The River of Life — Our Ancestors in Us

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Thursday Evening Online Program

May 19, 2022, 7:00 to 8:45 pm Eastern Time

Dear Still Water Friends,

A recurring theme in the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) and in our Dharma sharing on Thursdays is that we are a continuation of our ancestors. Their experiences and responses condition how we see, feel, and think —  indeed, who we are as individuals. In a recent podcast, Br. Phap Huu, a senior Plum Village monk, remembered Thay emphasizing the importance of ancestors when he said, “When I meet somebody, I never meet that person as an individual, I meet their entire lineage.”

I have had the privilege of facilitating the Three and Five Touchings of the Earth at Still Water gatherings. Each time, I have been moved by Thay’s awareness of the intimate connection between our blood and spiritual ancestors and our suffering, our joy, and our mindfulness. This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will read together the “The River of Life,” a guided meditation from Thay’s book, The Touchings of the Earth:

Lord Buddha, I am aware that in me there is a river of life that contains my ancestors and my descendants. All generations of my spiritual and blood ancestors are present in me. I am their continuation. I do not have a separate self. I am practicing to let go of everything that I think is myself or belongs to me, so that I can become one with this river of life. This river of life is flowing in me. My spiritual ancestors are the Buddha, the bodhisattvas, the holy community of practice and ancestral teachers throughout all generations. That river includes my spiritual teachers of this lifetime, whether they are still on this Earth or whether they have passed away. They are present in me. They have transmitted to me seeds of peace, understanding, love, and happiness. Thanks to them I have the resource of peace, joy, insight, and compassion within me, even if it is still small. In the river of my spiritual ancestors, there are those whose practice of the precepts, understanding, and compassion is fully realized. There are also those whose practice of precepts, understanding, and compassion has had shortcomings. I bow my head and accept all my spiritual ancestors, realized and not realized, because in myself there are weaknesses and shortcomings as far as the practice of precepts, understanding, and compassion is concerned. I open my heart and accept all my spiritual descendants, those whose practice of precepts and understanding is worthy of praise as well as those who are difficult for me and have ups and downs on their path of practice.

I accept all my ancestors on my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family with all their virtues, meritorious actions, and shortcomings. I also open my heart and accept all my blood descendants with their virtues, their talents, and their shortcomings. My spiritual and blood descendants and my spiritual and blood ancestors are all present in me. I am they and they are me. I do not have a separate self. We are all present in a wonderful stream of life that is constantly flowing and changing in a marvelous way.

Touching the Earth

Lord Buddha, I touch the earth three times to let go of the idea that I am a self separate from my ancestors and my descendants, and to release all the irritation and anger that I still hold towards them.

In our Dharma sharing this Thursday, we will enter the flow of the river and explore the continuation of our ancestors in our lives and our practice.

  • When do we recognize in our bodies and thoughts the wisdom, happiness, and accomplishments of our ancestors?
  • When do we recognize their thoughtlessness, sorrows, and defeats?

You are invited to join us.

Warm wishes,

Paul Flippin