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20 October, 2007


June 11, 1963, Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk from Vietnam, burned himself to death at a busy intersection in downtown Saigon to bring attention to the repressive policies of the Catholic Diem regime that controlled the South Vietnamese government at the time. Buddhist monks asked the regime to lift its ban on flying the traditional Buddhist flag, to grant Buddhism the same rights as Catholicism, to stop detaining Buddhists and to give Buddhist monks and nuns the right to practice and spread their religion.

While burning Thich Quang Duc never moved a muscle.

Before the Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Due burned himself alive in 1963, he meditated for several weeks and then wrote very loving letters to his government, his church, and his fellow monks and turns explaining why he had reached the decision. When you are motivated by love and the willingness to help others attain understanding, even self-immolation can be a compassionate act. When Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified, He was acting in the same way, motivated by the desire to wake people up, to restore understanding the compassion, and to save people. When you are motivated by anger or discrimination, even if you act in exactly the same way, you are doing the opposite.

When you read Thich Quang Duc's letters, you know very clearly that he was not motivated by the wish to oppose or destroy but by the desire to communicate. When you are caught in a war in which the great powers have huge weapons and complete control of the mass media, you have to do something extraordinary to make yourself heard. Without access to radio, television, or the press, you have to create new ways to help the world understand the situation you are in Self-immolation can be such a means. If you do it out of love, you act very much as Jesus did on the cross and as Gandhi did in India. Gandhi fasted, not with anger, but with compassion, not only towards his countrymen but also toward the British. These great men all knew that it is the truth that sets us free, and they did everything they could to make the truth known.
Budhist and Christian practice is the same--to make the truth available--the truth about ourselves, the truth about our brothers and sisters, the truth about our situation. This is the work of writers, preachers, the media, and also practitioners. Each day, we practice looking deeply into ourselves and into the situation of our brothers and sisters. It is the most serious work we can do.


13 October, 2007


Mindful eating is an important practice. It nourshes awareness in us. children are very capable of practicing with us. In Budhist monasteries, we eat our meals in silence to make it easier to give our full attention to the food and to the other members of the community who are present. And we chew each morsel of food thoroughly, atleast thirty times, to help us to be truly in touch with it. Eating this way is very good for digestion.
Before every meal, a monk or a nun recitesthe Five Contemplations: "This food is the gift of the whole universe--the earth the sky, and much hard work. May we live in a way that is worthy of the food. May we transform our unskillful states of mind, especially that of greed. May we eat only foods that nourish us and prevent illness. May we accept this food for the realization of the way of understanding and love."
Then we can look at the food deeply, in a way that allows it to become real. Contemplating our food before eating in mindfulness can be a real source of happiness. Every time I hold a bowl of rice, I know how fortunate I am, I know that forty thousand children die every day because of the lack of food and that many people are lonely, without friends or family. I visualize them and feel deep compassion. You do'nt need to be in a monastery to practise this. You can practise at home atg your dinner table. Eat mindfully is a wonderful way to nourish compassion, and it encourages us to do something to help those who are hungry and lonely. We needn't be afraid of eating without having the T.V. radio, newspaper or a complicated conversation to distract us. In fact, it is wonderful and joyful to be completely present with our food.

04 October, 2007

Neither defiled nor immaculate

Defiled or immaculate.

Dirty or pure. These are concepts we form in our mind.

In the City of Mani there are many young prostitutes, some of them only fourteen or fifteen years old. They are very unhappy young ladies. They did not want to be prostitutes. Their families are poor and these young girls went to the city to look for some kind of jobs like street vendor, to make money to send back to their families. Of course this is not true not only in Manila, but in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, in New York City, and in Paris also. It is true that in the city you can make money more easily than in the countryside, so we can imagine how a young girl may have been tempted to go there to help here family. But after only a few weeks there, she was persuaded by a cleverer person to work for her and to earn perhaps one hundred times more money. Because she was so young and did not know much about life, she accepted and became a prostitute. Since that time, she has carried the feeling of being impure, defiled, and this causes her great suffering. When she looks at other young girls, dressed beautifully, belonging to good families, a wretched feeling wells up to her, and this feeling of defilement has become her hell.
But, if she had an opportunity to meet with Avalokita, he would tell her to look deeply at herself and at the whole situation, and see that she is like this because other people are like that. "This is like this, because that is like that." So how can a so called good girl, belonging to a good family be proud? Because their way of life is like this. the other girl has to be like that. No one among us has clean hands. No one of us can claim it is not our responsibility. The girl in Manila is that way because of the way we are. Looking into the life of that young prostitute, we see the non-prostitute people. And looking at the non-prostitute people and at the way we live our lives, we see the prostitute. This helps to create that, and that helps to create this.
Source: The Heart of Understanding