Flower Insights

Excerpt from “Peace is Every Step” by Thich Nhat Hanh

One day the Buddha held up a flower in front of an audience of 1,250 monks and nuns.  He did not say anything for quite a long time.  The audience was perfectly silent.  Everyone seemed to be thinking hard, trying to see the meaning behind the Buddha’s gesture.

Then, suddenly, the Buddha smiled.  He smiled because someone in the audience smiled at him and at the flower.  The name of that monk was Mahakashyapa.  He was the only person who smiled, and the Buddha smiled back and said, “I have a treasure of insight, and I have transmitted it to Mahakashyapa.”

That story has been discussed by many generations of Zen students, and people continue to look for its meaning.  To me the meaning is quite simple.  When someone holds up a flower and shows it to you, he wants you to see it.  If you keep thinking, you miss the flower.  The person who was not thinking, who was just himself, was able to encounter the flower in depth, and he smiled.

That is the problem of life.  If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.  When a child presents himself to you with his smile, if you are not really there—thinking about the future or the past, or preoccupied with other problems—then the child is not really there for you.  The technique of being alive is to go back to yourself in order for the child to appear like a marvelous reality.  Then you can see him smile and you can embrace him in your arms.

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Washing the Dishes

Excerpt from “At Home in the World: Stories and essential teachings from a monk’s life” by Thich Nhat Hanh

When I was still a novice at Tu Hieu Pagoda, washing the dishes was hardly a pleasant task. During the annual Rains retreat all the monks would come back to the monastery to practice together for three months, and sometimes we were only two novices who had to do all the cooking and wash all the dishes for well over one hundred monks.

There was no soap. We had only ashes, rice husks, and coconut husks, and that was all. Cleaning such a high stack of bowls was a difficult chore, especially during the winter when the water was freezing cold. Then we had to heat up a big pot of water before we could do any scrubbing. Nowadays with liquid soap, special scrub pads, and even hot running water it is much easier to enjoy washing the dishes.

To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren’t doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant.

I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to be able to finish so I can sit down sooner and eat dessert or enjoy a cup of tea, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles!

If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have dessert or a cup of tea, I will be equally incapable of enjoying my dessert or my tea when I finally have them. With the fork in my hand, I will be thinking about what to do next, and the texture and the flavor of the dessert, together with the pleasure of eating it, will be lost. I will be constantly dragged into the future, miss out on life altogether, and never able to live in the present moment.

Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred. In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane.

I must confess it takes me a bit longer to do the dishes, but I live fully in every moment, and I am happy. Washing the dishes is at the same time a means and an end. We do the dishes not only in order to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes just to do the dishes, to live fully in each moment while washing them, and to be truly in touch with life.

Washing the dishes

Is like bathing a baby Buddha.

The profane is the sacred.

Everyday mind is Buddha mind.

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What is “Heart Mind”?

Excerpt from “Your Heart Mind: Your source for inspiration, super intelligence, and personal performance!” by Metaphysics For Life

For nearly five thousand years, attention has been focused on the brain as the seat of human intelligence and even consciousness.

illustration of heart chakraScientific research reveals that the human heart is thousands of times more powerful and influential than the brain in sending signals and information to the rest of the human body.  The human heart communicates with the brain and body using hormones, the nervous system, and an electromagnetic field generated by the heart. The brain also generates an electromagnetic field, but it is much smaller and much less powerful than the heart field.  The heart field envelopes the entire body and extends fifteen feet or more out into the surrounding environment.

It has been proven that our emotional state has a direct and powerful impact upon the heart, and this impact influences the quality of information sent by the heart to the brain.  When our emotional state is one of inner peace, gratitude, contentment, or other positive feelings, the brain receives signals that promote the ability to focus, solve problems, perform physical and mental feats, and that enhance creativity, intuition, and even spiritual awareness.

It turns out that the Heart pumps much more than just blood.  It also pumps hormones throughout the body that regulate many functions, including thought and perception in the brain.  The electromagnetic field that envelopes the body creates a kind of localized environment that has been proven to influence the behavior of DNA in our cells.

