Monastic Life / Greeting The Dawn

Interview with the Daffodil ordination family

On 5 November 2023, ten young people shed their hair to become novice monks and nuns of the Daffodil ordination family in Plum Village France. The editorial team had a chance to interview them after their ordination to learn about their journeys, transformations, challenges, and aspirations.

Editorial team: Could you share with us how you came to realize, “This is it! This is the path that I have been looking for.”

Br. Nhat Nguyen (True Source of Oneness): When I found Thay and started to meditate — that was one and a half years before I first came to Plum Village — I quickly enjoyed the benefits of meditation, finding calm in my body. In the book, You Are Here, Thay explains interbeing, and I immediately felt it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. Those two made me feel I found my path in life, a big bright path for me!

Before, I had never felt like having a clear path. I often acted out of fear and stress, trying to survive in the world. But this path was just there for me to walk very calmly and joyfully. The feeling was very much one of letting go of fear. Deciding to become a monastic felt very light and freeing.

Br. Nhat Moc (True Tree of Oneness)

Br. Nhat Moc (True Tree of Oneness): To make a long story short; I read many of Thay’s books and I felt I wanted to become a monk, even though I had never been to Plum Village. I thought, even if Plum Village is only half as good as I think it is from reading the books, it’s still the place I want to become a monk at. So on the first day of being in Plum Village, I said, “I want to become a monk here. This is the place.”

Editorial team: We remember you approached one of us, (enthusiastically) “I wanna become a monk, how do I do it.” And we said: “OK. OK. Arrive first.” (laughter)

Br. Nhat Thanh (True Clarity of Oneness): In 2019/2020, I was a long-term at Healing Spring Monastery for nine months. Following that, I became a resident at a Tibetan meditation center in Belgium for two years (Les Jardins de Méditation de Samyé). I came to Plum Village to volunteer for the 40th anniversary of Plum Village retreat , and have been staying at Upper Hamlet since then. I was in love with the Dharma and with Thay’s teachings and presence, but becoming a monastic was not obvious to me yet.

After attending the class for those with an aspiration to ordain and receiving encouragement from friends, I thought I could do it. Given my history of anxiety/fear and difficulty making commitments, I was at first a bit uneasy with the lifetime monastic commitment. However, after sharing more with some brothers, I felt more at ease.

Br. Nhat Xuan (True Spring of Oneness)

Br. Nhat Xuan (True Spring of Oneness): One and a half years ago, I practiced in Plum Village as a long-term. Knowing Thay’s teachings, I had already let go of many different things, e.g. relationships that were not conducive to my well-being.

I was only 20 years old at the time, and so saying I wanted to become a monk was quite a statement. It was also important for me that it be accepted by my family. When they came to visit me for my birthday in April, I allowed them to arrive first, then after one week I sat down with my mom to share that I wanted to become a monk. She was very happy saying, “Wow! This suits you so well.” The same was true for my older brother. He looked at me and hugged me, saying “Wow! Wonderful.” This was a big support, knowing that the people I love the most can support and encourage me.

While as an aspirant, I told myself, “Regardless of whether I get accepted or not, I want to become a monk.” Knowing that I want to continue on the path strengthened my commitment. This was a beautiful moment.

Sr. Don Hanh (True Kind Action)

Sr. Don Hanh (True Kind Action): (Sr. Don Hanh has come as a monastic from another Zen tradition) When I was 20 years old, I was going through a difficult period in my life and, looking for something to help me rediscover my inner balance, I found a meditation centre in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition in Madrid, my hometown. I remember very well the feeling of peace and joy I felt the first time I sat in zazen. Without having any idea of Buddhism or meditation, I felt somehow that I had finally found what could help me.

I continued to practice assiduously, going every day to the dojo and monthly retreats, and little by little I was able to reestablish an intimate connection with myself and find inner peace and happiness.

Somehow, I fell in love with the practice and the monastic aspiration came naturally. I had found good medicine for me and my greatest desire was to dedicate my life to continuing it and sharing it with all the people who might be going through difficult times in their lives.

I am very grateful to my former teachers in Madrid and in France, as well as to my Sangha, for nurturing the seeds of my monastic aspiration and supporting me on my Path.

Editorial team: But why Plum Village?

Sr. Don Hanh: Thay’s teachings have accompanied me since I was a teenager through his books and Dharma talks, and have always touched my heart directly. They are clear, simple, beautiful and very deep, with concrete practices that respond to the real needs of our world.

On the other hand, because in my former tradition we were only three nuns (the founder of the monastery, the abbess and myself), I have been able to understand the importance of the Sangha and how precious it is. I knew that alone I couldn’t really fulfill my aspiration to transform myself and to serve all beings.

For these two reasons, I decided to take refuge in the Plum Village tradition and… I am very happy!

Sr. Dang Hanh (True Radiant Action)

Sr. Dang Hanh (True Radiant Action): I knew clearly for a long time that the practice was going to be a central part of my life. When I was living in New York, I decided that every year I wanted to spend the days around my birthday at Blue Cliff Monastery. I had already read Stepping into Freedom, and even Freedom Wherever We Go. I was attracted to the idea of becoming a nun, but it was still very much an ideal.

After one of my birthdays at Blue Cliff, I remember sitting in the big meditation hall. I reached a place of deep calm and thought, “This is the moment when I can ask a clear question.” I invited Thay to sit with me and I asked, “Dear Thay, I have a happy dilemma.

No matter what I choose, the practice will be there, as lay or monastic. But which one shall I choose?” Up until that point I had all these little doubts, e.g. Would I be able to let go of my music, my skirts, and belongings? What if I wanted to travel whenever I want? Would I be OK looking bald? Then there was this booming voice that said, “Darling, you’re focusing on the little doubts and not the great aspiration.” Thay was so clear that I immediately started crying. Relieved, I answered, “Yes, Thay.” Straight away I went to Sr. Gioi Nghiem to ask her how to become a nun.

In the ordination ceremony, when we were waiting to stand up and walk in procession to the altar, I told myself, “Let go of all doubts and step into freedom!” I knew I had wanted this for so long, to the extent that if I died today, I would be happy. I did my best. Everything else was beyond my control. Now there is no more incessant talking in the back of my head saying “Ohh, but…” It is very relieving.

This is excerpted from an interview in our Plum Village Newsletter, to read more click here.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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