Jim Fauss, True Great Illumination, died of cancer on April 25. "He died just the way he wanted to, very beautifully, the way he did everything," his wife Artie told us. A tribute to our dear brother will appear in the next issue. Please send us stories and reflections about Jim you would like to share. PDF of this article
In this issue of The Mindfulness Bell, we focus on prayer in its many forms. Thich Nhat Hanh's Dharma teaching explores how we define prayer and its effectiveness. Several Sangha members offer reflections on how they have woven a "tapestry of prayer and mindfulness practice" into their lives. In the next section, many friends offer a tribute to Jim Fauss, who died this past April. These remembrances attest to the fact that Jim's life itself was a kind of prayer. The Mindfulness Bell is the newsletter for the international Order of Interbeing, and we strive to represent the worldwide community. In this issue, we are delighted to share accounts of Thay's visits to Italy, France, Germany, and Sister Annabel's visit to Thailand. We warmly encourage other Sangha members in Europe and Asia to write articles for future issues.
We hope you use The Mindfulness Bell as a tool to help deepen your practice individually and in community. The letters we receive from readers are generally appreciative, and we bow in gratitude for your support. At the same time, we believe that our Sangha and our practice can be strengthened through engaged, thoughtful, and constructive dialogue. Please share with us your insights and concerns.
Beginning next issue, we will accept a limited number of mindfulness-related advertisements in The Mindfulness Bell (see page 36 for details). After being short at least $5,000 each issue, we can no longer wait until our subscription base reaches 3,500 people to cover costs. We hope you will appreciate our decision, which is a small step in the direction of self-sufficiency.
We welcome our new managing editor and production manager, Maria Duerr. Maria's relationship with the Community of Mindful Living began three years ago when she attended graduate school in cultural anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. That fall, she went to Thay's lecture in Berkeley, and later interned at Parallax Press. She has continued to practice with Sanghas in the Bay Area and received the Five Precepts with Dharma teacher Joan Halifax. With Maria's help, this Mindfulness Bell was by far the smoothest and most on schedule yet. We hope you enjoy this issue, and we look forward to hearing from you.
—Arnie Kotler, Therese Fitzgerald, Ellen Peskin
There isn't anything that touches my soul more deeply than your newsletter, especially Thich Nhat Hanh's Dharma talk. I cherish it, I carry it with me to many places, I reread it when I need to be reminded of the Way. I have read many important messages, good articles and books, but none have touched me more than Thay's words. They have literally transformed me, although I keep working on all of the precepts. Thank you for being there and taking the effort to transmit his teachings, which are so in touch with human weaknesses.Lorraine Keller de Schietekat Mexico City, Mexico
I am a hospice nurse and carry a pager whenever I am away from home. Usually when I am paged I don't get upset, but yesterday morning I was on my way to work, my pager went off and, much to my chagrin, my reaction was "!*@*!" I realized that, to the person who paged me, it was necessary and not done to annoy me. I drove back up the mountain road to my home, phoned in, took care of the problem, and went on to work.
Issue 17 of The Mindfulness Bell was waiting for me when I got home that night. The next morning I read the tributes to Jim Fauss. I first heard of Jim when I read of his death in the last issue. I, too, was struck by his smile. I read Maxine Hong Kingston's words, "He has an immortal smile, which he taught to the people who rode his bus. A passenger pulled the bell cord, and Jim took a joyful breath and smiled." Those words rang a bell in my mind and I immediately thought of my reaction to my pager. I decided that my pager would become my "pager of mindfulness." Each time it goes off I am reminded to breathe joyfully and smile. Thanks to Jim and to Maxine for sharing her story of him. I am reminded by this how interconnected we are, how we truly are a part of one another. Even though I never met Jim Fauss, I have been profoundly influenced by him and will continue to be each time my pager goes off. Tina Moon Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Thank you for the recent issue of The Mindfulness Bell. I especially appreciated the many articles on Jim Fauss. Although I did not know him when he was alive, I now feel that I do know him and I am enriched for the experience. Bob Repoley Charlotte, North Carolina
I was particularly pleased that you printed Fred Eppsteiner's letter in the last issue, as I felt that he raised substantial questions regarding Sangha building in a genuinely kind way. I was also interested in the article in a previous issue of The Mindfulness Bell which raised the issue of finding ways to invite African Americans into the Order of Interbeing.