Most unusual of all, however, is the ability of the Heart Mind to convey actual ideas, information, and images to the brain, where these signals are converted into words, pictures, sounds and other forms that we can use to communicate, create, and relate to each other and our world.

Each of us, as we access the Heart Mind and receive this mysterious inner guidance, can experience the true nature of this very real and tangible connection.  What is it that we are connected to?  We all “know” what it is by direct experience.  It is an infinite intelligence, a source of unlimited energy and abundance, a reservoir of so-called “past” experience and knowledge – all waiting for us when we take the time to focus on our Heart and open the gateway to Infinite Awareness.

Theoretical Physics – especially Quantum Physics – is beginning to help us understand on a mental level that this infinite field of energy and information really does exist.  It is not just an idea, fantasy, or fairy tale made up to explain some personal mental and emotional experience.  Using math and technology, scientists are beginning to form measurable hypotheses that can be tested, confirmed, and shared amongst colleagues and the greater population. Much of this research is being conducted at the Institute of Heartmath, but it also taking place at the Resonance Project in Hawaii,  The Monroe Institute, and elsewhere.

If we can prove that the Heart is connected to a field of infinite energy and information, inner guidance, wisdom, and even inner peace, then just as most human technology has been inspired and shaped by examples in the natural world, the technology of the Human Heart could lead to a new level, a quantum leap, in our technology, our society, and how we live with each other and in our world.

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Meeting Thầy’s Life Force

Excerpt from Deer Park Monastery post on May 06, 2019 titled “Meeting Thay’s Life Force” by Sister Dang Nghiem

Thay at Root TempleI had the opportunity to see Thầy at the root temple, Từ Hiếu, on March 16, 2019. Thầy was eating breakfast when I walked in. He looked at me intently as I knelt with joined palms. “Dear Thầy, I am Dang Nghiem, your child and disciple,” I said. Thầy nodded several times. I settled on the floor by his feet as Thầy returned to his breakfast. Occasionally, Thầy looked into my eyes with his Zen Master’s penetrating gaze, and I smiled brightly in return. It seemed Thầy was checking, “Are you here?” and my smile confirmed, “Yes, I am absolutely here!” At one point, Thầy held out his left hand to me. I held Thầy’s hand with both of mine. I closed my eyes and breathed mindfully as I felt the softness and warmth emanating from Thầy’s hand. The stillness in our connection was profound.

Thầy eats each morsel of food slowly and mindfully. He closes his eyes while chewing, alternating from his left jaw to his right jaw consistently. Although his food is puréed, Thầy takes around 45 minutes to finish each meal. There is much wisdom in Thầy’s mindful eating. Because he chews on both sides, muscles on both sides of his face are exercised, and thus his face remains proportional, relaxed, and serene. Moreover, chewing the food carefully allows Thầy to swallow small quantities, preventing him from choking and getting pneumonia. Thầy has a good appetite and appreciates his food thoroughly. While Thầy eats, one Brother sits on his right to assist. At least two or three Sisters also eat with Thầy. The two Sisters who cooked that day join in to see how Thầy likes the food and decide what to cook for his next meal. Twenty-four monastic Brothers and Sisters take turns caring for Thầy. Sisters cook, and Brothers attend to Thầy’s needs. These Brothers and Sisters care for Thầy with so much joy, attentiveness, and tenderness that I cried out of gratitude, happiness, and reassurance. Day or night, every gesture Thầy makes is acknowledged and responded to. Deep love and affection flow between teacher and disciples. The transmission continues uninterrupted.

“Right away, I realized Thầy is not simply trying to hold on to life for our sake. Thầy’s vitality is potent, and he continues to experience life in the deepest way.”

One morning some of us Sisters wanted to make lotus tea for Thầy to see. To start, we each placed a gigantic lotus leaf on our head, held a lotus blossom by the stem, and walked slowly one by one in front of Thầy’s window. Thầy watched us pass, with interest and amusement. Then, settling outside his room, we filled each lotus bud with black tea, wrapped it in a lotus leaf, placed the stem in a bucket with water to pull water into the tea, and finally, froze them all so the tea could absorb the lotus fragrance. At one point the attendant brought Thầy to the door in his wheelchair to watch. I was afraid Thầy could not see well through the glass door, so I gently opened it and spoke through the slit door: “Would a Sister bring it closer for Thầy to see?” Immediately, I felt Thầy’s hand on my right elbow. His clutch was sudden, firm, and powerful, like thunder! It was a moment of profound stopping for me. When I turned around, Thầy was already wheeled away. I was stunned because I did not expect that Thầy could reach out that quickly. Moreover, I was in touch directly with Thầy’s steady, powerful life force. Right away, I realized Thầy is not simply trying to hold on to life for our sake. Thầy’s vitality is potent, and he continues to experience life in the deepest way.

