Plum Village, France, January 2nd, 2018
Dear respected Thay, dear beloved brothers and sisters and dear community,
We are novice brothers and sisters from France, Germany, Italy, the U.S., Vietnam, the Netherlands and other countries who live in Plum Village, France. We have grown up in Buddhist, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and other traditions, and now we have found our new spiritual home in the beautiful international Plum Village family. We feel so fortunate and grateful to be able to live, practice and transform here with the Sangha. In this letter we would like to express our deep gratitude to Thay, to our elder brothers and sisters and to everyone in the fourfold Plum Village family. We would also like to share about an important historical anniversary this year and how our aspiration of building brotherhood and sisterhood is connected to that.
Many of you have come from far away, from different continents, countries and cultures in order to practice here in Plum Village, to support building the Sangha and to help many people who come here to take refuge, to recharge their energy and to get in touch with their true home. All of us monastics have left our original home in order to transform our afflictions and to bring joy and peace to many beings. And yet many of our beloved brothers and sisters live far away from their homeland in a new and sometimes unfamiliar continent and culture. We believe that this is challenging from time to time and that sometimes – like now in the cold winter season in France – some of us miss the warm weather, the coconut and palm trees, the delicious food and the beautiful blue seaside or green highlands of our homeland, whether it may be California, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Argentina or another place. We are aware that this is not easy sometimes. Dear brothers and sisters, we see in you great courage, determination, capacity to embrace and to heal and a lot of love for Thay and the Sangha. Our hearts are full of respect and deep gratitude for all of you. Together we contribute to making a beautiful dream come true:
A wonderful dream has been shared by all of our spiritual ancestors – Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and more recently also Dr. Martin Luther King and of course our beloved teacher Thay – the dream and hope that brothers and sisters live together in unity and harmony, transcending ethnic, religious and cultural boundaries, and realizing true peace, sisterhood and brotherhood.
Thanks to Thay and all of us, we are living this dream, we are making it become a reality, right here and now. When we play, walk, practice, work, share a room, drink tea and laugh together, go through challenging times together and support each other – things we do here every day – then this dream is already becoming reality.
Even though in many places all over the world the seeds of discrimination, anger and fear are growing once again, we show to the world that another way is possible. Our Sangha is becoming more and more international, diverse and beautiful. We are part of an amazing journey and experiment that probably has never been seen before in history. We come from many different backgrounds and we practice and live together in harmony and in peace. This in itself is a powerful message that is so much needed today.
This year 2018, is a special year. It marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, in which the ancestors of some of us fought against each other with brutality and cruelty. Growing up in safe and peaceful environments, it is difficult for the younger generations to imagine that our ancestors were fighting with each other for so many centuries until World War II.
Some of our ancestors brought this violence and war to countries all over the world and then afterwards, brought war to various other countries, including Korea and Vietnam. We, whose ancestors have started these terrible wars, feel very ashamed and deeply sorry for that. Even though we now have peace, the seeds of that suffering are still in us. Thanks to the practice, we can see, feel and transform this. But many people are not aware of this and the collective seeds of discrimination, anger and fear are getting stronger again in many countries.
It is our deep wish and aspiration to transform these seeds and to continue to build bridges of reconciliation and understanding between different ethnic and religious groups, and to bring peace and joy to all people. It is this beautiful aspiration that connects us so deeply regardless of where we come from. Now we live in France and help build brotherhood and sisterhood here. Many of us young novices also aspire to one day go to Thailand, Vietnam, the U.S. and other countries to participate in building community and to help transform the wounds of war and seeds of suffering. In this way, we support and learn from each other and we grow together beautifully.
An elder hermit monk from Taiwan just said at dinner one hour ago – after having been in Plum Village for only 48 hours: “Now Plum Village is the home for all people.” It seems that even in this short time he was able to touch the deeper level of our practice and spirit: a community that practices openness, inclusiveness, non- discrimination and true love in order to transcend all boundaries.
Just a few days ago we celebrated Christmas together. It was such a beautiful evening when the children lit the candles in the dark Still Water meditation hall of Upper Hamlet and we could see the wondrous and shining Christmas star in the window. When we heard the sweet sounds and touching voices of the monastic Christmas choir, after listening to the church bells, and enjoying some silence, we could get in touch with the serenity, beauty and peace of our ancestors.
There was a lot of joy expressed in the performances; for example, when the sisters sang the wonderful song from the movie, “Sister Act”. One thing we love about our new Plum Village culture is that we can value and appreciate our different spiritual and cultural traditions and celebrate together Vesak, Christmas, Tet and the Full Moon Festival together. A number of us enjoy Tet, for example, very much, because the celebration is so colorful and joyful; we can really feel the warmth, coziness and joy of our beautiful Plum Village family and can connect deeply with our beloved brothers and sisters.
We are very moved and grateful for the wonderful insight of our beloved teacher Thay: “There is no ideology in the world that is more important than brotherhood and sisterhood.” From the bottom of our heart we say: “Thank you so much for supporting us with your diligent practice, beautiful presence and all your warmth, love, insights and compassion: Thank you so much for being our wonderful brothers and sisters!”
We’d like to offer a wish to all for the New Year, with the words from our spiritual ancestors:
“May the peace of God (and of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas), which surpasses all notions, protect our hearts and senses.”
In deep gratitude and love,
Novice brothers and sisters in Plum Village, France