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Thich Nhat Hanh's "Three Earth Touchings"

DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe DiemSamsara Loop Veteran
edited November 2016 in Buddhism Today

There is a practice carried out in Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh which is called "The Three Earth Touchings."
It is intended to reconnect us with blood and spiritual ancestors by realizing that we are all interconnected beyond time and space.

As I read it over every day as part of my Insight Meditation, I find that it also makes concepts such as compassion, empathy and dependent origination easier to grasp.
I have copied the link for those who would like to read it whole, but I have transcribed the two that strike me the most:

"I see that this body, made up of the four elements, is not really me and I am not limited by this body.
I am part of a stream of life of spiritual and blood ancestors that for thousands of years has been flowing into the present and flows on for thousands of years into the future.
I am one with my ancestors.
I am one with all people and all species, whether they are peaceful and fearless, or suffering and afraid.
At this very moment, I am present everywhere on this planet.
I am also present in the past and in the future.
The disintegration of this body does not touch me, just as when the plum blossom falls it does not mean the end of the plum tree.
I see myself as a wave on the surface of the ocean.
My nature is the ocean water.
I see myself in all the other waves and see all the other waves in me.
The appearance and disappearance of the form of the wave does not affect the ocean.
My Dharma body and spiritual life are not subject to birth and death.
I see the presence of myself before my body manifested and after my body has disintegrated.
Even in this moment, I see how I exist elsewhere than in this body.
Seventy or eighty years is not my life span.
My life span, like the life span of a leaf or of a Buddha, is limitless.
I have gone beyond the idea that I am a body that is separated in space and time from all other forms of life."

"I am one with the wonderful pattern of life that radiates out in all directions.
I see the close connection between myself and others, how we share happiness and suffering.
I am one with those who were born disabled or who have become disabled because of war, accident, or illness.
I am one with those who are caught in a situation of war or oppression.
I am one with those who find no happiness in family life, who have no roots and no peace of mind, who are hungry for understanding and love, and who are looking for something beautiful, wholesome, and true to embrace and to believe in.
I am someone at the point of death who is very afraid and does not know what is going to happen.
I am a child who lives in a place where there is miserable poverty and disease, whose legs and arms are like sticks and who has no future.
I am also the manufacturer of bombs that are sold to poor countries.
I am the frog swimming in the pond and I am also the snake who needs the body of the frog to nourish its own body.
I am the caterpillar or the ant that the bird is looking for to eat, and I am also the bird that is looking for the caterpillar or the ant.
I am the forest that is being cut down.
I am the rivers and the air that are being polluted, and I am also the person who cuts down the forest and pollutes the rivers and the air.
I see myself in all species, and I see all species in me."

http://plumvillage.org/key-practice-texts/the-three-earth-touchings/

DavidWalkerBunkspersondhammachickCinorjerDeformed

Comments

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited November 2016

    I have a great affection for TNH. I was involved in an Interbeing Sangha for many years and I led Mindfulness days on a regular basis. That experience gave me the confidence to begin teaching meditation, and to establish a local Buddhist group.

    If you like TNH I would like to recommend his translation of the Heart Sutra: http://plumvillage.org/news/thich-nhat-hanh-new-heart-sutra-translation/

    DhammaDragonBunksNamadaDeformed
  • smarinosmarino florida Explorer
    edited November 2016

    I'm in the opposite camp, This is just one man's opinion (not sure why I am even pointing that out, but people can be very thin skinned about this guy), and I find his stuff more like teddy bear Buddhism, or Buddhism for children. He is not anything like the Zen teachers I have had, especially the Rinzai teachers. This is not a comparison, just a statement. We're all different.

    I've researched this a bit, and Hanh doesn't write his own stuff, it's transcribed from him talking. Nothing wrong w/ that, but the books say written by Hanh. Doing it that way puts him one step removed from the material.

    But that is not my main gripe. I find that when he started out he was angry about what had happened to his village, that came out as passion, and over the years he has become such a commercial success that everything is dumbed down to a popular reading level. More like self help Buddhism.

    Compared to Shunryu Suzuki (and everyone knows his book(s) were not written, but taken from his dharma talks), whom I have the highest esteem for, not in the same league. Needs more work, needs to push harder, whatever you want to call it. Still, good stuff for falling to sleep by.

    lobster
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Samsara Loop Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:
    I have a great affection for TNH. I was involved in an Interbeing Sangha for many years and I led Mindfulness days on a regular basis. That experience gave me the confidence to begin teaching meditation, and to establish a local Buddhist group.

