Entering the Stream Meditation Practice Centre – Summer 2012/13 Newsletter
Unified Buddhist Church, Australia

Dear Thay, dear Sangha,

Welcome to our quarterly newsletter, offered to the the Australian Plum Village Sangha, friends, and other interested people. It’s for the sharing of news, upcoming events, personal contributions, and acknowledgements, in this big wide open country over which we are scattered so far.

We hope you’ll like it and want to be a part of it, so it might help nourish our sense of being one. Your contributions for the next and further issues – and your feedback about this  first one are invited. We hope the second edition will be even more fully representative. In it we will not only move further ahead with "Touching the Earth, Healing the Earth" (below), but we will launch "Sangha Roundup" - an opportunity for Sangha leaders and members to share about their practice.

Should anyone at all  not want to receive further editions, there is an unsubscribe button at the end.


From the Nhap Luu Sisters

Dear Sangha,

We’d like to thank you very sincerely for your wonderful support over the last two years. Nhap Luu is developing in many ways. With your help we have been able to make a contribution to greener electricity, by installing solar panels on the Meditation Hall roof. That was in 2011. In the same year, with your help as well, we saw a beautiful warm timber floor laid there too, which is a delight to all who see and use it.

Thanks to your donations also, we have been able to buy four new rainwater storage tanks, and now only use bore water for toilets, laundry, and watering. We can also consider the best way to heat and cool the Meditation Hall and other buildings, thanks to you. Your kindness in responding to the need for funds for that is not forgotten, and they remain available for us to use for that, until it becomes clear what methods are the best.

In October 2012, with the direct help of Plum Village as well as with an interest free loan from our Australian Sangha members, we completed the purchase of Peace House. This has given the Sisters simple and comfortable accommodation at last, and an increase in the overall size of the UBCA property. Most recently, your generosity has helped acquire a new laptop and desktop for the Centres’ administrative work.

We are eternally grateful to Green Bamboo Sangha for their ongoing, never failing support in offering an extremely large proportion of the food needs of the Centre. Also of course, for the fact that Nhap Luu is here at all.

In the last twelve months, other very positive things have happened. UBCA has connected up with and become part of the wider Buddhist Community in Victoria: the Nhap Luu Sisters lead the guided meditation from the stage at the 2012 United nations Day of Vesak in Melbourne Town Hall, and also have commenced regular participation as members of the Australian Sangha Association. Nhap Luu (Unified Buddhist Church of Australia) is also represented on the Buddhist Council of Victoria Committee, now.

The Nhap Luu presence at the Beaufort monthly market – an experiment started  nearly two years ago now – continues to make us better known in the wider Pyrenees Shire community. It also helps create supporters, friends, and new practitioners from closer by. The market stall makes available a small range of handcrafted, fair trade,and environmentally friendly products, and most importantly, Thays’ books.

As a result also of the Victorian retreats, of our facebook exposure, and our website (small, but working!) our suburban sitting Sanghas are growing nicely. A new Sangha was formed in Adelaide in 2011,and new guests from  that city who  attended the most recent retreat in October, have now joined the Adelaide group. The sisters travelled there recently, and carried out a Transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings for another recent member.

It has been an eventful and forward-moving last two years, involving much hard work on the part of monastics and lay supporters alike, and we feel we are looking forward to a flourishing future. In future issues, we’ll try to give you a nice snapshot of future goals and plans, as well as the current activity. Please enjoy this newsletter.

A lotus for you,
The Sisters at Nhap luu
Left: Sister Thuan Tien giving a Five Mindfulness Trainings certificate to Sue in Adelaide.
New monastics for Plum Village Australia

The biggest news in some ways, is news that some of you are already aware of. It concerns the Sisters that we have been approved to sponsor to  become part of Nhap Luu.

At the moment, they are residents of Plum Village Thailand, and they will arrive here sometime in early 2013 after spending some time with their families. At the time of sending this newsletter to you, we are still unsure exactly how many will be able to come. They are waiting on one last document that takes a little time to acquire in Vietnam. We hope it will be seven Sisters, though, and we know they are looking forward to taking part in the Easter Retreats with you very much.

