October 20, 2009
Translated from Phusaonline. (Vietnamese source)
(Written by a Bat Nha aspirant, who is now at Phuoc Hue with the Bat Nha Monastics. Currently taking refuge with the monks and nuns at the Phuoc Hue temple are many young women and men from the ages of 18-25 who aspire to become ordained as a monastic, even within these trying and turbulent times. They are courageously determined not to leave and to remain with these monks and nuns to the end, even with pressure from the police and their family members.)
I want to start this letter by telling you up front that I am an aristocrat young lady – born and raised in a completely traditional and well-mannered family. My maternal grandmother had two daughters. My auntie is a teacher, and then there is my mother. My father and mother are owners of a well-known business. And on my father’s side, needless to say, everyone is an accomplished Communist Party member, with important positions in a district in Ho Chi Minh City.
And with that background, my childhood passed by smoothly under that protective halo!
In my family, there were always three to four helpers. As a result, I completely did not know anything about grocery shopping, cooking or washing – tasks that any young lady should know a little about, if not a lot. I only knew only one thing that is to study. I was a good student and at one point, head of my class in literature for the whole district.
Hearing me sharing these things, most likely many of you would also wish to have such a comfortable and well-off life like mine. On the contrary, to me, I never felt like that.
Deep inside, I always felt in conflict and saw myself as a puppet-doll. Worse yet, when I took the college entrance examination, with my capability, I was accepted into medical school. But my parents and relatives on my father’s side steered me into finance and banking business, because of only one reason: my uncle is the director of Bank E. I only needed to graduate from college, to follow my Uncle, to obediently hold the seat for the first few years, then to strive in becoming a Communist Party member. From then on, my job left will only be “to sit and enjoy the shade and to eat off the golden bowl”.(1) The clueless of fools would understand how such a government official’s salary is so staggeringly low, yet can afford them such a luxurious material life.(2)
But after I graduated, I did not work in the bank, and neither did I work for any governmental department. I knew I had chosen the wrong profession. I wanted to live with what were real in me. I took up as a side job,(3) to free lance as a writer for a book company.
I studied in one field, but I ended up in another. I knew that I had wasted a lot of time, but in the end, I did not want to lose myself as well. I often fell into episodes of depression, because I had the feeling that I lived not true to myself. I struggled many years like that only to find out the answers to general questions such as: What am I? Where have I come from? Where will I go?
I know you probably think that I am crazy. But this was the reality for me! I was not inspired about how much money I will earn or about striving to have this or that degree. To me, I only dreamt about the few things I mentioned above.
Then my parents wanted me to be married, as it was the normal thing to do. To appease everyone, I agreed to date a colleague from school who seemed to be gentle and kind. However, when my relatives from both sides began to get more involved with our affairs, hoping for something beautiful to happen, I began to feel as before and eventually, fell into a chasm of depression. I was like a silk worm that wanted to metamorphose itself and to break out of its cocoon. So, I revolted surprisingly and decided not to go out with that young man anymore. Since by then, I already had another love; that for the Buddha and his teachings.
I tried to understand more deeply about the Buddha Dharma. I felt so fortunate to be in touch with the teachings of Plum Village. When I came to Bat Nha to practice with the Sangha there, I suddenly realized that my life was truly happy from that moment. I learned how to wash the dishes in mindfulness, to cook vegetarian dishes, and to do the ordinary tasks that I had never done before, like scrubbing the floor and cleaning the toilets. I did these things with immense happiness!
I still remember very clearly what it felt like to be in complete control of my life, when with my own hands I had dialed the phone number and answered with certainty to the young man’s parents that, I was sorry, but I will not marry him!
I underwent some metamorphosis, if not a lot. I am no longer a little princess, a doll or a puppet. I can be in control of my life, of my destiny. I know that I am completely free! And I wanted to let others like me know and understand more about the true meaning of life. Friends, you have to live a life that is truly useful and not to just grope in the dark and spin in an endless circle- growing up, going to school, earning money, obtaining power; waiting to eat, waiting to marry, and then waiting to die!
I brought home the Buddha Dharma. From then on, the meals in my family began to change. New topics were brought up for discussion such as questions like, Grandmother, did you read a sutra today? Auntie, did you listen to the Dharma talk? Daddy, why are you so lazy about doing walking meditation? Mommy, please try to get Daddy up early to practice with you. And as for my young brother, he often went to release fishes back to the lake.
I was happy; my brother was happy; my mother was happy; my father was happy; and my whole family was happy. Like that, the small changes occurred. I do not dare talk about bigger things! But I know that to have a society healthy and secured, each family has to be a healthy cell first! This change did not mean that I turned into a log without thoughts, feelings, or love for anyone. Of course I still do, why not?
I was keenly aware that there was a different strength deep inside of me. I could hear the Buddha calling for me. That call was so endearing! And the World Honored One answered the naive questions that I had always been seeking for way back then. I wanted to be a nun!
This news was like an earthquake to my family! It was a big earthquake and its shock was felt right away. I was labeled as “a mad person”, because normally, the common view is that only crazy people would let go of everything to become a nun, giving up a good job, someone who loves you, a happy family, and the promise of a bright future if only you would sit quietly and obediently.
