Plum Village, June 18th 2012
Dear Thay, Dear Respected Teacher
With deep respect and admiration, I bow to you.
I came to the 21 days retreat The Science of the Budha with joy, with the intimate desire of making contact with my suffering and my happiness, and looking for skillful ways to be fully present for me, for my family and friends, for my students and colleagues, as a scientist and as a mindfulness practitioner. I have received far more than what I dreamt.
I have done research on nuclear theory for more than 25 years, I have published many scientific papers and shared my work in many conferences, but felt that it was just a technical performance. I learnt to manage skillfully some mathematical techniques, using them to study some processes which were observed in experiments, and earned a salary for doing it. I was able to leave Argentina and to find a nice working place at the National University in Mexico, did teaching and research, provided my family with necessary and unnecessary things, was promoted and proud of it. But at the same time I felt unhappy, lonely, not loved, angry.
First in a long psychoanalytic process, and in the last years through mindfulness, I could recognize many seeds of solitude, sorrow, victimization in my Jewish roots, as well as those of family support, love to the study, hard work and joy. I was a able to build a new family, sharing with my wife large amounts of love, understanding and care, which we can extend to our sons, to our parents, to our brothers and sisters, to our friends.
In the last years I have devoted much time and efforts to the study of the wave-particle duality and entanglement, and its use in Quantum Optics and Quantum Information. I made contact with the power and the simplicity of the mathematical description, the beauty of the experiments, and the impossibility of describing them in terms of any previous notion.
I have enjoyed every of your teachings during this retreat, and found your references to quantum physics inspiring. Your "Letter to a Young Scientist" touches many of the points which brought me close to this tradition. I was disappointed with physics, feeling it was not helping me to approach any truth, neither any ethical guide. Now I found renewed pleasure in my research, having found tools to deal with my sorrow, to make contact with the love and the happiness within and around me in the practice of Mindfulness.
When I can touch my feelings, I can share them and be open to those of my collaborators, my students, my colleagues, including an affective dimension in my scientific work. Science has made many important contributions to the well being of us all, but at the same time has become an instrument of power, generating exclusion and suffering. At school, science classes are often a space of suffering, of humiliation, of darkness and confusion. Many scientist are working hard, hand to hand with teachers and pedagogues to overcome it, but the challenge remains. In Mexico we started seven years ago a program to help young people to develop science skills, based on group working, solving challenges and enjoying. With a group of colleagues we have reached hundreds of children and school teachers, both in urban and rural areas. The Applied Ethics movement could provide us both an ethical framework and practical ways to deal with difficulties and to build communities of practice.
I have the impression that the knowledge contained in the science textbooks we employ to study and teach is indeed valuable and useful, but that it represents just an infinitesimal part of what is there to be known. I read once in The Mindfulness Bell that "questions open, answers close", and since then I started sharing with my students one open question each class, one which is at the same time simple, and has no known answer, like "what is mass" or " what is an electron". I want to help them to develop all the abilities needed in the scientific work, contributing to expand the frontiers of our knowledge, and at the same time to be aware that there are innumerable problems around for which we have no clue at all of how to deal with.
A few days ago I had the opportunity to share with a group of retreat friends some scientific concepts in a simple way, breathing together, listening to each other. It was a wonderful moment, I felt myself as a mindful scientist, it was great.
I want to thank you for your teachings, for having imagined, constructed and sharing this marvelous Plum Village community, for your interest in building bridges between scientists and mindfulness practitioners, for the practice which makes my life more enjoyable every day.
I humbly offer you a lotus and a smile,
Compassionate Joy of the Heart
Last Updated (Saturday, 18 August 2012 11:22)
New Year Prayer to Mother Earth
and all Our Ancestors
Dear Beloved Mother Earth,
Dear Ancestors, both Spiritual and Genetic,
We present ourselves before you at this solemn moment of the New Year to express our awareness, our gratitude and our aspiration as a spiritual family. We know that our ancestors are always alive in us and that we can always take refuge in you and in our ancestors.
Dear Mother Earth, breathing in, we see that we and all of our ancestors are your children. With your patience, stability, endurance and creativity you have raised us and guided us through many lifetimes. You have given birth to countless Great Beings, Buddhas, Saints, and Boddhisattvas. You are the great Earth, you are Terra, you are Gaia, you are this beautiful blue planet. You are the Earth Refreshing Bodhisattva–fragrant, cool, and kind. We see that though we and our ancestors have made many mistakes, you have always forgiven us. Each time we return to you, you are ready to open your arms and embrace us.
Because of our wrong perceptions and discrimination we have lived a life of separation, hatred, loneliness, suffering, and despair. We have allowed individualism to prevail, and it has caused a lot of damage and hardship to you and to ourselves. We have run after fame, wealth, power, and sensual pleasures and have forgotten that these pursuits could never bring us true happiness.
We have spent many lifetimes not able to recognize your presence as the Pure Land, as the Kingdom of God, as the most wondrous home that we have. We have run after a distant Promised Land, in heaven or in the future. This has caused us and you much suffering. Tonight as we touch the Earth, we let go and offer you and our ancestors our true presence. We have arrived. You are our home, our only home.
We have learned that only love and compassion can make our lives meaningful, allowing us to protect and preserve your beauty, and allowing us to heal ourselves. We can learn to live as one family -- as a community of brothers and sisters, all children of the same Great Mother Earth, giving our descendants a chance for a healthy and a bright future. We know that only through building brotherhood and sisterhood in the present moment can we make this future a reality.
Dear Mother, tonight, on the occasion of the New Year 2012, we make the vow to learn to live in harmony and peace, in the very heart of our family and our community, just as bees in the same beehive and cells in the same body. We promise that we shall remain openhearted and capable of communicating with the members of our family and our community. We promise to always listen deeply and to use peaceful and loving speech. We shall learn to listen to your voice, Mother Earth, to understand you deeply and to hear your guidance and the guidance of our ancestors. We vow also to listen to our brothers, our sisters, our friends, and to our children so that we may live in peace and harmony with them. We promise to learn to see the happiness and well-being of our family and community as our own happiness and well-being.
