Cheri Maples, our beloved sister and Dharma teacher, passed away on July 27, 2017 due to complications of injuries sustained in a September 2016 bicycle accident. Cheri was a member of SnowFlower Sangha in Madison, Wisconsin. She joined the Order of Interbeing in 2002 and was ordained as a Dharma teacher in 2008. She worked in the criminal justice system for twenty-five years and organized a groundbreaking retreat in 2003 with Thich Nhat Hanh and criminal justice professionals. The co-founder of the Center for Mindfulness & Justice, Cheri also taught nationally. She was deeply loved by many people around the world. Interviews and articles by Cheri are available in the Mindfulness Bell:
- Fierce-Faced Bodhisattva: A Policewoman's Story, #32 Winter/Spring 2002
- Fierce Compassion, #52 Autumn 2009
- Transforming Self, Transforming Society: An Interview with Cheri Maples, #61 Autumn 2012
- Mindfulness and the Police, #74 Winter/Spring 2017
Dear Cheri, Sister True Precious Mindfulness,
We, your monastic brothers and sisters of the Plum Village tradition, are proud and honoured to stand in the ranks of the Dharma Teachers of the Fourfold Plum Village Sangha along with you.
In 2008, Thay gave you this gatha of transmission when you received the lamp:
The Three Precious Jewels depend on one-pointed mindfulness
The practice of mindfulness trainings and concentration brings inner peace
In the old garden will the peach blossom or pergularia blossom first?
The footprints of the realised Zen teacher are still clear to see.
With courage you have made peace in yourself and brought peace into the world. You have lived your life fully and well. The fragrant flowers of the practice have blossomed in the garden of your mind. You have nothing to regret. In your Dharma talk given in Plum Village in June 2016, you talked about living the ultimate dimension in your daily life of service. We have no doubt that you have done this, and we see you continue in the ultimate dimension as well as in the dimension of action of a bodhisattva.
We shall always be meeting again as we climb the hill of the 21st century together.
– Sister Annabel, True Virtue
Cheri and I weren’t just Sangha-mates; for twenty-five years, we shared the Dharma, taught and attended retreats together, took care of each others’ dogs, had deep conversations, and went to baseball games. But one memory in particular says so much about who Cheri was.
It was mid-winter of 2003 when Cheri, who was then a police officer, returned to Madison, Wisconsin from Plum Village and told our beloved SnowFlower Sangha, “Thay wants to have a retreat for law enforcement officials.” She explained that she had assumed the retreat would be the following year, in 2004, which would provide plenty of time to plan a big event. “But Thay is clear,” she said. “He wants to do it this year.”
Cheri asked SnowFlower that night if it would work to put the retreat together. She had the strongest belief in how much the Sangha could accomplish when working together.
The result was the retreat for law enforcement officers and other helping professionals at Green Lake, Wisconsin in August 2003. The power of Thay’s and Cheri’s teachings that week still ripples out. It was the precursor of Cheri and Maureen Brady starting the Center for Mindfulness and Justice and of Thay ordaining Cheri as a Dharma teacher in 2008, with the request that she focus her teaching on the criminal justice system. It was the foundation of her passionate efforts to fight racism, sexism, privilege, and hetero-normative attitudes. It is still felt by the untold number of folks who were inspired by Cheri’s loving teaching.
So many memories flow through me. But no single memory captures her enormous, unshakable commitment to justice, compassion, and alleviating suffering than that 2003 retreat.
– David Haskin, True Lotus Taste
Remembering Cheri Maples: A Beloved, Bright Light Has Just Gone
The bright light of Cheri Maples has just stopped manifesting. This transition brings her great energy of mindfulness into other spaces. This is what I thought when I read the news that this beloved Dharma teacher had passed away peacefully, surrounded by her close friends and Sangha members, on July 27, 2017.
Today, while sitting in early morning meditation and prayer for her, I feel as though she is sitting next to me.
I talked with Cheri just last year, after a powerful and lovely Dharma talk she offered on June 15, 2016, to many people who had gathered at Plum Village to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Order of Interbeing. Cheri and I planned that someday in the near future, when Cheri passed through California, she would give a Dharma talk in Orange County for the Vietnamese community. It is a huge regret that our Palm Tree Sangha in Fountain Valley, California, will miss that opportunity.
I will not forget the solid and loving energy that Cheri manifested around her. At Plum Village, hundreds of friends surrounded Cheri to hear about her extraordinary transformation. In her Dharma talk, Cheri recalled how the magic of mindfulness changed her life, transforming her from a stressed and tough police officer into a lovable peace activist and mindfulness teacher.
Cheri Maples encountered Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching through the book Being Peace, which she read in the waiting room of her chiropractor’s office. That book inspired her to attend her first mindfulness retreat, in 1991 in Mundelein, Illinois. Her life changed beautifully, step by step…
Cheri became a member of the Order of Interbeing in 2002, while on retreat at Plum Village. She later organized a retreat that was led by Thich Nhat Hanh, and that was attended by hundreds of people, including police officers, in 2003 in Green Lake, Wisconsin. Cheri became a Dharma teacher in Thich Nhat Hanh’s lineage in 2008, with the Dharma name True Precious Mindfulness (Chan Bao Niem).
For many years, Cheri practiced mindfulness as a police officer and captain. She treated criminals with understanding and compassion, and she made the atmosphere of her office less stressful and more openhearted. Eventually, the armor of mindfulness replaced the bulletproof vest that had protected her in workplaces where violence dominated the environment. Cheri became a lecturer and a trainer for social service and criminal justice professionals. In 2009, she and her friend Maureen Brady co-founded the Center for Mindfulness and Justice, which provides services for communities in Wisconsin and other states.
It is a huge loss for many people who knew Cheri that she left us so early, at only 64 years old. We hope that the light of mindfulness that Cheri received and spread out beautifully will continue to shine through her friends and her coworkers for a long, long time.
– Quyen Do, True Wonder (Chan Huyen)