Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation

The Paramitas

as the Path to True Love

By Joanne Friday

mb66-TheParamitas1I was recently invited by the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation to share my experience of our practice here in the Mindfulness Bell. I feel that the Dharma is the greatest gift I have ever been given, so it is always a joy to share it.

During Winter Retreat, I have been practicing the paramitas with a group of Order of Interbeing members and aspirants. The paramitas are the qualities that we need to cultivate in order to go from the shore of suffering to the shore of freedom. In The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, Thay tells us that the Buddha said, “Don’t just hope for the other shore to come to you. If you want to cross over to the other shore, the shore of safety, well-being, non-fear, and non-anger, you have to swim or row across. You have to make an effort.” So I decided to to follow directions and make the effort.

Once again, I find myself in awe and deeply moved by the transformative power of the way in which Thich Nhat Hanh has transmitted the Dharma to us. I have always known the paramitas as a path to freedom, and now I have also experienced them as a beautiful path to unconditional, true love.

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In the paramita on diligence, we are invited to be mindful of our minds, to nurture all of the wholesome seeds that arise in our consciousness and replace the unwholesome ones. If there is a person with whom we have difficulties, our habits often lead us to become angry, judge, or criticize and blame that person. When we berate, belittle, and blame the other person, we nourish their most unwholesome seeds, the ones that upset us in the first place. Instead, we are invited to look deeply in order to understand that person’s suffering, and to see how we can water all of the wholesome seeds in them so they will suffer less and their highest and best selves will manifest. This practice of taking responsibility for co-creating my relationships, and taking good care of those with whom I am inter-being, has been revolutionary for me. When I practice this with people toward whom I once hardened my heart, it breaks my heart wide open and I am in love.

The paramita on patience or inclusiveness is a deep teaching on love. Thay tells us that when we practice inclusiveness, we accept a difficult person exactly as he is, without any expectation that he will ever change. This can create enough spaciousness for him to change if he chooses. We can use this practice with ourselves, as we are frequently our most difficult person. When we can accept ourselves, without stories about who we should be or regrets about what we have not done, we are suddenly free to simply experience life in the moment and respond to life as it is and as we are. This makes it easier for us to do the same for others. The energy of acceptance is deeply felt. If in the past I held on to a judgment or opinion about another person, it was felt and she was defensive.

When I can truly accept someone, wholeheartedly, just as she is, it is also felt. There is no need for defensiveness to arise, and real intimacy is possible. What a wonderful gift!

The first of the paramitas is generosity. Thay invites us to look deeply at all we have to offer. I have been moved to consider all that he has offered. He has suffered tremendously and practiced to transform that suffering and become the embodiment of true love. He is living proof that the practice works. He has devoted more than seventy years of his life to understanding the ways we can cut through the illusions and misperceptions that keep us trapped. He has looked deeply into the Buddha’s teachings and has distilled them into precious gems that are totally accessible and usable, and offered them to anyone who wants to be free. All of these ways to untie our knots, to take down the barriers we have built in our hearts, are gifts to us from Thay.

I always say that I feel there should be a seventh paramita of gratitude. Gratitude immediately takes me from the shore of suffering to the shore of freedom. I feel deep gratitude to have received such wonderful gifts that have allowed me to experience true love in this lifetime. It has also been a joy to see the transformation and healing that has taken place in so many others who have followed Thay’s teachings. The Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation came into being because some of Thay’s students felt that same gratitude. They wanted to use their gifts to create conditions to ensure that Thay’s teachings could continue and help countless future generations. I hope that our gratitude will motivate all of us to become a part of this effort in every way we can. There is no better way to thank someone who has given us the keys to happiness and freedom than to pass them on.

Joanne Friday, Chan Lac Thi (True Joy of Giving), is a Dharma teacher in the Order of Interbeing. In 2003, she received authority to teach from Thich Nhat Hanh, her teacher for twenty years. Joanne leads meditation retreats for Sanghas and groups throughout the US. She lives in Rhode Island, where she is the guiding teacher for the six Sanghas that comprise the Rhode Island Community of Mindfulness.

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Sangha News

mb64-SanghaNews1 Sharing the Dharma

By Lorri Houston

Let us take those grenades out of our hearts, our motherland, humankind. Let us stand. Let us stand, side by side. --Thich Nhat Hanh

Robert could only look at the floor as he talked about harming an old and frail homeless man. He spoke softly, almost in a whisper, as he recalled hitting the man in the face until he bled, kicking him, and then throwing the frightened man to the ground while laughing and mocking him.

This, as you can imagine, was a hard story to hear. But our monastic brothers and sisters were there to help incarcerated youth find freedom through the power of meditation. NBC TV New York filmed the Day of Mindfulness trainings and teachings. The teens told the reporter how much they appreciated the lessons and hoped to apply them to their lives when they left detention. In its news story, NBC reported:

One 15-year-old boy described his bad decisions, which he says were driven by greed. He says if…[he had known] some of these tools before, he might not have ended up here in the first place. “You gotta be mindful of your movements,” he said. “Think before you act.”