Dear Mother, with great reverence, we give rise to the deep aspiration to begin anew. We promise to you and also to our children: that we shall learn to breathe and walk mindfully each moment of our daily life, to use the eyes and ears of the family and community in order to understand, to live simply and to love without discrimination, as you do. We promise to stop running from our suffering, but to recognize, embrace and transform it. Only by understanding our suffering can we heal and touch true happiness, and at the same time, restore your beauty and freshness. You have been calling to us, and some of us have heard your pain. You have been asking us for many lifetimes whether you can count on us. Tonight, with palms joined and with one heart, we say “yes, Mother, you can count on us.” We shall practice for you and for all our ancestors so that joy, peace and harmony will become possible again. Please accept our offerings of incense, flowers, fruit, tea, and our love. Yes Mother, we will be faithful to you.
Last Updated (Sunday, 01 January 2012 01:02)
T h i c h N h a t H a n h
Intimate Conversation with Mother Earth
“Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and guides us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs”
- St. Francis of Assisi
Dear Mother, I bow down before you with utmost respect and the clear awareness that you are present in me and that I am a part of you. You gave birth to me and provided me with everything I needed for my nourishment. You gave me air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and medicinal herbs to heal me when I was sick. Because you gave birth to me once, I know that you will continue to give birth to me again and again in the future. That is why I can never die. Each time I manifest, I am fresh and new; and each time I return, you receive and embrace me with great compassion. You are the great Earth, you are Terra, you are Gaia, you are this beautiful blue planet. You are the Earth Refreshing Bodhisattva1–fragrant, cool, kind, and pure. You are infinitely beautiful. You have the great capacity of receiving, taking care of, and transforming everything; including filth of all kinds, poisonous fumes, and even radioactive waste. Time is with you to do this work, and you will do it, even if it takes a million years. You have numerous children; millions of species, amongst which the human species is just one. Many of us humans, blinded by greed, pride, and delusion, have been unable to recognize you as our Mother. That is why we have caused so much suffering to one another and have damaged your health and your beauty. We know that you have enough energy to embrace and transform our mistakes. But our deluded minds continue to push us to exploit you and create conflicts. This causes you a lot of tension. Mother, you are a great realized being, a great Bodhisattva. You are not only a mother to us all, but you are the mother of countless Buddhas, Saints, and Bodhisattvas. Our root teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha, was a child of yours. The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and the Virgin Mary were also your children. The matriarch Lieu Hanh2 was your child. The Bodhisattvas Sadaparibhuta3, and Kshitigarbha4 were also your children. Even our parents are your children. Many of us, who have been raised and guided by you through many lifetimes, have become Bodhisattvas with the capacity to educate others, to help them, and to protect you. There are those of us who have been able to investigate and seek to understand distant galaxies, as well as our own Milky Way, and the planets of our Solar System, thus helping you deepen your communication with them. We know that your relationships with the planets, especially with the Sun and the Moon, are already harmonious. You rotate smoothly and inter-connectedly with them to create the rhythmic cycles of day and night, and the four seasons. We are aware that you are one of the most beautiful and precious Bodhisattvas in the Universe. We are also aware of your virtue of great patience. That is why we can wholeheartedly take refuge in you and have total confidence in you. Your Journey of Eons You manifested more than 4 and a half billion years ago and life began to manifest on you less that one billion years later. Since then, you have gradually become the beautiful living planet that you are today. Life evolved from deep within the oceans, multiplying and prospering on your body, slowly improving the atmosphere so that countless species could manifest. After one billion years, there was enough free oxygen in the atmosphere to create the ozone layer, which then prevented harmful radiation from reaching your surface, thus allowing life to develop on land. In the first few hundred million years, you overcame great difficulties to create an atmosphere capable of sustaining life. You had to release great heat and expel great fires and gases from your volcanoes. Steam was released from your crust, becoming water vapor in the atmosphere. Along with water and ice from other small protoplanets and meteorites, the water vapor helped you create the great oceans. Greenhouse gases trapped heat from the Sun and kept the oceans from freezing. Your gravity helped to anchor the life-sustaining atmosphere, and your magnetic field prevented it from being stripped away by solar winds and cosmic rays. But before even forming the atmosphere, you had to endure a collision with a great heavenly body, almost the size of the Red Planet. Part of the impacting planet became you; the rest of it, along with part of your mantle and crust, became the Moon. Dear Mother, the Moon is a part of you, as beautiful as an angel. She’s our aunt. She always follows you, tugging at your sleeve, helping you to slow down, helping you to keep your balance, and creating tidal rhythms on your body. Touching the Earth Your immeasurable patience and endurance has made you a great Bodhisattva, a solid place of refuge for us all. Every time we are unstable, every time we lose ourselves in forgetfulness, in sadness, hatred, and despair, we feel the need to go back to you and practice touching the Earth. Touching you we find a refuge; we re-establish our peace, regaining our joy and self-confidence. We know that we are all your children; and even though we make many mistakes, you always forgive us. Every time we return to you, you are ready to open your arms and embrace us. Thanks to you, we realize our nature of no-birth and no-death. You store in yourself vast treasures of energy in various forms. We vow to utilize these treasures skillfully so that they won’t dry up, so that you won’t need million of years to meticulously replenish them.Respected Mother, wherever there is soil, water, or air, you are there. You give us life and nourish us. If we nurture the awareness that we are always in you and you are always in us then both of us are peaceful, happy, healthy, and strong. But because some of us are not able to see this truth, we lose ourselves. We lose the capacity to recognize that our physical bodies are also your body. Our minds are filled with confusion or drifting in dreams, forgetting the precious gift that was given to us by you. Therefore, we make the vow that from now on we shall take every step in mindfulness. We will be clearly aware that we are placing our feet on the Earth, so as to be in touch with you, and with all the wonders of life manifesting on you. We know that mindful steps like these have the capacity to nourish us, to heal us, and to bring us in contact with you in the present moment. You are the Pure Land5 where countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past manifested, realized enlightenment, and taught the Dharma. There is no need for us to seek the Pure Land or the Kingdom of Heaven elsewhere or in the future. You are a wonderful and beautiful Pure Land. You are our true home and we can come back to you with each step. We no longer want to dream of any other Kingdom of Heaven or Land of Great Happiness6. Our teacher, who was also a child of yours, attained the Way at the foot of the Bodhi Tree. He accepted this