Transcript of Thich Nhat Hanh’s talk to the OI members at Deer Park on February 5, 2004
This week many OI members chose to be here for the winter retreat and it’s been a great joy to be together with other OI members at this retreat. We just wanted to come and, if you were available, sit with you. If you have something you’d like to say to Order members, we’d love to hear it. If OI members have something to say, they can. If not, it will be a good time where we can sit and smile to each other.
TNH: I was thinking of the Tiep Hien Order without a leader. It is like a bee hive without a leader. This is possible. There is no elder. We do not need an elder in order to give orders. We can operate like the neurons in the brain or the ants in the ant hill. It is perfectly possible, provided we have a very good network of communication. If we have good communication, that is enough. The bees they have their way to communicate. The ants also. We have many more facilities. If communication is there, then any group of brothers or sisters can start a project. And everyone will observe them and everyone will come and help, just like the termites the termites: when they see something going on, they are excited, they communicate more, they come, and they help build the colonies. This is possible. It is a very exciting kind of perspective. In the past we elected a leadership, but I dont think that we need it. We need something like a coordinating committee in order to get the information to flow, back and forth. And anyone in the order profits from the wisdom of everyone. And everyone can learn from the mistake of everyone. Therefore, anything can be helpful.
There is a lot of Dharma talk in the air and there is a lot of air in the Dharma talk.
Today is 22 August 2001 in Deer Park Monastery.
There is a sutra with the title Yasoja – that’s the name of a monk, the Sangha leader. This sutra, Udanakarmad is found in the collection called Udana, Inspired Sayings.
Yasoja was a Sangha leader of a community of monks, about 500. One day he led the 500 monks to the place where the Buddha lived, hoping that they could join the three-month retreat with the Buddha. It was about ten days before the retreat began and they arrived very joyfully, thinking that they would see the Buddha and the other monks. There were lots of greetings, lots of talking and from his hut the Buddha heard the loud noise. He asked Ananda, “What is that noise? It sounds like fishermen landing a catch of fish.” Ananda said that the Venerable Yasoja had come with 500 monks and they were greeting and talking with the resident monks, which was why there was such a great noise.
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.
The first time I tasted peanut butter cookies, I was at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in California, and I loved them! I learned that to make peanut butter cookies, you mix the ingredients to prepare the batter, and then you put each cookie onto a cookie sheet using a spoon. I imagined that the moment each cookie leaves the bowl of dough and is placed on the tray it begins to think of itself as separate. You, the creator of the cookies, know better, and you have a lot of compassion for them. You know that they are originally all one, and that even now, the happiness of each cookie is still the happiness of all the other cookies. But they have developed “discriminate perception”, and suddenly they set up barriers between themselves. When you put them in the oven, they begin to talk to each other:
“Get of my way.”
“I want to be in the middle.”
“I am brown and beautiful and you are ugly!”
“Can’t you please spread a little in that direction?”
We have the tendency to behave this way also, and it causes a lot of suffering. If we know how to touch our non-discriminating mind, our happiness and the happiness of others will increase manifold.