Thich Nhat Hanh sends a message of a collective awakening and shares on the practice for peace, love, and happiness to help protect Mother Earth during the 2009-2010 winter retreat in Plum Village.
Thich Nhat Hanh: Dear Sangha, this morning we have chanted. We have practiced sitting meditation and the chanting in order to send our energy to support the Parliament of World Religions. And also to support the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change. We are with them whether they are in Melbourne or in Copenhagen. We are with them; we want to support them.
All of us are trying to bring about a kind of collective awakening. This collective awakening—that is what we need. If we have that collective awakening, and then everything will be fine. Everyone will be able to live in such a way that makes the world possible for us and for our children. With that collective awakening, we can go together. We will live together in such a way that we’ll be able to save the planet and to make a future for our children and their children.
In Plum Village, we are in a three-month retreat. There are about 250 of us—monastics and lay people—practicing together for the whole ninety days. We practice sitting meditation in the morning and the afternoon. We get up at 5 o’clock and we practice joyfully as a spiritual family. We have listened to Dharma talks. We have practiced walking meditation; we practice eating in mindfulness; we practice cooking, cleaning, doing everything in mindfulness.
We want to practice so that every moment of our daily life can be a peaceful moment, a nourishing moment, a happy moment. We are trying our best. We have a very powerful kind of energy with our collective practice, and we want to offer that to the Parliament of World Religions. We want to offer that to the Copenhagen meeting. And practicing the three-month retreat is our simple and modest way to contribute to the event of collective awakening.
We should wake up by ourselves before we can help other people to wake up. That is our principle and what our friends in the Parliament of World Religions are doing; and that is also why you have come to Melbourne together in order to work to help to bring about a collective awakening. Thank you for being there and doing your best. And you in Copenhagen, you have come with a lot of hope. We want you to know that we are all behind you. We want and need leadership that can help save the planet.
In principle we know that our techniques are good enough to substitute the kind of fuels we are using with renewable sources of energies. We can make use of the water, the air, and the sunshine and replace totally the gasoline and the coal 100 per cent by the year 2030—if we are strong and united enough. But we need the leadership. That leadership is not only political. It should also be spiritual because these techniques cannot be realized unless we can transform our fear, our anger, our craving—the three kinds of poisons that are in our society and in every one of us.
If we continue to fight and kill each other in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and elsewhere because we still have a lot of fear, we still have a lot of violence and anger in us. We know that in order for the source of the renewable energies like water and sunshine, technologies should be supported, encouraged by all of us. They are still very expensive. These new kinds of energies—they are not competitive compared to gasoline and coal. They should have enough money in order to subsidize the companies that are creating these sources of energies so that the price of the energy will be competitive. We will have to tax heavily the fuels of gasoline and coal in order to discourage people from using that kind of fuels, that’s the way.
But how can we have enough money, enough resources in order to support new sources of energies? We are using a lot of money in order to manufacture weapons and the big powers are still creating a lot of weapons. The weapons industries in the United States of America, Great Britain, France, is a very important source of income for these powers.
Why do people in other countries need to buy weapons? Because they have fear. Iran is trying to become a nuclear power. And North Korea also wants the same kind of thing and the foundation of their action is fear. They want to protect themselves.
And those of us who sell weapons, we say that our weapons are very modern. If you are equipped with these weapons, you’ll be safe. So they play on our fear. They want us to buy their weapons. So that is why fear is something we should remove. We should transform together with anger.
The other reason is anger. Terrorism is also fear. Terrorists have a lot of violence and fear. But anti-terrorists also have a lot of fear and anger, also. Therefore, political leadership is not enough. We need spiritual leadership. And you are there in Melbourne in order to tell us how to do it, how to recognize the poison of violence, the poison of anger, the poison of fear in us so that we can transform them. We can do it as individuals, and we can do it as groups of people.
Last year during the Winter Retreat, one year ago, in Plum Village we had so many hundreds of people practicing together. We sit together. We walk together. And we practice looking very deeply in order to try to find out whether there is a spiritual way that can help us out of this difficult situation.
We were contemplating the topics of global spirituality, a global ethics. We wanted to practice looking deeply and to share our insights about a Buddhist vision for a global ethic or a global spirituality. And why generating the energy of brotherhood, sisterhood, love, happiness, we had been able to produce also a text on the Five Mindfulness Trainings. It is the foundation of the Buddhist practice of peace and happiness.
After the three-month Winter Retreat, we had a French-speaking retreat. And during that retreat, we practiced the same kind of looking. The key of meditation was also global ethics and global spirituality.
