Page 5 of 17
Sangha Building in the West
In May 1966, when I left Vietnam, I did not think that I would be gone long. But I was stuck over here. I felt like a cell precariously separated from its body, like a bee separated from its hive. If a bee is separated from its hive, it knows that it cannot survive. A cell that is separated from its body will dry up and die. But I did not die because I had come to the West not as an individual but with the support of a Sangha and for the sake of the Sangha’s visions. I came to call for peace. Our work in Vietnam at that time had strong momentum in the areas of cultural development, education, and social development. We had established the Van Hanh University, a university for higher Buddhist studies, the School of Youth for Social Service, the La Boi Printing Press, and the weekly newspaper Hai Trieu Am (The Sound of the Rising Tide). We also had a campaign calling for peace within Vietnam. I came to the West with all these things in my heart, so I was not in danger of drying up. If I had come as an individual, looking for a position, for a bit of fame, then I surely would have dried up. The life-and-death issue was Sangha. That is why I began building a Sangha with the people who were helping me to call for peace. The people who came and helped me were pastors, priests, professors, schoolchildren, and university students. I met with them, befriended them, and invited them to join the path of service for peace.
From 1968 until 1975, I established and led a delegation in Paris of the Vietnamese Buddhists for Peace. Many young people volunteered to help us. They would work, and at lunch-time we offered them a simple meal. After dinner, they stayed on to practice sitting meditation. We shared who to practice walking meditation, Deep Relaxation, and singing. When we were working for the Delegation of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam in Paris, we organized sitting meditation sessions for Western practitioners in Paris once a week at the Quaker Center on Vaugirard Boulevard. By offering the practice to the young people who came to help, many seeds were sown. This may be one reason why many young people came when we organized the first Summer Opening in Plum Village.
When I was in touch with individuals and communities doing peace and social work, I saw they had difficulties. After a period of time, they became divided; they grew tired and abandoned the cause. To prevent this, when meeting with any organization or individual, I shared my practice. Before we had the Sangha gathered together in one place, we already had the Sangha as individual elements in many places.
Pastor Kloppenburg, a Lutheran pastor from Bremen, Germany, was someone who loved me very much. He organized occasions for me to give talks in Germany calling for peace and helped me translate and publish Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire in German. He also raised money for me to send to Vietnam so the School of Youth for Social Service could continue its work. He helped me organize the peace talks in Paris. In Holland, Minister Hannes de Graff, of the Dutch Reformed Church, supported me immensely. In my journeys to call for peace in Vietnam, I made many friends in the religious circle, in the human rights circle, and among the younger generation.
Last Updated (Friday, 23 November 2012 14:54)