Unified Buddhist Church

Human Relations, Human Rights

I am more than Vietnamese. I am also a citizen of the world. We must be aware of the "interbeing" of all countries' happiness. Happiness is not an individual matter. The happiness of the United States is crucial for the happiness of others in the world. The happiness of the Vietnamese people is also the happiness of the American people. Human relations are very important. Economic growth is not the only way to be happy. Economic growth can cause the destruction of human values. If you think that investments in markets are more important, the Vietnamese people will not listen when you admonish them about human rights. I am also concerned about the ecosystem in Vietnam. International laws are necessary if we are to prevent Vietnam from being destroyed by greed and by the exploitation of human labor.

In 1968,1 met with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and spoke with him of our mutual destruction. I came as a friend and offered suggestions for lessening the suffering of the Vietnamese and the Americans. I come today not as a diplomat or a politician, or as a Buddhist alone. I come to encourage you to take the broadest possible view of international and all human affairs, so that a future will be possible for all of us.

Question: What in practical terms would advance communication that could contribute towards the release of political prisoners in Vietnam?

There are many avenues. Kwan Yin sometimes appears as a politician, sometimes as a beautiful woman, sometimes as a member of the State Department. Understanding between religions, ethnic groups, or any two parties is necessary to promote real understanding. Perhaps Western Buddhists could visit Buddhists in Vietnam. When we write protest letters, we should write them as "love letters." The State Department is made of non-State Department elements. Please speak to the Vietnamese officials, not as one government speaking to another, but as human being to human being. We have to speak to the Vietnam Buddhist Church about the nonthreatening aspects of the Unified Buddhist Church.

Question: Should human rights and democracy be conditions tied to economic relations?

We need a long-term commitment for the happiness of the U.S. and Vietnam. We have to ask the participation of nongovernmental organizations—humanitarian and cultural—not only for the success of diplomacy, but for the happiness of the American and the Vietnamese people.

Question: So the message is to proceed with sincerity, not as if human rights is a checklist from which to move on quickly to trade. We appreciate this kind of exchange of ideas to work together. Mutual happiness rather than national interest.

We wish you peace and happiness in your hearts so that many people can benefit.

Notes taken by Therese Fitzgerald from a "Dharma talk" given by Thich Nhat Hanh to a group of State Department officials in Washington, D. C. in October.

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Buddhist Prisoners in Vietnam

By Stephen Denney In the last issue of The Mindfulness Bell, we reported the trial of Venerable Thich Quang Do, age 68, and five other members of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBC) on August 15, 1995.

Ven. Quang Do, UBC Secretary General, was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Others sentenced were Ven. Thich Khong Tanh (five years), Ven. Thich Nhat Bang (four years), Ven. Thich Tri Luc (two and a half years), Nhat Thuong, a layman (three years), and Mrs. Dong Ngoc (two years, suspended sentence). They were charged with "undermining the policy of unity" between religion and state, which appears to be based on their efforts to carry out religious and social work in the name of the UBC. Ven. Thich Quang Do had also written an open letter to Vietnam's Communist Party Secretary General protesting the Party's legacy of religious and political repression. At the time they were tried, authorities indicated that UBC Executive Director Ven. Thich Huyen Quang (age 77) and Ven. Thich Tri Luc, head abbot of the famous Linh Mu Pagoda in Hue, will also be tried for their public dissent.

Ven. Thich Quang Do has been forcibly relocated to the north and his present whereabouts are unknown. Three of the other monks at the August 15 trial appealed their verdicts, but a higher court rejected the appeal on October 28. We had hoped that Ven. Thich Tue Sy and Ven. Thich Tri Sieu might be released on Vietnam's 50th National Day (the anniversary of the government established by Ho Chi Minh in 1945), but unfortunately this did not occur. The number of prisoners released that day was much lower than expected. On the other hand, government spokespersons indicated in October that Ven. Thich Huyen Quang would not be tried.

In a related development, Do Trung Hieu was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment in a trial held in November. Hieu was formerly Ho Chi Minh City's Communist Party liaison officer for religious affairs and was arrested in June 1995 for writing a document highly critical of the government's policy toward Buddhists.

The government's imprisonment of these leading UBC monks has elicited strong protests from human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch Asia, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus; as well as the United States and other governments. In August, the Community of Mindful Living sent 8,000 people a letter written by Sister Chan Khong urging that faxes be sent to Vietnam's Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet and Party leader Do Muoi protesting these latest developments. We also circulated letters to be faxed to Mr. Kiet and Mr. Muoi at Thay's lectures and retreats in the United States in September and October. We are grateful to those of you who responded to these appeals. If you would like to join in this effort, please ask the Community of Mindful Living to send you copies of the letters for you to sign and send. I recently came across this passage in a monograph written by Sister Chan Khong in 1969, entitled "Voices From the Burning House":

"In 1964 two young Buddhist monks, Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh and Ven. Thich Quang Do, worked to convince the Buddhist Church to lead the movement against the war and against the intervention of foreigners in Vietnam." 

Now, 31 years later, Ven. Thich Quang Do is serving a fiveyear sentence for protesting human rights abuses, his present whereabouts unknown. Is this not tragic? Let us continue to support him and other monks, nuns, and laypeople who have devoted their lives to peace and genuine reconciliation in Vietnam.

I would like to conclude with a note we received from Sister Chan Khong, commenting.on the government's announcement that Thich Huyen Quang will not be tried: "That is only one step back from the government's pattern of increasing  human rights violations. If the Vietnamese authorities did step back a bit, it is because we have advanced our work with tens of thousands of letters and with more pressure from international organizations. But if we are not alert and we are lazy, then they will advance their suppression. Thank you for your patience. Please continue. The process is slow but without bloodshed."