And after the French-speaking Retreat, we had the 21-Day Retreat. Many Dharma teachers came from many different countries, about forty. We also practiced together during twenty-one days in order to look deeply and to produce a kind of vision for a kind of vision: a Buddhist vision for a global spirituality or global ethics. We are going to make it complete, the practice that we are taking and during the Summer Opening, which lasted once month. We also focused our attention on that topic: how to bring about a vision of global spirituality, global ethics. And finally at the end of the Summer Retreat, we were able produce the new version of the Five Mindfulness Trainings.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings, for us Buddhists, is the kind of spiritual practice that can bring about true happiness, true love that can protect lives, save the Earth, restore communication, and bring about the healing of the planet and of every one of us on Earth. So the Five Mindfulness Trainings are for us the Buddhist vision for a global spirituality, the Buddhist version of a global ethic. And we are in the process of translating this text into a non-Buddhist language so that it can make sense to share it with other friends who practice in other traditions.
Let us enjoy breathing in and out for a moment.
Breathing in I feel alive
Breathing out I smile to life in me and around me
[One sound of the bell]
Dear friends, in the Buddhist tradition we believe that this love and happiness are possible right in the present moment. A good practitioner can produce a feeling of peace, of happiness, whenever she wants to. A good practitioner is capable of recognizing the pain and sorrow in him, capable of embracing it and transforming it. A good practitioner can look deeply, recognize the pain, the sorrow in the other person. And with his or her compassion and insight can help the other person do the same. Recognizing his suffering, embracing it in this moment, learning how to produce a moment of happiness, of peace.
When we practice mindful breathing, we bring our mind back to our body and we become fully present in the here and the now. And when we are truly present in the here and the now, we can help our body to be more peaceful. There may be tension and pain in our body. And the practice of mindful breathing taught by the Buddha can help us release the tensions and the pain in our body.
And then if there is a feeling of pain, a painful feeling in us, a painful emotion in us we know how to recognize it. We don’t want to suppress it. We are able to recognize it, to embrace it. And the energy of mindfulness can bring relief. With the practice of looking deeply, we can see into the true nature—the roots of that affliction in order to be able to transform it. The Buddha said that it is possible for us to live happily right in the present moment. It is possible to live in peace right in the present moment although we still have some pain, some sorrow, some worries in us, if we know how to handle the pain, the sorrow, the fear in us.
All of us agree that we should bring into our daily lives a spiritual dimension. Without a spiritual dimension, we don’t know how to handle our happiness and our suffering and help other people. And spiritual teachers have the duty to set an example and to help other people to do the same.
Buddhism is about awakening. To me, one Buddha is no longer enough. We need many Buddhas. Everyone of us should become a Buddha, and that is why we use the term “collective awakening.”
Awakening about what? When we breathe in and bring our mind back to our body, when we are truly there, body and mind united, there is already awakening. We know that we are alive; we are present, and life is there for us to live. That is already a kind of awakening. So awakening is not something very far away. But we need to bring our mind back to our body and be there truly in the present moment.
Being in the present moment, we recognize that there are so many wonders of life that are in us and around us. And if you know how to get in touch with these wonders of life, you can get the nourishment and the healing right away. Peace and happiness can be possible right away. With mindfulness, we can realize that we already have more than enough conditions to be happy. We are luckier than so many people. And if we can recognize the conditions of our happiness, we can be happy right here, right now. And you don’t have to struggle any more; you don’t have to run into the future any more. You don’t have to look for happiness elsewhere or in the future because happiness is possible in the present moment.
That is the teaching of the Buddha: living happily right in the present moment.
And that is a practice that can help many of us to release our craving, our anger, our fear. Because if we have happiness already, we don’t need to fight, to worry anymore. And you have plenty of happiness in order to share. With collective awakening, we can stop the course of destruction of our society and of the Earth. With awakening, we don’t think any more that power is needed for us to be happy, more wealth, more sex is needed. We are happy enough, more than enough in order to sacrifice our time running after these objects of cravings.
That is why, in order to save our planet we need to have a new way—a new view of happiness. Every one of us has an idea of how to be happy. Every one of us has a view on happiness. It is because of that view that we have sacrificed our time; we have run after objects of our desire. We have destroyed our body and our mind to a very important extent and that is why it is very important to have a new view about happiness.
And according to the scripture of Buddhism, the Buddha has said that happiness is simple. If you go home to the present moment, you realize that you have more conditions to be happy right here and right now. All the wonders of life are in you and around you and that is why in Plum Village we practice the fifth mantra: “This is already a moment of happiness.” Before sitting meditation, we recite the mantra. Before sharing lunch or dinner, we share the mantra. Before walking together in a field or the vegetable garden, we practice the mantra. And happiness can come right away. So easy, so simple. “This is a moment of happiness.”
Yes, we are very lucky. We are still alive, and our planet is beautiful. We have to be really there in the present moment to live deeply in that moment. We can get the nourishment and healing in the here and the now. We have to release that kind of craving, that kind of anger, that kind of hate that has destroyed much of us and much of the world.
Transcribed by Elaine Fisher
- [Audio] Thich Nhat Hanh Speaks to World Leaders
- The Five Mindfulness Trainings
- The Mindfulness Bell‘s Dharma Archive
- Attend a Retreat at Plum Village
- Intro song: The Sisters and Brothers of Plum Village—Listening to the Bell
- Outro song: Joe Reilly—I Love Nature