“The mind can go in a thousand directions.-Thich Nhat Hanh
But on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, a gentle wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.”
A typical meeting of the Red Cedar Buddha Sangha
4:45 PM – Meet in person or online/Greetings
5:00 PM – Welcome and Check-in
5:10 to 5:35 PM – Sitting Meditation
5:35 to 5:40 PM – Break
5:40 to 6:15 PM – Dharma Sharing
6:15 to 6:25 PM – Announcements
6:25 to 6:30 PM – Goodbyes
For more information, please click on the following links.
Below are some of the core texts and sutras that we use in our practice.
Inviting the Bell
by Thich Nhat Hanh
I’m going to tell you how to invite a bell to sound, with a small instrument like this, made of wood. The tranquility in us, the peace in us, we have to call them. There’s tranquility and calmness and peace and joy in us, but we have to call them so that they can manifest themselves. This tranquility, that love, that joy, that stability, sometimes we call them Buddhahood, or the nature of Buddha in us.
The Buddha is someone who is very calm, very tranquil. The Buddha is somebody who has joy, compassion and calmness, and the Buddha is not somebody made of materials like wood or gold. When we invite the bell, it’s one of the means to call the joy in us, the tranquility in us, so that we can awaken the Buddha in us. There is a baby Buddha in each of us, and we have to be aware of it. In a practice center like Plum Village, when we invite the bell to sound, we have a chance to touch the Buddha in us, we have a chance to call the nature of Buddha in us, so it can manifest itself.
If we do it correctly, peace will be there in our hearts, and we will immediately become calm water, and we will reflect reality as it is. If we are not calm, the image we reflect will be a distorted image, and when the image is distorted by our minds, the image is not the reality, and it causes lots of suffering. So we have to call tranquility, to invite it to manifest itself.
When I invite the bell to sound, it is because the bell is considered as a friend, someone who helps us to come back to ourselves, become calm. That is why, when I start inviting the bell to sound, I have to pay respect to the bell like this (Thay bows), exactly as we do to our friend. We pay our respect and love to our friend, so I pay respect to the bell: I join my palms, I make a lotus flower or a tulip, and I offer this flower to my bell, to my friend. Then I take my bell and put it on the palm of my hand, lift it to the level of my eyes, and look at it, and I breathe. We have to practice to do it.
When I hold the bell in my hand, like this, I start breathing in and breathing out. Breathing in, I calm myself, and breathing out I smile. My hand becomes a flower, like a lotus, and the bell becomes a diamond, a jewel in the heart of the lotus. Have you heard the mantra “Om mani padme hum?” It is in Sanskrit, and it means, “Oh, the jewel in the lotus flower!”
When you breathe like that, very deeply in mindfulness, with calmness, you become the lotus flower, because there is mindfulness in you that gleams like a jewel. It is a practice, it is not a prayer. Look at my hand, it looks like a lotus flower with five petals, and in its heart there is a jewel. I breathe in with that image, and then I become a lotus flower with a jewel in me. There’s a short poem that you should learn by heart, if you want to invite the bell to sound:
Body, speech and mind in perfect oneness,
I send my heart along with the sound of this bell.
May all the hearers awaken from forgetfulness,
And transcend the path of anxiety and sorrow.
by Thich Nhat Hanh, from “Happiness”
Sitting Meditation is a way for us to return home and give full attention and care to ourselves. Every time we sit down, whether it is in our living room, at the foot of a tree, or on a cushion, we can radiate tranquility like the Buddha sitting on an altar. We bring our full attention to what is within and around us. We let our mind become spacious and our heart soft and kind. With just a few minutes of sitting this way, we can restore ourselves fully. When we sit down peacefully, breathing and smiling with awareness, we have sovereignty over ourselves.
Sitting mediation is very healing. We can just be with whatever is within us, whether it is pain, anger, irritation, joy, love or peace. We are with whatever is there without being carried away. We let it come, let it stay, then let it go. We have no need to push, to oppress, or to pretend our thoughts are not there. Instead , we can observe the thoughts and images in our mind with an accepting and loving eye. Despite the storms that arise in us, we’re still and calm.
