Friday, February 23, 2007
Arriving in Vietnam
Since arriving in Ho Chi Ming City my senses have been warmly greeted by New Year’s wishes of great happiness and peace, through sites, sounds and generous hearts of the Vietnamese people. I feel immense gratitude to the universe, relatives and all who have helped conditions be sufficient for me to accompany Thich Nhat Hanh and an international monastic and lay delegation on his historic mission of reconciliation, healing and peace across Vietnam. The noble purpose of this trip involves providing support to the growing Plum Village-style monastic community. Also, conduct retreats and great praying/chanting ceremonies for the dead and those still suffering from the wounds of the war that ended here in 1975. More can be read about the trips purpose and itinary at www.plumvillage.org . In HCMC the streets are crowded; bustling with the flow of motorbikes, busses, cars, peddle carts, bicycles and pedestrians. Along boulevards, through intersections with or without lights, or the roundabouts, the pulsating flow moves along cooperatively accommodating the merging, turning, stopping, driving against traffic and getting on and off the road. To date I have enjoyed greeting Thay at the airport along with hundred of others. Photos have been posted on the site www.langmai.org. It was moving to listen to Sister Chong Khong at Phap Van temple describe how she joined Thay at that location where many of his engaged Buddhism social welfare and school programs for the local peasants began. Many of the early workers in those programs who still survive were there to orient and welcome us, also with their strong smiles and compassionate hearts.At the Quang Duc Temple was a great welcoming ceremony for Thay and the sangha. After a long formal procession in, touching the earth was offered to the temple’s venerable for a long life to the patriarch that may continue to benefit many in the community. The most venerable offered warm greetings and wishes for a successful trip. Next we were bussed to An Quang temple. Thay shared that at this temple he became a dharma teacher and gave hundreds of dharma talks in that hall. Afterwards our procession slowly passed by smiling and bowing crowds and made its way to a most delicious Vietnamese feast. We dined to the sounds of up-beat popular-style music. That night at Phap Van Thay gave his first talk of the trip. The lay sangha was fortunate to witness the talk from directly behind him and see the audience. The talk encouraged the practice of coming back to the breath as taught by the Buddha in the Annapasati Sutra on mindful breathing. An emphasis was placed on practicing for oneself and also family members and ancestors. The pure land can be found here and now and not have to be postponed until later. He reminded that Buddhism has been in Vietnam for over 2000 years, but that we must practice well to rejuvenate and make it relevant. When an advanced practice question was posed Thay deferred answering now suggesting that we must make baby steps; scientifically nurturing understanding in the practice and cultivating compassion and understanding. I was quite taken by being present for this event.I’ll write more as time and access to internet allows. Your comments or questions are welcome.