What’s Now?

An intimate letter from Brother Chân Pháp Hữu to his teacher Thich Nhat Hanh after Thay’s passing.

Dear Beloved Thay,

Please allow me to open my heart and express my deepest gratitude to you, a teacher, a leader, and a legend.

You have helped us learn how to be human, how to connect, how to love, how to see each other as flowers in one garden of humanity. In the past week, in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood we have continued to embrace and support each other; holding space for our tears of both sorrow and joy. While we have cried, we have also touched true happiness as we shared stories together – both in Plum Village and online with so many of our friends from around the world.

Dear Thay, through your daily practice, you were able to see your continuation. You taught us that if you saw someone walking with mindfulness and compassion, you knew they were a continuation of Thay and the spiritual ancestors. Dear Thay, do you remember our conversation in Hong Kong? You said you wanted us to continue to renew Buddhism; that you have been able to do 60 per cent of the work, but there is still so much more to do. You gently reminded me that it is up to us, your monastic and lay descendants all over the world, to keep the Dharma wheel turning, to translate the practices and teachings into the language of our times, to make them accessible and practical for use in our world today. Dear Thay, thank you for trusting us and taking refuge in us. When we take refuge in each other, we know we are continuing you.

There are moments, dear Thay, because I am still young and have much to learn, when I feel overwhelmed with the task and responsibility of being your continuation. But then, I remember that I do not have to do it alone; that with the support of the sangha, I am never alone! Great action comes in many forms, big and small, and with the sangha, your continuation is a collective effort. We can each focus on our own spheres of influence whether we are with our families, friends, classmates, or colleagues. No matter where we are or what we are doing, we have the opportunity to build a beloved community and to generate the energy of mindfulness so that healing can be possible. Thay, when I feel there is too much to do, or that the task is too big, I know I can take rest and refuge in the sangha body. Like you have taught us, Thay, we are each a drop of water, contributing to a vast flowing stream.

Thay, in the past two weeks I have been asked, “What’s next?” Each time someone asks me this, I can see you gently holding your teacup with a warm smile on your face because I know instead of asking “What’s next?”, you would point towards the “What’s now”. Now is what has always been and will ever be. Now is where we get the chance to walk with Thay, to sit, speak, build community, drink tea, smile, laugh, and cry for Thay. Now is where the beloved community will meet each other, to care for each other, to embrace each other, to support each other, and to slow down together so that we can recognize and transform the sufferings of the world with limitless compassion and wisdom. “This is it”, right, dear Thay? This is the legendary moment.

We have a beautiful community full of talent and vitality, and we will carry the torch of wisdom you have handed to us into the here and now – and towards the future for generations to come.

I hold you close to me, I release you to be so free; because I am in you, and you are in me.

Your student,
Pháp Hữu
Plum Village, January 30th 2022

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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