Stephen Denney is editor of Vietnam Journal and a longtime activist for human rights in Southeast Asia. To subscribe to Vietnam Journal ($8 per year), write P.O. Box 1163, Burlingame, CA 94011.

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Vietnam Update

By Stephen Denney Thank you for your concern about the people suffering in Vietnam and your desire to help. At the Community of Mindful Living we have organized a program of humanitarian aid to the poorest people of Vietnam and have also circulated many appeals on behalf of imprisoned monks and other prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.

With regard to the latter issue, we are pleased that there is more individual freedom in Vietnam than a few years ago, and that many prisoners of conscience have been released. People also have more freedom to participate in ordinary religious services than before. However, the Communist Party is still very afraid of losing power in Vietnam and for this reason punishes harshly those who openly challenge their political policies.

Among those detained are Venerables Thich Quang Do (age 69) and Thich Huyen Quang (age 77). They have been punished because of their leadership positions within the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, and open protests of the government's forced incorporation of the UBCV into a state-sponsored Buddhist Church. Ven. Quang Do was sentenced to five years in prison at a Jan. 1995 trial and is presently detained at B 14 prison in Hanoi. Ven. Thich Huyen Quang has been under house arrest for several years in central Vietnam (Quang Ngai province), is closely guarded and in poor health. Both monks are highly respected abroad and were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 by the Irish recipients from the previous year.

Several other Buddhist monks have been arrested for supporting the protests of Venerables Quang Do and Huyen Quang. Among these are the following monks who were sentenced in 1995: Thich Khong Tanh (five years), Thich Nhat Bang (four years), Nhat Thuong (three years) and Thich Tri Luc ( two and a half years). They were charged with "undermining the policy of unity," which appeared to be based on their efforts to carry out religious and social work in the name of the Unified Buddhist Church.

Other monks imprisoned include Thich Tue Sy and Thich Tri Sieu, both serving 20 years (sentenced in 1988) for their nonviolent opposition to government policies; and Thich Hai Thinh and Thich Hai Chanh, who were arrested during a police raid on the Linh Mu Pagoda in Hue. These two monks had previously been detained from 1993 to 1995 for their involvement in a demonstration. In addition there are a number of prisoners of conscience:

  • Nguyen Dinh Huy, age 64, arrested in November 1993 along with ten other members of his movement for a democratic society in Vietnam. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in August 1995. He and six colleagues remain detained. Amnesty International has adopted him as a prisoner of conscience. He is presently detained in Z30A prison camp of Xuan Loc, Dong Nai province.
  • Doan Viet Hoat, age 53, former professor of the Buddhist Van Hanh University in Saigon, was arrested and sentenced in 1990 to 20 years in prison (later reduced to 15 years) for leading a group of southern intellectuals who advocated a more democratic society in Vietnam. He is presently detained in the north under harsh conditions.
  • Nguyen Dan Que, a medical doctor from Saigon, was also arrested and sentenced in 1990 to 20 years in prison for advocating political democracy.
  • Phan Duc Kham, age 64, serving 12 years in prison for his involvement with the Freedom Forum group led by Doan Viet Hoat.

Our other human rights concerns in Vietnam include unfair political trials, increased use of the death penalty, and poor conditions in the prisons and re-education camps.

Stephen Denney is editor of Vietnam Journal and a longtime activist for human rights in Southeast Asia.

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From Sister Chan Khong

Editor's Note: In the following two letters, Sister Chan Khong shares some ideas about implementing Thay's vision of a unified Sangha and invites the input of the larger Sangha to help determine how this vision might be realized. Some of the advisory boards have already begun their work, but many other ideas-such as widespread use of the CML name and the establishment of a group tax exemption-have not been implemented, pending input from the Sangha and consideration of applicable law. We welcome input from the entire Sangha about these proposals. March 31, 1999

Dear Friends,

In his Dharma Talk, Thay sets forth his vision for an inclusive and unified community. In 1974, while the war raged in Vietnam and Thay and I were exiled and living in Paris, Thay wrote his book, Zen Keys. In this book, Thay asked the question, "Is Awakening Possible?" He answered it as follows:

The problem that faces us is the problem of awakening. What we lack is not an ideology or a doctrine that will save the world. What we lack is mindfulness of what we are, of what our situation really is. We need to wake up in order to rediscover our human sovereignty. We are riding a horse that is running out of control. The way of salvation is a new culture in which human beings are encouraged to rediscover their deepest nature.

The first phase of this civilization must be to establish social conditions in which life can be lived in a human way. "Awakened" people are certainly going to form small communities where their material life will be simple and healthy, and time and energy will be devoted to spiritual concerns. These communities of mindful living will be like Zen monasteries with no dogma. In them, the sickness of the times will be cured and spiritual health will be renewed. Great art and thought will be produced.

The day following Thay's Dharma Talk at Plum Village, a transcription of which is enclosed, the then-board of Community of Mindful Living, inspired by Thay's vision of community inclusiveness, voted to add four monastic members to the CML Board. Thereafter, all of the nine board members of CML voted to merge CML into the Unified Buddhist Church, creating one inclusive, unified organization for our community. There were some difficulties in the process of merging, but with efforts made by everyone the good decision was ftnally achieved. The vote was unanimous.

Innovations--Inspired by the successes and innovations of numerous members of our community in bringing mindfulness practice to our society and in response to many suggestions of the Sangha, the following organizational modifications to our community are being proposed. The overall goal is to create a mindful organization that is integrated, easily understood by its members, an organization that encourages and realizes broad-based participation and a feeling of welcome, that defines the different roles and functions in the organization, and that applies consistent procedures and standards throughout all levels of our community.

