Namo Shakya Munaye Buddhaya
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Order of Interbeing in every corner of the world, and friends who love Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings:
Forty years ago, in the midst of the Vietnam War, our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh founded the Phap Van Temple (The Dharma Cloud Temple) in a suburb of Saigon. Here Thay established the School of Youth for Social Service, training young people to enter the war zones to help relieve suffering.
Thay’s priority was to spend money helping the poor and the war victims, so the temple we built in 1965 was a very simple thatched-roof structure. Here Thay began to develop engaged Buddhism and set up the Sangha of Interbeing for his first six students who wished to be fully engaged in a life of practice and service. Included were Sister Nhat Chi Maik, who immolated herself for peace on June 16, 1967; and our eldest sister Chan Khong, who works ceaselessly from Plum Village to raise funds to help hungry children and adults who suffer in Vietnam.
Now we have thousands of friends everywhere in the world, sharing the Buddha’s teachings as transmitted by That. In Vietnam, thought, we are only forty OI members, both monastic and lay, who have continued the work. Most of us have been students of Thay since 1965, working without pay or with very little pocket money to serve undernourished and uneducated children, destitute people, lepers, students, and elders. We always try to bring the spiritual dimension into our work by sharing the practice of mindfulness and being peace with our schoolteachers and social workers.
Thirty-eight years have passed without Thay’s physical presence, but we continue to feel his support for us and for all Vietnamese people, including the most destitute. In June 1996, for the first time, Thay offered us a Dharma talk via telephone. He asked us to take good care of our brotherhood and sisterhood and if possible to use the temple as a practice center. Thay did not know that the original thatched roof collapsed twenty-five years ago, and was replaced with tiles. There is a simple Buddha hall, with no safe living space for monks, no kitchen, and no proper washrooms or toilets. The eighteen monks residingh ere live in an almost-collapsed hut with a tin roof. The beams are full of termites and when it rains, water leaks inside the room. The next storm could collapse thee roof and crush the inhabitants.
It is a great fortune that Thay may return to Vietnam in January with monastics and lay practitioners. We would like to use this occasion to rebuild the temple. The plan is to build a lecture hall of 660 square meters, large enough for Thay to offer a public talk to one thousand people, on the ground floor. On the upper level we hope to build room for monastics, guest rooms, and a mediation hall. We also wish to build a little house for Thay and his attendants next to the large building.
The cost may come to $145,000 for the large building and $20,000 for Thay’s house. When Thay is not staying at the temple, we will use his house to exhibit his books, CDs, and DVDs in several languages so visiting students can feel Thay’s presence here through his teachings.
Every day, more people come to the temple wanting to practice. Last week, three monastics from Plum Village offered a five-day retreat for four hundred people. Toilet facilities were a problem, and the monastics had to stay outside the temple.
We urgently need your help so people can come and enjoy the compassionate and effective teachings of Thay. As in many socialist countries, there is a great need for spiritual teachings here. The Buddhism currently taught in Vietnam is not the practical, engaged Buddhist methods offered by Thay. In the West we have had the tremendous fortune to attend retreats with Thay with sufficient and comfortable living conditions. We hope that we can also provide this opportunity for our sisters and brother in Vietnam.
With Thay’s spirit we will continue to use material resources to help relieve the suffering of the poor and needy and to build our temples, modestly and appropriately, to respond to the real needs and aspirations of the people. May thee merit of this work spread to all living beings to benefit the wonderful teaching we proclaimed by our beloved teacher. May all of you dwell in peace embraced by the love of all the Buddhas and bodhisatvas.
The Sangha of Interbeing brothers and sisters in Vietnam
Please mark donations for Phap Van Temple and send to:
North America: Sister Thuan Nghiem Green Mountain Dharma Center Box 182, Hartland-Four-Corners, BT 05048, USA Payable to: the Unified Buddhist Church Tel (802) 436-1103 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
In Europe: Sister Than Hghiem New Hamlet 13 Martineau, 33580 Dieulivol, France Payable to: Eglise Bouddhique Unifee Tel (35)(5)56616688 Email NH-Office@plumvillage.org