Near the mountain, there is a lake with clear, still water reflecting the mountain and the sky with pristine clarity. You can do the same. If you are calm and still enough, you can reflect the mountain, the blue sky, and the moon exactly as they are. You reflect whatever you see exactly as it is, without distorting anything.
Have you ever seen yourself in a mirror that distorts the image? Your face is long, your eyes are huge, and your legs are really short. Don’t be like that mirror. It is better to be like the still water on the mountain lake.
We often do not reflect things clearly, and we suffer because of our wrong perceptions. Suppose you are walking in the twilight and see a snake. You scream and run into the house to get your friends, and all of you run outside with a flashlight. But when you shine your light on the snake, you discover that it isn’t a snake at all, just a piece of rope. This is a distorted perception.
We need to make our water still if we want to receive reality as it is.
When we see things or listen to other people, we often don’t see clearly or really listen. We see and hear our projections and our prejudices. We are not clear enough, and we have a wrong perception. Even if our friend is giving us a compliment, we may argue with him because we distort what he says.
If we are not calm, if we only listen to our hopes or our anger, we will not be able to receive the truth that is trying to reflect itself on our lake. We need to make our water still if we want to receive reality as it is. If you feel agitated, don’t do or say anything. Just breathe in and out until you are calm enough. Then ask your friend to repeat what he has said. This will avoid a lot of damage. Stillness is the foundation of understanding and insight. Stillness is strength.
Thich Nhat Hanh from “Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living"
"Born on the top of a mountain, the little spring dances her way down. The stream of water sings as she travels. She wants to go fast. She is unable to go slowly. Running, rushing, is the only way, maybe even flying. She wants to arrive. Arrive where? Arrive at the ocean. She has heard of the deep, blue , beautiful ocean. To become one with the ocean, that is what she wants.
Coming down to the plains, she grows into a young river. Winding her way through the beautiful meadows, she has to slow down. "Why can't I run the way I could when I was a creek? I want to reach the deep, blue ocean. If I continue this slowly, how will I ever arrive there at all?" As a creek, she was not happy with what she was, she really wanted to grow into a river.
But, as a river, she does not feel happy either. She cannot bear to slow down.
Then, as she slows down, the young river begins to notice the beautiful clouds reflected in her water. They are of different colors and shapes floating in the sky, and they seem to be free to go anywhere they please. Wanting to be like a cloud, she begins to chase after the clouds, one after another.
Learning True Love: Practicing Buddhism in a Time of War by Sister Chan Khong
"In January of 2005, after nearly 40 years in exile, Sister Chân Không was able to return on a 3-month visit to Vietnam. In this fully revised edition of Learning True Love she movingly describes the return to her homeland, the reunions with many old friends and fellow activists, and shares her impression of the “new Vietnam,” where Buddhists still struggle for religious freedom and the re-establishment of their own organizations.
Learning True Love is a moving personal memoir, an introduction to the mindfulness teachings and life of Thich Nhat Hanh and his community in exile, an overview to the development of the European and American peace and human rights movement, and an introduction to the engaged and practical style of Vietnamese Buddhism. It documents the process that brought an end to the US Vietnam war, and gives a lively summary of Vietnamese history from 1945 to the current political, social and spiritual climate in Vietnam. Learning True Love also portraits some of the many remarkable people that shared Sister Chân Không ‘s path.
Foremost however it is the remarkable and impressive story of a very courageous woman, whose journey from an accredited biologist at the University of Paris to a Buddhist nun, gives her unique insight into life’s central questions and the ability to address them in an unflinching and straightforward manner."
We started the evening with a quick check in, then listened to the introduction to Thich Nhat Hanh's book about Pureland Buddhism: 'Finding Our True Home', followed by silent sitting or chanting, as each participant preferred. This was followed by a reading of Thay's translation from the Chinese of the Smaller Amitabha Sutra. Following this we had the opportunity to take turns sharing from the heart.