“It is much easier to practice to generate joy and happiness in the spring time”, shared Sister Thuan Khanh in her Spring Retreat Dharma Talk a few weeks ago. It is true: the beauty of the flowers and the warmth of the sunshine touch our hearts and gladden our minds.
On the morning of Sunday 26th March in Lower Hamlet, we celebrated the Plum Blossom Festival, one of the most beautiful festivals in Plum Village.
For over three decades, Thay has encouraged the Plum Village community to enjoy a whole day of mindfulness under the Plum Blossoms.
On Sunday morning, we enjoyed a Dharma talk by Sister Tue Nghiem. She shared her reflections on practicing in order to fulfil her “ultimate concern”, her deep intention to become enlightened. She asked us to close our eyes as for the first time, she read her poetry for her younger brothers and sisters.
To hear her poem, press play :
Then, we began the festival with a walking meditation through the plum trees. We have about 1,250 Plum Trees representing the number of the Buddha’s disciples.
It was a bright fresh sunny day, a gift of earth and sky. At the end of the walking meditation, we arrived at a corner of the orchard where we were greeted by classical music from Brother Phap Linh on the cello, Sister Trai Nghiem on the violin, and Sister Trang Linh Di on the piano. Then we enjoyed picnic lunch, as monastics, lay friends, bees, and birds continued to offer calm, serene, and joyful songs.
Where else in the world would more than 300 hundred people just enjoy the plum blossoms together for several hours with nothing to do and nowhere to go? We were able to sit together, do nothing, simply enjoying the presence of each other and the beauty of the plum blossoms and nature surrounding us. These few hours were not a waste of time.
In his book “At Home in the World”, Thay shares how, in the early 1960’s, when he was in Princeton Theological Seminary, the beauty of the four seasons helped him heal his mind and heart from the wounds of war. The peaceful and wholesome atmosphere of the campus helped him have many deep insights, flowers, and fruits of the practice. Perhaps that is why Thay always remind us that nature can help us heal ourselves.
Last year, before he left for Thailand, Thay often pointed to the trees, the blue sky, or flowers to remind us to enjoy nature. Even though now Thay cannot teach us verbally, he still teaches us in his way of being. We are so happy to continue Thay’s tradition of the Plum Blossom Festival.