Re-Envisioning the Practice

This morning, I watched a portion of a Dharma talk on YouTube, given by Brother Phap Dung in Plum Village on July 29th, 2018. It was entitled: The Power of Cutting Off and Letting Go. (Here’s the link if you’re interested.)

How timely that it happened to correspond well with the reading I’d done earlier this morning from our Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book.

Once a week, I read a different sutra from the chanting book. This morning I found myself reading the Discourse on the Dharma Seal, where it gives mention to the “three defiling qualities of mind – greed, hatred, and delusion.” Brother PD also spoke to this list in his talk, though he referred to them as the three afflictions and rephrased them a bit as: craving, anger, and ignorance.

He also spoke about the three virtues – also referred to as gauges – of a spiritual person and/or leader:

  1. Compassion
  2. Wisdom
  3. Freedom (or cutting off or cutting through)

Some things from the Brother’s talk that I scribed down while watching:

– We must re-envision our practice so that it includes all activities, not just certain ones or the ones we find pleasing; this is what Thay meant when he coined the phrase engaged Buddhism. (this is a paraphrase)

– “Be ordinary, don’t stick out. Don’t over-practice.” – Brother PD on the practice of washing the dishes

– “Buddhist practice is like medicine. It helps us, frees us, and then you don’t go holding on to it.”

– Sometimes, I wish I hadn’t met Thay and I think to myself: my life was so much easier before coming to this practice. So, you might want to go somewhere else (for spiritual practice), because in this practice tradition you have to look at things you might not want to look at. (paraphrase)


His words struck a chord in me when he spoke about re-envisioning the practice. To me, this teaching includes making sure to keep my practice fresh and alive. Finding new ways to interact and engage with the elements of mindfulness and concentration, so that my practice doesn’t become stale and stagnate. It’s all too easy to get caught in the form of the practice, thereby losing the spirit of it’s virtues and benefits.

Much like my cat in the pic above, who saw fit to re-envision how to sit upon one of our outdoor lounge chairs, it is up to each of us as diligent practitioners in the Plum Village Tradition, to re-envision how we utilize the practice in our everyday lives. If we regard it solely as something we do in a meditation center or on retreat or on our cushions or amid activities we deem pleasant and enjoyable, we are missing the true calling of Thay’s message regarding what it means to practice engaged Buddhism.

To realize the full potential and offering of this mindfulness tradition, we must enfold our practice into every single little thing that we do, with the deep understanding that there truly is no such thing as an insignificant moment.

And this, dear friends, is one of the things I love about Thay’s tradition. The applicability factor to every moment that comes our way.

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