Long Hand of the Sangha

In June 2010, Thay gave a dharma talk (audio link and transcript link) at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism talking of the Order of Interbeing. I felt deeply inspired by the talk and hope others may find it nourishing as well. The talk is 108-minutes and was given Vietnamese, though you can clearly hear Thay’s voice, and is translated into English by Sister Chân Duc (Annabel).

The talk has four parts.

  1. Enjoying Every Moment
  2. The Order of Interbeing
  3. Engaged Buddhism
  4. The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings

The last line of dhamapada, from the Chinese, is an inspiration for the early part of this talk. On my head, there begins to have white hair. My youth has been stolen. It seems like they have come to tell me that I should become a monk as soon as possible. We need to learn to stroll – to enjoy our stroll. We shouldn’t waste our opportunity of being a human. We should enjoy every moment. Taste every moment. How can this be done? Train with a sangha. Don’t wait till your hair is gray

Each member of the Order of Interbeing has to be a pillar. An inspiration. The brown color. The brown jacket symbolizes humility. We should manifest that spirit. The spirit of power of silence. The Vietnamese name is Tiep Hien. The word Tiep has many meanings. To receive is the first. To continue is second. To be in touch with (life, suffering) is third. The first thing we must do is to receive. The way Thay walks. Talks. This is his way of transmitting. The word Hien. First, it means the thing that is present. Now. The dharma  door of plum Village is the present moment. Second, it means realization. Realizing the practice. Third, manifestation. We could also add another meaning. Make it appropriate to the time and place. Actualization. With all these meanings, it can’t so easily translate into English. Therefore, we have Order of Interbeing and we must study to understand its meaning.

Engaged Buddhism means Buddhism that enters the world. Engaged Buddhism has been in our Vietnamese tradition for hundreds of years. Closely related to Engaged Buddhism is Applied Buddhism. Applied is a secular term, but it allows us to do more than simply study Buddhism but rather to actually apply the teachings to transform our suffering. There are many schools that teach Buddhism, but few that teach applied Buddhism. The Order of Interbeing members are the long hand of the fourfold sangha that stretches out to society. The lay order members are needed to do this. Build sangha.

Thay calls for a council, an assembly of Order members, to revise the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. This is our challenge. With the recent revision of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, they now contain all the good parts of the Fourteen, but the Fourteen are now missing new elements found in the five. A committee has already begun the work, but it needs to be expanded.

I hope you enjoy the talk as much as I did listening and making a few notes.

  • Dzung Vo

    I have been reading more about the history of the OI since my ordination earlier this week. As a new OI member, I am beginning to contemplate how (when, where) to wear the brown jacket.

    I was also very inspired by this talk, especially the teaching on serving with humility, and skillfully adapting the practice as appropriate to the situation. I am also reminded of Thay’s teaching at the retreat at Deer Park this week, that the primary purpose of a sangha is not to organize retreats or days of mindfulness, but to build sisterhood and brotherhood.

    Here is a version of the transcript that was published in The Mindfulness Bell

    http://www.mindfulnessbell.org/wp/2012/12/dharma-talk-the-long-arm-of-the-fourfold-sangha/