As the first mindfulness retreat offered in Vietnam by Thich Nhat Hahn and the international Plum Village sangha progresses, the energy of mindfulness, concentration and insight is helping cook the sweet rice. Perhaps 6000 people, young and old, are here at Prajna Monastery at times to hear the dharma talks, eat, walk, share, smile and breath. During a talk Thay suggested that if retreatants waste their time here taking pictures, talking, laughing, thus not learning the lessons of compassionate listening and speaking, then “it’s a waste of rice.”
It is such a joy to experience the generous outpouring of love from the Vietnamese people here at Prajna. Today I was surrounded by children who proudly asked me, in their best English, what my name was, how am I, and my age. They’d shake my hand while their parent(s) beamed big smiles next to them. Others smiled and bowed, before posing for a picture. Almost everytime I look at someone,m young or old, they give me back a beaming smile, and often a bow. Many offer words in Vietnamese and I listen, then we both smile. I’ve managed to be in the right restroom and not had any major embarrassment that I know of. Often the westerners are hugged and having their pictures taken.
Early this morning 77 aspirants went through their ordination ceremony. A lock of hair was cut off during the ceremony, then afterwards they went outside with their parents and had the rest cut off. It was emotional to ordinees and parents, with tears, and likely mixed feelings, and they offered their life to serve others in such a compassionate way.
Our westerner group is practicing well for themselves and the mission. Still there are physical aches and pains. I’ve had them come and go myself. Despite everything, this trip is wonderful. A mission of love and peace. When we think the bus rides, changing schedules, crowds and so on are difficult, we can take solice that we’re not one of the thousand people sleeping side-by-side in the temple; who are gotten up before 4 am so the hall can be readied for sitting meditation. A couple of quotes that give understanding in these situations: “the schedule is a back-up plan for when something else isn’t happening”; “inconveniences are transformable.”
Thay’s talk and answers to questions are often very direct and playful. “In America, many teachers have shared the mindfulness practice with students; that that the teachers will not have to suffer so much.” “Let your smile be genuine, let it come from your heart. Do not offer others an Ambassador’s smile.” The majestic dharma treasure is being polished and practiced so that suffering in the body and mind can be transformed. I’m reminded that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.
Other pictures I’ve posted can be see at http://www.flickr.com\photos\rezdog.