7-9-16 Sangha Update


image from Martin Whelan, a friend in Ireland

The Earth is our mother ...Let's take good care of her. Let's make every day interdependence day!

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” ― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

“Finally, from what we now know about the cosmos, to think that all this was created for just one species among the tens of millions of species who live on one planet circling one of a couple of hundred billion stars that are located in one galaxy among hundreds of billions of galaxies, all of which are in one universe among perhaps an infinite number of universes all nestled within a grand cosmic multiverse, is provincially insular and anthropocentrically blinkered. Which is more likely? That the universe was designed just for us, or that we see the universe as having been designed just for us?” ― Michael Shermer

“Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.” ― Carl Sagan, from "Pale Blue Dot"

Dear Friends,

I hope you are all well and taking very good care of yourselves and our planet!

One of the ways we do that is to gather with others who are doing our best to wake up and be of some help to each other and to be the change we want to see in this world. There will be an opportunity to do that tomorrow evening at the West home (directions below) at 6 PM. There will be sitting meditation, walking meditation...in their beautiful garden (weather permitting) and we will continue to look at the teachings on the Five Trainings. I hope you will be able to attend.

I have included a letter from Sister Chan Khong about a terrible environmental disaster in Vietnam and her plea for all of us to help. You can also get involved through the Earth Holders Sangha http://www.earthholder.org/what-you-can-do a global on line sangha in our tradition focused on ways we can save our planet. There is also a Clean Energy March in Philadelphia on Sunday, July 24 for those of you who will be in Philly or who have friends who are ...info at http://www.cleanenergymarch.org

Lots of opportunities for practice!!

Speaking of practice, the 21 day retreat in Plum Village just ended and the recordings of the talks given by Lay and Monastic Dharma teachers are available on YouTube. Just go to YouTube and search for "Vulture Peak Retreat" . If you are able please support this project by contributing to the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation.

Save the Date!!!! RI Community of Mindfulness Sangha Picnic Saturday, September 10, 11 o'clock until 3 or so at Colt state Park in Bristol.! Bring your family, friends, games, songs, poems, a vegetarian dish to share and your joyful self! It's always a lot of fun. I hope you will be able to join us.

Save Another Date!!! The New London Community of Mindfulness has invited me to offer a weekend retreat at Senexet House in Woodstock, CT from Friday, Oct. 14- Sunday, Oct 16. Registration has not yet opened. ...but if you would like to join us, please save the date.I will keep you posted.

Also a retreat for those facilitating Sanghas or those who would like to....is being organized by the Dharma Teachers Council from Oct 20-23.

The Sangha Building Committee of the North American Dharma Teachers Sangha is happy to announce that we are offering a 4-day retreat for Sangha facilitators at Blue Cliff Monastery(www.bluecliffmonastery.org), 90 miles north of New York City, next October 20-23. With Dharma teachers John Bell, Dennis Bohn, Joanne Friday, Jack Lawlor, and other lay and monastic Dharma Teachers, with the support of the Blue Cliff monastic community. We hope you will consider attending. Please spread the word, and pass this information to other sangha facilitators. (I have included more info below.) If you are planning to attend, please let me know. Perhaps someone will volunteer to coordinate ride sharing.

I hope we can be together soon.... In the meantime, please water all of your seeds of joy by enjoying this glorious day.

with much love, Joanne


We live about 2 miles from URI. From rt 138, go north onto Old North Rd. (across the street from big sign ““Kingston Hill Store Books Used and Rare””. Also, just a smidge west of the 138/108 traffic light). Old North Rd starts off as a one way, continues on as a two way street, and finally ends as a T. You will see our corner property from there. Go left at the T (Old North Rd meets Stoneyfort Rd), and then a quick right onto Plantation Dr. We are the first home on the right (2nd driveway is easiest). Come on in the side door (porch/kitchen)!

SANGHA FACILITATOR RETREAT Thursday Oct 20 (6 pm) – Sunday Oct 23 (1 pm) This retreat is for lay Sangha facilitators in the Plum Village Tradition. We recognize that the Sangha facilitator is a vital link for Thay's continuation, and would like to support facilitators to deepen skills, connect with one another by practicing together, and share experiences around common issues that arise when facilitating a Sangha. Open to all practitioners (OI or not) who are facilitating or want to facilitate a Sangha in the Plum Village Tradition. Likely topics will be organized around several themes:

Form or No Form?

