Thich Nhat Hanh Talk (public)
Thich Nhat Hanh
My mother, my father, they are in me,
And when I look I see myself in them,
The Buddha, the patriarchs, they are in me,
And when I look I see myself in them,
I am a continuation of my mother and my father,
I am a continuation of all my brother and sisters,
It is my aspiration
To preserve and continue to nourish
Seeds of witness, seeds of skill, seeds of happiness,
Which I have inherited,
It is also my desire to recognize
The seeds of fear and sufferingn
I have inherited,
And bit by bit to transform them,
I am a continuation
Of the Buddha and the patriarchs,
I am a continuation of all my spiritual teachers,
It is my deep aspiration
To preserve, develop and nourish
Seeds of understanding, seeds of love, seeds of freedom,
Which they have transmitted to me,
In my daily life I also want to sow
Seeds of love and compassion
In my own consciousness
And in the hearts of other people,
I am determined
Not to water the seeds of craving, aversion and violence in me,
I am determined
Not to water the seeds of craving, aversion and violence in others,
With resolve and with compassion
I give rise to this aspiration,
May my practice be an offering of the heart,
May my practice be an offering of the heart.
This text has been put to music by sister Ten Tai Nghiem, who lives in Brookcliff Monastery near New York City.
Dear Sangha. Today is Sunday, July the 13th, the year 2008. You are in the Dharma Nectar Temple, and today is Ancestors’ Day.
The children sang, “My mother, my father, they are in me, and when I look I see myself in them.”
This is already something very deep that you can see. You see your mother and your father in you. But how
clear and how deep can you see that? And when you look at your mother and your father, you see you in them. How deep can you see that?
Yesterday, we talked about planting a seed of corn in the damp soil. If you wait for 10 days or so, you see a young plant of corn coming up. In the Buddhist scriptures, they talk a lot about the seeds. I think in the Christian gospels, they also talk a lot about the seeds.
We are talking about a seed of corn, a grain of corn. And when you see a young plant of corn, you may like to come to it and ask the question, “My dear young plant of corn, do you remember two weeks ago you were a seed of corn?”
Earlier this year, we went to Italy for a retreat, and there were many children in the retreat; many Italian children in the retreat, also. There were about 800 practitioners. On the last day of the retreat, I offered everyone a seed of corn.
I had bought a bag of seeds of corn in the grocery store nearby, and, I think, there were more than 1000 seeds of corn in the little bag. So, I distributed to one seed of corn to everyone. I asked them to bring it
home, plant it, water it every day, and observe it as it grows. Not only was every child offered a seed of corn, but every adult, also, because that is the continuation of the practice.
When you observe the plant of corn coming up, you see the first two leaves, the first three leaves, and you don’t see the seed of corn anymore. As the plant of corn is there, you don’t see the seed of corn anymore.
But you cannot say that the seed of corn is dead. No. It has not died. It has become the plant of corn. So, if you are smart, if you are skilful, if you are intelligent, when you look at the plant of corn, you can still see the seed of corn.
And, you go and ask the plant of corn, “My dead little plant of corn, do you remember that two weeks ago you were a seed of corn?”
It may happen that the plant of corn has forgotten. It may happen that the young plant of corn has forgotten that two weeks ago she was a seed of corn. Two weeks is not a long time, but a plant of corn may forget.
So, you talk to the plant of corn. You say, “I remember very well that two weeks ago you were a seed of corn. And, as I continued to offer you a little bit of water every day, you were able to sprout, and then you became a young plant of corn. I remember very well. Maybe you don’t remember, but I remember very well.”
Then, you remind that young plant of corn that she has been a seed of corn. And although you don’t see the seed of corn now, and the young plant of corn does not see herself as the seed of corn, the seed of corn is always there. The question I asked the young people at the retreat in Italy is a very difficult question, and some of them were able to give a good answer.
The question is: the plant of corn and the seed of corn, are they one or two things?
