#20 Winter 1997

Dharma Talk: Sangha

By Thich Nhat Hanh

We all need love. Without enough love, we may not be able to survive, as individuals and as a planet. It is said that the next Buddha will be named "Maitreya," the Buddha of Love. I believe that Maitreya might not take the form of an individual, but as a community showing us the way of love and compassion.

The basic condition for love is mindfulness. Unless you are present, it is not possible to love. Learning to be present may sound easy, but until you get the habit, it is not. We have been running for thousands of years, and it is difficult to stop, to encounter life deeply in the present moment. We need to be supported in this kind of learning, and that is the work of a Sangha.

In Buddhist circles, we speak of Buddhakaya (Buddha body) and Dharmakaya (Dharma body), but we rarely speak of Sanghakaya (Sangha body). As practitioners, we carry the body of the Buddha in us. The body of the Buddha is mindfulness, and mindfulness always leads to concentration, insight, and love. When we notice that we have mindfulness, concentration, insight, and love, we know that the body of the Buddha is in us. Mindfulness is something we can touch in ourselves.

The Dharma is the way of calming, healing, looking deeply, and transforming. When we are able to walk in mindfulness, the Dharma body is in us. Every time we take one peaceful step, every time we breathe mindfully, the Buddha and Dharma bodies in us grow.

The Sangha is a jewel, no less important than the Buddha and the Dharma. Please practice Sangha building. Stick to your Sangha. Without a Sangha body, sooner or later you will abandon the practice. Take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Sangha always carries within it the Buddha and the Dharma. The Sangha is a holy body. Don't look for holiness somewhere else. Don't think that holiness is only for the Dalai Lama or the Pope. Holiness is within you and within the body of your Sangha. When a community of people sit, breathe, walk, and eat in mindfulness, holiness is there, and we can recognize it. When you take one peaceful step, you touch the earth with your holiness. If members of the Sangha practice mindfully together, the Sangha is holy. We have to learn to take care of our Sangha body. We nourish our Sangha body by practicing deeply together with friends. We know that such-and-such a food is toxic for us, but we continue to eat it. Alone, we are tempted. But surrounded by others, it is easy to stop. Ten years ago, a young boy came to Plum Village whose most acute suffer­ing was the absence of television. He felt he could not survive even one day without TV. His mother persuaded him to stay half a day and we brought other youngsters to play with him. At noon he decided to stay the whole day. Then he stayed for another day, then for two weeks. He was able to survive without television because of the Sangha. He found by being with other young people that life is possible without television.

The Sangha can be described as a stream of life going in the direction of emancipation, joy, and peace. The only condition for us to enter the stream of the holy Sangha is that we practice. If we do, we will obtain “stream entrance” right away. This was the word used by the Buddha. If we embrace the practice of mindful living, we join the Sangha and enter the stream. This is the first holy fruit we obtain as a practitioner. It is not difficult. If you want to practice in a joyful way, build a Sangha where you are. The Sangha is your protection. It is the raft that will carry you to the shore of liberation. Without a Sangha, even with the best of intentions, your practice will falter. "I take refuge in the Sangha" is not a declaration of faith. It is a daily practice.

If there is love between teacher and student and among the students themselves, you will be able to put down roots in the Sangha. When I became a monk, I was loved by my teacher and fellow monks. Later, when I had to leave the warm atmosphere of the temple, I encountered many storms. But the roots that had grown in the temple could never die, and I was able to continue steadily on the path of practice. Many people today are unable to put down roots in their families, churches, or society. If these people come to a Sangha of practice and see it as wholesome, true, and worthy of their confidence, they will be able to put down roots. It may be easier to love in a Sangha than in our own family, because in a Sangha we are all going in the same direction. Later, we can return home and help rebuild our family, church, and society.

If you are going to dig a well, you cannot dig down a few inches and say, "I give up. There are too many stones." Your teacher and your brothers and sisters are the earth you are digging into. Digging a well is not easy. If you throw away your practice—your shovel—you will not succeed. Dig down inside yourself, into your own mind. Drink the pure, sweet water of the earth. When you have difficulties with your teacher or friends, you have to find the roots of the difficulties. It may be a matter of needing to reorganize things or something simple like that. Be open to discovering new ways of being together. Thanks to such difficulties, we see how to continue the work of transforming.

If you have a difficult Dharma sister or brother, help her, because she is you. If you cannot help her, you will not be successful in your own practice. If you continue to exist as an individual and think that happiness is an individual matter, you will not succeed. When you have put your roots down in each other, the feelings of isolation and loneliness will be transformed. You are no longer merely an indi­vidual. You carry in your heart all your brothers, sisters, and ancestral teachers.

Sangha building is an art. To take care of the Sangha is to take care of the Buddha. Through a Sangha, it is possible to be in touch with the living Dharma. To take care of the Sangha is to take care of ourselves, and to take care of ourselves is to take care of our Sangha. When we eat and drink in moderation, we are looking after our Sangha body. When we look after a brother or sister and help them smile again, we are looking after the Sangha. When we take our younger sister's hand and console her, we are looking after the Sangha. When we reconcile with our brother, the whole community will feel better, and we are looking after the Sangha. It is not enough just to go into the meditation halland offer incense to the Buddha. When we cause our Sangha to be healed, we are healing the body of the Buddha.

A young man told me, "I am happy to take refuge in the Buddha and the Dharma, but I cannot respect the Sangha." He did not understand that each jewel contains all three jewels. Without the Sangha, there can be no Buddha and no Dharma. An elderly friend told me, "I only take refuge in a Holy Sangha, the Sangha of saints who lived in the past. In the present time, there is no Holy Sangha." But a Sangha that is made of people of this world is the only Sangha we have. If my friend had been on Vulture Peak when the Buddha was giving teachings, he would have seen many dis­turbing elements in the Buddha's own Sangha. When we read the Vinaya, we can see that. We need a Sangha that we can touch in the present moment, made up of all kinds of people. They may not be fully enlightened, but if they can support us in our practice, that alone makes them a worthy object of our refuge. They may not be saints, but they are the Sangha we have.

The best way to improve the quality of the Sangha is to improve the quality of our own practice. If members of the Sangha practice mindfulness and have been liberated from the worst part of their suffering, the Sangha is a jewel that can help many people. Our community in Plum Village is by no means perfect. It is a community of ordinary people on the path of practice. But if our Sangha practices well, it can become a Sangha of deep realization. The holy element is there in each member of the Sangha. And with daily practice, we practice holiness every day.

In any community, it is clear that some people have more peace than others. If we leave a Sangha because some of its members are not very holy, we are leaving the holy elements as well. The practice is to help build a Sangha that has peace and joy. Every member of the community can practice this. This is the way to cultivate faith in the Sangha.

If you do not have the means to travel and live with an established Sangha, create a Sangha where you are. It can be a small community of practice with your family and friends. You can meet every day, or once a week, or even just once a month to recite the mindfulness trainings together. The work you do for the Sangha is not just washing the dishes, working in the office, or performing ceremonies. It is organizing yourself and your life in a way that brings happiness to the Sangha.

We have to learn to practice meditation collectively—as a family, a city, a nation, and a community of nations. A Sangha that practices love and compassion together is the Buddha we need for the twenty-first century. It is up to us to bring the next Buddha into existence—Maitreya, the Buddha of Love, Ms. Love, Mr. Love. We have the privilege and the duty to prepare the ground for bringing that Buddha to life—for our sake and the sake of our children and our planet. Each of us has a role to play. Each of us can bring the Buddha into our daily life by practic­ing mindful living. Each of us is a cell in Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of the twenty-first century, the Buddha of Love.

This article, based on a Dharma talk given at Plum Village in September 1996, will appear as a chapter in Thich Nhat Hanh's forthcoming book, The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, to be published by Parallax Press.

The Six Concords

The Buddha taught Six Concords to help his disciples have happiness in their daily life together. Concord is the basis of a Sanghakaya.

The first is the Concord of "bodily action." A Sangha lives together like a family. Our actions affect all those with whom we live, so our actions need to be conducive to concord.

The second is the Concord of "sharing the benefits." We share food, sleeping accommodations, and the opportunity to practice sitting and walking meditation. We listen to the Dharma together. We share all sorts of benefits with each other. If one person has three days to go on retreat, others in the Sangha should have the same opportunity at some time. We support each other.

