Cultivating Freedom

For me, there is no happiness without freedom, and freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. I will share with you how we get greater freedom for ourselves. During the time that we sit, walk, eat, or work outside, we cultivate our freedom. Freedom is what we practice every day.

No matter how or where you find yourself, if you have freedom, you are happy. I have many friends who spent time in forced labor camps and because they knew how to practice, they did not suffer as greatly. In fact, they grew in their spiritual lives, for which I am very proud of them.

By freedom I mean freedom from afflictions, from anger, and from despair. If you have anger in you, you have to transform anger in order to get your freedom back. If there is despair in you, you need to recognize that energy and not allow it to overwhelm you. You have to practice in such a way that you transform the energy of despair and attain the freedom you deserve - the freedom from despair.

Cedar Society: Cultivating Our Continuation

Cedar Society: Cultivating Our Continuation

The Cedar Society is a path for practitioners to offer stable, long-term funding support for the Plum Village community through planned legacy gifts. When Thay was a young monk in Vietnam, he trained thirteen young people to help support and root the Buddha’s teachings during the war. He called them the “thirteen cedars,” choosing the cedar’s strength and solidity for inspiration. The Foundation’s bequest giving program is a legacy of the original thirteen cedars, whose deeply engaged practice continues to inspire our community.

Jeffrey Johnson, Fearless Surrender of the Heart, is a Cedar Society member who practices with the True Names Sangha in Baltimore, Maryland and the Mindfulness Practice Center of Fairfax in Virginia. He offers these reflections on his legacy gift.

Single Parenting as a Dharma Door

Single Parenting as a Dharma Door

If you are a single parent and if you think that you need to be married in order to have more stability, you have to reconsider that idea. Perhaps you have more stability right now by yourself than if you were with another person. Another person coming into your life could destroy the little stability you may already have. It is most important to take refuge in yourself, and to do that with your understanding, insight, and capacity of recognizing stability in the things inside you and around you. The things inside of you are just like the things around you. If they are stable, they are worth taking refuge in. By taking refuge in this way, you become more solid. You are taking refuge more and more in yourself. By doing so, you develop yourself into a ground for the refuge of your child and your friends. We need you also. The children need you; the trees and the birds also need you. You have to make yourself into someone stable, someone we can rely on. That is the practice of Buddhism.

To Be a True Hero

To Be a True Hero

Life patiently waits for true heroes. It is dangerous when those aspiring to be heroes cannot wait until they find themselves. When aspiring heroes have not found themselves, they are tempted to borrow the world’s weapons – money, fame, and power – to fight their battles. These weapons cannot protect the inner life of the hero. To cope with his fears and insecurities, the premature hero has to stay busy all the time. The destructive capacity of nonstop busyness rivals nuclear weapons and is as addictive as opium. It empties the life of the spirit. False heroes find it easier to make war than deal with the emptiness in their own souls. They may complain about never having time to rest, but the truth is, if they were given time to rest, they would not know what to do. People today do not know how to rest. They fill their free time with countless diversions. People cannot tolerate even a few minutes of unoccupied time. They have to turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper, reading anything at all, even the advertisements. They constantly need something to look at, listen to, or talk about, all to keep the emptiness inside from rearing its terrifying head.

A Rose for Your Pocket

A Rose for Your Pocket

Our parents play an important role in our lives. Whether they are still alive or have passed away, whether we have a good relationship with them, difficult relationship with them, or no relationship at all, strengthening our relationship with the people who gave us life can be a nourishing and healing practice. 

In order to help us cultivate our understanding, love, and gratitude for our mothers, our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote A Rose for Your Pocket. In recognition of Mother's day, we hope this writing will lead you to a new and deeper appreciation of your mother whether she is still alive or has passed away. For those of us who have a challenging relationship with our mother, we may instead use this reflection to develop a deeper appreciation for our father, a teacher, or another loved one who has been a positive figure in our life.

Mindful Plant-Based Potlucks

Mindful Plant-Based Potlucks

When we met for our first Mindful Cooking potluck, we never imagined we were starting a practice that would continue for nine years and beyond.  Apparently, we have evolved a format that meets a need and keeps people coming.

