Celebrating Roshi Joan’s Continuation

Roshi Joan Halifax - offering monk bowlsFor the past two years, we have been celebrating Roshi Joan’s Continuation day. In common parlance, this means we are celebrating Roshi Joan Halifax‘s 72 birthday today.

In the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, we learn that there is no birth and no death. Thay, as he is known by his followers, says,

Our greatest fear is that when we die we will become nothing. Many of us believe that our entire existence is only a life span beginning the moment we are born or conceived and ending the moment we die. We believe that we are born from nothing and that when we die we become nothing. And so, we are filled with fear of annihilation.

The Buddha has a very different understanding of our existence. It is the understanding that birth and death are notions. They are not real. The fact that we think they are true makes a powerful illusion that causes all our suffering. The Buddha taught there is no birth, there is no death; there is no coming, there is no going; there is no same, there is no different; there is no permanent self, there is no annihilation. We only think there is. When we understand that we cannot be destroyed, we are liberated from fear. It is a great relief. We can enjoy life and appreciate it in a new way.

from No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Since there is no birth and no death, we all continue in one form or another. When conditions are such, we manifest as human beings. When the conditions change, we no longer manifest as human beings. Hence, we celebrate continuations!

Roshi Joan and I became friends at a Thich Nhat Hanh retreat in 1997 at the University of California in Santa Barbara. We sat and talked about cancer and healing on the beautiful grass under a large tree. We became instant friends.

I really didn’t know who she was or any of her amazing accomplishments until much later, and believe me, I cherish my connection with her. Her work on death and dying is phenomenal.

So please join me in wishing Roshi Joan a Happy Continuation!

What would you like to say to Roshi Joan Halifax on her continuation day?

No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life

Thich Nhat Hanh

With hard-won wisdom and refreshing insight, Thich Nhat Hanh confronts a subject that has been contemplated by Buddhist monks and nuns for twenty-five-hundred years—and a question that has been pondered by almost anyone who has ever lived: What is death? In No Death, No Fear, the ac… [Read More…]

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