On Wednesday October 11th monastic and lay disciples of Thay around the world celebrated their teacher continuation day, turning 91. In Plum Village the Day of Mindfulness normally taking place on Thursday, was moved to be together and practice as a four-fold sangha on this special day. The collective energy of mindfulness, understanding, and love we generated together are our gifts for our beloved teacher.
During an informal lunch we sat around a beautiful multi layered vegan cake and a tiger out of fruits made by the sisters.
Brother Phap Huu read the following text from Thay:
How much have you been able to continue Thay ?
In Plum Village, we don’t usually say “Happy Birthday”; instead, we wish each other “Happy Continuation Day”. What continues? Who is continued? Today we contemplate Thay’s own continuation as well as that of Thay’s students, both monastics and lay. What does it mean to continue Thay?
We can speak of two forms of continuation. We continue in our own body and mind, and we continue in the body and mind of those who have received our transmission. The Buddha taught that the person who transmits, the receiver of the transmission, and the object being transmitted are one. There is no transmitter, and no one who receives the transmission. There is only transmission, that’s all.
As students of Thay, you have to be his continuation through each breath and each step you take. Over the last sixty years, Thay has been continually transmitting his experience, all his dreams and aspirations to countless people through the way he speaks, the way he walks and stands, the way he eats and drinks, and the way he works in mindfulness. Thay has also transmitted himself through many books and Dharma talks in frond of audiences great and small, as well as with direct personal interactions. How much have you been able to continue Thay?
Today, if we are able to live happily, then that is a good continuation: we are continuing Thay well. This is something we must do every day. The cloud won’t be sad when it’s no longer in a form of a cloud, because it knows that it has become rain, and as rain it will continue its contribution. And when the rain is no longer there, that is when we see the river and continuing the mission of the rain. That is why nothing dies and nothing is lost.
Continuing the non-form
We often get caught in familiar forms that we recognize. And so we cry and lament when that familiar form is no longer there. Perhaps science can now use cloning to create a thousand babies that look just like Thay when he was a child. They would only need a few thousand cells from Thay’s body to do this. These thousands of babies would be identical and look exactly like Thay as a child. You could enjoy watching them playing, talking and laughing just as Thay did when he was young, but they are not truly Thay even if every one of them was to have all the same wholesome and unwholesome seeds as Thay. If they do not meet a wise teacher, if they do not live in an environment where they can encounter the practice, or if they do not go through the same challenges as Thay did, then they are not truly the continuation of Thay. However, if you have Thay’s Dharma joy and Thay’s happiness in every step, in every breath, then even though in appearance you may not look like Thay, but inside you are a true continuation of Thay. This is why the practice of “signlessness” in the Three Doors of Liberation is so important in helping us recognize true continuation.