New series on the app: The 40 tenets of Plum Village with Brother Phap Luu

The 40 Tenets of Plum Village is a new series of in-depth video teachings on the Plum Village App. It is based on an ongoing weekly class run by Dharma teacher Brother Phap Luu, which is being live-streamed from Deer Park Monastery, California throughout 2021. 

Each class discusses a new tenet – a principle that Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village community developed through insight into applied Buddhist teachings – and lasts around an hour. You can join the remaining classes live – which usually take place on Wednesday nights, US Pacific Daylight Time –  by setting upcoming-event reminders on the Monastery’s YouTube channel. Alternatively, watch them subsequently on YouTube or the Plum Village App.

The class is based on the book Làng Mai nhìn núi Thứu – or Plum Village Looks at Vulture’s Peak (an English translation is currently being prepared). Written by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, it describes the essential characteristics of Plum Village practice and teachings.

A tenet is a principle that we realize through our insight into lived experience, something we see that nourishes our capacity to touch the unconditioned. It is not a dogma, and we should not get attached to the wording. Thay lays out the whole of the path of liberation in these tenets. The tenets are concise; with study and practice each one expands out to touch every facet of the teachings of awakening. Learning the tenets can serve as a mnemonic to help us to practice in difficult moments.

Brother Phap Luu

The 40 Tenets: a short history 

In the early 90s, Thich Nhat Hanh taught many courses on the history of Buddhist thought, and discussed the different tenets of the twenty-plus different early Buddhist schools. These teachings gave an overview of the history of Buddhist thought.

The 40 Tenets formulated by Thay were taught by him in Plum Village during retreats over 2006 and 2007. They are his attempt to identify and define the teachings that are learned, maintained, and transmitted in Plum Village, and their relationship to the various paths in the history of Buddhism. They result from his and the Plum Village community’s study and practice of Buddhist teachings and methods, and of their deep looking into the evolution of the various Buddhist schools.

These tenets serve as the foundation for the Plum Village teachings and practices.

It is possible that our way of looking today will change in order to adapt to a deeper and more relevant way of looking tomorrow. In being faithful to the open and undogmatic stance of Buddhism, Plum Village always holds the door wide open for change, and so never has a rigid and dogmatic attitude that only its way of seeing things is right. This way of looking is practiced regularly in order to remove the obstacle of knowledge (jñeyāvarana), and always to have the opportunity to go forward

Thich Nhat Hanh

The 40 Tenets

Below are the English translations of the tenets themselves, initially published on the Order of Interbeing website:

1. Space is not an un­con­di­tioned dhar­ma. It man­ifests to­geth­er with time, mat­ter, and consciousness. 

2. In the his­tor­i­cal di­men­sion, every dhar­ma is a condi­tioned dhar­ma. In the ul­ti­mate di­men­sion, every dhar­ma is an un­con­di­tioned dhar­ma.  

3. Nirvāṇa is the ab­sence of ig­no­rance (avidyā) and the af­flic­tions (kleśa), but not the ab­sence of the ag­gre­gates (skand­ha), sense spheres (āy­atana), and do­mains of ex­is­tence (dhā­tu)  

4. Nir­vāṇa is nir­vāṇa. There does not need to be a nir­vāṇa with residue (sopādiśeṣa) or with­out residue (anupādiśeṣa).  

5. It is pos­si­ble to touch nirvāṇa in the present moment.  

6. Nirvāṇa is not a phe­nomenon, but the true na­ture of all phe­nom­e­na.  

7. Not-born means nirvāṇa and is the awak­en­ing to the truth of the death­less, the no-com­ing and no-going, the not-the-same and not-dif­fer­ent, the not being and not non-be­ing.  

8. The con­cen­tra­tions on emptiness, sign­less­ness, and aim­less­ness help us to touch nirvāṇa and the unconditioned.  

9. The Three Dhar­ma Seals are: im­per­ma­nence, non-self, and nirvāṇa. We can up­hold Four Dhar­ma Seals or Five Dhar­ma Seals on one con­di­tion: that they in­clude nirvāṇa.  

