Dear Beloved Community,
Warm greetings from Plum Village, France, where we have just completed a very powerful “Go To The Other Shore Great Precepts Transmission Ceremony,” with over 120 monastic ordainees. These ceremonies for novice monks and nuns to receive the Revised Pratimoksha and become fully ordained Bhikshus and Bhikshunis take place only once every two years.
This year was very special because the two days of the Great Precepts Transmission Ceremony (October 2-3) took place simultaneously, online, in six Plum Village monasteries across three continents (the US, Europe and Asia). The primary transmission was broadcast live from Deer Park Monastery in Southern California, where senior Venerables of Vietnamese Buddhism gathered from across North America to transmit the precepts. Each center had screens and sound to receive the precepts transmission from Deer Park, supported by the presence of elders in their own center, which amplified the collective energy.
It was a legendary moment for Thầy’s global monastic “continuation body” to come together in mindfulness and concentration, each center reflected in one another like an Indra’s Net. We felt deeply moved as 200 monastics chanted Thầy’s new Heart Sutra in the Still Water Meditation Hall in Upper Hamlet in synchrony with the mahasangha and drum in the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall in Deer Park. It gave Thầy and our whole sangha a lot of spiritual strength to come together in this way.
As we approach Thầy’s 95th birthday this week, we would like to share with our international community how Thầy and our sangha at Từ Hiếu Temple in Huế, Vietnam have been doing. Sister Chân Không, Brother Pháp Niệm, Brother Pháp Ứng, Sister Định Nghiêm, and Sister Linh Nghiêm continue to remain in Huế to take care of Thầy with a team of young attendants. We are deeply grateful for their love and dedication to taking care of our Teacher.
Over the last year, Thầy’s health has weakened. The autumn rains have always been challenging for Thầy’s lungs and health, and continue to be so. This spring Thầy was not able to go outside to visit the temple grounds as much as he could last year. Nevertheless, the sangha was delighted that, when the Từ Hiếu Temple renovation was finished, Thầy was well enough to make a tour of the temple to visit the completed works. In recent months, Thầy has been resting for most of the day with his eyes closed, yet he is often very alert, present and at peace. When the weather is fine, the attendants help Thầy to go out onto the veranda of the Deep Listening Hut to enjoy the sun. The pandemic has meant that this past year has above all been a year for the young monastics in Huế to spend time with Thầy in a very quiet yet joyful atmosphere, with many new young disciples taking turns to assist the attendant team. From time to time the young nuns and monks come to the garden close to Thầy’s hut to sit around the fire and enjoy singing, music and laughter together.
We are here for you
With the great challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic in Vietnam, both Từ Hiếu Root Temple and our Diệu Trạm nunnery have been mostly closed to visitors. Fortunately, Huế has been spared the major outbreak that Ho Chi Minh City has endured. SisterChân Không and many other monastics have been offering online chanting and practice sessions from Huế to support our sangha members through the strict lockdowns, especially in the south. Many people in Vietnam have been without food or work. With the help of our international sangha friends, as part of our Love and Understanding social work program, our monastics in Vietnam have been doing their best to supply oxygen, food, medicine and donations at the roadside food banks helping those most in need.
We are deeply aware that the pandemic has brought great suffering to countless people all around the world. We continue to do our best to practice diligently with stability and compassion, so we can be a refuge for you all, now and in the future. It is our deep wish to open Plum Village in France again as soon as possible, and we’re actively taking steps to make that possible, beginning with re-opening for public “days of mindfulness” for our local neighbours this autumn. We’re very happy that the EIAB in Germany, Deer Park Monastery in California, and Blue Cliff Monastery in New York have all found ways to start opening for residential retreats. Here in Plum Village we hope to do the same as soon as conditions allow. Meanwhile, we continue to explore different ways to offer our presence, teachings and practices online.
New ways to practice together
For our 2021 Plum Village Rains Retreat this autumn on the theme “Gems of the Plum Village Tradition” we have over 1,500 participants from all over the world following the highlights online, and participating in Dharma talks, meditations, Dharma sharings and mindful meals together. We continue to offer hundreds of sponsored free places to our online retreats for our friends all over the world to benefit from the teachings. Finding ways to support one another as we integrate mindfulness practice more deeply into daily life has been a powerful collective journey.
This autumn we were delighted to release our first Plum Village podcast, The Way Out Is In, with new episodes every Friday, offering the relaxed atmosphere of deep conversations about Thầy’s teachings and practices. We hope you can tune in and enjoy the company. At the same time, our Plum Village App continues to grow and thrive. To date, half a million people have downloaded the app, and 70,000 people use it regularly. Every minute about 350 people are actively using the app to listen to meditations, songs and chants, relaxations, or teachings. Thầy’s vision of an “Online Monastery” accessible to all is steadily becoming a reality.
This month, a small delegation of monastics representing Thầy will be traveling from Plum Village to Scotland to participate in the TED Countdown conference ahead of the COP26 climate talks. They will be sharing Thầy’s teachings on ethics and awakening with leaders, scientists, activists and businesspeople; and they will also teach practices of mindful walking, mindful breathing, mindful eating, and the art of deep listening. Thầy always hoped that mindfulness retreats could be organized ahead of political summits, and it’s wonderful to have the chance to contribute towards his vision.
The gift of listening
For Thầy’s birthday this year, and to celebrate the release this month of Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet, a new book of Thầy’s teachings on collective awakening, we’re inviting our whole community to offer Thầy the gift of our practice: in particular, the collective practice of deep listening to ourselves, our loved ones, and the Earth. Our own practice of mindfulness is the most powerful gift we can offer to continue Thầy’s teachings and legacy in the world. We know that Mother Earth is in great need of our love, care and protection, and with the peace and insight of deep listening, each one of us will be able to contribute our part.
Thank you for being there, and for walking this path with us. We are deeply grateful for your continued support and generosity for our monastic community as we carry Thầy’s legacy forward into the future.
With love, gratitude, and trust,
The Monks and Nuns of Plum Village