The third is the Concord of "keeping the same mindfulness trainings." Our aspirations are the same, and we agree that practicing the same mindfulness trainings is the best way to realize those aspirations.

The fourth is the Concord of "speech." Our speech also needs to inspire concord. We need to base our speaking on certain principles, such as knowing how not to react when we hear something we do not like, knowing how to make note of what the other says in order to be able to meditate on it before we reply, and knowing how to encourage and increase the confidence of those we talk to.

The fifth is the Concord of "view." We come from different backgrounds. We cannot possibly share the views of everyone in our community. But we do not assume that our view is correct and others' views are wrong. We don't argue about our different views. When we have an idea, we share it with the other members of our Sangha, and we modify our ideas as we listen to others. A Dharma discussion is an opportunity to listen carefully to all the different viewpoints in order to have deeper insight. Our own idea is only one small part of the picture. When others speak, we listen carefully to find the wisdom in their words. If we cannot listen to others, we cannot learn. We need to help others know they are accepted and appreciated.

The sixth is the Concord of "activity of mind" We have different ways of thinking and different feelings. We should not isolate ourselves on the island of our thinking. We have to communicate. When we see someone drowning in their thinking, their sadness, and their suffering, we can say to them, "A penny for your thoughts," or, "A penny for your feelings." When the other person is able to share his feeling, he is no longer isolated. When we express what is happening in our mind to another person, it relieves our isolation. If you ask someone, "What are you feeling?" and she says, "I am unhappy," you can practice walking meditation together and that alone will bring some joy.

Photos: First photo by Karen Preuss. Second photo by Michael Grossi.

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To request permission to reprint this article, either online or in print, contact the Mindfulness Bell at editor@mindfulnessbell.org.

From the Editor

While The Mindfulness Bell is officially the journal of the Order of Interbeing, our hope is to reach beyond the Order's core community to include everyone who finds Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings and practice inspiring. This global Sangha is made up of a wide variety of people with very different life experiences-Europeans, Asians, North Americans, Jews, Christians, parents, children, gays and lesbians, teachers, lawyers, prisoners, veterans of war, and many more. In such a diverse group, it can be challenging to find ways to understand each other, but as Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us in his lead article, we cannot afford to be without our Sangha body, without a community of friends who practice together and support one another. Building a healthy Sangha takes work and persistence. Articles from Dhanna teacher Jack Lawlor and the New York Community of Mindfulness provide insights to help those starting and maintaining a Sangha. This issue also includes some Sangha news and a Sangha prorile, as well as a listing of the more than 200 groups worldwide that practice in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. We hope this will give you a flavor of the different ways that communities take form.

With this issue, I will be stepping down from the position of managing editor. It has been a wonderful opportunity to serve the Sangha and get to know many of you-thank you for your support. I look forward to continued involvement in the community in other ways. -Maria Duerr

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Raindrops of a Bodhisattva

By Quyen Do

On the third day of our summer retreat at Maple Village outside of Montreal, the mountains around us were enveloped in fog. We woke up in the silence and fresh air, and after hearing the bell, entered the meditation hall for morning sitting. Then the rain started to fall lightly. After a session of sitting, Brother Chan Co led a recitation of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. I felt calm and joyful being with my Sangha as we recited the opening verse three times.

After the closing verse and the sound of the bell, Chan Co smiled and said, "It's raining now." He seemed to feel the Sangha's energy and understand our need for a healing process. As the drops fell, they created music on the meditation hall roof. Through the windows, we saw only the blurred shape of Mt. Foster in eastern Quebec. After a few minutes of listening to the rain, Chan Co asked Carol Gover to sing Sister Annabel's song, "The Rain." Carol's soft voice fell harmoniously with the rain outside, and we listened in mindfulness:

"The rain is falling oh... so softly

Washing every leaf of every tree

Washing every care,

Namo Avalokiteshvara."

As we listened, some people struggled with pains brought up in the first two days. Some problems seemed immense: one participant's spouse had just received a diagnosis of cancer. Another had been raising a disabled child for 25 years.

"The rain is falling oh... so strong

Reaching every root of every tree

Reaching every root of affliction,

Namo Avalokiteshvara..."

As the song continued, it seemed that the Bodhisattva of Compassion came to the meditation hall, waving her tiny willow branch ti'om which healing drops of compassionate water fell on everyone of us. I was so moved by the moment that all my small anxieties washed away.

"The rain is falling oh... so loudly

Playing the music of joy

For ten thousands of beings,

Namo Avalokiteshvara."

Carol ended the song softly and total silence reigned in the hall. The raindrops sang on the roof. We sat for a long time, breathing in and out and listening to the rain. Even the bellmaster didn't touch the bell.

I have never participated in such a beautiful recitation. I felt Thay and Sister Annabel as closely as if they were sitting next to us and smiling. We stood up and comforted each other with hugging meditation, then continued the day. After breakfast, we all had joyful expressions on bur faces. In the supportive atmosphere of the Sangha, our individual suffering seemed diluted, dissipating with the rain.

Quyen Do, Chan Huyen, is a co-founder of Maple Village. She lives in Montreal, Canada, where she is a pharmacist.

Poem: Untitled Poem 1

In the heart of the coldest winterI no longer shiver, I feel warm. The Sangha is here, dear Sangha!

In the heart of the driest desert I no longer shrivel, I feel fresh. The Dharma is here, dear Dharma!

In the heart of the darkest unknown I no longer fear, I feel safe. The Buddha is here, dear Buddha!

In the heart of my purest heart I no longer search in vain, The Three Jewels are here.

Dear Sangha, Dear Dharma, Dear Buddha.

Briggette Dayez

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Building a Healthy Sangha

By Jack Lawlor If we reflect on the life story of the Buddha, we see that the Buddha sank deep and broad roots in community, both before and after his enlightenment. His success at Sangha building was phenomenal. He brought together people from every level of a highly stratified society-kings and queens, wealthy merchants, warriors, farmers, prostitutes, the poor, families attempting to live moral and religious lives, the widowed, parents distraught at the loss of a child, religious seekers, criminals, and those lusting after power and wealth. People who ordinarily would have nothing to do with one another came together to form a healthy practice community. The Buddha was always looking and listening intently, and learning from others.

As we read the story of the Buddha, we see that one cannot go far on the path of spiritual practice without the support of good friends. Although the Buddha is usually depicted at the moment of his enlightenment alone beneath the Bo tree, it might be more accurate to show him surrounded by all those who contributed to his enlightenment: his father with one-pointed sense of purpose and service, his teachers who candidly and sincerely offered what they could, and his five friends who encouraged and challenged him along the path. Viewed in this way, the Buddha's enlightenment is a collective achievement, the result of the efforts of many.


In Buddhism there is a term for this kind of spiritual friendship, kalyana mitra, or "good friend." Being present, looking and listening deeply, is at the foundation of any spiritual friendship. When we become the spiritual friend of another, we become a link in a long interdependent chain going back to the friendships that supported the Buddha himself. They remain alive and present in us. Being a kalyana mitra means being totally attentive to the needs of the person we are with. When we practice in this way, profound compassion arises.

In the Four Exertions of Buddhism, a practitioner strives to prevent the arising of unwholesome mental states, to eradicate unwholesome states that have already arisen, to develop unarisen wholesome mental states, and to maintain arisen wholesome mental states. Good spiritual friends can do the same for one another. We bring out the best in each other by practicing Right Speech consistently and lovingly, and by pursuing healthy pastimes that do not lead to craving or lust We each have Buddha nature, the ability to come into contact not only with what is wrong, but what is soothing and supportive in our environment. Some people have not had the opportunity to get in touch with this ability, but a good spiritual friend can lead them to a direct experience of it. In Buddhism, the preeminent skillful means for making this discovery are the mindfulness practices of sitting and walking meditation. Good spiritual friends introduce their friends to these simple practices. Many spiritual benefits follow from this.

If a healthy Sangha is available, our first exposure to the calm of meditation can be as memorable as a first love. Our first insights into the needs of others, borne of meditation, can be a revelation. When we seek refuge in our local Sangha and practice together, we can transform the wobbly way we sometimes feel into calm, centeredness, peace, and a quiet spiritual resolve.

