Visit To Plum Village

In February, 2000 I went to India to train software engineers (who later got my job through outsourcing). On my way back, I stopped in Plum Village for a few days. It happened to be during the Tet (Vietnamese New Year) celebration. It is a time when the

Sister Chan Khong’s room in New Hamlet, February, 5, 2000

Sister Chan Khong’s room in New Hamlet, February, 5, 2000

monks and nuns visit each other to share fruits, candies and other delicacies. On one of the days, I wound up in Sister Chan Khong’s room. She was hosting four Mother Superiors from Vietnam, none of whom spoke English. So I asked through Sister Chan Khong for each of them to give a small dharma talk, which they did – with Sister Chan Khong translating. We all had a marvelous time – chatting, listening, eating and just enjoying each other.

The next day, I met Brother Phap An, who had achieved a Ph. D. in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Tech and was doing a post doctoral fellowship at MIT when he decided to become a monk. He had escaped from Vietnam on a boat full of people when he was sixteen. I was very moved by his story, and we became good friends.

During the period after my visit to Plum Village in 2000 until my visit in 2006, I was a founding member of the Mountain Sangha (see http://www.mountainsangha.org for more information) and participated in Lyn Fine’s aspirant group. I also had no recurrence of cancer and wanted to teach a class on Mindfulness in Healing as part of my aspiration to be ordained in the Order of Interbeing (Thay’s international organization of engaged Buddhism).

Jerome and Brother Phap An on the porch of Thay’s hermitage in Upper Hamlet, March 22, 2006Jerome and Brother Phap An on the porch of Thay’s hermitage in Upper Hamlet, March 22, 2006

Jerome and Brother Phap An on the porch of Thay’s hermitage in Upper Hamlet, March 22, 2006Jerome and Brother Phap An on the porch of Thay’s hermitage in Upper Hamlet, March 22, 2006

When the possibility of visiting Plum Village came up in March, 2006, I wrote to Plum Village to see if I could participate in the Spring Retreat. It took several phone calls and an email to Sister Chan Khong to finally get the answer I was hoping for. Fortunately, the day after I arrived from India was a ‘day of mindfulness’, which gave me an opportunity to explore the beautiful wine country around Plum Village and recover from jet lag. The next day (Tuesday – the first day of spring), Brother Phap Yu taught a class on the eighteen elements of being, and I was very impressed with his presentation.

I began looking for Brother Phap An at every meal during the first few days, but he was no where to be seen. When I asked where he was, I was told that he had spent many late nights working on the computer networks in Lower and New Hamlets. I didn’t think I would be able to see him at all this trip. Every email I sent bounced, and I later found out that he didn’t read his Plum Village email because of spam. However, there was another class on Wednesday and Phap An was the teacher! I was thrilled when he looked at me in recognition, and I could hardly wait to jump up and hug him, which I did after the class was over. We planned to meet after lunch and catch up on things. I told him how impressed I was with his and Phap Yu’s teachings and said that “the dharma was in good hands”, with teachers like them around and Phap Yu.

We began to speak about the reasons for my visit and I introduced him to my traveling companion, David. Next, he told me about the problems he was having with the networks and showed me a diagram of what he had done. To make things easier, I suggested that we go over to Lower Hamlet and help him solve the networking problems, which we did. Of course, this was an easy matter for David and I, since we are the so-called, “protocol experts”. We taught Phap An some of the tricks of the trade and within ten minutes got the network up and running to Phap An’s total delight. David and I were quite honored and pleased to make a significant contribution to the sangha during our short stay at Plum Village.

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