Inner Eyes

By Sister Dang Nghiem Dear Sister,

Before we started our meditation this morning, our sister asked us to send the energy from our meditation and sutra chanting to you. You have been sick, and you have recently lost your vision. In the past, my monastic sister has shared with me about her friendship with you, and she told me of her most recent visit with you . Thus, I feel your presence is quite familiar in me. At the sitting meditation, I decided that I would keep my anatomical eyes completely closed and follow my breathing diligently. I prayed that my inner eyes would reveal to me what I should see, and that I may gain an understanding of you and of what you may be going through.

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I saw myself sitting by the vendor with my mother and younger brother. She took us there to celebrate my successful completion of the fifth grade. I do not remember what kind of sweet soup we ate, or if it was even sweet soup. It could have been a salty dish . However, I do remember how special I felt. My mother worked so hard to provide us with everything we needed. She was always outside of the home working. It was the first time she especially paid attention to my schooling, I felt so special.

I saw my grandmother sitting on the plank bed, silently sewing a pocket, the size of my palm, onto my mother's black pair of underwear. I was to inherit that pair of underwear, and the next day I was to wear it to go to America with my brother. Grandmother put the U.S. five dollar bill in it, so that I could buy some extra food for my brother and me, while we were staying in the refuge camp in Thailand.

I saw myself the next day, when my brother and I crossed the threshold of our house to go to the airport. The palms of my hands were reddened with the juice of the chewed betel nut, which my grandmother had just spit and rubbed onto my palms, saying that it would help me, "not to miss Grandma too much." It was drizzling outside, and the fine particles mixed in with my tears. I walked away, knowing that I would never see my grandma again in flesh and bones.

I saw myself as a college student, sitting alone at the desk on late nights . I studied diligently to be worthy of my grandmother's trust. I studied diligently to prove that I was capable, that I was someone. My eyes were tired, my body was weary, but I would not stop. Raw energy pushed me onward.

I saw myself mesmerized by the mountain range before me. " Purple mountains," my partner said to me softly. They were indeed purple - myriad shades of purple. We stood there, completely present in that moment. I could feel the desert breathing, the mountains stretching, the quiet peace flowing through my partner.

I saw myself watching leaves falling with my loved one. Yellow leaves. Some twirled . Some spinned. Some zigzagged. Some held stillness in their movements. Some zoomed straight down to the ground. They were dancers, proceeding with their own dances as they all returned to Mother Earth.

I saw myself watching a video of Thay's Dharma talk during the Francophone retreat 2000. The camera pointed at the stage, showing also the back of my upper body as I was sitting in the audience. My hair was in a bundle; I had not realized that it was so full and black. Light reflected on it and formed a half white circle around the hair bundle. I was wearing the brown robe of an aspirant - a nun to be. Who was that person? I asked myself, as I was watching the back of my own upper body in that video. Who is this person, whose hair now is completely shaven? Are they different from each other? What has she gone through? I saw the monastic sisters on stage. One looked just like me. I had thought before, how can someone else look like me? However, in that moment, I saw how I could mistake that sister for me. I also saw my face in the face of a Korean sister, in a fifteen year old, in a French sister, in short and tall, in thin and chubby sisters. l saw sadness. I saw faith. I saw a smile of pure joy. I saw restlessness. I saw my faces in their faces. Looking at them. Being them.

I felt warm tear drops rolling down my cheeks throughout this morning's sitting meditation. My eyelids were closed, and light particles could not penetrate them. Yet, my inner eyes revealed to me all of these images, of my childhood, of my young adulthood, of my spirit path . My inner eyes have revealed to me the flow of my life. My inner eyes tell me that I no longer need to hide myself in shame or to show myself in pride. I have never been alone. My faces are the faces of my sisters, of my partners, of my mother, of my grandmother, of leaves, of mountains, of memories, of awakened moments.

My dear sister, may your inner eyes, too, guide you home, to everything that has always been with you, nourishing you, guiding you, carrying you, and uplifting you. May your inner eyes reveal to you the spaciousness of your true existence, where you touch peace and non-fear. Where you can help your loved ones to embrace all that is.

To you, I offer my most sincere faith and support. Your sister, dang nghiem.

Sister Dang Nghiem, True Adornment with Non-Discrimination, ordained in 2000.

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