A Great Horizon

Plum Village Sangha in Thailand

By Lynda Berry and Karen Hilsberg

In October 2010, Thailand welcomed the Plum Village Sangha warmly. An international delegation of about thirty-six practitioners from the U.S., England, Italy, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Germany, Canada, and Australia spent one week touring and one week with the Plum Village Sangha outside of Bangkok. Eighty to ninety percent of the Vietnamese monks and nuns from Bat Nha Monastery were there, plus new monks and nuns who were ordained in Thailand. Thay was reportedly very happy, and so were the Bat Nha sisters and brothers, to be reunited after being expelled and scattered from Vietnam.

Plum Village Thailand

On our second day with the Sangha, we went to Pak Chong to visit the land that the Sangha is in the process of purchasing. It is a picturesque setting among green hills. Within the next two years, the Sangha will build a new practice center there, conveniently located for people from Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. It will include a wing of the European Institute for Applied Buddhism. The first priority is to pay off approximately $750,000 owed for the land; then to build a meditation hall for 1,000 people, then two hamlets.

Meanwhile, 279 monks and nuns are staying in two private homes. The Sangha has built a huge, temporary, thatched roof meditation hall that seats 1,000. During our visit, it was full with monks and nuns who were present for a monastic retreat. We were all nourished by the ordination of novice nuns and monks and a lamp transmission ceremony for thirteen young monastics from Vietnam. There was an intense energy of mindfulness and beautiful chanting by Thay. He personally cut a lock of each novice’s hair during the ordination ceremony.

At the end of the lamp transmission ceremony, Thay shared the following with the new Dharma teachers and the Sangha: “As monastics we have a great horizon, high and wide. Keep the light and transmit it to the later generations. We are aware that the Buddha and the patriarchs are our roots. We vow to receive the wisdom, compassion, peace, and joy that the patriarchs have transmitted. We vow to transform our suffering and help people of modern times to transform their suffering and to open Dharma doors in new ways. We vow to look at each other as brother and sister in the same spiritual family. We vow to take care of each other so we can help each other. We vow to practice loving speech and deep listening. We vow to transform hatred and jealousy so we can go forward. Only when we do that can we be children of the Buddha and the patriarchs.”

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Not Seeking Anymore

A few days later, Thay gave a public lecture at Thammasat University Law School. There were at least three thousand people in the giant auditorium, including many monastics from different traditions. Thay’s presence attracted huge numbers of people in Thailand, which is primarily a Theravadan Buddhist country. He explained the differences and similarities between the native Buddhism and Zen. He did not mention the political situation in Bangkok, but his description of non-duality seemed appropriate. When you understand your suffering, he explained, and look deeply into the suffering of another you believe to be your enemy, you may develop compassion because you see your enemy as a human being who suffers the same way you suffer. He said that Theravada contains the Mahayana teachings and that Mahayana contains the Theravada teachings. He also shared about the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing and about the practices of deep listening and loving speech.

In the following days, Thay gave Dharma talks at MCU Buddhist University a few days prior to the family retreat. We all stayed together in the same hotel at the university, where a marquis in the lobby said, “Welcome Thich Nhat Hanh!” The family retreat took place at a resort outside of Bangkok, and at least 300 people came by boat and bus from Vietnam (a twenty-four-hour drive.) They had their own meditation hall with Vietnamese translation. Thay spoke about the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, the Four Mantras, and the Four Noble Truths. He taught the children how to be bellmasters. He also spoke about the sixteen exercises in the Anapanasati Sutra exercises and about the gatha, “This is it (on the in-breath), not seeking anymore (on the out-breath).” The Dharma talks were very fresh. It seemed that Thay was thriving in this Buddhist country.

On the last day of the retreat, the power cut in the middle of Thay’s Dharma talk, but he did not react. He sat and drank his tea while 1,600 people sat in complete silence. When the power came back on about five minutes later, he continued as though nothing had happened. At the end of the retreat, the monastics went up on stage and we all sang together. It looked as though Thay was holding hands with the Theravadan monks. It was a beautiful moment.

mb56-AGreat5Lynda Berry, Awakened Listening of the Heart, is from the United Kingdom and lives in Portsmouth. She took the Five Mindfulness Trainings at the Nottingham Retreat in August 2010. Karen Hilsberg, True Boundless Graciousness, lives in California. She founded Organic Garden Sangha in 2003 and mentors Order of Interbeing pre-aspirants and aspirants in Jasmine Roots Sangha.

