Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Where Is My Real Home?

Like household utensils that you've had for a long time -- cups, saucers, plates and so on -- when you first had them they were clean and shining, but now after using them for so long, they're starting to wear out.

Some are already broken, some have disappeared, and those that are left are wearing out, they have no stable form. And it's their nature to be that way.

Your body is the's been continually changing from the day you were born, through childhood and youth, until now it's reached old age. You must accept this.

The Buddha said that conditions, whether internal, bodily conditions or external conditions, are not self, their nature is to change. Contemplate this truth clearly.

* * * * *

Anyone can build a house of wood and bricks, but the Buddha taught that that sort of home is not our real home, it's only nominally ours.

Our real home is inner peace.

An external, material home may well be pretty but it is not very peaceful. There's this worry and then that, this anxiety and then that. So we say it's not our real home, it's external to us.

Sooner or later we'll have to give it up. it's not a place we can live in permanently because it doesn't truly belong to us, it belongs to the world.

That's the way it is. Wanting it to be any different would be as foolish as wanting a duck to be like a chicken.

Don't worry about things too much, just think "this is the way things are."

So don't waver. Let go. Throw it all away.

Even if you don't let go, everything is starting to leave you anyway.

Can you see that, how all the different parts of your body are trying to slip away? Take your hair; when you were young it was thick and black. Now it's falling out. It's leaving. Your eyes used to be good and strong but now they're weak, your sight is unclear. When your organs have had enough they leave, this isn't their home.

Extract from: Our Real Home, by Venerable Ajahn Chah

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How To Smile?

There's a smile in our heart. But most of us can hardly find time to smile, can we?

We can only manage to smile when things go our way. Most people's happiness depends on having things go to their liking. They have to have everybody in the world say only pleasant things.

Is that how you find happiness? Is it possible to have everybody in the world say only pleasant things? If that's how it is when will you ever find happiness?

We must use Dhamma to find happiness. Whatever it may be, whether right or wrong, don't blindly cling to it. Just notice it then lay it down.

When the mind is at ease then you can smile. The minute you become averse to something the mind goes bad. Then nothing is good at all.

* * * * *

So in order to give up evil and cultivate the good you don't have to go looking anywhere else. If your mind has gone bad, don't go looking over at this person and that person. Just look at your own mind and find out where these thoughts come from.

Why does the mind think such things? Understand that all things are transient. Love is transient, hate is transient.

Have you ever loved your children? Of course you have.

Have you ever hated them? I'll answer that for you, too... Sometimes you do, don't you?

Can you throw them away? No, you can't throw them away. Why not? Children aren't like bullets, are they? Bullets are fired outwards, but children are fired right back to the parents. If they're bad it comes back to the parents.

Your children are your kamma, they are appropriate to their owners. They are your kamma, so you must take responsibility for them. If they really give you suffering, just remind yourself, "It's my kamma." If they please you, just remind yourself, "It's my kamma."

Sometimes it gets so frustrating at home you must just want to run away. It gets so bad some people even contemplate hanging themselves! It's kamma. We have to accept the fact.

Avoid bad actions, then you will be able to see yourself more clearly.

Extract from: Making the Heart Good, by Venerable Ajahn Chah

Monday, July 17, 2006

Why Has He Become Like This?

Mencius was a Chinese philosopher, very well known.

He lost his father when he was very young, and his mother had to move into a poor quarter of the city to make a living. She stayed up very late in the night to do the work of weaving.

One day the little boy came home very dirty, with his clothes all torn. He just had a fight with the children in the neighborhood. He became something like a delinquent child.

She got angry, because she had great expectations of her little boy. She was doing the work of weaving. She stopped and she was about to punish him, to shout at him.

Suddenly she stopped, because insight came to her. She was able to see that in the neighborhood there was no school. There was only a slaughter house. The children didn't go to school. They spent time playing on the road and playing games like slaughtering a pig or a calf. They would use a raw sweet potato to represent a cow, they used four incense sticks for legs of the cow, and they gathered and performed the killing. They imitated adults. And of course they would fight each other and say rough words to each other.

That is the environment in which the mother of the boy had put him. On the verge of shouting at him, the mother realized that it's her fault. Any child put into that environment will become the same.

So she did not do anything and she was not angry anymore. That is salvation by insight.

Instead she stayed up later into the night, worked harder and saved money. She had an intention to move to another quarter of the city. Three months later she was able to move to a better neighborhood, where there was a school, where the children were clean and polite.

