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Nonviolent Resistance

 Sister True Emptiness



In April 1963, an assistant to Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, the sister-in-law of South Vietnam's President, contacted me about becoming the head of a branch of her Republican Women's Party, Phu Nu Cong Hoa. She wanted every woman in the country to join the party, but I refused, as I did not want to become involved in politics. My refusal was interpreted as the act of a communist, "for only a communist would refuse such a generous offer," and her assistant threatened that Madame Nhu might have me arrested. Working with the poor in the slums was also considered communist activity. At that time, I was head of the social welfare branch of the Buddhist Student Union started by Thay Nhat Hanh in April 1960 at Xa Loi Temple, which was strengthened and legalized as a branch of the Buddhist congregation by Thay Thien Minh and Quang Lien in October 1961. We held weekly meetings to study Buddhism, discuss the Dharma, plan projects for the poor, and publish a magazine, Tin Tuong, describing our work. The thirteen cedars became eighty, and then over 300 cedars in the Buddhist Student Union. To force me to stop my work in the slums would also mean stopping these 300 students from helping the poor. Friends throughout the country reported similar threats in their provinces--Phan Thiet, Quang Nam, Quang Tri, Quang Ngai, Kontum, Nha Trang, and Qui Nhon. Many had been urged to join the party of Madame Nhu or be converted to Catholicism. As a result, many good people joined the Communist Party, not by their own choice. There were many other stories of the oppression of Buddhists by the Catholic regime. In Lavang Village in Quang Tri Province, the Buddhists worshipped the silhouette of a woman who had saved a little boy. The child had fallen into a well one night and was floating on the surface of the water when he was rescued barely in time. The boy reported that he had seen a woman who looked exactly like a painting of Avalokitesvara supporting him in the water. On another occasion in the same province, one group of houses remained untouched during a huge storm that destroyed all the trees and fields surrounding it. Many people reported seeing the mysterious woman walking in front of the houses during the storm. At the beginning of this century, the people erected a small temple to worship Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva whom they believed the mysterious woman to be. But when Ngo Dinh Diem came to power, his brother, Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc, ordered that a Catholic cathedral be built, and he declared that the woman had been Mary, the Virgin Mother of Jesus, and not Avalokitesvara. Government employees throughout the country were asked to contribute towards the construction of the Lavang Cathedral. But in April 1963, the most extreme anti-Buddhist proclamation was issued by the Diem regime. They declared that Wesak, the Buddha's nativity, could no longer be celebrated as a national holiday in Vietnam, and that it was a crime to display the Buddhist flag.* In twelve northern provinces of South Vietnam, Wesak was the most important holy day. All fish and meat markets and non-vegetarian restaurants were closed, and anyone could enter a Buddhist temple and receive a vegetarian meal. Buddhist flags were on display everywhere, and processions of carts made of flowers carrying a statue of the baby Buddha could be seen throughout the cities, towns, and villages. In Hue, the Buddhist stronghold in Central Vietnam, every household traditionally prepared an altar in the front yard on the eve of Wesak to welcome the baby Buddha. Imagine what a shock it was for the people to learn that all of these practices were suddenly forbidden. I later learned that Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc intended for all of Vietnam to "progress" rapidly on the Catholic path, as had happened in one village where everyone was baptized on the same day. The Archbishop had hoped to be named a cardinal and felt that if too many Buddhist flags were displayed during Wesak, it would hinder his chances. For us, the ban on displaying the Buddhist flag was the last drop in a bucket already filled with the anger of oppression. So, on the eve of Wesak, May 8, 1963, Buddhists in Hue hung their flags and conducted the Wesak ceremony as usual at Tu Dam Pagoda. Everyone in the city waited by their radios to hear the broadcast of the Dharma talk by Thay Tri Quang. But the talk, which had been recorded that morning, was not broadcast, because he spoke about the wish of the Buddhists not to have their flag banned. Thousands of young people came to the radio station, and the authorities ordered tanks to advance on them. Eight young people were crushed to death. On May 10, more than 10,000 people demonstrated, demanding freedom of religion, but President Diem ignored them, and instead arrested and tortured many of the monks and students he considered to be the instigators. After long deliberation, our Buddhist Student Union in Saigon joined with the leadership of the National Buddhist Congregation in its struggle for religious liberty, endorsing their open letter and petition to the government: The presidential decree banning the Buddhist flag must be rescinded. 

