Nourishing peace in dark times

Lesson from Thay’s life

Dear Thay, dear sangha,

How do we find a way forward in the midst of a seemingly hopeless war and darkness? People from both sides are coming together to demonstrate, to sit in peace, hoping to influence our government to change. But nothing seems to work and we are in despair.

~ Question from a sangha friend in Israel

Whatever scope that you are able to reverberate peace, do it. It balances the helplessness. This is what we learned from Thay. When the villages in Vietnam were bombed again and again, the young people asked Thay if they should give up or rebuild. Thay knew that it was important to not give up and be overwhelmed by despair. He recommended the villagers – you need to go back and rebuild. Not because we are stubborn, but because it gives us a place to put our energy. To balance our hopelessness and despair, we need to put our energy in something that grows and thrives.

If you can take care of a potted plant with all your heart, you don’t get caught and become a victim of the news. When you wake up in the morning and hear some negative news, you need to counter-balance it.

I feel lucky to have a mean and place for my energy to build a peaceful world. Taking care of plants, taking care of my younger brothers, building sangha … it is real and not just sitting there praying for it. It helps you to be less disgruntled, less dualistic, to not to choose sides. That is peace. You can observe the plant, how it grows, thrives, and withers.

A new leaf comes from the dying of older leaves. Seeing this, you no longer judge either.

I remember when we were in the US in 2001 and first heard news of 9/11, Thay took the sangha to the beach to walk peacefully on the beach. That is a bell of mindfulness – to not drown and become a victim.

If we are lucky, we can be in a place that can effect a more peaceful energy. This is what we can learn from Thay’s life. He never becomes a victim of a historical moment. Every moment in Thay’s life, he always created a different way. Sangha is a great place to invest your energy.

A mantra that I am practicing right now is that humanity is going through its adolescent phase. This is really helping me to hold what’s happening to our planet. The selfishness, destruction, blaming … is a phase. It is happening in our world. Don’t be stuck in it; don’t see it as something negative; we all have to go through this phase. It really helps me to see that humanity as a child is going through its adolescence. And it gives me the space to face what’s happening that is based on ignorance and discrimination.

~ Response from Brother Phap Dung (Dharma Embrace) | 2024 January 28

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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