This journey of love and peace continues to amaze and test the body and mind. Before writing a little about what happened over the past few weeks I’ll share a story of my first afternoon in the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi. It seemed that after flying with Thich Nhat Hanh and the sangha from Na Trang, then being greeted at the airport, having lunch at Bo De temple, that we had some free time in the afternoon. Thinking that I could get to an internet cafe to check e-mail, upload a few pictures and maybe write a new blog, In the hotel lobby was wifi access, but I’ve not been carrying a laptop around. I set out to walk around the block and find a computer. After I walked around the block I found no shops. This seemed unusual since at all of our previous locations internet was easily found near the hotel. Making a bigger circle I became more aware of the pollution from the vehicle congestion, many more cars than in the cities down south, but still quite a few motorbikes. The feel of an inner city permeated my ears, eyes, lungs and mind. Constant honking, shouts from shopkeepers, children riding on bicycles with their communist party school clothes all flowed by. After walking around for 90 minutes I decided to head back. A feeling of despair hit me as I looked for the card for the hotel and did not find it in my pocket. I kept walking thinking that I would see something familiar and just happen to find my way back. After about another 30 minutes I realized that without the address and name of the hotel I was having a real problem. There are a lot of hotels in downtown Hanoi and the names of the streets are quite unfamiliar to me. It had started to become dark and I was wondering if I would find my way back or have to get some unknown assistance from someone who could speak a little English.
Out of the blue came the realization that if I could find access to the internet, that I had been sent a message, before the trip began, with the names and addresses of all the hotels we would be staying at. With a renewed sense of hope I looked for a computer. I went into a couple of businesses I thought might use internet, but was unable to find someone who could understand me. So I went into a neon lit up cell phone store and asked if they had a computer I could use. Fortunately a friendly young man who spoke English well let my use a computer available for customers. After standing at the computer for about 20 minutes I found the message with the hotel name and address and I felt much happiness. The salesman drew a map for me and off I walked, about a mile and a half to the hotel. Along the way I passed street sweepers with dirty coveralls using long brooms of what looked like straw tied to poles. Vendors of food, cigarettes, lottery tickets, and coal line the streets. When I found an ice cream place I went in and enjoyed a cool treat.
Thay has offered such beautiful dharma talks since I’ve last written. Hopefully the pictures I’ve posted at flickr.com/photos/rezdog help tell the story. A talk on power was given to leaders and businessmen in Hue; being compassionate towards employees, consumers and the environment. A series of talks, then a retreat in DaNang was so wonderful to experience. So many thousands of people were treated to several days of learning the basic mindfulness practice, including walking meditation and eating with Thay. In Na Trang a talk on the teachings on love and the mindfulness trainings was given. We are now in Hanoi, with the 3 great requiem ceremony to begin tomorrow. It’s not clear if the government will allow or support this ceremony, as they were conducted in Ho Chi Minh City and Hue. I smile that the opportunity to reconcile and heal the country exists.
The lay sangha is doing it’s best to maintain its freshness. I have the greatest admiration for all the friends who have dedicated their time to be a part of this mission of peace. We have been through a lot and like any family there have been some challenges between us. Last night at Bo De temple we had a beginning anew ceremony to help us water flowers and resolve some mis perceptions. I am very grateful that Sister Chong Khong and a couple other sister attended to help ensure that the process would be healing for us. At this time there is harmony in the sangha as many friends depart and some new ones arrive for this last segment of events in Hanoi. I will put the names of US veterans and their families that suffered from the Vietnam war, or any other war, on paper and bring them to the healing ceremony so that they be transformed, light and free.