In this Dharma talk offered on 17th January 2021, Sister Boi Nghiem (Sister True Pearl) teases apart the light and shadow constructs of ‘normality’. By looking deeply at the Vietnamese words, bình thường (normal), we can see the light elements of bình as peace (bình an), calm (bình tĩnh) or recovery (bình phục) and the shadow elements of thường as abnormal (bất thường), strange (lạ thường) or low (tầm thường). Observing our patterned way of thinking can awaken us to these contrasting elements that we define as normal. This awareness can challenge us when normality leads to fear, e.g. systemic racism, or leads to recovery, e.g. witnessing the daily miracles of life.
When Thay teaches us about Right Thinking in his book, “The Heart of the Buddha’s Thinking”, he asks us to pose the question, “Are You Sure”, when observing our mental formations. In this way, we can tease apart the elements of ‘normal’ and do a course correction if we are normalizing the abnormal. This can mindfully return us to the bình side of normal….to a place of clarity and peace.
Through Sister Boi Nghiem’s intimate, poignant and delightful personal stories, we can learn to embrace our normal, ordinary, daily occurrences and transform them into present-moment miracles. We can then be careful of our conclusions of others and see the Buddha in everyone.