Welcome New Dharma Teachers: Lamp Transmission in Plum Village

Valerie Brown Lamp Transmission with Thay Phap Ứng
Order Member Valerie Brown and Thay Phap Ứng. © PVCEB

The lamp transmission refers to “the manner in which the teaching, or Dharma, is passed from a Zen master to their disciple. The procedure establishes the disciple as a transmitting teacher in their own right and successor in an unbroken lineage of teachers and disciples, a spiritual ‘bloodline’ theoretically traced back to the Buddha himself.” According to Zen schools, the first instance of Dharma transmission occurred as transcribed in the Flower Sermon, when the Buddha held up a golden lotus flower given to him by Brahma before an assembly of “gods and men.”

A Dharma teacher is a continuation of the Buddha and of all our ancestral teachers. Their deepest aspiration is to manifest mindfulness, concentration, and insight in every thought, word, and action. Guided and protected by wisdom and compassion, a Dharma teacher is a happy person who joyfully passes on the practice to others. A Dharma teacher in the Plum Village tradition conducts one’s life in accord with the Five and Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. Is guided by bodhichitta, looks deeply, and sees and nourishes the bodhicitta in others. These teachers have the support of their sangha, fellow Dharma teachers, and their family.

Our Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, has shared about being a dharma teacher in this talk from 2001.

“There are Dharma centres, there are monasteries, there are teachers, there are Dharma brothers and sisters who practice and being a member of the Order of Interbeing helps us to profit from all of these in order to advance on our path of freedom. With enough freedom we can make others around us happy. We know that practicing without a Sangha is difficult so we try our best to set up a Sangha around us, where we live. To be an OI member is wonderful . To be a Dharma teacher is wonderful. Wonderful, not because we have the title of OI membership, or of Dharma teacher, but because we have the chance to practice and to organize.

“Being a Dharma teacher is also an opportunity to practice – you cannot not practice! You need to practice in order that your teaching has content. How can you open your mouth and give the teaching if you don’t do it yourself? The teaching is an opportunity: even if you are not an excellent teacher yet, being a Dharma teacher helps very much when you speak about the Dharma, for you have to do what you are sharing, otherwise it looks odd. It’s like a monk living with other monks: when everyone is doing walking meditation it would look strange if that monk did not do the practice. So, as a Dharma teacher, you have a great opportunity to practice.

“Every member of the Sangha can create favourable conditions for you, whether that member is good at the practice or not. A person who has a strong practice may inspire you to be at least like them and another person who is very weak in the practice may draw you to help them. So being a Dharma teacher is a good thing.”

On June 14 and June 15, 2018 the sangha invited twenty-six Order members to receive the lamp transmission. The ceremony took place at Plum Village, France and included the following people surrounded by hundreds of lay and monastic practitioners.

  1. Valerie Brown (USA)
  2. Theresa Payne  (UK)
  3. Serge Letort (France)
  4. Christiane Terrier (France)
  5. Tineke Spruytenburg (Dutch)
  6. Jack Bertho (France)
  7. Bill Woodall (USA)
  8. Sheila Canal (USA)
  9. Juan Gregorio Hidalgo (Spain)
  10. Angie Searle (UK)
  11. Luis del Val Martinez (Spain)
  12. Ava Avalos (Botswana)
  13. Rosa Serrano (Spain)
  14. Bruce Nichols (USA) 
  15. Josselyne Letort (France)
  16. Rick Sonnenberg (USA)
  17. Margret de Backere (Germany) 
  18. Dianne Little Eagle (USA)
  19. Caitlin Bush (New Zealand)
  20. Dominique Lemoine (France)
  21. Greg Grallo (USA)
  22. Michele Tae (USA)
  23. Scott Schang (USA)
  24. Denise Segor (USA) 
  25. Phil Stein (USA) 
  26. Viviane Ephriamson-Abt (USA) 

We welcome these dear friends to the community of teachers.

Loving Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

COORDINATED BY THICH NHAT HANH/NORTH AMERICA SANGHA

Dear Friends:

As many of you may know, since 2012 Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh has been consistent in his defense of the well-being of the Rohingya people, who are Muslim, against discrimination and violence in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, Myanmar.

