Tu Hieu

Temple Anniversary

By Sisters Annabel and Eleni On November 14, monks and novices in Hue, Vietnam, observed a Day of Mindfulness in honor of the 150th anniversary of Tu Hieu Temple. Tu Hieu is the temple where Thay Nhat Hanh received novice precepts at the age of 16 and practiced as a young monk. Following faxed instructions from Thay, the monks and novices practiced listening to the sound of the bell, breathing mindfully, walking meditation, and enjoying the present moment.

The temple was built in honor of Dhyana Master Nhat Dinh in 1847. Master Nhat Dinh was born in 1783 in Quang Tri Province. He received his novice precepts at Thien Tho Temple and his Bhikshu Ordination at Quoc An Temple. At the age of 50, King Minh Mang appointed him Abbot of the Linh Huu Temple. Six years later, the King invited him to be the Leader of the Sangha at Giac Hoang Temple. By nature he was a simple monk and didn' t enjoy being an Abbot. At the age of 60, he asked the King to accept his resignation. Because the King loved and respected him, his request was granted. Nhat Dinh wrote, "With one body and one begging bowl, the road for the mendicant monk to travel is very wide."

He went to the Duong Xuan Thuong Mountain in Thua Thien Province and built the Peace Nourishing Hermitage. He practiced and lived there, enjoying the beauty and tranquility of nature.

Master Nhat Dinh is most widely known and respected for his example of filial piety, his love for his mother. It was said that when his mother was old and sick, he brought her to his hermitage so that he could take care of her. Although he was a vegetarian and a monk, he nonetheless went to the market to buy the fish his mother requested, withstanding people's criticisms and astonishment at seeing a monk buy fish . On November 14, 1847, Master Nhat Dinh passed away. The Tu Hieu Temple, which means loving kindness or filial piety expressed as loving kindness, was built on the site of his hermitage.

Sister Annabel Laity, True Virtue, was ordained as a nun in 1988 and as a Dharma teacher in 1990. She lives at Plum Village. Sister Eleni Sarant, True Loving Kindness Adornment, has been a resident of Plum Village since 1990. She was ordained as a Dharma teacher in 1996.

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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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A Pilgrimage Tale

By Canyon Sam Oi! I called to the cyclo driver, swinging my arm back towards two white columns he'd just cycled past. My companion and I had started off early that morning with rented bikes to find Thay's home monastery, Tu Hieu. All I knew was its name and its location southwest of Hue. After getting lost for a few hours, we'd taken all manner of conveyances to find our way here. Now it was late afternoon. The two white columns were the one distinguishing feature that indicated its presence down a red foot path leading into a pine forest.

I was struck by the triple-arched ornate gate and lovely crescent-moon lake at the entrance, not unlike the imperial entrances we'd seen the last two days at the Forbidden City and Mausoleums of former emperors. The sound of chanting resonated in the air. Soon we saw saffron and grey-robed monks standing in a gorgeous, 19th century, ope-doored temple. We found our way to the abbot and a layman, who invited us to have tea with them on the rosewood outdoor patio. They were very pleased to hear we were students of Thay. In fact, they said, "You see?" and pointed at a poster-size photo of Thay on the wall. It was the photo from the cover of Being Peace.

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It seems the abbot was ordained at the same time as Thay years ago, the same generation, but now Thay is higher, the highest, they told us. The layman said something about having been sent or gone with Thay to Princeton years ago. Every time they referred to him, they called him Most Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh.

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We talked for awhile, overlooking a courtyard of meticulously tended potted bonsai trees. I quickly realized that not only was Thay trained as a young monk at this temple, and revered as an alumnus and Sangha brother, but that the entire spiritual training and philosophy here was his. Sitting, walking, nourishing the seeds of enlightenment in each other-even lazy days.

Thich Minh Nguyen, an English-speaking monk, gave us a tour to the meditation hall. The long, light-filled hall in the forest had a large color-coded chart in one corner, showing seven generations of the ordained members of this order, dating back to the 1843 founding. I saw Thay's name written on a green-lined nameplate among maybe three dozen others, preceded by the name Trung. On a red-lined nameplate below, among even more names, I found Sister Chan Khong's name. Each generation had one family name that preceded the member's own name. Thich Minh Nguyen asked my friend and me our Dharma names and when we told him, he told us we were the Tam generation, which meant heart. All the names in our generation were Bouquet of the Heart, or Lamp of the Heart, etc.

A poem handwritten in black-inked calligraphy on a lime green scroll hanging in the hall was written by Thay, Thich Minh Nguyen told us. We walked back through acres of fruit trees, past half finished brick buildings with stacks of red cinderblocks and wheelbarrows in front. New housing for monks, Thich Minh Nguyen said. How much like Plum Village it is, I thought, even down to the construction projects. The place had a sense of well-being, very grounded, and I sensed it was thriving. A schedule posted on the wall began at 3:30 in the morning and went till past 10:00 at night. Thich Minh Nguyen read it for us: sitting, walking, working, eating, Dharma study, prayers. The only surprising thing was the monks' session of Kung Fu every evening! Suddenly I understood the model after which Plum Village had been established. And I understood the full meaning of bowing to our spiritual ancestors in the Five Prostrations.

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We saw the altar to the monastery founder, his hand-drawn portrait framed in black lacquer, and walked among the graves of all the temple's abbots in a cool, pine-shaded grove. I had been in Vietnam for two weeks, touring the main sites. It had taken days to get here from San Francisco, and though I loved being in Asia and seeing Vietnam, because of the language and the tourist groove we were in, I hadn't made a strong connection. Out of this, and out of hours and hours of cycling around lost through the countryside we had arrived here and found these deep spiritual roots, this never-before-seen part of our spiritual lineage, and found a whole community practicing as we were taught to practice on the other side of the world.

Thay sometimes takes a pencil or a chopstick during a lecture and holds it horizontally to illustrate his point, and then turns it vertically and talks some more. I saw these lines again in my mind. I saw the vertical line. Below midpoint were all our ancestors who had come before us; above midpoint were all in the future who would follow us. Our responsibility to the generations who follow us is to do the same that has been done for us, or better, and our responsibility to the generations before us is to honor them for all they had done. We were no more and no less than part of this continuum of awakening. When I see the horizontal line, I see ground zero, that all of us on the earth now doing the practice are linked together. And then we are linked to the vertical line, at the midpoint. Therefore the place of the most energy and possibility is this center axis the here and now. The inhale and the exhale. The precious moment and the only moment. Here and now we inter-are across time and space from practitioners in pine forest temples in Asia, to traintrack-lined warehouses in Oakland, to hays tacked hills in France, and across the generations. I saw this, like this, as if for the first time.

Canyon Sam, Bouquet of the Heart, is a San Francisco writer and performance artist. Her nationally acclaimed solo show, "Taxi Karma and the Dissident, " about her travels in Tibet and work with Buddhist nuns, plays in March at the Working Women's Theater Festival. She is author of the forthcoming book, One Hundred Voices of Tara: Untold Stories of Tibetan Women.

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When Will Thay Return to Vietnam?

By Brother Chan Phap An Thich Nhat Hanh has taught and led retreats all over the world. Thousands of people have profited from his teaching. But, for over thirty years, he has been unable to return home and teach in Vietnam. Many people-Vietnamese in Vietnam and abroad, as well as Western friends and students-ask, "When will the people of Vietnam have a chance to learn and practice with Thay?"

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For more than two years, quiet diplomatic efforts have been made so that Thay might go home and teach, but the efforts have not borne fruit. The government of Vietnam will only allow Thay to visit, stay in hotels, and give small Dharma talks exclusively in temples, with permission from the Buddhist Church of Vietnam (BCVN). Thay cannot accept these conditions.

During the Assembly of  Buddhists in Hue, Le Quang Vinh, Chairman of the Governmental Committee of Religious Affairs, declared, "The BCVN is the only legal organization of Vietnamese Buddhists in Vietnam. All individuals and organizations acting in the name of Buddhists outside of the BCVN are illegal and must be eliminated." In the history of Vietnamese Buddhism, no church organization has ever controlled the activities and practice of all Buddhists. BCVN does not represent all Vietnamese Buddhists.