Such an expansion at Nhap Luu can only benefit every one of us in Australia. Peace House will need renovations, of course - specifically more showers and toilets, and an extension for two extra bedrooms, to accommodate the Sisters. There will need to be a big fundraising campaign very soon for this. Right right now, we are occupied with the business of getting permits, and so forth.
Dates for your calendar

New Years Eve at Nhap Luu, December 31st – all welcome
The program starts at 4.00 (for those who are able to arrive early) with a Dharma talk, a shared mindful meal, dharma sharing, and a general be-in. The actual ceremony starts in the Meditation Hall at 11.30. Please come and stay the night, to see the New Year in mindfully. 

Tet – Vietnamese New Year, Sunday February 10th 2013
As always, the Sisters will  arrange a  ceremony to mark it, and  hope for as many friends to join them as possible. Details closer to the time, on facebook, and the blog. 

Easter Retreats 2013
As always, our retreats will be lead by visiting senior Dharma Teachers from Plum Village. Their names and other detail, will be available and sent out closer to the time by your local Sanghas, and on the web. Dates, have been confirmed as follows:
Sydney – March 29-31
Brisbane – April 5-7
Nhap Luu – April 12-14
Adelaide – April 19-21    
  
Thay in Thailand
For those who might like to participate in a retreat lead by our Teacher himself, but are not able to go further afield right now - a reminder that in April 2013 Thay starts his 2013 South East Asia Tour - in Thailand. There are two retreats  there, and the details are up on the Thai Plum Village website. Register on line. Some Sangha members have already decided to attend, and it could be really wonderful for a group to share the experience! www.thaiplumvillage.org The tour goes on after that to Hong Kong and Korea but we haven’t researched detail of those sectors.

The Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation

The Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation which is based in the United States far in 2012, and channeled $100,000 directly to Nhap Luu to help with the purchase of Peace House. Currently they are embarking on their end of year campaign.

Funds raised by TNHF are used in five major ways thichnhathanhfoundation.org, and there are plans to establish an Australian branch of the Foundation in the not too distant future, which will be used similarly - but within this country.
Sangha training Australia

Every year, in three states at least, we run two Retreats. They are always special - and every attendee has their own unique retreat experience. We’ll  see some contributions based on some of these in upcoming issues. In the year just closing, we were  blessed to have our own Thay Phap Kham and Thay Phap Hai come and lead the Easter Retreats (Nhap Luu hosted 100 plus attendees-both seasoned and new), and in October the wonderful Thays Phap Ung and Phap Kai from Plum Village. They lead about 50 of us (old, new, and interstate) in some quite deep discoveries about Interbeing.

As though that were not enough, a bonus arising from the Easter visit has been Sangha Training Australia - a wonderful series of interactive on-line training sessions initiated just for us, through the dedication of Thay Phap Hais’ time and energy, when he returned to Deer Park.

Quite a few of us have been opting to tune in every fortnight on a Sunday morning - commencing last May. Californian dharma teachers Kenley Neufeld Karen Hillsberg have formed a trio of facilitators with Phap Hai , and they have all been truly amazing. We’ve been offered insights into Sangha building and facilitating; basic Plum Village practices; and a much deeper understanding of the Buddha Dharma. How lucky we are, I think, each time I get ready to log on and enjoy not just this generous sharing of experience, - but the newer, bigger, richer, sangha that I have gained through the sessions.

We have just one more session of Sangha Training Australia scheduled for this year. It’s my hope that we will hear it’s going to continue on much longer. 

From the Victorian Sangha

“How Thay’s Teaching Inspired me to Practice”

For many reasons I feel a very strong calling to help look after our planet. It’s my spiritual calling as much as my vocational calling, and it lead me to Thay. I’ve been a practicing Christian most of my life, but had reached a point of feeling frustrated that my Church appeared to have no commitment to the environment. Then I stumbled across a book called “Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism” in the library. I read it cover to cover, over and over. And I thought “Yes. Finally – someone else thinks the way I do!” The book was a collection from different writers, about caring for the environment as part of our Spiritual Journey. One particular author who had contributed many chapters really did resonate with me. I thought  "I just have to follow this up”. So I googled Thich Nhat Hanh.

