Dear Thay, dear Sangha,
We welcome Dharma teacher Trish Thompson as guest editor for this issue. She joined the Order of Interbeing in 2002 and received Lamp Transmission from Thay in 2011. She has been living in Vietnam for fourteen years, is the founder and managing director of Loving Work Foundation—an organization that improves lives of children and families in Vietnam—and leads annual retreats in Vietnam for international lay friends.
Our editorial team chose the Tenth Mindfulness Training as the theme for this issue, for we believe the preciousness of the Sangha is without parallel. More of us are waking to the need for a refuge. A community of practice, grounded in love and non-fear, can fill that need.
We, who study and practice the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha and our dear teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), know that of the Three Jewels—the Buddhas, the enlightened teachers who show us the way; the Dharma, the teachings and practices that liberate from suffering; and the Sangha— the third jewel is essential. To realize our ideal of healing and transformation, we need each other. Our practice is both an individual and a collective matter.
After the parinirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha, some people interpreted Sangha as referring to the monastic Sangha only. This is a misinterpretation of the Buddha’s teachings, which held that the Sangha is always fourfold, consisting of fully ordained monks and nuns, and laymen and laywomen. Based on the Buddha’s teachings, Thay has always encouraged lay practitioners, monks, and nuns to practice together; for example, lay friends are invited to join the Three-Month Rains’ Retreat. There is no hierarchy in the Plum Village Sangha. Often we can see a lay practitioner who is practicing as well as, if not better than, a monk or a nun. How grateful we are that Thay in his wisdom has seen fit to continue the Buddha’s teaching on the Fourfold Sangha.
Plum Village monastics practice to observe hundreds of vows: 250 for the monks, 348 for the nuns. They recite them every two weeks. They understand a true community must develop and maintain boundless love and unshakeable integrity in order to be a refuge for all. Is it any wonder that the Buddha’s teachings tell us that one of the greatest blessings is to have regular contact with monks and nuns? Plum Village is a monastic community in which we can confidently take refuge.
More than 1,200 international lay Sanghas also take conscious steps to protect and nourish the spirit of true community. In addition to studying and practicing the mindfulness trainings, many have seen the wisdom of organizing caretaking councils. Some follow the example of the monastic community by regularly scheduling practices of Beginning Anew and Shining Light. Some offer Days of Mindfulness, study groups, and training for Order of Interbeing aspirants. The smaller Sanghas, while perhaps not as active, contribute their love by regularly showing up to practice mindful sitting, walking, and Dharma sharing. All offer opportunities for members to serve in some capacity.
As practitioners, we have met the conditions that brought us to the Three Jewels. We have a Sangha to love and a Sangha that loves us. To quote from Brother Phap Hai’s article in this issue: “Now is the time to turn toward one another.” The gifts of insight and wisdom found in the articles in this issue offer us wonderful practice guidelines.
Bowing with deep gratitude,
Conscious Aspiration of the Heart
True Concentration on Peace