You are the Flame at the Tip of the Candle:
Meditation for the victims in Japan
It was exactly 3 months ago that the tsunami hit the Northeastern coast of Japan. Let us breathe mindfully, come back to ourselves and be with the direct victims of that gigantic catastrophe.
Let us tell our friends there, those who survived the catastrophe, that we are with them, we suffer with them, and we need their courage and their perseverance to maintain our hope. During the war in Vietnam, I myself underwent many moments close to despair. The village of Tra Loc, near the demilitarized zone separating North and South Vietnam, was rebuilt by our Buddhist social workers after it had been destroyed by the American bombing, just because it had been temporarily occupied by the other side of the war. Our young monastic and lay workers rebuilt it, only to see it destroyed a second time. “Shall we rebuild it again?” our workers there asked. “Yes, we have to rebuild it,” I answered. The village of Tra Loc was destroyed five times, and we rebuilt it five times. We had to, because otherwise we could have allowed despair to overtake us. The young people came to me and asked, “Thay, do you think that the war will end someday?” We did not see any sign telling us that the war was ending. We could not yet see the end of the tunnel. But in order to protect us from despair, I said, “Dear ones, the Buddha said everything is impermanent. The war is also impermanent. It cannot last forever. It will end someday. So let us trust in the Buddha.”
Dear brothers and sisters, please do not lose hope. We are aware that you are doing your best. Not only for you, but for your children, for your people, and also for us. We also need hope. Your courage and your compassion will help us retain our humanity and our hope. The situation is really difficult. But the world is with you. We are with you. The tsunami hit us all.
You are the flame at the tip of the candle. It is hot. That heat reminds us all that mother Earth is calling for help. And you shine the light for all of us. We need the light in order not to be drawn into the realm of darkness and forgetfulness. You are children of the Buddha, children of God. Please allow your compassion and courage to be your guide. We need you. And we try to be present for you in every way we can.
Dear brothers and sisters everywhere, please come back to your breath. Let us breathe mindfully to be aware of what is going on, and try our best to preserve our humanness.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Last Updated (Thursday, 23 June 2011 06:18)
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh's compassionate response
to the persecution of his students in Vietnam Download in pdf format
|"The koan “Bat Nha” is everyone’s koan; it is the koan of every individual and every community. The koan can be practiced by a Bat Nha monastic, by a monk or nun studying at a Buddhist Institute in Vietnam, a Venerable in the Buddhist Church of Vietnam, a police officer, a Catholic priest, a Protestant minister, a Politburo member, a member of the Central Committee, a newspaper or magazine editor, an intellectual, an artist, a businessman, a teacher, a journalist, an abbot or abbess, an international political leader or ambassador. Bat Nha is an opportunity, because Bat Nha can help you see clearly what you couldn't – or didn't want – to see before."
Do not just look for what you want to see,
that would be futile.
Do not look for anything,
but allow the insight to have a chance to come by itself.
That insight will help liberate you.
- Nhat Hanh
Last Updated (Monday, 25 January 2010 01:53)
(translated from Vietnamese)
Fragrant Source Inner Monastery
The last days of 2009
To my Bat Nha children,
I know that in these moments, you have to disperse to many places, and you cannot live together to practice as a monastic community anymore, but I trust that my letter will still reach you.
On Sunday 20th, 2009, brothers and sisters from the four Plum Village monasteries gathered to have a Day of Mindfulness. It had been six months that we had to organize days of mindfulness outdoor in the Dharma Cloud Temple of Upper Hamlet, because the meditation hall was under construction. Last Sunday, the meditation hall Still Water had been finished, and thus this was the first time that the community could use the meditation hall again. The new meditation hall is very large and beautiful, a lot larger and more beautiful than the old meditation hall.
Last Updated (Monday, 25 January 2010 01:47)
Translated from phapnanbatnha.net
(original in Vietnamese)
Thay’s letter to the Bat Nha Monastics, continued.
Blue Cliff Monastery
October 21, 2009
Yesterday, in the Great Harmony Meditation Hall of Blue Cliff Monastery, there was an ordination ceremony for two young people, one who had already graduated from Dental School and the other, from Business School. They are sisters Chan Lan Nghiem (True Adornment of Love) and Chan Manh Nghiem (True Adornment of Beginning, i.e. in Beginner’s Mind). These two sisters had the opportunity to learn the precepts and mindful manners from Thay for a whole week before the ordination date. They have been accepted as permanent residents in the White Crane Hamlet at Blue Cliff Monastery.