These things caused my Mother to be unable to eat and sleep. My Father was like someone right after a defeated battle. Both of them did not know what to say to their relatives! And if I share it here, probably you would die from laughing. The reason why my family tried to pressure and to stop me from becoming a nun is because my family background is too clean! No one agreed or supported me to become a nun and to have anything to do with religion, particularly with “that Bat Nha sect”!
While our government newspapers assert that Bat Nha is only an internal issue, I more than anyone else, a child of a family deeply rooted in the Communist Party tradition, was aware of a very different truth. I must say that it is very painful.
“If you want your whole family to be caught in tragic situations, then you go ahead and go.”
“If you want your uncles to lose their seats, then go.”
“If you want your brother’s file (who is striving to become a Communist Party member) to be black listed, then you go with that sect.”
I questioned back that if all the national news media state that this is an internal problem of the temple, then why is my becoming a nun bringing tragedy to the whole family?
I received these lucid advices:
“You should remember that your whole family is communist, so only do what you see is fitting…”; “That is a door to Death, everyone silently knows that, why do you keep plunging your head into the train?…”; “If people want to destroy it, then it will be destroyed; it’s just a matter of time, sooner or later”; “If you want to kill the dog, then you have to say that it is a mad dog (4). Only a stupid person doesn’t understand this principle. You were well-schooled from the beginning to the end, why are you so stupid?”
Given the situation, if I were still stubborn and went ahead, then I would receive the death sentence from my family immediately! My whole family, I remind you, is entirely composed of senior and powerful Communist Party members. They all gathered in the ancestral house, discussed the situation, and gave me an ultimatum that would:
- Disown me from our family line, regarding me as a betrayer.
- Cut off my residential legal status, so that no one was affected by my betraying actions in the future.
- Renounce me from my father’s side. If my father still wanted to be recognized as a member of the family line, then he had to write a letter to officially disown me.
- Threatened me that if I walked out of my house to become a nun, I should never come back, and that everyone will turn his/her back on me 180 degrees.
Now I would like to ask all of my friends and readers – would it be a happiness to be born into a family with such fame and victories?
What was truly painful were the words my mother privately shared with me after the family meeting. I don’t stop you from becoming a nun, but you must know that everyone in our family is a Communist! Please, renounce your path!
At this point, I could only scream silently, “My God, oh my God!”
The halo that I was so proud of, now collapses down, right in front of my face! I am so weary. I want to scream out loud that I do not want human beings to have to wear masks when we look at each other. I only have a simple wish, and that is to live truthfully. Why is it so that no one would give me that chance? Why does everyone sentence me guilty of betraying my parents and ancestors, if I follow my heart?
I see myself like Miss Dau (5), when she runs out of the house of the evil landowner and sees in front of her still only the dark color like that of ink!
Is there someone to light a candle for me?
An aspirant from Mountain Cloud Hamlet, Bat Nha.
(1) “…ngồi mát ăn bát vàng…” Literally means to sit in the shade and enjoy from the golden bowl; that metaphorically could mean to enjoy life and the riches without much hard labor.
(2) Kẻ ngu nhất cũng hiểu cái chuyện lương bổng không bao nhiêu của một cán bộ nhà nước, rất khập khiễng với cái viễn cảnh nhà cao cửa rộng rồi phải không? Author refers to the common knowledge of the meek salary of the government officer compared to his/her wealthy material comforts. “…viễn cảnh nhà cao cửa rộng…”, literally means tall homes with grand entries, a description of wealth.
(3) “Tôi đi làm cái nghề tay trái là viết lách…”, literally means to work as a left hand as a writer.
(4) This refers to a Vietnamese story of a horseman passing through a town. A dog barked at him. He said to the dog, “I don’t have anything to kill you now, but I have another way to kill you.” Then the horseman went into town and told everyone that it was a mad dog. As a result, people surrounded the dog and beat it to death. Thus, the man succeeded in killing the dog with his distorted words.
(5) “Chi Dau” (sister Dau or miss Dau) was a main fictional character in a body of literature in the 1930’s about landlords’ oppression and exploitation. In this part of the story (as referred to in the letter), Miss Dau was just raped by her landlord. She ran out of the house and she saw only complete darkness before her. There was no way out for her.
- 14/08/2011 20:01 - Life is a Symphony
- 29/04/2011 18:22 - What Do They Say About
- 22/04/2011 22:19 - Road Movie Like No Other
- 31/10/2009 11:57 - The Life of Master Tang Hôi
- 30/10/2009 18:55 - Violent Act in Bat Nha Monastery, Please Explain To Me
- 29/09/2009 00:00 - Bat Nha is Now a Legend
- 26/09/2009 21:08 - Thay’s Absence is His Dharma Talk
- 26/09/2009 21:04 - "One Buddha Is Not Enough"
- 26/09/2009 21:00 - We Take Refuge in the Sangha
- 09/09/2009 14:55 - Czech Republic Retreatants Visit Plum Village
Last Updated (Sunday, 25 October 2009 06:51)