About me

This blog is created by a Buddhist living in Singapore. He embraces the Mahayana spirit of Bodhicitta, deeply respecting all Buddhist Traditions as expressions of Kindness guiding us on the path towards human perfection ~ Buddhahood.

He likes to post stuff that he had read or think is good to share here, sometimes he adds a little comments here and there... just sometimes..

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“Sariputra, if there are people who have already made the vow, who now make the vow, or who are about to make the vow, ‘I desire to be born in Amitabha’s country,’ these people, whether born in the past, now being born, or to be born in the future, all will irreversibly attain to anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Therefore, Sariputra, all good men and good women, if they are among those who have faith, should make the vow, ‘I will be born in that country.’”

~ Amitabha Sutra

When I obtain the Buddhahood, any being of the boundless and inconceivable Buddha-worlds of the ten quarters whose body if be touched by the rays of my splendour should not make his body and mind gentle and peaceful, in such a state that he is far more sublime than the gods and men, then may I not attain the enlightenment.

~ Amitabha Buddha's Thirty-Third Vow

Friday, October 01, 2010

Warm Embrace - The Great Bell Chant

A Warm Embrace - The Great Bell Chant (The End of Suffering) from R Smittenaar on Vimeo.

Read by Thich Nhat Hanh, chanted by brother Phap Niem

* For smooth playback, let the video first load in its entirety by letting the bar fill up with grey. Press play, wait until you see the bar filling up and press pause. When the entire bar is grey, you can play the video.

If you want this chant to play repetitively, right click the video itself and click on 'video loop is off' and switch it to 'on'.


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The Six Fondnesses

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Bangalow 2010 Photo by Bridget Gebbie

DJKR Teachings

A Teaching from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in Australia.

As many of you will have experienced over the years Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has a particular style of teaching. Very generous and inclusive.

During the Uttaratantra Shastra teaching at Bangalow, in Australia this year, there was a particular section in these teachings that caught the mind of many of us as being a most delightful and relatable explanation of the six Paramitas. I have only lightly edited this passage so those of you who have not heard Rinpoche directly can appreciate the humour and deep affection as well as the profound wisdom that infuses Rinpoche’s style of Teaching.


“ For the path dweller to be virtuous and to accumulate virtuous deeds is so important. To think virtuously is very important. However good deeds have so many obstacles. These obstacles can be categorised into the six fondnesses.”
“What are they – it is quite interesting – they are the six different kinds of love.”
Rinpoche invites a definition. “What is love by the way?” (Audience laughter)

Audience responds with some words.

“Tenderness, yes tenderness. That is good. Tenderness I think I like. A soft spot. A Fondness.”

1. “ There is a certain type of rat that is always collecting things – a pack rat. This kind of attitude, a tenderness towards, a fondness for collecting attacks generosity, the first paramita.”

2. “ The next is a tenderness, a fondness towards not staying out of trouble. A very good one, this, I thought. A fondness to trouble.”

Mischievous? (Audience)

“Mischievous is something kind of good. No? Well according to us it is,” ( Rinpoche and audience laughter) “ This fondness of not staying out of trouble becomes the obstacle to discipline.”

3. “The fondness to making the point is the obstacle to patience”

4. “ Fondness to carelessness is the obstacle to diligence “ Sloppiness. Yes. Sloppiness is good. Messiness. A fondness to Australians. No, No, No I am just…”

5. “ A fondness to be dependent, to be co-dependent. We have a fondness for wanting space, for respecting human rights but that’s all talk. Behind our actions we have a fondness to be dictated to, to be controlled by others. Fondness to be dominated by an object “
“ A bit like having a girlfriend or a boyfriend. To have someone who can change their mood faster than lightning. That’s terrible,”
(Lots of laughter)
“Basically we love dependency even though we talk about independence. This is the obstacle to meditation – samadhi. “

6. “Now this is a really good one. Fantastic this one. You know how the French – I hope there are no French people here – love smelly cheese. We love disgusting stuff like pig’s nose. There is tenderness, a fondness for liking bad stuff, or for liking cheap stuff, so that is why we need wisdom.”

