The healing energy of this pilgrimage continues. A couple of days ago our western sangha had a lazy day and I believe I was lazy enough. It was relaxing and different to receive a massage at an institute for the blind. While very therapeutic, I was a little sore as he used no oil. That day Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village monastics and stayed overnight at the Great Forest Monastery in Ba Ria. They went to the beach at Vung Tau and had a very passionate ceremony to pray for hungry ghosts passed away at sea; and to invite them back to a ceremony the next day at the temple.
We left at 4:30 am for the Great Forest Monastery, a couple of hours away from HCMC. It is a large, impressive and beautiful temple. You can see pictures on my flickr site. Thay mentions during his talk that the High Venerables are saying that they have never seen a ceremony as solemn, so deep and well attended as the one’s held last week at temple Vinh Nghiem. Today a continuation of that healing is occurring. Thay encourages attendees to practice mindfulness because their good understanding of the sutras and verses on consciousness is not enough to remove the pain and afflictions buried deep. He also discussed the movie in production based on his book, Old Path, White Clouds. After resting before and after lunch a powerful chanting ceremony was conducted at the temple. Westerners had places near the front to witness Thay offering incense and listen to the chanting. After a while the monastics filed out and we followed in procession, past the crowd inside and directly outside the lower part of the temple. We circumambulated the crowds and alters covered with foods to be blessed, several times. The people smiled compassionately and bowed to us. It continues to be quite humbling to receive these kinds of responses during ceremonies to heal the suffering from the war; especially in light of many of us being French or American. At the end of the day we had a small dinner, then stopping our bus on the way back at the temple of a venerable nun to pay respect for her support of the sangha over many years, Thay and the rest of us had dinner again at the nun’s temple. It had a very sweet and gentle energy. A memorable and very long day.