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCVN) was established after the fall of President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963. Although outlawed by three consecutive governments, UBCVN is still alive in the hearts of many Vietnamese Buddhists. Thay appreciates his brotherhood with the monks who are skillfully working in BCVN. He also respects and treasures his friendship with the monks who support the UBCVN. To accept the government's condition that he seek permission of the BCVN, Thay must acknowledge that it is the unique representative of all Vietnamese Buddhists. He cannot betray his friends in the UBCVN this way. If Thay's return to Vietnam could provide the opportunity for both sides to be together, Thay would go, but he cannot return under conditions likely to cause disharmony among brothers.

Further, if Thay goes to Vietnam, he and his monastic delegation from Plum Village must be allowed to stay in Buddhist temples, not forced to stay in hotels. Twice, monks and nuns from Plum Village visiting the root temple in Hue were forced to stay in hotels. They were allowed to visit the temple a few hours each day, but prohibited from spending the entire day. They were also forbidden to practice sitting and chanting with the temple Sangha. Never in Vietnamese history have monks and nuns been forced to stay in hotels rather than temples-not even during the most dictatorial and feudal times. If Thay and hi Sangha are allowed to stay in the temples, future visiting monks and nuns might also be allowed to stay in temples, and that would be one step toward freedom.

The restrictions on where Thay may teach are also unacceptable. Thay has taught in many different venues all over the world-Dharma centers, cathedrals, churches, monasteries, retreat centers, university gymnasiums, theaters, community centers, public halls, and even a golf course. But the government of Vietnam forbids monks and nuns from teaching outside temples. Although many Vietnamese people wish to hear Thay, because he is a monk the government will not allow him to speak in the Palace of Culture in Hanoi, the Cultural House in Hue, or Hoa Binh Theater in Saigon. Many lay scholars, artists, and performers-Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese-have been allowed to lecture and perform in these places.

The government's prohibition denies monks and nuns full citizenship, and is an injustice. If Thay is allowed to lecture freely, then other venerable monks will also have this right. That would be another step toward freedom and full citizen rights for monks and nuns in Vietnam.

The government's animosity toward Thay is clear. On October 28-30, 1998, the Fatherland Front (Mat Tran To Quoc) and the Governmental Committee on Religious Affairs summoned 250 abbots in the neighborhood of Saigon Gia Dinh to discourage their enthusiasm for welcoming Thay. The authorities stated that Thay is antirevolution, anticommunist, and antigovernment, and only seeks to return so he might open the way for other anticommunist monks, such as Venerables Tam Chau and Man Giac, to return.

Thay's work is still suppressed in Vietnam. His books and tapes are banned and confiscated. Twice recently, arrangements were made for Thay to give a telephone Dharma talk to student monks in his root temple, but each time, the telephone lines were cut. Teaching materials sent to the temple by fax machine are confiscated, a request to allow his root temple in Hue to publish ten of Thay's books has not been answered, and an application to build a library at the temple was rejected. Thay's books and tapes are only Dharma talks, offering Buddhist teaching and practices of healing, transformation, and reconciliation. When Thay's books, tapes, and talks are treated this way, how can we be sure that Thay himself will be treated differently and not simply arrested upon his return?

The government's animosity toward Thay is evident in other ways as well. Monks and nuns traveling abroad must have the approval of the BCVN and the Governmental Committee on Religious Affairs-Iaypeople do not need this approval. Permission to visit Plum Village is always refused. Monastics who travel to France for tourist, family, or medical reasons, must promise the police they will not go to Plum Village.

In preparation for his visit, Thay also would like a number of his books to be published, announcements to be made about lectures and retreats he will offer, and an office of Plum Village be allowed to set up in the Dinh Quan Temple in Hanoi to make arrangements for his teaching. The office should be allowed to contact monastics and laypeople for necessary help preparing for events.

Thay wishes to invite friends and the press to accompany him to Vietnam. These observers would report to the world whether there is freedom of teaching in Vietnam. Several people, including French Senator Bernard Dussaut, have written to the government of Vietnam expressing the wish to accompany Thay.

The campaign for Thay's return to Vietnam was not initiated by Thay, but by friends in Europe and North America. These influential friends have campaigned skillfully with the Vietnamese government, through Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Manh Cam. French Senators Jean Francois Poncet, Bernard Dussaut, and Phillipe Marini have written letters to the government of Vietnam. On November 9, 1998, Swiss President Flavio Cotti wrote the Prime Minister: ''Thich Nhat Hanh had to leave his country 34 years ago because of his commitment to the cause of peace. He has since become one of the best-known and most respected Vietnamese citizens in the world. It is my belief that the peaceful teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh does not conflict with your country's interests."

On March 24, 1998, United States Senator John McCain also wrote Prime Minister Phan Van Khai:

I understand that Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and scholar living in France, has felt unable to return to Vietnam since he left his war-torn country many years ago. Although I have never met him, my friends tell me that he is an enlightened man whose regard for peace and social justice endears him to those who know him. Indeed, American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize-a high honor indeed for a monk of such renowned humility.

Thich Nhat Hanh is known to be an apolitical leader whose intellectual capacity and spiritual depth would serve his fellow Vietnamese well, should he be permitted to return to his country. Although I am unable to travel to Vietnam personally, a group of friends led by Bruce Morrison, my former colleague in the House of Representatives, is interested in accompanying Thich Nhat Hanh to Hanoi in the hopes of conducting a dialogue with your government.

A number of United States Congressmen, including Representative Rick Boucher, have even visited Vietnam to ask government officials to allow Thay to go home and teach. On July 9,1998, Congressman Boucher and a delegation of the Buddhist Committee on Dialogue and Understanding, composed of Thich Chan Phap An and Pritam Singh, went to the Vietnamese Embassy in Paris. They submitted a formal request for a teaching tour, and provided complete details and proposed schedules. There has been no reply.

The quiet, diplomatic campaign has not succeeded. There must be an open, complete campaign from many people-civil rights leaders, artists, religious leaders, and others. Thay says that he can wait. We need our friends to support such a campaign.

Brother Coon Phap An, True Dharma Seal, is a monastic Dharma teacher in Plum Village. He has been trained by Thay for seven years.

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Compassionate Action

By Allen Sandler Last spring, the Mindfulness Community of Hampton Roads raised funds so that, following the retreat with Thay in China, a Sangha representative could become personally involved in a service project in Vietnam. The project would be sponsored by the Sangha. We consulted with Anh-Huong Nguyen, who founded the Committee for the Relief of Poor Children in Vietnam (CRPCV) in 1980. She helped us identify a school that had been only partially completed due to lack of funds. Another $8,000 was needed to finish construction and purchase equipment and supplies. The unfinished school, which we later named "Happy Sparrow School," was in a beautiful wooded area in the outskirts of Hue only a few hundred meters from Thay's Root Temple, Tu Hieu.

After our brief but successful fundraising effort, I headed for China with $8,000 in traveler's checks in my pack, and following the China retreat, traveled to Vietnam. My contact in Hue was Sister Minh Tanh, abbess of Long Tho Pagoda. Sister Minh Tanh has been a nun for 37 years, and was one of the early members of Thay's School of Youth for Social Service. She continues to coordinate the social service projects in the Hue area, funded by Plum Village and other philanthropic groups. She is a wonderful cook, a gracious hostess, and ongoing source of inspiration! While having tea with her after touring the school site, I learned that during the Vietnam War (they call it the American War), a group of citizens from Hue were buried alive one night by the Viet Cong near the site of this school. Sister Minh Tanh heard the sound of shovels and muffled cries from her room in the nearby nunnery, but could do nothing to help. During the three-week occupation of Hue by the North during the Tet Offensive in 1968, approximately 3,000 civilians, including Buddhist monks, were executed. We are hopeful that our school can help bring peace back to that soil.

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The Happy Sparrow School presently serves 70 children between the ages of three and six years old. They attend the school without cost. These children come from poor families in the villages surrounding Thay's Root Temple, Tu Hieu. Before Happy Sparrow School opened, some of these young children had to tend their family's livestock or help sell produce raised by their family. As Anh-Huong said at the onset of our fundraising effort, our school can provide its little sprouts good soil in which to grow. Our Sangha has sent Sister Minh Tanh $90 each month to pay the salaries of two teachers and two cooks at the school.

