shamatha and vipashyana. We tend to stress the importance of vipashyana(“looking deeply”) because it can bring us insight and liberate us from suffering and afflictions. But the practice of shamatha(“stopping”) is fundamental. If we canno stop, we cannot have insight.

There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man, standing along side the road, shouts, “Where are you going?” and the first man replies, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”

This is also our story. We are riding a horse, we don’t know where we are going, and we can’t stop. The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We are always running,and it has become a habit. We struggle all the time, even during our sleep. We are at war within ourselves,and we can easily start a war with others.

We have to learn the art of stopping— stopping our thinking, our habit energies, our forgetfulness, the strong emotions that rule us. When an emotion rushes through us like a storm, we have no peace. We turn on the TV and then we turn it off. We pick up a book and then we put it down. How can we stop this state of agitation? How can we stop our fear, despair,anger,and craving? We can stop by practicing mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful smiling, and deep looking in order to understand. When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, the fruits are always understanding, acceptance, love, and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy.

But our habit energies are often stronger than our volition. We say and do things we don’t want to and afterwards we regret it. We make ourselves and others suffer, and we bring about a lot of damage. We may vow not to do it again, but we do it again. Why? Because our habit energies (vashana) push us.

We need the energy of mindfulness to recognize and be present with our habit energy in order to stop this course of destruction. With mindfulness, we have the capacity to recognize the habit energy every time it manifests. “Hello, my habit energy, I know you are there!”If we just smile to it, it will lose much of its strength. Mindfulness is the energy that allows us to recognize our habit energy and prevent it from dominating us.

Forgetfulness is the opposite. We drink a cup of tea, but we do not know we are drinking a cup of tea. We sit with the person we love, but we don’t know that she is there. We walk, but we are not really walking. We are some place else, thinking about the past or the future. The horse of our habit energy is carrying us along, and we are its captive. We need to stop our horse and reclaim our liberty. We need to shine the light of mindfulness on
everything we do, so the darkness of forgetfulness will disappear.

The first function of meditation— shamatha — is to stop. The second function of shamatha is calming. When we have a strong emotion, we know it can be dangerous to act, but we don’t have the strength or clarity to refrain. We have to learn the art of breathing in and out, stopping our activities,and calming our emotions. We have to learn to become solid and stable like an oak tree, and not be blown from side to side by the storm.

The Buddha taught many techniques to help us calmour body and mind and look deeply at them. They can be summarized in five stages:
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The Second Door of Liberation is signlessness, animitta”:

“Sign” means an appearance or the object of our perception. When we see something, a sign or image appears to us, and that is what is meant by “lakshana.”

If water, for example, is in a square container, its sign is “squareness.” If in a round container, its sign is “roundness.” When we open the freezer and take out some ice, the sign of that water is solid. Chemists call water “H20.” The snow on the mountain and the steam rising from the kettle are also H20. Whether H20 is round or square, liquid, gaseous, or solid depends on circumstances. Signs are instruments for our use, but they are not absolute truth, and they can mislead us. The Diamond \Sutra says, “Wherever there is a sign, there is deception, illusion.”

Perceptions often tell us as much about the perceiver as the object of perception. Appearances can deceive. Practicing the Concentration on Signlessness is necessary for us to free ourselves. Until we can break through the signs, we cannot touch reality. As long as we are caught by signs round, square, solid, liquid, gas – we will suffer. Nothing can be described in terms of just one sign.

But without signs, we feel anxious. Our fear and attachment come from our being caught in signs. Until we touch the signless nature of things, we will continue to be afraid and to suffer. Before we can touch H20, we have to let go of signs like squareness, roundness, hardness, heaviness, lightness, up, and down. Water is, in itself, neither square nor round nor solid. When we free ourselves from signs, we can enter the heart of reality. But until we can see the ocean in the sky, we are still caught by signs.The greatest relief is when we break through the barriers of sign and touch the world of signlessness, nirvana.

Where should we look to find the world of no signs? Right here in the world of signs. If we throw away the water, there is no way for us to touch the suchness of water. We touch the water when we break through the signs of the water and see its true nature of interbeing.

There are three phases – water, not water, true water. True water is the suchness of water. Its ground of being is free from birth and death. When we can touch that, we will not be afraid of anything.

Excerpt from “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh

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