#18 Winter 1997

Sangha Profile

Maple Village, Brossard, Canada
Contact: Chan Huy
9089 Richmond
Montreal, PQ J4X 2S 1, Canada
Tel: (514) 591-8726 Fax: (514)466-8958
Email: chanhuy@prisco.net

In 1984, Toan and Quyen Do enjoyed their experience at Plum Village so much that they invited about ten of us to organize a retreat in Montreal with Thay. At the time, what happens in a retreat was a mystery to almost all of us, but we enthusiastically organized it under Thay's guidance. In September 1985, we had our first retreat with Thay at Camp Les Sommets, a simple weekend resort. That was all it took for the Maple Village Sangha to take form and begin its marvelous journey. Our small group spent many weekends searching for a good location. We gathered to make cushions for sitting meditation, prepare meal menus, and enjoy being together. We looked after almost everything; but none of us knew that we also needed a bell in a retreat! We ended up using a cassette tape and a speaker for the mindfulness bell. Thay called it our "electronic bell master."

In 1986, we organized our second retreat with Thay at the Entrelac Scout Camp. This time we were better equipped, with big and small bells. The highlight of this retreat was the ordination of our first six Tiep Hien brothers and sisters. As Thay was sitting in his room searching for a Dharma name for our eldest brother, an oriental cactus plant which we brought along began to bloom. That night, instead of sitting meditation, we enjoyed two hours with Thay in a tea ceremony celebrating the Quynh flower, which blooms and withers within three hours. Thay gave our brother the Dharma names Tam Khai (Opening of the Heart)-Chan Hoi (True Understanding).

For five years, Thay came to teach us. Maple Village was not only blessed by his and Sister Chan Khong's loving care, but also by contributions and support from friends in Canada, the U.S., and other countries. Five years after our first meeting, Maple Village made a home on a hilly wild land of 100 acres with a lake. A road was built and a simple building was constructed with electricity and water. The building, large enough to host 100 people, has a meditation, dining, and activity hall, and a dormitory.

In 1996, 11 years after our first retreat, we are still together on our mindful and joyful journey. Hundreds of people have joined us, and we cannot count the numbers of people who have taken the Five Mindfulness Trainings at Maple Village. Forty brothers and sisters belong to the Order of Interbeing, ten are Dharma teachers, and one sister has become a nun and now practices at Plum Village. Many have brought the practice back to their homes and built strong Sanghas in Boston, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, and Quebec City. Every year, many come back to participate in our spring and fall retreats with Sister Annabel and other Dharma teachers, or in a summer Day of Mindfulness.

In Montreal, the present Sangha consists of 15 families. Meditations are held Sunday morning and night, and Wednesday and Friday nights. At Maple Village, we are all volunteers and work part-time for the Maple Village Society. We often speak three languages (French, English, and Vietnamese) at our retreats . We keep participation fees for activities as low as possible. Our core community includes many non-Order members, who are sometimes even more dedicated than the ordained ones.

For many of us, Maple Village has become a second family . Slowly, we have discovered that we have more sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and friends than we previously perceived. A phone call from a caring elder sister, a small gift from a younger brother, advice from a concerned uncle, and a helping hand from a considerate friend are some of the most precious gifts we receive. Suddenly, for some of us who live alone, we are not truly alone anymore. This family link between us has developed through doing things with mindfulness, lovingkindness, and compassion. Together we practice sitting meditation, and together we clear bushes for a walking meditation path. Together we repair damages of a spring flood in the Village building, and together we sing "Breathing In, Breathing Out" for people in a prison. Together we celebrate the birth of a new baby, and together we mourn the death of a beloved brother.

We also have problems and improvements to make in this second family. We know that living together is an art to learn with the practice of mindfulness; but we know that we are trying our best. Come visit us and be part of our family. On this continuing mindful journey, many have joined us and discovered a familiar and comforting link, a Famille Sans Frontieres.