Anyone who has experienced Thay’s loving teachings knows that his practice is changing individual lives and our world. Thay’s worldwide Sangha is engaged in many Dharma education and outreach programs to transform suffering, and this has led to life-affirming changes for thousands of people around the planet— including many people who committed violent acts and have now given up violence forever.

The Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation* is honored to support the efforts of Thay’s Sangha to bring the Dharma to additional thousands of people each year. Of the general support gifts received by the foundation, ten percent is allocated for the following Dharma sharing programs:

Nourishing Individual Sanghas

Thay has taught us that without Sangha, there is no Buddha and there is no Dharma. Participation in a Sangha is essential to our practice. To help nourish and develop Sanghas, the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation offers a “Sangha in a Box” resource kit with an instructional guide, a DVD, a CD of chanting, books, and a bell. North American Sanghas also may submit applications for grants to bring Dharma teachers to their communities to lead public Days of Mindfulness. Currently, donors enable the foundation to designate$10,000 a year to the Sangha Building Project Fund.

Offering the Dharma Online

Many people who have heard Thay speak have started on their own paths of practicing compassion and understanding. Many are taking their new awareness to their families, workplaces, and schools—transforming communities by planting seeds of mindfulness. The monasteries and practice centers offer many free online Dharma teachings and courses so that people can watch or listen live, or enjoy past retreats and Dharma talks from the comfort of their own homes. Donations to the foundation fund online services and fees for these offerings. With continuing support, the Sangha can work toward an aspiration to create a complete digital audio and video library of all of Thay’s talks to preserve and share with future generations.

Planting Seeds with Youth

Wake Up tours bring the practice of mindfulness to young adults and are tailored to meet their physical, emotional, and financial needs. A tour team consists of monastics and lay practitioners who travel to school campuses and colleges to host Days of Mindfulness, “flash mob” public meditation gatherings, and public talks. Wake Up events are free and easily accessible, thanks to donated practice spaces, free housing offered by friends, and the use of low-cost travel modes. A sixteen-day Wake Up tour, which typically coordinates fifteen to twenty events, only costs about $9,000.

Bringing Mindfulness to Schools

Mindfulness is increasingly recognized as an important tool for teachers, students, school administrators, and parents. Plum Village’s “Wake Up Schools” initiative is currently focused on three main areas to develop mindfulness in schools, including:1) Teacher and Administrator Training; 2) Developing Classroom Content; and 3) Community Building. This year, foundation gifts are helping sponsor the Educators’ Retreat at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, to help retreatants learn mindfulness practices to use in schools.

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Dana (generosity) for Dharma-sharing programs is greatly appreciated and will support the many ways our community makes Thay’s teachings and practice accessible to all. To donate, or for more information and links to our community’s Dharma-sharing programs, please visit the Resource section of our website at ThichNhatHanhFoundation.org.

Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation 2499 Melru Lane, Escondido, CA 92026 Ph: 760-291-1003 ext. 104 Email: Info@ThichNhatHanhFoundation.org

* The Thich Nhat Hanh Continuation and Legacy Fund, started in 2011, has been renamed the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation.

mb64-SanghaNews3Lorri Houston, Sweetest Words of the Heart, practices with the Really Beneficial Sangha in Escondido. She is an Order of Interbeing aspirant and provides joyful service as the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation’s full-time community liaison. Before joining the foundation staff, Lorri founded and developed the first rescue shelters in the U.S. for farm animals.

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mb64-SanghaNews4Joyfully Together in Viet Nam

Building on the success of our first “Mindful and Mobile Retreat in Viet Nam” in March 2013, a small group of friends will have two opportunities in the coming months to have a uniquely beautiful experience. “Going like a river,” we will travel as a Sangha throughout the land of our spiritual ancestors of the Truc Lam (Bamboo Forest) lineage.

Whether we are sitting or standing, walking or riding, floating on Ha Long Bay or climbing sacred Yen Tu Mountain, eating vegetarian meals or biking in the countryside around Hoi An, our breath will be our anchor throughout each day. Both trips will include a Day of Mindfulness in the Root Temple in Hue and frequent periods of sitting meditation and Dharma sharing.

Joyfully Together in Viet Nam Travel with Dharma Teacher Chan Huy December 22, 2013 January 4, 2014 For information and to register, contact Chan Huy: vietnam@mindfulcoachingclinic.com http://www.mindfulcoachingclinic.com/vietnam.html

Travel with Dharma Teacher Chan An Dinh (Trish Thompson) March 15 29, 2014 For information and to register, contact Chan An Dinh: trish_tour_vietnam@me.com http://www.trishthompsonasia.com

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