Getting in Touch with Thay


Plum Village in the summerBrother Chan Troi Dai Dong (Great Togetherness), a Vietnamese student, studied in Paris, France. In the summer of 2013, the brother came to Plum Village for the first time and found here a new way of life. On the 2nd of July 2014, he officially became a monk in the Cypress family. His sharing below shows his practice to get in touch with Thay in himself.

Little orchid,

Since the day you came to my room, I have had a new habit. During my free time, after lighting a candle and making a pot of tea, I sip my tea and contemplate each little flower in the twinkling candlelight. Sometimes only with a small cup of tea, I enjoy sipping for fifteen or even twenty minutes. It is as simple as that, but I generate a lot of joy.

Before, I mostly sat and looked at you in silence. Today, I am going to tell you some of my little stories, which have brought to me great happiness. They are my memories of when I met Thay – beloved teacher of us all.

You know, little orchid, the first time I met Thay six years ago, I did not know who he was and had never heard of his name. That was when I accidentally listened to a recording of Old Path, White Clouds, a book written by Thay. The moment I heard the title of the first chapter – Walking Just to Walk – I was strongly impacted. In my lay life, I studied and worked in the field of engineering. We engineers usually talked about the ‘industrial style.” Seeing someone doing things slowly, we would remind ourselves “Where’s the industrial style?” Or when we were sloppy or negligent, “Where’s the industrial style?” was a question that always came back. I also had such a habit of industrial behaviors. I was always hurrying and hasty like being chased by ghost. I took two or three steps at a time when going upstairs and downstairs; everything had to be done as fast as possible.

When I first heard “Walking Just to Walk”, I was totally amazed. My old way of thinking – pacing like lightning regardless of being hurried or not, and walking fast – was always highly valued. In just one day this notion was replaced with Thay’s simple words. From then on, I got rid of my old habits, practiced to walk and work more calmly. A lot of transformations took place within me since I changed my daily life. While walking, I can feel the beauty of the trees and the nature around me. While working I felt less stress, and found lightness and joy in my work.

You see, that was the first time I met Thay. Ever since then I read Thay’s books with all of my passion. I found one book and it led me to read another. The more I read, the more I respected Thay, and the more I loved him. He has opened new wonders of the life to me I had never known before. I desired to see him in person one day, and together with him, I could practice what he taught us in his books.

Beautiful orchid, I’m enjoying you; I find you have a lot of happiness. You are here in the twinkling candle light with a scented cup of tea, among Thay’s Sangha, which is imbued with Thay’s and his beloved disciples’ compassion. I see myself having a lot of happiness too. A miraculous karma has taken me far away from Vietnam to France and has let me to get in touch with Thay by training and practicing with the Sangha.

The day I came to Upper Hamlet to listen to Thay’s Dharma talk, I was extremely excited. I was going to walking meditation with Thay! I told myself, “I have to find a way to get close to him.” But I was a stranger there and did not know where the crowd gathered. When I arrived, Thay had stepped in front of the crowd while I was separated from him by hundreds of people gathered like mist. As they walked, Thay had passed into the distance. I was deeply disappointed though I still kept walking among others. Knowing that I could not elbow others out to get closer to Thay, I had to wait next time. Then I realized I could just follow Thay’s teachings, and I was back to my steps and my breath. And my anger slowly evaporated; my feelings cooled down and I became calmer.

Suddenly, the sentence “the Buddha is seen in an autumn leaf” appeared in my mind. This time I was again amazed, not lesser than the last time when I heard “Walking just to walk.” I felt a magical delight. When I brought my mind back to my steps and breath, I found Thay was walking right beside me. From one single leaf swaying in the wind to one single flower sparkling in the sunshine, I could see Thay’s kind smile. I fully forgot the one who was leading the crowd in walking meditation. Across each blade of grass and each flower petal, I sensed the happiness when doing walking meditation with Thay. The second time I met Thay, I was with such fulfilled happiness.

When I look back at myself, I believe that my parents, grandparents, and ancestors must have cultivated a lot of happy and kind seeds in the past, so that today I have this opportunity to know Thay and to learn what he teaches. After two weeks of practicing meditation, a miraculous seed had been watered drop by drop by Thay within me. Embraced and nourished by Thay’s disciples, I took an oath to join the Sangha. I was truly happy being accepted by Thay and the Sangha. My happiness, joy and gratitude to Thay and the Sangha are now growing every day.

In everyday life, I often return to see Thay. I can find Thay in every breath and every step in mindfulness. While I am working, from time to time, I hear his question “What are you doing?” coming from somewhere and I smile. Perhaps my smile at that moment looks almost as beautiful as Thay’s. I can meet Thay in his beloved disciples who are committed to practice their best in order to become a worthy continuation of Thay. Even while sitting here, I’m aware I am alive among brothers in love and solidarity, and I can enjoy each flower peacefully, take each sip of tea in silence, and see Thay’s compassionate smile. I can see Thay in the happiness and the transformation of sufferings from every practitioner who comes to us in Plum Village. I also can see Thay in me, in the joy I get every day, and in the transformation within myself.

You see, magical flower, you and I are so lucky. Thay is always right beside us; he just waits for us to return to see him. And we can find him at once. Every moment we meet him is a miraculous moment that gives us an immense happiness. You and I, let us remember to not miss such valued opportunities to be back with Thay. Not everyone has this luck. I also firmly believe that, every time we are back with Thay, he is very happy. Nothing is more delightful than making Thay happy, isn’t it?

This article was originally posted in Vietnamese on

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  1. Thanks for this letter.
    It happened to me the same when I read the book old path white clouds.
    I have cried reading your words.
    Many thanks.
    A orchid for you.


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