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Untitled Letter

Dear Friends,

Over the years, the number of Sanghas all over the world has grown steadily, and requests for retreats addressed to Dharmacharyas at Plum Village have increased accordingly. We are happy that the practice is bringing so much joy into people's lives and we always try our best to respond to all the requests we receive. We have traveled to many places and have had the pleasure of meeting and sharing the practice with many of you. Our brothers and sisters at home have always given us their full support, although at times they may have liked to have us with them a little more often, so they too can benefit from our experience in the practice and we can benefit from their freshness and beginners' minds. To our delight, Thay has recently transmitted the Lamp to more brothers and sisters in Plum Village. Now we will be able:to respond to all the requests for retreats as well as the wish of our Plum Village Sangha for Dharmacharyas to be able to spend more time here.

In order for this to be possible, we would appreciate it if you could address future requests for retreats to the newly installed Abbess (Sister Trung Chinh New Hamlet) or Abbot (Thay Nguyen Hai in the Upper Hamlet). We can then look at all requests and decide which Dharmacharya is eligible and most suitable to go and share the practice, taking the needs of both the requesting Sangha and the Plum Village Sangha into account. In this way, the worldwide Sangha can benefit more from the practice at Plum Village, as every Dharmacharya has his or her own experience and way of sharing that experience with others. At the same time, the Plum Village Sangha can remain an integral Sangha, firmly planted in the practice, nourishing the larger Sangha.

According to the tradition, two Dharmacharyas will travel and lead retreats together, or a Dharmacharya may be accompanied and assisted by a younger brother or sister. If the requesting Sangha is not able to cover travel expenses for more than one person, Plum Village will look into the matter and try to meet some of the expenses. When a Sangha requests a certain Dharmacharya, we will take that into account. Because we wish to share all Dharmacharyas with everyone equally, we ask for your understanding in case another Dharmacharya is appointed for you to enjoy the practice with. Although we are of slightly different tastes, we all stem from the same tree. Thay has transmitted the Lamp to many Dharmacharyas in Asia, Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Australia. These teachers have our full support and we are grateful for their commitment to the practice and their readiness to travel and share their experience joyfully with so many practitioners in their home countries and elsewhere. Holding hands and walking the Path of Understanding and Love together as a Sangha is our greatest happiness. We look forward to sharing the practice with you far into the future.

Thich Nu Chan Khong, Thich Giac Thanh, Thich Nu Chan Duc (Sister Annabel), Thich Nu Dieu Nghiem (Sister Jina)

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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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Devastating Floods in Vietnam

By Sister Chan Khong

As I write these lines, Tho, who lives in Switzerland and often comes to Plum Village each summer, has had the opportunity to spend the night in Vietnam in a flood rescue van. Cold winds blew as flood waters from Mount Truong Son of the Ha Tinh area rushed past the parked van. The local residents advised the rescue team to spend the night at the foot of the mountain until the flood water subsided. Since the water in this area has the tendency to rise and fall quickly, it was hoped that by morning the water would have gone out to sea and made way for the van to continue its mission.

The rescue team slept and waited in the van throughout the night, but in the morning, the water had risen twice as high. Members of the rescue team decided to leave the van behind since the gift packages from Hue had already been distributed to the flood victims in Thanh Hoa.

The day before, the rescue team-Sister Chan Nhu Minh, Sister Minh Tu, Brother Le Van Dinh, Sister Chan Doan, Sister Chan Tam, and Tho---drove a van loaded with old clothes, 30 boxes of instant noodles, and 300 envelopes of 50 thousand dong each, from Hue to Thanh Hoa, then to two villages deep in the mountains, Tan Thinh and Tan Loc (of the province Thieu Yen). The van encountered dangerous conditions, traveling through winding, narrow mountain paths and crossing turbulent water on a raft, in order to provide flood victims with emergency supplies. Each family received five bags of instant noodles, one bag of old clothes, and 50 thousand dong. As the rescue team's van tried to go forward in the storm, the powerful wind blowing in the opposite direction almost pushed it off the road. But once the team reached its destination, the people were so happy that they were moved to tears. Even the local authorities were touched by the team's effort, since that area has suffered tremendous harvesting losses in three consecutive seasons. They allowed the team members to personally give the gift parcels to each victim.