Sitting is not hard labor. It’s an opportunity to enjoy your own presence, the presence of your family or fellow practitioners, the Earth, the sky, and the cosmos. There’s no effort.
Breathing in, I know I’m alive. Breathing out, I smile to life, in me and around me.
If you sit on a cushion, be sure it’s the right thickness to support you. You can sit in the full or half-lotus position, a simple cross-legged position, or however you feel most comfortable. Keep you back straight and your hands folded gently in you lap. If you sit in a chair, be sure your feet are flat on the floor or on a cushion. If your legs or feet fall asleep or begin to hurt during the sitting, just adjust your position mindfully. You can maintain your concentration by following your breathing, and slowly and attentively changing your posture.
Allow all the muscles in your body to relax. Don’t fight or struggle. There are people who after fifteen minutes of sitting meditation, feel pain all over their body because they’re making an effort to sit or striving to succeed in their sitting meditation. Just all yourself to be relaxed, as if you were sitting by the ocean.
While sitting, begin by following your in-breath and out-breath. Whenever a feeling comes up, recognize it. You can learn a lot from what’s going on in your body and mind during the sitting meditation. Most of all, sitting is a chance for your to do nothing. You have nothing at all to do, just enjoy sitting and breathing in and out.
Breathing in, I have arrived. Breathing out, I feel at home.
If you’re having trouble concentrating, counting is an excellent technique. Breathing in, count “one”. Breathing out, count “one”. Breathing in, count “two”. Breathing out, count “two”. Continue up to ten and then start counting over again. If at any time you forget where you are, begin again with “one”. The method of counting helps us refrain from dwelling on troublesome thoughts; instead we concentrate on our breathing and the number. When we have developed some control over our thinking, counting may become tedious and we can abandon it and just follow the breath.
If you approach meditation as a fight to arrive somewhere and you try hard to achieve success, you won’t be able to relax. Look out the window. Perhaps there is a linden tree or oak tree out there. The tree is beautiful and healthy, being entirely itself. It doesn’t seem that the tree is making and effort at all. It allows itself to be – fresh, green, stable. Perhaps the tree is on a mountain. The mountain is strong and solid, supporting all kinds of life without strain or effort. When you practice sitting meditation, you are stable and solid like a mountain. You can practice like this:
Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain. Breathing out, I enjoy my solidity.
To succeed in your sitting, release the tension in you body and in your feelings. Get comfortable in your seated body. When you begin to breathe in and out, enjoy the breathing in, breathing out. Give up any struggle and enjoy sitting and smiling. This is a privileged moment, having the opportunity to sit quietly like this. You are you own island. Nobody at this moment can ask you to do anything. Nobody will disturb you, no one has the right to ask you a question, or to ask you to go and wash the pots or clean the bathroom. This is your precious opportunity to relax and be yourself.
by Thich Nhat Hanh, from “Happiness”
The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, a gentle wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.
We walk all the time, but usually it’s more like running. Our hurried steps print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. If we can take one step in peace, we can take two, three, four, and then five steps for the peace and happiness of humankind on the Earth.
Walking meditation is walking just to enjoy walking. Walking without arriving, that is the technique. There is a Sanskrit word, apranibita. It means wishlessness or aimlessness. The idea is that we do not put anything ahead of ourselves and run after. it. When we practice walking meditation, we walk in this spirit. We just enjoy the walking, with no particular aim of destination. Our walking is not a means to and end. We walk for the sake of walking.
Walking meditation is like eating. With each step, we nourish our body and our spirit. When we walk with anxiety and sorrow, it’s a kind of junk food. The food of walking meditation should be of a higher quality. Just walk slowly and enjoy a banquet of peace.