Plum Village Example--It has been proposed by the Sangha that we all apply the practices used in Plum Village to all parts of the community. For example, we may consider, as Thay explains in his talk, that seniority in the monastic community is not a matter of number of years, but in time spent in defined practice sessions, for monastics, the winter retreat. Thay suggests that seniority in the lay community be viewed in this light also. Another practice used in Plum Village, which has been suggested be used in the lay community, is the use of guidance and Sangha Eyes. This is an important part of the community life here in Plum Village, and all of the Sanghas can beneftt from this practice. There are many other practices and innovations developed here at Plum Village that we would like to encourage members of all parts of the community to explore and use.

Different Elements of the Community

Sanghas or Local CML Chapters. As early as 1974, in Zen Keys, Thay was using the name Community of Mindful Living to describe the future practice communities he envisioned. It has been suggested that all local Sanghas could add the name Community of Mindful Living (CML) to their existing names. As an example, the existing Lotus Bud Sangha of Sydney Australia could now be called the Community of Mindful Living-Lotus Bud Sangha. If all Sanghas use the name, Community of Mindful Living, we become a family sharing a common name. By using the same name, CML, all Sanghas could be easily identifted, and anyone searching in the phone book, on the Internet, or in a Dharma directory, could ftnd the local CML Sangha chapter easily.

The name Community of Mindful Living is now available for all of our Sanghas to use. Also, we are applying through the Unifted Buddhist Church for recognition of an IRS taxdeductible group exemption. Each CML Sangha may beneftt from being able to receive tax-deductible donations, making sales-tax-free purchases, etc., using UBC's tax exempt status.

It has been suggested that we encourage the creation of regional counsels of CML Sanghas so that we can have more participation and support each other. It is also suggested that a board of advisors be established to encourage and assist the growth of CML Sanghas. It is proposed that the initial board of advisors be: Therese Fitzgerald-USA, Anh Huong Nguyen-USA, Br. Phap An-Plum Village, Lyn Fine-USA, Chan Huy-Canada, and LeVan Khanh Chan Truyen-Australia.

Order of Interbeing. It has been suggested that the Order of Interbeing also have a board of advisors. The Order of Interbeing board of advisors, among other responsibilities, would deal with membership applications, review membership in good standing, and consider ways to nurture the growth of the Order of Interbeing. The Order of Interbeing board of advisors suggested for the first year is: Jack Lawlor-USA, Mitchell Ratner-USA, Larry Ward-USA, Terry Barber-USA, Sister Thoai Nghiem-Plum Village, Karl Riedl-Germany, Francoise Pottier-The Netherlands, Ha Vinh Tho-Switzerland, Elisabeth Ollagnier-France, and Chan Luong-Australia.

Dharma Teachers. It has been suggested that a board of advisors be established to assist Dharma teachers. This advisory board would support Dharma teachers in their quality of practice, Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, and practice retreats. The board of advisors suggested for the ftrst year is: Sister Annabel-(GMDC) USA, Chan Hoi-Canada, Thay Giac Thanh-(MFM) USA, and Karl Schmied-Germany.

Mindfulness Bell. Thay envisions this publication becoming a worldwide Buddhist magazine with all parts of the community, Dharma centers, monasteries, CML Sanghas, mindfulness practice centers, mindfulness training institutions, laypeople, and monastics all contributing their insight and understanding. It is envisioned as an edited collection of articles written by and about all the different parts of the community and the Dharma and being a catalyst to create great art and thought, as Thay discussed in Zen Keys.

This publication, now edited by Leslie Rawls, could become an even more vibrant aspect of our community, and all members are encouraged to write and their submitted work is welcome. The board of advisors for the ftrst year is suggested to be: Richard Brady-USA, Jerry Braza-USA, Helga Riedl-Germany, Sister Jina-Plum Village, Ann Johnston-USA, Hoang Khoi-Australia, Mai Chan My-United Kingdom, and Eveline Beumkes-Holland.

Parallax Press. Headed by Arnie Kotler, Parallax Press will now have all our book publishing operations, both national and international, under its direction. It will also be expanded to include not only publishing but also all marketing of the intellectual property rights to Thay's works recently transferred to the ownership of the UBC. We envision this Press as a strong, growing institution of our community. Its board of advisors, suggested for the fIrst year, is: Michael Rosenbush-France, Sister Huong Nghiem-GMDC, Sister Thuc Nghiem-GMDC, and Nguyen Ba Thu Chan Tri-USA.

Central Communication System. Using the existing CML webpage and a new 1-800 number, we would like to establish a comprehensive directory system for all CML Sanghas, Green Mountain Dharma Center, Mindfulness Practice Centers, the UnifIed Buddhist Church, Parallax Press, Plum Village, Maple Forest Monastery, Maple Village, The Mindfulness Bell, etc.

Future Years

The members of these advisory boards are unpaid volunteers. Of course, the paid staff employees of the various parts of the community, such as Parallax Press, The Mindfulness Bell, and the Order of Interbeing will have significant input into the decision-making process.

The above advisory board members are to be nominated for the fIrst year only. After the fIrst year, the community itself will decide whom to have on its boards of advisors. The entire community will be consulted by using the combination of democracy and seniorship outlined by Thay.

These proposed organizational innovations are inspired by Thay's recent Dharma Talk and will bring in many new voices to the decision-making processes of our community. All of us, as individual drops of water, are joining together as one river flowing to the sea.

Yours in the Dharma, Sister Chan Khong


Plum Village, the 250th day before the year 2000. April26, 1999

Dear friends,

Thay is very happy that the invitation of more participants and input contained in my letter of April 4, 1999 to all of you has borne fruit. We welcome and are grateful for your suggestions made over the past few weeks. The receipt of these contributions has encouraged us improve even more energetically on the path of broad based community decision making.

