Sr Thuận Nghiêm talked about the Upajjhatthana Sutta (Subjects for Contemplation) otherwise known as the Five Remembrances during the Spring Retreat. :: link
1. I am of the nature to grow old, I cannot escape old age.
Plum trees need to be trimmed so that their sap energy does not get dispersed into growing lots of branches and leaves, but instead can be directed to produce more fruits. We are the same, with the practices of mindfulness, we can grow old beautifully, bearing many fruits of happiness and peace. Who are our role models for growing old gracefully? Thầy, Sr Chân Không, Sr Chân Đức can be our source of inspiration for how to age with wisdom and beauty.
2. I am of the nature to get sick, I cannot escape sickness.
The Buddha taught that sickness comes from the way we consume and what we consume through edible food, sense impressions, volition, and collective consciousness. How is your consumption in daily life affecting your body and mind? Depression and loneliness are very prevalent in our society now. Fostering a community connection can alleviate these maladies because it brings the warmth of being in a family. Eating a vegetarian diet, organic food, meditation, exercise, relaxation and friendship are other important factors in the healing process.
3. I am of the nature to die, I cannot escape death.
We can remember the fact that each day that passes we have one day less to live, so we can do and say things to appreciate and cherish our loved one’s presence. When our parents have passed away, instead of regretting and lamenting their loss we can contemplate on what aspirations they had and we can continue to realize it for them. This is one way we continue them. How can we overcome feelings of resentment towards a loved one before they die? Try to look at the positive things they have done, and see the bigger picture, or the conditions that have made them the way they are.
4. All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
Life can be full of unexpected events, earth quake, tsunami, people we live with can die the next day. Do we take time to recognize the preciousness of our relationships?
5. I inherit the results of my actions of body, speech, and mind. My actions are my continuation. The echo in the mountains is our life. What we give out through the three actions of body, speech and mind comes back to us, even very little things in our thinking. If we have received positive things from a good environment, like a sangha, then we are more inspired to give back positively by sharing our peace and joy to others.
Here's a moving article from Sr Tam Muoi, recently shared by Plum Village. It is such a beautiful and honest account of taking care of her elderly parents during the pandemic - the difficulties, the joys and the many aspects of our practice that have supported her.
We can embrace all of our feelings, even difficult ones like anger. Anger is a fire burning inside us, filling our whole being with smoke. When we are angry, we need to calm ourselves: "Breathing in, I calm my anger. Breathing out, I take care of my anger." As soon as a mother takes her crying baby into her arms, the baby already feels some relief. When we embrace our anger with Right Mindfulness, we suffer less right away.
- Thich Nhat Hanh
Last night four of us gathered via Zoom - one person who has been a member of the sangha for nearly 20 years, another for 7 and a new person. The format for the meeting was the one we have been following for almost a year. We started with a quick check in - 'internal weather, external weather', followed by a guided mindfulness meditation. Then time for walking (or sitting quietly or tea-drinking meditation). Then guided Metta meditation and, finally, the opportunity for speaking from the heart.
It's a troubling time just now - in the world and in people's lives. So we were grateful to share a time of peace, friendship and tranquility, bringing us back to our True Home.
We started the evening with a quick check in, then listened to the introduction to Thich Nhat Hanh's book about Pureland Buddhism: 'Finding Our True Home', followed by silent sitting or chanting, as each participant preferred. This was followed by a reading of Thay's translation from the Chinese of the Smaller Amitabha Sutra. Following this we had the opportunity to take turns sharing from the heart.
This work contains the sayings of Shinran (1173-1263), the founder of Jodo Shinshu or Shin Buddhism, which claims the largest following in Japanese Buddhism. Compiled several decades after his death by a disciple named Yui-en, this work consists of 18 sections. The first ten sections are the words of Shinran as remembered by Yui-en, and the next eight, preceded by a special preface, contains points of controversy current among the followers of Shinran. The prologue and epilogue to the 18 sections were written by Yui-en about whom little is known historically.
The Tannisho is one of the most widely read works in Japanese Buddhism, known not only as a religious but literary classic. It is impossible to translate such a work into English adequately and fully, but I have attempted to transmit some sense of its flowing style, religious content, and spiritual flavor. Among those who have guided me in my enterprise, I should like to gratefully acknowledge the comments and suggestions offered by two late teachers, Yoshifumi Ueda and Masao Hanada, whose words remain a constant source of inspiration.
Northampton, Massachusetts January 1, 1996
In reflecting upon my foolish thoughts and thinking of the past and present, I deeply regret that there are views deviating from the true entrusting (shinjin) which was taught orally by our late master, and I fear that doubts and confusions
The website began its life in 2000 under the title Notes on the Nembutsu. Its purpose is to celebrate, as well as possible, the Hymns of Shinran. Shinran is the founder of the great Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism.
The hymns form a part of daily observances and are sung in Jodo Shinshu temples and homes, but they commonly also provide the basis for Dharma talks, as they do here.
The original reason for developing this website as a series of essays on each of Shinran's hymns was with a view to encouraging other fellow-Australians to consider Jodo Shinshu for themselves. But the website has had a very broad readership around the world and continues to do so.