She did not have to punish the child, to shout at him, to suffer. The boy after that became a very intelligent, hard-working student, and finally became a very famous philosopher.

* * * * *

You don't have to suffer if you have insight -- if you understand and that understanding is the fruit of deep looking.

If we suffer so much, it is because we are ignorant. If we get angry at our father, at our mother, our son, our daughter, or our partner, it is because we are still ignorant.

Practice in looking deeply will allow you to see how the other person has become like that. He was not like that when you married him, but now he is like this, like this, very hard to be with. And who is responsible?

Put the questions in front of you and meditate. When I first married him, he was not like that. When I first married her, she was not like that. Why has she become so unbearable today? Who is responsible? Should I blame her, or should I blame myself, or should I blame society? All these questions help with our meditation.

To meditate means to confront reality and not to escape. If you are running away from your real problems, you are not meditating correctly. You need to sit in a mound of calm, of concentration. You need to sit in a mound of mindfulness in order to confront these hardships and to look into the nature of this suffering.

Extract from: Practices for the Twenty-first Century, by Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My Dear Little Anger

The idea that anger is evil, that mindfulness is good, and that you should use the good to fight evil, that is not Buddhist.

You have to use mindfulness, and embrace your anger in the most tender way possible, like a mother embracing her suffering baby: "Darling, I am here for you. Don’t worry, I will take good care of you."

Not only do you deal with your anger in that way, but also you deal with your fear, your jealousy and all kinds of suffering in that way. You have to attend to your pain, you have to provide the energy of mindfulness to take care of the blocks of pain in you when they manifest.

If you know how to do that, you get relief after ten or fifteen minutes…sometimes longer, but continue the practice of mindful breathing, mindful walking, and other kinds of practice.

But after five or ten minutes of embracing it, it may go down again into the seed, and you feel much better. But that does not mean that anger has been eliminated from you.

Anger has just ceased to be a zone of energy up here, and it has returned to its initial form: a seed. And next time that you or someone else comes and waters it, it will be back again.

But one thing is sure: after having been embraced by mindfulness for a few minutes, ten or fifteen minutes, it will go down a little bit weaker. It will always be like that. After taking a bath of mindfulness, your pain and sorrow will be lessened a little bit when they become a seed.

If you know how to do it, next time that they manifest you continue the same practice: "My dear little anger, I know you are there, I will take care of you." You are always ready for it.

Don’t try to suppress it, allow it to come up without fear, because you already have the energy of mindfulness that you have cultivated during the practice.

* * * * *

We suffer not because things are impermanent. We suffer because things are impermanent, but we don’t know that they are impermanent.

Looking into a flower, looking into a cloud, looking into a living being, you touch the nature of impermanence. Without impermanence, nothing can be possible.

If things are not impermanent, how could a grain of corn become a corn plant? How could your child grow up? So impermanence is the ground of life.

But in spite of the fact that things are impermanent, we are not aware of that nature of impermanence in life. So when you practice looking deeply into things, you should discover the nature of impermanence, and you should make it into a living insight.

A living insight means that you carry it in every minute of your life, and then you become a wise man, a wise woman, and you get rid of so much of your pain and sorrow and delusion.

* * * * *

A flower cannot be by itself alone, because it has no separate self.

A flower can only inter-be with the sunshine, with the clouds, with the earth. If you remove the element sunshine from the flower, the flower will collapse. If you remove the element cloud, meaning water, from the flower, the flower will collapse.

So a flower is full of everything. Everything in the cosmos can be found in the flower: sunshine, clouds, minerals, earth, time, space, humans, everything. Only one thing is lacking in the flower—that is a separate existence, a separate self. Now you understand what is meant by "non-self."

Non-self does not mean non-existing; non-self means you don’t have a separate existence, like the flower. A flower is there, full of the whole cosmos, but not having a separate entity.

Nothing can be by itself alone, everything has to inter-be with everything else.

That is the law of interbeing, the law of interdependent origination, the law of no self. "No self" does not mean non-existing. Everything is, in a wonderful way, but everything is a formation.

Extract from: Taking Care of our Mental Formations and Perceptions, by Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The War Was Over

One of the retreatants finally told us his story, that had never been told before.

During a battle in Vietnam, most of his friends were killed in an operation, and he saw his companions die. So he got very angry. He wanted to retaliate.