place as his true home. We want to continue his career, making the vow to remain with you throughout countless lifetimes, offering you our talent, strength, and health so that many more Bodhisattvas can continue to rise up from your soil. Each time we sit in stillness on Mother Earth, we will be aware that you are in us. We make the aspiration to embody your great virtues; the virtues of solidity, perseverance, patience, and forbearance; the virtues of depth, endurance, and stability; the virtues of great courage and non-fear; the virtue of inexhaustible creativity. We vow to practice wholeheartedly to realize these virtues. We know that you have already sown these potentials as seeds, in the soil of our hearts and minds.The Earth is Not the Environment–the Earth is UsThe manifestation of each of your children is beautiful and each contributes to your beauty. A clear lake, a green pine, a pink cloud, a snow-capped mountain top, a fragrant forest, a white crane, a golden deer... these miraculous manifestations of life are all your children and each one of them enhances and magnifies your beauty. Your children include millions of species, each with its own language. Since you are our Mother, you understand all these languages, including the languages of humans. You are a planet, Mother of all beings, not just of humans, therefore we feel very at ease every time we talk to you and offer you our prayer. We are all your children, and at the same time, we are you, for you are fully present in each one of us.There are those of us lacking right thinking, who consider this place on which we live to be separate from the Pure Land. They advise us to reject this land and to aspire to be reborn in a faraway Pure Land. They do not know that if their minds are calm and pure, filled with love, if they have the capacity to transform compost into flowers, to use mud to grow lotuses, then they will see that their afflictions are in fact realizations and that this very land is already the Pure Land. They do not know that their way of perceiving has a lot to do with whether or not this is the Pure Land. Each physical manifestation on your body, such as a floating cloud or a falling leaf is sufficient for us to see the no-birth and no-death, no being and no non-being nature of reality. We then can appreciate and enjoy life fully, without being fearful or worrying about being or non-being, having or not having, increasing or decreasing, being the same or being different.The Sun My HeartDear Mother, I know you will always need the Sun in order to continue to give birth to us and to nourish us. The Sun is our Father. You orbit each other endlessly, offering us a full cycle of 365 days in 12 months, making the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The light emitted from Father provides you with warmth and allows photosynthesis to take place, thereby helping you maintain life for us. You and Father both formed from a vast, spinning nebula of gas and dust. His diameter is more than 100 times greater than yours, but the sweep of your orbit spans a distance more than 200 times greater again. His light takes more than 8 minutes to reach you, though the distance is only 150 million kilometers. We know that each one of us has a heart inside our body and if it stops, we will die immediately. But looking up, we see that the Sun is also our heart, located not inside this small body but in the body of the Solar System. If the Sun, our Father, disappears then our lives, and yours too, Mother, will come to an end. Therefore, we must contemplate the Sun as our heart, so that we can recognize the presence of our Father in us as well as outside of us, ultimately realizing that inside and outside are only concepts.Dear Mother, every time I look, I see Father in you and in me. My Father is not only in the sky but also on earth and is present in you and in me. Each morning he appears in the eastern sky as a luminous red-orange disk, radiating light in every direction, magnificent beyond words. My Father is the Sun–Sol, Surya, Sunna. He is a great Buddha, a great Bodhisattva. He is the Great Sun Tathagata 7, Limitless Light, Limitless Lifespan. He is Amitabha8. My Father’s physical form is much greater than that of my Mother. Though he is kind-hearted and capable of forgiveness, he has great strength and courage and can be very fierce. The temperature of his crown is more than 5500 degrees Celsius and thus his physical form is plasma. He does not have a hard and stable outer layer like the graceful, fresh green coat that you wear. He is one of the few largest stars in our galaxy. Eighty five percent of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way are smaller and dimmer than Father. But his great physical mass, 330,000 times that of Mother, is slowly diminishing. Each second he offers a small portion of his mass to the Universe in the form of light energy. Life is possible on you, dear Mother, thanks to your ability to receive and transform that light energy. Though limitless in lifespan, Father is also impermanent and over the next 10 billion years, most of his mass will be transformed into energy. After that, he will no longer be able to maintain his current form, but he will continue to manifest in other forms, through the energy emitted over billions of years. The light Father emits is his continuation and not even one photon of this light will be lost. This is why Father is truly limitless in lifespan.Our Solar FamilyOur Solar System is made up of a Buddha, surrounded by an assembly of planets, moving together within the Milky Way. Mercury orbits closest to Father. Next is Venus and then Mother Earth–most beautiful of all. After Mother is Mars. Between Mars and Jupiter is the asteroid belt; some tens of thousands of asteroids–from Ceres, almost 1000 kilometers across, down to little more than particles of dust. Jupiter is about 900 million kilometers from the Sun, our Father, and has its own entourage of 64 satellite planets, or moons. One of these moons, named Europa, has a thick layer of ice, under which there may be liquid water–perhaps even harboring life. Smaller and further from out than Jupiter is Saturn–still almost 100 times larger than Mother Earth, and attended by more than 60 moons. Uranus and Neptune are the last two full-sized planets in our Solar System. The assembly of our Sun, the Buddha, is numerous. We feel that it is a true family, a warm sangha, joyfully and mindfully dancing together in the Milky Way.Father’s embracing arms are very wide. We know that if Father embraces Mother and all of us in his arms then we will become ash, vapor, and liquid. You, Mother, know how to care for us. You protect all life by using oxygen from photosynthesis to create the ozone layer in the upper level of the atmosphere; thus limiting the amount of UV radiation reaching your surface. The birds are happiest in the vast sky and the deer enjoy running free in the woods, thanks to your capacity to contain and protect. Over the eons you have skillfully harvested and accumulated sunlight in order to nourish us, your children, whilst at the same time making yourself more and more beautiful. We know that your future, our future, depends on the future of the Sun, our Father. His light energy emission may increase by as much as 400% in the next few billion years and if your are not able to adapt and change your orbit, all of the great oceans on you will quickly dry up and life will no longer be possible.Many of us, seeing Father traveling each day from East to West, could think that his true home, his Pure Land, is in the direction of the West. But like you, we understand that that is just an idea. Father is present everywhere. If we were to stand on this side of the globe to look, he would seem to be in the West; but standing on the other side of the globe at the same moment, he would appear to be in the East. The Buddha does not differentiate between North and South, Inside and Outside. Our Father dwells above us, but at the same time, he is in us and in you. Having seen Father and Mother, and the whole Solar System in us, we no longer need to search for anything else.
