My Films

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Daily Schedule of Mindful Practice

Our daily schedule consisted of waking by 5am, meditating for an hour, eating silently at 6, leaving for the temple by 7. At 8, Thay would give a two hour Dharma talk in Vietnamese (graciously translated into English and French by the sisters). In Hue, at Thay’s root temple (where he was a novice monk) we would practice walking meditation with him around the temple grounds. After lunch, we would rest for a couple of hours before listening to dharma talks and participating in dharma discussions. We would dinner at five and then return to our accomodations for a quiet evening.

Here is a gatha ( a short meditative poem) that I recited as part of my mornig ritual. I think it is just equisite! (With a 5am morning shot of Saigon out our hotel window)

Waking Up

Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours before me.
I vow to live life fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.

Walking Meditation is a beautiful practice in which we walked slowly together through the temple grounds. Its purpose is to be in touch with the present moment by being aware of our breath and enjoying each step.
The blessings I have of my beautiful university campus is that is big and green and has many wonderful paths in which I can practice walking meditation every day for fifteen minutes.

We would then eat lunch at 11 am perpared by the monks and nuns. We would eat with our family groups, often in silence. The practice of eating mindfully is to be fully aware and grateful for the food before you. When eating, I chew slowly in order to really enjoy the various flavors of the Vietnaemese vegitarian dishes. The following gatha is often recited before eating.

The 5 contemplations to eat in mindfulness

This food is gift from the whole universe,
the earth, the sky, and much mindful work.
May we eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy of it.
May we transfrom our unskilfull states of mind and
learn to eat in moderation.
May we take only foods the nourish us and prevent illness.
May we accept this food to realize the path of understanding and love.

To read about how these practices have touched my life, click here.

Healing the Last Wounds of War

Last year on Peace Boat, I visited a small rural village outside of the former US military base Da Nang. There, we visited a health clinic set up by Le Ly Haslip, who escaped post-war devastation by marrying an American GI and immigrating to the US.
At this clinic, we stumbled upon a rehabilitation/care room for third generation children affected by Agent Orange. Like children anywhere else in the world, they were delighted to see us and clapped and laughed along to the songs we sung for them.
In just a few hours of arriving in Vietnam, I witnessed the continuing effects of a war my country waged some thirty years ago on these people. I wondered: What responsibility do I have? What responsibility does my country have to these children? This was April 2006.

When I began studying peace in 2003, I discovered the work of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. While other books intelectually stimulated my thoughts on peace, his words actually took me to a state of peace. Since then, I have wanted to visit Plum Village, his retreat center in the south of France.

So as I began to plan my spring break earlier this year, I visited the Plum Village website and discovered that he was planning to tour of Vietnam during that time. I couldn’t think of anything better than to practice with him and his home country on a tour entitled “Healing the Last Wounds War,” so I decided to go to Vietnam.

I joined Thay (Vietnamese for teacher) on Segemnt 2 of his tour, which began with the Great Reqieum Ceremony at Vinh Nghiem Pagoda in Saigon.

5.6 million lives were lost because of the bombings during what the Vietnamese call the American war. The ceremony was held to pray for the liberation of all the people indiscriminate (ben dang) of religion and political parties. For on both sides, the people who passed away passed away in pain.

In his Dharma talk, Thay talked of the many wounds of the war that still needed healing. He said that when the injustices of violence and war go unspoken, they are suppressed deeply into our consciousness and manifest in the forms of aggression, anger and fear.

However, through the simple act of listening, he sais that it is possible for us to relieve suffering in others. If we ourselves learn to forgive the wounds of the war, then our parents and ancestors will forgive as well. For every word of forgivenesss will benefit those around us with love and compassion. It is when suffering is recognized then it is possible to heal. To read more about his teachings during the ceremony, please click here.

What is so inpsiring to me about Thay's teaching is how he boils it down to the action that each of us individually can take. Are we free of our own fear and pain? He says that it is our own pain that unskillfully causes suffering in others. So if we alleviate our own pain, then it is possible for us to begin to alleviate pain in others. How? through living mindfully in the here and now. To read about my daily practices click here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thay's prayer to untie the knots of great injustice

Dear Ones who have passed from this life:

You are our father and mothers; our aunts and uncles; our husbands and wives; our sisters and brothers; our sons and daughters, who have died during the war. When our country was on fire with all the fighting, you left us tragically, suddenly, forced to abandon your previous body. We have lost you, dear ones. We know that you fought courageously for our nation without regret for you situation, and the injustice could never be expressed. You died deep in a distant jungle, or we lost at sea or in a dark prison cell. You may have died because of bullets or bombs, or from starvation or sheer exhaustion. You may have been raped and then killed with no way to resist. How many of you have died in despair, in injustice, the remains of your body lost somewhere in the ocean or the jungle where we who love you could not get a hold of them. To fight for our independence and freedom, our country has had to bear great tragedy and injustice, and it is you who have shouldered the burden of the whole nation in your death.

We your relatives, you fellow countrymen and countrywomen, we come here-- some of us are before our own altars at home-- and among us there are those who still continue to suffer from injustice. Fortunately the nightmare has ended, the country is now at peace, and we are having the chance to rebuild the country, to heal the remaining wounds. Thanks to the merits and good deeds of our ancestors we have a chance to come together and offer prayers together to the Three Gems. With the support of the powerful Dharma, we request you to come back ALL TOGETHER to reunite with each other, embracing each other, loving each other like sister and brothers in one family. We will not distinguish between North or South, women or men, adults or children, by race, religion, party or ideology. We are all fellow countrywomen and countrymen, but because of the past bad fortune, we have been pushed to fight each other in our drive fro independence, for freedom. Thanks to the merits of our ancestors we can now come back to each other, recognizing each other as siblings of a single family, to promise each other that we will not forget this painful lesson of the past now engraves on our hearts:

We vow that from now on we will not let the country be separated again, not even on more time. From now on, when there are internal difficulties, we will not request the help of any foreign power to intervene with weapons and troops in our country. From now on, we will not start a war for an ideology. From no on, we will not use foreign weapons to kill each other. From now on we will use our best efforts to build a society with real democracy, to be able to resolve all kinds of disagreements by peaceful democratic methods, and we will not resort to violence against fellow countrymen and countrywomen.

Respected Blood Ancestors respected Spiritual Ancestors, please bear witness to our profound sincerity. We respectfully make these deep vows before you. And we know that once we have sincerely expressed ourselves in this way, all the knots of injustice can be united, and the deep wounds in each of us will start to be healed.
Today this Great Chanting Ceremony to unite ALL INJUSTICES EQUALLY without any discrimination starts here; but at the same time, countless Vietnamese and friends of Vietnamese throughout the world are setting altars in from of their houses too, to pray for you all. We touch the earth deeply to request the grace of the Three Jewels to carry the other shore of liberation ALL OF YOU dear deceased ones, so that, dear ones, you can be carried by the strength of the Dharma to be able to understand, to transform, to transcend and to know you are free.

We your descendants, we promise to continue your aspiration. We vow to carry you in our hearts, to build brotherhood/sisterhood and mutual love of fellow countrymen and countrywomen. We will remember that pumpkin vines and squash vines can share a single frame, that chickens from the same mother will ever fight each other. This insight from out Ancestors will shine out its light for us, now and forever.

Back from Vietnam!

Hi, I have just returned from my one month journey to Vietnam. I'll be writing a proper blog to share my experiences but for now I wanted to post a slideshow of my photos. Enjoy!