Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh said, “It is probable that the next buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and loving-kindness.”
In October 2022 Daniel Smith and I experienced this community practicing together during a homeland retreat led by Dharma Teacher Trish Thompson in Vietnam. We brought thoughts of our Midwest Moon brothers and sisters with us on every step!
The journey began for many of us in Hanoi, Vietnam. We came from California, Missouri, North Carolina, Singapore, and places in between. We experienced deep connection with our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh and our global sangha. Together we supported one another through an outbreak of Covid-19, Trish’s bronchial infection, and my asthma. (One traveler dubbed us the Contemplative Coughing Chorus of Compassion Sangha!) We took care of one another and practiced loving-kindness at each juncture during this 17-day journey.
There were countless experiences of Thay’s vision. Here’s a single day of my experience traveling mindfully to see our global sangha in action:
Departing Hanoi for Hue, Vietnam we nestled in along the perfume river at the Eco Lodge. Hue is a city in central Vietnam with a population of nearly a half million people. The city was once the old imperial city (1802-1884) then the administrative capital during the French occupation, the site of a major military engagement in the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, and the location of Thay’s root temple, Tu Hieu. Layer upon layer of history.
Our traveling community rose at 4:00AM on our first day in Hue to join our monastic sisters for morning meditation at Tu Hieu Temple. Night-blooming jasmine lined the walkway at the Eco Lodge, the scent deep and rich as we walked in mindful silence to the bus. Arriving at the monastery one could hear a dog barking and roosters crowing; then the bell began to sound. We found cushions in the meditation hall, found our places, and enjoyed our sitting practice.
As the sun brightened the room and we rose from our cushions, I looked over to see Uncle Dan, a long-time practitioner and supporter from the Magnolia Grove monastery in Batesville, Mississippi. We embraced and smiled at one another with disbelief.
Standing downstairs I was introduced to David. Now teaching English as a second language in Hue, he hails from St. Louis. Later that morning we celebrated the marriage of a couple from the Eurasia Foundation. They work with The Peaceful Bamboo Family, a vocational training center and living community for young adults in Hue.
Then I saw another smile I recognized: a nun who lived for three years at Magnolia Grove, now living at Tu Hieu. Sister invited us to the nuns’ meditation hall where we were served tea. We began by holding the cup in our two hands. We inhaled the scent of the tea, paused, and smiled. Only then did we sip the tea. I felt the warmth on my tongue, in my mouth, and swallowing I experienced deep peace. We enjoyed tea and dharma sharing. Next we were invited on a tour of Thay’s hut where he passed away in January 2022. Trish shared memories of the last days with Thay and the ceremony following his passing. His presence can still be felt in the space, calm and steady.
We left Thay’s hut as the sun began to set. We walked mindfully and silently down the stone steps, around the half-moon pond, and departed through the Tu Hieu Pagoda arched gateways. We walked in Thay’s steps. We are Thay’s continuation.
In Love and Peace,
True Transmission of Joy