2017 September 6th: Sr Chân Đức’s speech at the Union Medal Award Ceremony, NYC

Madam President, faculty, students, and friends, I feel very humbled to be a representative of Plum Village and our teacher Thay. Thay had a stroke in 2014, which means it is not possible for Thay to be here today with us, in one form. But Thay is here with us. I think he has been here for a long time, walking in the corridors of this building. In 2001, Thay was able to stay here for some days just after 9/11. He spoke very wonderfully in Riverside Church about how the people of this country can respond to this kind of terrible act.

If Thay was able to speak today, he would give the same kind of message that he gave then, when we are in the threat of so many difficulties, North Korea and the response to North Korea, and how can we practice to listen deeply to ourselves first of all, to our own suffering, to our own wounds, to our own deep hurts. Then, how can we listen to the suffering and the hurt of those around us. How can we listen to the suffering and hurt of those who call themselves our enemies. By this deep listening and the ability to express ourselves and listen to ourselves, we can overcome the difficulties that lie in the way of homosapiens and our earth at the moment. Rather than destroying homosapiens, we can transform homosapiens into homoconscious, the homo that knows how to live deeply our daily life, with compassion, with loving kindness, with joy, with deep happiness, and deep, deep love.

This medal will make its way to Thailand where Thay is recovering. Or to Vietnam where he is at this moment, to visit his Root Temple, the temple where he became a novice when he was 16 years old.  At that time, his deep desire was to renew Buddhism, so that Buddhism can be a path that will open up for us a way to face the suffering of our own time. When Thay was living in New York, he was able to transform much of the wounds that he had received from the war in Vietnam. He had the time to come back to himself, and to practice the walking meditation, the mindful breathing, to be able to heal himself. Part of that healing took place, as he said in his journal for 1962, when he was reading about the final days of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who also belonged to this Seminary. The sacrifice, the understanding, and the love of Dietrich Bonhoeffer were very much appreciated by Thay, and helped Thay to make his own breakthrough to feel the true, deep courage needed to be able truly to renew Buddhism.

Thay always thought that he would be teaching in Vietnam, renewing Buddhism in Vietnam. But the causes and conditions brought him to the United States, which meant that for more than forty years (he was in exile for forty years), since he came in 1962 until today, Thay has been offering a new kind of Buddhism to us in the West. So from that, we can go forward with courage and we can go forward on a path that will help us transform homosapiens into homoconscious. A kind of homo that takes care not only of the human species but is able to take care of all species, especially our dear mother earth under our feet, and around us, and above us in the atmosphere.

We are very grateful to be able to be here today, to be with you, and to be able to receive this wonderful medal. We will take it back for Thay. Thay will always be here with you in your hearts. Whenever you practice walking peacefully along the corridors here, you will be in touch with Thay.

As a small token of our gratitude to the faculty and to the students of this institute, we would like to offer a small gift. This is a calligraphy written by Thay. We hope that it will enhance a little bit the Thich Nhat Hanh program for socially engaged Buddhism. When that program finds itself a room or a place, it could be put there.

Please see the video link below:

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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