He brought out a number of sandwiches, he put explosives inside the sandwiches, he left them on the place where children would play, and he hid himself and watched. He saw children coming. They were very happy to see this kind of sandwich, and ate them. And just ten or fifteen minutes later, they began to scream, and their mothers came out, trying to get them to the hospital, but the American soldier knew that nothing could be done in order to help the children.

He had wanted to do so out of his anger and the will to retaliate. Since the time he went back to America, he could not live with that kind of image in his store consciousness.

He told us that every time he found himself together with a few children in a room, he had to run out of that room as quickly as possible. He just couldn’t bear it, for more than twelve years. His mother encouraged him to deal with the present time, to forget the war, the war was over; but for him, the war was never over. Until he came to the retreat.

I told him, “Yes, I know that you have killed children. You have ambushed them as your way to retaliate. I know you have caused suffering.

But I want you to know also that there are many children who are dying around the world, everywhere. Many die just because they need just one medicine pill. Many children die because they need a glass of milk, soy milk. Many step on grenades and bombs that are left over there.

If you know how to use your time, now, you can save many of them, even every day. You have the capacity of acting, of living in mindfulness, in compassion, and I know you will be able to save the lives of many children, now.

Why don’t you make a determination to receive the First Precept of not killing, of protecting life? You receive that precept in the presence of the whole Sangha."

“And you take action right away. You go out and you save children who are dying in the present moment, children even in America. In America there are children who are dying every day because of stupid causes. Children in Southeast Asia, in Africa, everywhere."

And the teaching was already a drop of Dharma nectar. When a drop of Dharma nectar fell into his heart, it opened. He was transformed right away, in that moment. And he made the determination to receive the First Precept and to go out and help.

* * * * *

A writer, a woman writer with a lot of talent, she came to me and confessed that she was abused as a little girl and she has carried that kind of suffering within her. She doesn’t feel that she’s a normal person.

I helped her to practice. I said, “Sit down and practice looking with me. Are you angry at that person? Don’t you think that he was sick? It was only sick people who do that kind of thing to children and ruin their life. Do you see the suffering in that person, how that person has been brought up? There are many of them like that to be helped.

You know, you are a writer. You can help these people. You can do more; you can help the children who are about to be molested by these people. You have the energy, the talent that you need.

“You have to make the vow, the determination to receive the Third Precept: I am aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct in family circles. I have seen children molested and suffer for their whole life, and I now undertake to practice the Third Precept in order to protect the integrity of families, individuals, and children.

I am determined to learn ways to do that with my Sangha, because I know that if I continue to recite the Five Steps of Training, to hold Dharma discussions with my Sangha, and learn better ways to practice them, then I will be able to help.”

During a Precepts transmission ceremony, the Sangha is there with their best presence and they witness to the fact that you are undertaking the path.

During that moment, transformation takes place already, because you receive a lot of energy the moment you decide to receive and practice the Steps of Training.

Extract from: The Five-Fold Steps of Training, by Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I Need A Rest

When an animal is wounded in the woods, it knows how to do this.

It seeks a peaceful corner in the forest and it lays down for several days. Several generations of ancestors have transmitted to them the wisdom that this is the only way to restore themselves.

They don’t have doctors, they don’t have pharmacists, but they know how to rest. They don’t need to run after their prey, they don’t need to eat—in fact, they fast during these three, four, five days of resting. And one day the animal is healed and it stands up and it goes to look for a source of food.

* * * * *

And for your spirit, it is the same.
Our consciousness is able to heal itself.

It has the power of self healing but you don’t allow it to rest. You continue to feed your consciousness with your anger, your worries, your thinking, and so on. You don’t believe in your consciousness.

You are seeking for a means to heal it but you don’t know how to allow yourself to rest. You keep thinking the whole day and you keep worrying the whole day. You never allow yourself to rest.

If you know how to practice total relaxation, you’ll know how to smile and how to send your smile to different parts of your body. During that time, you have stopped thinking and worrying because you are focused on your body, your breathing, your walking.

When you practice mindful breathing, when you practice “In, out, deep, slow,” not only can you nourish yourself—body and spirit—but you can also stop your thinking.

Stopping the thinking, stopping the worries, is very important.

* * * * *

Our mind is like a cassette tape turning nonstop day and night.

We have a habit. You are not there, because you are carried away by your thinking, by your worries. You may get lost in the past, regretting the past or being caught in the suffering that you endured during the past.

You suffered in the past already but now you want to suffer more by recalling the past. You call your past back in order for you to suffer more. Why do you have to show it several times, your suffering?