mb56-AGreat4Plum Village Thailand

The Sangha is very happy to have found a beautiful location in Thailand to build a permanent home for monastics where they can practice the teachings of love and understanding under the guidance of our beloved teacher, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. The new land is about 190 km northeast of Bangkok. It has a spectacular view of Khao Yai Mountain in Thailand’s first and largest national park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We envision two monasteries, one for 100-150 monks and another for 200-300 nuns. The site will also include an Institute of Applied Buddhism for the fourfold Sangha in Southeast Asia. There will be space for vegetable gardens where organic food can be grown. The total cost of the land is 24,583,000 Bhat (U.S. $819,434). A deposit of $152,767 was made on August 30, 2010. On June 30, 2011, the rest of the total amount will be due. The right to the land will then be transferred to the Thai Plum Village Foundation.

With your support, Plum Village Thailand will manifest as a reality. To make a donation, please make a bank draft or cashier check payable to “PV Foundation for PV Practice Center in Thailand” and send it to:

Plum Village Foundation.
399, Moo 9, Nongsarai Subdistrict
Pak Chong District
Nakhon Ratchasima 30130
Thailand

Or make a wire transfer with the information below:
Bank Account Name: PV Foundation for PV Practice Center in Thailand
Account No. 855-0-24898-6
Bangkok Bank, Siam Paragon Branch
S.W.I.F.T. code “BKKBTHBK”
Address: Ground Floor, Siam Paragon
991/1 Rama 1 Road
Pathumwan District, Bangkok 10330
Tel: 66-2-129-4318, 66-2-129-4319,
66-2-129-4320,  66-2-129-4321,
66-2-129-4322

If you have questions or need more information, please email niramisa@gmail.com.

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One Flame or Two?

Lamp Transmission at Deer Park Monastery 

By Leslie Rawls

It was late March 2012 at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California. Outside, wind and rain lashed the trees and rattled the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall doors. Inside, lay and monastic friends gathered to celebrate the monastery’s first Lamp Transmission Ceremony, the blossoming of new lay and monastic Dharma teachers in North America.

A Lamp Transmission ceremony is an encouragement from teacher to student, formally inviting the student to teach. During the ceremony, the transmitting teacher invites each prospective Dharma teacher forward one by one with the words: “The Sangha is calling ______.”  The prospective teacher and her two attendants approach the transmitting teacher, who is seated on a platform. With the sounds of the bell, they bow to Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Then they kneel directly in front of the teacher, with the attendants slightly behind.

The prospective Dharma teacher reads an insight verse that reflects her understanding. Often the verse is rolled up and tied with a beautiful ribbon or strand of grass. The transmitting teacher may reread the verse and comment briefly, accepting it on behalf of the ancestors. Then, the transmitting teacher responds to the insight verse by reading a verse from the Lamp Transmission certificate. The teacher hands the certificate to the new Dharma teacher, who passes it to one attendant. The second attendant hands an unlit lamp to the new teacher, having picked up the lamp as they approached the platform. The new teacher offers the lamp to the transmitting teacher. He lights a long stick of incense from his large Dharma lamp and uses it to ignite the new Dharma teacher’s lamp, raising awareness of continuation: one flame or two?

Historically, our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) has transmitted Lamps to new Dharma teachers. But in March, Thay was in Plum Village. The Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Tinh and the Venerable Thich Tu Luc were the transmitting teachers in joyful ceremonies that evoked Thay’s own presence in the transmission and reminded us of the Sangha’s involvement.

The Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall had two platforms for the transmitting teachers. The slightly higher one held an empty cushion for Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Phuoc Tinh and Thich Tu Luc sat on a platform just in front of Thay’s cushion. Offering fourfold community support, lay and monastic Dharma teachers sat in crescent-shaped rows to the right and left of the open area at the front of the hall where the transmissions occurred. Each Dharma teacher in the rows had a lit candle, which he or she raised as the transmitting teacher lit the new Dharma teacher’s lamp and passed it on. Family and friends rounded out the warmth of the hall.

The presence of loved ones, a particularly special part of the Deer Park ceremonies, was possible because the transmissions were in California. Traveling to and practicing in Plum Village is wonderful, yet it can be expensive. It may be difficult for loved ones to leave work and for children to get out of school for the trip, even for an event as special as a Lamp Transmission ceremony.