Rohingya Refugees
Bernat Armangue/AP Photo

Since last fall, over 647,000 impoverished Rohingya refugees …. that’s correct, over 647,000 in the course of only a few months…. have fled across the border into one of the most poor regions of neighboring Bangladesh, historically a country in great need itself.

Many practitioners in the Plum Village tradition have responded to this tragedy by addressing needs related to the health and well-being of the Rohingya people.  For example, members of Lakeside Buddha Sangha in Evanston have been in regular contact with the Rohingya community in nearby Chicago.  Its leaders have returned from visits to the refugee camps as recently as last December.  They have consistently reported that Doctors without Borders, also known as Medicines Sans Frontieres, is the most visible on-the-ground presence helping the refugee camps.  Over 146,000 refugees were treated by Doctors without Borders in late 2017, suffering from infant malnourishment, respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, and diphtheria, primarily among children.  A great deal of emphasis has been placed on attempting to prevent the outbreak of disease, especially cholera. Our contacts returning from Bangladesh did not see much evidence of help from the Bangladeshi government, which is understandable when its limited resources are taken into account. Continue reading “Loving Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis”

Reading the News Mindfully

I will start with a confession: I am a news junkie, but one who, despite that, tries to read the news mindfully, though admittedly there is something of a contradiction in this. Thay has on a number of occasions encouraged us to read the news no more than once a week, warning that reading it more often can water such unwholesome mental formations as anger and despair. In my own experience, he is not wrong about the ways in which regularly reading the news can weigh down one’s spirit, fostering not only anger or despair, but also a certain degree of jadedness to the suffering one reads about. But, given that I teach and do research in the fields of sociology and global studies, I actually need to read the news nearly daily to remain properly informed about developments in areas I study and to teach my classes well. But, even given that, I read the news more than I need, sometimes checking my favorites news sites several times a day, as a way of taking a “break” from whatever I am working on. I do so partly out of unhealthy habit energy, but partly also out of a genuine interest in learning more about the lives of others across the world–out of wanting to deepen my understanding and thereby my compassion for the people I read about. Continue reading “Reading the News Mindfully”

Urgent Response to Rohinghya Suffering

Dear Friends,

In an effort to mitigate the suffering of Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar into nearby Bangladesh, we are writing to enlist your help in our capacity as the Care-Taking Council of the Dharma Teachers ordained by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh residing in North America.

Since 2012, Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh and our Council has been writing to lay and monastic leaders of Myanmar, asking them to look deeply in order to see and understand the basic humanity and rights of the Rohingya ethnic minority living in western Myanmar, who practice a form of Islam.

We and other Buddhist leaders wrote to the government of Myanmar in February of this year as well to ask that its military cease military operations against Rohingya refugees causing them to flee Myanmar into impoverished Bangladesh.

As you have probably learned from newspaper sources, notwithstanding its receipt of many such letters appealing for peace, Myanmar military operations increased sharply this summer, causing an estimated 500,000 Rohingya refugees to flee into one of the most remote and poverty-stricken areas in Bangladesh within a period of approximately 30 days, sometimes at the rate of 20,000 people each day, only to hide in forested hillsides.

Is what has been happening consistent with the Buddha’s teachings? Continue reading “Urgent Response to Rohinghya Suffering”

On a National Resolution of Atonement

The following letter was written by Robb Kushner, an Order of Interbeing Aspirant. Robb has given permission to post and share this very instructive and thoughtful statement.

~ Kenley


Letter to Sen. Cory Booker – On a National Resolution of Atonement
Jersey City, NJ 07302

14 August 2017

The Honorable Cory Booker
359 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Booker:

The tragic events in Charlottesville this past week have caused me to revisit a powerful idea: a National Resolution of Atonement – and I want to share this with you in the hopes that you may want to bring it up in Congress.

It is time for our country to officially atone for the twin atrocities of centuries of unconscionable subjugation of Native Americans – including stealing their lands – along with the tragic enslavement with ensuing subjugation of African Americans.

The Germans have atoned for their perpetration of The Holocaust. We as a nation desperately need to face up to these tragic elements of our past.

