As if We Had Met Before – Remember to Look for Thay

Br. Thích Nguyên Tịnh

Realize our thousands of aspirations

Thầy has arrived in Thailand. That in itself brought quite a shock for countless people. What needed to be done was realized quickly. I could feel each brother and sister’s heart in anticipation of seeing Thầy. Hearing that Thầy would come, Venerable Giác Viên, currently receiving treatment in Vietnam, has arranged to come and visit Thầy.

Their encounter in the Looking Afar Hut that morning was so heart-warming. Thầy embraced the Venerable many times, invited him to sit beside Thầy, and held his hands like two kindred spirits. That day, Thầy’s eyes were full of joy. The joy of reunion, affection, and gratitude for Venerable Giác Viên’s care of The Nursery Garden (the common name for our Thai centre). I opened the letter that the Venerable had written to Thầy. On the envelope it was written: “Respectfully to Thầy, this rare visit that nourishes our teacher-disciple bond. From your disciple, Thích Giác Viên”. In the letter was a poem titled The Spiritual Flame, of which I can recall a few lines as follows:

… The Hermitage lights up the spiritual flame

Teacher and disciple both fulfill

realization of their thousands of aspiration

The flame is lit, warming up the whole winter

We feed each other, nourishing each other…

Thầy held the letter in his hand and slowly read the whole poem. Thầy looked at the Venerable and pressed the letter to his cheek many times and nodded in thorough understanding. The sunshine that day was so beautiful. The distant mountains seemed to play hide and seek in the early morning light. Everywhere, Spring fragrance could be felt in the air, rejoicing the reunion. The teacher-disciple bond warmed up the heart of the cosmos, as well as the hearts of us – the attendants.


The Hill of Teacher-Disciple Bond

Thầy visited the attendants’ hut one day. It was built just beside the Looking Afar Hut. It was small and not enough room for all the attendants; so a few tents were also set up nearby. Thầy came to see our living quarters many times to make sure we were comfortable enough.

That morning a group of sisters from Vietnam came to pay respect to Thầy at the attendants’ hut. Thầy sat, drank tea while listening to the sisters singing and taking photos. Then Thầy felt inspired to go up the mountain. So the attendants, some brothers and the visiting sisters all went hiking with Thầy. It was the first time Thầy went up the mountain since this return to Thailand.

The path up the mountain twisted and turned with difficult bends. There were many rocks and boulders, and roots of trees encroached onto our path. Thầy was lifted up in his wheelchair by numerous hands of his disciples. The hill was truly difficult to conquer. We had to lift the wheelchair over tree trunks, cross over big boulders, and stopped to rest several times until finally the vast view manifested in front of our eyes. We were drenched in sweat but everyone was able to smile with happiness. Nothing was more precious than being with Thầy at that moment. Nothing was more precious than brotherhood and sisterhood at that moment. Arriving at the top of the hill, everyone realized the wonderful mission that both teacher and disciples were undertaking together.

The view at the top was so vast and spacious. Thầy gestured for us to connect with the wonders of life all around. He enjoyed drinking tea while we sang practice songs. When I looked at the hill I couldn’t believe how we managed to climb to the top under the midday sun. With such joy and energy too! The words of Sr Chân Không seemed to sink in, “As long as we have a good teacher-disciple relationship, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished.”

At lunch time, our elder brothers, Br Pháp Niệm and Br Trung Hải cooked up a delicious meal of trái bùi from Huế for Br Đồng Trí, Br Pháp Trực, Br Trời Trong Sáng and I. From then on, that hill naturally became known as the Hill of Teacher-disciple bond (Tình Thầy Trò).


Remember to look for Thầy

My dear friends, I share with you just a few of many stories from my daily practice book, and I have not chosen them for any particular reason. There are other unforgettable memories like when Thầy kept holding Br Pháp Chất’s hand while drinking tea and watching the phyllocactus flowers blooming in the middle of the night at The Hermitage. Or how all the attendants like Br Pháp Ứng, Br Pháp Đại, Pháp Nhiếp, Mãn Trung, Đại Đồng, etc., all prepared Thầy for his appearance on Days of Mindfulness. Or stories of all these different specialist doctors from all sorts of backgrounds who came to help Thầy recover. Or the story of the letters I wrote to my root Teacher at Kim Sơn Temple, the story about the new attendants at The Nursery (Thai centre), or the story of the sisters taking care of Thầy’s medication and of his daily meals …… All of these stories have their own significance and meaning like the stories I have shared with you. Whatever stories I share with you, I feel joy in doing so, and I believe that you also feel the joy.

I also want to share with you that I am so happy because we always have each other, and I am very happy that we will always have Thầy.

Remember to look for each other,

Remember to look for Thầy.

Thầy is ageless

We also become the floating clouds.

These five skandhas are free,

These five skandhas are not separate.

With freedom, respect and admiration,

We walk the long path together.


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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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