“ These things, these six fondnesses are the mastermind, the planner, the mover, the fixer of non virtuous deeds. They lead to non-virtuous action. They sustain, they enhance, the non-virtuous action. The six paramitas are there because these fondnesses need to be analysed and attacked.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche


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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Now We See Each Other’s Face Clearly ~ A letter from Thich Nhat Hanh

Letter from Thay, March 7, 2010: “Now We See Each Other’s Face Clearly”
Fragrant Source Hermitage

March 7th, 2010

Now We See Each Other’s Face Clearly

Letter to my Bat Nha children and others near and far

My dear children,

The seven-day monastic retreat in Plum Village has ended, but its reverberation and its energy of joy continue. The monastic brothers and sisters from La Maison de L’Inspir’ in Paris and from the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Walbroel have left to return to their home monasteries. In Plum Village, the community is practicing ten lazy days. Some are doing intestinal cleansing, some are fasting, some are on solo retreats, and some are writing or reading books. Thay hopes that wherever my children are, you can also follow the retreat, listen to the Dharma talks, the Question and Answer session, the Dharma sharings, the news, as well as the photos of the retreat. As you already know, the theme of the retreat was “Renewing the Mind of Love.”

The Queen Bee

Renewing the Mind of Love? Most likely, all of you feel that your Mind of Love is brand new. Last year’s events have helped us to reflect and see that our beginner’s mind is still whole; not only is it unscathed, but it has become even stronger. The beginner’s mind is so valuable; so long as we still have it, we still have everything. And we all still have the beginner’s mind and we all still have each other. We have each other as a Sangha even though we have been separated. Yet because the beginner’s mind is still there in each one of us, we do not have the feeling of being separated. The beginner’s mind is the Queen Bee. Thanks to the Queen Bee, all the bees always have the opportunity to come back to each other, one way or another, under one form or another. Thay is not worried, and Thay does not want you to be worried either. Smile and see that this is an opportunity to grow up.

The Flowing Stream

In the retreat, the Sangha listened and practiced the Dharma Door “Seeing that we are a flowing stream.” When we touch the earth, we can be aware of the presence in us of our mother and father, of the Buddha, the Patriarchs and our Teachers. Through them, we can touch the two streams of our spiritual and blood ancestors within ourselves. We are liberated from the confining shell of the ego created by ignorance and habit energy. We see that we are the continuation of our ancestors, that we are a flowing stream, not a pond or a lake stagnant in one place. We can also see the presence of our younger brothers and sisters in us as well as the presence of their children in us. We are transmitting ourselves to our younger brothers, sisters, and to the young people whom we are teaching and caring for, whether they are monastic or lay. We see them in us and us in them. We have the opportunity to transmit to them what is most beautiful and healthy in ourselves, bringing us great joy and fulfilment. Each touching of the earth, each breath, each step, and each smile have the value of transmitting and receiving, helping us see that we are a flowing stream. In moments like that, non-self is not a notion, but it is a living reality: we, our ancestors, and our children are unifying into one flowing stream. There is no separation, no regret, and no isolation. And we feel free-flowing, spacious, at ease and healthy.

The Cherry Tree

This morning while doing walking meditation by the Fragrant Source, Thay realized that we can also practice as a cherry tree, an apple tree, or a grapefruit tree. In Fragrant Source Hermitage, there are no grapefruit trees, but there are apple and cherry trees. And they will blossom in a few weeks. When the community celebrated Tet [Vietnamese lunar New Year], it was still very cold, and there was still a lot of snow. Now the daffodils in the Upper Hamlet have begun to bloom and the magnolia buds at Fragrant

Source are getting bigger. The cherry blossoms are white and the apple blossoms are pink. We can practice as a cherry tree or an apple tree. When doing sitting meditation, walking meditation, breathing, working, Dharma sharing, we nourish ourselves as the cherry tree does — receiving sunlight, warmth, rain, air and nutrients from the earth so that it can prepare to make leaves, flowers and fruits – so that we can have the flowers and fruits of mindfulness, understanding and love to transmit to future generations. It is a process of receiving, offering and transmitting. The cherry tree does that, and we also do that — and, like the cherry tree, we enjoy doing it. Looking at the bright apple tree with thousands of pink blossoms preparing for the birth of heavy, round apples, we hear the apple tree’s song. Looking at a spiritual practitioner who is receiving and transmitting the flowers and fruit of his or her practice, we see that a practitioner’s life is also a song.