Last Updated (Monday, 25 January 2010 01:33)
Translated from phapnanbatnha.net
(original in Vietnamese)
Thay is continuing to write a letter to you from the hermitage Thach Lang in Blue Cliff Monastery. It is October 13th, 2009. Thay just came back from New York. In New York, Thay and the Sangha guided two days of practice for over 2000 American practitioners in the Northeast. It took place in the Beacon Theatre on Broadway Street, and the topic for the two practice days was “Building a Peaceful and Compassionate Society.” At 12:30 p.m. on October 10th, 2009, over 2000 people did walking meditation on Broadway to send energy to Thay’s “Bat Nha Children” who are residing in Phuoc Hue temple.
Thay recalls that during his stay in Phuoc Hue, Thay lived with two monastic brothers – Thay Tam Cat and Thay Duc Tram, who were also around Thay’s age. Back in the 1940’s, the three of us had studied together at the Buddhist Institute Bao Quoc in Hue. Thay Tam Cat’s lay name was Huyen Ton Vien Lau. Thay Duc Tram was one of the elder disciples of the Most Venerable Tri Thu at Paramita Temple. The three of us lived in Phuoc Hue and guided lay friends in their practice. Every early evening, we went out to a large field behind the temple to play soccer. Back then, no one in the monastic circle knew how to play soccer. The Most Venerable Thien Minh (Thay Tri Nghiem) was young back then, about 25 years old and was the first monk to play soccer together with the novices in Linh Son Temple in Da Lat. After a few years, other monks such as Thay Nhu Tram, Tri Khong, Long Nguyet and a number of other monastic students from the Buddhist Institute An Quang also came to Phuoc Hue to study and practice with Thay. At Phuoc Hue Temple, Thay also organized middle school and high school classes for children in the village. Your eldest brother, Nhat Tri, was ordained in this temple. On that same day, another child’s head was shaven and he received three precepts (equivalent to the first, second, and fourth of the Five Mindfulness Trainings). He only received the three precepts because he was too young – only six or seven years old. This little boy later became the Most Venerable Nguyen Hanh, who is now the Abbot of Viet Nam Temple in Houston, which is one of the largest temples in the United States.
Last Updated (Monday, 25 January 2010 01:34)
Blue Cliff, October 7th, 2009To my Bat Nha Children,
I wrote “my Bat Nha children” and not “my children in Bat Nha” as I had done before, because even though you are not living in Bat Nha anymore, you continue to carry the name of the Bat Nha Sangha. You and Bat Nha are one. Wherever you go, you carry Bat Nha with you, and Bat Nha has become an indestructible diamond body. In the opening gatha, which we recite before reading the Diamond Sutra, there is the term “diamond body” as follows:
How may we transcend birth and death
And attain the indestructible diamond body?
How do we practice
So that it may sweep away all illusions?
We ask the Buddha, out of compassion for us,
To open up the treasure store.
For all of us,
Please expound your wonderful teachings!
Last Updated (Monday, 25 January 2010 01:36)
Phương Khê, Spring 2009
My dear students, near and far,
In the Daily Chanting book, there is a chant that I really liked when I was a novice. The prose of this piece is very beautiful, and its content has a great capacity to nourish the aspiration of monastics. Every time the novice Phùng Xuân [Thầy’s earlier name] chanted that piece, he allowed the words to embrace him and penetrate deeply into his blood vessels and into every cell of his body. This chant is a monastic’s beautiful dream, and I have a lot of gratitude to the Zen master who wrote it. You already know that chant, it is the Beginning Anew and Refuge Chant for Life. Its original title is The Vow Chant. Zen master Jiao Ran (皎 然) wrote it during the Tang dynasty. He was very famous as a poet and writer. He was the one who wrote the epitaphs for the first Zen masters. Yí Shan (怡山) is the mountain where he lived. People called him Zen master Yí Shan (怡山) instead of Zen master Jiao Ran (皎 然), out of respect. Before becoming a monk, his last name was Xie (谢) and his first name was Qing Zhou (请 晝). The famous work he transmitted to us is the Collection of the Storage Mountain, Chu Shan Ji (儲 山 集), a collection of ten volumes.
To Friends and Co-practitioners at the “One Buddha is Not Enough
This is Thay again writing to you from the Massachusetts General Hospital. The treatment is going well and we have noticed several aspects of the improvement of Thay’s conditions after the first week. Thank you for having sent your loving energy to Thay. I learned that you all, both monastic and lay members of the Sangha, have practiced beautifully with all your hearts in the retreat. And that makes Thay very happy. The most wonderful thing is that after a few moments of sadness, worry and disappointment, all of us have settled down to practice and conduct the retreat the most wonderful way a Sangha could. The transformation and the joy you feel presently at the retreat is very nourishing and encouraging for Thay and for everyone of us. By now all of us have already seen the talent and the miracle of the Sangha. We have to acknowledge the fact that the Sangha has embodied the continuation of Thay in a beautiful way, and there is no reason for anyone of us to worry about the future of our practice. King Prasenajit of Shravasti one day told the Buddha that when he observed the Sangha, he could truly see the Buddha. One of the achievements of this retreat is that everyone can see Thay in the Sangha, including those who come to the retreat for the first time.