The Emergence of AwarenessDo you remember when you and Father first formed from the dust of exploded stars and interstellar gas? You did not yet wear the silken cloak of freshness that you do today. At that time Mother, your robe was made of molten rock, but it quickly cooled and formed a hard shell. Light from Father was only 70% of what it is today, but greenhouse gases in your atmosphere helped to trap the heat and keep the great oceans from freezing. Around 4 billion years ago, complex molecules, perhaps brought to you from outer space, began to come together in self-replicating structures. Eventually these became more like living cells and you were able to help life emerge. Light particles from distant stars, millions of light years away, came to visit and stay with you. Small cells came together to form larger cells. Unicellular organisms slowly evolved into multi-cellular organisms. Life spread from water to land and today you have a wonderful green robe. But as impermanence is the nature of all phenomena, life over vast areas of the Earth has been destroyed more than five times, including the extinction of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. Just a few million years ago, the precursors of our human species began to appear in the form of apes such as orrorin tugenensis9, who had the ability to stand, leaving their hands free. They learned to use tools and communicate with each other, giving their brains opportunities to grow and develop, gradually evolving into humans. Agricultural activities and the emergence of society enabled humans to acquire a type of ability that no other species on Earth has. Humans can be evil, mean, and violent, but they have the ability, with spiritual practice, to become Buddhas, Saints, and Bodhisattvas–compassionate and helpful towards not only their own species but other species too–awakened beings with the capacity to protect you and preserve your beauty.Dear Mother, our human species, thanks to the precious gift of awareness, has been able to learn to recognize its own presence and has found its true place in you and in the Universe. We know that we are tiny and insignificant, yet our minds are capable of encompassing three thousand worlds. We now know that our beautiful planet Earth is not the center of the Universe but we can still see that it is one of the Universe’s most wondrous manifestations. We have developed science and technology, discovered reality’s true nature of no-birth and no-death, neither being nor non-being, neither increasing nor decreasing, neither the same nor different. We realize that the one contains the all, the greatest is in the smallest, and each particle of dust contains the whole Cosmos. We are learning to love you and our Father more and to love one another in the light of such insight. We know that this non-dualistic way of seeing things and the teaching of inter-being help us to transcend all discrimination, all fear, jealousy, hatred, and despair. We aspire to transmit this insight to future generations. We are no longer naive in thinking that humans are the masters of the Universe. Many of us have gone beyond dualistic views of right and wrong and are no longer puzzled about what we used to call the Will of Heaven and Earth 10. We have transcended the concept of a creator in human form–we are no longer able to believe that God is an old man with a white beard, sitting in the sky, controlling everything on Earth, or that there is a Goddess on a cloud, finding and helping us every time we are in danger. God, for us, is the Ultimate Reality, the true nature of no-birth, no-death, no-coming, no-going, of all phenomenal manifestations. But some of us, when going through suffering, believe absolutely that whatever brings suffering is evil and whatever brings happiness is good; not knowing that suffering and happiness are just perceptions. All our perceptions are based on our sense organs, which are inherently limited. If our sense organs were differently formed, then our perceptions would be correspondingly different. Thus we see that happiness or suffering, the Pure Land or the mundane world depend very much on our way of perceiving. The Non-Dual Nature of RealityWe know that absolute reality cannot be encompassed by the dualistic views of birth and death, being and non-being. A Buddha can be a person but may also manifest as a star in a constellation, or a planet, like you, beloved Mother. In fact, many Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas have manifested since beginningless time in forms other than human. Like our father the Sun, your true nature is no-birth and no-death. Like you, our nature must be the same. We thank you for your presence as a Bodhisattva, not in the form of a human but in the form of a planet. We personify you, calling you Mother–as we do our human mothers–but we know you are the Mother of all species.Dear Mother, there are people who call Father’s name throughout the whole day, not knowing that their Father is present in their very bodies as well as well as in the light above their heads. They are not aware that their true nature is the nature of Amitabha, of limitless light, and limitless lifespan. They do not know that they are the children of our Father, children of the Sun. Many have referred to The World-Honored One, Shakyamuni, our teacher, as ‘kinsman of the Sun.’ Day and night, we encounter our Father as a miraculous reality and not just as a name. If our Father is limitless in light and limitless in lifespan then so are we. Each cell in our bodies can emit that light and continue it into the future. The Kingdom of Heaven is on EarthDear Mother, there are those of us who walk on Earth but still wish to seek for a Promised Land elsewhere, not knowing that you are the wondrous Pure Land, present in this moment. They are not able to see that the Kingdom of Heaven exists in their own hearts. They are not able to see that if their minds are calm and peaceful then the very ground they are walking on becomes the Pure Land. We are able to play and enjoy this Pure Land day and night thanks to that insight, thanks to the practice of dwelling peacefully with mindfulness in the here and the now. We have the Kingdom here and are no longer searching for it elsewhere. You have the capacity to carry us hundreds of millions of years into the future, after which you may manifest as another planet and we as other wonderful forms on you. Respected Mother, you have children who are proud of themselves as brilliant mathematicians, skilled artisans, gifted architects, but few are able to see that you are the greatest mathematician, the most accomplished artisan, and the most talented architect. We only need to look at a branch of cherry blossoms, the shell of a snail, or the wing of a bat to see this truth. We have talented artists, but how can our paintings be compared to the works of art that you reveal to us in the four seasons? How can we paint such compelling dawns or create such radiant dusks? Our musicians are geniuses but how can our songs measure up to your wondrous orchestra of earth and sky, or the magnificent sound of the rising tide? We have brave soldiers–knights and heroes who have endured extreme heat and cold, and traversed mountains and rivers–but how many of us have your patience and capacity to embrace? We have great love stories, but who among us has your immense love that includes all beings without discrimination?