In cooperation with CRPCV, our Sangha is now raising funds to build and operate a school for children with severe disabilities in Hue. This school will serve 61 children living in the vicinity of Thay's Root Temple, who have disabilities such as severe mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy, and who are not now attending school. Of the 500,000 children with intellectual disabilities in Vietnam, only about 400 attend school. We anticipate that our school will eventually serve children with severe disabilities throughout Hue city, and may serve as a model for other programs in Vietnam. Through the efforts of our Swiss Dharma brother and cosponsor of this project, Ha Vinh Tho, we recently received a grant from the Lord Michelham Foundation in Geneva, which will cover one-half the cost of building this school and operating it for three years. We now must raise the other needed funds.

You or your Sangha may wish to support these or other service projects in Vietnam. Vietnam is such a poor country and there are so many needs. A small amount of money can accomplish so much!

Allen Sandler, True Original Tranquility, is engaged in research and teacher training in the area of severe disabilities at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. If you or your Sangha is interested in getting involved in the school for children with severe disabilities or other service projects in Vietnam.

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The Good News Has Not Been Realised

On April 4, 2000, the police of Hue and Quang Tri in Vietnam confiscated copies of Manifesto 2000 from Tu Hieu temple, blocking distribution of the Manifesto to the general public. Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and Minister of Foreign Affair Nguyen Dy Nien had signed Manifesto 2000 themselves, and had said that they would do everything possible to inform the Vietnamese about the Manifesto and to ask them to sign. Is there a contradiction between the foreign policy and internal policy in Vietnam. Manifesto 2000 is not a political instrument. Manifesto 2000 is neither a petition nor a demand. It is a deep vow, a promise to oneself to act and live in such a way that peace, joy, and happiness can exist in our daily lives and be possible for future generations. The Manifesto invites our families and all levels of society to live in peace and non-violence. To promote the distribution and the practice of the principles of Manifesto 2000 can help us recognize and transform our violent ways toward ourselves and others. The Manifesto is not a political instrument. To sign it is to commit ourselves to build a culture of peace and non-violence for the world.

Many figures from around the world, including heads of state, have signed Manifesto 2000. The Prime Minister of Vietnam, Phan Van Khai, is among the first to have signed. Mr. Nguyen Dy Nien, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam has also signed. This is wonderful news for all Vietnamese people. If the heads of state including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs are committed to practicing these principles of peace and non-violence with their families and society, then Vietnam indeed has a bright future. We should laud and support this commitment by signing the Manifesto ourselves, and we should search for ways to apply the Manifesto's six points to our daily lives. If our government, the National Assembly, and the Vietnamese people begin to study and put the Manifesto into action, we are certain that within months, the entire nation can begin to reap the benefits of happiness and peace.

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Where does the Manifesto come from?

The United Nations declared the year 2000 the International Year of the Culture of Peace and has entrusted UNESCO with the task of coordinating and implementing this declaration. The Manifesto 2000 was presented to the press at a conference on March 4, 1999 in Paris. UNESCO hopes to gather 100 million signatures from around the world to be presented to the UN General Assembly in September 2000; 170 countries have translated and begun distributing the Manifesto 2000 in support of this important UNESCO initiative. To date, five million people have already signed the Manifesto and the number grows day by day. People can even sign the Manifesto via the Internet by visiting the website www.unesco.org/Manifesto2000, where they can obtain a certificate which presents the six points of the Manifesto, which serves as a guide and a reminder for their practice.

"We are currently using all possible means to distribute the Manifesto."

When he was Director of the UNESCO Commit tee for Vietnam, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Dy Nien wrote to Federico Mayor, Director General of UNESCO in Paris, that the Vietnamese government enthusiastically supported the United Nations resolution. His September 10, 1999 letter said that the Government had translated the Manifesto into Vietnamese and was "taking advantage of the ideas of a culture of peace to reach the mass audience of Vietnamese people." He also expressed his certainty that UNESCO would obtain more than 100 million signatures by September 2000.

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Manifesto 2000 has not been made public in Vietnam.

I had the opportunity to read the Vietnamese version of Manifesto 2000 in an agenda published by the Vietnamese Women's Association and the National UNESCO Committee for Vietnam. This translation is slightly different from the one on the UNESCO website. It is less precise. Only 3000 copies were printed, just enough to distribute to diplomats from different embassies and western organizations in Hanoi. None of our friends living in Hanoi, Hue, or Saigon were aware that this agenda existed. I received a copy from a diplomat. Contrary to what happened in other countries, no news releases or announcement about Manifesto 2000 was released to individuals or the media. This is rather regrettable, since the six points of the Manifesto have a high ethical and moral value and are very close to the Five Mindfulness Trainings offered by the Buddha. I sincerely wish that teachers, artists, and the media and spiritual leaders of the country would initiate profound discussion on the practices of the six points as soon as possible. Studying and putting these points of the Manifesto into practice could bring significant benefits to the country.

Local Police Confiscate Manifesto 2000 and Threaten Those Who Support It.

Agents from the National Security Agency for Religious Affairs came to our main temple, Tu Hieu, to confiscate 5000 copies of Manifesto 2000, which the monks had just printed. These government agents said that the distribution of the Manifesto was against government policy and that they had been ordered to confiscate all copies. Twelve police agents searched the print shop of Mr. Nguyen Thanh Binh at 38 Nguyen Hue Street in Hue city on April 4, 2000. He had just purchased printing materials, printing plates, and paper to produce 50,000 copies of the Manifesto. All these were seized and his license was revoked. The workshops of Mr. Thanh at 5/9 Nguyen Gia Thieu Street and Mr. Vinh at 160 Chi Lang street were also searched, their printing materials were seized, and their licenses were revoked. Some Buddhists in Hue who had signed and helped distribute Manifesto 2000 were summoned to the police station, where they were interrogated for between four to eight hours over three consecutive days. The officers asked who had provided them a copy of Manifesto 2000, to whom they had distributed it, and who had signed it. Mr. Tran Ngoc Viet was summoned by national security agents to the headquarters of the People's Committee of Gio Chau in Quang Tri province to be questioned about Manifesto 2000.

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Our friends in Europe were dismayed by this news. As an advisor to the Foundation Appeal of the Nobel Peace Laureates for the Children of the World, I asked my colleagues to be patient and wait so that I could contact the National UNESCO Committee for Vietnam so they could better inform us of the government's interpretation of these events. I had the opportunity to speak with Madame Nguyen Thi Hoi, Secretary General of UNESCO-Vietnam. We discussed that perhaps there had been a misunderstanding among the local police agents. Madame Hoi indicated that it was probable that the text of the Manifesto used by our main temple was not the same text that had been approved and distributed by the Government. I said to her that our friends in Hanoi had not been aware of this different version of the text, but simply used the version published on the UNESCO-International website. We had even contributed to the website translation. I said to Madame Hoi that our temple was prepared to use the official version of the text from UNESCO Vietnam. I asked her to do everything she could to ensure that  the distribution of the Manifesto 2000 not be delayed further.

Putting the Manifesto 2000 into practice in different areas of daily life

I explained to Madame Hoi that with the Manifesto in hand, people have an opportunity to discuss these simple guidelines for living with their families and to put them into practice. Everyone has an obligation to encourage others to sign the Manifesto and to put these guidelines into practice. For example, a young person could ask their father to sign the Manifesto. The father will ask, "Why should I sign this thing?" The young person would reply, "You sign to promise to act more moderately the next time you get angry with my brother. Instead of shouting, scolding, and judging him severely, you will remember that you signed the Manifesto on nonviolence. You will be able to speak more calmly and lovingly, and you will learn to listen deeply to better understand him and love him. In this way, communication between you and my brother will improve and everyone in the family will be very happy." To sign the Manifesto 2000 is to put into practice these wonderful guidelines.