It wasn’t long before I’d found and was reading the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Here was a spiritual organisation which not only tried to reduce their impact on the environment, but caring for the Earth was actually PART of their ethos. They looked on it as equal in importance to caring for each other and one’s self. Wow!  And then – icing on the cake – I read again and again that Thay thought of Jesus as his spiritual ancestor. I could practice Mindfulness, and Buddhism, and still call myself a Christian. It was truly transformative for me. Over time, I started reading everything of Thay’s that I could lay my hands on, and started practicing. 

One thing I have realised, is that my previous efforts to get my Church members to start caring about being environmentally responsible went largely unsupported – not because they didn’t care deep down – but because they hadn’t yet realised that caring for the Earth is PART OF their Spiritual life. I’m still doing my best to encourage them. So I’m incredibly grateful to personally be part of a big Sangha in which mostly we do all recognize this importance – not just because  someone says we should, but because it is a path of Mindfulness.

Belinda Christie is a member of Birrarung Sangha in Melbourne, and an Environmental scientist, currently working towards her PhD.

Touching the earth, Healing the earth
Five Mindfulness Trainings

One of our resident Environmentalists, Belinda (above), has volunteered to take the lead in a small series over the next several issues – aimed at helping us deepen our own understanding and practice of the Mindfulness Trainings in  a very particular regard. Later, we hope to we’ll be able to lead into other series, looking at different aspects of deepening our practice of the Trainings. For the first edition, we have her introduction:
Water flows over these hands.
May I use them skillfully
to preserve our precious planet.
Gatha – Thich Nhat Hanh
If you are like me, you are very grateful that you live in a supportive community of practitioners. We know we are fortunate to be able to deepen our practice together. Thay teaches us that caring for our earth can be a wonderful opportunity to deepen our practice of mindfulness and  our understanding of interbeing; noticing a raindrop fall from a windowsill, feeling the warming touch of sunshine on our face, digging a garden. When we are mindful, we understand that mother earth is a great source of healing and inspiration. Looking more deeply, we also notice that she is always present for us in a myriad of forms, and ultimately we can realise that she is not separate from us but a part of us too. Our earth can help us deepen our mindfulness and our mindfulness can help care for our earth!  So what can we do for her?

In “ Present  Moment, Wonderful Moment,” (Parallax press, 1993) Thay invites us to do some deep looking at ourselves, in his commentary on the above gatha: “The Earth stores water, and water gives life. Observe your hands as the water runs over them. Do you have enough clear insight to preserve and protect this beautiful planet, our Mother Earth?”    

In the next issues of this newsletter, we hope to start a conversation with the Sangha about how we can sharpen that insight, and  then deepen our practice of caring for the earth ,with easy, but very meaningful changes in our choices, and habits. By taking care of Mother Earth we know that we are, in effect, taking care of ourselves- but more importantly of future generations. We hope to water the seeds of understanding and wisdom in ourselves, and open our minds to new perspectives in practicing the 5 Mindfulness Trainings. We hope to realise more profoundly the teachings on interbeing; specifically looking at our connection to the earth and the impact of our modern lifestyles on the environment.

Together as a Sangha, we can help each other to positively support the healing of the earth and to minimise our overall negative impact on it. Perhaps we will learn a bit more about global warming, or enviro-friendly, mindful consumption. Perhaps we will be reminded of simple gathas to focus our contemplations on this topic. Perhaps we will be inspired to live more simply and sustainably.

We invite you to share with us your reflections, ideas, or questions for the Sangha regarding mindfully caring for our earth. We'll incorporate these conversations into each edition so we can continue to support each other in our practice. Let’s deepen our practice together, and deepen our care for our earth. It begins with simple gestures, simple choices, and decisions - mindfully with one breath and one step at a time.

