#16 Spring 1996

Toward Greater Inclusiveness

By Scott Plous Last fall, I attended a wonderful mindfulness retreat at the Omega Institute. For four glorious days, 800 people practiced sitting, walking, and smiling together. Thay gave a series of eloquent Dharma talks on how to love one another, and several hundred retreat participants ended up taking the precepts.

Halfway through the retreat, it occurred to me that something important was missing. If the 800 participants at Omega had been a random sample of Americans, we would have expected to see more than 100 African Americans. Instead, the retreat included only two or three African-American participants.

To me, this suggests that the American Dharma tree is not as strong as it could be. Without African-American practitioners and Dharma teachers, how can peace be reached in the United States? The issue of race is too important to neglect.

Just as a garden is most beautiful when it has many different types of flowers, a Sangha is most beautiful when its members reflect the full richness of society.

Consequently, I would like to ask all American sanghas to make a special effort to welcome the participation of African Americans. As the following quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., shows, African Americans have much to contribute to the practice of mindful living.

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All life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.... Did you ever stop to think that you can't leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that's handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that's given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that's poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that's poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you're desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that's poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that's given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you 've depended on more than half of the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren 't going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.

Martin Luther King, Jr. The Trumpet of Conscience, 1967

If we are to touch peace in these days of racial tension, the involvement of African Americans is imperative. Please strengthen the American Dharma tree by helping it to grow new roots. If each of us makes this issue a priority, I am sure we will succeed.

Scott Pious teaches psychology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

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Sangha Profile

Haus Tao/Foundation of Mindful Living Marcel and Beatrice Geisser 9427 Wolfhalden, Switzerland Tel: 41 (71) 44.35.39, Fax: 41 (71) 44.35.35 Email: 101676.1466@compuserve.com

In August 1996, Haus Tao will celebrate its tenth anniversary as a Buddhist meditation center. As the house was built more than 200 years ago, ten years might seem like a short time, but considering the history of Buddhism in Switzerland, it is a great example of the growing interest in Switzerland in the Buddha's teaching, and of the common effort of the local Sangha to create and maintain a practice center.

In the mid-1980s, there were only a small Tibetan and a small Thai Buddhist monastery in Switzerland. Marcel Geisser and many of his friends felt the need to have a center that addressed the issues of lay Buddhists. In 1986, Marcel purchased the property that was to become Haus Tao, which is in the northeast part of Switzerland, 1 1/2 hours from Zurich. His intention was for the house to be communally owned with practice rooted in the Buddhist tradition. After four years of effort, in 1990 Haus Tao was founded as a communally run meditation center based on the Fourteen Precepts of the Order of Interbeing.

Marcel was the main person to begin restoring the house, financing this work by giving seminars in psychotherapy and meditation, as well as by renting the house to other Buddhist teachers and therapists. Although the need for the support of the nationwide Sangha was obvious, it was difficult to rally everyone's energy to create this center. It was only when Marcel was about to sell the property for financial reasons that people began to raise funds to keep it.

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In the early 1990s, Thich Nhat Hanh and Sister Chan Khong visited the center several times. It seems like a miracle that since then, the Sangha has been investing in Haus Tao, both financially and with their personal skills, by helping restore the building, sew curtains, and maintain the garden. As there is a growing interest in Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings throughout Europe, the center is now able to support itself.

Haus Tao is near the German-Austrian border, and attracts people from all over German-speaking Europe. The center is open year-round and offers a schedule of morning and evening meditation. The quiet and serene valley surrounding the center supports our practice. When sitting in the meditation hall, we can hear the nearby river and birds singing. Loriana, our guest manager, is the only permanent resident. However, guests come throughout the year to join her in the practice. Haus Tao can accommodate up to 25 people. Marcel, the resident Dharma teacher, and his wife Beatrice, a movement therapist, live nearby and support the Sangha with weekly Dharma discussions and Days of Mindfulness. They lead several retreats a year, including a three-month retreat which will begin November 1. Retreats and seminars include a daily work period and a session in mindful movement, guided by Beatrice. Haus Tao is now in the middle of our first three-year ongoing seminar in Buddhist studies and practice, which gives the 15 participants the opportunity to integrate the knowledge derived from Buddhist texts with personal growth practices. Since 1993 Haus Tao has published InterSein twice a year, which is the German-speaking sister of The Mindfulness Bell.