Although we need the support of others, we may resist the idea of practicing together in a group for many reasons. We prefer our privacy. The intimacy of a small Sangha may frighten us. We may fear that it will become cliquish or political. Many of us .have witnessed arguments in the churches or synagogues we left behind, and we know that there is nothing worse than the kind of strife that arises in religious or charitable organizations.

Within the Buddhist community, there have been teachers culpable of sexual abuse, substance abuse, and questionable financial practices. There are frequently interpersonal disputes over personality differences, power, or which way the group should be "led." We sometimes think that a legalistic solution or bylaw provision can prevent or solve these problems. But I have found that it is often misleading to rely much on the written form of an organization. If you were to read the constitution of many nations, you would be quite impressed by their idealism and concern for society and the rights of its citizens. But the reality can be much different. So while words and procedures may be helpful, they are not enough. A healthy Sangha is not a matter of words or a particular structure or form, but practice.

When we concentrate on sitting and walking meditation, the incorporation of gathas into our daily life, and regular attendance and participation with the Sangha, our practice deepens and we make a healthy Sangha possible. Our practice transforms the Sangha in this way, not through words and form.

When Thay urges us to "look with Sangha eyes," he is asking us to look at the needs of the collective practice body. When we practice as a healthy Sangha, we find it easier to let go of the view of self and join others in practicing mindfulness and insight. We not only have to let go of our view of self, we also have to let go of some of our favorite baggage-our fixed ideas, including those about what the Sangha should be like. Nirvana is sometimes described as the absence of greed, anger, and delusion. Concepts of happiness, of "what is good for me" and "what is good for the Sangha" can limit our flexibility and isolate us from others, because we are not really in contact with them or the present moment. Instead, we are judging, weighing, and measuring what seems to be going on in comparison to our ideal of a perfect Sangha.

We should not leave a Sangha merely because it uses a few skillful means that do not appeal to us. We should be grateful to be exposed to new forms of practice from time to time, whether it is a new breathing exercise, the use of mindfulness verses in conjunction with conscious breathing, or sutra or precept recitation. A practice that does not appeal to us today may be of great help in the future, for we change over time, and our circumstances change.

In Buddhism, concepts that bind us are called "fetters." In contrast, the Diamond Sutra declares, "Buddhas are called Buddhas because they are free of ideas." Some years ago, one of our Sangha members proposed an invention similar to the metal detectors at airports. A "fetter detector" could be conveniently placed at the entrance to Dharma discussion groups. People would be invited to leave their prejudices, preconceptions, and mental formations at the door. If they forget, the fetter detector will go off. If they choose to bring their fetters into the Dharma discussion, at least they will be aware that they are carrying this extra baggage.

There are certainly times when we don't feel ourselves, and may not feel like meeting with spiritual friends. But the happiness of a healthy Sangha of spiritual friends is contagious. The familiar faces, the glow of candles, the chanting-all are like bread crumbs leading us back to the miracle of mindfulness. We are invited to come to the S~ngha with an open mind and heart. When we practice in thiS way, we practice not only for ourselves, but for one another, much as the Buddha did.

Jack Lawlor, True Direction, was ordained as a Dharma teacher by Thich Nhat Hanh in 1992. He is a founding member of the Lakeside Buddha Sangha and practices law in Chicago.

A tape set of the Dharma talks on which this article is based is available for $15 (postage included). Checks may be made payable to "The Lakeside Buddha Sangha" and sent to P.o. Box 7067. Evanston, 1L 60201.

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Compassion in the Courtroom

By Gerard B. Wattigny Not long ago, my job called me to sentence a man who was 76 years old. He had killed two men and wounded another. These shootings occurred in a small town where all of those involved knew one another. His son and family were very upset over the incident, feeling his father had been provoked into the shootings. The families of the victims were also upset because they felt they'd lost loved ones in a senseless argument. Both families suffered greatly from the incident. Through the practice and teachings I have learned from Thich Nhat Hanh and his students, I recognized the pain of these people and became mindful enough to see what was happening and what action was necessary to avoid further pain and anger in the future.

On the morning of the sentencing, the defendant's son requested an opportunity to address the court. The bailiff advised me that he was particularly bitter and wanted to vent his anger on the victims' families. I could feel the suffering and pain of both families. However, if he spoke, all the hurt in these families would be stirred up again. This feud could go on for generations. Because of my practice, I felt their pain and frustration, but I also knew that closure was important. Continued hatred and ill-feeling needed resolution.

I called the son up in the courtroom and addressed him in the front of the rest of the audience. I told him that I had something to say and if he still wanted to address the court after that, I would permit him to do so. I told him how we all felt his pain and the pain of his family, and that we knew that under other circumstances, his father would not have done these shootings. But I also asked him to consider the suffering of the victims' families. Their loved ones were gone forever. He, on the other hand, still had a father who was alive, though in prison. Finally, I asked him to consider his children and the children of the victims. These children are entitled to lives without a feud going on for another generation. They don't deserve to carry this pain into their future. I spoke to him for about 45 minutes until I felt that he would not speak in anger. He then said that he would not talk and took his seat for sentencing.

Under the circumstances of the crimes, I sentenced the 76-year old man to two life sentences. Afterwards, his son crossed the aisle and shook hands with the families of the victims, they all expressed mutual sorrow, and left the courtroom together in peace.

Gerard and his wife are daily practitioners in Louisiana. where he serves as a trial court judge in the 16th Judicial District Court.

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Letter to a Vet

By Alan Cutter I am now at a place where I can begin to talk about what the war has meant to me. I am facing the hurt and regret, and learning to understand how they have affected my family and my relationships with other people. Through owning up to the bad choices I made, I can value having made the best choices I could when there were no "good" choices. Before, when I spoke about my experiences, I would become so emotional, even with my wife, that I could not speak. Either the sadness, or anger, or something else would take my voice away. A wall existed for me and I was resigned to living with it. Now, I have received permission to speak, to break that wall of silence imposed by society and by my own fears and anxieties.

It began on a trip to California, when some of us drove to Half Moon Bay to look at the Pacific Ocean. I thought if I could look out across the ocean towards Southeast Asia, I might somehow say goodbye to what I had left behind. But I could not do it, for there was too much left unsaid and unfmished. I was trying to do it all alone, just as I had to do in Vietnam.

A few days later, our group was visited by Arnie Kotler and Therese Fitzgerald from the Community of Mindful Living. They brought Claude Thomas with them, a vet from Boston who had experience with Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings. Arnie and Therese led us in breathing exercises designed to help people focus on living in the present moment. We did sitting meditations and a walking meditation. During these meditation periods, Therese held a small bronze bell which she would occasionally strike with a baton. It was, she explained, "a device to remind us to focus on our breathing, on what we are doing right now, on smiling, on being peace."

After these exercises, Claude told his story. Before he did so, he admitted he was scared to speak. He had been a door gunner on a chopper, celebrating both his 18th and 19th birthdays in Vietnam, and had a powerful story of failed relationships, loneliness, fear, and homelessness. He talked ofboobytraps and sudden death, turkey shoots, hatred, revenge, and great pain. As he spoke, every so often he would begin to get visibly caught up in his emotions and start to lose control. When this happened, Therese would strike the bell and Claude would stop, take two or three deep breaths to refocus, and then calmly continue with his story. As I watched, I found myself wishing I had something, anything, that would enable me to do the same thing.

After his story, Claude shared something he had learned from Thich Nhat Hanh-that it is necessary and important for vets to break the walls of silence around our experiences. We must find some method for telling the truth of war and conflict. For Claude, the sound of the bell gave him the permission he needed to speak.

I told Claude how moving it had been to watch his struggle and how I noticed that with the sound of the bell, he was able to refocus and continue. In a moment of unintended truth, I said I wished I had something like that, a bell, that would help me break my own wall of silence. Claude looked at me and said, ''The sound of the bell is yours. You want it, now you have it and you can speak!" As the impact of his words hit me, I sat in my chair and stared at him, one hand holding my glasses, the other empty. Then Therese was beside me, putting the bell and the baton in my empty hand, and saying, "I believe in making things concrete-the bell is yours."

