Every Sunday evening, from 6:30 - 8:30pm, we come together to meditate, to deepen our understanding of the practice of mindfulness, to encourage and inspire each other through dharma sharing and mindful actions, to support one other through difficult times, and to celebrate the wonders and joy of life. We meet at the Buddhist Vihara, 5017 16th Street NW, Washington DC. Our practice enables us to calm our minds and hearts. We learn to stop, breathe, listen more deeply to ourselves and to each other, so that we can respond with compassion and love to all that arises within and around us. We are inspired by our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh; he is a Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master, global spiritual leader, and peace activist. We call him Thay, or teacher in Vietnamese (pronounced like a necktie).
Thay observes: “Buddhism is not one. The teachings of Buddhism are many. When Buddhism enters a country, that country always acquires a new form of Buddhism … The teaching of Buddhism in this country will be different from other countries. Buddhism, in order be Buddhism, must be suitable, appropriate to the psychology and the culture of the society that it serves.”
Already a Buddha
A key tenet of Thay’s Buddhist tradition is that each one of us is already a Buddha—our enlightenment is inherent within us, and the practice of mindfulness is the tool to bring this truth to our full awareness. Thay writes: “We have the capacity of being compassionate, of being understanding. We have the seeds of forgiveness and joy and peace and liberation within us. That’s is the Buddha inside.”
We think it’s important not to focus too much on how calm your mind gets while you’re meditating, or how many insights arise. What really matters is your intention to align your actions with your highest intentions. Even one moment of settling your mind and heart is a moment of cultivating goodness, which in turn opens your heart and mind towards still more goodness, love and wisdom. And at some point along the long path, our practice starts to become inseparable from our life. Our practice becomes our life and our life becomes our practice.
The Buddha taught a path of liberation. The term ‘Engaged Buddhism’ refers to Buddhists who are seeking to apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to social action, confronting situations of social, political and economic suffering and injustice. It is central to our practice. The term was coined by Thay in 1954, when he and his sangha made efforts during the Vietnam war to respond to the suffering they saw around them. This included adopting the non-violence activism of Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King. Dr King subsequently nominated Thay for the Nobel Peace Prize; here is his nominating letter:
As the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate of 1964, I now have the pleasure of proposing to you the name of Thich Nhat Hanh for that award in 1967. I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam.
This would be a notably auspicious year for you to bestow your Prize on the Venerable Nhat Hanh. Here is an apostle of peace and non-violence, cruelly separated from his own people while they are oppressed by a vicious war which has grown to threaten the sanity and security of the entire world. Because no honor is more respected than the Nobel Peace Prize, conferring the Prize on Nhat Hanh would itself be a most generous act of peace. It would remind all nations that men of good will stand ready to lead warring elements out of an abyss of hatred and destruction. It would re-awaken men to the teaching of beauty and love found in peace. It would help to revive hopes for a new order of justice and harmony.
I know Thich Nhat Hanh, and am privileged to call him my friend. Let me share with you some things I know about him. You will find in this single human being an awesome range of abilities and interests. He is a holy man, for he is humble and devout. He is a scholar of immense intellectual capacity. The author of ten published volumes, he is also a poet of superb clarity and human compassion. His academic discipline is the Philosophy of Religion, of which he is Professor at Van Hanh, the Buddhist University he helped found in Saigon. He directs the Institute for Social Studies at this University. This amazing man also is editor of Thien My, an influential Buddhist weekly publication. And he is Director of Youth for Social Service, a Vietnamese institution which trains young people for the peaceable rehabilitation of their country.
Thich Nhat Hanh today is virtually homeless and stateless. If he were to return to Vietnam, which he passionately wishes to do, his life would be in great peril. He is the victim of a particularly brutal exile because he proposes to carry his advocacy of peace to his own people. What a tragic commentary this is on the existing situation in Vietnam and those who perpetuate it. The history of Vietnam is filled with chapters of exploitation by outside powers and corrupted men of wealth, until even now the Vietnamese are harshly ruled, ill-fed, poorly housed, and burdened by all the hardships and terrors of modern warfare. Thich Nhat Hanh offers a way out of this nightmare, a solution acceptable to rational leaders. He has traveled the world, counseling statesmen, religious leaders, scholars and writers, and enlisting their support. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.'
I respectfully recommend to you that you invest his cause with the acknowledged grandeur of the Nobel Peace Prize of 1967. Thich Nhat Hanh would bear this honor with grace and humility.
Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Our friends at Blue Cliff Monastery have compiled an excellent working list of resources for people addressing racial justice and implicit bias on their path of practice. They are working to develop connection between Sangha members doing this work across the country.
Order of Interbeing
The Order of Interbeing, or OI, was formed by Thich Nhat Hanh in the mid-1960s, at a time when the Vietnam War was escalating and the teachings of the Buddha were desperately needed to combat the hatred, violence, and divisiveness enveloping his country. On the full moon day of February 1966, Thay ordained six members into the Order, three men and three women. Today, the OI is an international community of monastics and lay people who have committed to living their lives in accord with the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings - a distillation of the Bodhisattva teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. Several members of our sangha are OI members, and two have gone on to become nuns in the Plum Village monastery in France.
Participation in WMC is free; there is no charge. But if you can afford to contribute something, you will find donation boxes, or dana boxes. Dana is a gift from the heart, bringing joy and benefit to both the giver and the receiver. Anything you feel able to give goes to WMC activities, including donations to the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation, the Vihara for use of their space, scholarships for retreats for sangha members, maintenance of our library, and other expenses. If you prefer, you can make donations - one-off or monthly recurring donations - via Paypal.