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Inviting Thầy’s Relics Home

Dear respected Thầy,

Dear respected monks and nuns and the Mahasangha,

Today we have a chance to listen to the eulogies written for Thầy by Thầy’s disciples.

Dear Sangha, in the monastic tradition when we consider our teacher who has transmitted to us the body of the precepts and the wisdom inside the precepts, our gratitude is immense. It cannot be expressed by words.

Venerable Thích Phước Tịnh at Deer Park Monastery, January 2022; photo courtesy of Evermind Media

We owe gratitude to our parents, who have given us this flesh body, but our body has gone through birth and death for millions of lifetimes. The gratitude we owe to our teacher, who has given us the Dharma body so that we can live with peace and happiness right in this very life to transcend birth and death: that gratitude is immeasurable.

In the time of the Buddha, those who had achieved arhatship declared to the Buddha that even if they made the ultimate sacrifice of giving up their bodies to be pulverized into millions of pieces as a show of gratitude, by doing so they still would not repay their debt to the Buddha for teaching the Dharma.

We are very fortunate to have met Thầy and received the Dharma that Thầy has transmitted to us, whether we had the good fortune to meet Thầy directly or not. Like the people in the time of the Buddha, we can bow in front of Thầy’s photograph and in front of Thầy’s relics and give rise to the aspiration to practice and to help spread the teachings far and wide so we can repay a tiny part of the immense gratitude we owe to our beloved teacher.

Even though we have heard Thầy teaching us that a cloud never dies, now that Thầy has made his transition it’s very normal to feel this emptiness, this void, this sadness in our heart. That is very human.

Even the Buddha felt something like this. When his eldest disciples passed away and he held their relics in his hands, the Buddha said, “We can feel this emptiness, this void, in the Sangha, now that the elders have passed away and left us alone.”

We have known Thầy all these years that Thầy has come to Deer Park. We know all the great beings come into this world, do the great work, and then leave. Thầy has left us a great legacy. We acknowledge, we celebrate, and at the same time it’s inevitable that we feel a bit worried, concerned whether we will be able to continue his legacy or not.

Thầy's hands in a mudra; photo by Fe Langdon

When Thầy was still here with us in his physical body, we could go to him when we had difficulties in the Sangha for his consultation and advice. And now this is very important. Back then, we could afford to disagree and argue, but now that our teacher is no longer here physically, it’s essential that we remain in harmony with each other so we can build the Sangha.

Every great river flows thanks to many smaller rivers gathering from the tops of mountains to join it. I ask that every brother, every sister, every practitioner, see themselves as one of these rivulets.

We have had the chance to greet our teacher here at Deer Park and at every practice center. Now that Thầy cannot be here in person anymore, I ask each of you to do your best to practice, to be worthy of the teachings and the transmission that Thầy has given you, so that together you can help continue Thầy’s lineage, Thầy’s practices, and share them with many others. That is how we can repay our gratitude—that immense gratitude—that we owe to our beloved teacher.

Let us promise Thầy that we will love each other, help each other, and support each other, so we are worthy to be Thầy’s disciples and worthy to be the disciples of the Buddha.

This Dharma talk was given on February 23, 2022, during the Ceremony to Invite Thay’s Relics Home at Deer Park Monastery. It was translated from Vietnamese by Sister Dang Nghiem and transcribed by Elaine Fisher.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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