The bell is not perfect-it has blemishes and little scratches, but its sound is true and clear. To me, it is a gift from the Vietnamese community. Now I carry the sound of the bell in my head and I can speak about my war experiences without getting caught in the strong emotions. It is not easy, but it is real. I was trying so hard to break the wall of silence by myself, but what I needed couldn't be accomplished alone. As much as I needed to speak, I also needed people on the other end, willing to listen.


I don't know where you are in your journey, but I know how easy it is to slide into old habits-to get discouraged, to be satisfied with a little bit of progress and give up hoping that there is more. Cherish your progress, but do not ever give up. The next bit may come unexpectedly. Look for it, be open to it, brother. In hope and love, Alan

Alan Cutter is a Presbyterian minister living in Duluth, Minnesota.

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Tribute to Jeanie Chilcote

mb20-Tribute Jeanie Chilcote. Source of Serenity. Sister True Natural Peace. Devoted Dharma student of Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh. Received precepts from Jack Lawlor. Ordained into the Order by Eileen Kiera on behalf of Thich Nhat Hanh. Enrolled tribal member. Daughter, wife, mother, friend. Thursday she was driving around running errands. Friday morning said she was going to drive back and forth to the camp-out retreat the next week. Friday evening she took to bed. Saturday she went into a coma. Sunday, July 14, Jeanie entered the great mystery peacefully at home surrounded by her family. It had been a one and one half years since cancer was diagnosed.

A pilgrimage to Indochina with our friend Judy had been tiring. She thought with age 55 approaching that she was just getting old and couldn't handle the rigors of third world travel. She returned a few weeks early. Rest did not restore. The doctor diagnosed inflammatory breast cancer.

Thay walks into the room for a Dharma talk. She sees him and begins to cry. Every time. Every talk. Every retreat.The bond to the teacher with whom she never shared one sentence of direct conversation was deep. On pilgrimage her main goal was to visit Thay's root temple. During the visit, a monk came out and invited her in for tea. Thay's picture was openly displayed in the room. The monk's English was sparse. Jeanie spoke no Vietnamese. Word communication was difficult. It was not needed. She always wondered why of all the tourists walking around he had singled her out and asked her in for tea. At the September retreat in Plum Village, Thay answered the question. The monks can tell practitioners by the way they walk. Jeanie was a practitioner.

Apparently our local medical community had never seen a practitioner. They were amazed at her equanimity. She meditated patiently in the waiting room with never a cross word for chronically late doctors. Always a kind word for all the nurses and "techs." Infinite patience while she meditated through hours of Taxol and related nasties being dripped into her system. She absorbed all news, bad and good (it was almost always bad) from the doctor with open attention. One day her doctor said, "I've never had a patient like you. You are always so calm and present. It must be your religion. I've never had a Buddhist patient before." And Jeanie validated that yes, it was her practice that gave her strength.

Maybe her name should have been Sister All Heart. She loved everyone and everything. Deeply. She constantly fed the birds and animals that visited her yard. Only a floodplain pasture and grove of trees separated her house from the Clark Fork River. There are zoos with fewer animals. Every bird that survived an accidental crash into a window was taken to the vet. Friends and family flowed through her house like water down the Clark Fork. "Jeanie, you are ill. You should rest more. Let the machine take calls. Put a 'do not disturb' sign on your door and nap." Fat chance. Sometimes her mother would take charge and stand guard. Otherwise it was always spring flood at Jeanie's.

Until cancer she was always fascinated by the "after death" question. She would pester her friend Rowan endlessly. At first she thought he was holding out on her. When she realized he didn't know the answer to the question either, she was still angry with him because the question didn' t interest him. But after the diagnosis she said, "You know, now it isn't important to me either. All that is important is this moment."

Jeanie didn't find the pond until 1992. Her Dharma-webbed feet had gotten pretty desiccated wandering in the desert. But somebody gave her an Eightfold Path class announcement. She got excited. Immediately called up. Enrolled self, daughter Laurie, and friend Joanne. She dived in. She never stopped swimming. In rapid sequence she joined Open Way Sangha, took precepts from Jack at an Open Way retreat, and was in the first "proxy" ordination group in the USA being ordained into the Order by Eileen on Thay's behalf. She served the Open Way Board for the last several years as Secretary, and this year as "Elder Sister."

Jeanie gave freely of her love, skills. and insights. She was recruited to work with Alaya, a "Dharma therapy" outreach effort. She was co-creator of the Alaya programs for personal and spiritual growth. She taught meditation classes and helped develop and lead various other groups and classes; including groups called "Eightstepping" in which her meditative tradition was applied in a structured approach to addiction recovery. She knew about recovery . It was one of her practices. She continued this service until her illness precluded involvement earlier this year. Her service legacy lives as others continue to teach and use approaches and materials she helped to develop. Alaya tapes of Jeanie's work may someday continue her legacy as part of a book.

Thay once told Eileen, "Give everything you have and ask for nothing in return." Jeanie was master of this practice. Jeanie always gave (to a fault). She never asked (to a fault). Even in death she gave. For the last several months she prepared herself for the passage by working every Sunday morning with our gifted friend Marga. And by her years of faithful practice. "You know," she would say frequently, "I couldn't do this wi thout this practice." She learned to live her life moment-by-moment. She lived life loving and giving as naturally as breathing. And so she returned naturally to the Source of all lovingness with grace, peace, and ease.

Lilah, her mother, misses her. So do her children, Laurie and Craig, and grandchildren, Josh and Kevin. And all her friends and Dharma famil y, we miss her too. It's lucky that families are like worms with many hearts. We wi ll survive this amputation. But absence of the prototypical working model of the Giant Economy Size Open and Devoted Heart. .. well, that's not easy to accommodate. We'll all have to help. Laurie will move in and continue to tend her flowers and feed the birds. As for the people, well, if we look deeply , we will see her in each other's faces, the light of dawn, morning dew, the bird's song. Joy and sadness wil l flow together. Our Sister has died . Long li ve our Sister. This article was contributed by members of the Opell Way Sangha in Missoula, Montana, with special assistance from Rowan Conrad, Trlle Dharma Strength.

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Poem: Untitled Poem 2

In the kitchen late at night,my mother takes care of an injured wild bird to show her daughter how to love. I bathed my mother's cold and still body as best I could. I started the fire and went outside to watch my mother's warmth rise into the tree, into the birds, and the sky.

I have a face that only a mother can love. Do you too? How miraculously poignant is the love a son can give his mother, especially a son who knows he has the face that only a mother can love. If only we could bottle that tenderness and give it away on street comers. But of course we can. One of my teachers is a tree by a meadow. I think it is also the teacher of my teacher, and the student of our great, great, great grandfather ancestor which must be the reason I am here today .

Sister Thuc Nghiem Plum Village, France

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Order Gathering in Switzerland

By Beatrice Geisser Twenty Order members from Germany and Switzerland gathered May 29 to June I at the Meditation Center House Tao in Switzerland. In an atmosphere of friendship and with commitment to establish a good fundament for the growing Order, we enjoyed our time with sitting meditation, group sharing, walking through the beautiful countryside, and cooking and eating together. One of the highlights was the Ordination Ceremony for Paul Koeppler, conducted together with the Order members by Dharmacharyas Marcel Geisser and Karl Schmied.

Several committees were organized to support the Dharmacharyas when there are decisions to be made; clarify the process of entering the Order (to be published in the revised edition of Interbeing); manage the financial part of the German-speaking Order; and plan the next annual Order meeting and retreat, to be held March 2-8, 1998, at Waldhaus am Laachersee, Germany. We will offer one day for aspirants to join us and get to know one another.

Marcel Geisser resigned after five years of editing InterSein (the German-language sister of The Mindfulness Bell) and passed on this work to a team in Munich, supervised by Karl Schmied. An important topic for many of us is finding ways to foster an atmosphere of openness that includes not only the successful and bright side of the practice but also our diffic ulties and struggles, so we can grow authentically as individuals and as an Order. Our newsletter InterSeill should reflect this need . In this regard, we also appreciate the newsletter Compost.


Beatrice Geisser, True Mindfulness of Realization, practices at HauS Tao ill Wolfhalden. Switzerland, with her husband Marcel.

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Deciding How to Decide

By Dennis Bohn It took the New York Metropolitan Community of Mindfulness about a year to develop the document on decision making (see below). Some people were suprised that it took so long. but in retrospect. it surprises me that it happened so quickly. I would like to share some of the issues and difficulties we faced. so that other groups grappling with the same issues may know they are not alone.

