Program Particulars: Brother Thay

Program Particulars

Times indicated refer to web version of audio

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(02:00–03:15) Music Element

"The Multiples of One"
from Awakening,
performed by Joseph Curiale


(02:20) Concept of Engaged Buddhism

Coined by Thich Nhat Hanh in the 1950s, the phrase "engaged Buddhism" refers to the efforts of Buddhists to take action in the present to resolve the immediate problems in society. It may be seen as the uniting of practice directed at personal transformation and connecting a Buddhist's heart to the world of action. Engaged Buddhism takes the perspective that melding meditation, awareness of the moment, and compassionate action as a means of taking care of our lives and society are important elements of the spiritual path

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

(02:21) King Nominated Hanh for Nobel

In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh visited the United States as part of a speaking tour. While in the U.S., he met with Robert McNamara, the presiding Secretary of Defense, and talked with Martin Luther King, Jr. It was after this meeting that King delivered a speech on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York, where he first publicly denounced the Vietnam War. In his remarks, King compared the Vietnamese Buddhist peace movement with the American civil rights movement. Later that year, Dr. King wrote a letter to the Nobel committee nominating Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Advised not to return to Vietnam because he would be imprisoned or assassinated, he was denied re-entry and eventually settled in France, founding the Unified Buddhist Church in 1969. Discover more about the Plum Village community, or Sangha, that Thich Nhat Hanh founded in France in 1982.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh's arrival in Hue, Vietham (February 18, 2005)<br><em>(Courtesy of Plum Village Meditation Center)</em>

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh's arrival in Hue, Vietham (February 18, 2005)
(Courtesy of Plum Village Meditation Center)

(02:59) Counsel to Congress

As part of the Capps-Emerson lecture series, Thich Nhat Hanh delivered a talk titled "Leading with Courage and Compassion" at the Library of Congress on September 10, 2003. Sponsored by the Faith & Politics Institute, the interfaith, non-profit organization provides Members of Congress and other political leaders with opportunities for moral and spiritual reflections.

(05:09) Concept of Mindfulness

In Thich Nhat Hanh's classic work The Miracle of Mindfulness, he defines mindfulness as "keeping one's consciousness alive to the present reality." The following passage describes mindfulness as a miracle by which we master and restore ourselves:

Consider, for example: a magician who cuts his body into many parts and places each part in a different region—hands in the south, arms in the east, legs in the north, and then by some miraculous power lets forth a cry which reassembles whole every part of his body. Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.

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(09:37–10:06) Music Element

"Elope in Spring"
from Stilling Time: Traditional Musics of Vietnam,
performed by Nhu Quynh and Various Artists


(09:49) Principle of "Being Peace"

Krista describes Thich Nhat Hanh's concept of "being peace" as assuming a compassionate peaceful presence with tangible affect on the world. The following passage was excerpted from Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Every day we do things, we are things, that have to do with peace. If we are aware of our lifestyle, our way of consuming, our way of looking at things, we will know how to make peace right in the moment we are alive.

If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.

Read an extended excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh's work Being Peace.

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(13:49–14:42) Music Element

"Evening Chant in Vietnamese"
from Plum Village Chanting: Transcending the Path of Sorrow,
performed by Brother Phap Niem


(14:07) Reading From Fragrant Palm Leaves

The following extended passage was excerpted from a collection of Thich Nhat Hanh's journal entries, Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals 1962–1966:

Being able to see just once in a lifetime is no small accomplishment. If you've seen once, you can see forever. The question is whether you have the determination and diligence. Many young people today feel trapped in prisons of discouragement and self-hatred. They regard reality as meaningless, and they treat themselves as despicable beings. My heart opens to them. Caught in despair, they seek liberation through destructive means. It would be wonderful if we could identify and dissolve the sources of such a dark view of life.