In gratitude
Belinda Christie
The Lotus Pond Temple visit.
From the SA Sangha
Visiting the Lotus Pond Temple – Hong Kong
Recently my partner Sophie and I visited Hong Kong for a few days. While there we took a train to Lantau Island and then went by cable car up to The Lotus Pond Temple which is the Hong Kong centre for the Order of Interbeing. We also went to the Lo Pin Monastery, and the Tian Tan Buddha Statue.
 
The Tian Tan Statue is 34 metres high and made of bronze, although Sophie and I didn't climb the 268 steps to see him up close.  The Buddha statue is close to the opulent Lo Pin Monastery, in a quite tourity area. At the monastery office I asked for directions to the Lotus Pond Temple - but no one there knew anything about it. We asked two monks for directions. In a few words of English, they didn't know. Then one asked “Lin Chi?”. With this clue, we were directed down the right road.
 
Nearing Lotus Pond Temple we felt a bit apprehensive at first about all the dogs, but they proved friendly. We found the five sisters having lunch and the Abbess, Sister Harmony, invited us to eat with them. Sr. Action showed us around their Temple and explained that the Order had been given the custody of an already existing Temple. All the ceremonies and retreats are held in English. We were invited to return and stay some time. The Sisters live at the Temple, and the Brothers have a house a few doors down the road. See www.pvfhk.org for more details.
 
On the way down in the cable car, a storm moved in and the cable system had to be stopped. We were left swaying up in the clouds for a while. I found it exhilarating - but not so some others!
 
Wesley Trotman (Giac Tam) is a co founder of the Adelaide Mindfulness Group that meets on Sundays, from 10.00am at the Sariputa Institute of Buddhism in Parafield Gardens.
Duong Sinh by Peace Lake
two haiku
 
Qi Kong poles gliding
in dawn mist, we feel Peace Lake
breathe this Spring alive.
 
Spring fog on Peace Lake.
Through Duong Sinh we breathe as one
till earth is reborn.
Wallace McKitrick (Compassionate Stillness of the Heart) is cofounder of the  Adelaide Mindfulness Group. Duong Sinh is the name of the form of Qui Kong we practice when we do Stick Exercises.             
Nhap Luu Meditation Hall, photographed by David Moore (Wholesome Action of the Heart) of Eden Images. David is a member if the Smiling Heart Sangha in the Blue Mountains and a regular visitor to Nhap Luu.
From the NSW Sangha

The Values of Practice
A year or so ago I began sharing the Buddha’s teachings with young people. Practicing in Thay’s tradition provided a sound basis, but learning to teach children was a whole new and daunting experience. In spite of doubts and fears I managed to survive, and although still new at it now have a truly rewarding job. Camperdown Lotus Buds group will be familiar with stories of experiences with wise little Buddhas. Teaching began mostly using Thay’s book “A Pebble for your Pocket” focussing on kindness - a concept young people from five to ninety-five seem to easily grasp. The half hour weekly “scripture class” for primary students follows the NSW Buddhist Council curriculum, but is also influenced by the Applied Ethics guidelines developed at Plum Village. Where possible, non-Buddhist terms are always used. The child within each of us is nourished by having fun; so songs, stories, activities and group sharing all form a regular part of the young peoples’ practice.
 
It has been easy to see the teacher in the student  as well as the student in the teacher. One kindergarten student in particular,does not accept any story of the Buddha without discussing it in the group. It amazes me how the values contained in the Five Mindfulness Trainings  are already well understood by five year olds, seventeen year olds.. Although teachings are wrapped differently for each age group, kids love to hear that adults are also learning, and need the same wisdom and values to help them navigate happiness in their lives as they as kids are learning. Adults also love to see and  to hear of little Buddhas blossoming with confidence. Below is an example of a certificate given as a reminder of the benefits of practice to graduating year six students,and the teen members of our youth group in a south-west Sydney temple. The reminder is no different to “big kids” in all Sanghas everywhere. After all, there is no separation. The certificate they receive says everything:
During the year you have participated in harmony with friends learning the Buddha’s teachings in a joyful way that will serve you well in living life fully now and for the rest of your life. Through stories, songs, sharing insights in the group and meditation you have learned how to cultivate awareness of your thoughts, feelings and your body in ways that will help you to grow understanding and compassion for yourself and for others.

