Hold It All

Category: Thich Nhat Hanh

The Teachings Are Infinite…

I vow to learn them all.
–from Bodhisattva Vows

“You Are That Person”

A student asked Soen Nakagawa
During a meditation retreat:

“I am very discouraged. What should I do?”
Soen replied, “Encourage others.”

At the beginning of this year, I read Kazuaki Tanahashi’s autobiography, Painting Peace: Art in a Time of Global Crisis. He dedicated it to his dharma sister Mayumi Oda. Recently, I’ve read her books, and the experience reminded me of first becoming acquainted with her in the late 1980s and early 90s. Parallax Press out of Berkeley had begun publishing works by Thich Nhat Hanh such as Being Peace, Touching Peace, and Interbeing; Mayumi contributed her drawings to these now classic books.

Given the tsuris [Yiddish, translated by Allen Ginsberg as “serious difficulty”] in recent weeks, I returned to Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace in search of a passage I read decades ago. It’s from a talk he gave to peace activists and meditators, and while the issues and references of the mid-80s may seem distant to us, I hope his words speak to the heart….

“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 »

Miracle One-Liners

I pulled the following from Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness

 

“Look at the cypress tree over there.”

“Washing the dishes to wash the dishes”

“The finger which points at the moon isn’t the moon itself.”

The real miracle is… to walk on earth.”

“Look at all beings with the eyes of compassion.”

“The bell calls me back to my true self.”

“Stop mental dispersion and build up concentration power.”

“Each act is a rite, a ceremony.”

“Recognition without judgment”

“One day of mindfulness each week”

“Keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality”

“One is all, all is one.”

“If we cannot live for them, whom else do we think we are living for?”

 

Vietnamerica

Thuy, Cafe Ventana

1967

Today’s Email: “Thank you for signing up for the [New York Times] Vietnam ’67 newsletter. Over the course of the next year, we’ll examine the participation of the United States in the long war in Southeast Asia. The Vietnam ’67 newsletter will arrive in your inbox weekly.”

“Participation”
“Long War”

Journalist Bernard Fall writing in 1967: “It is Viet-Nam as a cultural and historic entity which is threatened with extinction. While its lovely land has been battered into a moonscape by the massive engine of modern war, its cultural identity has been assaulted by a combination of Communism in the North and superficial Americanization in the South.”

“Extinction”
“Moonscape”

Two Teachers

For two of my teachers
I give thanks:

Cao Ngoc Phuong
Khuu Vinh Ngoc Thuy

I first read Phuong’s autobiography
Learning True Love:

How I Learned & Practiced Social Change in Vietnam
When it was published in 1993 Read the rest of this entry »

Students/1

We Know

In that spring semester course
There were 40 students
The official limit was 35
But I let more in

Before starting The Book of Mev
I asked
“How many of you
Have known someone—

A family member
A friend, a neighbor
A teammate, a teacher
Who experienced any kind of cancer?”

I asked because I was curious
I knew what we all went through
And wrote a book about it
(Part two, anyway)

I reckoned there were students
Who had their own intense experiences
Before their 18th birthdays
Because of what their dear ones underwent

It was a full class that day
40 out of 41 of us raised a hand
We were all citizens and kindred spirits
In the United States of Cancer Read the rest of this entry »

Making the Best of Tough Situations

Three summers ago, some friends came to our Chouteau home for two months of Wednesday evenings to reflect on Thich Nhat Hanh’s autobiography, At Home in the World. Just today a chapter from that book came back to me, and I am happy to share it here.

I know a Buddhist nun who had graduated from Indiana University in the US and who was practicing in Vietnam. She was arrested by the police and put into prison because of her actions for peace and reconciliation. She tried her best to practice in her prison cell. It was difficult, because during the daytime if they saw her practice sitting meditation in her cell, they considered it an act of provocation and defiance to be sitting like that, experiencing peace. So they forbade her from sitting in meditation. She would have to wait until they turned off the light in order to sit up and practice. They tried to steal from her even the opportunity to practice. Yet she was able to continue. She did walking meditation, although the space she had was very small. She was also able to talk with kindness and gentleness to the people who were locked in the same cell. Thanks to her practice, she was able to hep them suffer less.

I have another Vietnamese friend who was put into a “re-education” camp in North Vietnam, in a remote jungle area. During his four years there, he practiced meditation and was able to live in peace. By the time he was released, his mind was as sharp as a sword. He knew that he had not lost anything during those four years. On the contrary, he knew he had “re-educated himself in meditation.”

Many things can be taken from us, but no one can ever steal our determination or our freedom. No one can ever steal our practice. Even in extreme cases, it is possible to maintain our happiness, our peace, and our inner freedom. As long as we are able to breathe and walk and smile, we can be at peace, and we can be happy.

–from the chapter, “Prisoner of Conscience,” page 74.

 


Ayesha and Ashaki enjoying the present moment, summer 2017.

“You Are That Person”

A student asked Soen Nakagawa
During a meditation retreat:
“I am very discouraged. What should I do?”
Soen replied, “Encourage others.”

At the beginning of this year, I read Kazuaki Tanahashi’s autobiography, Painting Peace: Art in a Time of Global Crisis. He dedicated it to his dharma sister Mayumi Oda. Recently, I’ve read her books, and the experience reminded me of first becoming acquainted with her in the late 1980s and early 90s. Parallax Press out of Berkeley had begun publishing works by Thich Nhat Hanh such as Being Peace, Touching Peace, and Interbeing; Mayumi contributed her drawings to these now classic books.

