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Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Category: Thich Nhat Hanh

Call Me by My True Names

35 years ago today, I participated in the mass demonstration in New York City against nuclear arms. While there, I heard Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh read aloud this English translation of one of his poems.

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow–
even today I am still arriving. Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing the World/1 [from The Book of Mev]

The second week of that Summer Program at Maryknoll, Mev made an announcement after one of the morning sessions that she was going to present some of her photographs in a slideshow/meditation on a night when there was no scheduled speaker.  Curious about what made this self-promoting impresario tick, I wanted to attend.  Her slideshow, with taped instrumental music to establish a contemplative mood, was a welcome relief from the intense, sometimes strangely cerebral presentations during the day about global liberation theology, the suffering of the poor, and the consequent responsibility of U.S. citizens.  She presented a series of her photos from her travels in Brazil, Mexico, Haiti and Russia, and, as I confronted the faces of Mev’s subjects, I was reminded of one of my favorite poems, Thich Nhat Hahn’s “Please Call Me by My True Names,” especially the concluding lines:

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion.

Her meditation lasted about 15 minutes, leading the group of 20 into an awareness that our discussions during the day ultimately were about flesh and blood people, with names, faces, histories, heartaches, resilience and desires.  Afterwards, feeling hesitant to speak directly to Mev, I went up to my room and began to write out Nhat Hanh’s poem, since I had learned it by heart years before and often used it for a morning meditation. I also wrote a note of thanks to her for the presentation, and I pinned the note and poem for her on the community bulletin board.  This was safe, spiritual flirting.

Read the rest of this entry »

At Home in the World: A Summer Writing Class 2017

Thich Nhat Hanh is regarded by many as one of the most skillful and pragmatic of spiritual teachers. In 2016 he published At Home in the World, a succinct autobiography of his ninety years of life in Vietnam and in exile. Filled with recollections, teachings, and practices, this book will be our guide for getting in touch with our own stories, wisdom, and resources for mindful living.

Thich Nhat Hanh has been a proponent of Engaged Buddhism for over sixty years. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. He was a kindred spirit to the Catholic monk Thomas Merton and Jesuit activist Daniel Berrigan. He is the author of scores of books, including The Miracle of Mindfulness, Being Peace, and Living Buddha, Living Christ. He resides at his community, Plum Village, in France.

Each class session will allow for quiet time, discussion of the book, writing practices, and paired and group sharing. Suggestions will be offered for further writing and experiments in the week between classes. A class blog will be available for sharing the fruits of our reflection, exchange, and writing.

We will meet on the following six Wednesdays: June 14, 21, and 28 and July 5, 12, and 19. You’ll need a copy of At Home in the World and a notebook or laptop. Our meeting time will be 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 at my home, 4514 Chouteau Avenue in Forest Park Southeast (63110).

Tuition is $135.00. An on-line class will also be available for those interested ($75.00). Email me if you want to join us: markjchmiel@gmail.com.


photo by Jim Forest

Mudra

Ninety Years Alive on Earth

On Thich Nhat Hanh, At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life.  Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 2016.

Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh is a survivor.  Narrowly missing death in South Vietnam  on more than one occasion during the 1960s, he had many students killed in the bloodshed during the American War. He and other Tiep Hien Buddhists could not return to their country for fear of persecution, or worse. Uprooted, he ended up living in France,  where he and friends slowly began to rebuild their  lives.

At Home in the World, published in 2016, offers snapshots of nine full decades of Thich Nhat Hanh’s life.  It bears keeping in mind that his country  was living under a French colonial occupation regime, followed by U.S. intervention and invasion.  He and his friends knew what it was like to live under the U.S. bombs.

Nhat Hanh admits that in his youth he was a “revolutionary monk.”  He and his brothers  wanted to rejuvenate Vietnamese Buddhism, and they had to reckon with a conservative religious  establishment. Their motivation was simple: “Taking action against injustice is not enough. We believed action must embody mindfulness. If there is no awareness, action will only cause more harm. Our group believed it must be possible to combine meditation and action to create mindful action.” [41] Read the rest of this entry »

The Good News of MLK, 4.4.2017

Fifty years ago today at NYC’s Riverside Church, Martin Luther King delivered a powerful, prophetic indictment of U.S. war-making in Vietnam: “They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”

 

Martin Luther King and Thich Nhat Hanh

The Good News of a Sangha, 3.25.2017

Five years ago today, Jenn Reyes Lay and I started a  St. Louis sangha in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh.   Annie Fitzgerald offered Sophia House  on Gibson Avenue for our first gathering. Many wonderful people have shared the fruits of their practice with us during these 60 months: sitting, walking, singing, reciting the precepts, slowing down, studying the Heart and Diamond Sutras,  offering retreats  in the country, and facilitating mindful dinners.

As poet Diane di Prima wrote in her poem Life Chant, May it continue!

 

From Thirty Years Ago: Thich Nhat Hanh

Many of us worry about the world situation. We don’t know when the bombs will explode. We feel that we are on the edge of time. As individuals, we feel helpless, despairing. The situation is so dangerous, injustice is so widespread, the danger is so close. In this kind of situation, if we panic, things will only become worse. We need to remain calm, to see clearly. Meditation is to be aware, and to try to help. Read the rest of this entry »

From Thich Nhat Hanh’s First Book Published in the USA, 1967

The more American troops sent to Vietnam, the more the anti-American campaign led by the NLF becomes successful. Anger and hatred rise in the hearts of the peasants as they see their villages burned, their compatriots killed, their houses destroyed. Pictures showing NLF soldiers with arms tied, followed by American soldiers holding guns with bayonets, make people think of the Indochina war between the French and the Viet Minh and cause pain even to the anti-Communist Vietnamese.

lotus-in-a-sea-of-fire-cover

 

War Isn’t Over

Dear Laura

Last night I was reading Frances Fitzgerald’s Fire in the Lake:
The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam

This afternoon I listened to a playlist I made
Of songs from the Vietnam War era

(Or, as the Vietnamese call it
The American War)

One of the songs I first heard in 1975
John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Read the rest of this entry »