A contradiction between Foreign Policy and Internal Policy

It is not clear why there is such a contradiction between the policies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the actions of the Ministry of the Interior. We are certain the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs were sincere when they signed the Manifesto and when they communicated their support to the President of UNESCO-International. Everyone has seen that the Manifesto 2000 has a very high moral and ethical value, so to ban its distribution and confiscate copies of the Manifesto are actions which oppose the foreign policies of the government—they are anti-government actions. Are those in charge of the National Security agency aware that they are responsible for this policy against the State? I think that the Minister of the Interior is co-responsible for this act. We hope that this cloud of confusion will be wiped away quickly, so the Vietnamese people in and outside the country can have restored confidence in the Government's policies and look forward to the Manifesto 2000 benefiting all of Vietnam.

The state can start already by using the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to encourage people at all levels of society to sign the Manifesto and begin to put its principles into practice.

One Goal: Encourage the Government's Commitment to Manifesto 2000

Our goal is not to condemn the Government, nor to oppose it or destroy its reputation. We are aware of the good will of the Secretary General of UNESCO-Vietnam and we hope that she will devote more time and energy toward the distribution of Manifesto 2000.I write these words in the spirit of loving kindness and compassion which has been transmitted to me by my teacher, the Elder of the Tu Hieu branch, the 42nd generation of the Lin Chi School and the eighth generation of the Lieu Quan lineage. Our main temple Tu Hieu and its branch temples serve as the base of support for many other temples and communities of Buddhist practitioners in Vietnam and around the world. They are the very effective arms of the Boddhisattva of Compassion Quan The Am, are ready to help promote the practice of the six points of Manifesto 2000, which radiates goodwill and understanding. Together with the entire nation we can contribute to the building of a culture of peace and non-violence for our future generations.

The Vietnamese translation of Manifesto 2000 is available on the UNESCO website: www.unesco.org. This is the version that was distributed by the Tu Hieu. temple and confiscated. For a biographical note on Sister Chan Khong, please see page 33.

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A Chance to Go Onwards on the Path of Practice

Visiting Vietnam By Sister Annabel, True Virtue

Before our party of monks and nuns left Plum Village and Deer Park Monastery to go to Vietnam, Thay gave us instruction. His first words were, "We are sending you as an offering to Vietnam." These words impressed us deeply. They made us feel light and easy and strong as well. Our teacher and our Sangha had formed us and now we could make a suitable offering to Vietnam. How happy we felt! We were not going to Vietnam as individuals but as representatives of our teacher and our Sangha.

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Being in Touch with Our Spiritual Ancestors

The first fruit of our practice in going to Vietnam was being in touch with our ancestral teachers of the Buddhist tradition. As soon as we arrived in Vietnam we went directly to the Root Temple carrying a letter from Thay. The Root Temple is where Thay ordained and practiced as a novice. Thay is considered by the monks of the Root Temple to be their spiritual guide and master and he often sends teachings to them. In his letter he gave instructions for the organization of a seven-day retreat in the Plum Village style. Many monks, including the Abbot and several Dharma teachers, had not returned from their pilgrimage of study and practice to North Vietnam and we wanted to wait for their return to begin our retreat. During the absence of the Abbot, the venerable Thien Hanh was the head of the Root Temple. Ile greeted us with much warmth as a kind spiritual father. He eagerly encouraged us to organize the seven-day retreat so that as soon as the monks returned from Hanoi we could begin the retreat. On the day following our arrival he took us on a tour of the monastery, which we call the Root Temple. We visited the stupas of all the high monks who had studied, practiced, and taught in that temple, being nourished constantly by their spiritual energy which has never been lost, because it has been maintained by the daily practice of generations of monks. Many outstanding monks have been formed here and many Zen masters have practiced here as abbot before retiring to a hermitage to continue the practice towards the end of their Lives. The very earth and trees of the Root Temple have absorbed this practice and we all benefited greatly from this environment.

In the following days we visited various temples which are closely connected to Thay. On our three days of excursions to other monasteries we were able to be in touch with the years of suppression of Buddhism under the Diem government. We saw the place in the Phuoc Duyen Temple where a young monk whose Dharma name was Thanh Tue had immolated himself in 1963. We circumambulated his stupa and saw Thay's poem "The Fire That Consumes My Younger Brother" which had been inscribed there. (See poem on page 37.) This reminds me of Thay's words:

"It is better to die than not to speak out the truth. If you are too cowardly to speak out the truth then you die as a monk and teacher anyway." Our visit to the Thien Mu Temple was also to be in touch with the temples' long history of resistance to efforts to suppress Buddhism, including the most recent protest to the governmental authorities wanting to make it necessary for people to buy a ticket to enter the temple. We could also pay respects to our own teacher's preceptor who was abbot of that temple at one time. Whenever we touched the earth with our five limbs we were aware we were watering the seeds of continuation of our ancestral teachers in us.

Organizing a Seven-Day Plum Village Style Retreat at the Root Temple in Hue

Three days of visiting temples, sometimes as many as six in one day, made us feel ready to begin our retreat. I was impressed by the first Sangha meeting I attended in the Root Temple to finalize our schedule for the retreat. The whole Sangha was present, so there were at least 60 monks including the Abbot and Dharmacharyas of the temple. Our small organizing committee of eight was requested to present the proposed schedule. This committee consisted of two monks and two nuns from the Plum Village delegation and four monks from the Root Temple. Thay Van Phap expressed himself well in meetings and so he was chosen to represent our committee. The Abbot and one Dharmacharya sat at the front of the meditation hall facing the rest of the community. Whenever there was a point which was not clear the Dharmacharya would demand further explanation from the organizing committee and if he was not satisfied with the proposals he would make suggestions for change and the rest of the community were also free to give their suggestions for changes.   After that the Dharmacharya would make a new proposal and put it to the community in the form of a sanghakarman procedure. (1) If the whole community agreed by silence it was accepted.

The first matter that came up for discussion was the ho canh (inviting the bell to call people to meditative concentration in the morning and evening). It was agreed by everyone that the whole retreat would be conducted in the Plum Village style of practice but there were points that needed to be clarified as to how this practice could be carried out. In Plum Village the ho canh is conducted inside the meditation hall but in the Root Temple it is conducted outside. We agreed that it would be good for the ho canh to take place outside of the meditation hall on the path leading to the meditation hall since the cloud bell could easily be hung from the eaves of the covered walkway there. Then there was the matter of the sports period that had been included in the timetable. The Dharmacharya wanted clarification on exactly what this involved. We explained the sports period we had had every day in the monastic five-day retreat in Plum Village with badminton, volleyball and ping-pong. Some monks wanted it to be optional but in the end it was agreed that what was on the timetable could not be optional. We were also given a firm warning by the Dharmacharya that this period should not be any less of a practice period than the sitting meditation. Thirdly there was the matter of how exactly we were going to organize the mindful meals. It was readily agreed that all the meals should be self­service. But exactly how was this to be done? Breakfast would be taken in the new Buddhist Studies hall, sitting on the floor. Lunch would be taken in the meditation hall also sitting on the floor and supper in our family groups wherever the family wanted to sit. The meeting was very long but I never felt tired. Everyone listened deeply with great interest and harmoniously resolved every detail. It was truly a practice of the Togetherness of Views. (2) It was democratic but at the same time the element of seniority was always there. The Dharmacharya made the proposals after listening deeply to everyone. These proposals were always based on the Dharma and the Vinaya. (3) Therefore the monastic Sangha respected the proposals and very readily agreed to them. The atmosphere of the meeting remained light throughout. I have never enjoyed a meeting so much in my life, largely due to the fact that every decision was based on the Dharma and the Vinaya and that all of us were always ready to let our individual ideas go to be in harmony with the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

When we returned to the Root Temple after a week visiting North Vietnam, we practiced two full days in the tradition of the Root Temple. It should have been seven days, but unfortunately we only had a week left. We spent one day recovering from our journey and preparing for the grand memorial ceremony of Zen Master Thanh  Quy, who was the direct teacher of our own teacher. It was a day of many arrivals in the temple. Buddhist lay practitioners came from places far away in the provinces and as people arrived laywomen and nuns made their way to the kitchen and the dining room (which had turned into a temporary kitchen) in order to prepare for the next day's feast. We sat down too and helped make little cakes of rice flour pastry and mung bean paste. Our cakes were not so beautiful at first but after making a few dozen they certainly improved. People slept the night lying side by side in the Buddhist Studies hall. As for our delegation from abroad, we had to go back to our hotel.