Cows, when they eat grass, they swallow and then they bring it up again and swallow for a second time. Many of us do the same. We have suffered already in the past. But we want to bring our suffering back to the present moment and suffer more. We like that.

* * * * *

Remember when you lost someone very dear, you suffered, and you thought that you’d never restore yourself, you’d never be able to forget that suffering. You thought that the suffering would dwell with you, the wound would be with you, forever.

But some time later you got used to it and you were able to go on with life. This means that your mind, your spirit, was able to heal itself.

Extract from: Healing is Possible through Resting, by Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Growing Pain

You ask a child how old he is. He may be close to five and he will say five years old. He wants to be an adult and has this growing anxiety.

This growing anxiety doesn't end when the child grows up and becomes an adult. Once he comes to a certain age, he wants to stop it. He cannot stop it. He has initiated that process and it goes on and on.

Growth itself is not painful. What happens to the mind when we think of growth makes us painful. It is not the appearance of old age that is painful or the growing process itself is not painful.

When we think of it, that thought is painful. Why? Because the growth takes us somewhere. Brings us in one direction and we begin to anticipate what is going to happen. That is another thing we don't want.

(Pali) We get a shock - people die. I will die. That thought is so shocking. If there is anything we can do to stop it, we will do it. People spend money to stop death, growth. Not just plastic surgery but they do many things other than that to stop growing and die.

* * * * *

On the one hand when we think of the problems in this life we don't want to be reborn.

On the other hand when we think of the pleasure we enjoy in one life we want repeat it, to be born again and again. You want to be reborn with a certain person in the next life. How many times have you made that vow?

This is why Buddha said once you enjoy something, you want to repeat it.

That is the nature of desire. So, that creates both in this life and the next. That is not the suffering caused by desire. Suffering caused by desire is losing what you get.

The pleasure you enjoy is not faithful to you. That pleasure will turn back to you, it goes away, impermanent. That impermanent pleasure you want to hold onto but it disappears. That person who you want to live with forever, betrays you and eventually becomes your enemy.

When you don't want it, you cannot get away from it. After some time you want it, and again the same thing happens. Therefore there is no permanent happiness in anything we enjoy.

Desire deceives us and asks us to repeat it. That is called sensual desire.

* * * * *

Meditation doesn't mean sitting in one place focusing the mind and getting a little bit of concentration and forgetting the world. That is not meditation. That is a very tiny part of meditation.

True meditation is the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path. You can see it coming together in practice of our daily life.

Extract from: Four Noble Truths, by Venerable Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Mango Tree

One day, while visiting a park with his retinue of ministers, from atop his elephant, he spied some mango tees heavily laden with ripe fruit. Not being able to stop at that time, he determined in his mind to return later to partake of some.

Little did he know, however, that his ministers, coming along behind, would greedily gather them all up; that they would use poles to knock them down, beating and breaking the branches and tearing and scattering the leaves.

Returning in the evening to the mango grove, the king, already imagining in his mind the delicious taste of the mangoes, suddenly discovered that they were all gone, completely finished! And not only that, but the branches and leaves had been thoroughly thrashed and scattered.

The king, quite disappointed and upset, then noticed another mango tree nearby with its leaves and branches still intact.

He wondered why. He then realized it was because that tree had no fruit. If a tree has no fruit nobody disturbs it and so its leaves and branches are not damaged.

This lesson kept him absorbed in thought all the way back to the palace: "It is unpleasant, troublesome and difficult to be a king. It requires constant concern for all his subjects. What if there are attempts to attack, plunder and seize parts of his kingdom?" He could not rest peacefully; even in his sleep he was disturbed by dreams.

He saw in his mind, once again, the mango tree without fruit and its undamaged leaves and branches. "If we become similar to that mango tree," he thought, "our "leaves" and "branches," too, would not be damaged."

In his chamber he sat and meditated. Finally, he decided to ordain as a monk, having been inspired by this lesson of the mango tree.

He compared himself to that mango tree and concluded that if one didn't become involved in the ways of the world, one would be truly independent, free from worries or difficulties. The mind would be untroubled. Reflecting thus, he ordained.

From then on, wherever he went, when asked who his teacher was, he would answer, "A mango tree."

He didn't need to receive teaching all that much. A mango tree was the cause of his awakening to the Opanayiko-Dhamma, the teaching leading inwards.

And with this awakening, he became a monk, one who has few concerns, is content with little, and who delights in solitude.

His royal status given up, his mind was finally at peace.

Extract from: Dhamma Nature, by Venerable Ajahn Chah