If they are one thing, both of them are the same thing. Or, are they two totally different things? That is a very Buddhist question. That is a difficult one, the plant of corn and the seed of corn. You know that the young plant of corn comes from the seed of corn, and now the question is whether these things are one thing or two separate things.
Of course, there were children who said that they are just one thing. There were other children who said they are two different things: the seed of corn is not a plant of corn, a plant of corn is not a seed of corn. They are different. But, the third answer is correct. A few children said, “Well, they are neither the same thing, nor two different things.” This is a very complicated answer, but it is the right answer.
The teaching this morning is a little bit difficult. Suppose this is the seed of corn and this is the plant of corn. We know very well that the plant of corn comes from the seed of corn. This is very clear, because you have by yourself planted the seed of corn and you saw the seed of corn sprouting and become the plant of corn.
Logically, you see that the seed is a seed. A plant is a plant. A plant cannot be a seed, and a seed cannot be a plant. That is the formal logic. But if you look deeply – look deeply is the word for meditation, and to meditate is to have the time to look deeply – we think these things are two different things, but without this one the other one cannot be, because the other one comes from this one.
So, there are three answers. The first answer is that the seed and the plant are one. The second answer is they are two different things. And the third answer is neither the same nor two different things. They are neither the same thing, nor two different things, because a plant does look different from a seed. The third answer, which is the right answer, is no sameness, no otherness. It is neither the same, nor two different things.
Suppose you look at the family album and you see yourself as a baby. You were just born for two weeks and then your mother took a picture of you. The picture is still in the album. And now you are 12 or 14, now you look at the baby. You are so different from the tender baby in the picture. And you ask yourself, “Am I the same person as the baby or am I a totally different person?”
You are quite different in size and in many aspects. The form, the feelings, the perceptions, the mental formations, consciousness, they are all different. You are very different from the tender baby in the picture. So, to say that you are the same thing as the baby is somehow wrong, because you are quite different from the baby.
But, to say that you and the tender baby are two totally different things is wrong, too, because without that baby you cannot be yourself.
So, the answer is in the middle way, and the middle way is a very Buddhist expression. The answer given by the Buddha is, you are not the same, and you are not a different person, either. So, the Buddhist answer is, no sameness, no otherness.
And this is one of the deeper teachings of the Buddha, but I trust that even if you are still very young, you can understand, because that is the truth.
When you look at yourself deeply, you see your father. Only with meditation can you see it clearly. The young plant of corn may have a hard time seeing the seed of corn in her, but the plain fact is that she is the seed of corn. She is the continuation of the seed of corn, and the same thing is true for you. You are the continuation of your father, you are the continuation of your mother. Somehow, you are your father, you are your mother. You don’t look exactly like him, but he is in you, and that is the meaning of the sentence the children just chanted, “My mother, my father, they are in me.”
There is a guided meditation in Plum Village –
I see my father and my mother in every cell of my body,
I see the presence of my father and mother in every cell of my body,
And breathing out,
I smile to my father and mother in every cell of my body.
You have to visualize. You have to see it as a reality and not just an idea, because meditation you see concretely, not just as abstract ideas.
And, you know, this is also very scientific, because your father and your mother have transmitted themselves to you. They don’t transmit other things, like a car or bank account. They transmitted themselves to you and they are really there in every cell of your body. You come from your father. You come from your mother.
There are youngsters who get angry at their father and their mother. Very angry. They may declare something very strange like, “That man, (namely his father) I don’t want to have anything to do with him any more.”
When you get mad at your father, you may say something like, “That man, that person, I don’t want anything to do with him.”
You are too angry when you say something like that, because it is not true. The fact is, you are the continuation of your father. You are your father. You cannot take your father out of you. Impossible.
And the father may get angry at his son, and when someone gets very angry, he cannot see the truth. He may say something like, “That boy, that young man, he is not my son. My son could not be like that. I don’t recognize him as my son.”
That is also nonsense, because that young man is your continuation. You cannot say that you have nothing to do with him.