Besides our aid, there has been no other outside help. Many villagers were forced to leave their homes to look for work in the city, but the majority of them ended up begging for food and sleeping on the street. The government's Emergency Hunger Fund dried up long ago, and there is no means to restore it to provide for the poor.

After leaving their vehicle at Vinh, the team members continued their journey by train, since the train tracks are high up in the mountains and safe from the flood. On the way from Vinh to Quang Binh, they saw tens of thousands of acres of land covered in flood water. The water from the mountain and the rising tides of the sea overflowed the districts of Nghi Xuan, Hong Xuan, and Duc Tho. The roads from Lam River to Gianh also flooded, and hundreds of thousands of houses were filled to the roof with flood water. It was truly a sad sight. In witnessing people curling up under the cold, windy storm, no one was able to contain their tears. Tho wept softly as she whispered into her mother's ear, "Mother, besides the money you gave to the flood victims, please lend me whatever else you have so I can give each family enough to buy blankets and food to lessen their suffering. I'll work to pay you back."

Two weeks before, another flood , in addition to a terrible storm, washed 86 boats to sea at Hau Loc Thanh Hoa province; 567 boat people were reported to be missing. Thousands of people lost their homes. In the same week, the Hong River rose to a very high level and many families were forced to camp out on a nearby shore.

On September 13, 1996, at Quang Tri province, flood water from the mountain took the lives of many people and washed away many properties. The districts of Huong Hoa and Vinh Linh suffered the most damage. Our social workers at Quang Tri received a request for help from the local Buddhist organization and sent that request along to Plum Village. At Thua Thien province, the villages of Thanh Trung and Thuan Loc were also flooded due to their low altitude, but fortunately, no one was killed. This year, the farmers of Thua Thien and Quang Tri had a good harvest; however, after this devastating flood, they will be left with empty hands. Hunger and poverty are the two biggest worries of the residents of this area. At the end of August, Plum Village sent $4,800 to Sister Nhu Minh to be distributed to the rescue workers of Thua Thien. But it was hardly enough to help everyone. The fire of misery is huge, but we can only stop it with a few buckets of water.

My dear friends, from the kindness of your heart, please contribute as much as you can to help alleviate the suffering of the helpless flood victims. Any amount you give will be much appreciated: $1 can buy 10 bags of instant noodles. $5 can buy 20 pounds of rice. $7 can buy one big blanket for a family of four. In France, please send your donation to Eglise Bouddhique Unifee in care of Sister Gioi Nghiem, Meyrac, Loubes-Bernac 47120 Duras, France. In the United States, please send your donation to the Community of Mindful Living. Please send larger donations directly to the bank through which Plum Village sends money to Vietnam: Union Bank of Switzerland of BASLE, 4002 Aeschenplatz 1, Switzerland, Swift Code UBS WCHZH 40 A in favor of the Unified Buddhist Church account number 0233 557 622 60 M (if in U.S. dollars), 0233 557 622 63 (if in German marks), 0233557 62201 (if in Swiss francs). If in French francs, please send to Credit Agricole Mutuel of Lot-et Garonne France Swift AGRIFRPP 850 Account of Eglise Bouddhique Unifiee 15006/00042/4290119911157.

Knowing how you, my dear friends, wish to receive news about Thay and Plum Village, I would like to tell you that there were 1,197 retreatants from 22 countries at the Summer Retreat. The majority of the practitioners felt quite happy after one week of practice. Thliy is healthy and his lectures were, as always, thoughtful and wonderful. AIthough the 450 retreatants at the Fall Retreat did not have the opportunity to personally meet and converse with Thliy, they were very appreciative of the nuns and monks in their own hamlet. This year, Plum Village has five hamlets: Xom Thuong (Upper Hamlet), Xom Ha (Lower Hamlet), Xom Trung (Middle Hamlet), Xom Doai (West Hamlet), and Xom Moi (New Hamlet). Each hamlet has enough nuns and monks to cook, plan activities, drive cars, plan meals, and give guidance to the Sangha. Five times a week, the hamlets join for Dharma talk and walking meditation with Thliy, and our own Tam from Delices d' Asie Restaurant in Bordeaux revealed her compassionate Buddha nature by helping to cook lunch for everyone. The atmosphere of 450 retreatants eating together in mindfulness was especially powerful.