Everyone must be granted the same freedoms as those guaranteed the Catholics under the French regime, including freedom to assemble. The National Buddhist Congregation must enjoy the same status as the Catholic Church and not be considered merely an association. 

The arrests of Buddhists must stop. 

Buddhists must be given the freedom to practice the Buddha's teachings. 

The families of those who were crushed by the tanks must be compensated, and those who did the killing must be arrested and brought to trial. 

The High Patriarch of the National Buddhist Congregation, Thay Tinh Khiet, signed the petition and added these five principles: Buddhists have never aimed at overthrowing any regime. We only wish to change policies that discriminate against us. 

Buddhists have no enemies. Our struggle is not against the Catholics but against discrimination. Buddhists never wish to fight another religion. 

The Buddhist struggle for a fair religious policy is part of the struggle for social justice in all of Vietnam. 

Buddhists vow to follow a nonviolent path, practicing the teachings of the Awakened One during the struggle itself. Because of our commitment to nonviolence, we Buddhists are ready to sacrifice ourselves in the spirit of understanding and love. We want more than just a change of policy. We want the spirit of love and understanding to inspire and transform the hearts and minds of all people, including those in government. 

Buddhists will not let any political force make use of our struggle. 

On May 15, 1963, a Buddhist delegation submitted a forty-five page report of human rights violations to President Diem, but again there was no response. On May 21, 1,000 monks and nuns gathered at An Quang Pagoda to pray for the young people who died in Hue. Moved by the presence of these peaceful monks and nuns, thousands of laypeople joined them. Police used tear gas, barbed wire, and physical force to break up this and other "demonstrations," and they took many monks and nuns away in large trucks. On May 25, an Interdenominational Committee for Protecting Buddhism,* founded in Xa Loi Temple, went to Diem and asked him to address the demands previously submitted, but still there was no response, and the struggle continued, including demonstrations, collective fasts, noncooperation in the markets, and petitions. Monks and nuns wore their everyday brown or gray robes to these demonstrations, and then, at a pre-appointed time, donned their bright yellow, formal sanghati robes. The foreign press was informed of the time to come to photograph these powerful, silent marches for human rights. There was great harmony among the leaders of this committee, led by eloquent and skillful monks from all over Vietnam.* Thay Thien Minh was extremely gifted in chairing the meetings and in negotiating with the government. We students used our underground press to explain to our countrymen and to the world why the Buddhists were demonstrating. Censorship in South Vietnam was so severe at this time that residents of Saigon were not informed about the killing of the eight young people in Hue. We printed the news of the Hue demonstrations, including the transcriptions of the BBC and Voice of America reports confirming many human rights violations by the Diem regime.* In a short time, several hundred students from the Buddhist Student Union in Saigon plus hundreds of other friends joined together to become a group of nearly 1,000 that was challenging the authorities. Huynh Ba Hue Duong was the "brains" behind our publications' distribution network. One group established connections with the public high schools in Saigon, Cho Lon, Gia Dinh, and several nearby provinces. Another group was given responsibility to distribute books to the private high schools, and another to the Buddhist merchants in the dozens of markets of Saigon, Cho Lon, and Gia Dinh. As soon as a new book or pamphlet was printed, each unit of our network went to work distributing it to balance the distorted news disseminated by the government. The regime called our work "communist," and we risked arrest and torture.* Our work in the slums helped us. Whenever we were followed by a government agent, we darted into a slum, and it was impossible for the agent to track us down. In prison, police agents were known to torture people until they "admitted" that they were communist infiltrators trying to stir up trouble among the Buddhists. Hue Duong was arrested, beaten, and forced to "admit" that he was communist. Then he had to witness his close partner in the underground work receiving vaginal electric shocks. She fainted several times but persisted in claiming her innocence. Some coworkers were even tortured to death, but the numbers of those supporting our work continued to increase. On June 11, 1963, Thay Quang Duc immolated himself to call for religious freedom. No one had informed me that he was going to do this, but just at the moment he set himself on fire, I happened to be driving by the corner of Phan Dinh Phung and Le Van Duyet Streets on my motorbike, and I witnessed him sitting bravely and peacefully, enveloped in flames. He was completely still, while those of us around him were crying and prostrating ourselves on the sidewalk. At that moment, a deep vow sprang forth in me: I too would do something for the respect of human rights in as beautiful and gentle a way as Thay Quang Duc. After the sacrifice of Thay Quang Duc, the inspiration was so great in the country that we could not count all the demonstrations and acts of resistance taking place in every town and province. The press could only report on what was happening in Saigon and Hue. At 2:00 a.m. on June 16, the day of Thay Quang Duc's funeral, the government and the Buddhists reached a five-point peace agreement. The news was broadcast on the radio, but because the atmosphere of the country was so tense, most people did not believe it, and thousands came anyway to demonstrate at Thay Quang Duc's funeral. Thay Tam Giac, a martial arts teacher who had thousands of students in Saigon, stood on the hood of a car announcing through a megaphone that the agreement was true. His car had to travel across one-third of the city before the atmosphere was defused. The government postponed the funeral for four days in the hope that the people would calm down. On June 20, after six hours of cremation, all of Thay Quang Duc's body had become ash, except his