So, father and son have to practice looking deeply in order to see each other, to see themselves in each other.
The same thing is true with mother and daughter. About 20 years ago I was walking on a street of London going by a bookstore. I saw displayed a book with the title My Mother, My Self. I think that is a book on psychotherapy. I did not buy the book, because I had the impression that I knew what was in the book. About a mother and daughter. A daughter getting mad at the mother, and thinking that they don’t have anything together, but there is insight – you are her daughter. You are her. You are a continuation of your mother.
In a dhamma talk given earlier this year, I said we have our father inside, but we still have our father outside. It makes sense. And my father inside may be a little different from my father outside. Because of what? In the beginning, when he transmitted himself to me, my father in me and my father outside of me were very much the same. But, because I have been put in a different situation, environment, that is why my father in me has evolved differently.
And, if I am a good practitioner, then my father in me can be transformed in the good direction. If I practice mindfulness, concentration, insight, loving-kindness, compassion, then that penetrates into my father, also.
My father has evolved on the path of transformation and healing, so my father in me may be more beautiful than my father outside of me, because I am a good practitioner. My father inherits profit from my practice. That is why my father is growing differently inside me and outside me.
So, I am in better relationship with my father in me, and I want to improve that kind of relationship with my father outside of me, also. In case you are a good practitioner, that is not difficult. Because you have evolved with your father. You have cultivated more loving-kindness, patience, compassion and understanding. That is why you can help your father outside of you change, transform. But if you have no practice, then you still have a lot of anger, discrimination and irritation, and in that case you cannot help your father very much.
So, the fact is, my father is both in me and outside of me. When my father outside of me dies, my father in me continues with me. I will transmit my father to my son and to my daughter.
My father and my mother, they are my ancestors, the youngest ancestors. As human beings, we have human ancestors. We have seen several generations of human ancestors, and genetically speaking, all our ancestors are still alive in us. We think that they have all died, but that is not true. Our ancestors of several generations are still alive in us, and we carry all of them into the future. We transmit them into the future. So, when you marry and you have children, you transmit your ancestors to your children. Your ancestors go into the future.
In Plum Village, every year, we celebrate one Ancestors’ Day. And during that day we practice looking deeply in order to recognize the presence of our ancestors in us, in every cell of us. We know that our ancestors are our roots. It’s like the plant of corn has a seed of corn as a root, and when you are well rooted, then you are strong. But if you are uprooted, then you are not strong enough to confront life.
That is why in countries like Vietnam, every family has an ancestral alter in the house. Ancestral worship is what we practice. In China, also, we practice ancestor worship.
Even if you are not rich, but in your home there is in a central place, a table or a hallway, create an ancestral altar. You may have an incense bin. You may have a flower pot on the ancestral altar.
When we cry, our ancestors also cry with us. And when we listen to a Dhamma talk, our ancestors also listen to a Dhamma talk. This is really wonderful.
So, the practice is, every day, you go to the ancestral altar, and you remove the dust. You wipe the dust from the altar, you change the water in the flower pot, and you light a stick of incense and put it on the incense burner. That is the way we practice.
And why do we do that? We are getting in touch with our ancestors. It takes only one or two minutes to take care of the ancestral altar, but during the time that we clean the altar, during the time we light a stick of incense, we are really in touch with our ancestors. And we get rooted more deeply in our ancestors. We have the feeling that wherever we go, our ancestors are with us. We don’t feel alone. We don’t feel alienated. That is the goodness with the practice of ancestral worship.
Usually, our ancestors have the right to know what is going on. And, therefore, it is in the tradition that if tomorrow your child will go to school for the first time – kindergarten – you have to light a stick of incense and announce to your ancestors, “Dear ancestors, tomorrow we will bring the little boy to kindergarten.” Your ancestors have the right to know that.