Thay is a generous teacher who has offered his guidance on how our community should be organized so that everyone may feel included and that his or her contribution is valued. Thay always listens to his Sangha. Together, we can carefully consider matters and our collective insight will bring forth well being of the entire Sangha.

We have proposed thirty members to be advisors. Initially. these advisors were chosen to give the broadest representation geographically from many continents and countries. speaking many languages and including laymen, laywomen, nuns, and monks. We are looking forward to expanding this core group over the next twelve months as the community determines. We wish that the various boards of advisors for The Mindfulness Bell, the Order Of Interbeing, Parallax Press, and CML will soon start to make plans to meet and discuss how to give more inspiration and encouragement to each part of the Sangha Body.Please do not wait, go ahead as a Sangha to discuss and to give new fresh air to that part of the Sangha where we suggested you put your energy. Even if your name is not on the board of advisors of that branch of the Sangha body, just contact those on the board and give your insight. We are listening carefully to the advice of our Sangha members who are attorneys about tax exemption at the local level, and will consider with you again before acting. Thank you.

We are pleased to inform you that as I write this letter, the board of advisors for Parallax Press has traveled to and has already spent many days in Berkeley, to work with Arnie and the staff of Parallax Press. Thay is very happy that so many members of the community are now contributing and that his students feel encouraged to contribute even more. With the maturity of practice and spiritual growth of so many of his lay students, Thay has decided that soon he will transmit the Lamp to many new lay Dharma teachers.

We need your input and help to make a True Sangha Body. We write to you with love and trust in the deep insights of the stream of our spiritual teachers existing in each of you and we wait to hear from you.

We believe strongly that this merger of two arms of Thay in the United States of America (UBC and CML) and the enlarging of the Sangha Body is the will of our spiritual ancestors but not from Thay only.When conditions are sufficient, where the merits of those who have received and who will receive this teaching are sufficient, deep energies push and things should be realized have been realized without premeditating. It comes out finally and helps everyone go in the direction of beauty.

Please continue to share your wisdom with us.

A wonderful green spring to you, a renewed fresh Sangha member,

Chan Khong True Emptiness Bare Feet

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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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International Mindfulness Network

A Message from Thich Nhat HanhNovember 2 , 1999 Plum Village, France

Sharing a Practice

Twelve years ago, at a retreat in Montreal, a lady told me after the first session of walking meditation practice, "Thay, it is wonderful to walk this way. I have never felt relaxed and happy like this before when I walked. Would you allow me to share this practice of mindful walking with my friends at home?" I looked at her and smiled: "Why not?" It is wonderful to share your practice with others, when the practice brings you joy and well-being. We should be able to share the Dharma, and by doing so, we build a Sangha, a community of practice. When we have a Sangha, we have a refuge, and many others will also profit from that Sangha. Sharing the practice can be a great joy. It helps other people. And it helps us. Naturally we want to learn more, and to practice more in order to be able to share more.

The Meaning of "Lamp Transmission"

The Dharma can be transmitted continuously in each moment of the day. By practicing, the teachers and the sisters and brothers in the Dharma are already transmitting the Dharma every minute of their life. Very often the Dharma is transmitted without verbal expressions. We do not need an "authorization" to share the Dharma. The "Lamp Transmission" Ceremony performed in Plum Village is not an authorization to teach the Dharma; it is only an encouragement, a support, and an empowerment.

Sangha-Building

If you have joined in one or more retreats of mindfulness practice, you may like to organize and lead a Day of Mindfulness or a small retreat by yourselves or with other experienced practitioners in order to share the Dharma, and to practice with others. And you may like to receive further training or attend other retreats of mindfulness to learn more, to improve the quality of your practice and your skills in organizing and leading a retreat.

Organizing a retreat and practicing with others is a wonderful way to build a Sangha. Sangha-building is the noblest thing for us to do. Everyone needs a Sangha to continue and get support for his/her practice. Without a Sangha, one can abandon one's practice after a few months of practicing alone. The Sangha is like a boat carrying us and preventing us from sinking into the river of suffering, because the Sangha contains also the Buddha and the Dharma.

The Five Mindfulness Trainings are also powerful tools for Sangha-building. The Five Trainings are the most concrete expression of the practice. They are the basis for individual and collective transformation and healing. Everyone in the Sangha should be encouraged to receive the Five Trainings and bring them into his or her daily life. On Days of Mindfulness and in mindfulness retreats, it is beneficial to recite the Five Trainings and to organize Dharma discussion to deepen our understanding of the Trainings and to help us know how to apply them better.

True practice can bring a lot of relief and joy and nourishment. Suppose your Sangha has fifteen members and you would like to call it by a name, like Lotus Seeds Sangha. You may like to use a letterhead with the following: Lotus Seeds Sangha A Community of Mindful Living Address Phone Number/Fax/Email

Communities of Mindful Living Network 

There will soon be thousands of Communities of Mindful Living like yours in many countries, and people who live in your area may find you and join your Sangha through the Internet or through The Mindfulness Bell magazine. What characterizes a Community of Mindful Living or a Mindfulness Practice Center is the practice of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. We cannot call our community a Community of Mindful Living or a Mindfulness Practice Center if we do not live according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

The Mindfulness Bell magazine will continue to be a great support for Sangha-building, sharing information about the practice and the worldwide Sangha.

From time to time you may like to co-organize a larger retreat with other Communities of Mindful Living in your region. You may like to invite a Dharma Teacher through the Communities of Mindful Living Network, because there is now a Coordinating Council of the Communities of Mindful Living. The Council has an office in Albany, California, and you can contact the office in order to seek help with planning, materials, training, information, teachers, and other matters.

We have opened a new Dharma door called a Mindfulness Practice Center to introduce the practice to as many people as possible in a nonsectarian manner. You may want to contact the Mindfulness Practice Center Association and explore initiating a Mindfulness Practice Center in your city, institution, or workplace.