heart, which was still dark reddish-brown and intact. After a second cremation, at 40,000* C, his heart remained exactly the same shape, although an even darker color. The office of Ngo Dinh Nhu issued a secret communique asking its employees to remain on alert for a new offensive order. When a copy of that communique was obtained by the Buddhist leaders, they brought it back to the government and demanded the government honor its peace agreement. On the same day, the government attempted to set up its own Buddhist Congregation by gathering a number of "chanting priests." These priests sent a cable to the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) meeting in Sri Lanka, informing them that the Buddhists in Vietnam were acting improperly and could damage the prestige of the WFB. But the Buddhists in Sri Lanka sent a telegram back supporting the Buddhists' struggle in Vietnam. Then Ngo Dinh Nhu ordered a group of war veterans to demonstrate against the Buddhists, but the veterans instead demonstrated against the regime. Even the military officers in the army of the Republic of Vietnam were pressuring their superiors, saying that they could not fight the communists if the government continued to suppress the religion of their ancestors. Many superiors in the army tried to persuade Diem to change his policy, to no avail. So a few generals in the South Vietnamese army tried to seek American support to overthrow Diem, as the communists had the support of the Soviet Union and China. But President Kennedy was not ready to support the generals. The number of Buddhists who sacrificed themselves increased. Thay Nguyen Huong immolated himself in Phan Thiet on August 4, 1963; the nun Dieu Quang in Nha Trang on the same day; Thay Thanh Tue in Hue on August 13. I know that in the West it is hard to understand why Vietnamese burned themselves. It looked like a violent act. Please try to be in the heart and mind of the person performing such an act of great love and sacrifice. To move the hearts of the hardest men and women, you have to give a gift of great value--even your own life. These people did not die when their bodies turned to ash. When I looked deeply at Thay Quang Duc's sacrifice, I could see his love and deep commitment to human rights born again in me and in thousands of Vietnamese and others all over the world. We received the fire of love and commitment to act from his great sacrifice. In the early morning hours of August 20, 1963, the army's special forces raided the most important strongholds of the Buddhist movement throughout the country and arrested more than 2,000 monks and nuns in their temples along with active Buddhist laypeople in their homes, including many of my friends. The police in Saigon ransacked Xa Loi Temple, An Quang Pagoda, and several other temples. One monk at Xa Loi, whom they thought was Thay Giac Duc, one of the most eloquent speakers for the Buddhist demonstrations, was beaten to death right on the spot. That night, twelve policemen circled the house of my elder sister, Nga, where I had been living since 1962. Two climbed on the roof, two stood at the back doors, and two came inside, asking to see the livret de famille. One of them said, "We are here to arrest one communist troublemaker, Mister Cao Ngoc Phuong." My brother-in-law said, "There is no communist troublemaker here and no Mister Cao Ngoc Phuong. There is Miss Cao Ngoc Phuong, my sweet, gentle sister-in-law, who teaches at the Saigon Faculty of Science. Our family is highly respected. I am Nguyen Trung Ngon, the Chief Engineer supervising the Civil Aeronautics Department of the government, and my brother Nguyen Trung Truong, works in the Ministry of Interior as Chief of all the police inspectors of Saigon Cholon stations." The two policemen looked at each other and whispered, "Our Chief!" and they apologized. As my brother walked them to the gate, he saw two men jump from the roof and eight more come from different corners of the house. Later that day, government agents told my friends that it was I who had denounced them as communist and caused their arrests. Imagine how angry and filled with despair they must have been, being imprisoned and feeling betrayed by their trusted friend Cao Ngoc Phuong. Of course, it was a common technique of the government to use the fact that I was free to divide us and inflict suffering on us. Later, when several friends were released thanks to a bribe to the police, I noticed that they tried to avoid me. Only after the fall of Diem did I learn of this terrible deceit by the government. One of my closest friends reported to Thay Nhat Hanh that she believed that I was innocent, but she thought that perhaps my sister or brother-in-law had betrayed my friends. This shocked and hurt me greatly. I was quite mindful of my acts and my family members' acts, and if anyone in my family had some sign of fear of being in trouble with the government, I would have known. Everyone in my family wholeheartedly supported my struggle. Learning of the arrest of so many monks, nuns, and Buddhist friends, I wanted to scream and go to jail, or burn myself in despair. Thay Nhat Hanh was far away, and all my respected teachers and friends were in prison. Tears flooded my eyes as I wandered the streets on my motorbike. Late in the afternoon, I entered my laboratory, saw Professor Hoang Ho, and told him I wanted to tear up my biology thesis and burn myself. Tears streamed down my cheeks, as I asked him, "Why did they imprison so many monks, nuns, and Buddhist friends who worked only for the freedom to practice their beliefs?" He listened carefully, unaware that so many violations of human rights were being perpetrated throughout the country. As a scientist, he was interested in trees, plants, and algae, but he also was interested in truth, and he drafted a petition asking the government to stop all human rights violations. We collected signatures from seventy-nine university professors, all of whom knew that they risked arrest by signing. On August 21, we presented the petition to President Diem and also to the press. That same day, Vu Van Mau, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, angrily left a cabinet meeting when Ngo Dinh Nhu reported the arrest of "all the communist Buddhists," and three days later, he shaved his head in protest. Because so many monks and nuns were in jail, university and high school students took charge of