Beautiful Practice, Beautiful ContinuationFlower buds on orange tree by Cyclingshepherd

Beautiful Practice, Beautiful Continuation

Discussion date: Thu, May 02, 2019 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

This past weekend twelve of us from the Still Water community attended the annual Order of Interbeing Retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery. The theme of the retreat was “Beautiful Practice, Beautiful Continuation.” In a general way the theme highlights the Buddhist understanding that our thoughts, speech, and actions always carry with them an energy and that the character or intentional quality of that energy touches and transforms us and everything in the world. As Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) explains in Answers from the Heart:

When you look at an orange tree, you see that the orange tree is producing beautiful green leaves, fragrant orange blossoms, and sweet oranges. Those are the things an orange tree has to offer to the world. A human being is like that too. In her daily life she produces thoughts, speech, and actions. Our thoughts may be beautiful, compassionate, and loving. Our speech may also be compassionate, inspiring, full of love and understanding. And our actions may also be compassionate, protecting, healing, and supporting others and ourselves. Looking deeply in the present moment we can see that we’re producing thoughts, speech, and actions. In the Buddhist tradition, our thoughts, our speech and our actions are our true continuation.

More specifically, the retreat theme arose out of discussions among the retreat organizers that the end of Thay’s life may be approaching. Implicitly “Beautiful Practice, Beautiful Continuation” was an answer to the question “What will happen to the Plum Village community after Thay transitions?” If the monastic and lay students of Thich Nhat Hanh practice deeply and diligently, if the monastic and lay communities live in harmony and nourish understanding, love, and joy, all will be well.

This Thursday evening after our meditation period we will explore together “Beautiful Practice, Beautiful Continuation.” Do you see an energetic connection between your thoughts, words, and actions; your future; and the future of the world? Has this understanding changed how you live your daily life?

You are invited to join us.

As is our tradition on the first Thursday of the month, we will also offer a brief newcomer’s orientation to mindfulness practice and to the Still Water community. The orientation will begin at 6:30 pm, and participants are encouraged to stay for the evening program. If you would like to attend the orientation, it is helpful if you let us know by emailing us at info@stillwatermpc.org.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s full response to a practitioner’s question about continuation is below.

Many blessings,

Mitchell Ratner


Q and A from Answers from the Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh

Q. What can help us take comfort that our loved ones will continue on in other forms after they die?

A. When you look at an orange tree, you see that the orange tree is producing beautiful green leaves, fragrant orange blossoms, and sweet oranges. Those are the things an orange tree has to offer to the world. A human being is like that too. In her daily life she produces thoughts, speech, and actions. Our thoughts may be beautiful, compassionate, and loving. Our speech may also be compassionate, inspiring, full of love and understanding. And our actions may also be compassionate, protecting, healing, and supporting others and ourselves. Looking deeply in the present moment we can see that we’re producing thoughts, speech, and actions. In the Buddhist tradition, our thoughts, our speech and our actions are our true continuation.

Once we’ve produced a thought it will be here for a long time. Once we’ve said something, our words will remain for a long time. Once we’ve taken an action, our action can have an effect far into the future. Suppose you produce a thought of compassion and forgiveness. Right away that thought has a healing effect on your body and your mind. It also has an immediate healing effect on the world, and it will continue to have a healing effect into the future. So it’s very important to be able to produce a thought of compassion, nondiscrimination, and forgiveness.

Many people believe that after the disintegration of the body there’s nothing left. Even many scientists still believe that. But our thoughts, our speech, and our actions are the energies we produce, and they will continue for a long time. We can assure a beautiful continuation by producing good thoughts, speech, and action. You can’t destroy a human being. You can’t reduce him or her to nonbeing. Just as it’s impossible for a cloud to die, it’s impossible for a human being to become nothing. So looking deeply like that into our true nature, looking deeply into the nature of other people around you, you’ll have the kind of insight that will liberate you from sorrow, fear, and anger. Non-fear, the insight that there’s no birth and no death, is the greatest gift given to us by the practice of looking deeply.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, May 02, 2019


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