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Lions Roar : January 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2013 43 at the ocean, we must go as a river, as a community. “Go like a river,” said Thay. “Allow the river to embrace you. If you allow the collective energy of the sangha to penetrate into your heart and help hold your suffering, you will suffer less in just a few minutes.” MY INTERVIEW with Thich Nhat Hanh took place on No Car Day, the day each week that everyone at Plum Village limits their carbon footprint by not driving. In a small, simple room, he was stretched out on a green hammock, drinking oolong from a clear cup and nibbling on candied ginger. Clustered around him were several nuns, and Thay introduced one of them to me as his attendant—a young sister from Indonesia. Then he invited her to sing an Indonesian children’s song, which, if I understood correctly, told a sweet tale about a parrot. I flicked on my recorder. “Should we start?” I asked. “Should we start what?” Thay joked. “Sitting on a hammock?” It was a gentle reminder that—though my nerves may have been jangled because I felt I was in the presence of a special, important person—Thay was not making a big deal out of himself. Despite being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., despite penning more than one hundred books, despite all his remarkable achievements, Thay wears brown—as do all the monas- tics in his lineage—because that’s the color the peasants in his Viet- namese homeland have traditionally worn. He is of the people. A bell rang in the distance. “I’m mindful of the bell,” Thay said. “While I listen to the bell, I don’t think. I concentrate on my breath and on the sound of the bell. When you are mindful of something, you are concentrated on it, and the power of mindful concentration can help you see things as they really are and you discover the nature of interbeing.” Thay is well known for coining the term “interbeing,” which refers to the interconnectedness of all things. Over the years, he has frequently used the image of a flower to explain this teaching. Sunflower, orchid, lotus—if you are mindful and concentrated, you can see that a flower is made of infinite non-flower elements. A flower is made up of not just rain but also the cloud that released the rain. It’s made up of not just soil but also the decom- posed plants and animals that enrich the soil. If you remove any of the non-flower elements from the flower, the flower ceases to exist. “So the flower cannot exist alone,” Thay told me. “It has to inter-be with everything else in the cosmos.” The same is true of people. “A human being is made of non-human elements, and Walking meditation with Thich Nhat Hanh: At Plum Village, children are an integral part of the community. PHOTOBYDZUNGVO