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Marcel is on the executive committee of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), and the Sangha networks with INEB members all over the world. In Europe, many people consider Buddhism to be a practice of meditation and theory only. As the idea of engaged Buddhism is still very new, Haus Tao is currently investigating what the social needs in our area are and what are realistic possibilities for developing socially engaged Buddhism in Switzerland. The Sangha may adopt a model similar to the Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement (BASE) program organized by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. The Sangha actively networks with Christian groups, who have a long history of social engagement in Europe, and are grateful for all the inspiration and help from open-minded Christians. In the future, Haus Tao wants to put more energy in building a strong neighborhood Sangha.

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Being In Touch with Vietnam

By Sister Chan Khong Flood Relief

Last winter, heavy floods brought severe devastation to Vietnam during two months. Sanghas throughout the world sent $10,000 to help Vietnamese people.

In Central Vietnam, we assisted the most impoverished villages where there were no schools, health care systems, or bridges. In the rainy season these villages flood with water. In the summer, the land is too dry for anything to grow. With the $7,600 we received from the Canada Sangha and the Nu Hong Sangha, we bought blankets and old clothes and rebuilt houses in remote areas of Qui Nhon, Quang Ngai, Thua Thien, Dong Niu, Quang Xuyen, and An Tuyen. In Phu Hoa and Sen Thuy, Quang Binh, and in Quang Tri, 120 families were given $50 each to rebuild their houses. In Thua Thien, 80 families were helped.

We were able to to rebuild 109 huts in Binh Hoa Trung, Binh Thanh, Huyen An, and Thanh Hoa, Long An in South Vietnam with $2,100, and to lend money to peasants there to buy fertilizer and seeds for planting rice.

Medical Care

Twice a month, a group of doctors, pharmacists, and social workers travel to remote areas to examine patients, distribute medicine, and treat dental problems of young children and poor adults. In these areas, there is no other form of health care. Plum Village and a benevolent association in the U.S. give $350 for every trip to buy medicine, pay for travel expenses, and buy simple meals for the workers.

We gave $2,000 to the leper camp in Van Mon, in North Vietnam to increase the amount of food given to undernourished families. Doctors specializing in leprosy have asked Plum Village to build at least five operating and recovery rooms so they can offer effective treatment. We will help with $36,000 (1/5 of the total amount needed to build a good hospital in Van Mon). A hospital in Van Mon, Thai Binh, also needs some rooms rebuilt. Plum Village and a Sangha in Germany are looking for sponsors to carry out this work. We gave $4,200 to help build two rooms at an herbal medicine clinic in the valley of the Yen Tu mountain—one is used for examinations and acupuncture treatments, the other for storing medicine.

Feeding Hungry Children

We sponsor 133 undernourished children, and provide food for 76 children at the day care center in Kinh Te Moi Xa Bang, Suoi Nghe in South Vietnam. The South Vietnam Sangha travels to the mountains of Quang Ngai where there is no school and the children are undernourished. Their lips are often purple from the cold, and most only have a pair of torn shorts to wear. We sent 400 packages to these children, each containing rice, a blanket, instant noodles, and clothes.

Social workers show young mothers the importance of including protein in their children's diet. Together, they make a porridge that contains brown rice, string beans, tofu, and eggs. Each month the mothers are given 30,000 dong which they use to prepare this meal for their families.

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Education

With the help of Partage in France and Aktion Lotus in Switzerland, the Sangha in South Vietnam gives scholarships to 180 students in Kinh Te Moi Xa Bang, Suoi Nghe. In Dieu Giac, we supply provisions for 16 kindergarten classes in areas where there were no public schools. In North Vietnam, 150 children in Tu Liem and Soc Son near Ha Noi are sponsored by funds collected through the Community of Mindful Living. Two day-care centers are maintained in Soc Son with help from the Maitreya Funds in Germany.

In Thua Thien, Quang Tri, Quang Ngai, and Nha Trang in Central Vietnam, we give monthly scholarships to over 1,500 undernourished students, $10 a month to 148 apprentices, and income supplements of $2.50 a month to 732 people who are old or have physical disabilities. We provide salaries for 267 teachers and 48 students who are carefully trained to take care of the young children. We also sponsor 127 students at the universities of Hue and Da Nang.

