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put a lot more emphasis on enjoyment—on enjoying breathing, sitting,
walking, enjoying life altogether—than many other Buddhist teachers do.
the teachings of the Buddha, ease and joy are elements of
enlightenment. In life, there’s a lot of suffering. Why do you have to
suffer more practicing Buddhism? You practice Buddhism in order to
suffer less, right? The Buddha is a happy person. When the Buddha sits,
he sits happily, and when he walks, he walks happily. Why do I want to
do it differently from the Buddha? Maybe people are afraid that others
might say, “You are not very serious in your practice. You smile, you
laugh, you are having a good time. To practice seriously you have to be
very grim, very serious.” Maybe the people who want to get more
donations put it like that—to leave the impression they practice more
seriously than other people. Take the practice of sitting all night. You
aren’t allowed to rest and you think that is intensive practice, but
you suffer all night and drink coffee in order to stay awake. That’s
nonsense. It’s the quality of the sitting that can help you transform,
not sitting a lot and suffering while you do. Sitting and walking
meditation are for enjoying, and also for looking deeply and developing
insight. That insight can liberate us from fear, anger, and despair.
I really enjoyed the outdoor walking meditation we did on this retreat.
in the Buddhist tradition, you sit, and then you stand up and do slow
walking in the meditation hall, and then you sit again. We don’t do that
here. Instead, we do outdoor walking. That practice is helpful because
you can apply it in your daily life. You walk normally—not too slowly—so
you don’t look like you’re practicing and people see you as normal. And
then when you go home, when you’re going from the parking lot to your
office, you can enjoy walking.
basic practice is how to enjoy—how to enjoy walking and sitting and
eating and showering. It’s possible to enjoy every one, but our society
is organized in such a way that we don’t have time to enjoy. We have to
do everything too quickly.
What do you think makes someone a Buddhist?
person may not be called a Buddhist, but he can be more Buddhist than a
person who is. Buddhism is made of mindfulness, concentration, and
insight. If you have these things, you are a Buddhist. If you don’t, you
aren’t a Buddhist. When you look at a person and you see that she is
mindful, she is compassionate, she is understanding, and she has
insight, then you know that she is a Buddhist. But even if she’s a nun
and she does not have these energies and qualities, she has only the
appearance of a Buddhist, not the content of a Buddhist.
Can a ceremony make someone a Buddhist?
it’s not by ceremony that you become a Buddhist. It is by committing to
practice. Buddhists get caught in a lot of rituals and ceremonies, but
the Buddha does not like that. In the sutras, specifically in the
teaching given by the Buddha right after his enlightenment, he said that
we should be free from rituals. You do not get enlightenment or
liberation just because you perform rituals, but people have made
Buddhism heavily ritualistic. We are not nice to the Buddha.
Do you have to believe in reincarnation to be a Buddhist?
means there is a soul that goes out of your body and enters another
body. That is a very popular, very wrong notion of continuation in
Buddhism. If you think that there is a soul, a self, that inhabits a
body, and that goes out when the body disintegrates and takes another
form, that is not Buddhism.
When you look into a person, you see five skandhas,
or elements: form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and
consciousness. There is no soul, no self, outside of these five, so when
the five elements go to dissolution, the karma, the actions, that you
have performed in your lifetime is your continuation. What you have done
and thought is still there as energy. You don’t need a soul, or a self,
in order to continue.
like a cloud. Even when the cloud is not there, it continues always as
snow or rain. The cloud does not need to have a soul in order to
continue. There’s no beginning and no end. You don’t need to wait until
the total dissolution of this body to continue—you continue in every
moment. Suppose I transmit my energy to hundreds of people; then they
continue me. If you look at them and you see me, well, you have seen me.
If you think that I am only this [points to himself], then you have not
seen me. But when you see me in my speech and my actions, you see that
they continue me. When you look at my disciples, my students, my books,
and my friends, you see my continuation. I will never die. There is a
dissolution of this body, but that does not mean my death. I continue,
That is true of all of us. You are more than just this body because the five skandhas
are always producing energy. That is called karma or action. But there
is no actor—you don’t need an actor. Action is good enough. This can be
understood in terms of quantum physics. Mass and energy, and force and
matter—they are not two separate things. They are the same.
What can we do about the high level of materialism in our culture?
can set up an environment where people live simply and happily, and
invite others to come and observe. That is the only thing that will
convince them to abandon their materialistic idea of happiness. They
think that only when you have a lot to consume can you be happy, but
many are very rich without being happy at all. And there are those who
consume much less, but who are happier.
need to demonstrate that living simply with a practice of the dharma
can be very fulfilling, because until people see it and experience it,
they cannot be convinced. In Plum Village, we laugh all day long, yet
not one of us has a private bank account. Not one of us has a private
car or a private telephone. We only eat vegetarian food. But we don’t
suffer because we don’t eat eggs or meat. In fact, we are happier
because we know that we are not eating living beings and we are
protecting the planet. That brings a lot of joy. We are fortunate to be
able to live like that, to eat like that.
is a belief that unless you have a lot of money, unless you hold a high
position in society, you cannot be truly happy. It is hard to let go of
that belief until you see the truth that happiness is possible in
another way. Seeing that will make the future possible for our children.
So I think in Buddhist circles we have to reorganize so that we can
show people a way of living happily based on mutual understanding, not
materialism. Just a dharma talk isn’t enough, because a dharma talk is
just a talk. Only when people see such an unmaterialistic community,
when they see such a way of life, will they be convinced.