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Lions Roar : January 2014
disciples. When I practice calligraphy, sometimes I invite my late teacher to join me, so as teacher and disciple we do it together. Breathing in, half the circle. Breathing out, the other half. When I smile, my teacher smiles. I invite all teachers of the past to do a circle with me, and I know that my hand is not my hand. My hand is also my father’s hand and my mother’s hand. Sometimes I invite all my friends to do it with me, because they are me also. Will you tell me a little about your father? My father was an officer in the royal army. At that time in Vietnam, the king and his government were controlled by the French, so my father’s main job was to go and search for areas where poor people could resettle. He liked to do that. From time to time, I would go with my mother and visit him, far away in the mountains. My father bought a bell and some sutras and tried to recite them. He wanted to practice Buddhism, but he was very busy and did not succeed. I feel good because I do it for him. I can do this because we all are the continuation of our fathers, our mothers, our ancestors. This is true. When you do walking meditation, they walk with you. If you take peaceful, happy steps, they also do. You do not have a separate self, so you can practice for all your ancestors. If you encounter the dharma and experience transformation and healing, all of your ancestors profit from your practice. So my father and mother in me are very happy. This week, you mentioned that your mother had a mis- carriage before she had you. You said that as a child you thought the baby she lost was you, and that she miscar- ried because you weren’t ready to be born yet. I was won- dering what your opinion of that lost baby is now. Does a baby who dies before it’s born continue in any way? The baby has no separate self. The self of the baby is made of the mother, the father, and other elements. So these elements will come together again, and the next baby is neither exactly the same nor a different one. If you suffer from losing a baby, it’s because you are caught in the notion of self. It’s the insight of no-self that can liberate us from grief. You have no-self and that tiny baby has no-self. It’s like when you try to build a sandcastle. If conditions are not good, the sandcastle will collapse. You can build the castle again, but you cannot say this is another castle, because it’s made from the same materials. Nothing is lost. Can you tell me a little about Zen in Vietnam? Does it have a particular flavor or character that distinguishes it from the Zen practiced in other countries? There was a Buddhist teacher in the first half of the third cen- tury who was born in Vietnam and became a teacher of medita- tion. His name was Tang Hoi. He was a historical person, not like Bodhidharma, who is traditionally credited with bringing Zen to China in the sixth century. A lot of things have been imagined or invented about Bodhidharma’s life, but Tang Hoi left behind his writings, which are still preserved. Our Zen is a continuation of what Tang Hoi taught. In Viet- nam, there is a tendency to always go back to the original scrip- tures. When Master Tang Hoi taught meditation, he mostly used the sutras of original Buddhism but taught them with the spirit of Mahayana Buddhism. So in Vietnam, we profit from this. We never fly too high and lose the roots. Meditation practice in Vietnam is also very engaged in society. We have had kings who practiced meditation and invited teach- ers to come to their palace. They always had a meditation hall in the palace and made good use of the teachings and practice in their political life. One king in the thirteenth century abdicated in favor of his son and became a Buddhist monk. He took care of the spiritual aspect of the nation and his son took care of the political aspect. He travelled to the Hindu kingdom of Champa in central Vietnam and made peace. He walked the country barefoot and taught people how to practice the five precepts and abandon superstitious practice. So in Vietnamese Buddhism, politics and spirituality support each other. Spirituality is not cut off from the world. Meditation is not a place where you hide yourself. Why is it important for Buddhism to evolve? Society has changed. Young people have a lot of suffering, a lot of doubt. If you want them to ponder the sound of one hand clap- ping or ask them if a dog has buddhanature, they cannot stand it. If you continue to teach like that, you lose people. Buddhism has become marginal in Korea and Japan because that is what they are doing. Throughout the history of Buddhism, teachers tried to offer the teachings in such a way as to respond to the needs of their time. If they invented silent illumination, if they invented koans, it was because at that time those things worked. But when these things do not work anymore, why cling to them? Our practice has to respond to the suffering of modern peo- ple. That’s why teachings on communication and reconciliation are important. These teachings are easier for people to under- stand, even children. But that does not mean these teachings do not have a strong Buddhist base. Their foundation is in no-self, impermanence, interbeing. We have to be intelligent followers of the Buddha. We have to make good use of the teachings. We have to present the teachings and the practice in such a way that people can make use of them and transform themselves. As I said, Vietnamese Buddhism is very close to original Bud- dhism, but we make good use of the spirit of Mahayana. There are a lot of wonderful things in Mahayana Buddhism. For instance, in original Buddhism the Buddha’s body is the nirmanakaya, his human form. But in Mahayana, the Buddha’s real body is the dharmakaya, the body of ultimate truth, and that body never dies. PHOTOBYSTEFANBAUMAN 60 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2014