We have helped ten communities in remote areas of Binh Tri Thie. We give 10% of what the community itself takes responsibility for in order to realize the various projects. $600 a month supports the work the social workers are doing. It costs $150 a month to feed the children in one kindergarten boarding school. The Washington D.C. Sangha, the Community of Mindful Living, and the Maitreya Funds in Germany, have sponsored 14 daycare centers in these communities where children learn songs such as "Fresh as a Flower, Solid as a Mountain" and receive soy milk daily to supplement the protein in their diets. Trung An is a very poor and arid area with white sand and few trees. Most of the children are not educated, and have only one pair of trousers and few have shirts. Eighty percent of the teenagers do not know how to read. The aid from Plum Village makes evening classes available for them, because during the day they must work—even seven-year-old children must work or else they starve. Teenagers learn a trade in their own village or are sent to Hue for an apprenticeship. This program helps to eliminate the gambling, smoking, drinking, and fighting that are common. Every school has a health care team of nurses and physicians from Hue.

Dear International Sanghas, if you would like to sponsor a community, please talk to the social work staff at Plum Village. Each community has a long-term project which they discuss with the Sangha that sponsors them.

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In one family, the parents could not earn enough to support their four children, so the father took a job far from home and was gone five to seven days at a time. The father had not yet returned home, and the children had not eaten rice for three days. The mother could not bear to see her children crying out from hunger. Even though she knew it was extremely dangerous to leave the house, she decided to go out to look for food. The water had flooded the rice fields around their house. Shefdled the holes in their boat with rags and went out with a net to catch some fish. She was not far from the house when the wind and waves became strong. Her boat began to shake and she fell in the water and got entangled in the net. She could not free herself and finally drowned. Her children waited for her to return home. When the water receded, they found her corpse with many wounds in it from her efforts to break free from the net. (Luan)

Dear Thay,

The name of our community is Loc Hoa. It is 30 kilometers southeast of Hue, and 15 kilometers west of the Phu hoc district, hoc Hoa is a very impoverished town. The land is wooded and mountainous. Five hundred families live here. Two years ago we were fortunate enough to receive support from the Understanding and Love Project sponsored by Plum Village. Before this support, we had no health-care center, and the one elementary school here had only two classrooms. Six groups of inhabitants were separated from each other by rivers and steep mountains. Many parents wouldn't dare let their children cross these deep rivers. There were only a few Buddhist practitioners. My family was one of them. This area doesn't have a Buddhist temple yet.

Thanks to the monks, nuns, and the brothers in our community, we are not afraid of the obstacles that prevent us from reaching the hearts of people. Every project the government questions, the people vehemently support, and eventually the government accepts the project. As a result, the six groups of inhabitants in Loc Hoa that are separated from each other now each have a kindergarten center that permits the young children to be taken care of and educated while their parents work in the forests. Doi Mot is lucky enough now to have a boarding house where the children can stay and have soy milk and lunch. Two bridges have been built so people can now cross the very dangerous rivers. They are called the Bridge of Understanding and the Bridge of Love. Lonely and poor families receive a small amount of financial support every month. Social workers visit anyone in the village who has had an unfortunate accident.

People in Loc Hoa feel that they are very close to these projects. They are very thankful to Thay and to Thay's students for their help. They have learned that in order to have human morality they have to be mindful. Two-thirds of the people in our area now follow the Buddha's teachings. They participate in every retreat in our region. By looking deeply, we and the people in Loc Hoa are taking refuge in the island of the self. Everyone is watering the seeds of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha in themselves.

Everyone in Loc Hoa is very happy and peaceful. We are not lonely as we were two years ago. Even though there is no Buddhist temple yet in Loc Hoa, there are hundreds of Buddhist temples in the heart of each one of us. I myself am a Buddhist. For 45 years I have been involved in many organizations, but I have never been peaceful. When anyone asks me, "What is the use of being a Buddhist?" I always respond, "It's to have peace. " Sometimes they ask, "When will we have peace ? " I do not know how to answer that.

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For the past year I have had the opportunity to work with many monks and nuns from the Understanding and Love Project and have had the opportunity to participate in many retreats. Thanks to that, I can really feel peaceful now and I can also answer people's questions based on my own experience in practice. Sometimes during sitting meditation I see you doing walking meditation with the whole community of Loc Hoa. Sometimes I see you sitting with people who are highly esteemed in society. They have all the material possessions they could want, but what they miss is peace. I do not have the material possessions, but since practicing what you teach, I am more peaceful. I can continue to help people with a clear mind and a peaceful heart. I can love without being attached to results. During this New Year's, I bow to you and the monks and nuns (the Buddhas-to-be) in the Western world.

