Letters

Many thanks for a wonderful newsletter which has given me so many precious gems of thought and being. With each issue I am challenged and uplifted.Patricia Williams Santa Rosa, California

I'm reading For a Future To Be Possible and am, as usual, deeply moved by Thay's understanding of human life, current Western life, and so many other things. I'm drinking up this book like a thirsty camel at a watering hole.

I sent my daughter a copy of the last Mindfulness Bell, and she was so pleased with it. There was not one "unreal" article in it. We both treasure it so much. May you thrive in the New Year and all the wholesome seeds you plant be watered and nourished. Katharine Cook San Francisco, California

I was glad to see the use you made in The Mindfulness Bell of that piece of mine on daily prayer. It's a refreshing, helpful publication. Also it's good to be in touch with others who in various ways have been helped by Thich Nhat Hanh. It was one of the great blessings in my life to travel and live with him from time to time in the 1960s and '70s. Jim Forest Alkmaar, Holland

The article, "Healing Through Writing," in the autumn edition caught my attention. I am an accredited journal consultant in the Intensive Journal method of journalkeeping developed by holistic depth psychologist Ira Progoff. It is a tremendous addition to ways of inner-life/out-life living and their correlation. I mention it to underscore the importance and reality of healing though writing. Thanks for the article. Richard Crawford Columbia, South Carolina

I am working on a Memorial Day peace program through the VVA. If possible, I would like to get a Buddhist flag for the project. There is a story in Being Peace of the fighting being stopped in Vietnam when the monks, flag in hand, led the refugees from the area. Therefore, our flag would be a good addition for the project. Bruce Grubb Columbus, OH

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To Thich Nhat Hanh, the nuns and monks and other members of the Community of Mindful Living who put their wholeness into organizing every graceful detail and into teaching me and the veterans— I am grateful to the Veterans for Peace members who are allowing themselves to feel and transform their suffering. I bow in deep respect and say thank you for taking the risk to be community leaders; to my Sangha at home for their ongoing presence and teaching; and to myself, for being there, I am appreciative. Gail Charpentier Cambridge, Massachusetts

One thing I realized on the three-month retreat at Insight Meditation Society in Barre is that I am ever more grateful for the community. During the retreat, we heard a lot about Thich Nhat Hanh. Although the retreat was strictly silent, there were Dharma talks five nights a week. Our teachers gave us Thay's poetry, read excerpts from his books and from Sister Chan Khong's book. One of the teachers, Carol Wilson, had spent some time at Plum Village and spoke beautifully of her experience. In short, I felt I was sitting with you during the retreat. Those beautiful books which you work so diligently to publish are finding receptive hearts in many far-off places. Jim Janko Barre, Massachusetts

I just received my Dharma name and wanted to thank you. I feel that I found direction after the workshop in October at Omega Institute and I appreciate how you have humbly guided me to a peaceful mindfulness. I was so inspired that I am trying in every way possible to visit Plum Village to find a supporting Sangha which I often haven't felt present in my environment. Lael Rasch Troy, New York

I spent New Year's Eve in a Benedictine monastery where they host regular Zen retreats using Catholic prayers and chanting the Holy Mass instead of the sutras and Buddhist rituals. Father Jan, who leads the sesshin, used to be a Zen student before he became a Christian monk. Later, he was deeply inspired by Thay's teachings. We plan to invite Thay to hold a retreat in this monastery.

I am finding my roots in Christianity and it feels beautiful. I remember that, before joining Zen practice, I felt really bad about not being able to practice meditation within Christianity as I felt no real need to change my religion. And now it seems I'm encountering it in a new way almost every day. It feels good, safe, and wonderful. Dorota Golebiewska Warsaw, Poland

My father is a clergyman, and it's ironic that so many beliefs and religions claim that love is a key point in their faith, but they don't show unconditional love or tolerance towards others. As a child and now as a man, I know that something important has been misinterpreted and overlooked in the religion of my father, and most Americans. This ignorance caused an unfulfillment and void in my spiritual development and may have played a small role in bringing me where I am today. Although I am at present a convict—eight years cut to four, two already done—I am for the first time accepting as truth the old saying, "One can make a difference, no matter where he is"—not just through words, but through example.

This may be a strong statement for many to accept. But I think Buddhism is the solution for criminals and potential criminals as well as crime-stricken communities across America. I have learned from firsthand experience that there are many seemingly unchangeable people who are living very negative existences in our society. But it could come as a surprise that many of these individuals have a spiritual side. I feel that if these people came into the knowledge of Buddhism, the violence and negativity in our society would be greatly reduced. Darren L. Johnson Raleigh, North Carolina

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You have given me something more than the books—your compassion has restored my faith and changed the course of my life. I have been in prison for four years now, and I have three-and-a-half more years. I know I have to make the transformation for myself through courageous loving kindness and compassion for others and for all beings as you have shown me. I want to stay out of prison. I'm in an Intensive Management Unit in the Oregon State Penitentiary after doing six months in Eastern Oregon's Correctional Institute. The IMU unit is supposed to be for six months, but it's so easy to turn six months into years, the guards here do so much dirt that it's expected and accepted. Corrections is all about unfair and dishonest conduct and I am trapped here. I am going to keep reading your books, doing meditation, and some yoga. I am learning what it means to be devoted to truth and spiritual improvement. You have shown me through your books that there are alternatives. When I get out in 1998 and go back to California to live, I will pay you back for the books.

Thank you so much for The Mindfulness Bell. You can use any part of my letter that you feel would possibly influence someone in the free world to think that there are prisoners striving to transcend their old ways. I for one am making the effort to learn about and practice Buddhism. I have never in my life of 34 years encountered anything like Buddhism. It's unreal the awakening that has taken place in me. I am having the Right View. My perceptions are of understanding. The  Buddha seeds in me are waking me up to the reality of life. With much practicing and lots of effort I will be able to touch others with the love I feel for Buddhism. My responses to the teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh and Sister Chan Khong are of much love. My intention is to bring this love I feel in my heart to you all in the community in the form of drawing. Anthony Garcia Salem, Oregon 

Thank you for responding to my interest in the Order of Interbeing. At present, I'm practicing with Boulder Zen Center and the Naropa Zen Group here in town and am contacting others about forming a precept recitation group. Meanwhile, my husband, and I recite them together monthly, and I am dreaming of a visit to Plum Village next summer.

Three years ago today, while doing walking meditation on a sidewalk, I was hit by an out-of-control jeep. In the months and years since then, while recovering from major injuries, regaining most brain functioning again, and immersing myself in practice, I've been profoundly aware of the "no accident" aspects of this accident. I'd just received the precepts barely six months before and had wept with joy and gratitude with the sense of homecoming. Between then and the accident, the precepts and daily practice, on and off the cushion, became the heart and soul of my life. I was so relieved to have found this way! During all the rehabilitation therapies, struggles with physical pain, and the pain of losing my brain as I knew it, the practice and precepts sustained, nourished, comforted, and guided me. I really think I'd be dead now, if not for this practice, both at the instant of impact and in the darkest periods after. I can't even express my gratitude to Thay and Sister Chan Khong, nor to you all for the countless precious guidings you've unknowingly offered me. Molly Gorden, Complete Satisfaction of the Heart Boulder, Colorado

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