So, it is very nice of you to inform your ancestors that tomorrow the little boy or the little girl will go for the first time to kindergarten. You may think that the ancestors are seated on the altar, but, in fact, the altar is there to help us remember that our ancestors are in us. The altar is really inside, in every cell of our body. All the genes that they have transmitted are there, and if we are able to touch our ancestors, then we can get their support, their help.
Every time you are in trouble, in difficulty, you can talk to your ancestors.There is a lady who had a lot of cancer and she told us that she had a grandfather who was very solid. And we told her that the solid cells of her grandpa were in her. “So, call for help! Call your grandpa for help! Grandpa, I know that your cells are solid. Please come and help me.”
And if you are concentrated, if you are mindful, then you can see your grandpa responding to you. His solid cells will come and help. And, finally, that lady got out of cancer, because she knew how to pray to her grandfather.
So, wherever you go, your ancestors are with you. And, if you are rooted, if you are aware, then you feel more solid, more rooted, and you come through the difficulties of life much better.
When you decide to marry your daughter to a young man who lives in another city, you have to inform your ancestors. You have to prepare an offering. You place the offering on the altar, you light a stick of incense, and you say, “Dear ancestors, we have decided to marry our daughter to that young man. Please support us.”
That is the kind of practice we do in Vietnam, in China, in Korea, and so on. So, today, we have our Ancestors’ Day in order to have an opportunity to get in touch, because getting in touch with our ancestors can bring us a lot of benefit and strength.
We have blood ancestors, but we also have spiritual ancestors. For Christians, Jesus Christ is their spiritual ancestor. And he is in us because Christianity has been transmitted to you by your priest, by your minister, by your teacher, and you have Jesus Christ in every cell of your body. If you are in trouble, you can pray to him. He’s not very far away. He’s not in the sky. He is right there in every cell of your body, and you can touch Jesus Christ in every cell of your body. If you are a good Christian practitioner, Christ is available in every moment.
If you follow the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha, the Venerable Ananda and Sariputta are your spiritual ancestors. The teachers over many generations are also your spiritual ancestors, and because you have learned the dhamma, you have listened to Sariputta, to the Buddha. That is why the seed – the gene of the Buddha and Sariputta – are now in every cell, because transmission can be done in two ways, transmission by the genetic way or the spiritual way.
As a teacher, you transmit yourself by the spiritual way, not by the genetic way. Then, there are those of us who have Jesus and Buddha as spiritual ancestors. If you are in harmony, you don’t feel any conflict having both as ancestors. When you receive the five mindfulness trainings, you know they are very Christian. If you look very deeply, you see that in the Christian tradition there are equivalents of the five trainings. And you can become a better Christian by practising the five mindfulness trainings. There is no conflict, there is no discrimination. You have the right to have several spiritual ancestors.
If you look deeply, we do also have animal ancestors. For this we need to practice meditation, to look deeply. Our ancestors are not only human, because the human species is a very young species on Earth. Many appeared very late on earth, but before the appearance of man, other animals appeared first. So, we do have human ancestors, but we also do have animal ancestors. This is very exciting to learn, to see where we come from as far as ancestorship is concerned. What kind of animal have we been in the past, before we got the human form?
So, I am a human being, but I also have animal ancestors, and they are still alive in me. In the Buddhist literature, we say that in one of my past lives I have been a squirrel, a fish, or a bird. And that is not only poetical, that is scientific, also.
In one of your former lives, you have been a bird or a fish or a deer, and not only in the past. Today, I continue to be a bird, a fish, a deer. In me, I feel very concretely that I am still a bird, a fish, a deer, because I do have animal ancestors. If you do recognize animals as your ancestors, then you will be much kinder to them. You don’t want to eat your ancestors. It is not kind to eat your ancestors.
Then, you have vegetable ancestors. In fact, vegetables appeared before animals. In the past, in a former life, you have been a pine tree, an aquatic plant, a mushroom. Why not? And that is why you have to look deeply to feel that we are also made of animals and vegetables. You come from vegetables and animals, and if you know that, if you remember that, then you would like to protect them, to live in such a way that you can help to protect animals and vegetables, because they are your ancestors, also.