Sister Chan Khong, True Emptiness, is a Dharma teacher and the author of Learning True Love. She assisted Thich Nhat Hanh in establishing the School of Youth for Social Service during the Vietnam war.

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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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Thich Nhat Hanh to Visit India and Israel 

Thich Nhat Hanh will be traveling through India in February and March. For information about joining all or part of this journey, please contact Shantum Seth, tel/fax: (91) 11-852-1520, email: shantum@artisan.unv.ernet.in.

In May, Thay will lead two weekend retreats at Kibbutz Harel and give public talks in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Nablus, and Bethlehem. The donation requested for Dharma talks is $15, for each retreat weekend $160. To register, Europeans and others should contact Partage in Paris, tel: (33)1 -44-07-06-07. North Americans may register with the Community of Mindful Living, P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707. If you are unable to attend, please consider donating to provide the opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to share Thay's teachings. Donations may be sent to CML and marked for the "Israeli/Palestinian Scholarship Fund." Please see p. 37 for schedules for both of these trips.

Transcribing Talks

Local Sanghas are encouraged to help transcribe Vietnamese and English tapes of Thich Nhat Hanh's Dharma talks. For Vietnamese talks, contact Hoang Khoi, 14 Maitland Avenue, Kingsford 2032, Australia, tel: (61 )2-9313-8489, fax: (61)2-9697-9007, email: K.Hoang@unsw.edu.au. For English talks, contact Michelle Bernard at Parallax Press, tel: (510)525-0101.

AIDS Anthology

The Buddhist AIDS Project is compiling an anthology on Buddhist practice and AIDS tentatively entitled, Heart Lessons from an Epidemic: Buddhist Practice and Living with HIV. The working deadline for submissions has been extended to January 30. The anthology editor, Steve Peskind, specifically requests submissions on practicing and living with the promises and challenges of protease inhibitors and other medical advances. Please call Steve at (415) 522-7473 in San Francisco for more information.


Born: Jonah Lieberman Flint was born to New York City Sangha members David and Ann Flint on May 23, 1996.

Married: Shantum Seth, True Right Path, and Gitanjali Varma celebrated their wedding vows with Thich Nhat Hanh at Plum Village on September 14, 1996.

Died: Greg Keryk, 44, died of cancer on August 16, 1996 in Santa Cruz, California. Greg was a member of the Order of Interbeing, the beloved husband of Irene Keryk, and the father of Diane Keryk. Please see tributes on pages 16-17.

Died: On August 8, 1996, Jusan William "Frankie" Parker, 42, died by lethal injection at Cummins Prison in Arkansas, after 10 years in prison for the murder of two people. His conversion to Buddhism in 1988 and wholehearted practice inspired people inside and outside of the prison. Frankie's spiritual advisor, Kobutsu Kevin Malone, ordained him before his death. Despite letters from H.H. The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh and petitions signed by hundreds of Buddhist practitioners, the governor of Arkansas refused to commute Frankie's sentence to life in prison.

Frankie spent his last day answering letters and calling teachers and friends. On the night of his death, family and friends gathered to support Frankie and oppose the death penalty. Rev. Kobutsu accompanied him to the execution chamber where they chanted the Three Refuges. At the moment of his death, Frankie was shown a picture of the Buddha by the executioner.

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Letters to The Mindfulness Bell

There isn't anything that touches my soul more deeply than your newsletter, especially Thich Nhat Hanh's Dharma talk. I cherish it, I carry it with me to many places, I reread it when I need to be reminded of the Way. I have read many important messages, good articles and books, but none have touched me more than Thay's words. They have literally transformed me, although I keep working on all of the precepts. Thank you for being there and taking the effort to transmit his teachings, which are so in touch with human weaknesses.