 

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What is Bodhicitta?

Excerpt from Tricycle post “Bodhicitta Explained:A Bird’s-Eye View of the Bodhisattva Path” by Ken McLeod

In Mahayana practice, compassion is both a practice and a result. Compassion is used to transform emotional reactivity into attention, and that attention in turn is used to awaken to the nature of mind—emptiness. But then that same emptiness becomes the basis for a different kind of compassion. This interweaving of emptiness and compassion is expressed in the Sanskrit word bodhicitta, for which an accepted and widely used English translation is “awakening mind.”

The Four Great Vows in the Zen tradition provide a wonderfully succinct, pragmatic, and profound articulation of bodhicitta:

Beings are numberless: may I free them all.
Reactions are endless: may I release them all.
Doors to experience are infinite: may I enter them all.
Ways of awakening are limitless: may I know them all.

The first of the four vows says Beings are numberless: may I free them all. It speaks to a heartfelt wish that others not suffer. In the practice of bodhicitta, we actively cultivate a wish that others be free of pain and struggle.

We soon find out that helping others to find peace in themselves is far from easy. We quickly discover that far from being able to help others, we are locked up in our own worlds of emotional reaction—the fiery hells and icy wastes of anger and hate, the barren deserts of greed where nothing is ever enough, the never-ending rat race of envy and competition, and so on. Our whole life consists of flitting from one such world to another. No matter where we land, we do not see things clearly and we are unable to provide any meaningful help to others.

Thus the second of the great vows is Reactions are endless: may I release them all.

In today’s world, where we have been brought up in the myth that we can actually control our lives and control what we experience, it is important to remember that we cannot and do not actually release emotional reactions. All we can do is create the conditions in which emotional reactions let go on their own.

Those conditions are a generosity of spirit; as much honesty with ourselves as we can muster; patience to endure our own confusion; steady and consistent effort; an ability to rest in attention without distraction; and a knowing that enables us to see through our own confusion. These qualities are known in Mahayana teachings as the six perfections—generosity, ethics, patience, diligence, meditative stability and wisdom. They create the conditions that make it possible for us to experience emotional reactions in open attention without succumbing to, suppressing, or controlling them. Then, as the texts say, emotional reactions arise and subside on their own, like clouds in the sky.

You may notice that this way of approaching life does not necessarily make life better. In fact, often it makes things more difficult, precisely because we cannot indulge our reactivity. We cannot ignore or avoid the pain and struggles of others, whether the other is a surly store clerk or a difficult boss or a homeless person on the street. You may also begin to appreciate that bodhicitta is not a sort of super-altruism or compassion. Rather, it is a practice that changes how we experience life itself. To do so, we have to let go of our emotional reactions, again and again and again. Every reaction that does let go opens a door to a different way of experiencing life, and that brings us to the third vow: Doors to experience are infinite: may I enter them all.

We can use our commitment to bodhicitta to meet any emotional reaction, open to it, see what it is, and let it release on its own. When we do these steps, we usually experience a shift. That shift is a glimpse of a different way of experiencing life, a way that does not depend on the conceptual mind, a way in which words, thoughts, and emotional reactions have no hold. Bodhicitta here is not a wish. Nor is it an ongoing commitment. It is an experience of awakening.

Now we move into the realm of the fourth vow: Ways of awakening are limitless: may I know them all. As we go through these doors again and again, our efforts build momentum. The inexpressible peace and freedom we experience when emotional reactions let go begins to pervade our life.