With so many loved ones able to come to Deer Park, we could offer a unique welcome to the new Dharma teachers. The night before their transmission ceremonies, we asked the new teachers to meet at the office for some “last minute paperwork.” It was a loving ruse. Several other friends met them at the office, and then took them on a trust walk—eyes closed, trusting their friends to guide them—to the small meditation hall. There, family and friends had gathered in a circle around some chairs. The guides took each prospective Dharma teacher, eyes closed, to a chair in the middle and carefully guided them to sit. When the seats were filled, we sang “Dear Friends” to our soon-to-be teachers as they opened their eyes. We enjoyed an informal tea ceremony as the prospective teachers introduced themselves and their loved ones to the circle of friends.

The next day, the meditation hall glowed with lamps and with the loving hearts of many family members and friends who came to support and celebrate. Several family members and partners were assistants for their loved one’s ceremony. When I spoke with the new Dharma teachers afterward, gratitude for having their loved ones with them came up again and again. The warmth and love inside the hall that day seemed the perfect setting, even with the wind howling its song outside.

The new Dharma teachers are: Chan Phap Nha, Kenley Neufeld, Joann Rosen, Sr. Chan Dong Doan, Br. Chan Phap Tuyen, Sr. Chan Tanh Nghiem, Karen Hilsberg, John Salerno-White, Ha Phan, Anthony Silvestre, Terry Cortes Vega, Jim Scott Behrends, Br. Chan Man Tue, and Sr. Chan Ung Nghiem.

mb61-OneFlameOrTwo3Leslie Rawls, True Realm of Awakening, received Lamp Transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh in 2009. She was ordained into the Order of  Interbeing in 1995. She practices with the Charlotte (NC) Community of Mindfulness and with inmate Sanghas. She is a member of the Caretaking Council for the North American Plum Village Dharma Teachers’ Sangha.

 

Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Tinh

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The Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Tinh was born in 1947 in Dong Thap, Vietnam, to a family of rice farmers. His father was shot and killed while farming during what is called in Vietnam the American War. At that time, the Most Venerable was a boy and he somehow managed to escape injury, although he was present in the rice paddies on that day. The Most Venerable continued to farm rice and support his family until 1962, when his mother gave him permission to ordain as a novice monk at a Buddhist    temple. He received full ordination as a bhikkhu in 1972 and then went to Saigon to study at Phat Quang University from 1972-1973. The Most Venerable received full ordination in 1980 and became abbot at the Temple of the Bodhisattva of Compassion (Quan The Am) in Da Lat in 1993. After spending his life in Vietnam, he was invited by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh to live at Deer Park Monastery in Southern California in 2001. He began to offer teachings in Vietnamese to monastic and lay practitioners in San Diego County, Orange County, and Los Angeles County, and at Deer Park in Escondido, where he continues to reside. Collections of his talks in English are presented in Be Like A Tree: Zen Talks by Thich Phuoc Tinh and The Ten Oxherding Paintings: Zen Talk by Thich Phuoc Tinh. He is also the author of two books in Vietnamese, one on the Forty-Two Chapters Sutra and one of Dharma talks sharing wisdom for everyday life.

Venerable Thich Tu Luc

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The Venerable Thich Tu Luc was born in 1955, in Hue, Vietnam, to a traditional Buddhist and Confucian family. In 1975 he went to the U.S. as a refugee. In 1977 he became a Buddhist monk as a student of the Most Venerable Thich Tinh Tu, now the abbot of Kim Son Monastery in Watsonville, California. In 1983 the Venerable received the Ten  Monastic  Precepts  at  the Vietnam pagoda in Los Angeles, and in 1985 he received Full Ordination at the Grand Vow Ceremony at Kim Quang pagoda in Sacramento. He received the Dharma Teacher’s Lamp Transmission from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in 1994. Thay Tu Luc graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Library Management and Creative Arts. In 1998, he completed the Church Operations Certificate Program at University of the Pacific, Stockton. He founded the Hayward Buddhist Center in 1986 and the Compassion Meditation Center in 2000. Just recently, in June 2012, he founded the Wisdom Dharma Center in Vacaville, California. He also formed an English-speaking Sangha called the Four-Fold Sangha, which has met weekly for many years. Thay Tu Luc was one of the founders of the three Buddhist Youth groups in Northern California. The Venerable published One Hundred Poems, a collection of spiritual poems from various authors, in 1990. He wrote and published Looking Back Deeply (Lang Long Nhin Lai) in 1999, Deep Love of Buddhist Youth Organization (Dam Net Tinh Lam) in 2005, Love for the Path and Gratitude for Life (Tinh Dao, Nghia Doi) in 2007, and Why I Became a Monk (Tai Sao Toi Di Tu) in 2008.

 

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