If you tarnish your perceptions by holding on to suffering that isn't really there, you create even greater misunderstanding. Reality is neither pleasant nor unpleasant in and of itself. It is only pleasant or unpleasant as experienced by us, through our perceptions. This is not to deny that earthquakes, plagues, wars, old age, sickness, and death exist. But their nature is not suffering. We can limit the impact of these tragedies but never do away with them completely. That would be like wanting to have light without darkness, tallness without shortness, birth without death, one without many. One-sided perceptions like these create our world of suffering. We are like an artist who is frightened by his own drawing of a ghost. Our creations become real to us and even haunt us.

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(16:25–16:37) Music Element

"Rhapsody for Orchestra"
from Japanese Orchestral Favourites,
performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra


Children play hackey-sack with young monks while their parents attend sessions. Photo: Kate Moos

Children play hackey-sack with young monks while their parents attend sessions. Photo: Kate Moos

(18:45) Compasssionate Bodhisattva vs. Fierce Bodhisattva

Translated from Sanskrit, the term bodhisattva means a "one whose essence is enlightenment." Rather than trying to escape the cycles of samsara and suffering in the world, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, an enlightened being must embrace the negative aspects of things in order to discover their positive uses. The larger forces of peace and safety can be realized through seeing the interrelatedness of all things, which first must be countered on the individual level by using compassion and wisdom to combat greed and anger.

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(23:40–26:15) Music Element

"Dem Tay Nguyen (Night In Tay Nguyen)"
from The Music of Vietnam, Volume 1.1,
performed by The Dan


(26:49) Reading from The Miracle of Mindfulness

The following extended version of the passage read by Krista during the program appears in The Miracle of Mindfulness:

Sitting in mindfulness, both our bodies and minds can be at peace and totally relaxed. But this state of peace and relaxation differs fundamentally from the lazy, semi-conscious state of mind that one gets while resting and dozing. Sitting in such lazy semi-consciousness, far from being mindfulness, is like sitting in a dark cave. In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality. The person who practices mindfulness should be no less awake than the driver of a car; if the practitioner isn't awake he will be possessed by dispersion and forgetfulness, just as the drowsy driver is likely to cause a grave accident. Be as awake as a person walking on high stilts—any misstep could cause the walker to fall. Be like a medieval knight walking weaponless in a forest of swords. Be like a lion, going forward with slow, gentle, and firm steps. Only with this kind of vigilance can you realize total awakening.

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(27:07–27:20) Music Element

"Rhapsody for Orchestra"
from Japenese Orchestral Favourites,
performed by Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra


Young monks and nuns at the retreat led a program for some 30 children, who listened to part of the morning dharma talks, played, and practiced basic meditation. Drawing by Aly Tippett, age 9.

Young monks and nuns at the retreat led a program for some 30 children, who listened to part of the morning dharma talks, played, and practiced basic meditation. Drawing by Aly Tippett, age 9.

(27:25) Walking Meditation

Krista describes the morning meditation walk at dawn in which the concept of noble silence is practiced. The small manual about walking meditation Krista references is The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation, in which he writes:

When you walk, you might like to take the hand of a child. She will receive your concentration and stability, and you will receive her freshness and innocence. From time to time, she may want to run ahead and then wait for you to catch up. A child is a bell of mindfulness, reminding us how wonderful life is.

At Plum Village, I teach the young people a simple verse to practice while walking: "Oui, oui, oui," as they breathe in, and, "Merci, merci, merci," as they breathe out. "Yes, yes, yes. Thanks, thanks, thanks." I want them to respond to life, to society, and to the Earth in a positive way. They enjoy it very much.

(34:17) Reading of Poem

The poem, For Warmth — read by Thich Nhat Hanh in Vietnamese and Krista in English — was written during the Vietnam War after Thich Nhat Hanh heard about the bombing of the city of Ben Tre. The city of 300,000 was destroyed because seven guerrillas shot several rounds of unsuccessful anti-aircraft gunfire and then left.

