'This is the second children's Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, given in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Thursday, August 11th, 2011. Thay speaks about giving children in Italy a grain of corn so they could go home to plant it. Their homework, when the seed grows into a plant of corn, is to look at the seedling and say: Dear plant of corn, do you remember the time when you were just a little seed? 'The plant says, Me, a tiny seed of corn? I don't believe it. We have to help the plant of corn to remember. Dear plant of corn, it is me who has planted the seed of corn in this spot, and I have watered it every day. And you have come from it. And the plant will remember that at one point in history it was a little seed. And you who are a practitioner, when you look at the plant of corn, you can see the grain of corn.' In the same way, we can see our father and mother in us at every moment.'
'This is the third Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, given in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Thursday, August 11th, 2011. Thay speaks about Right Speech, the practice of speaking that goes in the direction of non-discrimination. It is an instrument we can use to restore communication. When you sit down to listen, you say, 'I listen like this with one purpose: to allow him or her to speak out and to suffer less.' He shares about the experiences of Israelis and Palestinians practicing together in Plum Village, and how they learn to listen deeply to one another. Thay continues through the Noble Eightfold Path, discussing Right Livelihood and then the four practices of Right Diligence: 1) refrain from watering negative seeds, 2) embracing negative seeds with mindfulness so they go back down (changing the peg), 3) inviting the good seeds to come up, 4) allowing the good seeds to stay a long time.'
This is the Question and Answer Session offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, which took place in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Friday, August 12th, 2011. Thay answers questions first from the children, then from the young adults and the older practitioners: 1) How did Thay feel when he left his country? 2) Where did you learn to become mindful and to breathe? 3) Have you accomplished the highest level of Buddhism yet, and if you haven't, do you think you will? and will you play soccer with the kids today? 4) Do you believe you have reached the stage of enlightenment, and if not do you think you will at some stage in your life? 5) What was it like being on the Oprah Winfrey show? 6) What is the goal of Buddhism? 7) I sometimes find myself wallowing in self-doubt, and that keeps me from fully enjoying myself. Do you have any advice on how I can overcome my self-doubt? 8) I have a deep volition to practice, but I am very forgetful, and I lose connection with it. Among the many practices that Thay has given, what is the best way for me to connect with that volition? 9) I suffer a lot, and I realize it is part of the practice. I see that my suffering comes from a chronic illness that causes me a lot of physical pain, and also from my life as an activist. I feel at times a lot of despair about what is happening in the world around us. What advice would you have for those of us living with physical pain and despair in our care for the world? 10) For many years I have admired the way you treat children and have them be a part of the Sangha. I am wondering if you would talk with us about ways to bring the practices to the inner cities, practices like mindful breathing and walking that can help them have a better life? 11) I really feel that there is a shift in society from the ego and the intellect into the heart. Do you also feel this? Also, does what is happening in the environment reflect that shift?
'This is the third Dharma talk offered by Thay in the Open Mind Open Heart Retreat, given in the War Memorial Gym of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, on Saturday, August 13th, 2011. Thay speaks about the steps in the practice of mindfulness of breathing: 1) aware of the in and out breath, 2) following the in and out breath, 3) aware of body, 4) releasing tension in the body, 5) recognizing joy, 6) recognizing happiness, 7) aware of painful feelings, 8) embracing painful feelings, 9) recognizing mental formations, 10) invigorating the mind, 11) concentrating the mind, 12) liberating the mind. Thay continues to share about the Three Doors of Liberation: 1) emptiness, 2) signlessness, 3) aimlessness. Emptiness does not mean non-existence. A glass can be empty or full of tea, but in order to be empty or full the glass needs to be there. So emptiness does not mean non-existence. This glass is empty of tea, but it is full of air. So it is helpful for us to ask, 'Empty of what?' To be empty is always to be empty of something. When we contemplate a flower like this, we see the flower is full of everything: the cloud, the sunshine, the Earth, time, space, the gardener---everything has come together to help the flower to manifest. Why do we say it is empty? It is empty of only one thing: a separate existence. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower is full of non-flower elements. It is clear that the flower has to be interbe with everything in the cosmos. She cannot be by herself alone. To be by oneself alone is impossible. So we begin to see the interdependence of everything. He uses the example of a match which requires the action of us striking it for a flame to manifest. In life we are the same: when we ask 'Where do we come from?' or 'Where are we going?' we see that we do not come from anywhere. When conditions come together sufficiently, I manifest. My nature is the nature of no coming and no going. When conditions are no longer sufficient, I just stop manifestation and wait for a chance to manifest again. My nature is no coming, no going.'