You are on page 1of 2

I - I I E O ' I ' I i E RZ F - N , \ N I ) ' f I I I l P U R I 1L A \ D 357

his disciple frlr tu'elve -\'ears.became the abl>essof the International


'I'he -I'hich
Buddhist Nleclitation(,enter. VenerableDr. i\{an-Giac took
his place as suprenreabbot of the \-ictnarneseBuddhist C,hurchesin
America.
"It's hard to discussnou'," saicl Sister Karuna after I)r. -I'hien-an's
death, "but it seenrsto me that in the future. u'hen ue lcxrkback at the
development that Anrcrican Bucldhisnl took, u'e're goine to find that
VietnarneseBr,rtlclhisnr-'urhich relateclso ucll to p<lliticalconcernssuch
as human rights-u'as a great influencein thc devcl<)pnrent of American
Buddhism. Flunclredsof vears front nou' I think historiansare going to
s a v , ' L o o k a t t h i s , t h i s t i n y l i t t l e c o u n t r t ' l r r o u g h tf < l r u a r da r t h a t t i m e a
man u'ho profoundlv affecteil .,\nrcricanBudclhismin a u'av \\'e never
thought u'as possiblc.'"

-l-en
vears latcr, things had comc full circlc, as anorher Victnamese
-[-hich
monk, Nhat Ilanh, sp<lkesoftlv to a group of tu'cntv Vietnam
veteransduring a "rctrcat firr rcc<lnciliationand healing."
'l'hich
Nhat Hanh talkcd alxrut the Sch<xrlof Youth frrr SrrcialServicc
h c h a c l f t r u n d e di n V i c t r r a n ri n 1 9 6 - 1u, h i c h r r a i n e d s . c i a l u o r k e r s r o
rcbuild bonrtrctlrillagcs. Ilccausehe lncl other lludtlhists had pursuecla
middlc u'ar.',cllling frlr rcconciliationand an encl ro the \rrr, thev u,ere
a t t a c k c cbl l ' l x r t h s i c l e s".I l a n y u o r k c r s i n t h e s c h < x rul e r e k i l l c d , " ' l ' h i c h
Nhat llanh said. "l n.rvselfescapc<ldeath in a ver\. narro\r, u'ay. -l'hc
fact that I'm ali'c ancl sit here is a nriracle. N'u' I realiz.ethat those ,f
us rvh<lhave touched the u'ar, rvho have cxpcriencedthc u'ar directly,
havea dutt to tlring the truth <lfthe u ar to peopleu'h<ldon't havedircct
experience.\\'e arc thc bcst people ro do it."
For thc lirst ftu'davs the veteranspraciced mindfulnessof breathing,
eating, and u'alking in silence."\\'c reflect our society,and in order to
seeu.hat potential r.le have for peace,iov, and happiness,we have to
look into ourselves,"said l'hich \har Hanh. "We have ro see also the
potentialof u'ar, of violencein ourselves,in the bodv of our collective
ccxrsciuusness. So practicingi<xlkingdeeply, we will be able to see,and
that kind of insisht u'ill have a liberating po\,!'er.\l'e u'ill know u'har r<r
do and u'hat not ro do in order to bring about change in our society and
our cclnsciousness."
In the evenings,and trlu'ard the entl of the retreat, thev met in small
rap groups to talk about their erperiences.During one of these discus-
158 HO\\' THE S\\"\NS C.\\IE TO T'HE L.\KT,

sions, a Vet confessedthat he had killed fir'e Vietnamesechildren in an


ambush. Ever since then he could not bear to be alone in a room u'ith
children.
Thich Nhat Hanh replied that "at this verv nloment there manv
-I'here
children u'ho are dving in the sorld. are children u'ho die fust
becausethey lack a single pill of medicine. If vou are mindtul, \'ou can
bring that pill to that child, and vou can save his life. lf r,'oupractice
like that frrr fir'e times, then r'ou u'ill sar-cfive chilclren.Becauseu hlt is
to be donc is to bc cloncin thc prcscnt nr()mcnt.Fortv thousanclchildren
die everv dav becauseof the lack of fbod. \\'hi' cio vttu havc to cling to
-I'here
the past to think of the fir'e u'ho are alreadvdeacl? arc those $ho
are dt'ing nou. \'ou havc the po\\'cr to changc things bv touching the
Presentmoment."
.'\t thc end o1'the retreat a nridcllc-agedman rlh<l had sct firc t<l a
\rietnanrcsevillage t\\'entv vcars before sp<lketo ir rcfugce Vietnamesc
monk lvh<l nclu livcd in l,os.'\ngelcs. "l u'ant to apol()gil.cfirr tleing r
part of destroving \'our countr)'," hc said, "anrl to all the people t'<lu
probabh' helped after I rnaclethem homeless."
-I'he
monk bou'ed, palms ioined, knees and herci to the grouncl. "[
have been a r.nonkfor manv lears ancl I thousht I could control m\'
emotions but toclav I cannot," he said. "l)uring thc u'ar, I uscclto give
funeral servicestilr the familics of the dcad, but nry heart u'as hard, like
'l'hen
ice, becausethe suffering \\'as too great. I got a telegram saving
my o\\'n brother had becn killecl, ancl I kneu truc suff-erirrg.Tidal' thc
voicc of Jesus(,hrist spcaksthrough r'ou and the Bucldhr flou'er opens
in you."
No one can sav u'hat u'ill haplpenin a hunclred vears. But at this
-l'hich
moffrcnt-and lifc can onlv tlc ftiund in the presentm()ment, as
Nhat Ilanh 5x1'5-11d<lesincleerlseem that Vietnamesel3ucldhism,as
personiliedbv this gentle and fearlessmonk, u'ill havea grcat impact on
. \ m e r i c a nB u d d h i s m .