Saturday, May 12, 2007

Happy Continuation: an epi-blog of vn07

My Dear Friends, Cheres Amie,

On the way to the Hanoi airport, after nearly 3 months on an amazing pilgrimage which began in Ho Chi Minh City, en route to flying home I read an article in the Vietnam News with the following quote: “President Nguyen Minh Triet hailed high-profile Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s visit as a great contribution to Vietnam’s religious activities during their meeting in Hanoi Saturday (May 5th). Triet said he hoped that the “Zen Master” would make more trips to Vietnam and contribute further to national solidarity and development. Hanh has been in Vietnam for a three-month visit since February 20, during which he held three chanting ceremonies, known as Grand Requiems, for those killed in all wars and accidents in the country. Triet told Hanh that Vietnam always respects religious freedom and is determined to make all religions welcomed.” I smiled reading that Thay’s call for the President and/or Prime Minister’s support for the ceremonies to reconcile a nation and other events offered by the sangha had, in part, been realized.

Today sitting in my dirty car, while slowly being hauled through the Bubble Machine Car Wash’s suds, some questions came to my mind. Like, what will be the karma of the pilgrimage? What does it mean to travel across a country supporting the provision of teachings, practices as well as healing ceremonies to affect deep seated pains of the past, manifesting in the present, in individuals, families, communities and societies? Seeing so many people touch the fruits of practice and find their joy and happiness by using their breath, steps and actions to arrive in the present moment was unforgettable. When might a country who suffers so much, such as America, be ready for such healing, and who would have the credibility and a big enough heart to do it? Despite a lack of awareness published in Vietnam’s government controlled press about the upcoming events or their intention, tens of thousands came out, and countless other Vietnamese and friends of Vietnamese all over the world set up alters and prayed during the ceremonies to remember the victims of the "American and French wars." Having had witnessed and participated in one of the greatest acts of love towards Vietnamese people, if not all people, animals, plants and minerals, how should I and the hundreds of other western sangha members who gave so much of there time and money to travel together, continue living out our lives, continuing Thay’s intention? Thich Nhat Hanh could conserve his precious energy by staying in Plum Village, occasionally giving talks and continuing sharing his wisdom through writing books. Where does an eighty year old Zen master derive the physical, mental and spiritual energy, boundless bodhichitta (great heart and mind of compassion), to carry out such an epic intention to heal his nation and the world? All of us westerners had moments of shear mental and physical exhaustion keeping up with the schedule. At times it appeared to me that Thay had done nothing short of summoning the Buddha within for strength and direction. Upon finishing the car's wash I wrote these questions down, then started the engine and drove off, bringing full attention to the Southern California drivers zooming around me.

At the final retreats and talks in and near Hanoi Thay continued sharing practical practices from the Lotus sutra, Diamond sutra, and other sutras including the full awareness of breathing, mindfulness and living alone. Attendees at the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and industry were treated to teachings on deriving insight from our experience, rather than just theories or book learning, and tapping into mindfulness of the breath and awareness of what is going on to find happiness. Negative habit energies of continuing to seek happiness in money, power, fame and sex will most likely lead to more suffering, as is experienced in the West. Buddhism is attractive in the West because it is very scientific in its approach to addressing problems within us and in the environment; being viewed more as a philosophy rather than a devotional religion. Thay made it clear over and over that people and the environment share the same fate and continuing to pollute and destroy nature would be our demise. Thay shared how he has counseled many Western government and business leaders that the way out of our shared predicament is by practicing the mindfulness trainings. During his last public talk in Vietnamese at a retreat in Trung Hau temple, a powerful discourse on the teachings of love was given to the people of Vinh Phuc Province. Love is made of understanding, compassion and wisdom. Relationships and love are not individual matters, as is most often practiced in the west. The happiness of the family and community are also at stake in relationships. Parents and children must use loving speech and deep listening so that they can understand each other for what they truly are, continuations of each other. So often each side is caught in up-side down thinking, or having the wrong perceptions and views. In the East there is a tradition of respect, for parents, for our own bodies. This is practiced by dressing modestly, cooperating, being discreet and couples treating each other as guests, even after being married. Thay said that now many young people are in a state of bewilderment with what they see and hear in their environment, on TV's and hear in music. Many 14 and 15 year old girls are having sex and getting pregnant, without ever knowing what true love is. Their despair ultimately is transmitted to their children who may well go down the same road. Thay concluded by suggesting that this talk on the 4 immeasurable minds should be given over and over to young people so that their happiness can grow in the knowing that true love is an act of friendship towards oneself and others. After this talk the temple's Venerable monk told Thay that his community must have accumulated much merit from their ancestors to receive such a powerful teaching, and that he does not know how to repay the generosity and compassion.