The Order of Interbeing

If you are an ordained member of the Order of Interbeing, your task is to build a Sangha and support the practice of the Sangha. Your Sangha can be called a Community of Mindful Living. Those of us who have formally received the Fourteen Trainings are members of the Core Community of the Order of Interbeing, and all others are members of the extended community of the Order. You may like to invite everyone in your Sangha to come and participate in the recitation ceremony of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. Members of the Core Community of the Order of Interbeing are expected to keep sixty days of mindfulness a year, be active in Sangha-building and organizing Days of Mindfulness and mindfulness retreats.

There will soon be a Council of the Order of Interbeing forming in each country or region. We may get in touch with this Council to get the support we need. The dates for Days of Mindfulness and retreats can be set up one year in advance, and practitioners can have access to this information through the Internet or The Mindfulness Bell magazine.

The Institute of Mindfulness Training located at Green Mountain Dharma Center in Vermont is a place where we can receive more intensive training in the practice of mindfulness. The Head of the Institute is Sister Annabel Laity, Abbess of the Green Mountain Dharma Center.

Parallax Press

Parallax Press will continue to be the primary publisher and distributor of Thay's books and of other books on socially engaged Buddhism. My hope is that Parallax Press will lead the way in showing others how our practice and our work lives can be integrated, that Parallax Press will succeed in being both financially viable and a center of practice.

The Unified Buddhist Church

The Unified Buddhist Church (UBC) was founded by Thay in 1971 to serve as the legal and financial entity behind Dharma projects such as the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation (1971-76), Sweet Potatoes Community (1976-82), the boat people rescue project (1976-1989), Plum Village (1982-Present), and the organization of retreats in Europe, Asia, and Australia (1983-Present). In 1998, the UBC was incorporated as a church in the United States to provide a focus for the expanding network of Dharma projects, such as the Green Mountain Dharma Center, Parallax Press, and the Communities of Mindful Living. The UBC is guided by a Board of Directors that include Thay, monastics, and a lay Dharmacarya.


The following names and addresses may be useful:

Unified Buddhist Church Board The Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh (Plum Village) Sister Chan Khong (Plum Village, New Hamlet) Brother Phap An (Plum Village, Upper Hamlet) Sister Thoai Nghiem (Plum Village, Lower Hamlet) Sr. Chan Due, Annabel Laity (Green Mountain Dharma Center) Sr. Thuc Nghiem, Susan (Green Mountain Dharma Center) Dharmacarya Anh-Huong Nguyen (MPC of Fairfax, Virginia)

Plum Village—New Hamlet Martineau 13, 33580 Dieulivol, France Tel:(33)5 5661 8418 or (33)5 5661 6688 Fax:(33)5 5661 6151

Plum Village—Lower Hamlet Meyrac, 47120 Loubes Bernac, France

Plum Village-Upper Hamlet Lepey, 24240 Thenac, France

Green Mountain Dharma Center and Maple Forest Monastery P.O. Box 182 Hartland-Four Corners, Vermont 05049, USA Tel:(802)436-1103; Fax:(802)436-1101

Coordinating Council of the Communities of Mindful Living (For information about local Sanghas, The Mindfulness Bell, the Order of Interbeing, and Mindfulness Practice Centers) P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707, USA Tel:(510) 527-3710; Fax:(510)525-7129

Parallax Press P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707, USA Tel:(800)863-5290 (Book orders); (510)525-0101 (Other calls) Fax:(510)525-7129; email:parapress@aol.com

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Announcements

Passages Married: John Balaam, True Original Mountain, and Charito Sanchez were married in Waipio Valley, Hawai'i on January 1,2000.

Ordained: A warm welcome to new Order members, Virginia Bollero, Sheila Klein, Judy Weaver, Karen Zampalia, Chau Yoder, Peter Hawkins, and Bethany Freshnock.

One Hundredth Monastic: During the Winter Retreat in Plum Village, sixteen new monastics were ordained—the sixteen "cherry trees." Newly-ordained Sister Man Nghiem is the youngest nun in Plum Village. She was also the one-hundredth monastic ordained in Plum Village.

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New Website Address

The Community of Mindful Living website has a new address: www.iamhome.org. The Parallax Press website address remains www.parallax.org. Please come visit.

Southern California Practice Center An Update from Sister Chan Khong

Thank you for contributing generously during the past year to our Southern California Center. On May 2nd, 2000, San Diego County auctioned the 436 acres in Escondido that we had hoped to obtain. Senior monastic Dharma Teacher Thich Giac Thanh and Order of Interbeing members Larry Ward and Pritam Singh attended the May 2 auction. But we were not the highest bidder. A neighbor won the auction with a bid of $4 million. After the neighbor won the bid, we began conversations with him and found him to be a very spiritual man. We discussed the UBC buying the property from him. After these discussions, he said that among the three competitors that morning, he felt that we are the kindest. He told our real estate friends, "The Buddhist are good people who deserve to live on the Deer Park Property." So, we hope to buy the property after all.

We chose this property in part because it has 17 lots that could be available for friends to build homes. These lots range in size from 1.5 acres to 4.5 acres, and could be purchased for $120,000 to $ 189,000. Buying a lot at Deer Park to build your home will help pay for the monastery property.

Deer Park is about ten minutes from the intersection of Highway 78 and Highway 15. It is 40 minutes from San Diego and an hour and 40 minutes from Los Angeles. Surrounded by a National Park and beautiful mountains, the land is much like Thay's Fragrant Palm Leaves Monastery in the highlands of Vietnam. Deer and many other wild animals live here.

