The time to go home arrived after the three-week, Eye of the Buddha retreat in Plum Village—eighteen hours of flying, four airports, and for some of us, a strong feeling that part of us was lost forever while some things had come to stay. Our commitment to meditate and strengthen our Sangha and our own practices was enhanced by this opportunity to practice with the nuns and monks, listening and meditating with Thich Nhat Hanh, and sharing experiences, communal works, and spiritual activities with so many people. It was the first retreat in Plum Village for all of us Brasilians, and our first opportunity to hear Thich Nhat Hanh. We feel deeply privileged we could go. But, the retreat has ended, and life goes on, with the struggles of jobs and wages, and the struggles of community life as well. In Brasil, we must work to decrease poverty and violence, including violence against children. We must find more jobs for parents, increase education, lessen pollution, and help build and sustain spiritual life.
Among all the countries represented at the retreat, Brasil may resemble Vietnam most closely. When Thay speaks about war and the present situation in his motherland, Brasil is there, a big country, very beautiful, with plenty of natural resources but with enormous disaster—so much poverty and violence, it is like a civil war. The underdeveloped world is now experiencing the problems of the developed countries—pollution, stress, over-consumption by some—as well as the problems of violence, poverty, and disease. Causes must be embraced—and what wonderful words, "to embrace"! But to do that, it is necessary to understand ourselves, to understand the contemporary world, to see the well of history, and to see the well of samsara.
Even a small Sangha like ours can do a lot for ourselves, our friends, and even for the surrounding environment. But it is more difficult to affect the physical and social environment as a whole. Brasil is like a continent—bigger than western Europe. We need some help to do what must be done. First, we need internal strength of our own practice with Sangha support. Secondly, we need to share mindfulness practice with those who are able to listen. It is important to help people attend retreats in Plum Village, despite the difficulties in doing so; to organise retreats in Brasil, if possible with a presence of a monk or nun; to build a strong Sangha, a community of mindful living; and to meditate a lot.
We are the same people who were in Plum Village. But there, it was easier to keep our minds more attentive, to eat good food in mindfulness, to feel close to all people and to be inclusive, not to feel superior, inferior, or even equal to each other. The feelings that were possible there, must also be possible here in Brasil. That seems to be the way.
Sergio Gomes wrote this article with the Brasilian Sangha, ten of whom went to the June retreat in Plum Village.