Our final destination will only be the cemetery. Why not walk in the direction of life, enjoying peace in each moment with every step? There is not need to struggle. Enjoy every step you make. Every step brings you home to the here and how. This is your true home – because only in this moment, in this place, can life be possible. We have already arrived. With each peaceful step you take, all beings, near and far, will benefit.
As you walk, pay attention to each step you make. Walk slowly. Don’t rush. Each step brings you into the best moment of your life. In walking meditation, you practice being aware of the number of steps you make with each breath. Notice each breath and how may steps you take as you breathe in and breathe out. In walking meditation we match our steps to our breath, and not the other way around. When you breathe in, take two or three steps, depending on the capacity of your lungs. If your lungs want two steps with breathing in, then give exactly two steps. If you feel better with three steps, then give yourself three steps. When you breath out, also listen to you lungs. Know how many steps your lungs want you to make while breathing out.
Don’t try to control you breathing. Allow you lungs as much time and air as they need. Simply notice how may steps you take as your lungs fill up and how many you take as they empty, being mindful of both your breath and your steps.
When you walk uphill or downhill, the number of steps per breath will change. Always follow the needs of you lungs. Observe them deeply. Don’t forget to practice smiling. Your half-smile will bring calm and delight to your steps and your breath, and help sustain your attention. After some time of practice, you will find that the in-breath and the out-breath will become closer in length. your lungs will be healthier, and your blood will circulate better. Your way of breathing will have been transformed..
We don’t just say the words. We really see flowers blooming under our feet. We really become one with our green planet. Feel free to use your your own creativity and wisdom to create your own words. Here are some that I wrote:
Peace is every step. The shining red sun is my heart. Each flower smiles with me. How green, how fresh all that grows. How cool the wind blows. Peace is every step. It turns the endless path to joy.
One of the most common practices in our community is dharma sharing or dharma discussion. This is an opportunity to explore our practice together in a group. There are many models for facilitating dharma sharing and here are some guidelines.
Guidelines for Dharma Sharing
1. Practice deep listening and loving mindful speech.
Topics emanate from our life and practice. It is best to avoid discussions which are theoretical rather than experiential. Our deepest aspiration is “to learn your (Avalokita’s) way of listening in order to help relieve the suffering in the world”. We can invoke the name of Avalokita before the Dharma sharing begins.
Even though we have the intention to listen deeply our mind will wander. Perhaps we are agreeing, disagreeing, feeling agitated, wanting to respond, drifting, etc. If we are mindful of our thoughts and inner dialogue, we can choose to come back to being present with the person speaking. Many in our Sangha use this as a training to become more attentive listeners for family and friends
Our speech, like our listening, is the fruit of our practice, a response from within. It is good for the atmosphere of the Dharma Sharing when participants take three breaths before speaking, to allow time for the previous person’s speaking to be fully received. Speaking from the heart about topics that emanate from our life and practice includes, speaking with awareness in a way that could be of benefit to others as well as ourselves. For example, speaking with kindness, in a voice that is clear and loud enough for everyone to hear including those with some hearing loss and connecting with others by making eye contact and perhaps smiling from time to time. We all benefit from hearing each other’s insights and direct experience of the practice.
Like the Five Mindfulness Trainings, the Guidelines protect us and offer direction towards the “North Star” of clear and compassionate communication.
Before speaking we may wish to make a flower bud with our hands and bow. When we bow, or put our hand on our heart or use a signal we are comfortable with, we are signaling that we would like to share. The Sangha bows back acknowledging that we are ready to listen deeply. When we are finished we let the Sangha know by bowing/signaling again. Knowing that we will not be interrupted creates a safe and harmonious environment.
In place of bowing we can use an object, often referred to as “talking stick”, to pass around the circle. The facilitator might introduce this method if the group is very large and/or if the facilitator senses that there are participants who wish to share but are too shy to do so. It may be suggested that folks introduce themselves by name and if a person is inspired to speak, she/he will do so, if not they will pass the object on to the next person. If time allows it is considerate to send the object around a second time so that those who were not ready to speak have another opportunity.