Entering the property, you first drive past the lots reserved for friends' homes. Two miles beyond, an oak forest offers shade. The oak grove also has seven bungalows with three rooms each, which we could use for a monastery. A large garage could be transformed into a meditation hall with a room for Thay. These buildings could also house the many monastics who will join Thay for the United States retreats this fall.

From the oak grove, the road leads to a eucalyptus grove, higher in the mountains. Here, there are five houses, each with approximately 700 square feet, and five larger buildings in poor condition. We do not need to repair all the buildings, but for $10,000, we can get one in good condition for the nuns to use. For Thay's retreats to California, we will hire a large campus, such as the University of California at Santa Barbara or San Diego. But Thay could also offer Days of Mindfulness at Deer Park, like those offered at Spirit Rock.

mb26-Announcements2THE GOOD NEWS! On May 17, the neighbor agreed to sell the Deer Park property to us! But $4 million plus is a lot of money. We have $227,000 in donations now, and can borrow $600,000 from the part of Thay's royalties reserved to build Maple Forest Monastery in Vermont. Also, 1,007 friends have pledged monthly donations totaling $10,700. And San Diego County agreed to loan us $3.2 million at 9% interest. We are grateful that we may be able to borrow this money, but are afraid of being indebted at such a high interest rate. We appreciate your support through donations of funds, stock gifts, and monthly pledges. And we would also like to invite friends who are financially able, to please consider supporting the new Dharma Center by loaning us money at a very low rate. We have 90 days to decide whether to purchase the Deer Park Property, but we need your support.

Please send a check or credit card pledge or stock gifts to Unified Buddhist Church, Attn: Sisters Chan Thuc Nghiem and Chan Thang Nghiem, Green Mountain Dharma Center, P.O. Box 182, Hartland-Four Corners, VT 05049; Tel: (802) 436-1103; Fax: (802) 436-1101 ;or Email: mfmaster@vermontel.net. You  may also contact Sister Chan Khong by Email at chankhong@plumvillage.org or Fax: 011 (33) 556 61 6151. Please leave your phone number and the best time she can reach you. Thank you.

Veterans Scholarship Fund 

Since 1991 Thay and our community have welcomed veterans of war to our retreats. Our Veterans Sangha has continued to grow and flower each year. The need for financial support also has grown! We have instituted a Veterans Scholarship Fund and offer to you the opportunity to support us. Last year several local Sanghas sponsored veterans to attend Thay's retreats in the U.S. This year we hope more local Sanghas will do this, and also that individual Sangha members will consider sponsoring a veteran to attend the Ascutney and San Diego retreats with Thay. If we raise enough money, we will be able also to help veterans attend retreats offered by our local and regional Sanghas. Please make checks payable to Unified Buddhist Church with a clear notation that this is for the Veterans Scholarship Fund, and mail them to Brother Ivar (Phap Tri), Maple Forest Monastery, P.O. Box 354, South Woodstock, VT 05071. Also, you may address questions and suggestions to Roberta Wall, 338 4th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215; Tel: (718) 965-1992; Email: robertawall@hotmail.com.

Prison Project Update

In June 1999, Michael Trigilio, True Birth of Peace, became the new Prison Project Coordinator at Community of Mindful Living (CML). The Prison Project responds to dozens of letters each week from inmates around the United States by sending books, correspondence, and loving kindness to these practitioners behind bars.

The Project has worked closely with Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), Green Mountain Dharma Center, and the Human Kindness Foundation to help coordinate our mutual efforts to support and encourage our co-practitioners in prison. CML's Prison Project and BPF worked to develop strategies to defeat California's Proposition 21, which, having passed, allows the state to incarcerate children as young as fourteen in adult prisons. On Tuesday, March 13, 2000, the Prison Project participated in a midnight silent sitting vigil outside San Quentin Prison, bearing witness to the execution of Daniel "Young Elk" Rich. We were also involved in editing and distributing Thay's new booklet, Be Free Where You Are, based on his talk in a Maryland prison. (See page 20.) If your Sangha would like to help distribute copies of the booklet to prisoners from whom we have received requests, or if you need copies for prisoners with whom your Sangha is already practicing, please contact Michael at the address shown below.

The Prison Project is one of the strongest programs of social engagement currently facilitated by CML. We are glad to be working with Sanghas around North America to develop creative and localized strategies that help cultivate and nourish prisoner Sanghas, and our own. One Prison Project volunteer offered these inspiring and heartwarming words: "It's been a wonderful experience writing to prisoners. I've found a compassionate part of myself that I never knew existed and I'm very grateful to have the privilege of corresponding with them." We are aware of Sanghas working with prisoners in Oregon, New York, Idaho, and elsewhere. We look forward to hearing from all Sanghas interested in this important work —in the United States and around the world, in prison or out—so we can share and support each other. Please write Michael at the Community of Mindful Living, P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707, USA or Email: Prisonproject@iamhome.org.

Parallax Press and Community of Mindful Living Update 

In October 1999, the staff of Parallax Press and Community of Mindful Living were invited, along with a few other friends, to spend four days in Plum Village with Thay. At that time, in preparation for Arnie Kotler and Therese Fitzgerald's move to Hawai'i, a new management committee for Parallax and CML was established. The committee is composed of Thay Phap An, Sister Chan Khong, and Order of Interbeing member Larry Ward. We listened deeply to each other, offered insights, and explored how the work of Parallax and CML could continue in a beneficial way for the entire Sangha.

Since October, the staff of Parallax and CML have continued to deepen their practice as a mindful workplace through sharing Days of Mindfulness, Beginning Anew, and listening deeply to each other. Together, we have worked on the booklet for prisoners, Be Free Where You Are. The April 2000 publication of the booklet has met with enormously positive response from inmates and Sanghas working with inmates. We are grateful to the Human Kindness Foundation for helping inmates learn about the booklet. We are pleased to announce that The Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book and Path of Emancipation will be available during the Summer 2000. Thay's United States tour organizing is also well underway. We are responding to many inquiries to register through CML's new website, www.iamhome.org.

