As if We Had Met Before – Thay’s Childhood Rain

Br. Thích Nguyên Tịnh

My dear friends,

“What event in this year was the most meaningful for me?” If you had asked me this question, without hesitation I would have replied that it was the opportunity to attend Thầy. In this process I have found myself and I have also found you.

It has already been ten months that I have been beside Thầy. Each day was memorable. Each day was a poem, a Dharma talk that his existence has transmitted to me spiritually. The following passages are excerpts from my daily practice book. It is the most beautiful end-of-year gift that I would like to offer to you.

It was a sunny afternoon in summer when Br Pháp Mạch and I took Thầy out to the swing under the three pines. Thầy really likes this space. Thầy planted these pines nearly forty years ago, before he received monastic disciples. The evergreen branches give shade to a large area of the garden. The trunks are now so big that two people cannot even fully wrap their arms around them. On sunny days, Thầy would often lie beneath these trees and watch the puffs of white clouds in the blue sky that could be seen through the branches. I would sit by him, massage his feet, and recount stories related to Thầy in the past that I knew. Sometimes I would recite a few poems from memory. Other times I even felt inspired to sing to Thầy a few songs by Phạm Duy, such as Quê nghèo, Tình ca, Tiếng hát to, or Giọt mưa trên lá (My Poor Country Home, Love Song for my Homeland, Singing out Loud, The Rain on the Leaves). Thầy particularly likes to hear the poem Bướm bay vườn cải hoa vàng (Butterflies over the Golden Mustard Field), which I had recited many times. Each time he would listen with such stillness, and afterwards often embraced me in his arms. I treasure those moments as if they were the last moments of my life.

That afternoon Thầy was lying on the swing. Shortly after, dark clouds came by but the sky was still bright. The Hermitage is so peaceful. The wind blowing through the pines, the poplar leaves waving, the resounding bird song hidden in the branches could not disturb the stillness of this place, but on the contrary, only enhances the serenity. Thầy opened his eyes, looked around and really enjoyed life. I have read his book Fragrant Palm Leaves many times, and know that Thầy really likes peaceful afternoons without wind, and early seasonal rain in his childhood. I sat there calmly looking at Thầy, then said to him, “Dear Thầy, I remember that you really like tranquil afternoons, and early seasonal rain when you were a child”. Thầy looked at me and nodded his head. I retold him those memories, then he nodded his head in agreement for me to read him the chapter in Fragrant Palm Leaves where he wrote about how he enjoyed the rain in his childhood:

“Even as a young boy, I’ve always been enchanted by storms. Thunder rumbled, the black sky sank low, and the first raindrops, large and heavy, splattered on the roof tiles in our village. Gusts of wind banged against the window shutters. When I saw and heard those signs, I was transported to another realm. They were the prelude to a majestic symphony. After a crash of thunder that seemed loud enough to crumble the earth, the rain began to tumble like a waterfall. How could I sit still at such a moment? I ran to the window, threw back the curtains, and pressed my face against the glass. Areca palms bowed as earth and sky moaned and screeched. The universe shuddered. Large leaves whipped ferociously against the window. Rain pounded down and gushed in the gutters. Birds struggled against the wind that shook silver curtains of rain.

In the symphony of the storm, I heard a call from the heart of the cosmos. I wanted to turn into an areca tree or become a branch bending in the wind. I wanted to be a bird testing the strength of its wings against the wind. I wanted to run outside in the rain and scream, dance, whirl around, laugh, and cry. But I didn’t dare. I feared my mother’s scolding. So instead I sang for all I was worth. No matter how loud I sang, my voice could not be heard above the roar and crash of the storm. As I sang, my eyes stayed glued to the drama taking place outside the window. My spirit was absorbed by the storm’s powerful music, and I felt wonderful! I sang one song after another. When at last the storm subsided – it always seemed so abrupt – I stopped singing. The excitement in my body quieted, but I could feel a few tears still clinging to my eyelashes.”

