Saturday, January 22, 2022

Two monks


Thich Nhat Hanh died yesterday. 

So many of my teachers connect to each other, going way back. It must be a wavelength that we find and recognize in each other, and then ride it together.

"... One of the persons Nhat Hanh had long hoped to meet while in the United States was Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk whose widely read books had done so much to revitalize contemplative spirituality. Merton was by then also known for his opposition to the war and also for his deep respect for Buddhism. In late May 1966, Merton welcomed Nhat Hanh, plus John Heidbrink of the Fellowship of Reconciliation staff, to the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky for a two-day visit.

The two monks stayed up late into the night in Merton’s hermitage, sharing the chants of their respective traditions, discussing methods of prayer and meditation, comparing Christian and Buddhist aspects of monastic formation, and talking about the war.

Afterward, Merton said to his fellow Trappists, “Thich Nhat Hanh is a perfectly formed monk,” and that he regarded his guest’s arrival as an answer to a prayer. “In meeting Thich Nhat Hanh,” Merton said, “I felt I had met Vietnam.” Merton also wrote of their visit, calling Nhat Hanh his brother: “He is more my brother than many who are nearer to me in race and nationality, because he and I see things exactly the same way.”

- from "When America Met Thich Nhat Hanh", by  Jim Forest, Winter 2021 edition of Tricycle magazine.

Two monks. 

Thich Nhat Hanh references in louie are HERE

The Miracle of Walking on the Earth Is In The Here and In The Now ♡ Thich Nhat Hanh

From the NY Times:

“People talk about entering nirvana, but we are already there,” said the Buddhist monk, who died on Saturday. Here is a short selection of his remarks.  

This body is not me. I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
And I have never died.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Only the rice loves you

Plum Village Tribute to Jim Forest

Remembering Jim Forest - By Sister Chan Khong

Jim Forest was a true man of peace, of reconciliation, and of love. Jim gave me—and continued to give me—a lot of inspiration since we first met him at the office of the Buddhist Peace Delegation at Maison Alfort near Paris, while we were working to call for peace in Vietnam. Thanks to his deep background as a real man of Peace, Jim understood and absorbed everything our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (“Thay”) shared with him, and he wrote many wonderful articles on Thay’s message and teachings, in particular in the Fellowship Of Reconciliation magazine. Jim always had a deeply attentive look and seemed to “drink in” everything we shared; we never felt disappointed when we read his summaries and reports for readers. With his talent in writing Jim reported so many of Thay’s teachings during that challenging time, and he shared and commented on them in a profound and sometimes very humorous way for the reader, as in the wonderful article “Only the rice loves you.” 

Jim also helped publish the English translation of Thay’s theater script, “The Path of Return Continues the Journey.” Many of Jim’s earlier peace writings were printed in the Fellowship of Reconciliation magazine, and he shared with the wider American audience many deep exchanges about Sister Nhat Chi Mai (one of the first and profound students of Thay, who immolated herself for peace) as well as the story of the four social workers of the School of Youth for Social Service who were assassinated on the bank of the Saigon River. He also introduced to the community of the Fellowship Of Reconciliation Thay’s pioneering and accessible book on mindfulness practice: The Miracle of Mindfulness. In Jim’s memoirs, Eyes of Compassion: Learning from Thich Nhat Hanh, published last year by Orbis, Jim shared his profound and insightful experience of our teacher. Jim captured with clarity, compassion, and a historian’s eye for detail, many pivotal moments in Thay’s peace work during the 1960s and 70s. Jim’s love, integrity, friendship and open-hearted learning shine through in his writing and light up the way for others to follow.   

Only the rice loves you.   

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Peacemaker - Love is the state of being Radically Awake

Photos by Robert Ellsburg

Jim Forest's funeral today in the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas in Amsterdam.
At the very first conference of the Thomas Merton Society Great Britian and Ireland held in Southampton in May 1996 ‘Your Heart Is My Hermitage’, Jim Forest took part in the round table discussion between Merton’s friends and he also gave the Sunday homily.