CML continues to support Sanghas and Order of Interbeing members in a variety of ways, including the publication of The Mindfulness Bell Together with Green Mountain Dharma Center, we continue to support the Prison Project and to develop other mindfulness-in-society projects. Through the Sangha survey, we have invited the larger Sangha to participate in our ongoing developments and to help clarify the emerging framework for the Dharma service of Parallax and CML.

Note: Please be touch with Melanie Phoenix at CML to receive or respond to a Sangha survey; CML, P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707; Tel: (510)527-3751; Fax: (510)525-7129; Email: melanie@iamhome.org.

UBC's Support of the New Center in Hawaii and Thay's Teaching on Sangha Building and Dharma Work 

After many trips to Hawai'i over the last two years, Arnie Kotler and Therese Fitzgerald left their California home in December 1999 to set up a Retreat Center on the big island of Hawai'i.

Prior to their departure, Arnie and Therese requested from the board of the Unified Buddhist Church $500,000. The board advised them that such a request could only be considered if they accept to enlarge the board of Dharma Friends in Hawai'i, so it will consist of local members practicing and living together in the spirit of harmony and awareness. This will allow the unfolding of a true Sangha. Since Arnie and Therese left for Hawai'i, the UBC board has approved to continue the equivalent of their full-time salary when they worked for CML/Parallax, so they could put all of their efforts into building this new Hawai'i center in its beginning stage. Recently in a letter to an Order of Interbeing member, Thay explained the concept of Sangha building and Dharma work:

"... Many of us take pleasure in doing dharma work and we get satisfaction when the work is done, but not many of us know how to conduct work as a practice. Interacting and interbeing with the Sangha is a wonderful opportunity to practice the dharma. We can learn how to listen and to release our views and help build more understanding, harmony, and love in the process of working and practicing together. The most wonderful outcome of the work is our own transformation and the transformation of our dharma brothers and sisters, and not fame, profit, power, or position.

Thay has invested himself into the work of Sangha building. Sangha building first of all means to be in the Sangha and to live with the Sangha. Sangha here is first of all the people we live with 24-hours a day. If the harmony and the happiness do not exist in that circle then things you do cannot really be called Dharma work. I know that if the Plum Village Sangha is not happy and harmonious, we cannot serve as the roots for any activities and aspirations outside plum Village like Parallax, Order of Interbeing, CML, etc. You would not be happy working in the community unless you accept and trust the Sangha of Plum Village. The more you trust and accept the Sangha, the greater will be your joy and your energy. All of us here in the three hamlets of Plum Village, Maple Forest Monastery, and Tu Hieu Temple feel very much the same.

Love and trust help us in our practice and transformation. Without them, twenty years of Dharma work would not bring about anything. If we do not trust, love, and accept each other while working with each other, how could we describe our work as Dharma work? Suffering comes from the lack of trust and acceptance, made concrete by the practice of taking refuge in the Sangha. If you do not trust the Sangha, you cannot profit from the Sangha eyes and the Sangha energy. If you do not trust your teacher, he can no longer help you. If you do not trust the practice and apply it to your daily work, then you cannot say that you are taking refuge in the Dharma. The Dharma is real; it is to come and see directly. The Sangha is not something you can set up by means of correspondence (Email, letters, magazines, telephone calls, etc.) or even ordinations.

Please reflect on these things and you will understand everything."

On May 4, 2000, Thay and the Sangha of Plum Village sent a letter to Arnie and Therese, inviting them to come and live with the Plum Village Sangha in order to deepen their training in the practice.

Notes from the Community: MPC of Fairfax, Virginia 

Anh-Huong and Thu Nguyen have been working for the Mindfulness Practice Center of Fairfax (MPCF) since its creation a year and a half ago. Nearly 400 people from different corners of the Washington metropolitan area have come to the MPCF for daily and weekly sessions, monthly days of mindfulness, as well as evening classes. The monthly day of mindfulness has become a regular day of practice and rest for many people. The deep relaxation program for children has been helping many children to become calm, a challenge for many parents in a fast-pace society.

Still Water Sangha-Santa Barbara by Larry Ward

The Full Blossom Sangha grew out of a 1997 retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh. For two years, a small group of dedicated practitioners met to sit, walk, and share the practice. Thay's 1999 retreat brought phenomenal growth to this Sangha, along with a new name, location, and leadership.

The blossom became Still Water. The Sangha meets every Sunday evening at Trinity Episcopal Chruch, 1500 State Stree in Santa Barbara. Still Water Sangha serves as a root home to train leaders who come from neighboring communities of Santa Ynez, Ojai, and Ventura.

We schedule Days of Mindfulness bimonthly, and have had three memorable days in community and in nature with our community. This July, we will have our first retreat, with Minh Tranh coming from Montreal. Our community delights in singing, and the simplicity and sweetness that flow from Thay's teachings.

Our Sangha has begun the process of visioning and searching for facilities to establish a Mindfulness Practice Center to extend the Dharma to the many communities and organizations of South Coast California.

Larry Ward, True Great Voice, is a member of the Management Committee of Parallax Press and Community of Mindful Living.

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Sangha News

Unified Buddhist Church Named a Charter Partner in “Sit for Change” The Unified Buddhist Church, the fourfold Sangha that practices throughout the world with guidance from Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, has been named along with Amnesty International, the Sierra Club, Save the Children, and a small number of other charitable groups as a Charter Partner in the newly created Sit for Change movement. Each year, the Sit for Change effort will encourage meditation practitioners around the world to enjoy ten days of meditation, commencing on December 21 and culminating on New Year’s Eve. The handful of Charter Partners, including the Unified Buddhist Church, will receive the donations made by sponsoring meditation participants during the ten-day period, as well as the donations made directly to Sit for Change.