Interbeing – Our True NatureDear Mother, every time I step on the Earth, I am now able to transcend the notions of mind and matter. Your sublime reality also transcends the notions of mind and matter. Matter and mind are just ideas, two faces of the same reality. That pine tree is not just matter as it possesses a sense of knowing. A dust particle is not just matter since each of its atoms has intelligence and is a living reality. Our nature is your nature, which is the nature of the Cosmos. This is the nature of interbeing; no being or non-being, no-birth and no-death, no increasing or decreasing, no matter and no mind, no inside or outside, no coming or going. Earth is thought to be one of the four basic elements but Mother Earth is also composed of the other three non-earth elements–water, air, and fire. The four elements carry in themselves time, space, and consciousness. Each step reveals to us the inter-being of all elements. Buddha Nature is not only present in humans but in all things. Dear Mother, you are a great Bodhisattva, giving birth to countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Your heart embraces the whole Cosmos and your wisdom radiates in the ten directions. We cannot compare our capacity to understand and to love with yours. Some of us resent you for giving birth to them, causing them to endure suffering, because they are not yet able to understand and appreciate you. With the practice of looking deeply, we see that we can overcome all of our suffering and resentment. Getting in touch deeply with the Historical Dimension, we can see the Ultimate Dimension and thus come to better understand what is happening in the Historical Dimension. In the Ultimate Dimension, there is no birth, no death, no suffering, no happiness, no coming, no going, no good and no evil. We must learn to look at the world of signs and appearances from the perspective of the Ultimate Dimension. In the Historical Dimension, if there is no death, there will be no birth. If there is no suffering, there will be no happiness. Without evil, good cannot be; without the mud, lotuses will not grow. Mud and lotus are not enemies. Lotus and mud depend on each other to manifest. The same is true for suffering and happiness, good and evil. But since our understanding of good and evil is still very dualistic, some of us still resent, blame, and reproach the Earth and the Sky11. We use our small minds to judge the great mind of the Earth and the Sky. The floods, tornados, earthquakes, and tsunamis are not manifestations of your anger or punishments but are things that must occur on occasion in the Historical Dimension, out of necessity, so that balance can be reestablished; the same is true of a shooting star. For balance in nature to be achieved, at times, some species have to endure loss. But when the need to survive is replaced with greed and pride, there is violence, which always brings about unnecessary devastation. We have seen that when one species develops too rapidly, exceeding its natural limit, causing great loss and damage, threatening the lives of other species, then naturally causes and conditions will arise to bring about the destruction and annihilation of that species. Equilibrium can then be restored among the remaining species. These causes and conditions often surface from within the very species causing the destruction. We have learned the lesson that when we perpetrate violence towards our own and other species, we are violent towards ourselves; and when we know how to protect all beings, we are protecting ourselves.
Continuing the Mind of LoveDear Mother, each of us has Buddha Nature because we are all your offspring; whether we are humans, animals, plants, or minerals. We humans are often proud of our mind consciousness, but this is only one of the many functions of mind, such as Store Consciousness12 and Vimala (pure, non-defiled) Consciousness. Our mind consciousness gives us the ability to recognize our own presence and the presence of the Cosmos in this moment; but it is limited by our habitual tendency to differentiate between being and non-being, birth and death, inside and outside, individual and collective. Some of us have practiced, contemplated, purified ourselves, and attained the Wisdom of Non-Discrimination. We are able to be in touch with Nirvana, with the nature of no-birth and no-death in ourselves. You must be very proud of those of us who are able to continue you on the path of evolution; those who have the capacity to guide and to lead others towards the insight of non-duality, transforming all differentiation, discrimination, fear, hatred and despair.
You have given birth to many great Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. We make the deep vow to follow those who have gone before us on this path. We make the vow to confidently embody your wondrous and sublime consciousness, so as to be worthy of calling ourselves your children. We understand that all things are impermanent and without a separate self-nature; you, our Father the Sun, and all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are of the same nature. We know that in the Ultimate Dimension, your lifespan, Father’s, and that of all beings, including leaves and budding flowers, are limitless–transcending birth and death, being and non-being. Yet in the Historical Dimension, we still want to protect you, our Mother Earth, so that you can continue for a long time in this beautiful and precious form; not just 500 million years, but even beyond. We want to protect you so that you can be here with us, within this cozy Solar System, for a very long time.