Looking more deeply, we see that we have mineral ancestors, also. Water, rock, earth, dust – you are made of stars. You are made of minerals. Without minerals there could be no vegetables, animals or humans. That is why it is very important that we have the time to sit down and look deeply. To see, to recognize all our ancestors. Blood ancestors. Spiritual ancestors. Human ancestors. Animal ancestors. Vegetable ancestors. And also mineral ancestors.
In the Diamond Sutta, the Buddha said, there are four ideas to be transcended, and one of the ideas is the idea of a human being. A human being. The Buddha advised us to look deeply, to meditate. When you look into the human being, you see that the human is made of non-human elements. Namely, animal, vegetable and mineral. When you realize that, you will want to protect animals, vegetables and minerals.
So, if you look at the human being and you see animals, vegetables and minerals, you have really seen a human being. But, if you look at the human being and you don’t see animals, vegetables and minerals, you have not seen the human being You have the wrong perception, a wrong idea of the human being. And that is one of the notions to be removed. That is why I used to say that the Diamond Sutta is one of the most ancient scriptures on deep ecology. That insight helps you to protect the environment.
So, the practice today is to take a piece of paper and to write down the names of your ancestors as far as you can remember. You may begin with father and mother, your youngest ancestors. Maybe your grandpa. Great-great-grandfather, great-great-grandmother, and so on. You may put the name of your spiritual ancestor – Muhammad, Buddha, Jesus, Sariputta, and so on. You may put some of your animal ancestors, some of your vegetable ancestors, and some of your mineral ancestors, and so on.
This is a practice. You recognize your ancestors as you do so. You are also losing your artificial self. You know that you are linked to everyone else. You are practising non-self when you write down the name of your ancestors here.
You need some mindfulness, some concentration in writing down the name of your ancestors. Then, you come and offer in front of the altar. This is our practice. The practice of touching our ancestors is very important in Plum Village. It makes us strong, solid and happy. It makes us more compassionate, understanding and loving.
Dear Sangha, yesterday there was a question about authority, power. There was a question put forth by a college student who said that, as a college student, he has ambition for learning, for success, for a situation in society. How can he reconcile that ambition, that willingness to succeed, with the practice of mindfulness? That is, seeking a simple life and so on.
The question of power is an important one, because many of us tend to abuse our power. Even if you don’t have a lot of power.
Parents can abuse their children using their powers as father and mother. And sometimes they feel very powerless, yet they still use their power, the authority of a father and a mother. And children always feel helpless, because they cannot fight back on an equal basis, so they feel powerless. Not only children. Parents also feel powerless. They feel they cannot do anything to change – to help – their own children.
Our power is always limited, including political and economic power. Many young men think that to be the President of the United States of America is to have a lot of power. That is the thinking of many people. But, I guess that Mr. Bush feels helpless, powerless, very often. He feels that he needs more power in order to solve problems like the price of oil, the war in Iraq. He feels powerless. He does not have enough power to win the war. He feels he does not have enough power to stop the war. To continue with the war is difficult, but to stop the war is equally difficult, so he must sometimes feel very powerless. And if the President of the United States does not have enough power, who among us can claim to have enough power?
And, of course, when you are very rich, you feel that you are more powerful. With your money you can buy many things. You can subdue many things, and yet we have witnessed the fact that many millionaires, many extremely rich people, they feel powerless. And some of them commit suicide.
The question of power is very important. What does the Buddha thinks about power and authority? In the Buddhist tradition, we speak of three kinds of virtues, about true power that everyone can seek. There is no danger at all in seeking these powers, because these powers can make you happy.
Usually, in the world, we look for other kinds of powers. Namely, wealth, fame, power and sex. And many in the world think that happiness is made up of these four elements. We are ruining our planet because of that kind of seeking.