Boston - August 2009
click here to read Thay's letter in pdf format...
"Dear Friends and Co-practitioners at the Retreat One Buddha is not enough, Estes Park, CO.
My dear friends,
I am writing to you from the Massachusettes General Hospital in Boston. I know the Sangha has manifested today in Estes Park. I miss the Reterat. I miss the beautiful setting of the REtreat. Especially I miss the Sangha, I miss you. I always enjoy sitting with the Sangha, walking with the Sangha, breathing with the Sangha. The joy of being together, sharing the Dharma and the practice together is always very nourishing and healing...
But I do not suffer, because I know I am taking care of myself. And taking care of myself is to take care of you. The doctors here decided that I should stay 14 days here for the treatment of a lung infection by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Please do not worry. It is only an infection. But it has to be treated right away. My kidneys, my liver, my heart, my digestive tract all function well. I am given two strong anti-biotics, from I.V. injections per day. And the clinicians here are monitoring closely the process of treatment. I am allowed to go out of the hospital to the park nearby one hour per day to do walking meditation.
Last Updated (Monday, 24 August 2009 02:50)
“Thay is not worried about you, but it does not mean that Thay is not paying attention to you. Thay is not worried about you because Thay has confidence in you. Thay has the confidence that you can behave true to the Dharma in challenging and difficult circumstances. And you have proven that you can do it. And because of that, Thay’s confidence in you has grown quickly. This brings so much happiness both to Thay and to you.”
Sitting Still Hut, Upper Hamlet, Plum Village
July 20, 2009
To my students in Bat Nha, Tu Hieu and everywhere,
Thay is sitting at “Sitting Still Hut,” in the Upper Hamlet of Plum Village while writing this letter to you. The Summer Retreat in Plum Village is very joyful and peaceful. There is economic difficulty in the world, but the number of people coming to Plum Village during the four weeks is still very high, and perhaps it is higher than the previous years. Not only are there many children, but the teenagers from age 13 to 18 are also numerous. The number of young adults from 18 to 25 is also quite high. Each age group practices together, having Dharma discussions and eating dinner together, in order to share their practice experiences with each other and to build brotherhood and sisterhood. The Wake Up movement for the young Western friends is also growing quickly. Have you seen the Wake Up T-shirts? There are many young people coming to Plum Village yearly; they are used to the way of life and practice in Plum Village, so they are able to help those who just come for the first time. On the morning of July 16th, 2009, in the New Hamlet, Brother Phap Trien displayed for the first time the wrist-watch bearing the sign of the present moment. This watch was designed by our young monks in the Upper Hamlet, with Thay’s calligraphy: ”It’s now.” Anytime we raise our hands to look at our watch, it will let us know that this is the present moment. There is a design for men and a design for women. That same day, 150 people came to the bookshop to buy the watch. One lay practitioner clicked his tongue and said, “This is really a brilliant idea.” We call it “the watch of the present moment.” Brother Phap Trien was one of the two young monks who helped Thay to design this watch. The other was Brother Phap Chieu, who is also very young, and who will receive the lamp transmission at the end of this year! This watch is made in the United States.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 26 August 2009 13:23)
New Year's Letter by Thay from Plum Village
A letter to all my spiritual children, as the year comes to an end.Thay has written a letter addressed to all of his students about the Toadskin Hut, the hermit of Still Sitting Hut, walking meditation paths that have become legendary, and the new young Dharma Teachers in Plum Village.Still Sitting Hut, December 5, 2008
There is sunshine in Upper Hamlet today. I went for walking meditation down to the Lower Mountain Temple, along the pathway of pines. From the Still Sitting Hut to the pathway of pines, I passed by fields of grass that were covered with oak leaves, especially around Thầy Giác Thanh’s Floating Cloud hut. The carpet of oak leaves was very thick. There were leaves that are still fresh, the color of the robes of the Theravada monks. The trees shed their leaves, making the earth richer; the earth and the tree nurture each other – I saw this very clearly. I walked very slowly, so that I could be in touch with the ultimate dimension with every step, which means to be in touch with limitless time and infinite space.
Last Updated (Monday, 24 August 2009 02:37)