Standing still by the fence,
You smile a wondrous blossom.
I look at you silently, and I am shocked
To hear you just singing.
Your song is eternal.
I get down on my knees and bow.

This poem was written by the young poet Quach Thoai, whom Thay met for the first time at Giac Nguyen Temple, Khanh Hoi, in 1949. The poem is entitled The Thuoc Duoc Flower. Thay visualizes his children as flowers smiling by the fence of our motherland, singing the song of Right Dharma. What’s important is that the flower never stops singing.

Now We See Each Other’s Face Clearly

In June 2008, Thay ended the visit and teaching tour in our homeland by living and practicing with his Bat Nha children for three weeks. During these three weeks, beginning at the end of May, Thay and Thay’s Bat Nha children had the opportunity to live and practice together at Bat Nha Monastery. In content, this was truly a diligent monastic retreat: every morning, there was sitting meditation, a Dharma talk, walking meditation, and a silent meal in the Garuda Wing Meditation Hall. In the afternoon, there was always Dharma sharing or tea meditation. About thirty monastics from the United States and Europe were present with Thay and the Bat Nha Sangha — there were about 450 of us practising together as a spiritual family. We did not call it a retreat, but it was the most diligent, profound retreat, full of love between brothers and sisters, students and teacher.

There were signs letting Thay know that this was the last time Thay would live and practice with his children at Bat Nha. So Thay lived wholeheartedly with Bat Nha and with the Sangha at Bat Nha. Thay thought that perhaps within only a very short time, the sangha would have to leave Bat Nha. But in fact, they were not able to expel us until fourteen months later. During each walking meditation session at Bat Nha, Thay was attentive to every rock, every jackfruit tree, every shrub, knowing that this would be the last time Thay would see them. Thay smiled with every and any thing he saw and was in touch with. Thay felt regret. Not for himself, but for the Venerable Abbot Duc Nghi and for the trees and forests and mountains there, because they would no longer have the fortune to be the home for such a Sangha as the Bat Nha Sangha. Brother Phap Kham reported that the day Thay Duc Nghi refused to sponsor his visa renewal, Thay Duc Nghi lay on his bed facing the wall without saying anything. It was one of the signs letting Thay know we would not be able to continue at Bat Nha. Thay already knew that Bat Nha would become a legend.

Bat Nha Is In our Hearts

During the time the Bat Nha monks and nuns took refuge at Phuoc Hue Temple in Bao Loc, the Bat Nha novices were still able to publish an edition of their novice magazine Moon on the Front Porch, with the title “Refuge Seeking Season”(Mua Loan Lac). One of the articles talked about two young monastics who missed Bat Nha so much that they secretly went back to visit Bat Nha without the permission of the Sangha. They were local people, so it was not difficult for them to get back there. But as soon as they arrived they felt lost and sad. It was the same place, but so lifeless, vacant and dilapidated! It was just like the moment in the epic poem‘‘Story of Kieu,’’ when the young man Kim Trong returned to visit the house of his beloved Thuy Kieu, after attending his uncle’s funeral. Kieu had already sold herself, and had been taken to foreign lands. Her parents and two siblings had moved to another place, sowing and writing to earn a living.

Hurriedly, he went to Kieu’s garden looking around.
The place was entirely different:
The garden overgrown with grass,
Cold moonlight on the window sill,
Walls fallen apart from the rain -
No one to be seen anywhere.
Last year’s Cherry blossoms were still smiling in the East wind.
Birds circled the vacant upper floor,
Weeds spread on the ground,
moss covered the foot prints.
Thorny shrubs crawled over the end wall.
Returning here to this trail of yester-year,
Everything was now vacant and silent.

With this turmoil in my heart, who can I turn to now?