In troubling times people often ask, “What can I do?” What is sometimes missing in ensuing discussions about the need for political restructuring and social justice is how each world religion might also draw upon its contemplative practices to provide equanimity and insight. Participation in the Sit for Change effort is one way to encourage people to draw upon the contemplative resources that are part of our shared human heritage.

The New Year’s Eve meditation at Plum Village was dedicated to this worldwide effort, as was a December 31, 2005 meditation at Sanghas practicing in Thay’s tradition throughout the world. There can be little doubt that participation in programs like Sit for Change (www.sitforchange.org) will enhance communication among worldwide contemplative traditions in very real ways.

Jack Lawlor, True Direction

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Walking the Talk

Peaceful Relations at the Parliament of the World’s Religions By Clare Sartori

mb54-Walking1At the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions (PWR) in Chicago, I first heard Thich Nhat Hanh ask, “What is our capacity to enjoy peace?” Seventeen years later, I continue to ask the question of myself, my clients, and my students.

The PWR gathers people practicing in various spiritual traditions around the world in order to deepen mutual understanding. The gatherings are informational and inspirational. And while “talk” is the base root of the word parliament, participants make consistent and conscientious efforts to fi ways to “walk the talk.” Many seek to act upon the life-affirming goals and teachings received throughout the week.

Taking part in the parliaments with my husband, Art, has been a great learning and sharing experience. Since I heard Thay’s question in 1993, I have attended the three subsequent PWRs: in Cape Town, Barcelona and most recently, Melbourne. The December 2009 Melbourne Parliament included an exhibit entitled “Sacred Sites, Sacred Solidarity.” The display featured posters of sanctuaries, shrines, holy cities, and sacred mountains in many faith traditions. Each site was or is threatened by environmental or political attacks.

The Engaged Buddhism poster featured Bat Nha monastery and included a summary of recent events. Standing at the exhibit, I collected over 200 signatures to send to U.S. White House officials, the European Parliament, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the Consul General in Hanoi. The signatures represented over nineteen faiths and fourteen countries. A Vietnamese man living in Australia thanked me profusely and photographed me with the Bat Nha poster for a journal article for Vietnamese Catholics in Australia. The Mindfulness Practice Communities of Australia collaborated to produce a pamphlet on the Bat Nha monastics that circulated through the week. The pamphlet included Plum Village contact information and the helpbatnha. org website.

Wearing my Tiep Hien Order brown jacket during the Parliament was an honor and a responsibility. I was careful to walk mindfully throughout the day. A few other Order members were present and it was gratifying to connect. I also felt supported by the presence of Buddhist practitioners and people from other spiritual traditions.

An Obama administration representative came to hear what people of various faiths felt were the most pressing issues. He said he’s a Buddhist who gained a lot from Thich Nhat Hanh. He was well informed about Bat Nha and discouraged by the response from the Vietnamese government. He claimed the government had been trying to cast the situation in terms of inter-Buddhist rivalries, but that was clearly a false perception.

mb54-Walking2After one talk, I met a Buddhist nun, the Reverend Guo Cheen, who was eager to discuss Bat Nha. She became instrumental in organizing a discussion of possible actions to support the peaceful monks and nuns being harassed. Reverend Cheen facilitated the session and follow-up actions by posting the Bat Nha petition and Thay’s koan on websites for The Compassionate Action Network and Peace Next.

The Bat Nha discussion followed a recorded talk by Thay, addressed to parliamentarians and those planning to attend the Copenhagen Climate Change summit. We were delighted when Brother Phap Kham joined the group. We were also joined by a young Buddhist monk from another tradition who lived in Vietnam and had been harassed by the religious police. Brother Phap Kham began our meeting with singing, then offered the latest news. He said that the monastics would appreciate our expressions of spiritual solidarity and prayers. The next morning, a gentleman from our group, Hal, created a YouTube video (http://www.vimeo. com/8115448) that the monastics could see in Vietnam. The video includes individual expressions of spiritual support for the monastics, beautiful images, and loving verses of hope and comfort. When Hal asked some Vietnamese if they would like to be in the video, they looked quite fearful. They explained they didn’t want to risk losing their visas to return to Vietnam.

Every day outside the Parliament, a group of people stood with signs saying their brand of truth was the only truth. The first day I passed them, my shoulders rose in an involuntary defensive stance. I became aware of my breath, smiled, then dropped my shoulders. I frequently practiced metta along my walks. The last day, I walked over to the people holding the banner and spoke with them. We were able to find some common ground and maintain mutual respect. My heart had truly widened; I felt much compassion for them and gratitude to Thay and for the circumstances that brought me to this practice.

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The title “Unified Buddhist Church” is so much more meaningful to me following my experience in Melbourne. Interfacing with people of various traditions is an example of how we can practice interbeing, learning from others as we allow the Dharma to flower within our presence. Like many practitioners, I remain connected to my root tradition. I attend a weekly gathering at a church in our home community in Rhode Island. The gathering includes ministers and lay people from various Christian faiths, all engaged in social justice issues. They have welcomed learning about Buddhist practices such a non-dualistic thinking, nonattachment to views, awareness of suffering, mindful speech and deep listening. Because the monastics of Bat Nha are not permitted to practice together in Vietnam, they are present within me as I practice and I believe they smile as I forge harmonious relationships with people who have different views.

mb54-Walking4Clare Sartori, True Mountain of Peace, practices with Clear Heart Sangha in Wakefield, Rhode Island. She is a psychotherapist and has been involved in interfaith activities for over 20 years.

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