10. The ba­sic con­cen­tra­tions (samād­hi) are the concentrations on im­per­ma­nence, no-self, and nirvāṇa. 

11. Mind­ful­ness, con­cen­tra­tion, and in­sight are the essen­tial prac­tices that give rise to lib­er­a­tion. 

12. Pre­cepts are mind­ful­ness. (Śīla is smṛti.) Pre­cepts and mind­ful man­ners are con­crete ex­pres­sions of mind­ful­ness.  

13. Right dili­gence is mind­ful­ness train­ing (moral­i­ty, śīla), and there­fore is also mind­ful­ness.  

14. Mind­ful­ness, con­cen­tra­tion, and in­sight in­clude each oth­er. All three have the ca­pac­i­ty to bring joy, hap­pi­ness, and lib­er­a­tion.  

15. The aware­ness of suf­fer­ing helps us rec­og­nize the ex­ist­ing con­di­tions of hap­pi­ness, and also helps pre­vent the cre­ation of wrong ac­tions and the plant­i­ng of neg­a­tive seeds that will bring about suffer­ing.  

16. The Four No­ble Truths are all con­di­tioned. The Four No­ble Truths are all un­con­di­tioned. 

17. The Third No­ble Truth can be called the truth of hap­pi­ness.  

18. Free will is pos­si­ble thanks to the Three Train­ings. 

19. You should learn to see the Sec­ond No­ble Truth as the path of the eight wrong prac­tices. The deep cause of ill-be­ing is not only de­sire.  

20. A real Ara­hat is also a Bod­hisatt­va and a real Bodhisattva is also an Ara­hat.  

21. As a hu­man be­ing, you have the ca­pac­i­ty to become a Bud­dha. As a Bud­dha, you con­tin­ue to be a hu­man be­ing. That is why nu­mer­ous Bud­dhas are pos­si­ble.  

22. The Bud­dha has many bod­ies: the body of a liv­ing be­ing, the Dhar­ma body, the body out­side of the body, the Sang­ha body, the con­tin­u­a­tion body, the Dhar­ma-realm body, and the true na­ture of the Dhar­ma-realm body. Since hu­man be­ings can become Bud­dha, they also have all these bod­ies. 

23. We can talk of a per­son as a con­tin­u­ous and ever-chang­ing stream of five ag­gre­gates. This stream is al­ways flow­ing. It is connected to, re­ceives from, and con­tributes to oth­er streams of phenomena. We can­not speak of a per­son as an un­chang­ing and per­ma­nent sep­a­rate self.  

24. We can only un­der­stand the real teach­ing of rebirth (sam­sāra) in the light of im­per­ma­nence, no-self, and in­ter­be­ing.  

25. Hap­pi­ness and suf­fer­ing in­ter-are. Af­flic­tion and en­light­en­ment are both of an or­gan­ic na­ture. 

26. The Sang­ha body, the Bud­dha body and the Dharma body in­ter-are. In a true Sang­ha, you can find the true Bud­dha and the true Dhar­ma.  

27. Since the af­flic­tions (kleśa) and the awak­en­ing (bod­hi) are of an or­gan­ic na­ture, the prac­tice needs to be con­stant in or­der for trans­for­ma­tion to continue and for re­gres­sion to not take place. Sam­sāra is a con­tin­u­a­tion and the beau­ti­ful and whole­some things need to be con­tin­ued for as long as pos­si­ble, while the not-beau­ti­ful and un­whole­some need to be trans­formed so that they do not con­tin­ue. The com­post has to be used to nour­ish the flow­ers.  

28. Lib­er­a­tion from sam­sāra does not mean putting an end to the per­son­al self (pudgala), be­cause that per­son is not a real en­ti­ty any­way. Nor does it mean putting an end to the pre­cepts’ body and the spir­itu­al life. 

29. Birth and death are only man­i­fes­ta­tion or non-man­i­fes­ta­tion. Both man­i­festor and man­i­fest­ed occur at the same time; the man­i­fes­ta­tion of one thing is the non-man­i­fes­ta­tion of some­thing else.  

30. A dhar­ma is not a thing, an en­ti­ty, but a process, an event, and above all an ob­ject of mind.  

31. Ret­ribution con­sists of both body-mind and en­viron­ment, and is both in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive. This land is the Sahā land for liv­ing be­ings, but Pure Land for Bud­dhas and Bod­hisattvas.  