In the late spring of 1996. Dharma teacher Lyn Fine proposed increasing the structure of our Sangha. both to provide a way for the community to grow and to share the workload with more people. The result was a series of planning meetings to plot a course for the Sangha. After the second meeting. it became apparent that not only was there disagreement over the direction we should take. but that we needed a process for coming to decisions. Opinions differed on whether a decision-making process was necessary or even desirable. Many of us worried that a voting model of decision making would divide the community. and that a consensus model would open the possibility of a "negative tyranny" by a single individual. There was also concern about how people would feel when the group made a decision with which they strongly disagreed.

At each meeting, the bell-keeper, time-keeper. recorder, and "vibes-watcher" worked together to watch the mood and flow of the meeting. When Susan Spieler, a vibes watcher, sensed deep emotions surrounding the decision-making proposal, she suggested that we schedule a meeting to explore people's feelings and past experiences with groups and decisions. This idea was warmly received and the meeting was larger than most. We learned a lot about one another, and ultimately, I believe this experience allowed us to move ahead with the proposal. As the group leaned toward a consensus style of decision making, we received guidance from Sangha member Ruth Lamborn. She taught us the guiding principle in the consensus model: no one person has all of the truth about an issue.

Instead, we each bring our own very individual lenses, grounded in past experience. Through discussion and listening to other people's truths, we can obtain the clearest truth about an issue. This dovetails beautifully with the notion of Interbeing. While the consensus process can be slow and cumbersome, it is also pragmatic. If one person blocks a decision, others in the group can listen again to their concerns, either amending the proposal to satisfy the objections, clearing up some misunderstanding, or persuading the individual to stand aside. Very rarely will an impasse be reached. We also found two texts useful in our process an article titled "Consensus," by Caroline Estes in The New Catalyst, Spring 1986, and Michael J. Sheeran's book, Beyond Majority Rule.

Personally, I found the meetings difficult and I often had unpleasant feelings when someone disagreed with me. When I sat with them, I realized that I felt attacked by disagreement. I try to resolve these feelings by cultivating compassionate listening. When I look at the person speaking, I remember that they are speaking their truth.

This document has truly evolved with our group. The  process guides us back to Buddhist principles, which have been a bell of mindfulness amidst the hurly-burly of our passionate opinions. The openness of our meetings, in which each person has a voice, is balanced by the depth of commitment that someone must demonstrate to block a decision. This proposal also allows people to disagree and then spaciously stand aside, letting the group move ahead. I am grateful that we now have this document as a loving start in the decision-making process, helpill:g us to organize and plot our course without becoming fragmented.

Peace, and good luck if your group is traveling on a similar path.

Dennis Bohn is a member of the New York Metropolitan Community of Mindfulness. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Amy and their dog Lucy.

Proposal for Consensus Process

In our proposals for process and structure in the Community of Mindfulness/NY Metropolitan Area, we consistently return to the spirit of the teachings [of Thich Nhat Hanh].

Part of the process of decision making involves letting go of attachment and preferences.

The process of how we respond when we feel that a decision didn’t go “our way” and our relationship to the mental formations arising from such situations is precisely one of the points of our Sangha practice together.

The spirit of Beginning Anew be built into the planning meeting process as “part of the culture,” for example, at the end of each planning meeting we give time for “flower watering.”

A short quote from Thich Nhat Hanh or “Evoking the Boddhisattvas’ Names” may be read at the beginning of each planning meeting to set the tone.


  1. That for a trial period of six months, decisions of the Planning Committee be made by a consensus of those present at the Planning Committee meeting, with the exception of the Dharmacharya, who is to be considered if she is not present. Prior to the end of six months, a planning meeting will be called specifically to review and revise this proposal.
  2. That, given a range of disagreement is possible in the consensus model: a) an individual or individuals may express disagreement with a proposal and then stand aside so that the rest of the group may move ahead; b) an individual or individuals may wish to be noted in the minutes as disagreeing with the proposal and then stand aside so that the rest of the group may move ahead with the proposal; c) block: an individual or individuals may take a principled position opposed to a decisions and refuse to stand aside. In this case, the group may not proceed with the matter until consensus is reached. Discussion of the issue may and probably will continue.
  3. That any individual who wishes to attend a Planning Committee meeting is welcome to attend and participate. However, in order that decisions will be blocked only by people with a significant commitment to the community and by people who are well informed about issues under discussion, there shall be two prerequisites for a person to block a decision. The person who wishes to stand in the way of a decision must have practiced for at least one year with one of the Sanghas affiliated with the larger CMNY/Metro Sangha, and have been present at a minimum of the past four planning meetings.

The intention of this provision is that community decisions not be blocked by a person(s) who does not have significant “investment” in the community or by a person(s) who is not informed about the issues under discussion through their personal presence at recent meetings. In both these instances, the person(s) who does not meet the prerequisites and wishes to take a principled stand against a decision may seek, through compassionate dialogue, to persuade others to his/her point of view. If an individual or individuals who feel strongly about a proposal must be absent from a scheduled Planning Meeting, it is understood that they take responsibility for ensuring presentation of their point of view at the meeting or for finding another way to have decision making tabled on the proposal on which they feel strongly until they can be present.

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Meetings as Practice

By Rowan Conrad Thich Nhat Hanh points out that rigid views are the bane of practice. To improve our meeting practice, or any aspect of our practice, it is essential to remain fluid in our viewpoints about solutions such as consensus. One idealistic view I hope we can avoid is that consensus in and of itself is a "white knight." We need to ask how consensus decision-making contributes to the overall development of our practice and how we need to develop our practice to take advantage of it, or any other method.

Those wh? study group process say that the correct decision-making method depends on the nature of the decision and the situation. They also identify the conditions under which consensus is not indicated. For example, surgeons and sergeants do not confer, they direct. The term is "Decision by Authority Without Input." On the other hand, a business making a major decision involving the livelihoods of many people and the expenditure of much money might assemble a group representative of various skills and viewpoints and pursue the decision until consensus is reached.

"Consensus" and "Decision by Authority Without Input" anchor the ends of a continuum of methods. Somewhere in the middle is "Decision by Authority With Input," a method many Buddhist communities with resident teachers use to this day. At Plum Village, the community works to consensus on an issue and then takes the decision to Thay, who considers that input and makes a decision.


If we want to use consensus, we must create the conditions within which consensus can succeed. And we must use our intelligence to determine when our decision-making method itself is a symptom and not the problem. There is little doubt that consensus can contribute to our practice. But no approach, technique, or meeting skill can compensate for a lack of commitment to practice or a failure to see meetings as practice. The answer is not in fixing meetings per se, but in developing practice and seeing meetings as practice. Not two and not one.

Rowan Conrad, True Dharma Strength, is a member of the Open Way Sangha in Missoula. Montana. His work includes consulting for meeting process and other human dynamic issues. A longer version of this article appeared in the Spring 1997 Open Way News and Views.

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Practice with Young People

By David Dimmack Young people are the flowers of our Retreat Sangha. They radiate innocence and spontaneity, and their fresh smiles remind us that our retreat can be joyful as well as peaceful. In them we see our own innocence and freshness. Their presence is an important gift.

Unconditional acceptance of each young person and relentless patience are essential in planning a young people's program. In 1989, I observed my son and daughter with Sister Chan Khong and other nuns. They were learning a skit to present to the Sangha. The group was loud and wild, but what impressed me was the nuns' calm, gentle, and persistent approach. There was not even a hint of scolding (which I was inclined to do). They calmly and consistently directed the young people back to the task. I aspire to practice this teaching in fathering, and it is probably why I lead these programs whenever possible. As Thay says, "When a tree does not grow right, the farmer does not blame the tree. He changes how he treats the tree." These words encourage our mindfulness in our relations to our vulnerable and impressionable young people.


Young people's programs usually include singing, pebble meditation, and the bell of mindfulness. The primary song and pebble meditation are based on a gatha from The Blooming of a Lotus: In-Out, Flower-Fresh, Mountain-Solid, Water-Reflecting, Space-Free. We often sing the Two Promises of developing understanding and compassion. Both songs have accompanying hand gestures that young people enjoy learning, and help set a lighthearted tone. Betsy Rose's tape, "In My Two Hands," has many songs children enjoy, Music, song, and story are essential to a young people's program.