Mr. Tran D, Loc Hoa, January 22, 1996

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Prisoners of Conscience in Vietnam

By Stephen Denney In the last issue of The Mindfulness Bell, we reported Ven. Thich Quang Do, Secretary-General of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBC), had been deported to northern Vietnam after receiving a five year prison sentence for his public criticism of government religious policy. His colleague, Ven. Thich Huyen Quang, age 78, Executive Director of the UBC, remains under house arrest in central Vietnam. Both are in poor health. According to a recent report, Ven. Huyen Quang is incarcerated in a cramped one-room shack in Nghia Hanh Village, Quang Ngai Province. He is held incommunicado, surrounded by police and suffering from lung disorders resulting from heavy insecticides sprayed in the surrounding fields.

Several other Buddhist monks also remain in prison for their dissent. Most recently, we received news about Thich Hai Tang, reported to be seriously ill from stomach ulcers and in urgent need of surgery. However, his relatives fear he will die if operated on by a police surgeon. On March 7, his father sent an open letter to government and party officials urging them to end mistreatment of his son, allow the monks from his Linh Mu Pagoda in Hue to choose his surgeon, and temporarily release Ven. Tang for medical treatment pending his recovery.

There are also some other prisoners of conscience serving long prison sentences. One of them, Doan Thanh Liem, was released earlier this year from prison, and put on a plane to Los Angeles the same day. Liem had worked for street orphans with Dick Hughes in the Shoeshine Boy Project in Saigon during the war years, and belonged to a group of progressive Catholics who worked with antiwar Buddhists. He was serving a 12-year prison sentence for urging constitutional reform in Vietnam.

Two other prisoners of conscience are Professor Doan Viet Hoat, former vice rector of the Buddhist Van Hanh University, and Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, a medical doctor and the first member of Amnesty International in Vietnam. They are serving 15-year and 20-year prison sentences, respectively, for their nonviolent dissent and advocacy of political democracy in Vietnam. Both received the Robert F. Kennedy award last year for their human rights work. Both are in poor health and their relatives are very worried.

Professor Hoat is detained at Thanh Cam prison in a jungle area of Vietnam near the Lao border 1,400 kilometers from his home. He is very frail. He suffers from a serious kidney disorder and has been urinating blood. He has lost much weight and is extremely weak from malnutrition. His family has sent him abundant supplies of food, medicine and money, but he appears to have received very little of that and is fed barely enough rice to keep alive. Visits by relatives have been extremely restricted. He has been forbidden to read any publications and is kept in a camp where he is surrounded by hardened criminals.

As always, thank you to all who have participated in the campaign to release prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. As I write this it is Good Friday, an appropriate time to honor and support the prisoners of conscience throughout the world, some well-known, others anonymous, who have sacrificed themselves in nonviolence for a better society. If you would like to write a letter on behalf of any of the prisoners mentioned in this article, please contact me in care of The Mindfulness Bell.

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

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Announcements

Documentary Film about Thay Work continues on Peace Is Every Step, the film profile of Thich Nhat Hanh. Recently, actor Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Schindler's List) agreed to narrate the film, an extraordinary gesture that significantly improves the film's prospects for worldwide broadcast. In addition, negotiations underway for a coproduction arrangement with a German production company are designed to result in a broadcast agreement with German public television. Broadcasters in Canada, England, France, Korea, and Australia are also interested.

In the meantime, writing and editing continue in Berkeley, with a rough cut possible by the end of May and, if funding is secured, the film can be finished before the summer. To maintain this schedule (and not lose momentum and the availability of facilities and key personnel), $10,000 is required over the next six weeks. Loans (to be repaid from the proceeds of film sales) and donations (to CML) are most welcome.

New Books & Tapes by Thich Nhat Hanh

The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation (Parallax Press)

Living Buddha, Living Christ, read by Ben Kingsley (audio tape, Simon & Schuster)

Teachings on Love (audio tape, Sounds True)

Order of Interbeing Ordinees

We extend a warm welcome to the following members of the Order of Interbeing who were ordained at Plum Village on January 25, 1996: Brother Shariputra, Brother Ivar, Michael Ciborski, Fern Dorresteyn, Danka Lucznik, Ursula Schwarz, Thich Thanh Due, Sister Dam Tien, Sister Nhu Quang.

Next Year in Jerusalem

Michael Rosenbush is exploring the possibility of Thay offering a retreat in Israel in May 1997. This summer he is trying to sponsor five Israeli students and adults to attend the Plum Village Summer Opening. To contribute towards these efforts, please contact Michael at 189 Rue St. Honore, 75001, Paris, France. Phone/Fax: (33) 1-4926-0728.

