At 6am on a frosty morning, this last Sunday 8th December, over 400 people gathered in the Still Water Meditation Hall of Upper Hamlet, Plum Village to witness Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh transmitting the Ten Novice Precepts to eight young ordinees here in France. Plum Village Thailand held a simultaneous ceremony for the nineteen ordinees there to receive the transmission directly from Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh “online”.
The Plum Village ceremony was peaceful, harmonious and joyful, with many family members and friends present – some travelling from as far away as Thailand. Everyone had an opportunity to join in the chanting invoking the name of the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion while the novices’ heads were shaved there and then in the Hall by their elder sisters and brothers.
The whole community ate breakfast together as the sun rose over the Upper Hamlet ridge, before assembling in the hall again for a Dharma Talk from Thay. Thay spoke about the simple joys of monastic life and the responsibility of Buddhist monks and nuns to keep Buddhist teachings and practices fresh and appropriate to our times, by being progressive – or even revolutionary. You can listen to it here.
The community enjoyed a celebratory lunch to welcome the new members of our monastic family. This is traditionally a time to enjoy cakes and special dishes, and for the new novices to receive gifts and treats from their elder brothers and sisters. Both the new novices and family members present had a chance to share how they were feeling, to offer a poem, or song and express their gratitude.
The new novices at Plum Village all did their best to pronounce their new monastic names in Vietnamese. As disciples of Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh, all ordinees receive the name Chân (meaning True). Since 2010 the monks receive the name Trời, meaning Sun or Sky, and the nuns receive the name Trăng, meaning Moon. Everyone also receives a unique name for their Sun or Moon, composed especially for them by Thay in poetic vernacular Vietnamese (a revolutionary break from the traditional Sino-Vietnamese). A monastic name may express a quality that someone already possesses or can develop to fruition on their spiritual path.
Some of the names given to the 27 novices in this “Linden Tree” Ordination Family:
- Br. Chân Trời Nguyện Lực (True Sky of Strong Aspiration)
- Br. Chân Trời Hy Mã (True Sky of the Himalayas)
- Sr. Chân Trăng Diệu Âm (True Moon of Wondrous Sound – “Wondrous Sound” is one of the many names of Avalokita, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion)
- Sr. Chân Trăng Ưu Bất (True Udambara Moon – the Udambara flower is an auspicious flower from heaven that, according to Buddhist legend, blooms only once every 3,000 years)
- Sr. Chân Trăng Tịnh Độ (True Moon of the Pure Land – the Pure Land can also be understood as the “Kingdom of God”)
- Br. Chân Trời Linh Quang (True Sky of Spiritual Light)
More pictures here