Sunday, October 18, 2009


(re-posted from May 14, 2009)


Last weekend, at the time of the full moon, the Vesak festivals around the world celebrated the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Buddha. I wanted to honor the time with the photo above, which is of a statue of some deity in the Chicago Art Institute seeming (to me at least) to be stepping out of the illusion, and out of the path of endless suffering (maybe even signaling, "no, don't go there").

But ancient art and a clever photo did not seem as enough so I read more about Vesak at Wikipedia and came upon this final entry:

Vesak in Vietnam

In 1963, the South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic and younger brother of Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc banned the flying of the Buddhist flag. This led to a demonstration, flag-waving in defiance of the ban and the Hue Vesak shootings as Diem's forces opened fire on the Buddhist crowd, killing nine, sparking the Buddhist crisis and a period of non-violent civil disobedience by the monks.

Wow, that sure brought back memories. Not only memories. I thought also of how it's all exploding again under a different set of labels in Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere as the endless path of intolerance continues. And that led me, through the miracle of the Internet and YouTube, to one of the Vietnamese monks from the 60's -- Thich Nhat Hanh -- who today is perhaps the greatest living teacher of peace on earth and who is world-renown for his "engaged Buddhism" and "meditation in action."

I was incredibly touched by his video (below) describing his vision of engaged Buddhism...

Peace is every step
The shining red sun is my heart
Each flower smiles with me
How green, how fresh they all grow
How cool the wind blows
Peace is every step
It turns the endless path to dust

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