New Books & Tapes by Order Members

Getting Our Bodies Back: Recovery, Healing, and Transformation Through Body-Centered Psychotherapy by Christine Caldwell, True Original Vow (Shambhala)

Zen and Japanese Culture by D.T. Suzuki, read by Christopher Reed, True Jewel (Audio Renaissance Tapes)

Appetites: On the Search for True Nourishment by GeneenRoth, True Dharma Joy (Penguin)

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Letters to the Mindfulness Bell

I was first drawn to Thich Nhat Hanh's teaching during the Gulf War when a friend gave me Peace Is Every Step. I felt open to the truth of his words because of his work with veterans and because of what he suffered in Vietnam. I felt that if he could make peace in the midst of that fire, I ought to be able to make a little peace in my own life. I continue to draw benefits from the mindfulness retreats I have attended at Omega, and I look forward to more. I feel like I'm in kindergarten practicing awareness and mindful breathing, and kindergarten is not a bad place to be.Susan Fanti Spivak Cobleskill, New York

Thank you so much for The Mindfulness Bell! I love the magazine, and it means a lot to us to get it here in Bermuda. John Shane Paget, Bermuda

On the morning I was to leave for the Northern California retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh last fall, my favorite human being—friend, teacher, AA sponsor—suddenly began to die. She had been sober in Alcoholics Anonymous for 13 years and, throughout that time, she had cancer and was in pain, often near death. Her courage, humility, common sense, and great compassion helped countless people, including others suffering with cancer, alcoholics trying to get sober, and even her doctors and caregivers. I am seldom as clear and centered in decision-making as I was when I gave up the opportunity to be on retreat so I could stay with my friend.

She died the next night of massive pneumonia, her body too weakened to fight it off. Her living will was eloquent and specific in expressing her view of death, and refusing to be artificially maintained beyond the moment when true recovery ceased to be possible. For me, being with my friend while she was dying was a blessing and a valuable exercise in mindfulness, in staying in the present moment.

As I sat vigil with my friend, I thought of Thich Nhat Hanh, Sister Chan Khong, and the many retreatants who were enjoying sitting and walking meditation together. The practice of mindfulness enabled me to be present during this precious time, and I am grateful to Thich Nhat Hanh for bringing these teachings into my life.

Susan McCarthy Taos, New Mexico

Receiving The Mindfulness Bell brings me back to my true self. It enriches the quality of life for weeks and months. Kim Cary Massies Mill, Virginia

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Untitled Letter

Dear Friends of Plum Village, I am writing to you as I return from my most recent visit to Plum Village. Just before Thay left for his trip to Italy, on March 14, he gave a talk about the importance of the extended Sangha to Plum Village. Later that day in an unrelated way, he spoke about the local French authorities' demand that buildings in the Lower Hamlet undergo extensive renovations to meet building and sanitary codes. It occurred to me that this is a good time to bring more awareness to the extended Sangha of their importance to Plum Village. Since I was one of the few extended Sangha members present at this talk, I have taken the initiative to share my reaction to Thay's message. In his talk, Thay mentioned the importance of leadership within the Plum Village Sangha. It seems that it is also important to cultivate leadership in the extended Sangha.

It would be very helpful to have a list of the people who have visited Plum Village. The registration forms and guest books need to be computerized, to make mailings with updates from Plum Village, notices of retreats and schedules, as well as to hear when needs emerge for financial assistance. It seems that many people who have been at Plum Village do not even know about The Mindfulness Bettor that there are practice groups throughout the world. Since I can't support Plum Village by living nearby, I would like to help in other ways. I would like to help activate those people who have been touched by Plum Village to form some kind of association which could support the work of Plum Village.

Plum Village is a unique Buddhist community. The monks, nuns, and lay residents open their doors to people from around the world who wish to deepen their practice of mindfulness in retreats of a week or longer. In addition to the residential community, at least three other communities constitute the extended Sangha of Plum Village. One is the practitioners who live near Plum Village and regularly participate in the community's life. The second consists of all those whose lives have been enriched by directly touching Plum Village during the summer or winter retreats or other programs. The third and widest community includes all those who enjoy Thay's wonderful books, since the Sangha of Plum Village offers important support for Thay to be able to continue his teaching. This wide community includes all the individuals and Sanghas throughout the world who benefit from the monks, nuns, and lay teachers that Plum Village has helped to nurture.

