<< Return to Br. ChiSing's Letters page

A 9-11 Letter
From Br. ChiSing and Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh
September 11, 2008

Br. ChiSing, A 9-11 Letter Dear mindful friend,

Today is the 7-year anniversary (a full week of seven years) since 9-11, when America received a profound wake-up call of global emergency.

Today is also exactly one month before the birthday of one of humanity's most precious spiritual resources, our beloved teacher and Zen Master, the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh (October 11).

Starting today, from 9-11 to 10-11, I invite you to practice mindfulness every day and to participate in spiritual community every week and to take at least one or more days for a 'Day of Mindfulness" retreat formally or informally during this 31-day period. Practice for the sake of our world. Practice for peace. Practice being peace.

Support your spiritual leaders with daily "metta" (loving kindness) prayer and meditation, including for me. Read Thich Nhat Hanh's new book that just got published this month, The World We Have (see excerpt below). And write me a letter, and write Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) a letter. On October 5, we will collect all letters to Thay in the Dallas/Forth Worth metroplex and mail them to him in France the next day, in time for his birthday on October 11.

We need to support and encourage our spiritual teachers. I know that, for me personally, there are some days when I feel tired, discouraged or alone. I sometimes wonder where the real disciples of the Buddha are in North Texas. I wonder if what I'm doing or saying for the sake of the Dharma in the DFW metroplex is really having any significant impact at all. And I wonder whether my dream of co-creating an Interfaith Buddhist Center in Dallas where all Buddhist and Buddhist-friendly meditation groups can cooperate and coexist together will ever truly manifest. It would be a very sad thing to me if the Zen folks, and the Shambhala folks, and the Thich Nhat Hanh folks, and the Vipassana folks couldn't come together to meditate and share in the common vision of our Root Teacher, the Buddha.

I need your encouragement. All your spiritual leaders need your support. If we practice only as an individual, we are like a single rain drop that quickly evaporates on a hot afternoon day. But if we can add our rain drop to others' raindrops, we soon can become a mighty river of "Sangha" (spiritual community) that can have great power and positive impact in the world. Please support the Sangha. Practice the "Sangha Lifestyle."

I am very heartened by the fact that Tzu Chi, a Buddhist Compassion Relief organization from Taiwan, is growing stronger here in Dallas. I love Ven. Master Cheng Yen, the Buddhist nun who started this wonderful organization of "Great Love". She is truly a living "bodhisattva" (awakening being), a beautiful expression of Buddha. And so is our teacher, Ven. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

I would like to declare today that AWAKENING HEART (Community of Mindful Living) officially has two spiritual parents. Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh is the "spiritual father" of our Sangha, and Master Cheng Yen is the "spiritual mother" of our Sangha. Let us support them with full devotion, for the sake of world healing and world peace.

Please meditate on these words below of Thich Nhat Hanh from his newest book, a very timely message from the heart of the Buddha Herself. I am so grateful to you for not giving up on me nor on your practice. I look forward to seeing you on Sundays (and perhaps Thursdays) this Autumn, as well as during Evenings of Mindfulness or Days of Mindfulness. Namo Amitabha Buddhaya!

In love and thanks,
Br. ChiSing

A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology
-- by Thich Nhat Hanh, September 2008


The Bells of Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh: The World We Have

The bells of mindfulness are calling out to us, trying to wake us up, reminding us to look deeply at our impact on the planet.

The bells of mindfulness are sounding. All over the Earth, we are experiencing floods, droughts, and massive wildfires. Sea ice is melting in the Arctic and hurricanes and heat waves are killing thousands. The forests are fast disappearing, the deserts are growing, species are becoming extinct every day, and yet we continue to consume, ignoring the ringing bells.

All of us know that our beautiful green planet is in danger. Our way of walking on the Earth has a great influence on animals and plants. Yet we act as if our daily lives have nothing to do with the condition of the world. We are like sleepwalkers, not knowing what we are doing or where we are heading. Whether we can wake up or not depends on whether we can walk mindfully on our Mother Earth. The future of all life, including our own, depends on our mindful steps. We have to hear the bells of mindfulness that are sounding all across our planet. We have to start learning how to live in a way that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren.

I have sat with the Buddha for a long time and consulted with him about the issue of global warming, and the teaching of the Buddha is very clear. If we continue to live as we have been living, consuming without a thought of the future, destroying our forests and emitting dangerous amounts of carbon dioxide, then devastating climate change is inevitable. Much of our ecosystem will be destroyed. Sea levels will rise and coastal cities will be inundated, forcing hundreds of millions of refugees from their homes, creating wars and outbreaks of infectious disease.

