I hope this message finds you healthy and peaceful in these times filled with challenges and turmoil. As you know, I have lived through many difficult moments, especially during the Vietnam War. Thay (our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh) and his teachings gave me the strength to face the challenges head-on and to always bring my mind back to the present moment. It is my deepest wish that you may touch this peace too. Please know that I am breathing with you and for you every day.
This spring, our world has changed dramatically. Billions of people spent months in the confinement of their own homes, and many have lost loved ones, their livelihood or their serenity and stability. I have learned that in the most difficult moments, it is essential to still find time to come back to our breathing and to take refuge in the wonders of life. When we remember that we are breathing, and we allow ourselves to breathe very deeply our in-breath, and very deeply our out-breath, we get in touch with our body and with the miracle of being alive. To be fully aware of one in-breath and one out-breath is always possible. We get in touch with every cell of our body, with our ancestors alive in every cell, our genetic ancestors and spiritual ancestors, and we feel their strength and energy flowing through us. Taking refuge in our ancestors, and in our mindful breathing, we can find a source of energy, love and trust to carry us through the most difficult moments.
Today I am writing to you because our community is facing an unprecedented challenge. As the virus spread rapidly through Europe, the Plum Village practice centers could not keep their doors open to the public. Our living conditions, in close proximity, made it impossible to guarantee the well-being and safety of our retreatants.
Entirely dependent on retreat fees, we are now struggling to meet our most basic needs. We have to feed, house and provide health care for almost 600 monastics living in 10 practice centers worldwide. We will not be able to make it through this crisis alone. We place our trust in the generosity of our sangha and we humbly ask for your help.
Some of you might have heard or read my story about a handful of rice. When I was a young student living in Vietnam, during the war, there were so many people suffering, so many families and children in the slums who were hungry. I needed to do something, so I went from house to house, asking for just one small handful of rice to help feed the children. Most people could spare one handful of rice, and together we filled big bags of rice which we brought to our friends who had nothing to eat. This is the incredible strength of sangha, of solidarity, of taking care of each other.
It is in the same spirit that I write to you today. I will not ask for much, as I and my monastic siblings know that you might be struggling yourself. My request is that if you have a little bit to spare, you might consider offering one “handful of rice” to your spiritual family each month. The Plum Village monastics live simply, our daily food budget is 4 € per person. A gift of 28 € provides food for a monastic for an entire week. Small numbers can make a big difference. Please consider becoming a monthly supporter, and join the circle of friends who carry Plum Village and its monastics in their loving hands and hearts.
Your monthly gift—no matter how small or large—will help provide food and healthcare for the Plum Village monastics worldwide and pay for our basic utilities while we spread the Dharma online and do our best to help ease the suffering in the world. Please consider offering a donation if you can.
We send our loving energy to you and your loved ones. We hold you in our hearts, and our prayers and thoughts go out to you.
A lotus for you,
Sister Chan Khong
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