The young sisters met Brother Dong Hanh that day. He was busy harvesting tea and coffee. The young sisters realized that Brother Dong Hanh was not their Brother Dong Hanh of the other years, just as the monastic living quarters Warm Hearth, Cloud Over Mountain, and Fragrant Palm Leaves were no longer the monastic living quarters of last year. The Buddha sat alone in the Garuda Wing Meditation Hall, in which there was nothing left, not even the mats and cushions, nor the fish drum, the bell or the incense. The Buddha altar was not even there. Bat Nha was no longer Bat Nha. The soul of Bat Nha, the Bat Nha Sangha, had left the corpse Bat Nha. Bat Nha now is only a corpse without soul. The young sisters felt regret. They returned to look for Bat Nha, but they could not find Bat Nha, even though Bat Nha was standing right there in front of them. It would have been better not to return. It turns out that Bat Nha is not outside of us, but in our hearts.

Regret and Yearning

One Bat Nha young monastic came to ask for Thay’s advice about the practice of Dwelling Happily in the Present Moment, saying that her regret and yearning for Bat Nha were still so deep that she could not truly benefit from the joy available in the present moment. Thay looked at her with a lot of compassion and said: You are someone very fortunate because you have something to regret and long for. There are those much more unfortunate than you who have nothing to regret and long for — they only have suffering, attachment and hatred.

While taking refuge at Phuoc Hue Temple, my Bat Nha children practiced wholeheartedly in order to fully live your days there. You followed the schedule diligently, even though you knew the situation was uncertain, and that you could be forced out of Phuoc Hue any day just as you had been from Bat Nha. Instead of doing sitting meditation twice a day, you sat four times. The abbot of Phuoc Hue Temple, realizing the value of your practice, loved you and protected you with his whole heart. Because you had come to take refuge in his temple, he had the opportunity to know who you were, far more accurately than the unclear notions he had about you before. That is what ‘understanding is love‘ means,. It is the greatest fortune to have a chance to understand and to love. And if we want to understand, we have to release our preconceived notions and our grasping. We’re human, we have the right to regret and to long for something, but we can go further. We can ask ourselves: I miss such and such because it is no longer there, but while it was still around, did I live wholeheartedly with it ? For most of us, our shortcoming is not cherishing and living wholeheartedly with what we already have, whether it be a person, a place or an opportunity. When impermanence arrives, we regret what has gone. But it is too late: that person is already gone or dead; that place no longer is. Thay does not have any regrets about Bat Nha because during the three weeks living with you at Bat Nha, Thay lived wholeheartedly. Thay contemplated every flower, every bamboo grove, and asked: Are we seeing each other’s face clearly? Because of this, Thay does not have regret. Regretting is wishing things had gone differently — that’s all. If you had lived wholeheartedly with Bat Nha as Thay did, you would not regret and yearn for Bat Nha to the point that you are unable to live happily and peacefully in the present moment. In our practice, we should ask ourselves that question: Did we live wholeheartedly with Bat Nha during the moments Bat Nha was manifesting? We will gain many insights when we ask ourselves that question.

This path of Yester-year

The next question is: The place where we are living now, is it a kind of Bat Nha? Where are you sitting? In the South, North or Centre of Vietnam, in Deer Park, Blue Cliff, France, Germany, the United States, Thailand, Hong Kong or India? Perhaps you are sitting in a Bat Nha with brothers and sisters, with your beloved. If in this moment you are not living truly and wholeheartedly, if you are not cherishing what you are having, then you know that later, you will regret this moment, this place and the people who are present with you right now. You will regret this moment, because this moment will become a legend.

‘‘Returning here to this path of yesteryear.’’ If we walk this path with our brothers and sisters, and with Thay, and enjoy it fully, we won’t have any regrets. Tomorrow, even if we come back to this path, it will not be the same path anymore. Our brothers, sisters and Thay will not be there. Even we will not be there, even as we walk it again. We will be unable to recognize the path — it will have already passed into legend. It will be just a corpse without a soul.

