Practicing in the Plum Village Tradition
Thich Nhat Hanh's (Thay) teachings on mindfulness are central to the Engaged Buddhism movement around the world. Thanks to his deep aspiration to cultivate an enlightened society, he has founded monasteries and institutes in Asia, North America, and Europe. At these meditation centers, practitioners learn the art of mindful living with emphasis on applying Buddhist practices to daily life and the issues of the times.
Thay was a monk in Vietnam, training at Tu Hieu temple in Hue as a novice, until he was exiled from his beloved homeland for his tireless efforts to end the destruction and heal the trauma caused by decades of colonialism and war. His message today is the same: to bring peace to the world, we must have peace in ourselves. Thay's approach to Buddhist tradition is unique in its emphatic renunciation of dogmatism.
After seeking asylum in France, Thay founded Plum Village, where he patiently and lovingly nurtured a community of monastics and is considered a spiritual home for practitioners around the world.
Dwelling Happily in the Present Moment
Realizing our true home is a matter of stopping, calming, resting, and healing. Peace, joy, and freedom can only be found in the here and now. By practicing mindful breathing, we call the mind back from it's tendency to seek happiness elsewhere in consumption, prestige, or power and reunite it with the body.
The breath acts as a bridge between body and mind so that we can be fully alive in the present moment and able to enjoy the many wonders in us and around us. With such presence, we have a direct encounter with things as they actually are thus cultivating insight. The deepest teachings of the Buddha can be realized with this simple practice.
In the Sammaditthi, Sutta Sariputta, a great disciple of the Buddha, states that whoever understands suffering, the causes of suffering, the ending of suffering, and the path leading to the end of suffering is on the way to awakening. Thay teaches that to have such an intimate understanding of our suffering, we must be able to recognize when afflictive states arise and embrace them like a mother holding her crying baby. Rather that repress our suffering, or seek distraction from it, we investigate with clarity and solidity.
Doing so, we see that that life becomes heavy and disappointing when we attach to impermanent things as if they're permanent and make an identity out of things that are actually not-self. Experiencing the peace and ease of dwelling in the present moment, we learn to live in harmony with life as it is and let go of clinging to suffering.
In the Upaddha Sutta, Ananda, the Buddha's faithful attendant, declares that he believes spiritual friendship to make up half of the path to liberation. The Buddha corrects Andanda, saying that spiritual friendship is actually the whole of the path. Thay has taken these words to heart and predicted that the Buddha of the future will not be any individual person, but a Sangha - a community of spiritual friends.
Plum Village practice is distinguished for its emphasis on community and spiritual friendship. Written into our mindfulness trainings are statements like, "the happiness and suffering of others are my own happiness and suffering," and, "freedom is not an individual matter." As members of the Sugarplum Sangha and residents of Mariposa, we apply these teachings to all aspects of our lives - sharing our time and material resources with each other, striving toward non-discrimination, and encouraging each other in our personal, professional, creative, and spiritual development. Concrete practices like Dharma Sharing, Beginning Anew, Shining Light, and Sanghakarman Procedure help us to increase our understanding of each other's aspirations and habit energies, so that we deepen relationships and nurture our strengths.