Dear Noble Sangha Abroad on this precious planet,
The monks, nuns, and lay practitioners of Plum Village gathered together, once again, in the Upper Hamlet for the Opening Ceremony of the annual Three Month Rains’ Retreat. It was a powerful and invigorating ritual reminding us how precious and fortunate we are to still be alive, to still be within the Sangha’s embrace, and to still have the tradition of dwelling in one place for three months. Every year this time is set aside for the community to stay in one place together, to deepen our practice and to enjoy the wonders of life.
This year, in Upper Hamlet we have: 43 Bhikshus, 21 Novices and 70 Lay Friends. In Lower hamlet there are: 56 Bhikshunis, 1 śikṣamāṇā, 7 Novices and 34 Lay Friends, and in the New Hamlet there are: 56 Bhikshunis, 3 śikṣamāṇā, 7 Novices and 18 Lay Friends. In total 316 of us who will commit to practicing together for the whole 90 days. Hundreds more will also be joining us for shorter periods throughout the 90 days.
During this retreat, we will focus on three topics – Bodhicitta, Mother Earth, and Sangha (Community).
This extended retreat period of abiding in one place is for us to re-evaluate and to fortify our Bodhicitta: our mind of love, our deep aspiration to wake up and cultivate freedom.
We may ask ourselves how free are we from our afflictions, our craving, our fear and anxiety, and our attachments to notions and habitual energies? How alive is our mind of love? Is our love informed by our deep looking and understanding of ourselves, of each other and of the situation, or is it based on our will and our need to love, a kind of imposing love that does not help and can cause more pain and suffering? Is there pride and righteousness in our love?
Second, we may like to look deeply at the suffering of our planet and of humanity, and then commit ourselves and our community to concrete actions that will help alleviate this suffering and move us, and the planet, towards a more sustainable way of existing.
Mother Earth has been calling us to wake up for many decades now. Thầy has invited all of us to fall in love with Mother Earth. Let us find time and be less busy, so that we can be present to hear Mother Earth’s call, and join other communities in their efforts to help our planet. Our dire situation calls not just for a scientific solution, or a political adjustment, or even an economic divestment but for a spiritual awakening that sees and touches deeply Mother Earth, our environment, as a living, loving entity which is not separate from ourselves.
Third, Sangha, the practice of community building, has been the unique emphasis of Thầy’s teachings throughout his career and in his work bringing the teachings of the Buddha to the West. We have heard our teacher share many times in Dharma Talks: “Sangha building is one of the noblest tasks that we can dedicate our energy towards” or “The next Buddha will be a community”.
Sangha, in this moment in time, must be a community of resistance – resisting over-development and over-consumption by engaging in a voluntary ”recession” and living simply; resisting the hated and discrimination, implicit in the “us versus them” mentality with our kindness, generosity and inclusiveness. Maintaining a sustainable community where there is siblinghood as well as solidarity and harmony while we engage with the world is crucial. It is becoming clearer that a sustainable way forward now must include sustainable communities at all levels: on the individual, local, national, and planetary level.
We need to model a new way of living together and caring for each other, and for the planet. It is our contribution to the many social and environmental movements that are manifesting throughout the world.
Last, during the ceremony, we were invited by our eldest Brother, Br. Pháp Ung, to adopt one simple practice that we can apply ourself to wholeheartedly — maintaining it 100% during this three month retreat. This could be a practice such as enjoying each step that we make as we move about the monastery, or opening the door mindfully each time we enter or exit a room. A humble and simple practice can have a great influence on the other aspects of our lives – it can help us heal and transform, and can remind us that happiness is always available right in the present moment. One simple practice to nourish our mind of love, to nourish Mother Earth, and to contribute to the noble task of Sangha building.
We invite all of you to join us wherever you may be. We are aware that we are not alone. Our eyes closed, we see each other a little bit everywhere around this beautiful planet, practicing conscious breathing, smiling to the butterflies and to the courageous youth, and holding each other warmly in the present moment.
We have trust. We have love.
Brother Pháp Dung
On the 20th September, 2019, a delegation of more than 90 monastics and lay residents of Plum Village will participate in the climate strike in Bordeaux, France. Please come and join us if you are able.
Monastics and friends from Blue Cliff Monastery will also attend the climate strike in New York, USA. Here’s how you can join them. Or if you are not in these areas, follow the link to find an event near you.
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