Happy Continuation Day to the Tiep Hien Order of Interbeing.
February 5th, the full moon day of February in 1966 was the day on which our Order began!
Deep Gratitude to Thay and everyone who has walked this beautiful Path
and showed us the way to freedom!
SAVE THE DATES!!!
This month marks the 50th anniversary of our Order. We will be celebrating on the 3rd Saturday at the Bell Street Chapel and on the 3rd Sunday at our home. The Order was founded on the full moon day of February in 1966. This year the full moon day is Monday, the 22nd. So we will be celebrating on the eve and the eve-eve. Many have offered ideas already. It seemed that one idea that appealed to folks…on Saturday the 20th – the day when we normally have our Order member/ Aspirant gathering, we will gather as usual at the Bell Street Chapel…ALL ARE INVITED! There will be a recitation of the original Fourteen Trainings (see below)and a tea ceremony and folks can bring poems, songs, along with some way they have benefited from the practice and something for which they are grateful to Thay for offering us our engaged practice. These sharings will be sent to Thay at Plum Village. We just leaarned we can have the building until 2 PM and we are still in the planning stages…if you would like to be part of the planning team…please respond to this email. We will have a remembrance and celebration on Sunday night at our home also. Please save the dates. If you cannot attend these, you might like to observe the occasion in the Joyfully Together Sangha. I have included a wonderful article from the Mindfulness Bell, with excerpts of Sr. Chan Khong’s Book, Learning True Love….about the beginning of the Order and our original precepts. Enjoy!
I wanted to ask for your prayers for my father. He was put into hospice care on Wednesday and at this point is very peaceful, though not responsive. He is at home with many loving and caring friends and caregivers. Please hold him with love in your hearts. This is a very deep teaching on letting go.
Besides being so deeply grateful to Thay for all the happiness and freedom I have experienced by using the practices he has given us, as I was thinking about this…I realized that without Thay, I would not know any of you. You are all blessings in my life and I am eternally grateful!
with much love and the deep peace of three conscious breaths for you,
Origins of the Order
From the Mindfulness Bell….
(Sister Chân Không, Learning True Love) I have always lived like a nuneating simple foods, owning just a few changes of clothes, wearing no cosmetics, and having no money of my own in the bank. I even donated the diamond necklace and diamond bracelets my parents gave me to a project for the poor. From the age of twenty, I knew that someday I would shave my head and join an order of Buddhist nuns. In 1960, Thây Thanh Tu, Thây Tri Quang, and Thây Nhat Hanh all advised me to wait before being ordained, but in 1963 Thây Tri Quang encouraged me to become a nun. I asked Thây Nhat Hanh, and he said that the precepts for monks and nuns formulated 2,500 years ago needed to be renewed. He showed me fourteen new precepts he had written that he felt carried the deepest teachings of the Buddha and would be fit for our time. He said he would tell me when he thought was the best time for me to shave my head and become a nun. But for now, he invited six of us, the leaders of the SYSS (School of Youth for Social Service), to receive the Fourteen Precepts in a formal ceremony.
On the fifth of February in 1966, a full moon day, Thây Nhat Hanh ordained the first six members of the Tiep Hien Order, the Order of Interbeing. This Order was created by Thây to help bring Buddhism directly into the arena of social concerns during a time when the war was escalating and the teachings of the Buddha were most sorely needed. Thây proposed that the Order be composed of monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen, and said that the six of us first ordained were free to choose whether we preferred to live and practice as formal monastics or as laypersons. We three women chose to live celibate lives like nuns, although we didn’t shave our heads, while the three men chose to marry and practice as lay Buddhists. Among the three women was Nhat Chi Mai, who immolated herself for peace just a year later.
It was a wonderful celebration! Each of us was given a lamp with a handmade shade on which Thây had calligraphed “Lamp of the World,” “Lamp of the Full Moon,” “Lamp of Wisdom,” etc., in oldstyle Chinese. During the initiation ceremony, we six ordainees vowed to study, practice, and observe the Fourteen Precepts of the Order of Interbeing. Since that day, I have felt that these precepts are my primary teacher, especially when I have been under stress and do not know the best way to act. These are the Fourteen Precepts:
THE FOURTEEN PRECEPTS OF ENGAGED BUDDHISM
By Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh (From the book Interbeing)
Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.
Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.
Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrow-mindedness.
Do not avoid suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. Find ways to be with those who are suffering, including personal contact, visits, images and sounds. By such means, awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world.
Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry. Do not take as the aim of your life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure. Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.
Do not maintain anger or hatred. Learn to penetrate and transform them when they are still seeds in your consciousness. As soon as they arise, turn your attention to your breath in order to see and understand the nature of your hatred.
Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. Be in touch with what is wondrous, refreshing, and healing both inside and around you. Plant seeds of joy, peace, and understanding in yourself in order to facilitate the work of transformation in the depths of your consciousness.
Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break. Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people. Do not utter words that cause division and hatred. Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain. Do not criticize or condemn things of which you are not sure. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.
Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious community, however, should take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.
Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to live. Select a vocation that helps realise your ideal of compassion.
Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and prevent war.
Possess nothing that should belong to others. Respect the property of others, but prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.
Do not mistreat your body. Learn to handle it with respect. Do not look on your body as only an instrument. Preserve vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realisation of the Way. (For brothers and sisters who are not monks and nuns:) Sexual expression should not take place without love and commitment. In sexual relations, be aware of future suffering that may be caused. To preserve the happiness of others, respect the rights and commitments of others. Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.
The conditions requested by Thây Nhat Hanh to those of us who formally ordained with him were to practice at least sixty Days of Mindfulness a year and to practice with a community of friends. Even though I continued to be extremely busy, I renewed myself every week with a Day of Mindfulness at our SYSS temple, from Saturday noon until Sunday noon. I would always come laden down with worries about urgent responsibilities, but after a short while I could slowly calm myself and stop even the most anxious thoughts. I tried to dwell mindfully on every act, beginning with putting my overnight bag in my room, boiling some water for washing, and putting on my meditation clothes. Then I practiced walking meditation alone in the woods, picking wildflowers and bamboo branches for arrangements for the meditation hall. After three hours of dwelling steadily in each mindful act and releasing all my worries, I began to feel renewed, and we six members of the Order gathered to recite the precepts and chant the Heart Sutra together. Then we shared tea and our experiences of the past week, ate dinner silently together, and practiced sitting meditation before bed. We meditated together again in the early morning. During individual time before and after evening meditation and the next day, I sometimes had to resume my urgent work alone in my room, but I always did it in a mindful way.
One day, Nhat Chi Mai said to me, “We are such a new Order that the Buddhist Church does not accept us as nuns.” I comforted her by saying, “Don’t worry. We don’t need their acceptance. We were ordained by Thây because we wanted to follow the Fourteen Precepts. Others can think of us as laypersons, nuns, or whatever they want. What is important is that we practice the precepts as guidelines finding our path of service and helping us transform our negative tendencies, like fanaticism, narrowmindedness, anger and hatred.” In fact, as we continued to practice sincerely, many of the high monks came to appreciate us. Although they didn’t call us nuns, they treated us with equal respect.
Today, thousands of friends in Europe, North America, Australia, and Asia have come to know and practice these Fourteen Precepts, although most have not had the opportunity to receive them formally from Thây. I always advise those who wish to practice the precepts to organize a Sangha, a community of friends, around them, to recite the precepts every month, and share their experiences of living the precepts. If they do this, already they are members of the extended community of the Order of Interbeing.
Copyright © 19992015 by Unified Buddhist Church. All rights reserved. Please contact Brandy Sacks with any questions, comments, or suggestions.
The Mindfulness Bell : Order of Interbeing
Note: Thay means teacher in the Vietnamese language and is used as a tittle when referring to fully ordained monks in the Vietnamese tradition, like Thay Phap Tri or Thay Phap Dang, much like using “Father John” or “Master Lin Chi.”
Thich is a Vietnamese word transformed and shortened from the word Sakya, the clan name of the Siddhartha Gautama who became the Buddha.
We refer to Vietnamese monks simply with the word Thay for teacher. It is a sweet and intimate reference to your teacher.
Learning True Love: How I Learned and Practiced Social Change in Vietnam by Chân Khong (Cao Ngoc Phuong), Parallax Press, Berkeley, CA, 1993.