If in reading these words, you are startled and you wake up, then you will see that Bat Nha is still there, that it has not become a legend, and that it is still alive in you. You are carrying Bat Nha in your hearts and the place where you are sitting, standing, and looking deeply in the present moment is also Bat Nha. Whether the place you are sitting is in the Center or the North, the United States, France, Germany, Thailand, and so on, our Bat Nha is very beautiful, my dear children, and no one can take it away from us, no power is strong enough to do it.

If you can wake up, your present place of residence will immediately become a Bat Nha, even if next to you there may only be three brothers or sisters. The Buddha taught that a Sangha must have at least four people. You have learned how to build the Sangha, so you will certainly be able to build a Sangha that has the practice, learning, joy, aspiration, and brotherhood and sisterhood. When Thay left our homeland in 1966, Thay went alone. Going alone is very dangerous. If we are separated from the Sangha, we will dry up like a bee that cannot find its way back to the beehive. We will die like a cell being taken out of the body. However, Thay did not dry up, and Thay did not die. It was because Thay carried the Sangha in his heart. Thay left to call for international awareness to help end the war in Vietnam. Because of that, Thay was forced in exile, and he was not allowed to return home. Suddenly, Thay was separated from all of his friends, his work and his community. When Thay realized he had fallen into that situation, Thay immediately found a way to build a Sangha. Thay looked around to recognize the elements which he could use to build a Sangha. In the end, Thay was able to establish a Sangha, and that Sangha is now present in over 45 countries.

You are Thay’s continuation. Thay trusts that you will be able to build Sangha everywhere by one way or another, with one name or another, as long as it is a true Sangha, with mindfulness, with brotherhood and sisterhood, and with the aspiration to help living beings. Thay trusts in the young people, and this is one of the elements that brings Thay great happiness. In a true Sangha, the Dharma will be present, the Buddha will be present and Thay will also be present.

The Paradise of Brotherhood and Sisterhood

During this last monastic retreat at Upper Hamlet, most of our activities took place in the Still Water Meditation Hall. This meditation hall, in its form as well as in its content, contains so much brotherhood and sisterhood. At our last meal together one brother from the Upper Hamlet said, ‘‘Respected Thay, instead of calling this meditation hall Still Water Meditation Hall, we should call it Still Water Paradise.’’ [In Vietnamese, the words ‘meditation hall’ (Thiền đường) and ‘paradise’ (Thiên đường) only differ from each other by one diacritical mark over the letter ‘e’]. He’s right! This is a paradise of brotherhood and sisterhood. If we really want it, paradise can be available to us right in the present moment. Paradise is now or never. Here is the Pure Land. The Pure Land is here.

Bat Nha was also a paradise, because we lived there happily together as teacher and students. The Garuda Wing Meditation Hall could also be called the ‘‘Garuda Wing Paradise” because there we also enjoyed happy moments full of brotherhood and sisterhood. Many of us have written to Thay to share that it was in the Bat Nha environment that you were able to live with your true selves for the first time. We did not have to hide our thoughts or feelings anymore. We could speak truthfully and directly with our brothers and sisters. They had the capacity to listen and understand us, and we were not afraid to be judged as dissidents [literally, ‘‘losing our ground’’] or as reactionaries [or 'diversionists' - literally, ‘‘having ideas contrary to the set path’’]. We were accepted. Out there in society, in school, at work and even in our own family, we could not live true to ourselves. Yet at Bat Nha we could feel at ease.

The second condition for our happiness at Bat Nha was the healthy environment. There was no alcohol, no drugs, gambling or sexual misconduct, no corruption, power abuse, hatred or jealousy, nor toxic entertainments and games. Yet we didn’t feel we were missing out on anything. On the contrary, we felt very safe and nourished. The Bat Nha environment was the healthiest environment we’d ever encountered, and living in such an environment we were no longer afraid or worried.

The third condition for our happiness at Bat Nha was the brotherhood and sisterhood. That’s right – brotherhood and sisterhood! Many of us hungered for brotherhood and sisterhood before we found Bat Nha. It was the brotherhood and sisterhood that was the most attractive thing at Bat Nha. Once we’ve found it, how can we walk away from it? Who does not need love to survive, to be loved and to love? Brotherhood and sisterhood is healthier and more lasting than all other kinds of love.

