The Plum Village Community has just begun it’s 90 Day Autumn or “Rains” Retreat. Originally this retreat was held in the Winter; it has now been moved to the Autumn to avoid the holiday season. Observing an annual 90-day retreat is a traditional monastic practice dating back to the time of the Buddha over 2,500 years ago, when it was known as the Rains Retreat. This is a wonderful and concentrated time to remain in one place, and to focus all our energy on our practice, studies, and being together as one Sangha body. We usually center the retreat around a theme or topic, using particular Buddhist texts or Thay’s past teachings.
During this three month retreat we will be going deeply into the core teachings and practices of the Order of Interbeing. We will also examine each of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings as subjects for our contemplation and practice. Our Monastic Dharma Teachers will share their experiences and insights about how these teachings are applied. They will focus on our engagement with society, our efforts to build communities of practice, and on our individual and collective transformation and healing.
We invite all of you to join us, whether you are practicing at home, as part of a sangha, or elsewhere and have enough conditions to stop and look deeply, so that we can generate the collective energies of togetherness and mindfulness. This is possible because we inter-are. We know it is Thay’s deep wish that we should all have the chance to practice continuously for 3 months, even from home and even while you may have to work during the day.
So, if you can, find an opening in your daily or weekly schedule to sit and listen to the Dharma Talks, if possible with your local sangha. Try to find the time to eat a meal mindfully, undisturbed and in peace, and to walk in nature enjoying the simple wonders of being alive. Together we can create the powerful collective energies of stillness and clarity, of peace and compassion that our societies, Mother Earth and our families and friends can benefit from.
Here in France, the 3 Hamlets of Plum Village are joined by many lay friends for the entire three months. In Upper Hamlet we have 44 bhikshus (fully ordained monks), 22 novices, and 60 lay friends; in Lower Hamlet, 53 bhikshunis (fully ordained nuns), 4 siksamanas, 4 novices, and 32 lay friends; and in New Hamlet, 62 nuns, 3 siksamanas, 6 novices and 14 lay friends; totalling 198 monastics and 106 lay friends. We will also be joined by many friends coming to practice for a period of two weeks or more.
This Autumn there are so many new opportunities to grow in the Dharma (practice) and the sangha (community), and to remember and revive the simple practices that have nourished us. Every breath and every step can be an opportunity for growth. Each moment is also an opportunity to take care of Mother Earth and to take care of ourselves.
This Autumn, our sangha will ordain 11 new novices; 7 young men and 4 young women, who will be joining the monastic order and stepping onto what is known as “The Path of Liberation and Compassion”. Soon, 12 of our monks and novices will also be moving to the new Healing Spring Monastery in the village of Verdelot, just outside of Paris, to be near our sisters in Maison de L’Inspir. Together they will serve as an urban refuge for the northern area of France and Europe.
Even in Autumn, as the leaves wither and fall, the trees continue nourishing new growth which manifests in the Spring. We remember Thay’s sharing about Buddhism being like a living tree that needs to give new leaves and spread new roots every season or else meet its own eventual decay. Our Sangha also needs renewal every season, as does our practice, and thanks to impermanence, all is possible.
On behalf of Plum Village, we wish everyone a happy practice, no matter where you are and what conditions you find yourself in. With the awareness that there are dharma brothers and sisters practicing a little bit everywhere around the world; we smile to the present moment; we smile to interbeing, our hearts filled with gratitude for our Teacher and our Sangha.
With Love and Trust,
Br. Phap Dung and The Plum Village Community
Brother Pháp Dung was ordained in 1998 and is a senior Dharma Teacher in the Plum Village Tradition. Originally from Vietnam, he moved to the US when he was nine years old. He is the former abbot of Deer Park Monastery, California which he helped to establish as well as our other U.S. centers. Now based in our center in the south-west of France, he leads mindfulness retreats around the world. He feels inspired by applying and offering Buddhist teachings and practices to all areas of society, especially to young people, educators, business people and environmentalists. It would not be unusual in the Summer to find him perched with the children in a tree. He is happiest swinging in a hammock, drinking tea, and watching the sunset on the veranda just outside his room.