Sunday, January 1, 2017
This Silence is Called Great Joy
During our Day together we will touch silence in different ways: by
directing our attention to the space between the stream of thoughts; to the
pause between an in-breath and out-breath; to the silence that emerges as
we attend to sound; we may experience the joy and happiness of our mindful breathing.
We will also relax into this Silence with Thay's practice of:
'The Mind is the Clear Blue Sky, thoughts and feelings come, thoughts and feelings go.'
And in silence, revealing and healing can happen.
We will maintain noble silence throughout the Day, and thus can observe the habit energies that sometimes drive us to unnecessary talking.
Saturday January 21 2017: 10am-4:30pm.
At Riverside Church, 20-T, 91 Claremont Avenue, NY, NY
Chairs and cushions available.
Bring your own vegetarian lunch. We eat together in mindfulness and silence.
Come for all or part of the Day.
Please do not wear fragrances.
Schedule [Subject to Change]:
10:00-Noon: Sitting/Walking/Mindful Movements
12:10-12:50: Personal Practice***
1-1:50pm Lunch/Rest [Bring your own vegetarian lunch]
2:00-2:30: Total Relaxation
2:40-3:00: Personal Practice
300:-3:40: Sitting/Walking Meditation
3:45-4:30: Dharma Sharing/Close
Personal Practice=each of us can do what we need: sitting, walking, movements, resting, reading the Teachings/writing [all in silence.]
David Flint will facilitate this Day.
David is a Dharma Teacher in the Plum
Village/Thich Nhat Hanh Lineage.
"This Silence is Called Great Joy
A teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh on the truth beyond our usual truths
There are two kinds of truth, conventional truth and absolute truth, but
they are not opposites. They are part of a continuum. There is a classic
All formations are impermanent.
They are subject to birth and death.
But remove the notions of birth and death,
and this silence is called great joy.
This beautiful poem has only twenty-six words, but it sums up all of the
Buddha’s teaching. It is one of greatest poems of humanity. If you are a
composer, please put it to music and make it into a song. The last two
lines should sound like thundering silence, the silencing of all
speculation, of all philosophies, of all notions and ideas.
The gatha begins in the realm of conventional truth and ends in the realm
of absolute truth. The first line describes reality as we usually perceive
it. “All formations are impermanent.” This is something concrete that we
notice as soon as we start paying attention. The five elements that make up
our sense of personhood—form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations,
consciousness—all are flowing and changing day and night. We can feel their
impermanence and so we are tempted to say that the first two lines of this
gatha are true.
But the danger of this statement is that we may believe that formations are
real and impermanence is an absolute truth. And we may use that kind of
truth as a weapon in order to fight against those who don’t agree with our
ideas. “Formations” is a notion, an idea. “Impermanence” is another notion.
Neither is more true than the other. When you say, “All formations are
impermanent,” you are indirectly confirming their permanence. When you
confirm the existence of something, you are also implying the existence of
its opposite. When you say the right exists, you have to accept the
existence of the left. When you confirm that something is “high,” you’re
saying something else is “low.” Impermanence becomes a notion that opposes
the notion of permanence. So though perhaps it tried to escape, the first
two lines of the gatha are still in the realm of conventional, relative
To reach the absolute truth, the ultimate truth, you need to release the
conventional truth found there. There’s a Chinese term that means halfway
truths and another that means all-the-way, hitting-the-bottom truths. The
first two lines are a halfway truth and the third and fourth lines try to
remove what we learned in the first two.
When the notions are removed, then the perfect silence, the extinction of
all notions, the destruction of all pairs of opposites, is called great
joy. That is the teaching of absolute truth, of nirvana. What does nirvana
mean? It is absolute happiness. It’s not a place you can go; it’s a fruit
that you can have wherever you are. It’s already inside us. The wave
doesn’t have to seek out the water. Water is what the wave has to realize
as her own foundation of being.
If you have come from a Jewish or Christian background, you may like to
compare the idea of nirvana, great bliss, with the idea of God. Because our
idea of God may be only that, an idea. We have to overcome the idea in
order to really touch God as a reality. Nirvana can also be merely the idea
of nirvana. Buddha also can be just an idea. But it’s not the idea that we
need; we need the ultimate reality.