At the end of each of the 4 segments of this 3 month journey across Vietnam, members of the western lay sangha wrote comments of gratitude, observations of the beauty of Vietnam and it's loving people and personal transformations, in a journal. After the final dharma talk in Hanoi the book was presented to Thay. I’m told he smiled and gratefully commented that he wished that we all could accompany him and the monastics to Hong Kong and Thailand, where they will continue giving talks and retreats until early June. Thay made it clear in his words and actions during the entire trip how our lay presence was helping support the healing. We have benefited from his wisdom of no coming, no going, realizing that we are in him, and he is in us; insight passed on by a great teacher. It’s astonishing to think that later this year he plans to give retreats in Europe and America. May he and the sangha have both good health and fortune in their continued efforts as bodhisattvas.

During the next month or so I will produce a video of the pilgrimage so that other sangha members around the world, who were either there or not, can see for themselves glimpses of what happened. You’re welcome to let me know if you’d like a copy. In the mean time there are many pictures and accounts available on the web, including mine at . Smiles to you and best wishes in your practice of touching the joy and happiness which is you, already,
Compassionate Guidance of the Heart


Huyền Lam said...

Thank you so much for covering the event. Please let me know when you have the video .

MountainElephant said...

Dear David,

I have been enjoying your posts as well as your photos. Despite living so close to Vietnam, in San Francisco, I am unable to travel there on this trip. Seeing your pictures is like following and participating the trip itself. Thank you!

Let me know too when you have the video. Wildelephant@Gmail.Com.

Sharron said...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

This is a powerful post, and provides clear guidance for what to do next.

With gratitude,
Compassionate Vow of the Heart

P.S. Yes, please, put me on your video list, too!

Manon said...

My beautiful friend David,
You found a place, like
an eagle, to overlook a vast land,
the journey in Vietnam, this has indeed been an example, a manifestation of the wish for peace, love and understanding in this world. And Thay has carried the light through his beautiful lifelong intent, and we could follow in trust this integrity and wisdom. How healing that is for us to be consoled, educated, united with our true nature.
And you my friend, through your sharing and your compassionate courage, help us to see, to be aware, you help us to nourish the light inside.
I am very grateful to you for your friendship with my fellow beings both human and non-human and with me.
Your friend accross time and space, Manon Felicitas Danker

Anonymous said...

dear dave,

thank you for your blogs and photos of thay's trip to vn. the photos and blogs have provided a good sense of what was happening during the trip. am grateful for what you've done. i would like to have a copy of the video when it is available.

dat nguyen
true understanding of the sangha

Anonymous said...

dear David

thank you for blogging your whole experience! i've enjoyed your posts and pics. please let me know when the video is ready. i would love to see it too!


david nelson said...

dear ones,

i have reviewed the audio and video footage and many scenes are quite moving. it's nice that you will be able to view some of what Thay and the sangha transmitted & received. the production has begun and when it is blended together into a finished dharma dvd i will contact you.

smiling to your kind heart,

Derek said...

I enjoyed your blog very much. It helped me invision what it was like. I would like to have a video whenever you get a chance. Also, thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

Best Wishes,

Charj said...

Dear David,
I am so filled with gratitude and peace. After participating in Segments 2 and 3 I am contemplating many of the same questions you have expressed. I know that I walk on this beautiful earth as a stronger and kinder person after spending time with Thay, the Vietnamese people and the Sangha.

Thank you for your blog and beautiful pictures. This blog has been a real gift. I would love to get a copy of the video.

No Coming, No Going

johnieb said...

I am an American survivor of the War. I have not been there since 2 May 69, though it would be good, I hope, to do so. I might see how much language I could remember, as I studied before I went to Vietnam and used it while there.

I was greatly blessed this Lenten season, gaining new insight and consolation through the wide-ranging Holy Spirit. I am most pleased to hear of my brother Thua Thay Thich Nhat Hanh's return and chants, but I am not surprised; it leaps decades and oceans: thank you. We are acquainted thus, and through the teaching.

Peace/ Hoa binh

Sharron said...

Oops, I forgot to leave my e-mail address:

vuthengoc said...

Thank you for the news.
However I want to hear more about the monks who are still in jails.
T. Vu

Anonymous said...

"You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. Remember -- all I am offering is the truth, nothing more."

~Morpheus, "The Matrix"