These invitations to dialogue will, I feel, serve The Mindfulness Bell very well in its long-term commitment to growth and to reaching a wider reading public. Mushim Ikeda-Nash Oakland, California
I agree with Fred Eppsteiner's letter that longer articles, where issues could be discussed in greater depth, would make The Mindfulness Bell more interesting to a wider range of readers . In addition, I would like to see more articles on the history of Vietnamese Buddhism. This is our "ancestral tradition," but it is virtually unknown in the West. Western Buddhism must find its own forms and expressions, but a greater knowledge of those who went before us would certainly be useful.
Fred also commented, "I sometimes wonder if anybody in the Sangha is having traditional spiritual experiences in meditation, awakenings ... which have been the experience and hard-won fruits of Buddhists for thousands of years." I think people in our Sangha do have such experiences, but they are not much talked about. This may be a good thing. In the Rinzai Zen tradition where I practiced before, one pursued such experiences relentlessly, putting a lot of pressure on people and sacrificing interest in ethics and daily life practice. This strongly goal-oriented attitude made it very hard to enjoy the present moment. Probably too much of the focus in Western Zen has been on experience, satori, sudden awakenings, etc., and we have tended to neglect the gradual practice of transforming mental knots. Thay's teachings address all kinds of suffering-psychological, interpersonal, social, ecological- as well as the great spiritual questions.
We don't need to create barriers between psychotherapy and meditation, but must remember that meditation has a dimension of silence and going beyond personal issues that we may rarely find in psychotherapy. Iffew people write about this aspect, it may be out of modesty-not wanting to claim "great insights"-but it may also be for lack of language! I suspect that many modern people have become alienated from the language of Christianity (and possibly Judaism), and experience it as too filled with dualistic connotations. And we don't always know the language of Buddhism well enough to express spiritual insights. The old Chinese Zen masters were great artists when it came to giving new and fresh words to the practice and insights of Buddhism. It's silly to copy them, but their challenge is valid: how can we express our deepest, most transforming experiences? Svein Myreng Oslo, Norway
I was moved by the tributes to Jini Fauss in issue # 17 of The Mindfulness Bell and especially so by Jim's own article. I also found that Fred Eppsteiner's letter expressed some very important thoughts regarding the service you now and might in the future provide practitioners. It is important to relate the struggles and awakenings of individuals. However, this is something I am fortunate to be able to hear about (a lot about the former, a little about the latter) in Sangha Dharma discussions. What would really benefit me is to hear about the struggles that Sanghas have had/are having and how they successfully or unsuccessfully deal with them. Can you help us look a little more deeply at what Thay tells us will be the next Buddha? Richard Brady Takoma Park, Maryland
In response to Fred Eppsteiner's question: Yes, people in the Sangha have had traditional spiritual experiences and awakenings. I am sure I am not the only one who has left this aspect of meditation practice behind. Satori is a profound experience and a difficult one to release. Thinking about how satori was/will be, attempting to recapture the experience becomes simply another attachment. The razzle-dazzle (sidhi) which accompany such experiences is even more distracting. If such an experience comes, that is good; if one does not come, that is also good.
The fundamental beauty of our practice is the realization that walking on a sidewalk is the true miracle-no psychic gymnastics or elusive experiences required. Then satori becomes not a spiritual experience, but a way of life. Thank you for opening the discussion. Alice Barrett Greenfield, Massachussetts
I'd like to share my thoughts about why Mindfulness Bell subscriptions are not increasing enough to cover expenses so that paid advertising is now used. The first time I saw a friend's copy and read on the back cover that it is the "Journal of the Order of Interbeing" and "published three times a year by the Community of Mindful Living, students of Thich Nhat Hanh who want to help one another be more mindful in daily life," I interpreted that the publication was not for me. I had not taken the Fourteen Precepts and had not joined the Order, so I he~itated to subscribe. Only after getting more involved with Sangha members did I find out that The Mindfulness Bell was for everyone.
If my experience is not isolated, I'd suggest rewriting the paragraph to include a clear, open invitation to all students of ThAy whether in a Sangha or not, whether having gone to retreats or simply a student through the books they have read. By the way, with or without paid advertising I deeply appreciate The Mindfulness Bell. Laurie Ross Seattle, WA
Thank you for delivering such a beautiful, inspiring newsletter. Whenever I read it, I am filled with hope and gladness. Gaynor Bigelbach West Somerville, Massuchessetts
Many thanks for making The Milldfulness Bell available. It is as beautiful and helpful and moving as I expected when I subscribed. I have only read one issue and already I feel like I know so many other people in the Community. Amy Ballenger Charlottesville. V A