But that’s not all. Coming to Bat Nha, we discovered the ideal path young people are searching for. We found practices that had the capacity to transform and heal. We had the chance to help others who came to us to practice transformation and healing, including so many young people. It was at Bat Nha that we witnessed many relationships — between fathers and children, between husbands and wives, between brothers and sisters – in which, thanks to the practice, people were able to re-establish communication and reclaim their happiness. Some retreats would have over a thousand people. We saw happiness on everyone’s faces when they practiced successfully. We had a beautiful path — the beautiful path that is our life’s deepest aspiration. We had an opportunity to serve, and our lives began to have meaning and purpose.

Bat Nha provided us all these conditions of happiness. That is why Bat Nha was our paradise. We saw, heard, felt and lived with the Bat Nha paradise. Bat Nha is truly in us, not outside of us. If Bat Nha is inside us, then wherever we go, we have Bat Nha. Wherever we go, we can establish Bat Nha. Thay was able to do that, and Thay has the confidence that all of you will be able to do that. Fragrant Palm Leaves as well as Bat Nha are in our hearts, because we have seen, heard, felt and lived with them.

Your Suffering is My Suffering (Máu Chảy Ruột Mềm)

While being expelled, betrayed and threatened, those of us who knew how to breathe and come back to Bat Nha within ourselves still had peace. Many young monks and nuns were able to do that at Phuoc Hue and other temples such as Tu Duc, Dinh Quan, Dieu Nghiem. Thay recalls the years of 1969 and 1977, and the times when Thay was persecuted, harassed and forced out, exactly as Thay’s Bat Nha children were persecuted, harassed and forced out from Bat Nha and Phuoc Hue. For example, at the end of 1971, while Thay was still in Washington D.C. to call for peace, Thay was told by a journalist of The Baltimore Sun that the Vietnamese government [on the American government side] had just sent an official document to the governments of the United States, France and England to inform them that they had annuled Thay’s passport and to request these countries to not accept it anymore. Thay’s intention was to travel around the world to call for a ceasefire and going towards reconciliation and peace. The journalist suggested Thay go underground and hide himself to avoid deportation and imprisonment for daring to call for peace. Back then, Thay had a friend who was also working for peace like Thay; he had been imprisoned, and he also had to go on hiding at different times. That was Father Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit, who was also a famous writer and poet. Together with his friends, he engaged in non-violent resistance actions such as encouraging others to burn their draft cards, going to places where atomic boms were produced or stored and using red paint as fake blood to pour over those fatal weapons, and so on. They were acting according to the Bible’s teaching: Take the sword and make it into a plough. Father Berrigan went to France to visit, stay and practice three months with Thay at the office of the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation in Paris (Sceaux) and in Fragrant Cloud Hermitage (Fontvannes). He also went back several times after that. In Paris, Thay gave him Thay’s room, and Thay slept next door. He had a chance to read the Lotus Sutra in English on Thay’s bookshelf.

Thay did not listen to the journalist of The Baltimore Sun. Thay did not want to stay in the United States and seek asylum there because the United States was involved in the war in Vietnam. Thay decided to go to France to ask for political asylum. To avoid deportation at Paris, Thay telephoned his friends in Paris, so that they organized to meet with Thay and to have a press conference at the airport. If necessary, we would request for asylum right at the airport. At that time, Sister Chan Khong was giving talks and calling for peace in Costa Rica, Central America. She was also asked to return to Paris to prepare for the press conference. Fortunately for Thay, not only France did not deport Thay, but they also granted Thay asylum after that.