In his teaching on community, Thay described the extended Sangha as the water that makes it possible for the fish, the residents of Plum Village, to live. In turn, the monks, nuns, and long-term lay residents offer the greater community the many benefits that arise from a community of mindfulness that is open for retreats. Plum Village offers us a place of practice so we can return to our true home, and so that when we go back to our everyday home, we can truly arrive. In many ways, Thay and Plum Village are the heart of Our mindfulness practice: Those who come for retreats at Plum Village are the arteries and veins, carrying nourishment to the mindfulness communities around the world. We need to insure that nourishment in this circulatory system flows back to the heart itself.

To start strengthening the Sangha, we need to share information. At present there is a difficult sitvation at Plum Village, and they need our support. To be open to receiving guests this summer, they will need to upgrade their facilities considerably in order to meet the health and safety standards required by the local government. They need to do a major renovation on several buildings and extensive work in the kitchens. This work will be costly—around $ 120,000 for the work on the Plum Hill dormitory; and $200,000 for the work on the kitchens.

If you can help at this time, please keep Plum Village in your mindfulness practice, and if you can, send financial support as well. This will also help us build our extended Sangha, through networking with our local Sanghas or staying in touch with each other about our efforts.

Many of us wish when we are not at Plum Village that there would be a way we could arrange our lives so that we could be of more support to the Plum Village community. Most of us cannot do that, but we can increase our presence at Plum Village by helping in the ways we can. Money is a form of energy and by making a contribution, we transfer some of our energy to support the community that supports our practice of mindful living. Your contribution now can help support the framework of Plum Village which supports the mindfulness of us all.

Donations can be made directly to Plum Village, Meyrac, 47120, Loubes-Bernac, 47120 France. In the U.S., tax-deductible donations can be made to Plum Village through the Community of Mindful Living, P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, CA, 94707. All donations received by the Community of Mindful Living for Plum Village are passed on in full to Plum Village. Contributions to help cover the operating expenses of the Community of Mindful Living are also greatly appreciated.

A contribution of any size will let the Plum Village community know that you value their  continuation.

A lotus for you, Tom Holmes

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World Wide Web of Mindfulness

By Allan Hunt Badiner mb16-World

The conversation started by the Buddha, and carried on by the arhats, pratyekabuddhas, and great teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh is continuing in the form of digital impulses crisscrossing the Earth, reaching into bulletin boards, downloading sutras, and conducting Dharma discussions via email. An entire world of Cyberbuddhism has manifested in the ether, with a population that is growing wildly. And while the jury may still be out on whether ultimately the electronic Buddhist world is a distraction or the possibility of a whole new level of experiencing Dharma, mindfulness practice in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh is now among the many Buddhist sites being served on the web.

While we were on pilgrimage with Thay in China last summer, Arnie Kotler took note of my enthusiasm for the potential of the web, and we discussed the possibility of creating an interactive website and online bookstore for Parallax Press. Over the past six months I have worked with a team of artists and programmers, notably Jay Cheroske and Jacqueline Neuwirth, to build a "mindful" corner on the web. In June, at the American Booksellers Association conference in Chicago, Parallax Press will launch the web's first contemplative, full-service online bookstore, which will offer all of its books, audio and video tapes, gifts and meditation supplies, in an environment secure for financial transactions. The URL (address) is http://www.parallax.org

Online customers can search or browse, enjoy slideshows of book covers and photos of Thay and Plum Village, tables of contents, sample chapters, and in the atmosphere of a bookstore. Purchases will be shipped within two days of ordering. The site also includes a fully searchable listing of local bookstores in the United States.

The Parallax Press web site also includes the activities of the worldwide Sangha, including a Sangha directory, retreat schedules, and also homes page for Plum Village and the Community of Mindful Living. The online bookstore will be particularly valuable to people around the world who are not close to bookstores that carry Thay's books. Visitors will be greeted by a bell of mindfulness and a guided meditation by Thay.

Dharma digirati and the just plain curious now have access to a voluminous serving of data and discussion, all lending credence to the idea that Buddhism will not be immune to the virtual explosion of human microprocessing power that is rapidly transforming our lives. The web will not be immune to the mindfulness revolution either. Please enjoy your visit to Parallax Press on the worldwide web, and remember to enjoy your breathing.

Allan Hunt Badiner, the editor of Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism and Ecology, created the Parallax Press web site.

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