Lorraine Keller de Schietekat
Mexico City, Mexico

I am a hospice nurse and carry a pager whenever I am away from home. Usually when I am paged I don't get upset, but yesterday morning I was on my way to work, my pager went off and, much to my chagrin, my reaction was "!*@*!" I realized that, to the person who paged me, it was necessary and not done to annoy me. I drove back up the mountain road to my home, phoned in, took care of the  problem, and went on to work.

Issue 17 of The Mindfulness Bell was waiting for me when I got home that night. The next morning I read the tributes to Jim Fauss. I first heard of Jim when I read of his death in the last issue. I, too, was struck by his smile. I read Maxine Hong Kingston's words, "He has an immortal smile, which he taught to the people who rode his bus. A passenger pulled the bell cord, and Jim took a joyful breath and smiled." Those words rang a bell in my mind and I immediately thought of my reaction to my pager. I decided that my pager would become my "pager of mindfulness." Each time it goes off I am reminded to breathe joyfully and smile. Thanks to Jim and to Maxine for sharing her story of him. I am reminded by this how interconnected we are, how we truly are a part of one another. Even though I never met Jim Fauss, I have been profoundly influenced by him and will continue to be each time my pager goes off.

Tina Moon
Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Thank you for the recent issue of The Mindfulness Bell. I especially appreciated the many articles on Jim Fauss. Although I did not know him when he was alive, I now feel that I do know him and I am enriched for the experience.

Bob Repoley
Charlotte, North Carolina

I was particularly pleased that you printed Fred Eppsteiner's letter in the last issue, as I felt that he raised substantial questions regarding Sangha building in a genuinely kind way. I was also interested in the article in a previous issue of The Mindfulness Bell which raised the issue of finding ways to invite African Americans into the Order of Interbeing.

These invitations to dialogue will, I feel, serve The Mindfulness Bell very well in its long-term commitment to growth and to reaching a wider reading public.

Mushim Ikeda-Nash
Oakland, California

I agree with Fred Eppsteiner's letter that longer articles, where issues could be discussed in greater depth, would make The Mindfulness Bell more interesting to a wider range of readers. In addition, I would like to see more articles on the history of Vietnamese Buddhism. This is our "ancestral tradition," but it is virtually unknown in the West. Western Buddhism must find its own forms and expressions, but a greater knowledge of those who went before us would certainly be useful.

Fred also commented, "I sometimes wonder if anybody in the Sangha is having traditional spiritual experiences in meditation, awakenings ... which have been the experience and hard-won fruits of Buddhists for thousands of years." I think people in our Sangha do have such experiences, but they are not much talked about. This may be a good thing. In the Rinzai Zen tradition where I practiced before, one pursued such experiences relentlessly, putting a lot of pressure on people and sacrificing interest in ethics and daily life practice. This strongly goal-oriented attitude made it very hard to enjoy the present moment. Probably too much of the focus in Western Zen has been on experience, satori, sudden awakenings, etc., and we have tended to neglect the gradual practice of transforming mental knots. Thay's teachings address all kinds of suffering-psychological, interpersonal, social, ecological- as well as the great spiritual questions.

We don't need to create barriers between psychotherapy and meditation, but must remember that meditation has a dimension of silence and going beyond personal issues that we may rarely find in psychotherapy. If few people write about this aspect, it may be out of modesty-not wanting to claim "great insights"-but it may also be for lack of language! I suspect that many modern people have become alienated from the language of Christianity (and possibly Judaism), and experience it as too filled with dualistic connotations. And we don't always know the language of Buddhism well enough to express spiritual insights. The old Chinese Zen masters were great artists when it came to giving new and fresh words to the practice and insights of Buddhism. It's silly to copy them, but their challenge is valid: how can we express our deepest, most transforming experiences?

Svein Myreng
Oslo, Norway

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