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Category: Thich Nhat Hanh

“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

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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 »

“Show Me Your American Buddha”

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace was published  31 years years ago, and it remains fresh, challenging, and practical.  While there are thousands of books on Buddhism,  this short  text of 115 pages, graced with the illustrations by Mayumi Oda, can be a sage guide for  personal and social transformation.  

Being Peace long predates Thich Nhat Hanh becoming an American, even global, spiritual phenomenon.  The  seven chapters are based on talks he gave in 1985 to U.S. to peace activists and meditation practitioners, not exactly mainstream America.  The chapter “Interbeing” gives an inspiring introduction to his community that seeks to practice mindful social action through 14 exacting precepts. Another chapter gives an illuminating,  contemporary take on the three traditional refuges in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. There is much here to orient a new student  and remind an experienced one of the essentials.

May the following short excerpts prompt you  to go to your library and check out this book from a man Daniel Berrigan once described as “foam-rubber dynamite.”

_________________

“In Vietnam, there are many people, called boat people, who leave the country in small boats. Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats can sink. But if even one person aboard can remain calm, lucid, knowing what to do and what not to do, hr or she can help the beat survive. His or her expression—face, voice—communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will lsiten to what he or she says. One suc person can save the lives of many.”  11-12 Read the rest of this entry »

Everything Is a Gift by Jennifer Vanbooven

Jennifer Vanbooven is in my Comparative Religion and Culture class, and wrote this response to the documentary, Walk with Me, about life at Plum Village.  I am happy to share it here.

Kaley and I watched a movie called Walk with Me on Netflix. Walk with Me is a religious documentary that was released in 2017, so fairly recent, that provides an insightful glimpse into a monastic community that practices the art of mindfulness alongside the Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. The Buddhists involved in this community have given up all of their possessions and wholesomely committed themselves to a life of celibacy; their ultimate goals in becoming members of this Buddhist circle are to transform their sufferings. The film captures the day to day routines of monastic life and mindfulness exercises while also demonstrating the influences such a life has on the individual monks. Overall, watching the movie gave me some fresh and positive outlooks on the Buddhist way of life and motivation to incorporate certain mindfulness practices into my own life. Read the rest of this entry »

A Path with Pith

With the sangha a few years ago, I read many of the Buddhist sutras as well as Thich Nhat Hanh’s commentaries. It’s good to plunge in and read these classic texts in community. However, the Lotus Sutra was a bit too much for us and we didn’t finish. Perhaps I will resume it next year.

Nhat Hanh’s book The Path of Emancipation (Parallax Press, 2000) is based on talks and answers to questions from a 21-day retreat. While he addresses many themes in depth, what I find most useful are his short teachings, one-liners even, which, if I summon them at the right moment, are conducive to happiness, peace, and appreciation.

Here is a sample…

“The first element of the practice is to stop struggling.”

“Taking refuge in the Sangha is not a declaration of faith. It is a practice.”

“Everywhere is Plum Village.”

“The flower and the sunshine inter-are.”

“‘The here and now’ is the address of your true home, its zip code.” Read the rest of this entry »

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