    If you like TNH I would like to recommend his translation of the Heart Sutra: http://plumvillage.org/news/thich-nhat-hanh-new-heart-sutra-translation/

    He has some fine translations and interpretations of several sutras.
    In the book "Awakening of the Heart," we find the Anapanasati Sutta, the Satipatthana Sutta, the sutra on Knowing the Better Way to live alone, the sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Catch a Snake, the Diamond Sutra, the Heart Sutra, the Sutra on the Middle Way, the Sutra on the Eight Realizations of the Great Beings and the sutra on Happiness.

    @smarino: I like Suzuki too, but no, I don't agree with your opinion on Thay.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited November 2016

    Call me by my True Names is my favorite poem of all time and it's very similar.

    @smarino, I actually find Suzuki and Thays manner very close as well as their insight. Heck, they even use the same stories such as the polishing of the tile.

    I would wager that Roshi Suzuki would be honored to be seen in the same light as Thich Nhat Hanh and vice versa.

    Also I think it's a stretch to say Thay radiated anger because he taught many to overcome it in the middle of a war zone.

    DhammaDragonKeromedhammachick
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Samsara Loop Veteran

    @David said:
    @smarino,
    I think it's a stretch to say Thay radiated anger because he taught many to overcome it in the middle of a war zone.

    He lost friends and family to war, and was hunted down by both sides, because both the American and the Vietcom suspected monks to be traitors.
    He narrowly escaped death himself.
    I bet any of us would be poisoned with hatred and anger given the circumstances.
    But he learned to get over them and teach the rest of the world how to deal with those emotions.
    He's an excellent teacher.

    David
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    I also think Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings occupy a very worthwhile spot in the modern pantheon of Buddhist teaching. From a modern western perspective Buddhism has accumulated a certain amount of ritual and superstitious-looking beliefs. If I were to talk to my neighbours about "wrathful deities" I'd get some very strange looks, for example, and even the doctrines of reincarnation and karma feel strange. Many secular people's world views these stop at the idea "death is the point of passing on to a better life".

    Thay's Buddhism feels clean, mindful and modern, and can bridge a gap for many Westerners between the secular materialist mindset people are used to and the more esoteric forms of Buddhism which many will feel are too far from a scientific basis.

    DhammaDragonDavidperson
  • @smarino said:
    I'm in the opposite camp,

    Tee hee!
    Me too. We iz bad, bad, Buddhists. :3

    Thay is a kindly, well meaning soul. I used to read his cliched platitudes, knowing they were the words of an enlightened being. Unfortunately to my consternation, when I went to see him I was confronted with a surprise.

    He was not awake. Neither were his senior students. All nice people, most certainly kind, well meaning.

    Buddhism is effective awakening - not just putting on more rose coloured spectacles.

    OK I will be in the naughty corner if anyone needs somone to slap. :p

    DhammaDragon
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @lobster said:> > He was not awake.

    How do you know that? What was your opinion based on?

  • @SpinyNorman said:

    @lobster said:> > He was not awake.

    How do you know that? What was your opinion based on?

    Discernment, awareness, spooky powers from practice ...

    What @karasti says is important.

    A teacher or nun may inspire and provide a base of transferred teaching, without the capacity of being awake or a direct force for realising ...

    When blissful and extraordinary states arise from your meditation, use them but do not cling to them. Concentration is a powerful step on the journey, one important way to quiet the mind, open the heart and discover freedom. The real blessing appears when we can bring the experiences of the transcendental to illuminate the miracle of the ordinary. Seeing with the eyes of wisdom allows us to reawaken to the secret beauty all around us.
    Ajahn Chah
    https://jackkornfield.com/training-psychic-ability/

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited November 2016

    @lobster said:
    What @karasti says is important.

    Yes, it is, but it is not what you are saying.

    By the way, the Ajan Chah quote sounds like something TNH might have said.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    @lobster said:

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @lobster said:> > He was not awake.

    How do you know that? What was your opinion based on?

    Discernment, awareness, spooky powers from practice ...

    Alrighty then.

  • ShimShim 1234 1234 Veteran

    @karasti said it all!

    I only have one little side note to add: one should never feel guilty over not "grokking" the teachings of famous Buddhist teachers like TNH, HHDL or the like. Sometimes it just doesn't work and it is not necessarily the fault of the teacher or the person.
    This comes from the keyboard of a former TNH enthusiast. :P (I have absolutely nothing against him, he seems to be a sweet, authentic Buddhist monk and his approach works for some people. I just wasn't one of them.)