“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
The Tree of Life is used in art, literature, and religion to illustrate the concept of interconnectedness within our universe. It is a timeless symbol of our connections to everything around us, and a powerful reminder that our own happiness and health are inextricably intertwined with the happiness and health of all living things. The Tree of Life appears in many different cultures under many different names, but here is a look at three defining features of this legendary icon:
The individual leaves depicted on the Tree of Life represent the uniqueness of all earthly creations, including ourselves. Like the leaves of a tree, we are all different shapes, colors, and textures, yet the Tree of Life reminds us that we can coexist peacefully.
The branches reaching outwards represent our human need for expression- in arts, science, and spirituality, among other outlets. In this way, the Tree of Life is also symbolic of our potential to improve and expand our notions of the human condition through compassionate action (literally reaching out our hands and arms).
Above all else, the trunk and roots are the anchoring image of the Tree of Life. The solid trunk is a symbol of strength, a place we can always return and remember what we are made of, while the roots remind us not only where we originate and to stay grounded, but also imply that our actions in this life have deep meaning, even if we cannot see it right away.
The Tree of Life can also serve simply as a sign of inner strength in all that you do.
Traveling from several provinces across the heavily logged Cambodian landscape, two dozen Buddhist monks met at a local pagoda last October to attend a workshop held by The Alliance of Religions and Conservation. For Cambodia’s emerging network of “ecology monks” working in an increasingly authoritarian climate, the meeting was a critical and rare opportunity to discuss best practices for local conservation projects. And then two cops showed up and shut it down.
“They’re very wary of the monks getting together,” Chantal Elkin, a program manager for The Alliance of Religions and Conservation, told Sojourners. “Forest activism is [seen as] a threat to the government.”
Several of the monks were visibly upset, Elkin said.
Though traditionally revered in Cambodia’s majority-Buddhist society, monks today are not immune to the government’s crackdown on civil society actors. But where efforts at civic organization meet rebuke, Cambodia has seen the rise of one act of conservation — the holy ordination of trees — which originally emerged in Thailand and has risen in practice under the auspices of the Buddhist faith.
The most venerable of the group took the two officers, local cops not antagonistic to the meeting but seemingly following orders, up the hill where the group ordained a tree into the Buddhist faith, and then dispersed.
The Tree of Life symbol is commonly depicted as a large tree with roots that spread inward to the ground, and branches that spread outward to the sky. This represents the interconnected nature of all things in the universe; an eternal bonding of the physical realm we are rooted in and the spiritual realm. The Tree of Life serves as a reminder of our universal connection to the Mother Earth, and our dependence on her to grow and flourish.
The tree changes with the seasons. During autumn and winter, many trees will enter a hibernation phase and lose their leaves. Come springtime trees will slowly awaken. Tiny buds appear and grow. Similarly, our lives can experience seasons of darkness and light, death and rebirth. The Tree of Life symbol represents rebirth and new beginnings.
We often use the term ‘family tree’ in relation to our ancestry. The Tree of Life symbol represents a connection to our human family, these shared roots linking us to our past and future generations.
We appreciate our place as part of the family of our beloved planet, all her creatures of earth, sky and water, the mountains, forests and seas. May we treat all as beloved siblings.
It also symbolises our connection with the sangha - reaching forward from the beginnings and on to the future. And branches spreading wide, connecting us to the worldwide sangha in the present day. The life of a tree can be seen to symbolise the growth of family and sangha.
The Tree of Life symbol represents our personal development as we practice together. Just as the branches of a tree strengthen and grow upwards to the sky, we too grow stronger as we move through life. All trees begin life in the same way, yet as they grow older, they weather nature’s forces and develop in their own unique ways.
The Bo tree, also called Bodhi tree, according to Buddhist tradition, is the pipal (Ficus religiosa) under which the Buddha sat when he attained Enlightenment (Bodhi) at Bodh Gaya (near Gaya, west-central Bihar state, India). A living pipal at Anuradhapura, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), is said to have grown from a cutting from the Bo tree sent to that city by King Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE.
According to Tibetan tradition when Buddha went to the holy Lake Manasorovar along with 500 monks, he took with him the energy of Prayaga Raj. Upon his arrival, he installed the energy of Prayaga Raj near Lake Manasorovar, at a place now known as Prayang. Then he planted the seed of this eternal banyan tree next to Mt. Kailash on a mountain known as the "Palace of Medicine Buddha".
Kalpavriksha: In Buddhism a small wish granting tree is depicted decorating the upper part of the "long-life vase" held by "longevity deities" like Amitayus and Ushnishavijaya. The goddess Shramana devi holds jeweled branch of Kalpavriksha in her left hand
Worship of the Nyagrodha tree as a form of non-human worship is depicted in a Buddhist sculpture at Besnagar.This sculpture in Besnagar, also known as Vidisa (Bhilsa), is dated to third century BC and is exhibited in the Calcutta Museum.
In Myanmar, where Theravada Buddhism is practiced, the significance of the Kalpavriksha is in the form of an annual ritual known as Kathina (presenting a robe) in which the laity present gifts to the monks in the form of money trees.At the kingdom of Ketumati's front gates, it is thought four Kalpavrikshas will spring up from the Earth and provide enough valuables to satisfy all of Jambudvīpa for years.