Quảng Hương (Già Lam) Temple
28. 10. 2003
My Dearest Students,
In recent times, the volatility that stunned the world has caused just a few ripples in the peacefulness that has spanned the past two decades of Vietnamese Buddhism.
This environment is covered by puddles of stagnant black water and isolated from the source of life of the past. It has obstructed the sight and direction of the future. From the Binh Dinh province all the way to Thua Thien – Hue province, the minds, hearts, and wishes of the younger and new generation of monks and nuns (and laypersons) has recently been discovered. There are signs of the willpower and potential, which has sprouted throughout the history of the Vietnamese Buddhist lineage. Compared to the volume of monks and nuns in the country, we, my dear students, are just a small group. Nonetheless, this is the selective grain. Many, but only a husk and germ particles, that have not been incubated inside the hollow section.
My dear students, you should be proud of the carefree innocence of youth and the milestones of the moment. Once and for all, you must stand on your own feet, with wisdom in your eyes, compassion in your heart, and human courage. Do not fear but look directly into the evil powers of the world and find a self-determined path for yourselves to do what is right and necessary for yourself and everyone.
In my generation, where young people were raised on the battlefields of war’s ideology and class discrimination, hatred was learned. Fortunately, the creek of compassion still flows quietly to ease the trauma and to heal the broken as well as the ruins of our nation.
Your generation grew up in an era of peace, but also in a society that has lost direction. Homeland and religion are fine words but have become beloved clichés. Many venerable merited masters who have an awakened conscience of humanity have maintained the direction of our Sangha. In the heart and minds of many individuals in our organization and country, this conscience now resides in the shadows and are forgotten.
Your generation has been educated with the intent to forget the past. Many of you do not know what the Vietnam Unified Buddhist Church is. What it has done, its dedication, and contributions to noble causes regarding culture, education, national peace in times of severe turmoil for our nation and the religious discrimination that occurred. That legacy is still there but has been quickly rejected. Our heritage is uninterrupted and has accumulated over centuries via the pressing thoughts and actions along with many sorrows. The suffering of blood and tears of so many monks, nuns, and Buddhists laypersons are invaluable. These legacies were built with prayers, determination, and compassion. There were forcible suicide, self-immolation, long years of incarceration, harassment, and humiliation by tyrants. Dead or alive, honored or humiliated, there is no shame in the noble virtues of these religious persons—the Buddhist monks.
As Buddhist monks, we vowed to be the sons of Buddha. We chose to walk the path of enlightenment. Our heart and mind, mental and physical, are not like others. We do not pander frivolous values of the world, nor bow before any powerful authoritarian or violent government. A bit of fame, small benefits, and a bit of self-comfort - these are of little value. They are trivial and wear a false disguise, but many ordinary people seek them without any regrets in order to be a loyalist. Do not be melodramatic in the name of protecting the Dharma. It might actually be that the temple is the shelter for Mara, where the gathering of social devil/scum takes place. Do not use the propaganda of sharing the Dharma. Using the Buddha’s words before a fawning king and other political figures; begging for a little favor of worldly materials, or fame. Formerly when emperors began asking monks and nuns to bow in order to receive the title of imperial or be the servant for royals, the patriarchs were ready to put their heads before a sword (to die) in order to hold the integrity of the Buddhist monks. Monks who walked in the footsteps of fearlessness and selflessness of the disciple of the sages-Lord Buddha. It is encapsulated in the teaching that Bikkhuni means no submission and to be irreverent to royal subjects.
We practice patience and endure life, but do not let the dark false powers control our life. We act accordingly to the human society, but do not let ourselves sink in the polluted vortex of the worldly society. My dear students, you must have self-discipline and prepare yourself for a strong faith; a mighty fearless virtue; be diligent in practicing Listening-Thinking-Transforming to see and recognize clearly where we are! Where are we heading? Do not blindly follow any carriage, which is fancy or splendid on the outside while not polished inside and free falling downhill—without direction.
Each generation has its own problems, due to the variability of the surrounding environment in our society and the fluctuating nature of events in our era. My generation inherited much from ancestors and masters, and can’t repay the deepest kindness and guidance in a short period. At thirty years old, I had to close the temple gate temporarily to work in the forest and the sea, through very hard labor just to survive like everyone else. Then I was locked in jail; in and out of this dark place; up and down as the fate of our beloved country. My learning and knowledge also blunt with age and time. Yet I did nothing to humiliate our ancestors and masters, or be a waste of their care and love. I never lost hope in you and just want to share with you - our next generation. A generation that is growing up to explore the immenseness in a country that is embedded with cultured values.
May you have enough courage to walk the path with your own feet, looking at life with your own eyes and determine a direction for yourself. I will be your companion on this path even as I am in the later stages of my life.
Translated by Phe Bach (Tâm Thường Định)