A Letter from Sister Chan Khong Asking for Your Support Dear Friends,
Two years ago, even with the urgent appeal of many young friends in Southern California and with your generous support and encouragement, we could not have imagined that we would be able to set up this new monastery, especially on such wonderful land. The new monastery is located on 400 acres of mountains, forests, and plateaus. The land borders a 3000 acre wildlife sanctuary, and is full of native plants, ranging from the fragrant wild lilac to medicinal sage. In July 2000 the first monastics arrived to begin cleaning up and transforming the land into a practice center. The atmosphere of peace now radiates out so that even wild animals seem no longer to fear for their safety. The energy of love is gently enveloping the mountains and hills of this area. It has the same name as the park where the Buddha offered his first teaching after attaining enlightenment, 2600 years ago in India. Out of respect for the land ancestors, and the native people who called this land Deer Park, we have named the practice center, Deer Park Monastery.
Many dear friends, throughout the year, have silently brought rice, tofu, noodles, bread, fruits and vegetables to support the community. Others have beautified the landscape by cutting grass, creating beautiful stone paths, and planting numerous trees. Over 300 new trees have been planted during the past spring. Without this deep friendship, the transformation of Deer Park could not have been so spectacular. You who have visited Deer Park in September 2000 will not recognize the Deer Park of today.
Every Sunday and Thursday is a Day of Mindfulness, when the monastic community is joined by visitors and neighboring friends for sitting meditation, walking meditation and Dharma talks by Thich Nhat Hanh (via video or a transcontinental-telephone connection). On Sundays resident Dharma teachers share the Dharma and their own practices. On the first Sunday of every month families come for the Mindfulness Trainings recitation. There is a program for children and teenagers on this day as well.
In early July, 2001 Deer Park Monastery celebrated her 1st Continuation Day. Around 175 people came to enjoy walking meditation in the fresh morning air, a Dharma talk by the Abbott, Thay Giac Thanh, a picnic lunch and a joyous outdoor tea mediation in the Oak Grove. Already, many hundreds of adults, children and teenagers have come to practice at Deer Park, imprinting their mindful and joyful steps of peace on the land. So many friends now consider Deer Park their spiritual home, a place to take refuge, and a place to cultivate their love and understanding.
We know that many of you have already contributed so much energy to Deer Park, through your sincere practice and also your financial support. Several hundred practitioners have generously offered money since the time we first found the property until now.
We have already paid for three-quarters of the land, but we still need to pay $1.2 million for the remainder of the property. Since our last letter to you in April until now, you have offered to Deer Park Monastery $143,000 in donations and 207 interest-free loans of $1 ,000 each ($207,000). This leaves $770,000 still to be raised. If we cannot pay this amount by August 5, 2001 we will have to pay $65,000 in interest each year. It breaks our hearts to see that your contributions, including many from families with modest resources and young people who contribute $5 or $10 a month, go to interest payments. We know that you would prefer to have your contribution pay for food, utilities, construction and other operations of Deer Park, rather than for interest payments.
We would like to ask those of you who are not able to give to offer interest-free loans for three years. An interest-free loan of $1,000, $2,000, $3 ,000, $5 ,000 or $10,000 will help us to pay for the final portion of the land of Deer Park. We will be able to pay you back as soon as the next books of Thay are sold.
We were very moved when an old grandfather brought to Deer Park Monastery $8,000 as a loan. He said it was difficult to persuade his adult sons and daughters to make a donation, but he succeeded, and each of them agreed to let the Monastery borrow one thousand dollars for 3 years without interest. Looking at the grandfather and his loan, we saw immediately his great-grandsons and great-granddaughters, to be born in 20 years, running joyfully in Deer Park Monastery practicing peace, looking deeply, learning great understanding, and great love, thanks to this loan.
We, Sister Chan Khong and the brothers and sisters of the Plum Village community are not reluctant to ask for your help because we see clearly that we do not ask for the money for ourselves. We, 135 monastics trained by Thay Nhat Hanh, have committed our lives to serving others. We live and eat simply, with no personal bank accounts or property of our own. We have given our youth, our love and our practice, hoping that the world will be better now and for the future generations to come. Please share this letter with your friends and dear ones.
Please accept a beautiful fresh lotus I just picked up from the pond in Plum Village (we have five lotus ponds with countless pink and white fragrant flowers) for you and for all your descendants who will certainly continue your spiritual path.
- Sister Chan Khong and the brothers and sisters of the Plum Village community
Photos courtesy of Plum Village