Brother Bo De: I’m still working with how to maintain your freedom, especially around many beautiful women.
I see that men can have this difficulty. We can suffer a lot when we want to be around many beautiful women, but we can’t get their attention. So we suffer from our jealousy when someone else gets the attention from other women. We feel our freedom is not there. It’s not present.
From my experience, I have mental formations that arise over women. But I have an aspiration to see all these women as my sisters and see them as little girls. If I look deeply and see the pain and the sufferings, as well as the aspiration to be free, then I no longer want to look at any of these sisters whom I call little girls with eyes of attachment or desire. To do that, I lose all of my freedom.
To look with compassion and love brings me the greatest happiness. Every time I look with love and compassion and I see them as my little sister, I’m connected with you at a very deeper level and I no longer suffer from jealousy or desire. When love is there, freedom is possible. To understand others, my brothers and sisters from all around the world, and look into their eyes is to love them. And to love is to be free. If you want freedom, then it takes time to acquire freedom.
I take time to love others even though it will make us suffer. Of course, we have to love ourselves. I could love others, but I didn’t love myself. To love myself, I just take my time. When I suffer I take care of my suffering. If I have no freedom, then I practice to get my freedom back. I just sit and do nothing. I breathe and I stay there. I drink a cup of hot water or tea and I feel great. If I can do that, then I have some freedom.
If I can breathe and walk, be mindful of the nature and the people around me, and I look at everyone and smile with compassion. I’m a free man and no one can stop me. In looking at beautiful women, I picture them as little girls in front of me. Little girls who still crave a little candy bar or sit on a mother’s lap and embraced by their fathers’ arms. And I no longer want to destroy their freedom by becoming attached to them.
Overall I say that love is freedom. Freedom is love.
Brother Tinh Tru: When we come to a [Plum Village practice center] to understand the practice of understanding and love we share, like what our previous brother shared, we first we want to find ourselves a path that bring us happiness and joy; to somehow find a way out of suffering, whether it’s in terms of relationship suffering, society suffering, or just suffering, that comes from the inside with all the worries and sadness transmitted to us by our ancestors or even our father and mother.
We want to give us a gift: the gift of being present, joyful, and to live life to the fullest. We tend to run after something that we think happiness will bring in the future, but it’s in the right here, right now. By coming to a [Plum Village practice center], you learn the path of concentration, mindfulness and insight so you can help yourself to keep an energy that help your thinking speech and action to go in the right way so you don’t cause suffering to your friends and family and anyone you meet in life.
You have the foundation so that when you come back home, you have the love and understanding for your friends because they don’t have the conditions to be in [Plum Village practice center] like you are. They might be busy and their conditions are not sufficient to come and flow as a river to practice.
But you have. This is the good condition that has been built up by many generations to give you a chance to come to a [Plum Village practice center]. By understanding that, following the practice, and feeling joy and happiness and stability in your heart, carry that with you when you come home. We are here as a collective energy that has helped you to open up your heart. It doesn’t mean that when you leave the [Plum Village practice center], we don’t come with you. It’s just a form that’s here to help you see yourself. When you come back home, use that inner awakening to help you get out of your difficulties and interact with your friend. If you can be mindful of the way you talk and act, your friend will see that from you. Sometimes, you don’t have to say much.
It’s like a big tree in a forest that has a very wide range of branches. On a summer day, when you sit under that tree, you feel light, calm and at ease. So it’s the same thing. The more you practice, the more mindful and peaceful energy comes from inside of you. Suddenly your friends will feel that from you. Sometimes they are busy and they suffer from the path that they chose, but when they see you, they see you on a different path.
A very fresh water, fresh air that they can breathe from, and they will suddenly want to come with you without any force. Sometimes by you forcing on people, they react and you give up your strength. But help yourself and give yourself a gift of a foundation. Start small, and the more you practice, the more you live a mindful life and people around you will be nourished by you. Even though you don’t see us anymore, we are within you. We are your practice, your breathing. Give it time and patience. We are there for you.
Transcribed from a Questions & Answers panel with monastics during a Wake Up retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery in June 2015
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