In pebble meditation, each person makes a pouch and finds five pebbles it can hold. Each pebble represents one phrase of the gatha. When it's time to meditate, we place our pebbles in a pile. We pick our In-Out pebble, hold it and look at it, breathe with it, and imagine the phrase, then lay it on a new spot. With the next pebble, we imagine being a flower and feeling fresh, and place it with the first pebble.

We leisurely transfer our pebbles, one by one, to their new spot-looking, holding, breathing, and remembering. We then replace them in our pouch or begin again. Children of all ages can learn to meditate this way.

Each young person also practices being bellmaster. When calm and ready, the beIlmaster stops and bows to the small bell, slowly picks it up, holds it in the palm of their hand, and raises it to eye level. Looking at it, they imagine they are holding a precious gift. Using the smaIl wooden stick, they tap the bell to wake it up and let everyone know to become quiet. Then, with a full stroke, they sound a long, beautiful tone. Everyone enjoys three full breaths and returns to what they were doing more refreshed and aware. Young people also enjoy apple meditation, relaxation, drawing and craft projects, discussions and sharing, reading and storyteIling, improvisational skits, interactive games and open play, stretching, tumbling, hiking, jokes, and just hanging out. Often, they present songs, skits, drawings, or Dharma recitations to the Sangha. A happy program tends to be loosely structured, allowing each person to focus on their own project. Monks, nuns, musicians, storytellers, and others are welcome visitors. We want to cultivate the seeds of mindfulness in these tender young sprouts and have it be fun.

A young people's program reflects the positive attitude of the Sangha. Feelings of trust and cooperation grow between everyone involved. Young people welcome the slower, gentle rhythm of the meditation and retreat process, away from television and other fast-paced gadgets.

Local Sanghas can create similar programs. Playfulness and mindfulness need not be separate-breathing and smiling as well as a balloon or a funny hat works wonders. As Phaedrus says, "The mind ought sometimes to be diverted that it may return to better thinking." A leader only needs to provide a few simple activities, be devoted to gentle play, and be willing to be a little foolish. Let the collective playfulness of your Sangha be your guide.

David Dimmack, True Mirror, has assisted with young people's programs since 1991. He practices with the Ambler, Pennsylvania, Sangha.

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Family Retreats

By Ann-Mari Gemmill & Mitchell Ratner Every fall and spring for the past five years, members of the Washington Mindfulness Community retreat to an old lodge on the Chesapeake Bay. The lodge has room to ramble and appreciate the waves and sunsets. Each group is a little different and includes active Sangha members, spouses, children , companions, and friends , usually about 30 people. Because many are "regulars," the organizing tasks have become familiar and easy to share. As one nine-yearold "regular" says, "It's really fun."

Before the retreat, adults and teenagers agree to take turns organizing children's activities and bringing materials for each activity. Teams are designated to bring ingredients for and prepare one meal during the retreat.

The retreat begins Friday evening with a game to help learn names. We gather in a big circle and people introduce themselves with a positive adjective that alliterates with their first name, such as Amazing Ann-Mari or Magical Mitchell. Then parents and older chi ldren read or tell bedtime stories- often Buddhist stories with themes related to Thay's teachings. After the stories, some parents put younger children to bed, while others gather in the boat house for meditation. Older children may join if they wish. Early morning meditations are also in the boathouse or, in nice weather, on the dock.

Saturday morning, we choose topics for Dharma discussions and fine tune the timing of activities and meals. We plan a schedule that lets each child (over two years old) be part of a team that invites the bell to sound and reads gat has before meals . The children increasingly join in planning the program, especially the tea ceremony. They also enjoy craft projects (such as creating a miniature tea ceremony from beeswax), soccer games, canoeing and paddle-boating, baking cookies, and planning skits for the tea ceremony.

Before meals, our entire community stands holding hands in a circle, to smile at each other and hear the gathas. We eat in (relative) silence for the first five or ten minutes. The children delight in inviting the bell after talk begins, silencing us all.

The tea ceremony takes place Saturday evening after a flurry of cushion placement and flower arranging. We tell what we discovered on our walks, show drawings and craft projects, and share skits, songs, jokes, poems, and insights. The retreat ends Sunday with a short ceremony of appreciation and reflections, followed by lunch.

Ann-Mari Gemmill, Mitchell Ratner (True Mirror of Wisdom), and their daughter, Juliana, are veterans of nine Washington Mindfulness Community family retreats.

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Poem: Open Your Eyes

mb20-Family Open your eyes and see all the things around you-- the squirrels chasing each other, the birds flying. In spring, see the flowers blooming, in summer make sand castles and go swimming, in fall, rake and play in the leaves, and in winter have snowball fights, go sledding, and make snowangels and snowmen. Open your eyes and see all the things happening around you. See the trees blowing in the wind, see dogs barking at people on bikes.

Andrew Dahl is in the first grade in Decatur, Illinois. His parents, Lyn and Arthur, are members of the Lakeside Buddha Sangha.

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Thich Nhat Hanh in Israel

 By Marjorie Markus mb20-ThichNhatHanh

When I first heard that Thich Nhat Hanh would be leading retreats in Israel in May 1997, I was excited and knew immediately that I wanted to go. As the time approached to commit to attending the retreat, I had some doubts and concerns, particularly about how we might be received in Israel. It was the period when the peace process had become endangered, and I was concerned about our safety. After acknowledging these fears, my initial enthusiasm returned and I knew that I wanted to be present when Thay offered his peaceful presence and precious teachings to the people of Israel.

As Dharma teacher Lyn Fine and I drove from Ben Gurion Airport to Kibbutz Harel, I noticed a huge sunflower field in which only one flower had rushed to bloom, as if to greet us. In other ways, the land reminded me of Plum Village. The birdsongs surrounded us, and I instantly felt at home. The first person Lyn and I met at the kibbutz was Barry Sheridan, the coordinator for special events. He put us at ease, and throughout our visit was our mindful guardian angel. That evening, Thay, Sister Chan Kh6ng, two monks, and four nuns arrived from Plum Village. For the next day and a half, final arrangements were made to welcome the more than 200 retreatants.

During Thay's introductory talk for the first retreat, the atmosphere was calm and quiet with people taking in his every word and gesture. They were relaxed and already smiling. The next day during the outdoor walking meditation, Thay continued to share the Dhanna as we gathered under the welcoming shade of a huge Jerusalem pine.

Over the course of his 11-day visit, Thay gave three more Dharma talks and another weekend retreat. I was touched by his commitment to our new Israeli Sangha. The retreatants came from diverse backgrounds. Some were young people who, like many Israelis, had traveled to India and other points east after their army service. Many had experience with vipassana meditation. A group of observant Jews came with their rabbi. They substItuted their morning prayers for the morning meditation, and time was set aside for their Shabbat observance.

The Dharma discussion groups reflected the retreatants' concerns about tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and divisions within the Jewish communities. Throughout the Dharma talks, Thay addressed these issues in many ways. Early on, he said, "It is through my background of suffering that I can understand your suffering." In another talk he said, "People have different ideas. Also, nations may be attached to their ideology. What is your idea of happiness? Maybe your idea of happiness is the obstacle to your happiness." He later said, "All of us have suffered violence. We ask ourselves where violence comes from. If we look deeply, we see that it comes from ourselves, because there is a bomb in each of us. Do we know how to defuse the bomb in us? That is the art. That is the practice." He suggested that each person sign a peace treaty with themselves and said the solution will come "from our lucidity, our happiness, our peace. When I have peace, it is easy for me to make peace."

Thay explained, "It is not my intention to uproot people. A person should remain a Jew, but that does not mean you have to accept everything in the tradition. Like a plum tree sometimes needs pruning. Otherwise it will be broken and will not be able to offer fruit."

In the question-and-answer session, Thay responded to a question about how to bring about peace by saying he is more interested in how individuals conduct their daily lives rather than in big solutions. When people with the same kind of suffering come together, they can exchange experiences and provide their nation with some insight. If they are able to practice deep listening and speak to each other in a calm voice, they may provide hope to others. He suggested inviting groups from different segments of the population to come together as the first step.

