Hold It All

Tag: Thich Nhat Hanh

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.

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Concentration Is Consecration

Sri Eknath Easwaran distinguishes two kinds of spiritual reading: that of instruction and that of inspiration.  Simone Weil’s book, Waiting for God, is an example of the latter, as  it is fecund with material for examining one’s life and path. Reading her brought to mind  the  Buddhists Thich  Nhat Hanh and Chan Khong, Hindu Sri Anandamayi Ma,  and  Catholics Dom Pedro Casaldáliga and José María Vigil who espoused “political holiness.” Her essay “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God” is superb.

I offer a short selection  in what follows…

Method of investigation— as soon as one has arrived at any position, try to find in what sense the contrary is true.

Except for those whose whole soul is inhabited by Christ, everybody despises the afflicted to some extent, although practically no one is conscious of it.  

I love the saints through their writings and what is told of their lives … I love the six or seven Catholics of genuine spirituality whom chance has led me to meet in the course of my life. I love the Catholic liturgy, hymns, architecture, rites and ceremonies.

I fell in love with Saint Francis of Assisi as soon as I came to know about him. Read the rest of this entry »

“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 »

Exchange

“But how come those Palestinians can’t be like Dr. King?”

Well then…

“So, Rabin, did he make it even through a third of Gandhi’s Collected Works?

And did Shimon Peres invite Gene Sharp to give workshops to the IDF elite, with handouts  for all on the  198 methods of nonviolent action?

And when Begin came to the U.S. did he arrange a tête-à-tête with Diane Nash? 

And does Netanyahu take practical  inspiration from the life of Badshah Khan?

And do the teachings of the Besht get ample time in the training of the paratroopers?

And the Air Force pilots, do they learn to recite gathas from Thich Nhat Hanh?

And for the Palestinians did  Dov Weinglas cultivate compassion like  Aung San Suu Kyi?

Wait a second, scratch that last one”

Wherever We Are Useful

Katharina Mommsen, Goethe’s Art of Living
Trafford, 2003
Translators: John Crosetto, John Whaley, Renee M. Schell

A teacher who can awaken a sense of a single good deed or a single good poem accomplishes more than one who simply coveys an entire catalog of natural phenomena categorized by form and name.  
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,  143 

Drawing extensively on her grasp of Goethe’s vast oeuvre, Katharina Mommsen fills her book with many passages from Goethe’s works and offers some helpful commentary. The book has the following sections:  Facing the World, Nature, Joy of Being Active, Art of Life and Living, Fundamental Joys of Life, Enthusiasm for the Young, and Reflections.

____________________

While reading her book, I thought several times of Sri  Eknath Easwaran, whose neo-Hinduism dovetails at times with Goethe’s strongly secular orientation, particularly about relations with the young and concentrated work and productivity— 

“Day and night is not an empty phrase; many nighttime hours, which I spend sleeplessly as befits the fate of my age, are dedicated not to vague and general thoughts, but to precise contemplation of what to do the following day, which in the morning I dutifully begin as far as possible to carry out. And so I perhaps do more and cleverly  accomplish in the allotted days, what once was wasted time in which one justifiably thought or imagined that there was always another tomorrow.” Read the rest of this entry »

Looking Deeply at Laos/1

Please take a look at this video by Legacies of War. It will require 2 minutes and 40 seconds of your time.

Next, consider, Thich Nhat Hanh’s 4th precept of the Tiep Hien Order:  Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world.  Find ways to be with those who are suffering by all means, including personal contact and visits, images, sound. By such means,  awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world. 

Take 1 minute to contemplate what you can do.

Three Questions

Gregg Krech, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace,  and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection (Stone Bridge Press, 2001)

I learned of Naikan through consulting the bibliography of Patricia Ryan Madson’s book, Improv Wisdom.  Therein, she cited books on Constructive Living by  David K. Reynolds, and Gregg Krech’s manual on this “Japanese art of self-reflection,” which was the brainchild of Ishin Yoshimoto.

On retreats in Japan, one is encouraged to answer three questions about the most important people in our lives, typically beginning with one’s mother:
What have I received from my mother?
What have I given my mother?
What troubles and difficulties have I caused my mother?
The aim is to be factual, detailed and specific as possible in addressing the questions. 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 »

Caroline Takes Refuge

“Breathing in,
I go back to the island within myself.
There are beautiful trees within the island;
There are clear streams of water,
There are birds, sunshine and fresh air.
Breathing out, I feel safe.
I enjoy going back to my island.”

–Thich Nhat Hanh

 

VietNam Style

I was delighted to read this review from the Post-Dispatch about my former Maryville student Thao Truong and her husband Yun Vu’s restaurant, VietNam Style. I’m hoping to bring my Thich Nhat Hanh class  soon to Delmar for a wonderful experience!