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Lions Roar : January 2016
IN 1966, THICH NHAT HANH ordained six SYSS leaders into the new Order of Interbeing, a monastic community dedicated to bringing Bud- dhism directly into the political and social arena. Members of the order committed themselves to service and the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. Sister Chan Khong was one of the six original members, and so was her closest dharma friend, a young woman named Nhat Chi Mai. Sister Chan Khong writes in her memoir, Learning True Love, that one day Sister Mai’s voice grew strangely soft as she was reading the twelfth mindfulness training, Reverence for Life: “Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and build peace.” A few weeks later, Sister Mai placed statues of the Virgin Mary and Avalokitshvara in front of her and set herself on fire. In her poems and letters she had asked Buddhists and Catholics to work together for peace, and for peace she had sacrificed herself. Believing that the best way to help stop the war was speaking directly to Americans about the Viet- namese people’s wish for peace, Thich Nhat Hanh accepted an invitation from Cornell University to embark on a U.S. speaking tour. He left Vietnam for what he thought would be only a few weeks, leaving Sister Chan Khong in charge of his movement. His departure gave the South Vietnamese establishment the chance it had been waiting for. Van Hanh University dissolved its connection with the SYSS and accused Sister Chan Khong of being a communist. Though SYSS members were The six original members of the Order of Interbeing. Sister Chan Khong is on the far left. Sister Mai is third from the left. Today there are more than a thousand members of the order. At the height of the conflict, there were more than half a million U.S. troops in Vietnam. More than three million Vietnamese died in the war. Thousands attended the funeral of Sister Mai, who set herself on fire in protest against the war. The Order of Interbeing: 1966 PHOTOSCOURTESYOFPARALLAXPRESSPHOTO:THECANADIANPRESS/DANGVANPHUOC-AP SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2016 46