As soon as you have some wealth, you are encouraged to have more, because a rich man always wants to continue to be rich. He wants to be wealthier, so he continues, she continues, on that way. They cannot stop. Someone is famous and she wants to be more famous. She continues to run after that. Someone has some power and he wants to have a higher position. He is seeking more and more power. There is no end to that kind of seeking. And not everyone can get that kind of object when they run after them. Many people have suffered very deeply while running after these four kinds of cravings.
In the Buddhist tradition, we speak of three kinds of power, three kinds of virtues. When you have these kinds of power, you feel strong, you feel happy, you feel free. The first power is called the power of cutting off.
You have cravings. You suffer very much because of your cravings. You have anger, and you suffer because of your anger. You have jealousy, and you suffer so much because of this jealousy. You have doubt. Craving, anger and jealousy are a kind of flame that burns you. They ignite. That is why if you are able to cut off your craving, your anger and your fear, then you will be a free person, you will be very happy. That power to cut off is the first power mentioned by the Buddha.
Objects of desire, whether they are wealth, fame, power and sex, contain a lot of danger. When you go out fishing, you throw into the water a bait. There is a hook inside of the bait. Nowadays, they don’t use real bait, they use plastic bait. They also look very attractive, and the fish does not know. They see the bait, so appealing, and they bite. They are caught by the hook, out of water, and they die.
So many of us are running after these kinds of bait. We don’t see the danger contained within the objects of our craving, and therefore it is very important not to seek happiness in the direction of craving. With wisdom, understanding – we use wisdom and understanding as the sword – we cut off the object of desire. That is the first power we get. A good practitioner always tries to do that. Cutting off anger, craving and jealousy, and the sword they use is the sword of understanding. They can see in the nature of the craving a lot of danger, like the hook hidden behind the bait.
The second power we teach in Buddhist is the power to understand. This is insight. Insight is the outcome of meditation. If you have enough mindfulness, you cultivate your concentration. With powerful mindfulness and concentration, you practice looking deeply. And you get a breakthrough into the heart of reality. That kind of insight liberates you from your delusion, from your misunderstanding, from your perceptions, and you get free.
Wisdom is a sword. The bodhisattva Manjushri is a person we describe of great understanding. He is always holding a sword, the sword of understanding. With the sword of wisdom, he can cut through all kind of misunderstanding and delusion. If you are a good practitioner, with concentration and mindfulness, you can have a breakthrough, and you can get the insight that will help liberate you from suffering.
When you have that kind of insight, that kind of wisdom, you can solve your difficulties very easily. It is with wisdom that you can get out of difficult situations. When other people come to you and present to you their problems, their difficulties, with your wisdom, with your insight, you can help them undue the difficulties they are having. Maybe in 50 minutes you can help that person to free himself or herself, because you have wisdom, you have insight.
Alone, that person can go on for many years and does not have the way out. But, when he or she comes to you, since you have that wisdom, you show the way, and then that person can get out in just 50 minutes or less. So that is the second kind of power that you get with the practice.
Insight is the flower, the fruit of the practice. When we have enough mindfulness and concentration, we will truly get the insight that we need in order to undue our difficulties and help other people around us to undue their difficulties. And you are very rich in insight. And in freedom.
The first spiritual power helps you get free from craving, from delusion and from anger. The second kind of power also helps you to remove delusion, ignorance and misunderstanding. With that kind of power you can help many other people around you to do the same. You are distributing happiness around you just because you have insight, you have wisdom. And nobody can steal, nobody can rob what you have, because they cannot use a gun to take away your wisdom.
And the third source of power is love. It means a favour. You are distributing favour. “Can you do me a favour?” Yes. And you are always distributing happiness. This power is the power to forgive, to accept. To accept, to forgive and to offer understanding and love. As a successful practitioner, you have that power. You have the capacity of forgiving. You have the capacity of accepting him as he is.
There are those of us who are not capable of accepting the other person. There are those of us who have a hard time accepting the situation. They say, “If they don’t change, I don’t change. Because they are like that, that is why I keep being like this.” Because they don’t have that kind of power. If you have that kind of power, you accept them as they are. You accept the situation, and you go on. You stop to react. You begin to act.