We began as a small group of sangha members who were inspired by Thay's 2007 call to move to a plant-based diet for the sake of the Earth.  After several months of e-mailing recipes to each other, we met for a potluck in my garden. We gathered around the food table and read the Five Contemplations together.  When our plates were filled, we settled ourselves in a circle and took turns telling our food stories, going around the circle, and being sure to hear from everyone. The result was a fascinating, surprisingly deep conversation.  

Practice Being an Earth Holder

Practice Being an Earth Holder

To be alive with this awareness is to practice being an Earth Holder. Breathing in, I am aware of all the trees and plants that offer me oxygen.  Breathing out, I am aware that I offer the gift of carbon dioxide to the trees and plants as well. We interare. In fact, it is not possible to be separate.

A single breath can bring me to the realization of interbeing. As Thay teaches us, it only takes one breath to come back to ourselves.  In this case, the first breath helps me be aware that I am a part of the Great Bodhisattva Earth. In the next breath, I can ask myself, “What will I do with this precious moment, this day, or this life to support my Mother Earth?”

My Life is My Message

My Life is My Message

The role of an OI member is to build Sangha. But you don’t have to be an OI member to start building a Sangha.  How do we build Sangha? The manuals for Sangha building say that we need a bell, a vase of flowers, cushions and chairs, the Five Mindfulness Trainings, and some of Thay’s books. We learn how to give simple instructions on mindful breathing, sitting and walking meditation. But when we get caught in form, structure and guidelines, the practice can’t be as fresh, gentle and alive. We are unable to create safe space for nurturing brotherhood and sisterhood, which is the essence of a true Sangha. When we build Sangha, we build a new culture – the culture of mindfulness and love.

Breathe, Remember, Return

Breathe, Remember, Return

Many of you remember to come back to Plum Village, so this is wonderful. Plum village is like a spiritual family, and I see a lot of familiar faces every year. We all need a spiritual home. This is something lacking in our society, something very important in our life as a human being. We’re not just going around “eating” and trying to make a living, get a car, a house, and so on. There is another dimension that involves the spirit. It is the same stuff that makes us cry, that makes us joyful and happy. There is something more than just running around.

Help Heal the Wounds of Discrimination

Help Heal the Wounds of Discrimination

ARISE (Awakening through Race, Intersectionality, and Social Equity) is a group of mindfulness practitioners and monastics in the Plum Village tradition who have come together with the aspiration to use the energy of compassion, understanding, and love in order to heal the wounds of discrimination and social inequity within ourselves and our society. In 2015, due to the racial violence and unrest occurring in the nation, members of the Plum Village community, together with other Buddhist communities, participated in national discussions on racial and social inequities. From these gatherings, ARISE emerged with the desire to use mindfulness as the vehicle to alleviate suffering wherever it existed, knowing that the suffering of one person was the suffering of us all.

Happy 91st Birthday to Thich Nhat Hanh!

Happy 91st Birthday to Thich Nhat Hanh!

What Gift Do You Give a Zen Master?

On Wednesday, October 11, 2017, it will be Thich Nhat Hanh's 91st birthday –or as our beloved teacher likes to call it, his Continuation Day! You may wonder, “What kind of gift can I give a Zen master? A person who already practices to have all the conditions of happiness? What would be meaningful for Thay?” We would like to offer this response: We can give Thay the gift of compassion.

Thay Returns to Vietnam

Thay Returns to Vietnam

We are very happy to confirm that earlier today, 29th August 2017, at 12h35 local time, our dear Teacher landed safely at Đà Nẵng airport in Vietnam. This is his first visit to Vietnam since 2008.

In recent weeks Thay has expressed a strong wish to visit his home country once more, and the sangha is delighted to have been able to realise his wish. Thay’s trip will include a visit to Plum Village’s Root Temple, Chùa Từ Hiếu, in Huế, where Thay began his monastic training in 1942.

How My Seven-Year-Old Came to Take the Precepts

How My Seven-Year-Old Came to Take the Precepts

When my daughter was around four or five years old, she began to be intrigued by the altar, my sacred little haven of refuge. She’d go over when I was not there, pick up, and study the various adornments and sometimes even sit on the cushion, clearly mimicking me. She’d sit still for a minute at most, and then she’d run off again. Though some part of me wanted to protect my private space from the intrusion of children, later I’d be glad that I’d not discouraged her from spending time there.