Happiness is here and now,
I have dropped my worries,
Somewhere to go, something to do,
But I don’t need to hurry

You have learned how go back to being in touch with the present moment during the day through mindfulness of breathing, walking or listening deeply. These simple skills, if practiced and developed, will continue to bring you much peace and joy as well as help you in dealing with difficult emotions and situations that you encounter now and throughout your life.

Emotions come and go like clouds on a windy day,
Awareness of breathing is my anchor in any storm.


You have also learned the basic ethics that guide you in how to behave every day, namely;
Having reverence for life – learning ways to live with compassion that reduces harm and protects the lives of all beings.
Being generous – grateful for what we have, thinking kindly of others and happy to share in our way of life.
Being responsible – taking care of our energy, bringing awareness to the future consequences of our actions.
Using kind speech – listening with an open mind and compassion, aware that my words can bring joy or hurt.
Consuming mindfully – nourishing my mind and body with only healthy “foods” that bring about joy and well being.

Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty four brand new hours are before me.
Going back to the present moment
Peace, freshness and harmony are always there for me
.
Thank you for being a part of the Buddhist Youth Group in 2012. May you water seeds of joy in yourself every day and continue beautifully into the future.

John Barclay, Chan Quang Dao (True Path of Light). John is a facilitator for the English-speaking Lotus Buds Sangha which meets in Camperdown, Sydney.
Thay's Books
A reminder that Nhap Luu carries almost all Thay’s titles,in both English and Vietnamese, we will send them to you. Prices are almost identical to those of Parallax Press, and you will be supporting both the Unified Buddhist Church of Australia, and Parallax Press and LaBoi presses themselves. This helps facilitate the continued printing and availability of Thay’s  books and teaching.Orders: nhapluu@gmail.com
Left: Our stall at the Beaufort monthly market. Right: The new Nhap Luu bell, which arrived just in time for the October retreat.
Can you help?

We need a lot of on-going Sangha support to get us to the next phase. At the moment, the help listed below is what comes to mind:

Printing services/funds – The donated services of an printer are needed, on an ad hoc but ongoing basis, if we have such a person in the wider Sangha. Alternatively, a sangha member might be happy to undertake, as their personal DANA, to pay for our printing to be done when needed. We plan to print an information brochure and display banner early in the 2013.

A casual translator – for significant newsletter articles, into Vietnamese. Quite high language skills are needed for this job but all applications very much welcomed.

Grant Writing – someone who’d like to try their skills at this for potentially later in 2013. One heroic Sangha member has undertaken to be our grant researcher, commencing in the New Year, but he’ll need your support.

Market crew – A new crew of helpers for the Market project. It’s a pleasant day and only once a month. So perhaps you feel you could volunteer for once in every six months, or something similar? 
                        
We look forward to hearing from you all, wherever you may be in Australia: all communications - contributions,suggestions, offers of service, and requests to go on or off the newsletter mailing list, should be directed to: nhapluunews@gmail.com
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
There’s really never going to be an opportunity to thank everybody for  all the things they do, or have done. So many practitioners and others have helped Nhap Luu over the years that precede this, and are always remembered.  But here’s a start. Just a few-in the present!
Thanks go to Sinead Hanley, of Birrarung Sangha, Melbourne, who has very lovingly and attentively donated her skills as a graphic designer to Nhap Luu.  
Also to Christine Park, of Sydney, for editing assistance with this edition, and her enthusiastic support and suggestions.
Thanks to Cilla Brady (True Precious Eyes) for her extensive help putting together the mailing list that this newsletter is going out to! Without you, Cilla, this wouldn’t be possible. Cilla also keeps our blog updated.
And to Huy Nguyen (Chan Hy Son) for donating his services and experience from years in the Quantity Surveyor  profession, whenever there are building and planning issues. Huy and Cilla are both from Victoria.
Huy Co-facilitates Birrarung Sangha.
© 2012 Nhap Luu. All rights reserved. Our mailing address is:
Nhap Luu
221 Marias Lane, Beaufort, Victoria, Australia
Beaufort, VIC 3373
Australia

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