Thầy listened with his eyes bright, with gentle nods and such a smile full of innocence – that of a child. Then the thunder echoed throughout The Hermitage. Thầy indicated with his eyes. The first few raindrops fell. I said to Thầy, “Dear Thầy, it’s raining now, shall we go in?” Thầy smiled, shook his head and held out his hand to catch the small raindrops. Each time a raindrop touched his palm he would smile more. “Or maybe Thầy would like to shower in the rain?” I asked in an excited voice. This time Thầy laughed aloud, nodded his head in apparent eagerness. Just kidding! As his attendants, how could we possibly let Thầy get wet in the rain like that, he would surely catch a cold. We helped Thầy sit up, placed him in the wheelchair and brought him inside. The smell of earth vapors could be sensed, and we pushed the wheelchair quickly as if running. Thầy held out his hand to catch the rain, and the sound of laughter could be heard echoing throughout The Hermitage…


24 comments on “As if We Had Met Before – Thay’s Childhood Rain
  1. Very good post! We are linking to this great post on our website.

    Keep up the great writing.

  2. Marietta says:

    Dear Brother, thank you so much to share the deep joy shining through this beautiful experience.

  3. Nan says:

    of all the things i have read & listened to tonight..this is the one that makes my heart smile…Bless You All <3

  4. Ezzell Floranina says:

    Ahh, so lovely to hear this recent story of Thay..I can see his smile and I love that these shared moments bring him laughter. He taught me the awareness of this gift of laughter in tough moments. So precious… I will go find my copy of his poems now..

  5. kay goh says:

    Yes i am so happy to read your article and to know Thay is safe and peaceful which i can pass the message to my friends. Hope to meet you all in the coming summer retreat.

  6. Evelyn G says:

    Thank You for sharing this beautiful story. I don’t know you, but I love you for connecting us with the spirit of Thay’s memories.🌦

  7. Dr. Parris Kidd says:

    What a wonderful slice of life! It took me back to my childhood in Jamaica, with the intense tropical downpours we have there, and tears of wistfulness and joy came to my eyes. I’m really glad that Thay has such a sensitive and loving companion!

  8. Nick Prance says:

    This touching and beautiful account of you and Thay sharing together in nature is so very full of life and love. Thank you

  9. Thay has profoundly effected my life on the deepest level. I pray for him and have breathed in his suffering.

    I wish to thank him for his life that has impacted millions. Though we’ve never met, I love him.

    Thank you for the beautifully poignant post and the loving care you perform for his comfort and happiness.

    Sending love from Minnesota,

    Connie Nelson Ahlberg

  10. Laurie Serfas says:

    Thank you so much dear brother for sharing this beautiful story of your afternoon with our beloved Thay. It does my heart good to hear how he is doing and seeing such a good picture of him.

  11. Kia Woods says:

    Instead of rushing through Facebook posts, I stopped, connected with my breath and enjoyed the story. Thanks for sharing. I’m so glad to know that They is able to continue to interbe with nourishing nature.

  12. Niamh Kelly says:

    So beautifully written and such a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing. It’s lovely to feel connected to Thay and the sangha through your words 😊🙏

  13. Trish says:

    Dear brother, thank you for sharing this wonderful afternoon you had with beloved Thay. I am comforted to hear about him responding so well and laughing as I read about him enjoying the rain. You have made me very happy today! _/\_

  14. Traci says:

    Can’t thank you enough for sharing this!

  15. Michael Szasz says:

    Thank you. Wonderful to see Thay and hear his laughter.

  16. David says:

    This makes me smile:)

  17. Joy McElroy says:

    It made my heart so happy to read this. Thank you for sharing it. :)

  18. Kristin says:

    Such joy and connected I feel. Thank you for sharing your practice/ the practice.

  19. Carole says:

    So beautiful, and such a wonderful photo. Thay looks very serene and contented. It warms my heart.

  20. Thank you, dear Brother! This is a wonderful story. It made me smile many times remembering storms of my own childhood and the simple pleasure of rain on our skin. Thank you.

  21. Regan Heavey says:

    I’m so happy to hear your story – I have been so concerned about Thay and his well-being. Are you in Vietnam or Thailand? I visited Plum Village last Christmas – and the nuns and monks were wonderful. I also love the wild weather – and I know you take such great care of Thay. One question – Do you expect Thay will return to Europe? Thank you – Regan

  22. Lindsay says:

    So beautiful ☔

  23. Lisa Martin says:

    Thank you for sharing this lovely entry from your daily practice book. So wonderful to visualize Thay laughing in the rain.

  24. Ana Martí Baile says:

    It is said that water is the element with more memory. So, if I were water, it would as if we had met before