Jun 28, 2007

deep looking

Written as a poem, this a practice: the practice of deep looking. Wonderful to do, important to master. Will you do it?

To read more poems by William Blake please refer to:

Jun 24, 2007

eating impressions

Secondly, there is the food called "sense impressions." This food comes through our eyes, our ears, our nose, our body and our mind. When you cross the city or the town, images hit you, sounds hit you, and this is called the food of sense impression: sight, smell, touch, and thought. When you look at television you are consuming. When you read a book, you are consuming. And among the things you consume, there are poisons and toxins. You should be aware, and be able to identify poisons and toxins in what you consume, by your eyes, by your ears, and by your nose. And each time you expose yourself to images, sounds, smells, thoughts which destroy you, you are …We are always consuming by means of our six senses.

Remember how one time you talked to someone for an hour, and the conversation was so poisonous, that after talking you felt completely paralyzed? You were filled with the despair and violence expressed in that conversation, and during that hour when you listened to that person, you consumed many poisons. It was not a good consumption. In our daily lives, besides edible food, we take a lot of sense impression food, and we expose ourselves to all kinds of toxins. We read an article in the newspaper, we look at a film, and that is consuming. If you are subject to depression, if you are subject to despair, if you no longer want to live, that is because you have consumed without mindfulness. You’ve consumed just anything that comes your way. We can talk about these products as products of culture. Our children also consume violence, fear, and despair every day when they watch television. The Buddha has warned us against this: he has told us to take care of our six senses, look with mindfulness, listen with mindfulness, consume sense impressions through eyes and ears with mindfulness, and do not allow the toxins to come to you. You should look deeply to be able to recognize and to decide whether to should ingest this or not.

I have told you that the first element of Buddhist meditation is to stop, and now I am going to talk about the other element, which is called "looking deeply." When you have practiced stopping, you are really there, and you can look at the food, you can look at everything you consume with your ears, your eyes, your body, with your mind, because thoughts and ideas are also products which we consume. Looking deeply is something we can do when we stop. If we continue to run, how can we look deeply? We have to stop first of all, and then we can start looking, looking into what is facing us, what is before us, and we are talking now about the things which we consume. We allow our children to poison themselves every day with cultural products, and we ourselves consume without mindfulness. If we are depressed, if we are in despair, it is because of something we have consumed.

The Buddha said, "Look at the nature of what happens to you, and if you can identify the source of nourishment which has brought that about, then you are already liberated." And the Buddha is talking about food. It’s because you have consumed this or that, that you are suffering now, from depression, despair, and pain, and that does not come on its own, just like that, it comes from your consumption without mindfulness. To practice mindfulness is to be able to distinguish what is good for your organism, whether it is your physical organism or your mental organism, from what is bad for you. And this is something we practice on our own, with our family and with our Sangha. Looking deeply we have to say, "This is not good for me," or "This is not good for us." And that is why I said that the therapist is also a restaurateur, a cook, who should only offer healthy food to his customers. When you come to Plum Village, we are cooks at your service. We are determined to offer you only healthy food: walking meditation so that you can stop and touch the positive things in life, sitting meditation so you can cultivate more solidity, silence so that you have more time to look deeply into what is happening. Practitioners who live with us, who have a certain amount of joy, compassion and solidity, are supporting you in your practice. These are all foods that we need to help us.

A therapist needs to be a cook, a restaurateur, who can restore your mental and physical health. That is why the Buddha taught us that before eating we have to practice the Five Contemplations: "This food is the gift of the earth and the sky. It is the gift of the whole universe. I am determined to live in a way that makes me worthy of receiving this food." What does that mean, "to be worthy?" To be worthy of the food means to eat it in mindfulness, you know what you are eating. Eat, and be aware of what you are eating; that is to practice mindfulness while you are eating, and it makes you worthy to receive the food. And if you eat in mindfulness, you know exactly what you can swallow, and exactly what you should not swallow.

What is mindfulness? It is Buddha in you, it is the energy which makes you present in the moment, which helps you to see things as they really are, and that is why you will not wander into confusion, into wrongdoing towards yourself and towards others. For we who practice Buddhism, mindfulness is the Buddha himself. Each one of us has a seed of mindfulness in us, and each day we practice will help this seed of mindfulness to develop.

All of us are able to be aware of everything which is happening. When you drink a glass of water, you can always drink that in mindfulness. "I drink and I am aware that I am drinking water." When you walk, you can walk in mindfulness. You all have that capacity. The only thing is, do you want to do it, or not? It is sure that you have the capacity to be aware of everything that happens. You can breathe mindfully, you can walk mindfully, you can sit mindfully, and this will give you the energy called mindfulness, which will help you see clearly the way things are, and thanks to that, we will be able to know what we should consume, and what we should not consume.

from the Dharma Talk on Mindful Consumption given by Thich Nhat Hanh on July 17, 1998 in Plum Village, France.


Photo: brother Phap Doh eating his salad in a green ocean of peace, Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, The Breath of the Buddha Retreat, June 2006 ©Richard&Joanne Friday

Jun 19, 2007

eating with understanding

To know how to eat is to know how to live. Not to know how to eat is to die. It depends on the way you eat and the way you cook. We must offer healthy food. When you are seated at the table, breathe deeply, look deeply at what is on the table; practice mindfulness in order to recognize what is good for your body or your person, and what is not good for you, and make the decision only to eat what is going to nourish you properly, and do not make a war in your body and your mind by what you eat. The Buddha has made this point many, many times. He suggested that we should practice mindfulness of eating. The first kind of eating he spoke about is the edible food, the food we take through our mouths. We have to eat in such a way that compassion is maintained while we eat. We have to eat with understanding and compassion.