  • Structuring Sangha Gatherings- Dharma sharing, centrality of formal practice, social time
  • Orientation for newcomers
  • Selecting topics or texts for Dharma sharing; use of sutras
  • Other practices: chanting, 5 mindfulness training recitation, socials, prostrations

Frequent Challenges

  • Diversity and Inclusiveness
  • Interpersonal tensions; mental health disorders
  • Supporting Sangha facilitators
  • Are you a "Thich Nhat Hanh Sangha"?
  • Decision making and governance

Enhancing Sangha Practice

  • The mindfulness bell; Sangha chanting; enjoying ceremonies

Registration information. There are approximately 70 beds available on site, in sharing dormitory style. Cost includes 3 nights lodging (Thurs-Sat) and 9 vegetarian meals (Thurs dinner-Sun lunch): Adult, dorm: $180-$330; seniors (65 & up) and teens $120-$240. Campers $120-240. Commuter rate: $120-$240. Registrants are asked to attend Thurs-Sunday, no partial attendance. Thank you. Please register at http://www.bluecliffmonastery.org/register-for-a-retreat/. Go to “Group Registration”. Write “Sangha Facilitators Retreat” as name of retreat. Some scholarships available.


Dear Citizens of the Earth,

Forty-six years ago, in 1970, I was a young biologist present at a ground-breaking meeting between Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and six leading scientists in Menton in the south of France. We met to address the damage that was being done to the Earth through human misuse of technology, the penetration into food-chains of poisonous substances and the mounting exploitation of natural resources. Together, our small group of seven scientists issued The Menton Statement in 1970, which was published in Le Monde and The New York Times in 1971 and signed by over 2,000 scientists in 25 countries. It was one of the very first international statements by scientists to raise concern about environmental destruction and the urgent need to protect the Earth. Our group also established a pioneering NGO, which we called “Đại Đồng Thế Giới” (World of Great Togetherness). We met with the United Nations Secretary-General and played a key role in preparing the ground for the UN Stockholm Conference on the Environment—the first of its kind—that took place a year later in june 1972. Ahead of the talks, we held a civil society conference and issued an “Independent Declaration on the Environment” to support the UN's good intentions and help prevent the talks being stalled or sidelined by powerful governments. It was as a result of the Stockholm Conference that the UN established the United Nations Environment Program and national governments began to create ministries for the environment. Since that time, our teacher Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh continued to teach extensively, speaking out for the protection of the earth and the importance of following a “global ethic” to safeguard our planet. He has transmitted the 5 Mindfulness Trainings to over 100,000 men and women, and over 4,000 have received the 14 Mindfulness Trainings. Each person makes a vow to contribute to building a small beloved community (“sangha”) near their home, and to live in a compassionate way to protect all species on Earth as the many thousand arms of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

Forty-four years since the UN’s Stockholm Conference, Mother Earth’s condition continues to degenerate and today she is in desperate need of our engaged, compassionate action. For billions of years different life-forms have been evolving together and nourishing each other on Earth in harmonious equilibrium. But now, humankind is destroying this balance, and Mother Earth is crying out in pain. Can you hear that your mother is dying? Can you hear the cry of Mother Earth?

“Please wake up, my children, and see what you are doing. Your atomic bombs have laid waste to billions of precious lives, even the most fragile life forms and micro-organisms, across vast swathes of silent desert and open ocean. You have cut down and set fire to my forests, and poured toxins into my atmosphere and waters. You have sliced out my mountains and precious earth to search for fossil fuels, gold and bauxite. Your nuclear power plants, and factories of chemicals and steel have released radioactive waste into my waters and poisoned my earth. My body reeking and twisting with pain has brought forth storms and tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. I am a living earth and my quakes and volcanoes express my life-force, and my pain. Today I am suffocating in the deep waters off the coast of Viet Nam. Billions of fish, dolphins, sharks, shrimps, crabs, and exotic rare species from the depths of the ocean, have been washed ashore, dead and lifeless, across 140 miles of coastline in Vietnam, from Ha Tinh along the coast of Quang Binh, and the coasts of Thua Thien and Da Nang Quang Nam. What terrible poisons have you poured in my waters? There is only one great ocean and poison in one ocean is poison in my whole body. The South China Sea is also the Pacific Ocean, it is the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.

