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Lions Roar : January 2014
peace in ourselves, and from that foundation we can engender peace in others. Yet if we do not have a sangha, our practice can easily grow weak. This is what Thay emphasizes, as did Martin Luther King: community is key. IT’S AFTER LUNCH and clouds are gathering. Thick and gray, they make me think of what Thay said during one of his recent dharma talks: the nature of a cloud is no birth and no death. “When you look into tea, what do you see?” he asked. “I see a cloud. Yesterday the tea was a cloud up in the sky. But today it has become the tea in my glass. When you look up at the blue sky and you don’t see your cloud anymore, you might say, ‘Oh, my cloud has died.’ But in fact, it has not. When I look mindfully into my tea, I see the cloud, and when I drink my tea, I drink the cloud. “You are made of cloud—at least 70 percent of you,” Thich Nhat Hanh continued. “If you take the cloud out of you, there’s no you left. A cloud has a good time travelling. When it falls down, it does not die. It becomes snow or rain. The rain becomes a creek, and the creek flows down and becomes a river. The river goes to the sea, then heat generated by the sun helps the water evaporate and become a cloud again. Now the cloud has become tea, and Thay is going to drink it. Then what will become of this tea? It will become a dharma talk.” It might be my imagination, but I think a cloud just mani- fested into a drop of rain falling on my shoulder. I don’t say any- thing, though, and Peggy Smith and I stay where we are under the imperfect umbrella of a large tree. She has pink cheeks and bobbed hair and is wearing the brown jacket of an Order of Interbeing member, which means she has taken the fourteen mindfulness trainings, or precepts, with Thich Nhat Hanh. She’s telling me how she handles a strong, difficult emotion. “I go through a process of recognizing the reaction in my body,” she says. “I assure myself that it’s a stormy cloud in the sky and it will pass.” Suddenly, as if on cue, a non-metaphoric cloud breaks open, leaving Peggy and me rushing to take shelter under the dining tent. We settle into chairs and I pose another question: “Thay is always talking about the importance of sangha. How does the sangha support you?” Her answer, in short, is that it keeps her from being afraid. “For instance,” she says, “the day the United States started to bomb Baghdad, there was a group of us who wanted to talk to our senator and express to her our deep disappointment. But her office—the whole building—was locked, so twenty people decided to lay down in the intersection in Portland, Maine. As we approached the intersection, I thought, ‘It’s March—it’s going to be so cold. How am I going to ever do this?’ But I lay down and closed my eyes, and Thay was right there. And then the sangha was right behind him. It was one of the best meditations I’ve ever Thich Nhat Hanh continued from page 57 80 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2014