In 1976, while directing the program Máu Chảy Ruột Mềm (literally, ”Your suffering is my suffering”) to save the boat people, Thay was discovered by the Singapore police and ordered to leave Singapore within 24 hours. They surrounded Thay’s office at two in the morning, came inside and confiscated Thay’s passport, saying that they would only return it to Thay when Thay left their territory. Meanwhile, the two boats Leapdal and Roland were full of boat people, and the plan to take them to Australia for refuge had been revealed by the press’s curiosity. The boat Saigon 200, which was responsible for providing water, food and medicine to the boat people, was also captured. Furthermore, a storm was raging out at sea, and the two boats full of Thay’s boat people (over 589) were not allowed to stop in the harbour to avoid the gale. That night, Thay had the feeling that he was floating out there in the waves and the wind with all the boat people. Thay did sitting meditation and walking meditation the entire night to look for a solution. Thay had confidence in the Three Jewels, in the Sangha, and in the end, Thay found the solution. Thay waited until the morning to ask the French ambassador, Mr. Jacques Gasseau, to intervene with the Singapore government to enable Thay could remain for another ten days to complete the program. It was that night Thay meditated on the Koan ‘‘If you want peace, you will be peace.” If we truly want peace, and then there is peace. Peace is in the midst of danger. Thanks to the Sangha, the Three Jewels, the path, the brotherhood and sisterhood, Thay was able to overcome the difficulty.

Your elder brother Nhat Tri and many brothers and sisters in the Order of Interbeing in the Youth for Social Service Program in the old days also went through periods like that, just as you have gone through the experiences of Bat Nha, Phuoc Hue and now. Thay trusts that, no matter the situation, you have the capacity to practice “If you want peace, you will be peace.” We have been able to do that at Bat Nha and Phuoc Hue, and we can do it now; our Sangha is still whole, and each one of us carries the Sangha within us.

Sadness and Loneliness

Just recently, about ten days ago, in a dream Thay saw his friend, Father Daniel Berrigan. He is now over 90 years old. Sitting next to this courageous monk, Thay recognized that he was worthy of all respect and reverence, even though he did not have the outer form of a Buddhist Most Venerable. Thay suggested that the community touched the earth before him. Before the community could do so, suddenly Thay saw that he was sitting alone with Father Berrigan in an open space, and he opened his arms to embrace Thay. Thay also opened his arms to embrace his friend with all his heart in the true spirit of the Plum Village practice of hugging meditation. At first, there was only happiness and the peace of brotherhood, but soon an unsettled energy arose in Thay. It was the energy of sadness, pain and loneliness. It felt strange, but Thay was able to recognize and accept these mental formations. Thay had thought that those mental formations had already been transformed, and if their energy still existed, it would be minimal.

But it was not so. Thay’s whole being quaked with the feeling. Thay’s arms were transmitting to the person he was embracing the energy of sadness, pain and loneliness. Thay felt clearly that the other person was also receiving it and responding to it. The time of our embrace was quite long, and Thay allowed himself to express those pains naturally and sincerely. Waking up, Thay knew the dream had helped Thay’s wellbeing, because he’d had the opportunity to recognize and share his sadness and pain with a dear friend who had the capacity to touch and understand that sadness and pain, having gone through similar difficulties, sadness and loneliness. Thay thinks that in our lives, those with whom we can share like that are few, even within our own tradition. When we embrace a brother, a sister, a friend or a disciple, we only want to transmit the energy of peace and love, and the other person may believe that we only have such beautiful and peaceful energy. But we are still human, and even though the energy of sadness and pain may be under control and transformed, it is still there in our human nature. If it would sleep quietly, we would be peaceful enough. But its presence is also very important. Thanks to it, we can recognize and understand other people’s suffering and pain, and we also can acknowledge the good fortunes and wonders available in the present moment in us and around us.

Lotus in Our Hearts

Over the last four decades, Thay had the opportunity to befriend a number of people Thay considers kindred spirits. Some were not at all known, and some were very famous. Amongst them were Bertrand Russell, Martin Luther King, Heinz Kloppenburg, Hannes de Graaf, Alfred Hassler, Arthur Miller, Heidi Vaccaro, etc. They worked hand in hand with Thay in the struggle for peace, for human rights, and for the future of the earth. Thay has not had the opportunity to embrace the Dalai Lama, but if there were one, and they were not surrounded by a crowd, then while embracing him, Thay would also have a chance to share that energy of sadness, because Thay knows the Dalai Lama has also gone through similar sadness and pain. The Buddha also had his deep suffering, and he embraced it and transformed it with his energy of great understanding and great compassion. The Buddha’s life of teaching also had many difficulties, and the Buddha was also wrongly accused, rejected and oppressed. After King Prasenajit passed away, the new king brought his army to destroy the Buddha’s homeland and killed the Sakya family line mercilessly, simply because the king had too much hatred and ignorance. The Buddha did everything he could to stop it, but to little effect. The patriarch Linchi spoke about the interbeing between the Buddha and living beings, and we have heard the teaching ”Buddha and living beings are not two different entities”. As human beings, we have the chance to become Buddhas, and once we have become Buddhas, we can still be human beings. Therefore, the path of the Buddha is truly humanistic.

