We are a Buddhist group who follow the teachings of Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Master Thích Nhất Hạnh. You will often hear us refer to him as Thầy – pronounced ‘tie’ – which is Vietnamese for teacher. We sometimes drop the accents from the written forms of the names as they are so hard to find on a computer! Thầy has had a remarkable life you can read about in this short biography.
The form of Buddhism that Thầy teaches is highly accessible to people from other Buddhist schools as well as to people from other religions entirely. There is no reliance on ‘belief’. The emphasis is on practices that lead to relief of suffering in ourselves and in the wider world.
Here we give a brief outline of our practice so that people who want to come along to a meeting or retreat know what to expect – whether they are entirely new to Buddhism or have practiced in another school. If you would like to know more Thầy is a prolific and popular author as you can see from his page on Wikipedia or from the author’s page on Amazon.co.uk. There are many internet resources including a Thích Nhất Hạnh channel on YouTube. Thầy lives at Plum Village Meditation Practice Centre in the South of France.
Key to all Buddhist’s practice are the five Mindfulness Trainings (sometimes called the five precepts).
A Typical Evening
The Sangha often meets for an evening of practice together. It is useful to know the schedule for a typical evening although it may vary a little depending on who is facilitating. The different stages are punctuated by inviting the sound of the mindfulness bell and by short readings. If you are new to the practice just let the facilitator know and they will give a little extra guidance as to what will happen next although, because everything is done slowly and deliberately, you could probably follow along perfectly well without any instruction!
There are seven stages but the bulk of the evening is taken up with three forms of Meditation:
- Welcome and Introduction to the Evening
- Guided Meditation (about 20 minutes)
- Walking Meditation (about 15 minutes)
- Silent Meditation (about 20 minutes)
- Sharing (about 20 minutes)
- Sharing the Merit (10 minutes)
- Announcement and Close
The Most Important Things For Beginners
- Please enjoy your practice.
- Don’t worry about finding meditating difficult.
- Don’t worry about what others might think. They are practicing being kind and compassionate! You are amongst friends.
- If you think you will be uncomfortable sitting on a cushion then please join the others on a chair.
- If you find yourself in pain with sitting still for an extended period then move but move slowly and deliberately so as to keep your mind on what you are doing and don’t disturb others. Ask yourself whether your body needs to move (relief of suffering) or whether your mind just wants to move your body (fidgeting).
- Do not hesitate to ask questions at the end of the session if you need advice. If the person you ask cannot answer you fully, he or she can refer you to someone who can help, or perhaps written material, whatever is appropriate.