    DhammaDragonlobster
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Samsara Loop Veteran

    Thay has a gift for making Buddhism extremely easy to understand, and his teachings on how to deal with complicated emotions have an immediate soothing effect on me.
    I agree with @SpinyNorman that not only that quote, but Ajan Chah's style in general is pretty close to Thay's.

    dhammachick
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @DhammaDragon said:
    I agree with @SpinyNorman that not only that quote, but Ajan Chah's style in general is pretty close to Thay's.

    I often wonder if Ajahn Chah was really a Zennie. ;)

    lobster
  • I've been hanging around a few groups over the years and for a few months joined a local TNH group last year.

    Although I didn't respond to his style, I nonetheless felt that he was on the other shore, in the same way that Eckhart Tolle is. It's just my impression from listening to the recordings. Other people in the group really loved his style and connected to it instantly.

    The group did a mindfulness eating exercise which I found so beneficial. We drank tea and ate a piece of cake and fruit. What I came to see from this is that the appreciation for cake is about the anticipation of eating it because oddly enough cake doesn't have as much flavour as I'd thought, and that the appreciation for fruit came during eating because that's where the flavour is. Just remembering this has helped me resist the temptations from the office cakes.

    As I think a core tenet of the teachings is to keep open heart to everyone, I recite TNH's translation of the Bodhisattva vow each morning in among the various Tibetan recitations. It helps me remember that each person is a teacher in their own way.

    karastiDhammaDragondhammachick
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited November 2016

    I see TNH as having the same problem that all personality cults have, and that is the sangha is all about him. Not because in this case he desires it that way, but because he's such a famous and loved Teacher that people who join his sangha tend to focus on him and want to become copies of him instead of being their own unique selves. And I'm not sure if I conveyed here that this is human nature and something that happens quite often.

    How many other leaders and teachers of his sangha can you name? When I just checked out the website, the only other person mentioned was the head nun and every message was from his mouth. To all purposes, he is the sangha. When he does die, who will step in and be the Master that people bow to? Who are the disciples that became enlightened Masters under this instruction?

    I deeply admire the man. He chopped off a lot of ritual and technical jargon baggage that had accumulated to Buddhism over the centuries and attempted to convey the simple Truth behind it. I'm just not certain how successful he was in the long run. People love those esoteric rituals.

    DhammaDragonKeromeShim
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    What would that type of success look like? When he dies, there will no doubt be people who fall away. But they missed the entire point of Buddhism then. I have wondered if they struggle to fill retreat space when he is not the teacher since his disability. But there will be others who discovered Buddhism through him and while they might consider him a teacher and learn from him, he is only one of several avenues that they explore and use in their practice. And if their practice brings them peace of mind, and leads them to compassion, then really we all win from that.

    DhammaDragonCinorjer
  • Well said @Cinorjer

    A teacher does not lullaby us to a kinder snooze but wakes us to the Buddha within. In effect making themselves redundant as quickly as possible.

    The human tendency is to follow the strong appearance that accords with ones expectations and reject the very means that may in fact be beneficial. Appearance based dharma is part of the outer form of the Sangha. Ritual enactment of virtue.

    The Mahasiddhas of Tantra (bad boy and gal Buddhas) are now part of a mythologoy they helped generate. Zenniths focus and transmit the core of awakening to those that stay the course.
    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/vajradhara-and-84-mahasiddhas.html

    Wake up first. Then transmit. Simple plan really.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited November 2016

    @Cinorjer said:
    I see TNH as having the same problem that all personality cults have, and that is the sangha is all about him. Not because in this case he desires it that way, but because he's such a famous and loved Teacher that people who join his sangha tend to focus on him and want to become copies of him instead of being their own unique selves.

    I was part of his sangha for years and I don't recognise this characterisation at all. Interbeing is certainly not a "personality cult".

    It's strange how people are so ready to criticise things they haven't personally experienced, it is patronising and rather snobbish.

    dhammachickDhammaDragon
  • @SpinyNorman said:

    @Cinorjer said:
    I see TNH as having the same problem that all personality cults have, and that is the sangha is all about him. Not because in this case he desires it that way, but because he's such a famous and loved Teacher that people who join his sangha tend to focus on him and want to become copies of him instead of being their own unique selves.

    I was part of his sangha for years and I don't recognise this characterisation at all. Interbeing is certainly not a "personality cult".

    It's strange how people are so ready to criticise things they haven't personally experienced, it is patronising and rather snobbish.