Paying Respect to Our Grandfather Teacher Thanh Quy

The memorial day was calm, light and joyful. I enjoyed very much hearing from the Dharmacharya about the great humility of our ancestral teacher. He would always join his palms first to greet anyone who came before him. He was a true Bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta. (4) One day when a Dharma brother from another temple had sent a letter to him carried by a novice, he insisted on standing up. The novice invited the teacher to sit down so that he could read the letter to him. The ancestral teacher refused; he said that the letter came from an elder brother in the Dharma and possibly contained instructions therefore it was only right for him to stand while the novice read. On another occasion the ancestral teacher had to go to a meeting of the Buddhist Assembly of the Thua Thien province. Su Ba Dieu Khong was also there. (5) The ancestral teacher had come with a novice as attendant but the novice had stayed outside. The ancestral teacher asked Su Ba to allow him to go out and bring the novice in. Su Ba replied that it was hardly necessary for an elder to go out and fetch in a novice. The ancestral teacher replied that the novice was still young and would be afraid to enter an assembly of high venerables alone. The ancestral teacher did not want the novice to be afraid. Deeply moved by the humility and loving kindness of the old monk, Su Ba then and there touched the Earth three times before him

At noon on that memorial day we enjoyed our first formal meal in the tradition of the Root Temple. For this meal you sit at the table and eat from a small bowl. The different dishes are set out in front of you for you to help yourself and others who may not be able to reach the dish nearest you. As you eat, the laypeople come and touch the Earth towards the end of the tables because the formal meal hall opens onto the same courtyard as the ancestral hall. After lunch the monastic Sangha processes into the Buddha hall in order to practice circumambulation and reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha. You can imagine that such a meal involves quite a bit of preparation on the part of the younger monks. All the dishes have to be divided up on to small platters and carried from the kitchen to the formal meal hall (not a small distance). After the experience of the seven-day Plum Village style retreat the self-service meal was felt to be more practical and now in the Root Temple the monks help themselves to food and process with their bowls to the formal meal hall.  They call this "going on the alms round."

The division of the Sangha into five families was a very successful part of the seven-day Plum Village style retreat. Each family found a place outside to sit together just as in the Summer Opening in Plum Village. After eating we would sing. Singing was the activity the monks in the Root Temple enjoyed most of all. Never a day went past without singing. ln a very short time the monks in the retreat had learnt all the new Vietnamese songs we had brought from Plum Village and very often they had memorized them even better than our delegation had. The favorite song was "Qua Con Me" which can be translated as "After the Passion."

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Praying for Rain: Buddhist Practice in the North

The north of Vietnam is very different from the center and the south. All three regions have their own special characteristics. Not only does the accent and some of the vocabulary differ in each of the regions but there is a difference in culture also, which includes ways of preparing food. There is poverty throughout Vietnam but in the north it is most apparent.

Moreover the north has lain for more than twenty years longer and this has had an obvious impact. Looking at the old people in the north you see how worn they are. Stunted and often bent, they continue to do voluntary construction work in the temples, pushing cartloads of bricks and sand or earth. The people are more dour than in the other regions. The old people remember Buddhism from the time before communism and they come to the temples with these memories. As for the young people, they still have not wholly understood Buddhism. Superstition is more evident in the north. It is common for people who come to the temples not to learn the practice, but to pray for things to go well for them.

One day I heard an old woman praying out loud in the early morning before it was light. I wondered what she was praying for. When I came near I heard her chanting a repentance chant and making the vow that all could reach awakening. It is more the younger generation who come and pray for material success. Some people in the north will still make offerings of chicken or cigarettes or beer on some of the altars in the Buddhist temples. This is because they think they are offering to gods or to spirits.

Buddhism has always wanted to help in times of hardship and it is right that the temples should do so. In the chant "May the day be well" we also pray: "May there be no place at war. May the winds be favorable and the rains seasonable and the people's hearts at peace." When we pray like this there is the underlying meaning that we shall practice in such a way that war is no longer possible. We do not pray for grace and favors that are not linked to our real efforts in the practice. We visited the temples that have been connected to the four bodhisattvas of rain, of clouds, of thunder, and of lightning. These bodhisattvas belong to the time when Buddhism had only just come to Vietnam. There was a need to assimilate some of the previous rites and rituals into Buddhism. This does not seem to have been difficult. Vietnam was and is a country of peasant farmers and the rain is needed for the people to survive. Tremendous hardship has always been experienced because of drought. The practice of the Three Trainings (mindfulness trainings, concentration, and insight) is essential for the practice of praying for rain. The monk's prayer must be based on his virtue and his insight into the three Dharma Seals of impermanence, no­self and nirvana. The making of statues to represent the four bodhisattvas, their being venerated in the temple and taken out once a year or in times of drought is also a necessary part of the practice. It is the outer form that contains the content and the content is the practice of the Three Dharma Seals, the Three Trainings and compassion. Someone who has not understood the emptiness of self cannot pray efficaciously because they have not seen that the one who prays, that which is prayed for and the person for whom it is prayed are one.

We visited the Dharma Rain Temple, now known as Chua Dau, and the Dharma Cloud Temple. The first patriarch of Vietnamese Zen, Tang Hoi, must have frequented the latter temple, (6) although he was not trained there as a monk, because he was a monk in the town to which it belonged, the ancient capital of Luy Lau.

There are so many beautiful temples in North Vietnam but not enough monks and nuns to look after them. In the district of Hai Duong alone there are 700 temples but only 200 monks and nuns. The care of many temples lies in the hands of committees of laypeople. The But Thap Temple (Stupa like a Calligraphy Brush) is an example of a temple which has no abbot. The solution to the shortage of monks and nuns has been approached by inviting bhikshus or bhikshunis to be Abbot of more than one temple at a time, but But Thap temple does not even have a shared Abbot or Abbess. This temple moved me deeply.  It has been a Pure Land temple in the past.  It has a large statue of Amitabha Buddha and a stupa of nine stories (not the stupa after which the temple is named), made of wood. The nine stories represent the nine grades of lotus and it is said that people would throw flowers up to the story which represented the grade of lotus in which they aspired to be born. As we walked around that temple there was a sense of interbeing of everything flowing into everything else. The peasants were working in the rice fields around the temples. There was an angry cow who had been tied up and could find no more grass to eat in her range. All we had to do to remove her frustration was to untie her tether and tether her to a fallen tree a few meters away. I thought that if a cow can be angry in these circumstances, how much more angry the cows must be who are factory­ farmed in Europe and North America.

In the north of Vietnam the temples have many halls with small altars for the veneration of different Buddhas, bodhisattvas, monks and also lay practitioners. Most temples have an altar where the laypeople can pay their respects to Anathapindika. (7) There are many altars to nuns, queens, and princesses. Those who reached awakening in this very life are depicted seated on lotus thrones. In the beautiful Thay Temple there are four or five altars where it is possible to pay respect to women who had high realizations in the practice. (8)

When Buddhism came to Vietnam from India it came to North Vietnam in the first century of the Christian era and so the vestiges of Buddhism there are very ancient. The temples we visited in the south of Vietnam were much more modern. In the south the Buddha hall is usually light and spacious. In the North the temples are always quite dark inside.

Visiting Our Grandmother Teachers in the South

Our great joy in the south was to visit the high nuns who had already graced Plum Village with their presence. Many of them had visited Plum Village specifically to be present at the great ordination ceremonies there and to transmit the full ordination to the nuns. We visited Su Ba Bo De, Su Ba Pho Da, and Su Ba Long Hoa. Every Su Ba allowed us to visit their temple, gave us lunch or the evening meal, and had us come and speak informally with the nuns about our practice. In the Long Hoa Temple we also practiced walking meditation. The sharings usually took place in the Buddha hall in the form of a presentation. Su Ba Bo De gave us much support as did Su Ba Van Hanh. Su Ba Bo De was with us on every excursion and every Day of Mindfulness that we led in the south of Vietnam.