32. There is no self but still there is the cy­cle of birth and death; there is in­ter-con­tin­u­a­tion and the nature of all in­ter-con­tin­u­a­tion is in­ter­be­ing.  

33. On the one hand, each gen­er­a­tion of Bud­dhist prac­ti­tion­ers has to re­sist the hu­man ten­den­cy and need to make the Bud­dha di­vine, and has to try to find a prin­ci­ple to take the place of a self.  

34. Store con­scious­ness has the ca­pac­i­ty for learn­ing, stor­ing, pro­tect­ing, re­spond­ing, nour­ish­ing, heal­ing, and con­tin­u­ing. Its func­tion is to es­tab­lish a database of the un­con­scious habits of re­sponse to situations, making it pos­si­ble for a hu­man be­ing to act on ‘auto-pi­lot’.  

35. Man­as has a ten­den­cy to seek se­cu­ri­ty and long-last­ing plea­sure. It is ig­no­rant of the law of mod­er­a­tion, the dan­ger of plea­sure-seek­ing, and the good­ness of suf­fer­ing. It does not see the ne­ces­si­ty of in­sight into im­per­ma­nence, non-self, in­ter-being, com­pas­sion, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.  

36. With the prac­tice of mind­ful­ness, con­cen­tra­tion, and in­sight, mind con­scious­ness can learn and down­load its in­sights to store con­scious­ness, leaving it to do the work of mat­ura­tion, before manifesting the seeds of wis­dom that are al­ready in­nate in store con­scious­ness. 

37. The ba­sic prac­tice of Source Bud­dhism is the Four Do­mains of Mind­ful­ness, which have the func­tion of rec­og­nizing and trans­forming habit en­er­gies and fully re­al­izing the Sev­en Fac­tors of En­light­en­ment and the No­ble Eight­fold Path. The Mahāyā­na prac­tice of med­i­ta­tion, in­clud­ing the Zen of the pa­tri­archs, needs to go back to take a bath in Source Bud­dhism, from time to time, in or­der to not lose the essential Teach­ings of Bud­dhad­har­ma.  

38. The re­al­i­ty of the Pure Land or Nirvāṇa transcends both space and time. The re­al­i­ty of everything else is ex­act­ly the same.  

39. Con­di­tions, feel­ings, skand­has, āy­atanas, dhā­tus, vi­jñā­na, etc, are dif­fer­ent ways of pre­sent­ing the teach­ings. These dif­fer­ent ways of pre­sent­ing the teach­ings are not in op­po­si­tion to each oth­er.  

40. The teach­ings on im­per­ma­nence, non-self, in­terde­pen­dence, empti­ness, sign­less­ness, aim­less­ness, mind­ful­ness, con­cen­tra­tion, in­sight, etc, con­sti­tute the heart of Bud­dhist wis­dom. They can coexist with the spir­it of sci­ence, can be used in di­a­logue with sci­ence, and of­fer sug­gestions and support sci­en­tif­ic re­search. Mod­ern science should try to over­come the ten­den­cy of double grasp­ing, and sci­en­tists should train them­selves to de­vel­op their ca­pac­i­ty for in­tu­ition.


References:

Forty Tenets of Plum Village: Introduction.
Deer Park Monastery website 

2 thoughts on “New series on the app: The 40 tenets of Plum Village with Brother Phap Luu

  1. Dear Phap Luu dear community of Plumvillage,
    Thank you so much for your teachings on the 40 tenets. I’m very grateful for them.
    I would like to save them all together in order to be able to listen to them again.
    Is it possible to find them somewhere all together?
    Thank you so much.
    I wish you all the best
    Kathleen

    1. Dear Kathleen, great to hear these teachings help you 🙂 Yes, you can find all these teachings on the Plum Village App where there is a special Forty Tenets folder. The same material is also on the Plum Village App YouTube page (look for the 40 tenets playlist). However, as this is an ongoing class, a new teaching will be added weekly. We’ve just published class #13. Hope this helps. Thank you!

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