Jim described love as a state of being radically awake:

'We can imagine that what will be strangest about heaven is how it is at once so familiar and yet so different. It will seem to us that in the first part of our lives, we were more asleep in the day than in the night. Our eyes were open but we saw so little. We heard so little. We understood so little. We loved so little. Not only our eyes but our souls were bricked over most of the time. Opposing love is fear. Recall Merton's insight: “The root of war is fear.” Still more important, recall the many times in the Gospel we hear the words, “Be not afraid.” We are not speaking here about fear of God; this is in fact that fear which should cure us of all our petty fears. But how often do we allow fear to prevent us from reaching out to others, to divide us from others, to make us into enemies of others, even to decide what we will do with our lives and with whom we will spend our lives? But in moments of love, we see more clearly and are able to live without fear in the freedom of the Resurrection. What freedom that is! As we sing throughout the Easter season in the Orthodox Church, the words falling on us like heavy rain on dry fields: “'Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.”'

Deep wisdom, being radically awake. Fear of reaching out to the other which is hedged with all sorts of ego concerns. Sometimes silence is a way to get through. Simply being with the other. Allowing space for all of us to be in our broken state.

Jim's funeral, below, live-streamed today from the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas of Myra in Amsterdam. A day of great sadness and joy.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Jim Forest

Jim Forest

Jim Forest died yesterday. 

It seems like I've known about Jim as long as I've known about Merton. He was always part of the story(s) that interested me. Saying no to war, resisting. Being Catholic. Prayer. 

It's no accident that Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan and Thich Nhat Hanh all trusted Jim Forest to tell their stories. Jim saw through to the truth of the situations, and the truth of the person. His writing was simple. He said what was obvious. 

Much of this blog revolves around Jim's contributions.

I met Jim once when he was giving a retreat on Dorothy Day in North Pittsburgh. Jim's deep emotional vulnerability is what surprised me about him. He wore no mask. He openly cried before the audience. When he greeted me he hugged me and hugged me for a very long time. I will never forget that.

I will never forget Jim. 

Jim wrote about famous people. His own life was more humble and unknown. A beautiful man. 

Rest in Peace, dear friend.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

The touch of the angel

 The angel wakes the magi to alert them of the star. From a carving by a man named Gislegertus at the Cathedral in Autun, France.

Epiphany - Dream of the three kings Gislebertus

Here he adopts a Romanesque convention of showing the three kings in bed together under the one blanket. It must have been uncomfortable in the bed, wearing their crowns, but this was of course the only way of indicating that they really were kings. The embroidered blanket seems to move in harmony with the face, halo, sleeves and wing of the angel in one graceful, circular movement. It is as though the angel has slipped suddenly and silently in. With one hand he points to the star which will guide them safely home. With the other he touches one of the kings, who opens his eyes. The angel, despite his broken nose, still conveys a wonderful sense of gentleness.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

The Feast of Mary, Most Holy Mother of God


Mary, Queen of Heaven art by Bro. Mickey McGrath

Yesterday Pope Francis gave a Homily at Vespers of the Feast of Saint Mary, Most Holy Mother of God, and Te Deum of Thanksgiving at End of Year.

The whole thing is impressive (you can read it all HERE), but this paragraph particularly jumped out at me.

This is the heart: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). We hear this repeated several times in this evening’s liturgy that begins the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. She is the first witness, the first and the greatest, and at the same time, the humblest – the greatest because she is the humblest. Her heart is filled with amazement without the shadow of romanticism, of sweeteners, of spiritualization. No. The Mother brings us back to reality, to the truth of Christmas contained in the few words Saint Paul uses: “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). Christian amazement is not the result of special effects, of fantasy worlds, but from the mystery of reality: there is nothing more amazing and stupefying than reality! A flower, a clod of earth, a life story, an encounter, the wrinkled face of an elderly person, or the blooming face of a newborn baby, a mamma who nurses a baby in her arms. The mystery shines there.

"Without the shadow of romanticism, of sweeteners, of spiritualization ... "

Amen. Amen. This world. This Reality. Amazing, indeed. 

(I so love that Francis gets this.)

Christ in the Rubble

The Rev. Munther Isaac lighting a candle next to an improvised crèche this month in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Credit... Samar Hazboun...