Our first trip was to the Bao Loe area. Itis a beautiful mountainous area north of Saigon in the direction of Da Lat. The indigenous mountain people work in the tea and coffee groves here but because of the drought and the fall in world tea and coffee prices the people are in great need. They no longer have a means of making a livelihood. Many women with their little babies carried in a sling over the shoulder would come hungry for the midday meal, which was offered to them at the Prajna Temple where we led a Day of Mindfulness. It rained heavily that day, the first time for many months. The deluge was so great that we could not have the Dharma discussion groups on the different walkways around the main halls. The doors had to be closed and we all crammed ourselves into the Buddha hall for a 200 person question and answer session.

This temple is very near to the Fragrant Palm Hermitage that Thay established in the 1960s. We visited it the day after the mindfulness day. It was hot and dry and the grass was tall and yellow. The tea grove started by Thay and his disciples was still there. It seemed that any vestiges of the former practice center had been razed to the ground. All that remained was the foundations of the hut of Su Ong Thanh Tu upon which had been constructed a new home for a poor family, which now lives there. The most beautiful aspect was the view and a shady grove of fragrant pine trees planted recently. The security police had told us we were not to go to this place because for some reason they have always been afraid that it might be the headquarters for a counterrevolution. This is probably why the buildings were razed to the ground. When the security police realized we had gone anyway they sent three of their members to supervise us while we were there. We walked, sat, and ate our lunch with the two members of the resident family who were present. It would have been good if we had taken the book Fragrant Palm Leaves with us to read aloud and recreate some of the spirit of the practice center in former times.

The Phap Van Temple is the place where you can still feel Thay's presence. The Abbot, the Elder Phuoc Tri, who has been to Plum Village, told us that as soon as we arrived in the temple we should see our Su Ong. I said that I was sure we would, because I knew that Thay was with us wherever we went in Vietnam. What the Elder meant was that he had a large photograph of Thay in the dining area of the temple. Nevertheless, with or without the photograph, Thay is always there.  It is the temple which is next door to the buildings of the former School of Youth for Social Services and the present Buddha hall is the library of that School. Thay Thanh Van's memorial stone is in the garden of that temple as are the memorial stones to the young disciples of Thay who were killed as a result of their being part of the School. This year and ten years ago when I also visited this temple I have felt inspired by the work and sacrifice of Thay and his disciples in wartime.

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Su Ba Bo De came with us to the beach at Vung Tau. She told us that we must not swim out too far. She went swimming too, stayed in the water almost an hour and swam out farther than anyone else. Su Ba must be a contemporary of Thay. She has probably been through the rigors and strictness of a traditional Vietnamese nunnery but now she is free to enjoy herself as part of her practice. That freedom was probably made possible in part by her visits to Plum Village and the love shown to her by Thay. All the Su Bas showed us infinite kindness when we visited their temples. They love Thay very much even if they have not always been able openly to support him. When they show such care and concern for the disciples of Thay; or our delegation from Plum Village, it is a way of expressing their love for Thay. Su Ba Pho Da cooked personally for us, saw to it that we had the most comfortable siesta and afterwards served us with green mango accompanied by sugar and soya sauce, grapefruit, and many other delicacies. We then asked if we could have a Sangha meeting among our delegation before we left the temple because we needed to organize the rest of our stay in Saigon. She joined the meeting and made many helpful suggestions. It reminded me of how subtle and wise her contributions to Dharma discussions in Plum Village had always been.

Being in Touch with the Youngest Generation of Monastics

The Elder Minh Canh attended our Days of Mindfulness in the Phap Van Temple. Everyone said how much he had benefited from his stay in Plum Village. He was eager to have a copy of the latest book by Thay to appear from the underground press in Vietnam. This book is mostly the articles from the last edition of the La Tho Lang Mai, the annual newsletter of  Plum Village in Vietnamese. Monks told us that they had stayed up late at night just to read it to the end. It was so interesting. When in the Phap Van Temple I had talked about the situation of many children in the West whose parents work all day and never have time to spend with their children. One young dieu (9) told me that he was moved to hear that. Although in the country districts parents continue to love, care and have time for their children as they have always done in the past, in Saigon the situation is becoming very much the same as in the West and many of his friends suffer deeply from being isolated from their parents.

Because we were from abroad young novices and dieu would often come and confide in us their difficulties.  There is a very high "dropout" rate for dieu. One dieu told me that in the beginning they were ten but now they are only four. The dropout has something to do with the fact that the dieu have to go to school and they are influenced by their classmates who invite them to go on excursions away from the Sangha. Another reason l was told on many occasions is that the young children have an idea of what monastic life must be like before they enter the monastery and are severely disappointed when they confront the reality. Some said that they did not feel love from their teacher and elder brothers and that their ideal of service was not nourished. The lack of understanding between teacher and disciple was frequently cited. In the Root Temple there are twenty­four dieu. The "dropout" is less than in many other places because the elder brothers and the teachers have a real concern for the young dieu. When we went on an outing to the mountains and sea from Hue, it was considered at first to allow a limited number of dieu to come in order to act as attendants on the elders. On second thoughts that seemed very unfair. The second decision was that it would be better to leave all the dieu at home because there was no more room on the buses. The looks of disappointment on their faces were so great that another decision was made: each bus was to have five or six dieu squeeze in extra. So we sat three to a seat instead of two and everyone went.

We later had a question and answer session for the dieu, who asked questions such as: "What happens in Plum Village if you feel tired and do not attend the walking meditation? What does Su Ong do?" When we asked them which part of the practice they enjoyed most, the answer was unanimous: chanting, and they chanted very well. During the Plum Village Retreat we had a Beginning Anew session sitting in a circle in our family groups. In my family was a young bhikshu who was overseer of the dieu. He readily admitted his mistakes such as not listening deeply enough or being patient enough with the novices who had been dieu under him. The novices also readily revealed their difficulties under him but without forgetting to appreciate his good qualities. All this was done in the spirit of deep listening and loving speech and no one was hurt.

We returned from Vietnam more mature in the practice and more rooted in our ancestral teachers. We had a deeper understanding of our own teacher and the life of practice in which our teacher had been formed from an early age. Maybe we had brought to Vietnam a taste of Plum Village and the practice in which Thay is forming his own disciples now. Although this practice has been devised in the West, the young people of the East are increasingly becoming close to the West and calling for a renewal of Buddhism such as Thay's practice can offer. Just as Indian Buddhism was fortified by its establishment in the Far East, so Far Eastern Buddhism can be fortified by its establishment in the West.

Sister Annabel, True Virtue, is the Abbess of Green Mountain Dharma Center in  Vermont. She has translated several of Thich Nhat Hanh's books from Vietnamese into English.

Endnotes

  1. A democratic procedure for verifying that the whole community is agreed for the measure in question to be undertaken.
  2. The Buddha taught Six Togethernesses (saraniyadhamma).
  3. The body of precepts and explanation of precepts given by the Buddha.
  4. A bodhisattva is someone who has devoted their life to liberating themselves and liberating all other Sadaparibhuta means literally "Never Despising." The life of this bodhisattva is described in the Lotus Sutra. He devoted his life to letting people know that they should not disparage themselves because they had the Buddha-nature.
  5. Su Ba is a respectful title for a senior nun who has been ordained for at least forty years, meaning "Grandmother Teacher." For a monk of the same standing the title Su Ong is used, meaning "Grandfather Teacher."
  6. 2nd century C.E.
  7. A layman of the time of the Shakyamuni Buddha who devoted his life to serving the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha and donated the Jeta Park monastery.
  8. Belonging to the Le era (15th century).
  9. The young monk or nun of school-going age who has entered the monastery in order to prepare for the lifelong commitment to the monastic The dieu has already left home and lives and practices fulltime with the monastic community.

