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Lions Roar : November 2016
HOT OFF THE PRESS said he had no intention of searching me, and that he only wanted to ask me something. “I want to know which temple you’re from,” he said. When I told him I was living at Bao Quoc Temple, he seemed interested. “Bao Quoc Temple,” he repeated. “Is that the big temple on the hill near the train station?” When I nodded, he pointed up to a pump house on the side of the hill—his guard post apparently—and said, “If you’re not too busy, please come up there with me so we can talk for a little while.” We sat down near the pump house and he told me about the visit he and five other soldiers had made ten days earlier to Bao Quoc Temple. They had gone to the temple at ten that night, in search of Vietnamese resis- tors, Viet Minh, who were reportedly gathering there. “We were determined to find them. We carried guns. The orders were to arrest and even kill if necessary. But when we entered the temple we were stunned.” “Because there were so many Viet Minh?” “No! No!” he exclaimed. “We wouldn’t have been stunned if we had seen Viet Minh. We would have attacked no matter how many there were.” I was confused. “What surprised you?” “What happened was so unexpected. Whenever we did searches in the past, people would run away or be thrown into a state of panic.” “People have been terrorized so many times that they run away in fear,” I explained. “I myself don’t make a habit of terror- izing or threatening people,” he replied. “Perhaps they are so frightened because they have been harmed by those who came before us. “But when we entered the Bao Quoc Temple grounds, it was like entering a completely deserted place. The oil lamps were turned very low. We deliberately stomped our feet loudly on the gravel, and I had the feeling there were many people in the temple, but we couldn’t hear anyone. It was incredibly quiet. The shouting of a comrade made me uneasy. No one replied. I turned on my flashlight and aimed it into the room we thought was empty—and I saw fifty or sixty monks sitting still and silent in meditation.” “That’s because you came during our evening sitting period,” I said, nodding my head. “Yes. It was as if we’d run into a strange and invisible force,” he said. “We were so taken aback that we turned and went back out to the courtyard. The monks just ignored us! They didn’t raise a voice in reply, and they didn’t show any sign of panic or fear.” “They weren’t ignoring you; they were practicing concentrating on their breath—that was all.” “I felt drawn to their calmness,” he admitted. “It really commanded my respect. We stood quietly in the courtyard at the foot of a large tree and waited for perhaps half an hour. Then a series of bells sounded, and the temple returned to normal activity. A monk lit a torch and came to invite us inside, but we simply told him why we were there and then took our leave. That day, I began to change my ideas about the Vietnamese people. “There are many young men among us,” he continued. “We are homesick; we miss our families and our country a lot. We have been sent here to kill the Viet Minh, but we don’t know if we will kill them or be killed by them and never “I felt drawn to the monks’ calmness,” he said. “It really commanded my respect.” The moment of profound silence in the temple had changed him. A NEW KIND OF ZEN. RETREATS WITH JOHN TARRANT AND THE TEACHERS & COMMUNITY OF PACIFIC ZEN INSTITUTE CHANGE FOR REAL LIFE PACIFICZEN.ORG WINTER SUMMER LONG RETREATS MEDITATION, CONVERSATION, ART, POETRY, AND PRIVATE INTERVIEWS. JANUARY 16–22, 2017 SANTA SABINA CENTER SAN RAFAEL, CA JULY 16–23, 2017 MOUNT MADONNA CENTER WATSONVILLE, CA LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2016 74