Returning to Intimacy with Mother EarthRespected Mother, some of us ask what will happen to them once their physical form disintegrates. We know clearly that we will return to you. It is only natural. If we know how to contemplate, to look deeply, we will recognize the true no-coming and no-going nature of all things. We will no longer have any questions about coming and going. Knowing that we have manifested from you in the past and will continue to manifest from you again and again in the future, each time fresh and new, we have no more worries, no more fears.Dear respected Mother, I see the whole Cosmos in you, and you in me. Although you are the mother of all species, as humans, we are capable of conversing intimately with you, capable of seeing you and understanding you. We know that you want us to live in such a way that in each moment of our daily lives we can produce the energies of Mindfulness, Peace, Solidity, and Love. We vow to obey your Wish and respond to your love. We have the conviction that if we keep producing these wholesome energies, we will be able to help reduce suffering on Earth, especially the suffering caused by war, hunger, and illness. We will learn to appreciate and enjoy our own presence and the presence of the Cosmos. With these wholesome energies we can help reduce the number of natural disasters like floods, storms, earthquakes and tsunamis. Dear Mother, there were times when your children suffered greatly as a result of natural disasters. We know that when we suffer, you also suffer in us. At these times, we turned to you, dear Mother, and asked you whether or not we could count on you, on your stability and compassion. You did not answer us right away. And then, looking at us with great compassion, you said: “Yes, of course, you can count on your Mother. I will always be there for you. But dear children, you must ask yourselves whether your Mother can count on you.” Dear Mother, we have passed many nights without sleeping because of this Koan given to us. Today, our faces covered in tears, we come to kneel before you, compassionate and holy Mother, to tell you that, “Yes, Mother, you can count on us.”
Touching the UltimateBecause you are endowed with Buddha Nature, all of your children carry within themselves the capacity to wake up and live happily in the spirit of responsibility. Your children have been able to build powerful telescopes capable of capturing many kinds of light that are inaccessible to the human eye, such as infrared light, ultraviolet light, X-rays and gamma-rays. We have put these telescopes on space observatories, above the opaque veil of the atmosphere, several thousands of kilometers above the Earth’s surface. We have been able to observe the Cosmos in all its splendor. We have seen distant galaxies and stars, whose images have taken hundreds of millions of years to reach us. In this way we have come to appreciate your beauty, dear Mother, and the wonder that is us. Our consciousness is of the same nature as the consciousness of the Cosmos and your consciousness. The radiant and elegant Cosmos that we see in our telescopes is this very consciousness itself, and not something outside of it. We know that any of your children who practice looking deeply with mindfulness and concentration will also be able to develop this Wisdom of Wonderful Observation13 . Dear Mother, we know that the Ultimate Dimension of reality is our true nature of no-birth, no-death, no-coming, no-going; if we are able to get in touch with it, we can experience peace and the blessings of non-fear and non-anxiety. We know that the Ultimate Dimension of reality does not exist separately from the Historical Dimension. If we are able to touch deeply the Historical Dimension–through a leaf, a flower, a pebble, a beam of light, a mountain, a river, a bird, or our own body–we touch at the same time the Ultimate Dimension. The Ultimate Dimension cannot be described as personal or impersonal, material or spiritual, object or subject of cognition–we say only that it is always shining, and shining on itself. Touching the Ultimate Dimension, we feel happy and comfortable, like the birds enjoying the blue sky, or the deer enjoying the green fields. We know that we do not have to look for the Ultimate outside of ourselves–it is available within us, in this very moment. Practicing mindfulness, touching the nature of interdependence, interbeing, and emptiness, we can get in touch with the Ultimate right in the very here and now.
1 From the Vietnamese: Bồ Tát Thanh Lương Địa; Bồ Tát – Bodhisattva, (Sanskrit term for an awakened being); Thanh Lương – refreshing; Địa – earth. 2 In Vietnamese folk religion, believed to be one of the Four Immortals, who governs the celestial realm. 3 The Never-Despising Bodhisattva, who sees and honors the goodness, happiness, and capacity to love in all beings. 4 The Earth-Store Bodhisattva, who goes into the deepest places of suffering and brings light and laughter to others. 5 In Mahayana Buddhism, a realm free of suffering. From Sino-Vietnamese: Tịnh Độ; tịnh – pure, độ – land. 6 Another term for the Pure Land. From Sino-Vietnamese: Cực Lạc; cục – great; lạc – happiness 7 Title of the Buddha meaning “he or she who has come from Suchness (Ultimate Reality)” 8 From the Pure Land School of Buddhism, the Buddha of Infinite Light. 9 Considered to be the second-oldest known hominin ancestor, possibly related to modern humans. 10 In Taoism, the cosmic governing principle to which humanity should conform. 11 In Taoist cosmology, the world of man and Heaven. 12 In Buddhist Psychology, one of the eight parts of consciousness; a field in which every kind of seed-potential can be planted–such as seeds of suffering, sorrow, fear, happiness, or compassion. 13 In Buddhist Psychology, when mind consciousness is transformed into wisdom and observes the phenomenal world with the insight of non-discrimination, seeing the oneness in all things.
Last Updated (Thursday, 29 December 2011 19:19)
After the end of the German retreat, 21st of May, suddenly I noticed people speaking Dutch around me and I started seeing familiar faces. The Dutch retreat was coming up! Dwelling in the present moment of the German retreat all week, I had almost forgotten about the Dutch retreat. But all this ‘Nederlands’ around me, made me very happy!
Monday the lay organising team was working joyfully at the last preparations for the retreat. They had been busy already for months, together with the EIAB-team, organising and doing all the registrations. It is very nice to see everybody working together a sangha, with great dedication.
I also met a few people from the young Dutch Wake-up sangha. They had made a beautiful and professional Wake-Up banner. I only left the Netherlands 2 years ago in order to become a nun. In that short time a lot has changed and several Wake-Up sangha’s have been created and are blooming like tulip-flowers. It has been nourishing for me to hear the enthusiasm of the young people.