3. Saying our name, each time, before we speak.
This practice fosters a sense of inclusion for newcomers as well as aiding those of us who might have some difficulty remembering names. We do this in our Sangha even when there seems to be only “regulars” present.
4. Avoid giving advice, even if it asked for.
In general it is helpful to always use the word “I” instead of the word “you”. Speaking from our own experience eliminates the opportunity to give advice. If someone asks for advice and a practice that we have worked with comes to mind it is fine to share our experience rather than telling someone what she or he should do.
5. All that arises is confidential, or “What is said here stays here”
Confidentiality secures the safety of the group and helps avoid gossiping. Also, after the Dharma Sharing time, if we want to talk to with someone about what they said in the group, we first ask if it is OK. Sometimes a person does not want to talk more about what they said and this is a respectful way to honor his or her space.
6. Refrain from speaking a second time until it appears that everyone who wants to speak has spoken.
This ensures an opportunity for everyone to speak and provides a space where we can benefit from all of our Sangha wisdom. We are encouraged to speak mindfully, “not too much and not too little” for the number of participants. Near the end of the time the facilitator may offer an opportunity for those who have not spoken to do so if they wish and may address any unanswered questions.
7. Share with the Whole Circle
Whatever we share is for the benefit of all those present. We do not engage in crosstalk with another participant . If we ask a question we ask the whole group and if we answer a question we speak to the whole group and not just the person who asked. If we ask a question we should not expect an answer straight away. Another topic may be addressed first and only when someone feels ready to address the question asked does it need to be addressed. However, if towards the end of the sharing, the question has not been addressed the facilitator can assure the group that the question has not been forgotten.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings
Sisters and brothers in the community, this is the moment when we enjoy reciting the Five Mindfulness Trainings together. The Five Mindfulness Trainings represent the Buddhist vision for a global spirituality and ethic. They are a concrete expression of the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, the path of right understanding and true love, leading to healing, transformation, and happiness for ourselves and for the world. To practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings is to cultivate the insight of interbeing, or Right View, which can remove all discrimination, intolerance, anger, fear, and despair. If we live according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings, we are already on the path of a bodhisattva. Knowing we are on that path, we are not lost in confusion about our life in the present or in fears about the future.
Reverence For Life
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.
Loving Speech and Deep Listening
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.
Nourishment and Healing
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.
The Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore (Thich Nhat Hanh’s translation of The Heart Sutra)
while practicing deeply with
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore,
suddenly discovered that
all of the five Skandhas are equally empty,
and with this realisation
he overcame all Ill-being.
this Body itself is Emptiness
and Emptiness itself is this Body.
This Body is not other than Emptiness
and Emptiness is not other than this Body.
The same is true of Feelings,
Perceptions, Mental Formations,
all phenomena bear the mark of Emptiness;
their true nature is the nature of
no Birth no Death,
no Being no Non-being,
no Defilement no Purity,
no Increasing no Decreasing.
“That is why in Emptiness,
Body, Feelings, Perceptions,
Mental Formations and Consciousness
are not separate self entities.
The Eighteen Realms of Phenomena
which are the six Sense Organs,
the six Sense Objects,
and the six Consciousnesses
are also not separate self entities.
The Twelve Links of Interdependent Arising
and their Extinction
are also not separate self entities.
Ill-being, the Causes of Ill-being,
the End of Ill-being, the Path,
insight and attainment,
are also not separate self entities.
Whoever can see this
no longer needs anything to attain.
Bodhisattvas who practice
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
see no more obstacles in their mind,
and because there
are no more obstacles in their mind,
they can overcome all fear,
destroy all wrong perceptions
and realize Perfect Nirvana.
“All Buddhas in the past, present and future
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
are all capable of attaining
Authentic and Perfect Enlightenment.
it should be known that
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
is a Great Mantra,
the most illuminating mantra,
the highest mantra,
a mantra beyond compare,
the True Wisdom that has the power
to put an end to all kinds of suffering.
Therefore let us proclaim
a mantra to praise
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore.
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!”