I was very fortunate to get the early bus from Bao Loc to Prajna temple a couple days in a row, allowing me to participate in the walking meditation with Thich Nhat Hanh. Before walking the sangha sang practice songs in Vietnamese, French and English (I have arrived, I am home). Solidly I walked near the front of the sangha river as Thay lead us down the paved path around the front of the monastery. Rather than sit on the pavement, this time he turned off into the dirt and trees, sitting down surrounded by a pine grove. I found myself sitting down about 25 feet away from him as the sangha settled down for some quiet moments. I was feeling quite peaceful and happy to see Thay’s smile which was also reflected on the faces of those around him; it was a wonderful moment. Within an instant I felt a push and a pull on my back and grey robe. Looking around I found a photographer, trying to get the best shot he could, was stepping on my robe. These photographers are just like the wedding kind, always buzzing into events, getting in front of everyone and climbing trees, even during ceremonies. Noticing how his muddy shoes had gotten me much dirtier than I wanted to be, I became upset quite quickly. After sitting for a few minutes and hearing Thay invite the bell I regained my calm and joined the sangha as they continued walking, forgetting about being so dirty.
After the walk our western lay sangha conducted a 5 mindfulness trainings ceremony and 8 people took the trainings. Conducted by our lay dharma teacher Tony Mills and others, it was a very nice occasion in the Buddha hall. In the afternoon our sangha organized and conducted a very sweet tea ceremony. People offered gratitude, stories, poems and songs, to enjoy along with fresh tea, cookies and other treats. On the way over to the ceremony I saw the photographer and his assistant selling pictures that, amazingly, had been taken that morning. Looking through them I found this picture that looked like it could have been taken from on top of me. It was nice of him to offer it to me for free. Perhaps he recognized his footprints.
During the tea ceremony I sang a song and shared the story of the picture and turned around to show my muddy robe. The incident seemed like a metaphor for my experience with this international sangha; it’s peaceful mostly, then at times like getting stepped on, as sometimes I perceive happiness from the others, and other times it seems less happy. I realize that it is my own mind causing me suffering and I have another opportunity to practice beginning anew with myself. We have been practicing as well as we can to go with constantly changing schedules, activities and locations. This is a beautiful pilgrimage with Thay. Fortunately the mud came off in the hotel bathroom sink.