Given the tsuris [Yiddish, translated by Allen Ginsberg as “serious difficulty”] in recent weeks, I returned to Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace in search of a passage I read decades ago. It’s from a talk he gave to peace activists and meditators, and while the issues and references of the mid-80s may seem distant to us, I hope his words speak to your heart….

“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 »

“Doing Your Best Is the Surest Way to Remind Those around You to Do Their Best”

Today in Intercultural Studies class I shared some famous passages from the manual Thich Nhat Hanh wrote for Vietnamese social workers back in the 1970s. If you are familiar with this Zen Master, you may remember “washing the dishes to wash the dishes” and eating a tangerine one section at a time.

My students had already been introduced to the Japanese practice of Naikan, adapted for the course by writing in a notebook and becoming adept at responding to three questions vis-à-vis an important person in one’s life—What have I received from him? What have I given to her? What troubles and difficulties have I caused them? Read the rest of this entry »

“Surely, Thich Nhat Hanh Doesn’t Think that the Diamond Sutra Applies to Trump, ICE, and the Republicans!”

The Buddha said to Subhuti, “In a place where there is something that can be distinguished by signs, in that place there is deception. If  you can see the signless nature of signs, then you can see the Tathagatha.”

Diamond Sutra, section 5

Look deeply at the one you love (or at someone you do not like at all!) and you will see that she is not herself alone. “She” includes her education, society, culture, heredity, parents, and all the things that contribute to her being.  When we see that, we truly understand her.  If she makes us unhappy, we can see that did not intend to but that unfavorable conditions made her do it. To protect and cultivate the good qualities in her, we need to know how to protect and cultivate the elements outside of her, including ourselves that make her fresh and lovely.  If we are peaceful and pleasant, she too will be peaceful and pleasant.

If we look deeply into A and see that A is not A, we see A in its fullest flowering. At that time love becomes true love, generosity becomes true generosity, practicing the precepts becomes truly practicing the precepts, and support becomes true support.  This is the way the Buddha looks at a rose, and it is why he is not attached to the rose. When we are still caught in signs, we are still attached to the rose. A Chinese Zen master once said, “Before practicing Zen, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers. While practicing Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and rivers are no longer rivers. After practicing, mountains are mountains again and rivers are rivers again.” These are dialectics of prajnaparamita.

—Thich Nhat Hanh, The Diamond That Cuts Through All Illusion: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Diamond Sutra

Share the Wealth Sunday 31 March: Three Vietnamese Voices

In 2012 President Barack Obama In 2012 President Barack Obama signed on to a Congressionally approved on-going 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, for each year of the war’s duration. We are currently commemorating 1969.

Though we call it “the Vietnam War,” U.S. Americans are, obviously, at the center of our remembrance. We recall our veterans, our leaders, even, now and then, our dissenters.

I will explore how we can learn about ourselves and our former allies and enemies by considering reflections from three Vietnamese people intimately familiar with the war. Many of us know of the Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. He lived in then South Vietnam until he went into exile in the mid-1960s. Far fewer people know of scholar and writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, who was born in South Vietnam and came to the U.S. with his family as refugees in 1975. His novel The Sympathizer won a Pulitzer Prize in 2016. I venture that hardly anyone knows of Dang Thuy Tram, who was a doctor from North Vietnam who went South to assist in the struggle against the U.S. invaders. Her diary, Last Night I Dreamed of Peace, was published posthumously and came out in an English translation in 2007.

Please join us
Sunday 31 March
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00
I begin sharing at 6:45
At my home 4514 Chouteau Avenue
Forest Park Southeast 63110
Please park on 4400 block of Chouteau or on Taylor Avenue as I have limited parking passes for our block!

Photo: with Dinh, Mai, Na, and Nga; Middletown, KY; circa 1987; Mai’s watercolors are hanging on the wall.

“Using Hatred to Fight Hatred Is the Surest Way to Create Even More Hatred”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Love in Action: Writings on Nonviolent Social Change

Immediately before I read this book by Nhat Hanh, I read David Grossman on  the advances in psychology to get us to kill, to overcome our disposition NOT to kill;  then I read Bao Ninh’s novel about the sorrow of war, and how many people were done in by the bombing, the rape, the destruction.  Herein, Nhat Hanh looks at the same worlds as these authors and offers his Buddhist, non-dualistic, interbeing approach to solving social problems.

The best chapter of the book is the play, “The Path of Return Continues the Journey.” How I’d like Magan Wiles  to direct this play, with all an Vietnamese cast, a fund-raiser for Plum Village’s Love and Understanding project.  Reread this play, which will take an hour.  Think about it, and recognize how  deeply it makes me feel.

There are also several chapters from the 60s and 70s which deal directly with the war in Vietnam, some of his poetry, and the Buddhist path to peace: “Love in Action,” “A Proposal for Peace,” “Our Green Garden,” “The Ancient Tree” (written for Nhat Chi Mai), “Call Me by My True Names,” “If You Want Peace, Peace is with You Immediately,” while “The Way Ahead for Buddhism in Vietnam” deals with the need for guaranteeing the right to religious freedom and “To Veterans” examines how veterans can be a constructive force for peace. Read the rest of this entry »