The Buddha had friends and disciples who understood him deeply. The Buddha was not alone. The Dalai Lama is also like that. King Tran Thai Tong was also like that. Thay’s Bat Nha children have been denounced, discriminated against, attacked and persecuted, but you have responded as true children of the Buddha, without hatred, discrimination and despair in your hearts. People in our country and our friends all over the world have been fortunate to witness that, and they have come to love you and vowed to protect you. We are not alone. We are known about, understood and loved. Intellectuals, humanitarians, young people, workers, business people, as well as Venerables all raised their voice on your behalf. You have inspired and offered confidence in the future of Buddhism to our country and to the world.

Bat Nha has become an immortal lotus in the hearts of the people. Each of us is carrying this lotus in our heart. No power can destroy it. It will help manifest Bat Nha everywhere, in the future as well as in the present. This lotus is brotherhood and sisterhood, it is aspiration, happiness, love between fellow countrymen and human love. The Buddha was not alone and the Sangha on the Vulture Peak was not alone, even though King Asajit had not woken up. You know very well that in the end, the King Asajit woke up and found his way back to the Buddha. The Dalai Lama is not alone even though his homeland has not yet reclaimed her dependency. The path of the Buddha is also the path of compassion, loving kindness, non-violence, and brotherhood/sisterhood. The Dalai Lama also has the Bat Nha lotus in his heart. He spoke up to protect the Bat Nha Sangha. Certainly, the mental formations of sadness and pain have also manifested in him at times, but he knows how to recognize and embrace them, so that in the end, they nourish his aspiration and determination. My children also need to practice like that.

Do not be saddened that the path ahead is without kindred spirits.

In this world, who would not know about us?

If you need a few minutes to feel the regret, yearning, sadness and pain, then allow yourself those few minutes. We recognize, embrace and smile with that human substance in us. But after that, we must go forward, because we also have the Buddha nature in us. If those bright fresh lotuses need mud to manifest, then our sadness and pain can also nourish our Mind of Love, our Beginner’s Mind. Thay knows that your Beginner’s Mind is very strong, and Thay feels very assured.

Dream or Reality?

With the Bat Nha lotus in your hearts, you can smile and return to the present moment. You will see that Bat Nha is available right where you are sitting. You will cherish everything you are in touch with in this moment. This is the miracle of mindfulness. With mindfulness, life may be more beautiful than dreams. About a month ago, Thay had a dream that was very ordinary but beautiful. Thay dreamt that he woke up in a temple or in a practice center that seemed very joyful. Thay asked someone nearby, ‘‘What’s happening that’s so joyful, my child?’’ The person replied: ‘‘Dear Thay, some brothers and sisters just came back. We are cooking a pot of rice to enjoy it together.’’ Thay sat up, walked to the court yard of the temple, did walking meditation, acknowledged each orchid, each bamboo, and his heart was full of joy like a festival. What was there really? It was just a few brothers and sisters coming home. A small dream, simple, but it made Thay happy for many days. Is this but a dream? It is a reality. Teacher and disciples, we have each other. Brothers and sisters, we have each other. Regardless of what may happen, that brotherhood and sisterhood is never lost. It is our paradise. We only need to look carefully at the brother or sister who is present. We only need to look carefully at the orchid, the bamboo, and read the mantra written by the great poet Nguyen Du: Now we see each other’s face clearly. Seeing each other’s face clearly today, tomorrow will never become a dream again.

Your Teacher,

Nhất Hạnh

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