The first two lines of the gatha dwell in the realm of opposites: birth and
death; permanence and impermanence; being and nonbeing. In God, in nirvana,
opposites no longer exist. If you say God exists, that’s wrong. If you say
God doesn’t exist, that’s equally wrong. Because God cannot be described in
terms of being and nonbeing. To be or not to be, that is not the question.
The notions of being and nonbeing are obstacles that you have to remove in
order for ultimate reality to manifest.
In classical Chinese, the third line of the gatha literally says, “But when
both birth and death die.” What does it mean by “death dying”? It means you
have to kill your notions of birth and death. As someone who practices the
way of the Buddha, you have the sword of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, which
is sharp enough to remove wrong perceptions and cut through all notions,
including those of birth and death.
The true practitioner understands real rebirth, real continuation. There
are two views concerning life after death. Quite a number of people,
including scientists, believe that after we die, there’ll be nothing left.
From being we become non-being. They don’t believe that there is something
that continues after you die. That view is called nihilism. In this view,
either there is no soul or the soul completely dies. After death, our body,
feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness are completely
gone. The opposite view, eternalism, is that after we die, we are still
here and we will continue forever. Our soul is immortal. While our physical
body may die, our soul continues forever, whether in paradise or in hell.
The Buddha called these two views just another pair of opposites.
Before you can answer the question, “What will happen to me after I die?”
you need to answer another question, “What is happening to me in the
present moment?” Examining this question is the essence of meditation. If
we don’t know how to look deeply to what is happening to us in the here and
the now, how can we know what will happen to us when we are dead?
When we look at a candle, we say that the candle is radiating light, heat,
and fragrance. The light is one kind of energy it emits, the heat is
another, and the fragrance is a third kind of energy it can offer us in the
here and the now. If we are truly alive, we can see that we aren’t very
different from the candle. We are offering our insight, our breath, our
views right now. Every moment you have a view, whether about yourself, the
world, or how to be happy, and you emit that view. You produce thought and
your thought carries your views. You are continued by your views and your
thinking. Those are the children you give birth to every moment. And that
is your true continuation.
So it is crucial to look deeply at your thoughts and your views. What are
you holding on to? Whether you are an artist or a businessperson, a parent
or a teacher, you have your views about how to live your life, how to help
other people, how to make your country prosperous, and so on. When you are
attached to these views, to the idea of right and wrong, then you may get
caught. When your thinking is caught in these views, then you create
misunderstanding, anger, and violence. That is what you are becoming in
this very moment. When you are mindful of this and can look deeply, you can
produce thoughts that are full of love and understanding. You can make
yourself and the world around you suffer less.
You are not static. You are the life that you are becoming. Because “to be”
means to be something: happy, unhappy, light or heavy, sky or earth. We
have to learn to see being as becoming. The quality of your being depends
on the object of your being. That is why when you hear Rene Descartes’
famous statement “I think, therefore I am,” you have to ask, “You are
what?” Of course you are your own thinking—and your happiness or your
sorrow depends very much on the quality of your thinking. So you are your
view, you are your thinking, you are your speech, you are your action, and
these things are your continuation. You are becoming now, you are being
reborn now in every second. You don’t need to come to death in order to be
reborn. You are reborn in every moment; you have to see your continuation
in the here and the now.
I don’t care at all what happens to me when I die. That’s why I have a lot
of time to care about what is happening to me in the here and the now. When
I walk, I want to enjoy every step I take. I want freedom and peace and joy
in every step. So joy and peace and lightness are what I produce in that
moment. I have inherited it and I pass it on to other people. If someone
sees me walking this way and decides to walk mindfully for him or herself,
then I am reborn in him or in her right away—that’s my continuation. That’s
what is happening to me in the here and the now. And if I know what is
happening to me in the here and the now, I don’t need to ask the question,
“What will happen to me after this body disintegrates?” There is no
“before” and “after,” just as there is no birth and death. We can be free
of these notions in this very moment, filled with the great joyful silence
of all that is."