Practicing the art of mindful living and engaged Buddhism in the Plum Village tradition of Zen Master Thích Nhat Hanh
What is the Plum Village Tradition?
Plum Village in France is the first monastic practice center founded by Thich Nhat Hanh in the West. It is where Thich Nhat Hanh developed his iconic light and gentle style of mindfulness practice that is now familiar around the world.
Plum Village Mindfulness has four key features:
𑁍 Mindfulness as a way of life
While mindfulness is widely considered to be a method of stress relief, Thich Nhat Hanh has long taught that mindfulness is not a tool but a way of life. The Plum Village tradition uses the Five Mindfulness Trainings, a concrete expression of Buddhist teachings, to bring an ethical and spiritual dimension to decision making. Mindfulness is also applied to all aspects of life, including sitting, walking, eating, speaking, listening, emailing, and working.
𑁍 Community Building
At the heart of our tradition is our approach to community. We see that applying mindfulness to our daily life is not always easy. With the support of a spiritual community (or “Sangha”), the challenge can be lightened and it becomes possible both to transform our suffering and to cultivate joy and happiness. We can build community in workplaces, schools, and health care environments, and together bring positive change to society.
𑁍 Engaged Buddhism
Amidst the devastation of the Vietnam War, Thich Nhat Hanh and his colleagues found a way, with mindfulness, to actively help those most in need without losing their own spiritual practice. “Engaged Buddhism” was born—a practice that is engaged with the challenges of our time, and in which personal spiritual growth and service to society go hand in hand. Today, many thousands of people worldwide follow in Thich Nhat Hanh’s footsteps by practicing Engaged Buddhism.
𑁍 Monastic Community
Thich Nhat Hanh has established a monastic order that is dynamic, youthful, and engaged. It is also the largest Buddhist monastic community in the West. In Plum Village practice centers around the world, the monks and nuns create a peaceful, joyful, and healing environment where visitors can take refuge and immerse themselves in mindfulness practice. The monastics’ commitment to a life of simplicity, harmony, and spiritual training ensures that Thich Nhat Hanh’s living teachings will be carried far into the future.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings have their root in the Five Precepts offered by the Buddha. They have been expanded and updated so that they represent a way to bring mindfulness into every area of life. Rather than hard and fast rules, they offer us a framework to reflect on our actions, speech and thinking so we can create more happiness for ourself and for the world around us.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings are one of the most concrete ways to practice mindfulness. They are nonsectarian, and their nature is universal. They are true practices of compassion and understanding. All spiritual traditions have their equivalent to the Five Mindfulness Trainings.
The first training is to protect life, to decrease violence in oneself, in the family and in society. The second training is to practice social justice, generosity, not stealing and not exploiting other living beings. The third is the practice of responsible sexual behavior in order to protect individuals, couples, families and children. The fourth is the practice of deep listening and loving speech to restore communication and reconcile. The fifth is about mindful consumption, to help us not bring toxins and poisons into our body or mind.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings are based on the precepts developed during the time of the Buddha to be the foundation of practice for the entire lay practice community. [Thay has] translated these precepts for modern times, because mindfulness is at the foundation of each one of them. With mindfulness, we are aware of what is going on in our bodies, our feelings, our minds and the world, and we avoid doing harm to ourselves and others. Mindfulness protects us, our families and our society. When we are mindful, we can see that by refraining from doing one thing, we can prevent another thing from happening. We arrive at our own unique insight. It is not something imposed on us by an outside authority.
Practicing the mindfulness trainings, therefore, helps us be more calm and concentrated, and brings more insight and enlightenment.
The five mindfulness trainings can be found here.