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Encounters with a Zen Master / “I Have a Thousand Years for You”

A Gift of True Love

Our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, tells a suffering disciple “I have a thousand years for you”.

Br Phap Ung talks about how he remembers our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, once offering a disciple the gift of true love. To explain the story, Br Phap Ung talks first about how impermanence can offer us freedom and the patience to embrace our suffering and the suffering of those around us, even if we have to wait “for a thousand years”.

Spilling Tea

How does a Zen teacher make a lesson out of spilling tea?

Br Phap Huu recalls a ‘Zen Moment’, when as an attendant, he saw our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, give a lesson on taking responsibility for one’s actions.

A Teacher Looking for His Disciple

 I have been looking for you, my child, 
Since the time when rivers and mountains still lay in obscurity. 
I was looking for you 
When you were still in a deep sleep 
……

Where are you going, my child? 
There have been times when the mist has come and enveloped the remote village, 
But you are still wandering in faraway lands. 
I have called your name with each breath, 
Confident that even though you have lost your way over there, 
You will finally find a way back to me. 
Sometimes I manifest myself right on the path you are treading 
But you still look at me as if I were a stranger.….
You have not recognized me 
Because your mind is caught up in images concerning a distant future.

In former lifetimes, you have often taken my hand and we have enjoyed walking together ……
You have picked up and given to me the first red autumn leaf 
And I have taken you through forests deep in snow. 
But wherever we go, we always return to our ancient mountain 
To be near to the moon and stars 
To invite the big bell every morning to sound, 
And help living beings to wake up.…..

But still there have been times when the seeds of a vagabond in you have come back to life. 
You have left your teacher, your brothers and sisters. 
Alone you go… 
I look at you with compassion, 
Although I know that this is not a true separation…..

And that you may need once more to play the prodigal son. 
That is why I promise I shall be there for you 
Anytime you are in danger. 
Sometimes you have lain unconscious on the hot sands of frontier deserts. 
I have manifested myself as a cloud to bring you cool shade……
Sometimes you sit in a deep abyss of darkness 
Completely alienated from your true home. 
I have manifested myself as a long ladder and lightly thrown myself down 
So that you can climb up to the area where there is light 
To discover again the blue of the sky and the sounds of the brook and the birds.…. 

Where are you now?
The ancient mountain is still there In this place of the present moment, 
Although the white-crested wave still wants to go in the other direction. 
Look again, you will see me in you and in every leaf and flower bud. 
If you call my name, you will see me right away. 
Where are you going? 
The oldfrangipani tree offers its fragrant flowers this morning. 
You and I have never really been apart. 
Spring has come.

This is an excerpt of the poem A Teacher Looking For His Disciple, composed by Thich Nhat Hanh, to express his deep love for his students. You can find the full poem here.


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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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