Thursday Evening Online Program
January 19, 2023 7:00 to 8:45 pm Eastern time
Dear Respected Thay, Dear Respected Ancestors, Dear Community,
This is a festive week in the life of our global Plum Village tradition, as the community prepares to celebrate the lunar new year. In the Vietnamese tradition, Tết (the Vietnamese name for the lunar new year) is a time to recognize our interbeing with our spiritual and genetic roots, and to honor the continuation of those ancestors in us. Much of the celebration includes joyful activities to celebrate family or community togetherness, enjoying special foods and games, honoring elders, and offering wishes for well-being. Tết observances also include ceremonies to honor ancestors, practices to nourish us and heal our suffering, and aspirations to cultivate our minds of love and awakening.
Last year, the lunar new year fell weeks after Thay’s (Thich Nhat Hanh’s) passing on January 22, 2022. The festivities were abbreviated and somewhat muted. This year, the lunar new year festivities have fully resumed. The lunar new year date also happens to be the anniversary of Thay’s passing.
Reflecting on the co-occurrence of the lunar new year and the anniversary of Thay’s passing, I’ve asked myself how we might honor this moment with aspirations to deepen our continuation of Thay. In the year that has passed, we have come to better appreciate what it means that Thay is not limited to his physical body, and that we are all his continuations. That insight has been nurtured by encounters with Thay in some of his many continuation bodies. In sangha, Thay sits with our bodies and walks with our feet. Thay teaches the Dharma in in the voices of lay and monastic teachers. We recognize Thay in those who seek or continue to take refuge in the Plum Village practices. We welcome Thay in those who embody his wisdom and engaged practice in the world.
We are fortunate to have a communal practice to nurture our aspirations to continue Thay: the lunar new year Parallel Verses. Thay used to offer parallel verses annually at the lunar new year, an adaptation of ancient Vietnamese and Chinese traditions. The parallel verses that have been offered for 2023, the year of the Rabbit are:
Peace in every step,
Freedom in every smile
We are invited to post the parallel verses around our homes, in places where we will encounter them frequently, such as the fridge or near a light switch. These simple verses, recited with the breath, bring us back to the present moment and cultivate the inner peace and freedom that we saw present in Thay.
Another resource that may help us identify our individual aspirations is the New Year’s Prayer to Mother Earth and All Our Ancestors, offered by the Plum Village monastics on January 1, 2023. That prayer reads, in part:
Dear Thay, dear Mother Earth, dear Ancestors, we promise that in the year 2023 we will continue to practice bringing more lightness and harmony, joy and compassion into our homes, our sanghas, and the world. We promise to cultivate openness, to practice deep listening and compassionate speech so that we can truly be present and take good care of one another. We promise to cultivate the insight of interbeing, to see the sangha’s happiness as our own happiness and to harness and take refuge in collective insight as we practice, study, play and work together. And may each of us continue to cultivate our mind of love, learning to love without discrimination and to embrace all beings without exception.
We know that the world is undergoing deep crises. We promise to look deeply at our actions of body, speech and mind, to recognize and transform the harm we are presently causing ourselves and mother Earth. We promise not to close our eyes but to face the suffering in ourselves and in the world with great courage and non-fear. We also vow to continue your work of discovering, exploring and restoring a beautiful culture of spirituality, so that we can offer society the kind of energy, joy and beauty that can heal and protect ourselves and our planet.
On Thursday evening, we will begin with some Plum Village practice songs and a guided meditation of appreciation for our interbeing with Thay and other ancestors. Following a short break, in our Dharma sharing we will explore these questions:
- When do we experience ease in being Thay’s continuation?
- When is that aspiration challenging?
How can we support ourselves and others in our effort to embody our continuation of Thay and where can we seek support?
You are warmly invited to join us!
You are invited to watch a new documentary about Thich Nhat Hahn which will premiere at 1:30 a.m. Vietnam time on 22 January 2023/1:30 p.m. EST January 21: I Have Arrived, I Am Home.
Yours in peace and freedom,
Here is the link to Mitchell’s blog where he describes his experiences in Vietnam this month: https://smileofthedandelion.wordpress.com. You can follow his blog and get emails whenever there are new posts.
To receive the Zoom link for this and future Thursday evening programs, please register at https://swmpc.breezechms.com/form/3a13952343463126. (If you already have the Thursday Zoom link, there is nothing you need to do.)