In atoning for these twin atrocities that have been an integral part of our history, we can send a message to the world and to all future generations that we are indeed fully dedicated to the immortal declaration that “all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

We are truly a nation of immigrants, and this has always been our key strength and point of uniqueness. We need to celebrate the diversity across our land that makes us such a blessed country.

In addition, by adopting this kind of national atonement, we will send a clear and unequivocal message that racism and bigotry will never be tolerated – in any manner – in our national dialogue, including public displays and assemblies.

I trust that you will give this idea the kind of serious consideration it deserves. And I hope to hear your thoughts in response.

With deep gratitude for your dedicated service to our state and country,
Robb Kushner

With copies to:
Sen. Bob Menendez
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Kamala Harris
Sen. Al Franken
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Sen. Chuck Schumer
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Sen. Tammy Duckworth
Sen. Lisa Murkowski
Sen. Susan Collins
Sen. Claire McCaskill
Sen. Chris Van Hollen


In addition to the letter, the following practice statement from ARISE  (Awakening through Race, Intersectionality, and Social Equity) is very relevant to this topic.

GATHA FOR HEALING RACIAL, SYSTEMIC, AND SOCIAL INEQUITY: Aware of the suffering caused by racial, systemic, and social inequities, we commit ourselves, individually and as a community, to understanding the roots of these inequities, and to transforming this suffering into compassion, understanding and love in action. As a global community of practitioners, we are aware of the disproportionate racial violence and oppression committed by institutions and by individuals, whether consciously or unconsciously, against African Americans and people of color across the United States and beyond. We know that by looking deeply as individuals and as a community, we can engage the collective wisdom and energy of the Sangha to be our foundation for Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Mindfulness, and Right Insight. These are the practices leading to nondiscrimination, non-harming, and non-self which heal ourselves and the world.

The Soulmate of the Buddha

Lower Hamlet SanghaWe write to share a happiness that in 2018, Plum Village will be hosting their bi-annual 21 Day Retreat from June 1-21. It is a retreat focused for experienced Buddhist practitioners, especially from our Order of Interbeing community, but is also open to the general public. The retreat will be conducted in English with respective translations. We will also be transmitting the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings of the Order for all qualified international OI aspirants.

Please save the date! and read the letter of invitation, in English, French and Spanish.

Once registration opens, we will arrange for the first month to be open only for members of the Order and then open up for the general public, so keep an eye out for the open-registration date on the Plum Village website.

Practicing Compassionate Political Speech Through Deep Looking

Because of its emotionally charged nature, it is difficult to engage in political speech in a mindful, compassionate way. I often ask myself, How do I remain compassionate when criticizing others? Can we criticize others without disparaging or demonizing them, especially when we speak of them perpetuating injustices and other forms of harm to others? On a number of occasions, in sangha and on retreats and days of mindfulness, I have talked with other practitioners about these difficulties. On the one hand, some have told me that they deal with these challenges by simply not speaking of such contentious topics at all. While this may be appropriate for some people at some points in their practice, if none of us speak to these issues–to say nothing of working actively around them–changes for the better will not occur. On the other hand, I have talked to some practitioners who I felt were seeking for a Buddhist rationalization for speech that is not just angry but laced with ill-will by, for instance, making a distinction between anger and outrage, with the former to be avoided but the latter to be embraced as a mindful, positive reaction. Continue reading “Practicing Compassionate Political Speech Through Deep Looking”

The Time To Act Is Now !

In The World We Have (2008), Thay spoke to us with some urgency about the Bells of Mindfulness – the floods, droughts, sea level rise – that have been happening all over the planet,  trying to wake us up from our sleep-walking. His language about the danger to civilization from our rapidly changing climate, due to human-activity, was unvarnished and  direct, and yet he instructed us that “we don’t have to sink into despair about global warming, we can act.” The next year, 2009, The Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change: The Time To Act Is Now, was written. For certain, the clock measuring our society’s response had started much earlier, and even then we were already late as a global community in acting to protect the future.

Now, nine years later, even as a new White House Administration in the US wobbles over President Obama’s 2015 commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, we ask ourselves, “What can we do?  How do we act? How do we as OI Members respond within the framework of our 14 Mindfulness Trainings?” The short answer may best be, “we act in a way that is true to our own hearts,”  that is, a way that fits who we are and what we can contribute. Some of us will work to bring a Mindful Presence to the Climate Mobilizations, some will create and mail “Love Letters” as Thay taught us, and others will re-energize their own person commitments via our Earth Peace Treaty. Some of us will do all of this.

