I’m just back from a week at Plum Village. I’d hoped to do some portraiture but didn’t really have time. Retreats are busy places what with all the meditating and the Mindfulness.
My working meditation was in the vegetable garden with Sister Coa Nghiem. She is from Thailand and speaks Vietnamese but not much English or French. We worked in the evening as the sun was going down as it was too hot at other times. She laughed a lot. Possibly more than anyone I have ever met so it was a challenge to capture some stillness.
[Brian Cooper asked for a 300 word summary for his report. The words below are roughly related to the talk but way more concise and probably gets over what I wanted to say better.]
Buddhism has spread widely from its origin in Northeastern India 2,500 years ago. Despite this there is a striking concordance at the core of all Buddhist schools even if they are culturally quite different. The Buddha summarised his teaching simply as the reality of suffering and its transformation. He refused to discuss metaphysics. He said that only by practicing the teachings and seeing the results for ourselves can we know if they are true. We should not accept them on the basis of argument or authority alone.
The cause of our suffering is that we don’t see the world deeply enough. If we look deeply we will see the truth of impermanence and no-self and transform our suffering. A rose is made up of water, sunshine and soil. A multitude of conditions manifest a rose for a short period. When those conditions cease the rose transforms to compost. The rose does not have an independent, permanent self. This applies to anything that we can conceive of. Reaching this world view on an intellectual level is easy but far more challenging on a spiritual and emotional level.
Not seeing the world in this way is the root of all violence. The very first thing we need for conflict is to differentiate “them” from “us”. The Buddha’s teachings point to the fact that they are always dependent on us and us on them. With this view conflict becomes as reasonable as fighting between our right and left hands.
The teachings of the Buddha provide an approach that is applicable across faiths and the secular world. The current popular adoption of Mindfulness as route to well-being may be the start of a new phase of Buddhist influence for world peace.