the resistance movement, founding the Committee to Work for the Respect of Human Rights in Vietnam. On August 25, when hundreds of high school students gathered at Dien Hong marketplace to demonstrate, the police fired on them and killed one sixteen-year-old girl, Quach Thi Trang. Fear and despair set in, as the people continued to feel suppressed. On September 9, 1963, thousands more students went into the streets, protesting fearlessly against the Diem regime in response to the news that Mai Tuyet An, an eighteen-year-old girl, had tried to cut off her left hand on the stairs of Xa Loi Temple to offer to Diem. She was a tiny, sweet person in the Buddhist youth movement. Her right arm was too weak to manage the large axe she used to chop off her hand, and she bled profusely and then fainted. Her letter to the President, in which she said that her hand was a gift she wanted to offer him to request his understanding of the people's wishes, moved people very much. Mai Tuyet An's act was the utmost sacrifice to wake people up from their ignorance.* After the sacrifice of Mai Tuyet An, Professor Ho looked at me deeply and said, "Would you like to leave the country? You could go to the University of Paris to finish your thesis and present it to the Faculty of Science there. I can introduce you to Professor Bourrelly, a specialist in freshwater algae, and Professor Feldmann, my own teacher, and they can help you complete your work." I thanked him for his kindness and promised I would respond right away. A few hours later, an idea came to me. I would go to Paris and hold a press conference. Like Vu Van Mau, I could shave my head, and then I would offer my long, dark hair to President Diem in return for his understanding. I could tell the international press about all the cruelties of the Diem regime. I knew that the authorities intended to arrest everyone in the Buddhist movement, and if I left the country, I could tell people overseas about the extent of the human rights violations at home. When my mother heard my plan to shave my head, she offered to knit me a wool hat to keep me warm through the Paris winter. Because I was an employee of the government, as a lab assistant at Saigon University, I was able to obtain a visa rather easily through diplomatic channels, and I left for France on October 23, 1963. During all of this time, Thay Nhat Hanh was in New York City, teaching at Columbia University. He translated into English the reports of human rights violations he was receiving from Vietnam and made a document that he presented to the United Nations. On the day of the General Assembly debate on human rights in Vietnam, Thay fasted and prayed for understanding in a temple in New York. The UN agreed to send a delegation to Vietnam to investigate the allegations. On November 1, a few days before my planned press conference, the Diem regime fell. Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother were killed by an angry military officer. I went to a Catholic church in Paris to participate in a service for them organized by their supporters. I had no hatred for these men, even though they had caused so much suffering. I knew they were victims of their own wrong concepts about the reality of Vietnam, and I only wished that from then on, the sacrifices of the nonviolent Buddhists in Vietnam would illuminate the way for those governing the country. The saga of the Diem brothers is now past, but it remains a vivid lesson, especially for those who have responsibility for millions of lives. We always have to examine our ideas and concepts closely and revise them regularly to stay close to reality. We must never be too certain of our knowledge; we must be humble and open to learning something new every day of our lives. Later, the Pentagon Papers revealed that Washington had given the order to overthrow Diem. In fact, the nationalist officers who loved their country and had been afraid that the communists would take over if the governing group were too unpopular, needed the support of Washington to balance the Chinese and Soviet blocs' backing of Hanoi. But to claim that it was the U.S. that overthrew the Diem regime would be simplistic. Ngo Dinh Diem and his family overthrew themselves with their narrow minds, their lack of understanding, and their inability to listen to the wishes of the nation. Knowing that the Diem regime had collapsed, I did not shave my head or hold a press conference. Instead I began to concentrate on my thesis. Then one night I received a telephone call from Thay Nhat Hanh. I had sent him a letter the first day I arrived in Paris, telling him everything that was happening in Vietnam--things I had not been able to tell him while I was still in the country, as all letters were being censored and the security of our friends and families was at risk. I had told him about the press conference I had planned, and the first thing he asked me on the phone was, "Have you shaved your head?" When I said, "No," he seemed pleased. He persuaded me to come to New York, even if just for a week, saying that he needed my advice about whether to return to Vietnam. The Dean of Columbia University had told Thay that it was not safe for intellectuals like him to return to Vietnam, and he had invited Thay to stay and establish a Department of Vietnamese Studies. Thay did not say this, but I could "hear" the words, "If I stay in New York, I will not have to struggle with those conservative monks who give me so much trouble in my efforts to renew Buddhism!" I was a kind of representative of the younger generation who believed in him and supported his work, so I promised to come to New York for two weeks to discuss plans to renew Buddhism and bring about social change in Vietnam. We were both happy with the prospect of seeing each other again. When I arrived in New York, I somehow assumed I would be eating the same mashed potatoes I had found in all French university cafeterias, and I was quite surprised to see an excellent meal of tofu and mushrooms prepared by Thay. During my time in New York, Thay taught me how to cook many vegetarian dishes. Thay, his housemate Steve, a graduate student at Columbia, and I stayed up late every night, mostly sitting in silent peace and joy. Sometimes we sang French or English songs together. During these two weeks Thay wrote a poem entitled "Butterflies Over the Golden Mustard Fields" and gave it to me: For ten years