We need a kind of collective awakening. There are among us men and women who are awakened, but it's not enough; most people are still sleeping. We have constructed a system we can't control. It imposes itself on us, and we become its slaves and victims. For most of us who want to have a house, a car, a refrigerator, a television, and so on, we must sacrifice our time and our lives in exchange. We are constantly under the pressure of time. In former times, we could afford three hours to drink one cup of tea, enjoying the company of friends in a serene and spiritual atmosphere. We could organize a party to celebrate the blossoming of one orchid in our garden. But today we can no longer afford these things. We say that time is money. We have created a society in which the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, and in which we are so caught up in our own immediate problems that we cannot afford to be aware of what is going on with the rest of the human family or our planet Earth. In my mind I see a group of chickens n a cage disputing over a few seeds of grain, unaware that in a few hours they will all be killed.

People in China, India, Vietnam, and other developing countries are still dreaming the "American dream," as if that dream were the ultimate goal of mankind -- everyone has to have a car, a bank account, a cell phone, a television set of their own. In twenty-five years the population of China will be 1.5 billion people, and if each of them wants to drive their own private car, China will need 99 million barrels of oil every day. But world production today is only 84 million barrels per day. So the American dream is not possible for the people of China, India, or Vietnam. The American dream is no longer even possible for the Americans. We can't continue to live like this. It's not a sustainable economy.

We have to have another dream: the dream of brotherhood and sisterhood, of loving kindness and compassion. That dream is possible right here and now. We have the Dharma, we have the means, and we have enough wisdom to be able to live this dream. Mindfulness is at the heart of awakening, of enlightenment. We practice breathing to be able to be here in the present moment so that we can recognize that and act right away. We may not want to confront that mental formation, but it's a reality, and we have to recognize it in order to transform it.

We don't have to sink into despair about global warming; we can act. If we just sign a petition and forget about it, it won't help much. Urgent action must be taken at the individual and the collective levels. We all have a great desire to be able to live in peace and to have environmental sustainability. What most of us don't yet have are concrete ways of making our commitment to sustainable living a reality in our daily lives. We can't only blame our governments and corporations for the chemicals that pollute our drinking water, for the violence in our neighborhoods, for the wars that destroy so many lives. It's time for each of us to wake up and take action in our own lives.

We witness violence, corruption, and destruction all around us. We all know that the laws we have in place aren't strong enough to control superstition, cruelty, and abuses of power that we see daily. Only faith and determination can keep us from falling into deep despair.

Buddhism is the strongest form of humanism we have. It can help us learn to live with responsibility, compassion, and loving kindness. Every Buddhist practitioner should be a protector of the environment. We have the power to decide the destiny of our planet. If we awaken to our true situation, there will be a change in our collective consciousness. We have to do something to wake people up. We have to help the Buddha to wake up the people who are living in a dream.

A Global Ethic

The path of brotherhood and sisterhood is more precious than any ideology or religion.

Everything, even the Buddha, is always changing and evolving. Thanks to our practice of looking deeply, we can realize that the sufferings of our time are different from those of the time of Siddhartha, and so the methods of practice should also be different. That is why the Buddha inside of us also needs to evolve, so that the Buddha can be relevant to our time.

The Buddha of our time can use a telephone, even a cell phone, but she is free from that cell phone. The Buddha of our time knows how to help prevent ecological damage and global warming; she will not destroy the beauty of the planet or waste all her time competing with other people.

The Buddha of our time wants to offer the world a global ethic so that everyone can agree on a good path to follow. Global harmony isn't possible if we don't have a global ethic. The Buddha of our time wants to restore harmony, cultivate brotherhood and sisterhood, protect all the species of the planet, prevent deforestation, and reduce the emission of toxic gases.

Since you are the continuation of the Buddha, you can help offer the world a path that can prevent the destruction of the ecosystem, one that can reduce the amount of violence and despair. It would be very kind of you to help the Buddha continue to realize what he began 2,600 years ago.

Our planet Earth has a variety of life, and each species depends on all the other species in order to be able to manifest and continue. We're not only outside of each other but we're also inside each other. It is very important to hold the Earth in our arms and in our heart, to preserve the beautiful planet and to protect all species…

-- by Thich Nhat Hanh,
   from The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology,
   September 2008

▲ Return to Top