We have all the freedom of the sun: we radiate light and warmth to the world without any thought of who deserves to be nurtured and who does not. We have all the freedom of the rain: we provide the moisture of understanding and everyone partakes of it, regardless of how they live their lives. We have all the freedom of the wind, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, touching every form of life with the breath of life. We have all the freedom of the earth: we provide support and nourishment for all who live and breathe in the world without any say as to what they do with their lives. Such thoughts never arise. Instead, we are completely and utterly at peace, and at the same time we respond naturally and spontaneously to the pains of the world and the needs of others.

 

 

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The Eight Consciousnesses

Excerpt from post reply to question “What is the difference between Vijñāna, Manas and Citta?” posted on Buddhism Beta; post link

 

8 consciousnesses diagram

This is what i’ve gathered from reading about this in the Plum Village (Thich Nhat Hanh) tradition and from my own experience.

The image contains an example where a seed in the store (Citta) has been watered (maybe by something we have seen or heard together with our perceptions) and that seed has manifested in the mind consciousness

There are eight consciousnesses (not counting Vijnana which is split into six parts):

  • Vijnana
    • Eye Consciousnesses
    • Ear C.
    • Nose C.
    • Tongue C.
    • Body C.
    • Mind C.
  • Manas
  • Citta (Store C.)

Vijnana

The “top level” of conciousness – we are most conscious of the experiences happening in this part of the mind

The first five c.

The first five consciousnesses have access to “reality in itself” with no discrimination/dualism (me and you, subject and object, etc). They are in “direct contact” with reality. They are not distorted by our thinking and our past experiences.

The sixth c.

The sixth conciousness “mind” is the part of our mind with ideas and it has access to (at least parts of) all the seven other conciousnesses. When the sixth conciousness collaborates with the first five the connection with “reality in itself” is interrupted

The sixth is itself suspended for example while sleeping without dreaming. When dreaming the sixth is active and gets all it’s information from the eigth conciousness (Citta)

Manas

Strongly connected with the sixth conciousness (mind c.), it grasps at experiences

Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

In the seventh consciousness there are four basic afflictions: self-delusion, self-love, self-view, and self-conceit. The basic illusion inherent in all four afflictions is the illusion about self: this body is mine, is me; this feeling is me; these emotions are me; this consciousness is me and I am independent from everything else

Citta

Unconcious, contains all experiences we’ve had, all is stored here

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Anger is like a Blazing Flame

Excerpt from Human Kindness Foundation post “Discovering the True Nature of Your Anger” by Thich Nhat Hanh

Anger is like a blazing flame that burns up our self-control and causes us to say and do things that we regret later. When someone is angry, we can see clearly that he or she is in hell. Anger and hatred are the materials from which hell is made. A mind without anger is cool, fresh and sane. The absence of anger is the basis of real happiness, the basis of love and compassion.

When we are angry, we want to think about the person who is making us angry – his dishonesty, cruelty, and so on. The more we think about him or listen to him, or look at him, the more our anger flares. His hatefulness may be real, imaginary or exaggerated, but the fact is that the root of the problem is the anger itself and we have to come back and look first of all inside ourselves.

It’s best if we don’t look at or listen to the person whom we consider to be the cause of our anger. Like a fireman, we have to pour water on the blaze first and not waste time looking for the one who set the house on fire. So we avoid thinking anything about the other person. At the moment you become angry, you tend to believe that your misery has been created by another person. You blame him or her for all your suffering. But by looking deeply, you may realize that the seed of anger in you is the main cause of your suffering. Many other people, confronted with the same situation, would not get angry like you. They hear the same words, they see the same situation, and yet they are able to stay calm and not be carried away. Why do you get angry so easily? You may get angry very easily because your seed of anger is too strong. And because you have not practiced the methods for working on your anger, the seed of anger has been watered too often in the past.

All of us have a seed of anger in the depth of our consciousness. But in some of us, that seed is bigger than our other seeds – like love or compassion. The seed of anger may be bigger because we have not practiced in the past. When we begin to cultivate the energy of mindfulness, the first insight we have is that the main cause of our suffering, of our misery, is not the other person – it is the seed of anger in us. Then we will stop blaming the other person for causing all our suffering. We realize she or he is only a secondary cause. You get a lot of relief when you have this kind of insight, and you begin to feel much better.

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