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(34:17–35:10) Music Element

"Embracing Anger"
from Plum Villiage Chanting: Transcending the Path of Sorrow,
performed by Sister Chân Không


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(35:46–36:00) Music Element

"Duet for viola & percussion"
from Hayren: Music of Kimitas and Tigran Masurian,
performed by Tigran Mansurian


Sister Chân Không opens a session with song. To her left is a bell, periodically rung during the day to call people to mindfulness.<br><cite>(Photo: Kate Moos)</cite>

Sister Chân Không opens a session with song. To her left is a bell, periodically rung during the day to call people to mindfulness.
(Photo: Kate Moos)

(40:00) Second Reading from Fragrant Palm Leaves

The following excerpt — taken from a collection of Thich Nhat Hanh's journal entries, Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals 1962–1966 — is an expanded version of the passage Krista recited:

Zen is not merely a system of thought. Zen infuses our whole being with the most pressing question we have. It is an urgent life-and-death struggle in which we either break through or fall into a swirling abyss. It is necessary for us to face such perilous moments alone, moments that will determine the rest of our lives. Zen includes concentrated meditation sessions during which we might experience one breakthrough after another, encounter dangers, or die alone in failure. But these definitions of Zen might only be true for me.

Imagine two young boys coming across an old man who is sitting in a grassy meadow. The old man tells the boys that he is fishing for snakes. "This lovely meadow would be perfect for a flower garden if it weren't for the poisonous snakes below the ground. I'll fish them out and stamp them all dead. Then I can prepare my flower bed," he explains. "There are baby snakes nestled in snake holes. When I pull them up to the surface, they wiggle and die. Then there are grown snakes. I have to be careful when I pull them out, because if I am not strong enough, the will bite and kill me. you must know yourself, and you must know the snake. You must know when you have enough strength and when you don't. When you manage to pull up two snakes at the same time, the best thing to do is to let them fight each other." Fascinated, a little nervous, the boys sit down and watch the old man.

Zen is like that. In the depths of our consciousness dwell the seeds of our potentials, including poisonous snakes, phantoms, and other unsavory creatures. Though hidden, they control our impulses and our actions. If we want freedom, we must invite those phantoms up to our conscious mind, not to fight with them, like the old man fishing for snakes, but to befriend them. If we don't, they will trouble us every day. If we wait for the right moment to invite them up, we'll be ready to meet them, and eventually, they will become benign.

(41:56) Reference to Lotus Sutra

The phrase from the Buddhist text The Lotus Sutra that Thich Nhat Hanh recites can be found in the 25th chapter, The Universal Gate of Bodhisattva Kanzeon. In a dialogue with Buddha, the Bodhisattva Inexhaustible Intent poses a question of which the following excerpt appears:

Perceiver of the World's Sounds, pure sage—  to those in suffering, in danger of death,  he can offer aid and support.  Endowed with all benefits,  he views living beings with compassionate eyes.  The sea of his accumulated blessings is immeasurable;  therefore you should bow your head to him
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(42:11–43:00) Music Element

"Buom Bay Vuon Cai Hoa Vang"
from Plum Villiage Chanting: Transcending the Path of Sorrow,
performed by Brother Phap Niem


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(50:30–51:21) Music Element

"Rhapsody for Orchestra"
from Japanese Orchestral Favorites,
performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra


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(50:30–51:21) Music Element

"Then"
from Stilling Time: Traditional Musics of Vietnam,
performed by Nhu Quynh and Various Artists


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(52:01–52:42) Music Element

"Rhapsody for Orchestra"
from Japanese Orchestral Favorites,
performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra


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is a Vietnamese Zen monk, poet, and peacemaker. He cofounded the An Quang Buddhist Institute, the Van Hanh Buddhist University in Vietnam, and Plum Village, a Buddhist training monastery in France. He is the author of many books, including Being Peace, The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation, and Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals 1962–1966.
photo by Paul Davis

is co-director of the Lotus Institute in Encinitas, California and an ordained Baptist minister. He also owned a management consultant firm for Fortune 500 companies.

is a licensed attorney and consultant on justice and community corrections. She was ordained as a dharma teacher by Thich Nhat Hanh in 2008.

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