You Are Like A Cloud

You Are Like A Cloud

Discussion date: Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

Thich Nhat Hanh, during the recent 21-day “Science of the Buddha” retreat at Plum Village, presented the insights of the Buddhist tradition as in accord with the deepest thinking in Western science and philosophy.

This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will watch another segment from Thich Nhat Hanh’s June 3rd talk on Right View. The question he addresses is “What is our true nature as humans?" Like a cloud or a flower, we are touched by all that is. We are always changing, always reshaping ourselves and the world. Like matter and energy, we can be transformed, but we cannot be destroyed.

This way of looking at our human reality, as I let it in, reworks my understanding of my life and my death. It gives new meaning to each thought, word, and physical action.

We hope you can join us for our sitting, the video, and our Dharma discussion. Excerpts from the segment we will be watching are below.

Many blessings,

Mitchell Ratner


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Coming Home to Ourselves: A Day of Practice. Sunday, July 29, at Blueberry Gardens in Ashton, Maryland.

"You Are Like A Cloud" from a Dharma Talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on July 3, 2012, in Plum Village, France.

What is the definition of a human being? In Buddhism we say that we are made of our own action. The French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre said something very close. He said that “L’homme est la somme de ses actes.” “Man is the totality of his actions.” Action here has three aspects: producing thought, producing speech, and producing physical action. In Buddhism, the word for action is karma. When you produce a thought, that is already action. A thought of hate, of despair, can lead us to committing suicide or killing another person. A thought of compassion and nondiscrimination can begin to heal us and heal the world. That is the first kind of action, just thinking. A good practitioner is capable of producing many thoughts like that during the day. Thoughts of nondiscrimination, thoughts of compassion, forgiveness, that will help heal him or her and heal the world. . . .

Every time we produce a thought, that thought can have an effect right away on us, in the here and the now. It can affect the world in which we live, right away, in the here and the now. And also continue to have effect later on. After we have produced a thought, or a speech, that will be our continuation. Because we are made of our actions.

Nothing is lost. We agree with Lavoisier that nothing is lost. The first law of thermodynamics is that. You cannot create matter; you cannot destroy matter. You cannot create energy; you cannot make energy disappear. As far as matter and energy are concerned, there is no birth and no death, only transformation. To transfer energy is possible. But to make energy or matter disappear is impossible.

When you produce a thought, a speech, or an action, all of these are your continuation. And when this body of yours disintegrates, you continue always, because it is impossible for you to die. You are like a cloud. You cannot pass from the realm of nonbeing to the realm of being. You cannot pass from the realm of being to the realm of nonbeing. You are like a cloud. Your nature is the nature of no birth and no death. You cannot be described in terms of being and nonbeing. You transcend that.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Jul 19, 2012