we had a beautiful green garden.

For twenty years

the sun always shone on our thatched roofs.

My mother came out and called me home.

I came to the front yard

near the kitchen

to wash my feet

and warm my hands over the rosy hearth,

waiting for our evening meal

as the curtain of night

fell slowly on our village. I will never grow up

no matter how long I live.

Just yesterday, I saw a band

of golden butterflies fluttering above our garden.

The mustard greens were bursting with bright yellow flowers. Mother and sister, you are always with me.

The gentle afternoon breeze is your breathing.

I am not dreaming of some distant future.

I just touch the wind and hear your sweet song.

It seems like only yesterday that you told me,

"If one day, you find everything destroyed,

then look for me in the depths of your heart." I am back. Someone is singing.

My hand touches the old gate,

and I ask, "What can I do to help?"

The wind replies,

"Smile. Life is a miracle.

Be a flower. 

Happiness is not built of bricks and stones." I understand. We don't want to cause each other pain.

I search for you day and night.

The trees grope for one another in the stormy night.

The lightning flash reassures them

they are close to one another. My brother, be a flower standing along the wall.

Be a part of this wondrous being.

I am with you. Please stay.

Our homeland is always within us.

Just as when we were children,

we can still sing together. This morning, I wake up and discover 

that I've been using the sutras as my pillow. 

I hear the excited buzzing of the diligent bees 

preparing to rebuild the universe.

Dear ones, the work of rebuilding

may take thousands of lifetimes,

but it has also already been completed

just that long ago.

The wheel is turning,

carrying us along.

Hold my hand, brother, and you will see clearly

that we have been together

for thousands of lifetimes. My mother's hair is fresh and long.

It touches her heels.