Tuesday was the arrival day of the Dutch retreat. Big touringcars came in from all parts of the Netherlands bringing the retreatants. An resident living near the EIAB of Dutch origin, remarked how beautiful it was to see the stream of peaceful, smiling people coming out of the buses.
The registration process for the hundreds of people went very smoothly with everybody finding their place to stay and put on a name badge with their name and the name of their Dharma sharing family for this week. Already the first evening we met in our families to eat dinner in silence, introduce ourselves and learn about the working meditation we would do together every day. In my group there were some new people, some people who had come to Plum Village or the EIAB one or more times before and some long-time practitioners. A good mix. And right from the first evening the atmosphere was mindful and friendly.
During this retreat I had the honour to translate Thay’s dharmatalks into Dutch. The first day it was quite a challenge to know the right words and remember all Thay had said. After that it got better and easier, as I could more and more connect with Thays energy while he gave the Dharmatalk. It helped that the people were listening with ears of loving kindness and were appreciative of the translation. Even though most of them understood English and could notice all my mistakes. It was nice that brother Phap Xa or lay Dharma teachers were sitting beside me to help me find the right word in case I did not understand or forgot something. Translating as a Sangha.
The days of the retreat past quickly with sitting meditation and exercise in the morning, a Dharmatalk, walking meditation, working and several presentations of the basic practices. Every day I could see the members of my discussion family becoming more relaxed and happy. At the same time a lot of emotions and inner difficulties manifested. It was good to be able to share them with each other In my group ‘feeling connected with oneself and others’ was a theme for several people and during the days of the retreat I could feel the connectedness growing. The last day over 10 members of the family took the 5 mindfulness trainings. A special occasion. And a good way of taking the practice that had proved to be so valuable during the retreat, home to family, friends and work. In my mind I can see them spreading out over the country taking little lights of mindfulness and practice making the world a bit more peaceful and beautiful.
This was the second Dutch retreat in Waldbrol. The EIAB is becoming the home base for Dutch retreats. Waldbrol is not so far from the Dutch border, but we Dutch people are used to having everything close by in our own little country and hesitate to go abroad. But I heard people say that they like the EIAB, the beautiful hills and forests around and the Plum Village atmosphere with the presence of over 150 monks and nuns. This year there were almost 100 more visitors than last year.
Next year the Dutch retreat will be in August, so that children and those working in schools will also be able to come. I hope this way even more people will have the opportunity to come and I am already looking forward to that retreat! (Sr. Sang Nghiem)
Last Updated (Saturday, 25 June 2011 08:08)
In May 2011, seven brothers and sisters from various centers of Plum Village worldwide were invited to China to lead a retreat for 50 business men and women for three days. At first, we were refused visas to enter China as we were monastics. We needed to go directly to the China embassy to get our visas. We waited half a day to get a chance to hand in our applications for the visas. We were told that to get a visa to enter China, each one of us had to write an agreement that we wouldn't engage in religious activities. We told one another that we wouldn't be engaging in religious activities; we would just help these business people to reduce stress and to be happy. Nothing religious about that. Going to China for us was to connect with the ancestral teachers of China and Master Tang Hoi who went to China to teach in the second century AD, whose teachings and practices have influenced our ways of practice to a large degree. We flew to China with that intention.
from left to right, Sr. Tue Nghiem, Sr.Linh Nghiem, Br. Phap Kham, Br. Phap Chung
Two monks were waiting for us at the arrival gate at the airport. We rode two hours to Yangzhou. Our hosts told us that there will be two scholars from Hong Kong and China who will give the Dharma talks; we will lead everything else, that way we wouldn't violate our agreement of not engaging in religious activities. It's a skillful way for us to share the teachings and practices without attracting attention of the government officials of the area. We were open for whatever would unfold.
Last Updated (Saturday, 18 June 2011 18:33)
In preparation for this year's German and dutch retreats at the EIAB, I had the privilege to be part of the design team. This team was designing the stage on which our beloved teacher will give dharma talks. I was very excited to work on a project together with my brothers and sisters including Brother Phap Thanh, Brother Phap Lien, Sister Thanh Hue, Sister Khai Nghiem and Sister Linh Nghiem. I am an aspiring artist and I appreciate working together with others. I call it "Sangha Art" because it is a coming together of many different ideas and the harmony that arises.
It isn't about throwing around ideas. Working together is like a delicate baby. We try our best to create an atmosphere where everyone's voice is heard and honored. Though there are differences and disagreements, we try to be skillful and respectful to each other's opinions. If we disagree with someone else, we try to be skillful enough so the other person doesn't become hurt or fearful, losing confidence to continue offering their ideas. We understand that our opinions and thoughts come from inside us.
Last Updated (Saturday, 18 June 2011 18:34)
On The Road With Thich Nhat Hanh
A documentary film about the monks and nuns of the Plum Village tradition traveling to share the Dharma throughout the US for three months.
Many of you may know of Thay, of Thich Nhat Hanh, the beloved Zen Master, the gentle monk that has helped bring engage Buddhism to the West. Now, meet his array of monastic students.
A small team of monks and nuns, with the help of a professional documentary film maker, will share their life while they travel with their teacher this Fall 2011 on the “Now Is The Time: This is It!” US-Tour. Many people, young and old, have asked and been curious about the life of the monastics – what their life is like during the day, the month, the year. The classic question to the monks and nuns have always been along the lines of, “What is you life like?” “Why did you become a monk/nun?” “How do you all handle living together with so many people from different backgrounds and upbringing?” Now you will have an opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes, behind the bells, behind the tour of their life.
We need your support to realize this project. We need to raise $30,000 just to cover the basic expenses to make this film – a reputable film maker to follow the Sangha on tour, editing costs, and an assistant if needed. Please help us spread the news to your friends and family, to your Sanghas and social networks.