    Go to the website and point out where anyone else (except for the lead nun) has any words or praise or teachings mentioned. I'm not saying he's a bad teacher. He's a great man and teacher. But for all intents and purposes, he is the sangha. After all, he's the founder. Who is his heir? I can't find that information. People with charismatic leaders and founders always revolve around the beloved founder at first. Buddha had a personality cult at first.

    Upon the founder's death, the group will either transform into something bigger or in some cases, be unable to change. This seems to be a healthy sangha that will grow, but it's no snobbish or patronising attitude to state the obvious. Who are his disciples to carry on the teachings and where can I find some of their words?

  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie gal Sydney, Australia Veteran

    To be fair, it just a website you're basing your assumption from. If you haven't been involved in the sangha then your judgement is limited. If you want to know more about who's involved, then go to a sangha and see for yourself.

    DhammaDragon
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Samsara Loop Veteran

    I wonder why some people seem to be obssessed around the Thay persona -who, by the way is an impeccable human being- when his legacy is in his teachings.

    lobsterDeformeddhammachick
  • @DhammaDragon said:
    There is a practice carried out in Plum Village by Thich Nhat Hanh which is called "The Three Earth Touchings."
    It is intended to reconnect us with blood and spiritual ancestors by realizing that we are all interconnected beyond time and space.

    As I read it over every day as part of my Insight Meditation, I find that it also makes concepts such as compassion, empathy and dependent origination easier to grasp.
    I have copied the link for those who would like to read it whole, but I have transcribed the two that strike me the most:

    This text is beautiful and simple. I can see why people enjoy TNH's teachings. He's very big in the Vietnamese diaspora community which resulted from the war.

    It would be difficult to imagine that a man who has lived through war, interacted with soldiers, been ill for certain periods of his life and has reflected on death as part of his practice would not imagine his own mortality. We'll see when he dies what happens and whether a successor is in place.

    I had a think about the 'cult' perspective regarding TNH. I was with a group for 10 years that had a reputation of being a cult but I never felt like that. I met the leader and was decidedly underwhelmed. Everywhere the leader's name is cited, many books, talks etc. There is a successor in place but it's not on a website and it's not advertised to people who aren't associated with the community.

    I put it down to the fact that it takes a certain personality to start a group and to keep it going.

  • ^^. Thay's teachings are impeccable. His behavour is sanghafied (wot u mean - no such word) and that has value.

    For example someone who is kind is a teaching, just as a Trump is a teaching, if we have the capacity to learn. Meditation can be taught to you by a sniper trying to calm their breathing to be an effective killer, a cult leader, a populist, an enlightened being or a book from the library.

    Who will gain the fruits of meditation and awareness/mindfulness?
    You can lead a horse to water (but you can't make an ass sit on a cushion). So the important thing is not the horses mouth but the effect of what we drink.

    We have probably heard ot tile polishing:

    One day when Nangaku came to Baso’s hut, Baso stood up to receive him. Nangaku asked him, “What have you been doing recently?”
    
    Baso replied, “Recently I have been doing the practice of seated meditation exclusively.”
    
    Nangaku asked, “And what is the aim of your seated meditation?”
    
    Baso replied, “The aim of my seated meditation is to achieve Buddhahood.”
    
    Thereupon, Nangaku took a roof tile and began rubbing it on a rock near Baso’s hut.
    
    Baso, upon seeing this, asked him, “Reverend monk, what are you doing?”
    
    Nangaku replied, “I am polishing a roof tile.”
    
    Baso then asked, “What are you going to make by polishing a roof tile?”
    
    Nangaku replied, “I am polishing it to make a mirror.”
    
    Baso said, “How can you possibly make a mirror by rubbing a tile?”
    
    Nangaku replied, “How can you possibly make yourself into a Buddha by doing seated meditation?”
    

    http://dogenandtheshobogenzo.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/zazen-polishing-tile-to-make-mirror.html

    The difference between perfect words and skilful words is their effect. If a teacher is not awake, they can not be deemed effective.

  • Thanks @DhammaDragon! Needed this right now, and remember fondly of doing this at sangha.

    DhammaDragon
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie gal Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @lobster said:
    For example someone who is kind is a teaching, just as a Trump is a teaching, if we have the capacity to learn.

    Ouch. But a really deep truth my clawed friend <3
    _ /\ _

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @dhammachick said:
    To be fair, it just a website you're basing your assumption from. If you haven't been involved in the sangha then your judgement is limited. If you want to know more about who's involved, then go to a sangha and see for yourself.

    Absolutely. I've been involved in quite a number of different sanghas over the years, and they all have a different feel. The TNH people were a bit woolly, but also mindful and considerate, which is worth a lot.

    lobsterdhammachick
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