Most importantly, as ordained members of the Order of Interbeing, we can reflect deeply on Interbeing itself, on how we are all related regardless of race, nationality, location, gender identity, or even species. Looking deeply we see that we may need to get outside our comfort zones, and remember that our practice is not just for ourselves, but for all. As Thay has said, “We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness. We are imprisoned in our small selves, thinking only of having some comfortable conditions for this small self, while we destroy our large self. If we want to change the situation, we must begin by being our true selves. To be our true selves means we have to be the forest, the river, the ozone layer.” May it be so.

For Tomorrow’s Children of All Species,

George Hoguet/True Precious Smile.   earthholder.org

North American Ordination (2017 Only)

Dear Dharma Teachers, Dear Order Members, Dear Aspirants,

In 2017 there will be three opportunities for aspirants from North America to be ordained into the Order of Interbeing. In order to facilitate the process, the Care-Taking Council of the Dharma Teachers Sangha of North America (including both monastics and lay Dharma Teachers) have clarified the requirements, criteria, and procedures for North American students of Thich Nhat Hanh.

The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings offer clear guidance for living simply, compassionately, and joyfully in our modern world. They are a concrete embodiment of the teachings of the Buddha and the Bodhisattva ideal. Anyone who wishes can live his or her life in accord with these fourteen trainings.

To formally join the Order of Interbeing means to publicly commit oneself to studying, practicing, and observing the trainings and, also, to participating actively in a community which practices mindfulness in the Plum Village tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Continue reading “North American Ordination (2017 Only)”

A Letter of Support

In light of hearing from so many who are struggling amid these times of political changes, I felt called to offer this letter, of which I hope will offer some support and benefit.

Dear friends along the path,

I know you suffer, and I am here for you.

I see that your anger and fear are rooted in a fierce compassion for others and out of a strong desire to do what you feel and know is right. As a mindfulness practitioner, the question is not whether or not to be angry, it’s about how we utilize our anger to influence our thoughts, speech, and actions. Is our anger motivating us to become more informed and involved with an open heart and sense of connection and compassion, or with an un-grounded, frantic sense of heaviness and despair? What seeds are we sowing in our wake?

Do you feel as though anger is not only an appropriate response but a necessary one, in order to affect change? I remember feeling this way when I was in my early 20’s. It took me a long while to reconcile my mindfulness practice with my deep-rooted feelings of anger, related to those I felt were responsible for both large and small acts of environmental degradation. Without anger, I queried, wouldn’t I then become complacent and ineffectual? Wasn’t anger a crucial motivator? As my foundation of mindfulness was being built and strengthened, I came to understand that the answer, to both questions, was: no.

There resides a middle path to follow. One that allows us to become involved with matters of injustice, human rights, and environmental advocacy work (just to name a few) while also choosing not to carry around and spread the heavy burden of anger everywhere we go. May our anger and upset start us on the path of active engagement with the world around us, and may we then learn how to transform that anger into mindfulness, concentration, and insight, so that our speech and actions will cause as little harm as possible as we move forward.

Anger isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if we’re not careful and attentive, it can easily overtake and overwhelm our lives, causing us to become embittered, cynical, miserable, difficult to be around, and mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. If we allow our seeds of anger to be nurtured, we will create a very hostile and unpleasant atmosphere within and around us.

Feel your anger, dear friends, experience it as it arises, without judgement or suppression – I would not suggest otherwise. But don’t stop there. Investigate it. Become inquisitive. Understand your internal landscape, so that your actions that carry forth will be well informed. Do not allow your anger to go unchecked. Do not allow your seeds of love, ease, equanimity, inclusiveness, and interconnection to go un-watered. The well-being of our family, community, country, society, and the world depends on our ability to embody and practice the tools that mindfulness affords us, especially in the midst of change, challenge, struggle, adversity, and fear.

With Love and Support,

Nicole Dunn
True Wonderful Flower
Be Here Now Sangha
Missoula, Montana