Dharma discussion groups had been organized by place of residence. Some made plans to meet again back home as a Sangha. Lyn Fine shared her experience in Sangha building with about 50 people interested in starting Sanghas. It was wonderful to see Sangha seeds being planted in Israeli soil.

Later that evening, enjoying the stillness of the kibbutz, I was delighted to find out that Thay and his Plum Village Sangha took the opportunity to visit Jerusalem. They arrived at the Western Wall in time to witness the fin al observances on the Sabbath. I imagined their joy while viewing the Jerusalem stones bathing in the setting sunlight.

At the Day of Mindfulness for peace and social change activists, Thay talked about "burnout" and said, "As long as love is still alive in us, we will not give up." He held out the reality that in each group there needs to be a person with presence. "Who is that person? You! You are the bodhisattva that can bring salvation, cultivate non-fear, and be solid." He added, "The question is not what to do, but knowing what not to do . If you operate on the basis of fear, you are not operating from the ground of peace. In our daily life, we have to live in a way that transforms fear and anger into compassion. With hatred, jealousy, and anger, there is no way to be a real social activist. The main task of a peace and social activist is to cultivate compassion, understanding, and patience. Patience is an indicator of love."

After a walking meditation through the pines, palms, and cypresses of the kibbutz, and a silent dinner, we gathered in the meditation hall for questions and answers with Sister Chan Khong. She shared her experiences as an activist during the war in Vietnam. The Israeli activists hung on to her every word, engrossed by what she had to say and the gentle strength with which she said it. It was as though they were right there with her in Vietnam, observing her as she used her mindfulness to remain calm, compassionate, and skillful while resolving seemingly impossible situations. She was a model of the quality of presence that Thay had talked about.

The next week, Thay gave three evening talks. At the end of each lecture, Sister Chan Khong captivated the audience with her singing, and no one wanted to leave. At the talk in Jerusalem at Kol Haneshama Synagogue, she spoke directly to the young people present. She shared breathing awareness with one young boy and gave him an opportunity to invite the bell to sound. The children left the room with big smiles. Shortly thereafter, the Englishlanguage Jerusalem Post published an article about mindfulness' practice with children.

On the last night of the second retreat, Thay invited us to join him for a full moon walking meditation after the Dharma talk. This extra gift was gratefully accepted.

In our spare time between events, Thay and the nuns and monks took every opportunity to familiarize themselves with Israeli life. We visited a marketplace in a small town as well as those in the various quarters in the Old City of Jerusalem. We went to a nearby nursery with the kibbutz gardener, where we were surrounded by hundreds of exotic succulents, many of which displayed their fresh flowers. Everyone bought a plant to take back to Plum Village. We did floating and frolicking meditation in the Dead Sea. Sister Chan Khong was the first one in and the last one out of this saltiest of waters. On the way back through the desert, we saw a donkey get hit by a truck. Our three cars stopped, and we gave the shocked donkey our calm, loving attention. One of the nuns wet her brown scarf and tied it around his injured leg. We waited until a Bedouin boy appeared and walked our new Sangha friend to safety.

After Thay's last talk in Tel Aviv, we headed back to the kibbutz. We arrived after midnight, and Sister Chan Khong, still full of energy, joyfully told us that Thay had invited us to join him early the next morning on a silent walking meditation in Jerusalem. We would go to the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, and then walk in the footsteps of Jesus along the Fourteen Stations of the Cross. After many centuries of divisions, it was an opportunity to plant peaceful steps on the sacred ground of three major religions.


The next morning, we embarked on our last journey together as a traveling Sangha. Leaving the kibbutz, we passed the fie ld of sunflowers now in full bloom, and I thought of all the wonderful seeds planted during these two weeks. May they bear much fruit and benefit all beings. Shalom!

Marjorie Markus, True Contemplation of Understanding, practices with the New York Metropolitan Community of Mindfulness.

Peace Is Every Step

During the two retreats with Thay and Sister Chan Khong at Kibbutz Harel in Israel, we gained the serenity of dwelling in the preset moment. Hundreds came together, learned to breathe mindfully, and become bodhisattvas for one another. Sanghas will emerge.

That is not to say that everything was sweetness and light. Repeatedly, we were challenged to confront our prejudices, hatreds, and fears, and encouraged to find new places in our hearts from which to deal with them. Through "Touching the Earth," Sister Chan Khong encouraged reconciliation with all who have dwelled on this disputed land; Christians, Muslims, Jews, Arabs, Israelis. We were asked to learn to loved and understand the rapist sea pirate, in addition to sympathizing with his victims. This challenge resonates here, where terrorists and freedom fighters, bombers and suicide bombers, assassins and rival armies have shed so much innocent blood in both the immediate and historical past.

While peace will not come easily to this region, it was wonderful that so many peaceful steps were taken here.

--Robbie Heffernan, Amman, Jordan

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Education with Love

By Sister Chan Khong If you visit Vietnamese cities, you will see many governmental or private schools. Plum Village, with the help of friends, sponsors 346 schools set up by the people themselves with humble materials in remote mountainous areas. These schools look much poorer than city schools, but their quality is deep. Children learn to calm their body and mind before starting class. In a city like Saigon, teachers have a monthly salary of $35-$50. But the Buddhist youths who bicycle ten miles to teach in these poor areas receive only $20 a month. They accept this job with joy because they can bring a spiritual dimension to the children 's lives.


This letter is from one of these teachers, expressing gratitude for our support of the program. Please consider sharing your resources to help sustain this program. North Americans may send donations to the Community of Mindful Living, P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707. Europeans may send donations to Eglise Bouddhique Unifiee, care of Sister Gioi Nghiem, 13 Martineau, 33580 Dieulivol, France.

Dear Respected Thay, sisters, and benefactors, Spring is about to come. People everywhere are joyfully preparing for Tet. But in my village during these freezing days, everyone is taking advantage of every moment of sunshine to plant seeds. From season to season, the parents of the children. in my class are busy working on their small farms from early morning til very late. They have little time left to take care of their children, who stay home and often. become very dirty by playing in the mud. Sometimes they are fed and sometimes they are left hungry.

With your financial support, the 60 children in my village have full day care kindergarten with two classes. Every day, they have milk to drink and warm food to eat at lunch. They have an education, play time, and a reglliar nap. They have become healthier and cleaner. Seeing this, the parents in the village are very happy and grateful. At the beginning of the school year, we measllred the childrens' height and weight and found that almost half suffered from malnutrition, four of them severely. We measured them again three months later and there was a noticeable improvement already.

With your help, our village's difficulties have lessened. I will do my best to teach the children to be worthy of your love and care. May the Three Jewels support your health. -- Vinh Thai Mong

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New Mindfulness Centers in Washington State

Two new practice centers have opened in Washington State over the past year. Last autumn , Dharma teacher Eileen Kiera of the Mountain Lamp Community and her husband, Jack Duffy, Roshi, purchased 40 acres to establish a rural practice center in western Washington. Located in Whatcom County, the land lies on Lake Jorgensen at the foot of the Cascade Mountains. Two streams run through the property, and coyote, beaver, deer, great horned owls, bobcats, elk , and other wildlife make the land their home. In April , we planted 400 trees in forested areas that had been partially logged. This process was a great opportunity to exercise mindfulness. Each step required careful attention to ensure the healthy growth and survival of the sapling: choosing the site, digging the hole, loosening soil, selecting the species of tree, snipping the roots to stimulate growth, and carefully placing the roots into the hole. During a ceremony dedicating the land, we offered a concrete-cast Buddha's head with the vow that this may be a place of refuge for all who visit, and sang, "Now I Walk in Beauty."

In Seattle, the Mindfulness Community of Puget Sound (MCPS) and Three Treasures Sangha, a Diamond Sangha aftiliate, bought a house for joint use as a practice centre. The house has beautiful and unusual garden plants, a grape arbor, and many fru it trees. Both communities moved in November 1996 and together celebrated the Buddha's enlightenment in December. The conncctions between the two Sanghas are strongly forged-MCPS is led by Eileen Kiera. Jack Duffy, a Dharma heir of Robert Aitken, Roshi, is the teacher for Three Treasures.

Through the spring, Eileen offered a class on the Eightfold Path and MCPS began to hold a monthly Days of Mindfulness at the center in June. The space is also used for other classes and meetings. Our Sangha has fo und a deep peace and strength practicing together in our own home.

