05 February 2005

Conversations with Thich Nhat Hanh

I've been reading with much joy Thich Nhat Hanh's book - Living Buddha, Living Christ. I know many well-meaning Christians would call me a heretic and burn me at the stake for even mentioning that I do (read a Buddhist monk's work.)

But he is a beautiful man with a beautiful mind. I am humbled by how insightfully he understands the Christian faith and teaches me to revere God and cherish my own spirituality more. What I would give to have a conversation with the man! Well, next to actually having one - this is what I would say if I had a chance to respond to him from him from his book...

TNH: When mindfulness is present,.. the Holy Spirit (is) already there.
YY: So true - when I live in the moment, in the here and now (not in the past or future), space is immediately opened up for God to come and dwell with us. God can only come to us in the present. The question is are we (present?). But we have to be ourself to be present. Most of the time we are someone else, someplace else, and in some other time!

TNH: ..we can put it (bread) in our mouth and chew with real awareness, not chewing anything else, such as our thoughts, our fears, or even our aspirations... this way, every meal is the Last Supper.
YY: Exactly! I've secretly practiced that - 'eating' Jesus in every meal (when I remember!). The exercise of eating is a spiritual one - always receiving in gratitude and not in greed.

TNH: The body of Christ is the body of God,.. of ultimate reality, the ground of all existence. We do not have to look anywhere else for it. It resides deep in our own being.
YY: Yes. How far must we wander to find Him who is already in us? We look for Him in service, in activism, in worship experiences - when we need only return to the here and now where He is waiting all along!

TNH: ..when Jesus broke the bread and poured the wine, He said, 'This is my body. This is my blood. Drink it, eat it, and you will have life eternal. It was a drastic way to awaken His disciples from forgetfulness.'
YY: It was also another graphic way of making the point that we must receive His sacrifice fully into ourselves to be a part of Him. He said, 'unless I wash your feet, you have no part in me.' Pride also keeps us from encountering God.

TNH: 'I am afraid this criterion (of believing in the resurrection) may discourage some people from looking into the life of Jesus.
YY: That is true.. We should not make believing in a creed an obstacle to encountering Jesus. Rather when one has touched the Living God - the resurrected Jesus is obvious to him. The creed is only an affirmation of that experience not the road to it!

TNH: We.. see... nonduality in God the Son and God the Father because without God the Father within Him, the Son could never be.
YY: Yes we often fail to see the whole Trinitarian God for the individual. The inter-being in the One God who is three is the source of all relationship and inspires us to achieve at-one-ment with self, others, creation and God. By drawing us to Himself, He mends our splintered lives and makes us One again.

TNH: Jesus lived exactly as He taught, so studying the life of Jesus is crucial to understanding His teaching.
YY: His life illustrates his teaching, and He spoke only from His own life. In the same way our lives must match our words, and we should only speak from our own experience. How easy it is to get carried away with empty rhetoric that are born out of insecurity and ambition rather than humble self knowledge.

TNH: Society is changing, people are changing, economic and political conditions are not the same as they were in the time of... Jesus.. (We need to) continue to develop as a living organism.
YY: The new movements of the Church often become the stale structures and shackles of the generation that inherits it. Cell groups helped rediscover dynamic living in the Body but today they feel more like prison cells - lacking in authenticity and spontaneity. Every generation must be brave to reinvent the way they live the spiritual life in order to remain fluid and organic - not static and lifeless.

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