In the past, you have been reacting only. Reacting against the situation, against other people, but you don’t go anywhere. But, now you accept the situation as it is, you accept the people as they are, and you just act. With the practice you transform yourself, and with more freshness, more loving-kindness, more wisdom, you are able to change the situation and the people around you. You don’t put forth the condition, “If the other person does not change.” There is no way the situation can get better if you say that.
Now, as you have the third power, you say, “He is like that. She is like that. I accept him as he is, she is, and I will cultivate more loving-kindness, more insight, more freshness. With that I will be able to help him, to help her, and to change the situation.”
Because now you have the capacity of accepting, of forgiving. And that is a tremendous source of power. If you spend your time cultivating these three sources of power, there is no danger at all. The more power you have, the happier you become, and the happier the people around you will become.
Many people become victims of their own success, in wealth, in power. But if you have this kind of power, you never become a victim of your success. This is the only kind of success that cannot make you into a victim. As for the other side, any kind of success can make you into a victim. You succeed as a politician, and you die as a politician. You succeed as a business leader, and you can die as the victim of your own success. But here, the situation is different. The more power you have, the freer you become, the more loving you become. And there is no danger at all cultivating this kind of power.
As for the question put forth by the college student, I think he can meditate on this. The young college student wants to have success, to become a great scholar, to become someone who has a good situation in society, a position in society.
In fact, once you have these three kinds of powers, there is no danger at all if you do have some wealth and some fame. If you have these powers, then your wealth and your fame will become very useful for you. Otherwise, they are very dangerous.
Buddhism is not against wealth and power. The only thing we are reminded of is that running after wealth, power and fame can be very costly. You can suffer tremendously running after these things. But if you have spiritual powers, then you are not a victim of your own wealth, your own fame, your own power. In fact, you know how to make good use of the wealth you have, of the power you have, of the fame you have. In order to do good for the people around you
So, it’s not that a good practitioner always seeks poverty. A good practitioner can own money, but she knows how to use the money in order to realize her idea of compassion and understanding. How many people are free like that? How many people know to use their money, their power, their fame in a good way? Not many, unless they have some spiritual power. The power of cutting off, the power of wisdom, and forgiveness. People are not capable of using the worldly powers to make happiness for themselves and for other people.
In Buddhism, in Christianity, we speak about voluntary poverty. You want to live a simple life. A simple life is your style of living, because if you live a simple life, you don’t have to spend most of your time making a living. You have the time to enjoy other things, spiritually. You have the time for the blue sky, for the rain, for the sunshine, for the children, for your beloved ones. So, living simply can help you to have more time to enjoy yourself, enjoy life, and to take care of your beloved ones.
You are poor, but it is you who wants to be poor. But, in fact, you are very rich, because everything belongs to you – the sunshine, the blue sky, the birds, the hills, and every moment of the daily life belongs to you. There are those who are extremely rich, but they don’t have anything. They don’t have the beautiful sky, they don’t have the beautiful hills, they don’t have the time to love and to take care of their beloved ones. The teachings of the Buddha are very clear on this. We are not really against having money or a good position. If you do have spiritual powers, enough insight and love, that money, power and prestige may help you to realize your ideal of bodhisattva.
So, for a young college student, he can continue to seek for knowledge, to have a good position in society, if at the same time he is capable of cultivating these kinds of spiritual powers. There will be less danger for him or her if he or she is a good practitioner, every day cultivating more of these powers. The power of cutting off, the power of understanding, and the power of love. That brings you a lot of freedom, that brings you a lot of happiness, and you don’t believe any more that without a lot of money, a lot of fame, you’t can really be a happy person.
- Thich Nhat Hanh Talk (public)
- Thich Nhat Hanh Talk (private)
- Pa Auk Sayadaw (coming soon)
- Abhidhamma with Ven. Dhammadipa