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Letter to Tommy in Prison

Plum Village
Sept. 19. 2008

Dear Tommy

I like your handwriting. It is so beautiful. I suggest that every day you sit down and write mindfully about your experience of practicing mindfulness. You may like to write it in the form of a letter, sharing your practice with someone who is interested in reading you, like me.

Next time, when you are confronted with a threat, defend yourself in such a way that can also help the other person. The other person is in hell and is willing to create more hell for himself or herself. You should give rise to a thought of compassion: saving you and saving him at the same time. In defending yourself you help defend him: you do not want him to commit another crime. And if you succeed in defending yourself, you help defend him. The victory is for both. This is a direct teaching of the Buddha, still preserved in a sutra.

The energy you use to defend yourself and to help the other person is compassion. If compassion is there, violence is transformed. And you are free.

You have more favorable conditions to succeed in the practice there, than many of us out here. Out here is another kind of prison, if you do not know how to protect yourself with the practice. So you can enjoy the time you are having there. A rose blooms beautifully where you are, a rose blooms beautifully also here, where i am.

Thank you for writing,

Nhất Hạnh

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