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Living Simply and Happily
When we first established the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation in Paris, we faced many difficulties, like getting residential permits and finding enough food to eat and clothing to wear. Our headquarters was small but housed many people. There were nights when Sister Chan Khong, who had been a professor at a university in Saigon, had to ask to sleep overnight at a restaurant because we ran out of space. Instead of buying regular rice at a supermarket, we bought the cheaper broken rice, usually sold as bird feed, from the pet store. One day the man who was selling the broken rice asked us, “Why do you come and buy so much rice? You must have a lot of birds in your house.” We said, “Yes, many, nine in all, and each one is very big!” We showed with our hands how big those birds were. But our life was full of happiness. I found a place to teach, and I received one thousand French francs as salary every month. Other people in the delegation also had to find work. Sister Chan Khong used to teach mathematics and tutor young students to add to our income.
I took a course on printing as a trade. I am still a good printer and can bind books quite well. We had a printing machine and produced books for refugees to help them suffer less and to help them learn a foreign language so that they could settle in other countries. I always printed and bound books in mindfulness, breathing and smiling as I printed. I never let the machine run at full speed, always slowly and always a smile every time I changed pages. I have printed several dozen books and I have bound thousands of books.
I have never wanted to build a luxurious, beautiful monastery here. When I am able to sell my books, that money has been used to bring relief to the hungry and to victims of the floods in Vietnam. There are still many people in our Sangha who sleep in sleeping bags. Sister Chan Khong still sleeps in a sleeping bag. In Plum Village, I used to sleep on a very thin mattress on a plank of wood on top of four bricks. That did not prevent me from being happy.
In all the years of exile from Vietnam, I have never felt cut off from my Sangha in Vietnam. Every year, I compose and send manuscripts to Vietnam, and our friends in Vietnam always find ways to publish our books there. When they were banned, the books were hand copied, published underground, or published under different pen names.
From being like a cell separated from my Sangha body in Vietnam, I was able to practice cloning; and, not only did I not die, from a cell I have become a body. That body has become the Sangha body we see today. If, wherever we go, we go with our heart full of our Sangha, then we will not dry up and die. If you come to Plum Village, you have to take home with you no less than Plum Village in its entity. Bringing Plum Village home, you will be able to survive longer. The teaching and practice of “I have arrived, I am home” always complements the teaching of “going as a river and not as a drop of water.” If you are a drop of water, then you will evaporate halfway; but if you go as a river, you will surely reach the ocean. I have never gone as a drop of water. I have always gone as a river.
Last Updated (Friday, 23 November 2012 14:54)