The dress my sister hangs out to dry

is still sailing in the wind

over our green yard. It was an autumn morning

with a light breeze.

I am really standing in our backyard--

the guava trees, the fragrance of ripe mangoes, 

the red maple leaves scurrying about 

like little children at our feet. A song drifts from across the river.

Bales of silky, golden hay 

traverse the bamboo bridge. 

Such fragrance! As the moon rises above 

the bamboo thicket, 

we play together

near the front gate.

I am not dreaming.

This is a real day, a beautiful one. 

Do we want to return to the past 

and play hide-and-seek?

We are here today, 

and we will be here tomorrow. 

This is true.

Come, you are thirsty.

We can walk together 

to the spring of fresh water. Someone says that God has consented

for mankind to stand up and help Him.

We have walked hand in hand

since time immemorial.

If you have suffered, it is only

because you have forgotten 

you are a leaf, a flower. The chrysanthemum is smiling at you.

Don't dip your hands into cement and sand. 

The stars never build prisons for themselves. Let us sing with the flower and the morning birds.

Let us be fully present. 

I know you are here because I can look into your eyes.

Your hands are as beautiful as chrysanthemums.

Do not let them be transformed 

into gears, hooks, and ropes. Why speak of the need to love one another?

Just be yourself.

You don't need to become anything else. Let me add one testimony of my own.

Please listen as if I were 

a bubbling spring. And bring mother. I want to see her.

I shall sing for you, my dear sister, 

and your hair will grow as long as mother's. The day after I arrived, Thay Nhat Hanh received a cable from Thay Tri Quang, the monk who had started the struggle in Hue against the Catholic regime, inviting him to come back to Vietnam to help reorganize Buddhism. In the past, Thay Nhat Hanh had not received any support from the Buddhist hierarchy in his attempts to renew Buddhism, especially from Thay Tri Quang. A few days later, another letter from Thay Tri Quang arrived, saying, "I am too old now and too old-fashioned to take care of this big responsibility. Please come back and help." I remember seeing Thay Nhat Hanh, thoughtful and moved, holding the letter in his hand for a long time. Later he told me about how wonderful impermanence is, because in the past, Thay Tri Quang was one of the pillars of the conservatism he had struggled against. Now, with the support and understanding of Thay Tri Quang, he might be able to realize the work he loved so much. I was excited to do the work, too. We agreed that when Thay returned to Vietnam, I would join him as soon as possible, but for now, I would go back to Paris to complete my thesis. Thay Nhat Hanh cabled Thay Tri Quang agreeing to return to Vietnam. On his way, he stopped in Paris for a week to visit me and a number of Buddhist friends. He arrived with a student of his, who would later be ordained as the nun Thich Nu Tri Hai, and he gave a public lecture in Paris. On December 16, 1963, he flew to Vietnam. 


I first met Sister True Emptiness (Sister Chan Khong) through a recording by Betsy Rose. The recording was A Rose for You the Buddha to Be and included songs sung by Sister Chan Khong. I was transported by her truly angelic voice, a combination of Vietnamese professional singer and a spirit grounded in something I could only imagine. Later, I would sell a tape in my bookshop titled Touching the Earth that Thich Nhat Hanh and Sister Chan Khong recorded at a mindfulness retreat in the United States. I would play this for people learning to meditate and give this to people who were in psychotherapy. When selling the tape, I would say, "Please don?t play this while driving." I was sure people would go to sleep (from pure relaxation). Next, I read her book How I Learned True Love (for sale at the Parallax Press site mentioned on our "Other Links" page). If you ever want to really "see" the Vietnam War and how people transformed their lives, please read this book by a twentieth-century saint.The next news I heard of Sister True Emptiness was that she would be with Thich Nhat Hanh when he arrived at the 21-day retreat in Vermont in May 1998. She was a power and presence that was (is) an honor to experience. I had a wish fulfilled when she sang a group of 400 adults to sleep with beautiful songs and deep relaxation. At a Dharma talk about Death and Dying (a subject that is of much interest to me >>see the "Maitri Project" page), Sister True Emptiness continuously refocused the huge group from their own concerns about suffering to the cause and cessation of suffering. Upon my leaving, I spoke to her about my son?s coming to Plum Village in France to inquire about becoming a monk. Her absolute concern and joy touched my heart. To this very moment, she remains the most holy woman that I have ever met. 



Last update: 01-02-2002

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