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Poem: Ancestors

By David Percival mb40-Ancestors1

 

 

 

 

 

Walking through clouds descended like a lush wet blanket Impermanence hangs heavy in the saturated air. Trails and lanes climb over hills through the neighborhoods of Hue Past homes, gardens, lush undergrowth, bamboo, tall pine trees, Neighborhoods where graves and tombs sit serenely on the hills, next to homes, in rice paddies, Some cared for, some abandoned or forgotten. Our ancestors are everywhere. At Tu Hieu we walked and sat amidst the tombs, Contemplated hundreds of graves And achieved a oneness with these spiritual ancestors I had never dreamed of. Interbeing settles on me like the mist falling on my clothes And penetrates into my very bones. Now I know I will bring this penetration with me To my land of disposable people, broken families, life extending pills and potions, plastic surgery. A place where I didn’t think too much about my ancestors Yet in Hue they are in my mind daily. So in the hot dry desert air where I live I can see clearly our responsibility to those who have departed And I celebrate our global community of ancestors And the peace and compassion of interbeing.

David Percival, True Wonderful Roots, lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Healing in Vietnam

mb45-Healing3 In early 2007 Thich Nhat Hanh led a ninety-day pilgrimage to Vietnam. Fifty monks and nuns from the monasteries in the U.S. and France accompanied him, along with a hundred lay Westerners, in each of four three-week segments. On this second historic visit to his homeland, Thay was also accompanied by Vietnamese monks and nuns numbering in the hundreds, from the three monasteries in Vietnam that practice in the tradition of Plum Village.

As of this writing, Thay has offered two Great Ceremonies of Healing, also called Grand Requiem Masses, for the souls of those who perished during the Vietnam War. Never before has Vietnam seen such ceremonies. In the first ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City, as many as ten thousand people participated.

Here are writings and photos from two lay participants. David Nelson, Compassionate Guidance of the Heart, recently retired after eighteen years working in public health on Indian reservations in the southwestern U.S. He now practices with the Organic Garden and Ripening Sanghas in southern California. Madeline Dangerfield-Cha from Cleveland, Ohio, will enter Columbia University next fall; she has four half-brothers and one half-sister under the age of seven. Look for more about this historic trip in the next issue of the Mindfulness Bell, and view additional photos by David Nelson at www.flickr.com/photos/rezdog/. Hear Dharma talks and interviews from the Vietnam trip at www.dpcast.org.

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Arrival Day in Ho Chi Minh City

At the Quang Duc Temple, there was a great welcoming ceremony for Thay and the sangha. After a long formal procession, Touching the Earth was offered to the temple’s venerables for a long life to the patriarch that may continue to benefit many. The most venerable offered warm greetings and wishes for a successful trip. Next we took buses to An Quang temple. Thay shared that at this temple he became a Dharma teacher, giving hundreds of Dharma talks in that hall. Afterwards our procession slowly passed by smiling and bowing crowds and made its way to a most delicious Vietnamese feast. We dined to the sounds of up-beat popular music. That night at Phap Van, Thay gave his first talk of the trip. We in the lay sangha were fortunate to witness the talk from directly behind Thay, and to see the faces in the audience. Thay encouraged us to practice coming back to our breath as taught by the Buddha in the Anapanasati Sutra on mindful breathing. [Read part of this Dharma talk on page 4.]

—David Nelson

All photos in this section by David Nelson and Madeline Dangerfield-Cha

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Thousands on a Few Green Acres

The five-day lay retreat at Prajna Temple near Bao Loc was a wonderful gift. I hardly expected such intense practice! And so many people! Upwards of seven thousand Vietnamese retreatants came. You’d think it would be chaos, thousands of people on a few green acres. How on earth could seven thousand people remain meditative and quiet for five days in 90-degree heat? But these people are truly devoted: three thousand could cram into the meditation hall for Thay’s Dharma talks, the rest sprawling on the steps and lawn outside. Thay was so inspiring, so down to earth.

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For Dharma discussion, I was lucky enough to be included in a bilingual, multi-cultural, youth exchange extravaganza! A large group of monks, nuns, Vietnamese, and young Westerners, we discussed our experiences and challenges. The Vietnamese young people were slow to share, really hesitant, since “sharing,” they explained, is not a part of their culture. Yet after just a few minutes on the first day they began to share their suffering so we could join their journey. We played high energy games and goofy challenges. Everyone could shout and laugh, Vietnamese or English!

—Madeline Dangerfield-Cha

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Jungle School Adventure

Ha! I can’t even begin to describe the joy from yesterday’s adventure! The plan for the day was to visit schools in the central highlands around Bao Loc. Plum Village funds the construction, staff, and supplies of over a thousand schools in the whole of Vietnam, a million-dollar charity organization. Yesterday, we visited nine of them, real schools with real kids and real teachers. Just single room, no-frills buildings. Some have desks, some have chalkboards. No books, no toys. But they’re clean, and they’re built! The kids get one well-rounded, nutritious meal per day. Our first stop was a tribal village where most of the inhabitants spoke the local dialect. I played tag with more than forty six- and seven-year-olds. I felt like I was playing with my little brothers. You should have seen their smiles!

But the real adventure began in the jungle. No more plumbing, no more pavement, no more cars of any kind. A nun turned to me and said, “You know, this road gets completely unpassable when it rains. Turns into nothing but mud. The tires can’t move at all. Hey, look it’s raining in the distance!” It did rain cats and dogs — torrential, tropical, southeast-Asian rain, for thirty-five minutes. We were completely frozen, stuck in a muddy river the whole time, twelve of us tucked in our little monastic van. We passed around boiled peanuts and rice cakes and purified water. It was a beautiful storm, like a fever breaking, as the heat and humidity dropped.

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As soon as the rain slowed, Sister Chan Khong (the one and only! this woman has lived!) said “Alright, let’s go. The kids are waiting for us!” Our poor driver got us as far as he could, which was about a kilometer down the road. We left the other two vans behind. Sister said, “Can’t drive any further. We walk!” and jumped out of the van. The sky had cleared by this time, and all the dusty vegetation had been rinsed clean and was glowing with color. Muddy red earth, big gray sky.

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The walk was long and sticky. I almost lost a shoe at one point, so ended up barefoot in red mud — cool and fresh. Local kids in blue and red uniforms whizzed by us on motorbikes. A man on a motorbike stopped by, asking us if we needed a hand. Sister Chan Khong was all about it! This seventy-year old Vietnamese rock star just tucked up her robes and was off.

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The rest of us walked up and down muddy hills through the brush. Coffee plants taller than men. Little kids joining us, then peeling off on tiny paths, presumably to their homes hidden among the plantlife and mist.

At the school, since we couldn’t bring the gifts, a few people offered crackers. Someone had a brick of cheese. We dumped what we had into a cone hat and passed it around to the children, who ate with joy. In one of the poorest areas that Plum Village supports, these people are happy, functioning. They don’t need plumbing or cars in order to live.

—Madeline Dangerfield-Cha

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Powerful and Jubilant Alms Round

In Bao Loc today, the alms round led by Thay in a black Highlander — the Buddha-mobile — was powerful, jubilant! Two thousand monks and nuns passed through streets mobbed by old women, children, and families offering toothpaste, medicine, sweet treats, yogurt, fruit, and the traditional boiled rice wrapped in a banana leaf with sesame salt. The Western lay delegation stood on the sidelines with Vietnamese locals; we helped collect the unbelievable excess of food, stuffing it into army sacks for later donations.

Playing with small children, we had our pictures taken by the locals, who love taking photos of us. My friends Brant and Ray are both six feet four inches — giants here in Asia. People run up to them and measure themselves, waving their hands over their heads and matching them up with the middle of Brant’s forearm. It’s hilarious.

—Madeline Dangerfield-Cha

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The First Great Requiem Ceremony

Thich Nhat Hanh declares during his Dharma talk at Vinh Nghiem Temple on this second day of ceremony that we will continue to open the throats of hungry ghosts. Along with powerful chants led by a chant master specializing in inviting spirits, the souls of those who died during the war, whether as heroes, in prison, of sickness, on land or sea, will be purified by the compassion and energy of the Dharma.

