Thich Nhat Hanh Talk (private)
The following Dharma talk was what our collective Sangha remembers from a private talk give to our Sangha at Plum Village from The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh. It was a very inspiring moment. The question posed is from our Master, Thay, on behalf of the the Sangha of monks and nuns at Pagoda Phat Hue.
Our young Sangha is trying to balance between two goals: One, they want to keep the traditional practices in line but also create lightness and harmony within the Sangha. Until now, the Sangha has been struggling to balance these practices – the tendency goes to a strict keeping of the traditional practice or just following their desires. What, most Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh would be your suggestion? How do we cultivate a light and harmonious feeling while keeping the traditional practice?
For me, practice is a good practice, if it is effective. A good method is a good method, when it is effective – no matter if it is traditional or not. Effective means, that the method is creating harmony. For a young Sangha the most important practice of an ordained one, is to cultivate harmony between the Sangha
members through his practice. If the practice is not creating harmony, it is not a good method, not good practice. Is that clear enough?
If you check your own practice every week in terms of harmony and there is no improvement, then you have to change your method. If there is a slight improvement it is ok, but, a real improvement or progress can be seen after three months. So it is very important, for a sangha to reflect their practice every week to see if it is the right way. The practice is not aiming for an elite state or a leadership within the Sangha, to be something special. The practice is to create a harmony – brotherhood and sisterhood.
It is freedom from craving and anger not, the position of the abbot or the leader of a temple that will get people to do as you wish. The people will listen to you because of your understanding, and compassion not because of your title or position. Not because you are “ the big brother or big sister” but it is your compassion and experience that will make people listen to you.
Spiritual power comes from freedom from craving and anger. Check and improve your practice: Does your practice create harmony in your Sangha?… To create a solid Sangha, there must be harmony first. And only when you are a harmonious Sangha, you can help many people, and they will come by the thousands. You see, in Plum Village the monks and nuns are not competing for leadership, they act like a beehive. I often like to compare monks and nuns here with bees. In Plum village each Sangha member has his qualities and experience. But the sangha decides in which position one should be placed. They see that one member has certain experience or skill in one area then one is put in a position for the prosperity of the whole sangha – this is how we practice.
How to create harmony
To create harmony in a Sangha you have to understand the suffering and the problems of your brothers and sisters. How can you understand the suffering of your brothers and sisters deeply? By practising deep listening! If there is no time for listening to each other deeply just because of being busy with work for
your temple than you will never understand the suffering of the people around you. Then you are not able to create harmony. Do you take your time for listening to your brothers and sisters? It is so very important, to practice not interrupting the person that you are talking to. Even when you listen to somebody and you are very clear, that he is presenting a wrong perception – do not interrupt! You might know that he is wrong but still you should allow two days of reflection, ask for two days of reflection – even if you are clear that the other person is wrong. It is then a possibility for the other person to reflect and to transform her/his own suffering.
There are many ways to establish deep understanding – if you want, we invite some of you to stay during our winter retreat to learn, how we practice harmony and deep listening in the Sangha, so that you can bring it in your temple.
This morning, somebody asked: how is the connection of non-self or selflessness, emptiness and the 5 mindful-practices? Through your practice of the 5 Silas, you create harmony in your Sangha and you understand the concept of non-self.
Do not harbor anger towards Sangha members for a long time. It will destroy your mind and your practice. It must be solved within two days. If you cannot speak with the person then express it by writing it on a piece of paper and give it to the person. If you cannot solve it by yourselves ask other Sangha members have to help the problem to be solved. It is important, that a problem is not carried within somebody to long. When we at plum village talk about those disharmonies, we come together every week. We first name positive aspects that we find in the other person. This practice is called beginning anew. Then you tell the other person
“I am sorry that I hurt you. Please help me.” Through doing this you indirectly invite the other person to transform his suffering at the same time.
Brotherhood and sisterhood this is the most important and the most basic. Real spiritual power is freedom from craving and anger. We must take the time to develop deep listening to develop deep understanding. And we must begin anew so we can become a solid Sangha.
- Thich Nhat Hanh Talk (public)
- Thich Nhat Hanh Talk (private)
- Pa Auk Sayadaw (coming soon)
- Abhidhamma with Ven. Dhammadipa