Written by Br. Chan Troi Duc An
Dear respected Thay, dear sisters & brothers, dear friends,
My name is Chan Troi Duc An. I am a baby novice monk in the Plum Tree family. We ordained on 14th December 2016 in France, and some of us ordained on the 15th in Thailand.
I was born in France in 1988 and grew up in a northern suburb of Paris. This is the fertile soil in which my aspiration is rooted and nourished.
As a young French man, I was lost just like many young French people today. We are not so interested in affairs of our world, the state of our planet, or the lives of people. We try to find the meaning of life in money, fame, and sensual cravings that drown us.
We are disconnected from our body and mind. When we are tired or ill, we do not know how to listen to our body and mind. Instead, we silence them with many substitutes. When unpleasant emotions like loneliness arise, we hasten to cover them up by consuming and by being busy.
We do not allow ourselves to rest, and we are not honest with ourselves. When an emotion is too strong of us to remain blind, we become its victim. Bewildered and alone, others do not understand us. We do not understand ourselves.
The day I realised how much I was making myself and my loved ones suffer, I touched my bodhicitta, the mind of love. Due to my inability to handle my emotions and thinking, I spoke and acted unmindfully and unkindly. I lit up the fire of my aspiration the moment I understood that I am the only one who can put an end to my sorrows. I do not need be a victim to unwholesome influences or habit energies. I can give back true meaning to my life. At last, I could be part of the healing of my family, my country, and the world. It started with my own healing.
Nothing is more important to me. This is why I became a monk.
We need to learn how to reconnect our body and our mind, and to listen to our suffering. Our body and mind are not two separate entities. If we continue to ignore the distress signals, they will manifest as illness, addiction, or even suicide. Each species has a natural and vital need to put an end to its suffering, and be peaceful and happy. Who likes to suffer? Who does not wish to be happy?
When we learn the concrete practices of mindfulness, we learn to be present for ourselves and for others. When we are present, we are no longer lost in our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
When I was 21, I enlisted in the French army. There, I found injustice, discrimination, and blind obedience. After a few years of service, my heart was filled with sadness, anger, and violence. I lost my faith and trust in humanity. I started to rebel. That is why I can understand and feel deeply connected to the call of angry young people in France and around the world for revolution.
Our call comes from a deep desire to be a part of a beautiful future.
Today, when I encounter Thay’s teachings on an engaged and even revolutionary Buddhism that adapts to the needs of its time and environment, I feel my heart irradiating warmth and courage. It is as if Thay is speaking directly to me, sharing the deep aspiration that I have always had.
“Man is not our enemy. Ignorance is our enemy.” With great compassion and patience, Thay shows us that violence, oppression, and discrimination bring suffering to us and to those we see as “enemies.”
Thay shares with us the fruit of his many decades of practice and experiences. By doing so, he helps us discover within ourselves the necessary tools to realise our aspiration of healing and transformation.
It is not about being a Buddhist or a monastic. It is about knowing if we are present—in body and mind—for ourselves and others. Are we present to see all the opportunities of healing offered to us by life every day? Are we ready to accept them? Or do we stay unaware and continue to follow well-worn patterns of escape from our suffering?
One afternoon last Autumn, inspired by reading Thay’s book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings, I wrote down these verses describing my young vision of life and I would like to share it with you:
Life is a fertile field.
Our ancestors plant numerous seeds,
We inherit them all,
well-cultivated or not.
Unknowingly we do the same, and
perpetuate this wonderful cycle of transmission.
If ignorant, from generation to generation,
we feed the sufferings, and neglect the wonderful talents.
Is this the heritage
of our species to our mother earth?
Today, our meeting with the Dharma reveals to us
Doors that can free us.
We have the chance to transcend our suffering,
and to reveal our true power.
Our suffering is rooted in the ignorance of our species.
We can and we will enlighten this darkness
with the light of our mindfulness.
And thus, to transmit the talents and embrace the
sufferings of our parents, our children, our mother earth.
For future generations and for our planet …