Cá chết hàng loạt tại các tỉnh duyên hải miền Trung Việt Nam Làm sao loài người sống được?

(Nguồn hình ảnh: Báo Lao động)

My dear children, please listen! These beautiful fish are also your brothers and sisters, they are also crying for your help. If living species in the oceans are dying, how long will you last? Please remember, my beloved ones, that you cannot take any steel, gold and bauxite with you when you die.”

Our Mother Earth has been crying out for so long. She has never stopped giving us whatever we needed: food, water and shelter, allowing us to flourish in her abundance, never asking for anything in return. But now she asks for our support, our love, our action. We have allowed our alienation and greed to dominate our lives to the detriment and exploitation of our Mother. Many of us have forgotten that we are one with the Earth. The Earth is not a separate entity from us. We are part of the Earth, and the Earth is part of us. The Earth is not a resource for us to exploit at our will. The Earth is us; we are intimately interconnected with the Earth, just as we inter-are with all other species on Earth, too. Our spiritual ancestors have taught us about the law of interdependent co-arising: this is because that is. We are here because the Earth is here. All species are our brothers and sisters; we are all children of the Earth. When we see our deep interbeing with the Earth and with all species, we will see what to do - and what to stop doing - to help the situation. We will have the clarity and compassion we need to help change the situation, so that a future can be possible for us all. Yes, humans and societies need to develop and progress. But at what cost? We call our political leaders all over the planet , our civil servants, and especially our corporate leaders to stop and look deeply at our behavior. Our industries and corporations are destroying the very fabric that makes life possible and beautiful. We must make adjustments to the cries of Mother Earth.

Each one of us can take action in concrete ways. We can:

  1. Recognize that what we choose to eat greatly impacts our personal health, the distribution of wealth and resources, and the global environment. We can go closer to a vegan diet as recommended by a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences to reduce our impact on climate change and global pollution, and nourish not only our health but our compassion. We can commit to reducing our meat consumption by 50%, or to not eating meat and dairy products 15 days a month.
  2. Recognize that environmental ills are inherently linked to human ills. We should look deeply at our lifestyle and make changes to reduce our consumption and simplify our life. Greed is a byproduct of an individualistic and materialistic way of looking the world. It has become rampant and is a major cause of the imbalances on our planet. Each one of us can support efforts to alleviate inequities wherever we live and between affluent northern hemisphere societies and southern ones.
  3. Recognize that there are alternative renewable energy sources. We can encourage governments to find sustainable energy sources and transition away from nuclear and fossil fuels. It is possible to develop society and industry in new ways, and not at the cost of Mother Earth and numerous species on land and in the ocean, nor at the cost of the wellbeing of future generations. Nuclear waste, whether hidden beneath the earth or exposed, is a toxic cancer to our planet. We will be paying for the luxuries of today with sicknesses tomorrow. Each one of us can make efforts to reduce our personal consumption of energy, in terms of electricity, water, transportation, and the products we buy every day.
  4. Recognize that the meat and agricultural industries are a major cause of environmental degradation. We must encourage governments to adopt sustainable development practices to minimize waste and pollution caused by cultivating, processing and transporting meat and fish, and to move away from meat and fish production, which are not sustainable food sources for a growing global population.

Signature :

Sister Chân Không (Cao Ngọc Phượng), Eldest Sister of the Order of Interbeing, on behalf of the 4,217 monastic and lay members of the Order of Interbeing

May you all enjoy the beautiful colors of spring, the fragrant Summer breeze and glowing sun, the gold and crimson leaves of autumn, and the cool, beautiful light of winter. May you remember also that every being with whom we share this beautiful planet is also a precious gem. May you enjoy everyone around you and not wait until it is too late, until everything is nothing more than a dream.