Eileell Kiera, Kate Wehr, and Luci Goodman contributed to this article. To receive news about these practice centers, write to Mountain Lamp Community, 5999 Schombush Road. Deming, WA 98244.

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Sangha Profile

mb20-Sangha1Upaya Sangha, Santa Fe, New Mexico1404 Cerro Gordo Road Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 Tel: (505) 986-8528 Email: upaya@rt66.com  WWW: www.rt66.com/~upaya

By Joan Halifax

Every weekday at 5:30 p.m., the Cerro Gordo Temple provides a cool and quiet space for meditation practice: two sitting periods, walking meditation, and chanting the Heart Sutra. Once a week, when I am in town, I give a talk.

When I first moved to Santa Fe, I decided to wait for someone to ask for practice, and after six months, someone did. We started with sitting once a week. A year later, we began our work with dying people, and we decided to have another sit and offer council practice to dying people, caregivers, and others. Our community solidified around this work. We were not only sitting with dying people; by providing care and practice, we were also learning to practice in one of the most powerful situations of living-being with dying. Last year, we began to practice five days a week. This caIIed for a more real commitment on the part of Sangha members. In December of 1996, I ordained six members into the Tiep Hien Order.


We are blessed with a beautiful setting for this Buddhist center. We find ourselves in the Valley of Holy Faith, a valley that runs east/west with the Santa Fe River flowing through it. Directly behind us is Cerro Gordo Mountain; to the east is Atalaya Peak. Our adobe buildings, wetlands, and Southwest gardens gather into the mandala of mountain, valley, and river. Through the strong change of seasons-the monsoons of summer, the cool of shade, the heat of sun-we open ourselves to a landscape within and without that is constantly unfolding and enclosing. The sky is big here: big mind, big heart. The valley is intimate: abiding in ultimate closeness.

Mr. Laurance RockefeIIer and Richard Baker-roshi gifted me with the house on Cerro Gordo Road on my fiftieth birthday. Then Mr. RockefeIIer generously provided the funding for the renovation of this extraordinary building, which took a year. Two years ago, we bought the River House next to the temple, which we are currently expanding and renovating to give us more dining and housing space.

Also last year, Meg Heydt gave us land in the Pecos Mountains, and we are hoping to build a hermitage there in the near future.

We have had a powerful retreat program over the past several years, but it has taken a huge amount of energy and funds to support it, so we have decided to simplify our palette in 1998 and offer only six retreats: two eight-day professional trainings for teachers of contemplative care of dying people; two Landmark Programs (a mountain walking retreat in July and Wilderness Practice in August); and two sesshins (in June and December). We are concentrating our work on our Partners Program, a model for contemplative care for dying people. We are also doing a research project on the efficacy of spirituaIIy assisted dying that wiII bring this work to the eyes and hearts of those in mainstream medicine.

The main emphasis of our Sangha is on sitting, study, and service. Our commitment to sitting practice is strong, and the zendo rings with the strength of silence as we sit every day. We also bring our practice into the world in every way that we can. Our environmental programs and work with dying people are two ways that Upaya directly contributes to the great experiment in engaged Buddhism. We are also now a village in the Interfaith Peacemaker Assembly and accepting people who wish to "plunge" into a new vision of service.

Thay has often talked about Zen corners, and I love that vision. Isn't this practice about intimacy? Every day that I am here, I feel the welling of generosity and realize that there is no difference between giver, gift, and the one who receives. Please join us for the gift of practice and study. Enter into this experiment in engaged spirituality.

Joan Halifax, True Continuation, was ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh as a Dharma teacher in 1990. She is an anthropologist and the author of several books including The Fruitful Darkness.

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PassagesOrdained: Paul Koeppler, True Eye of the Sangha, was ordained into the Order of Interbeing by Karl Schmied in Germany on May 31, 1997. Bronson Rozier, Boundless Compassionate Insight, was ordained into the Order of Interbeing by Jack Lawlor on June 29, 1997, in Plano, IL. Recovering: Svein Myreng, True Door, of Oslo, Norway, is doing well after undergoing corrective heart surgery in Boston, MA. Died: Cleora Jean Higle Chllcote, True Natural Peace, died on July 14, 1997, in Missoula, MT. See page 10.

Dharma Talks by Email Plum Village will begin transmitting Thich Nhat Hanh's Dharma talks via email in November 1997. Subscribers will receive two talks per week when Thay is in the village (as text and/or sound file). The annual subscription fee will be around FF550 (US $100) to cover the cost of transcribing and broadcasting the talks. For information, send your email address to Internet Project, Plum Village, Meyrac, LoubesBernac, 47120 France.

Plum Village Transcripts Available The Washington Mindfulness Community has transcribed and compiled Thich Nhat Hanh's Dharma talks from the Summer 1996 Retreat at Plum Village. The nine talks are collectively titled "Practices to End Suffering." To order the set of booklets, send a check or money order for $15 ($18 if outside the U.S.) to Washington Mindfulness Community, P.O. Box 11168. Takoma Park. MD 20913. "The Touching Life Transcripts," booklets of talks given by Thay at Plum Village, are available from the Community of Interbeing in the United Kingdom. To order. contact Alex White. 91 Clarendon Road, Leeds. LS29LY UK; email: interbeing@compuserve.com.

Mentoring Considerable discussion took place at the Order of Interbeing International Council held in Plum Village in October 1996 about training programs for those aspiring to join the Order, those in the Order, and those aspiring to train as Dharma teachers. As a result, several mentoring programs have begun. At the Community of Mindful Living in Berkeley, three Order aspirants just completed the first year of a training program during which they examined deeply their bodhichitta. their practice of the Five Mindfulness Trainings and Three Refuges; had training in practicing mindfulness with children; practiced Sangha caretaking and ritual; and studied Interbeing and other texts. Other Sanghas offering training programs include Lakeside Buddha Sangha. the New York Community of Mindfulness, and the British Sangha. Please share your training programs for the next issue of The Mindfulness Bell.

New Books by Order Members Tantric Quest: An Encounter with Absolute Love by Daniel Odier (Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont). Cool Water: Alcoholism. Mindfulness. and Ordinary Recovery by William Alexander (Shambhala Publications).

Dharma Corps Thanks to Lynne Shivers, the first Dharma Corps volunteer. who helped the Community of Mindful Living for two weeks in July prepare for Thay's visit and with many other tasks serving the international mindfulness community. We are grateful this program is underway and looking forward to Jerry Braza and other Dharma Corps volunteers in the near future. We cordially invite anyone interested in participating in this program to contact Marylee Revels at the CML office, tel: (510) 527-3751.

Peacemaker Priest Joan Halifax, True Continuation, was ordained as a priest and into the Zen Peacemaker Order by Bernard Tetsugen Glassman Roshi on July 6, 1997, in Yonkers, New York.

Appeal for the Children of the World Twenty Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. Thich Nhat Hanh, and others have signed an appeal asking that the year 2000 be declared the "Year of Education for Nonviolence." The appeal was organized by Order member Pierre Marchand. Please send donations and letters of support to 111e Appeal of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, BP 20797,60207 Compiegne Cedex 2, France; fax: (33)

Pilgrimage Across America Claude Anshin Thomas, a Vietnam veteran, Soto Zen priest ordained by Tetsugen Glassman Roshi. student of Thich Nhat Hanh, and member of the Zen Peacemaker Order, will walk about 20 miles a day across the United States to share engaged Buddhist practice, beginning March 1, 1998. For information. to join the pilgrimage. or to contribute funds. food. or lodging. contact Zaltho Foundation, (508) 369-6112.

Finding Freedom Jarvis Masters has written Finding Freedom. an inspiring collection of ret1ections about his experiences in San Quentin as a Buddhist practitioner on death row. The book can be ordered from Parallax Press. For information on ways to help Jarvis or to help make Finding Freedom available to other prisoners, contact Conny Lindley, (541) 846-6160. fax: (541) 846-7847. email: conny@magick.net.

Buddhist Economics Engaged Buddhist exemplars Sulak Sivaraksa and A.T. Ariyaratne will offer a class on Buddhist Economics at Schumacher College in Devon. England, January 11-31, 1998. For information, contact Schumacher College, The Old Postern. Dartington. Devon TQ9 6EA, UK.

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