We have so far raised over $5000 in just a week and the outpouring of support and enthusiasm for this project has warmed our hearts. It is great to know that many of you want to see this film made.
May the Bodhisattvas protect us on this endeavor.
May our ancestors and patriarchs guide us on this journey.
May we all find joy, fun and meaning in the hours of our day.
Thank you for your love and trust.
Brother Phap Dung
On behalf of the ON The ROAD team.
Taking pictures with the Nun from Taiwan
Last Updated (Thursday, 21 April 2011 17:59)
Celebration of Tet, Plum Village 2011
HAPPY NEW YEAR ~ Chuc Mung Nam Moi
(Please See Below for a timetable of the weeks events)
This Thursday – 3rd Febrary, 2011 - is the start of the Lunar New Year and the biggest annual celebration for all Asian peoples. A time for family and community to come together and celebrate. In Plum Village (and all our other centres) we celebrate Tet – Vietnamese New Year – over the course of the coming week. The Legendary Earth Cake has been prepared the traditional way (picture the community taking an afternoon to drink tea and skilfully wrap the Earth Cake in banana leaves and tying with string then vigils of singing monastics cooking them over night in large pots over wood fires under the Winter's sky), the Hamlets have all been decorated and the Ancestors have been formally invited to support and join us in the festival. If you are nearby please come and join us (please contact us for information on an overnight stay).
As well as the joy of sharing lovingly prepared traditional foods – including Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai and Western dishes - this is a time of great spiritual nourishment. The spirit of Coming Home, Being Together Joyfully is infused with music, poetry, playfulness, Oracle readings*, ceremonies and performances (including a play reporting events of the year of our communities). Afternoons we practice room visiting (and hosting) – the only time of year monks and nuns visit each others rooms along with the layfriends. Expect tea, sweets, song and games, extended oracle readings, and deep sharings together. There is also plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful grounds, take meditative walks in the forest and enjoy sitting meditation in the halls.
* A short explanation of the Oracle readings: Four morning sessions combine a little of the mysterious with a great opportunity to ask and receive guidance for the real question of your heart. A number of longterm guests are invited to come forward in front of the community and select a couplet of lines from an epic poem of vietnam -- seemingly at random but with concentration required on the question. The question is then answered in light of the verses selected. These morning sessions conducted by our teacher, Thay, the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, always bring insight, transformation and delight for all present. In Plum Village the role of Oracle is played by Vietnamese Bard, Nguyen Du, who wrote the epic poem, The Tale of Kieu (the most famous work of literature in Vietnam). This year the Western Bards – Shakespeare and Victor Hugo have also been invited an there will be oracles available based on their work. There are opportunities for everyone to have an oracle reading, interpreted by a monastic Dharma Teacher after these morning sessions with Thay.
TET Schedule, 2011
Monday 31st January
Morning Ceremony: Touching the Earth to express our gratitude to all our Spiritual, Blood and Land Ancestors for their support in the past year, and asking for their continued support in the coming New Year.
Wednesday 2nd February
LOCATION – New Hamlet
3:00PM: Dharma Talk by Thay in Vietnamese (translation into English and French provided)
5:30PM: Sitting meditation until 6PM (Midnight Vietnam time) to welcome in the New Year.
Dinner and Evening performances.
Thursday 3rd February (first day)
LOCATION – Upper Hamlet
Paying gratitude to Thay and the ceremony for the respective communities of monks and nuns to bow to each other in gratitude and respect.
Oracle Readings with Thay
Room visiting – Monks residence and longterm layfriends rooms
5PM Tet opera perfomance
Continue room visiting in evening.
Friday 4th February (second day)
LOCATION – Lower Hamlet
10AM: Oracle Readings with Thay
Afternoon: Room visiting – Lower Hamlet Nuns residence and longterm layfriends rooms
Continue room visiting in evening.
Saturday 5th February (third day)
LOCATION – Son Ha Hamlet
Morning: Oracle Readings with Thay
Afternoon: Room visiting – Lower Hamlet Nuns residence and longterm layfriends rooms
Continue room visiting in evening.
Sunday 6th February (fourth day)
LOCATION – New Hamlet
Morning: Oracle Readings with Thay
Afternoon: Room visiting – New Hamlet Nuns residence and longterm layfriends rooms
Continue room visiting in evening.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 01 February 2011 09:46)
THAY ONLINE - LIVE STREAMING AND ARCHIVED VIDEOS
Generally speaking you can find recent talks of Thay in Plum Village and also from the recent tours (Asia and UK in 2010) archived on vimeo (vimeo.com/plumvillage)
Whenever possible talks are streamed live - the direct link for this is - http://stream.pvom.org
Recently Thay has offered 3 wonderful talks in English - find them on vimeo.com/plumvillage
Christmas Eve talk
Boxing Day - Intimacy in Relationships and Fidelity (for parallax press)
New Years Eve - At home with yourself
Also Stay tuned to Thay's Facebook Page for more info.
Friday, December 24th, 2010: LA @ 6 AM, Houston @ 8 AM AM, NYC @ 9 AM, London @ 14:00 (2 PM), France @ 15:00 (3 PM), Bangkok @ 9 PM (21:00), Hong Kong & Singapore @ 1 AM (01:00) on Christmas Morning. Sydney @ 7:30 PM (19:00).
Last Updated (Wednesday, 20 June 2012 16:46)
Please be aware that the Biannual 3 week June Retreat in Plum Village will not take place in 2011.
It has been rescheduled for 2012 as a result of Thays demanding schedule in Spring 2011.
This also realigns the retreat so as not to fall within the same year as the US tour.
Please let your local and National Sangha email groups know in case people miss this notice.
Also to note that there will be a monastic retreat June 10-17, 2011. For this week Plum Village will not be receiving guests.
Thank you for your understanding.
Last Updated (Saturday, 04 December 2010 18:08)