By Ian Prattis
At the September retreat, Sister Ani Lodro and I decided to plant a tree as a gift to the Lower Hamlet. We purchased an apricot tree from the garden center in Bergerac. It has beautiful, delicate white flowers in the spring and rich orange-colored fruit in the autumn. We both had our personal reasons: Ani Lodro wished to commemorate her friend Kay, who had recently died an aware and beautiful death, and I wanted to establish a landmark for my son Alexander's new life and commitment to a path free from drugs. But the project quickly grew beyond our individual concerns and we decided to associate the tree with the Third Refuge and the idea of Sangha-building. Each person is a cell in the body of the living Buddha that manifests through the Sangha, and this tree represents every Sangha we create through mindful practice.
On September 26, the tree was entrusted to the Earth, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, and planted in the orchard next to the Buddha garden, circled by apple trees . We recited poems, sang songs, and placed some soil and our heartfelt prayers into the ground for its growth. Thay and Sister Chan Khong graced the ceremony with their presence.
The tree came with a guarantee from the garden center if it does not work it can be traded in for a new one! There is no such guarantee for Sangha-building, however, other than the guidelines and encouragement from Thay which can help our Sanghas flower and bear fruit. When you next come to Plum Village, please visit the tree in the Lower Hamlet. Feel its beauty, and remember all it connects us to.
Ian Prattis, True Body of Understanding, practices with the Tu An Pagoda Sangha in Ottawa, Canada.