Each time we see food on the table, we should breathe deeply in order to see what kind of food we are going to eat, because there are foods which will create war in us when we have eaten them,. This body, which has been transmitted to us by our ancestors, is something we need to take care of, we should not destroy it with the food we take. If we do not eat mindfully, if we destroy our bodies when we eat, then we are eating the flesh of our ancestors, our parents, and our children. Your children are there in you, even if you are still very young, your children are already there in you, and the future generations are there in you. They are waiting for the right moment to manifest, but they are there in you. So eat in such a way that happiness can be there in you. When you eat meat, when you drink alcohol, you can continue to do these things, but do them with mindfulness. Mindfulness shows us that there are so many people dying every day because of hunger. UNESCO has said that 40,000 children die every day of malnutrition. Imagine, 40,000 children every day!

A huge quantity of cereal grains is used to make alcohol and to raise animals for meat, so when we eat these things it is just as if we are eating the flesh of our own child. We have to eat with discrimination, with mindfulness, in order to be able to see clearly, and to keep compassion alive in us. A person without compassion cannot be happy--it is something I have learned during my life. If you do not have compassion, happiness will be impossible. Without the energy called compassion, we are cut off from the world, we cannot be in touch with other living beings in the world. So eat in such a way that compassion is possible. Look at nature, look at the living beings, and let us learn how to cultivate our land, and make food in such a way, and eat food in such a way, that life around us is still possible, as well as within us. This kind of food is called edible food.

from the Dharma Talk on Mindful Consumption given by Thich Nhat Hanh on July 17, 1998 in Plum Village, France.


Photo: walking meditation on the way to the formal lunch, Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, June 2006 © Courtney Powell.

If you would like to see more photos by this photographer, please refer to:

Jun 14, 2007

pure land

This is the Pure Land;
The Pure Land is right here.
This mindful smile helps me
To establish myself in the present moment.
Look, I see the Buddha as a red leaf,
And the dharma as a cloud.
My Sangha is everywhere,
And my true homeland is just right here.
Breathing in, I see the chrysanthemum blooming;
Breathing out, I see the bamboo bending.
My mind is totally free,
And I enjoy it day after day.

The poem above was quoted in the Dharma Talk on The Nature of Self given by Thich Nhat Hanh on July 21, 1998, in Plum Village, France. And he made a few comments on the poem, one of them being:

Everything I see, I identify as elements of my Sangha--the blue sky, the clouds, the leaves, the trees, the birds, the pebbles, the path where I practice walking meditation-- everything belongs to my Sangha. I don’t have to go back to my hometown in order to find my Sangha. My Sangha is everywhere. Everything around me supports my being awake. Every sound, every sight supports and maintains me in the Pure Land. My lack of mindfulness alone can bring me out of the Pure Land, but everything else around me is supporting me in order to nourish me in the Pure Land.


Photo: pause during walking meditation on the hill at New Hamlet, Plum Village, France ©Richard&Joanne Friday

Jun 12, 2007

i am you are me

Dedicated to Tijen and Zeynep... I thank you.

©Zeynep Kanra

You are me and I am you.
It is obvious that we are inter-are.
You cultivate the flower in
yourself so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself so
that you do not have to suffer.
I support you you support me.
I am here to bring you peace
you are here to bring me joy.

Thich Nhat Hanh

To read more poems by Thich Nhat Hanh please refer to:

To see more photos by Zeynep Kanra please refer to:

To read Tijen Inaltong's blog in English please refer to:

Jun 4, 2007

our true home

When we practice walking meditation we are walking without needing to arrive anywhere, walking just to walk, each step you take brings you back to life, because in Buddhism we say that life can only be found in the present moment. The past has already gone, the future has not yet come, there is only one moment to live, and that is the present moment. Therefore, you have an appointment with life. If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life. Therefore, when you practice walking meditation, with each step you arrive in the present moment, and that is the address of our true home: life.

If someone asks you, "What is the Buddha’s address, what is the bodhisattvas’ address?" we say that the Buddha’s address is the here and the now. If you want to meet Buddhas, great beings, bodhisattvas, that is the address where you will meet them. Each brings you to the here and the now, so that you can be in touch with life as it really is. Everything you are looking for is to be found in the here and the now, because the here and now is the only place where life is available. Therefore, walking meditation is something very enjoyable to do. You can practice according to this formula: "I have arrived, I am home."

excerpt from the Dharma Talk on Mindful Consumption given by Thich Nhat Hanh on July 17, 1998 in Plum Village, France.

Photo above: Walk as a Sangha. I do not forget this magical moment, such a beautiful scene captured in a picture by Richard, taken during a walking meditation in Lower Hamlet, Plum Village, The Breath of the Buddha retreat, June 2006. Peace is beauty, beauty is peace. And our sister carries a piece of blue sky during her walking meditation, to bring with her the energy of the Sangha, and never be lonely. ©Richard Friday

If you would like to know more about Plum Village Practice Center, please refer to:

Jun 1, 2007

one year ago

Do not pursue the past.

Do not lose yourself in the future.

The past no longer is.

The future has not yet come.

Looking deeply at life as it is

in the very here and now,

the practitioner dwells

in stability and freedom.

text quoted by Thich Nhat Hanh in the Dharma Talk The Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone, given on April 5th, 1998 in Plum Village, France.

Let's dwell in the present moment, I tell myself. And in the present moment there is this very strong, wonderful memory of my retreat at Plum Village, starting this day one year ago... A memory that gives me strength to get deeper into the practice and to live with joy.

If you would like to know more about Plum Village Practice Center, please refer to:

If you would like to read the whole text, please refer to:

Photo: glade meditation on a hill at Upper Hamlet, Plum Village, during The Breath of the Buddha retreat, June 2006 ©Richard&Joanne Friday