Day two begins with chants from the discourse on love, to detach the souls from the bodies. Everyone is requested to bring themselves wholeheartedly into the chants and not disturb the energy by moving around and taking pictures. First there is the Beginning Anew gatha of forgiveness, lightness and freedom. From the depths of understanding, with great emotion and steadfastness, the chants roar and pulsate throughout this huge temple. In the afternoon there is chanting to invoke the presence of the Medicine King, a previous incarnation of the Buddha. Led by the chant master, local traditional chants flow like a mighty river of heart-felt sound, non-stop for nearly two hours, echoing inside and outside among thousands in the courtyard. So many thousands of voices giving energy to the healing! Thay declares that as Beginning Anew transforms our hearts and those of the loved ones departed, the nightmare of the Vietnam War is over. The squash and the pumpkin co-exist peacefully on the same vine.

In the evening we in the lay sangha are amazed to become part of the lotus lamp ceremony. The procession line forms, with colorful umbrellas, flags, and other ceremonial poles. I stand near the beginning with my palms together to show respect to the monastics as they file by. As Thay arrives, looking over at me, he smiles. Raising his hand, he waves, wiggling his fingers in a cute gesture. I return the wave and smile. As our lay sangha follows, filing through a narrow opening, we pass shrines and a wishing well altar. The people offer us lotus bows and big smiles.

This evening is lit with spotlights, colored lanterns, the booming sounds of a big drum, cymbals, and bells, accompanying chants from the monastics and crowd. After a half-hour of waiting, our line is ushered quickly past attendants who offer us hand-made paper lotuses containing candles. Circling the temple, we glow, a beautiful candle-lit lane awaiting the chant master. More monastics, an entourage of musicians and traditionally dressed young women pass, smiling. We follow them to the Saigon River behind the temple, passing by big, bowing crowds. We place our glowing lotuses into the river where they float like beacons to light the souls lost in darkness — that they may join us during this transformative healing and reconciliation ceremony.

The dead have been invited to the temple to begin anew with us. On day three Thay states that this is the largest such ceremony ever in Vietnam — an action of love to bring individuals, families, and the nation into harmony and peace. We join in untying knots of injustice for all beings. Thay offers prayers for those who lost their precious bodies, that through our consciouness, they might be healed. Thay helps the audience understand how to walk and breathe as he does, with the energy of lightness and freedom.

Sister Chan Khong sings a song of Beginning Anew, teaching it to the audience. With tears in their eyes, they sing along. Greed, anger, passion, and ignorance are offered a chance to transform. People comfort one another. A large indoor screen projects the crowd’s faces of regret, forgiveness, and hope. Thay tells us that even the Communist party has admitted their mistakes of taking land and killing so many, although they refer to it as a correction rather than Beginning Anew. Everyone learns that once the mind is purified there is no trace of past unskillfulness, no guilt, no sin. Sitting in the spring breeze, teacher and students are happy as a family.

—David Nelson

Thank God for Thich Nhat Hanh’

Hue is the closest city to the DMZ (demilitarized zone), which remains the most heavily bombed piece of earth on this planet. Slowly, I’m formulating a sense of the real devastation of this war and all wars. Agent Orange is still wreaking havoc. Even today, babies are born with terrible deformities due to exposure. Many older Agent Orange victims beg here on the streets of Hue and in the temples where we go to practice. The suffering, I see, is enormous, continuous.

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The response that keeps re-surfacing is “Thank God for Thich Nhat Hanh” — a leader, a visionary. He’s fighting the bureaucracy with peace and love and compassion and understanding. Without resentment or cynicism or demand. He is fighting and he will win. It may take many more generations, but his message is true. Love all beings. Prevent all possible suffering. Act with compassion. Do not kill. Do not discriminate. The Communist officials here breathe down his neck. For thirty years, they repressed him and killed his supporters. Yet he is here, now, and he will not stop fighting with love and grace and dedication.

—Madeline Dangerfield-Cha

Coming Home to Hue

When we arrived at Tu Hieu, Thay was just finishing an impromptu tour of the grounds, explaining his activities as a young novice. Walking through the front gate, he motioned to the left-most of three stone arches and recounted the details of his first entrance when he was only 16 years old. His older brother was already a novice, and had brought Thay to study with him. His brother instructed Thay to walk through the arch in full awareness of every step and of every breath, invoking the name of the Buddha. Right, I am breathing in. Namo Shakyamuni Buddhaya. Left, I am breathing out. Namo Shakyamuni Buddhaya. Those, he said, were his first steps on the path of mindfulness. He invited each of us to do as he had done.

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Sitting together on the shady grass, monastics and international lay friends, we are all smiling as a great family. Thay is cupping a flower in his left hand, which he brings up to his face every so often, breathing in with great joy. He motions to a young monk, maybe ten or eleven years old, to sit close to him, extending the flower to the boy, sharing its beautiful fragrance. The young novice is nervous and smiling, his legs curled beneath him, his back upright and erect. Thay puts an arm around his shoulders, and invites another young monastic to share a song. Many have been singing traditional folk songs or older Buddhist chants. This young monk sings a popular Vietnamese love song. His voice is warbling and full of laughter. His Vietnamese brothers and sisters laugh through the whole song. Our teacher is bright with joy and humor.

—Madeline Dangerfield-Cha

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Discovering the Roots of Buddhism in Vietnam

A Journey of Healing, Hope, and Coming Home By Anne Woods

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We walked slowly, silently, mindfully in the moist morning heat, following the dirt path through the ancient gate to the sisters’ hall. Bowing to the Buddha, we found our relaxed and upright position on the brown cushions, grateful for the cool touch of the ceramic tiles beneath our feet and the light breeze offered by an occasional electric fan. We sat quietly, side by side with the sisters, as waves of powerful emotions washed through us. The video recorder clicked on…and there was Thay, his familiar voice saying, “You have arrived. You are home.”

Practicing with the brothers and sisters at our root temple, Tu Hieu, we enjoyed this deeply nourishing Day of Mindfulness on day six of an incredible twelve-day journey through Vietnam. On our first day, we had gathered together in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon to share our aspirations and apprehensions before venturing uncertainly into the Saigon traffic to pay tribute at the monument to Thich Quang Duc, who immolated himself in 1963 to call the world’s attention to the persecution of Buddhists under the Diem regime. This powerful and moving experience was just the first of many as we traveled together from southern Vietnam northward.

Twenty-one of us in all, including our beloved Dharma teachers Chu Chan Huy and Trish Thompson (Chan An Dinh, True Concentration on Peace), and our gracious and tireless guide Phuong, became the White Cloud Sangha. Even as we enjoyed morning sitting, exercise in the parks and Dharma sharing, we were skillfully guided through temples and pagodas, old and new, receiving both formal and informal teachings from Chan Huy on the temples’ connection to our lineage and their role in our traditions. Through Chan Huy’s gentle humor, insight, and skillful translations, the thread of our lineage tracing back through the centuries became real, tangible, and a part of us.

Aware that our tradition embraces both the teachings of Master Lin Chi (“nowhere to go, nothing to do”) and the practice of engaged Buddhism, Trish facilitated visits to centers where amazing work of healing and transformation is underway. We laughed and danced with the young clients at DAVA (the Danang Association of Victims of Agent Orange). We savored a lunch of fresh mushrooms grown and picked that morning by women at Mushrooms with a Mission, a program that works with disabled survivors of land mine accidents, with female-headed households, and with ethnic groups in Quang Tri province. We rolled up our pant legs in solidarity with new friends at the Mine Action Visitor Center as part of the “Lend Your Leg” campaign. We were inspired by the hard and loving work of so many to bring a brighter and more peaceful future to this beautiful country that suffered foreign occupation, oppressive rule, and war for so long.

Along the way, we experienced the deep peace of Tu Hieu, the exhilaration of reaching the summit of Yen Tu, the joy of singing the Heart Sutra at Truc Lam Tri Duc pagoda, the awe of standing in temples dating back to the early centuries of the last millennium, and so much more; but most of all, we experienced the love and support of one another, forever the White Cloud Sangha.

Anne Woods, True Collective Spring, practices with Quiet Harbor Sangha in Rye, New York, and with the brothers and sisters at Blue Cliff Monastery. She is a yoga and martial arts instructor and especially enjoys teaching karate to the brothers and sisters at Blue Cliff. 

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