To Our Readers It’s mid-August, and I’m just beginning to feel the change of seasons, even in the ninetydegree temperatures. A new coolness in the mornings and evenings, a softness in the color of the darkening sky: I find happiness in the impermanence of the seasons, and I feel my heart turning to gratitude for the bounty in my life.
By the time you read this, Thich Nhat Hanh will have completed the U.S. tour, and many of us will have been renewed by spending days with our teacher and our Sangha. For those of us who were not able to attend a retreat, we offer this magazine as a mini-retreat, to inspire and comfort you with the presence of the Sangha.
As I write, I am looking forward to seeing many of my brothers and sisters at our root temple, Deer Park, and to the possibility that eight friends from my region will be ordained into the Order of Interbeing. Could there be a better gift to all of us, than for these dear friends to commit to a life of mindfulness and Sangha building?
Returning from Vietnam, I knew that the fruits of that journey would continue to manifest for months and years to come, and you are invited to share those fruits in this and future issues. The stories and poems reflecting precious moments on the journey, and the reports on transformation and building long-term connections through humanitarian efforts, bring us all closer to our spiritual ancestors. We have new, expanded responsibilities there too, as Sister Chan Khong reports: two monasteries need our help, so they can respond to the needs of the many people touched by Thay’s visit and now offering their lives for monastic practice.
In Thay’s featured teaching on cultivating true happiness, the question is posed: What is the most special thing about Buddhism? The answer given is: The ability to subdue and purify your mind. My deepest gratitude is for the teachings and examples of the Buddha and my spiritual teachers who have given me a way to create a path through the brambles and toxic swamps in my mind, to clear the brush and allow light into the dark places of fear and hurt. Through the simple practice of bringing mindfulness to my daily actions, of formal sitting, and of spending time with my teachers and the Sangha, my mind has cultivated another way to be. It is a gentler way of living; a way that allows questioning my own attitudes and perceptions, of not clinging to my long held patterns of trying to control outcomes and of reacting with hurt when not feeling understood or acknowledged. A way of dwelling in peace and open-heartedness. Slowly I have found that most days my heart spends more time open than closed.
The tools of mindfulness, concentration, and insight have allowed me to begin forging this new path through the jungle of my mind and emotions. I have learned that there is no path to follow, no formula I can apply to find my way to clarity.
Rather, my teachers have given me the well-honed tools to make my own way, to create a light-filled pathway of beauty and peacefulness.
May we all take to heart the teachings and examples offered by our teachers, our ancestors, and our Sangha friends. May we all practice with ease and diligence so our lives become pathways of light for ourselves and others. We have everything we need: the instructions, the generous guidance of our teacher, and the enjoyment and comfort of our Sangha companions. In this season of the harvest, our cornucopia of love overflows.