September 24 The Five Mindfulness Trainings


Mary will facilitate.  She shares:

The last Monday of each month, after sitting and walking meditations, we recite the Five Mindfulness trainings. The Five Mindfulness Trainings were adapted and updated by Thich Nhat Hanh based on the five precepts for lay people created during Buddha's time. 

Below is an excerpt from Thich Nhat Hahn's book Happiness: Essential MindfulnessPractices. 

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 onc-self, 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. I have 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.

-Thich Nhat Hanh, Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices (2009)

In an interview with Thich Nhat Hahn conducted by Andrea Miller and published in Lion's Roar in January of 2013, he elaborates on the 5 Mindfulness Trainings:

"You created the five mindfulness trainings to be a distillation of four noble truths and the noble eightfold path. Can we talk a little about the five mindfulness trainings?

The first one is about protecting life and is motivated by the insight of interbeing and compassion. The second is about true happiness. True happiness is not made of fame, power, wealth, or sensual pleasure, but rather it's made of understanding and love. You don't need to run into the future to look for happiness. The capacity to live in the here and the now allows you to recognize so many conditions of happiness.

What about true love, the third mindfulness training?

Love and sexual desire-they are two different things. Sexual desire without mindfulness and compassion can cause a lot of suffering for you and for the other person. But true love always brings joy and happiness. According to this practice, sexual activity should not take place without love, understanding, and a deep commitment made known to friends and family. True love will not create suffering because it is based on the insight of interbeing. Your suffering is his suffering; her happiness is your happiness. So there's no longer any discrimination-harmony is possible, and fear and anger are not possible anymore.

Then the fourth mindfulness training is about compassionate listening and loving speech.

It has the power to restore communication and to bring reconciliation. If you learn how to practice the fourth mindfulness training, you can end relationship difficulties that may have lasted several years in just a few days of practice. You can bring back harmony, mutual understanding, and happiness. Then the fifth mindfulness training is about right consumption. Many people consume because they want to cover up the suffering inside. They don't need to eat but they eat in order to get rid of loneliness, depression, or despair. They read magazines, they go to the internet, they play music, they drive their car-all just to cover up and run away from their suffering. But by consuming these things, they bring more toxins, more violence, and more craving into themselves. In Buddhism the practice is to take care of your own suffering. If you understand your suffering, you will understand the suffering of the other person more easily. When you understand the suffering of the other person, you are not angry at him or her anymore, and you try to do or say something to help him or her suffer less. That means recognizing the suffering in the other person helps compassion to arise in you, and when there is compassion in your heart you don't suffer anymore. Instead, you try to help. Right consumption can help your family, your society. Right consumption can preserve the earth.

I understand that your international sangha is working to bring the practice of mindfulness into schools.

It is possible to bring this kind of practice into schools of each level. You don't have to use Buddhist terms. Maybe each week there is one hour of global ethics taught and every day teachers and students learn concrete things like how to breathe, how to relax, how to release the tension in their bodies. If teachers and students know how to breathe and walk in such a way that can help them be in the present moment, they will learn to appreciate the many conditions of happiness that they have. They will appreciate peace-not having to run under bombs-and they will appreciate not having to go ten miles to fetch water for drinking. There are so many conditions of happiness: going to school, evenings at home, family, having something to eat and a house to live in. Many children in the world don't have these things, so breathing and walking not only help the students to release tension, but they also help students to recognize the conditions of happiness that they have. This is the teaching of the Buddha: It is possible to live happily in the present moment. Teachers can train themselves to live like that, in order to help students to live like that. In Plum Village we have been training schoolteachers in many countries to do this work. We hope to bring the five mindfulness trainings into schools, not in terms of theory, but in practice. Now in Bhutan there is a course given to schoolteachers all over the country, training them to bring this practice into schools. In California we have talked with Governor Brown about this and he said that we will have to begin with a few schools first, so he asked us to train the teachers in two schools in Northern California. Then later, after publishing the results, we might make a proposal so that other schools can adopt the practice.

How does your sangha work with the five mindfulness trainings?

Every two weeks we come together to recite the five trainings and discuss how to better apply them into our daily life. This kind of practice can help reduce suffering very quickly and bring more happiness."

For the dharma discussion, we will focus on our personal experience with practicing these trainings. 

Can we cite examples in our lives where they have served as practical guides to finding greater ease, understanding and joy in our relationships? 

I look forward to being with you on Monday evening!