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I'm home in Detroit for the week. Mom and I seem to be talking… - See the Egress — LiveJournal
July 7th, 2007
09:29 pm

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I'm home in Detroit for the week. Mom and I seem to be talking non-stop about cooking and Top Chef. She wants to know what she can make for me that Ted wouldn't like, but the only things I can think of are soups. My brother Si and I are mocking each other, which has been our favorite pastime since forever. But the highlight so far is that my sister -- still a serious Buddhist, no longer a crazy ascetic -- is back from Vietnam, where she spent a couple months traveling as part of Thich Nhat Hanh's delegation doing requiem services for the Vietnam War dead. Aunt Joyce and Uncle Jerrell are here from New Orleans -- if you've ever heard me talk about how my aunt and uncle spent most of their careers as medical missionaries in Nigeria and thus consistently outclass me on Boggle words, it's the same people. But Uncle Jerrell was also a doctor in the Army during the Vietnam War. So I've been listening to my sister tell stories about Vietnam, and then my uncle'll break in and tell a story about how things were there during the sixties, and I'm sipping stupid-weak coffee and just trying to come up with the best questions I can. This is completely awesome. I just wish Ted got to be here, too.

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[User Picture]
From:fengshui
Date:July 8th, 2007 05:41 am (UTC)
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Hey hey. You should know, the Tour starts tomorrow (Sunday). Prologue was today (Saturday). :)
From:emacsen
Date:July 8th, 2007 10:55 am (UTC)
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Re: your sister.

That's awesome! Thick Nhah Hahn rocks (in a sort of peaceful way in the here and the now).

Since the only thing you'd written about your sister was the troubling situation with her relationship and this, I'm not completely surprised; Buddhism is a reaction to the intense feelings. And asceticism is certainly a part of that initial snap-back rubber band, just as the more extreme version of it was for Siddhartha Gautama[1] until he came around. I know for myself, Buddhism has been an important component of the self-repair work I've been doing.

As to Thick Nhat Hahn, I respect him far more than I do most Buddhist teachers. His explanations are deep, he himself his mind is both calm and sharp, and he has made a good balance between his practice as a mediator and in doing actions out in the world (such as his work to stop the Vietnam War, and his work with police offers from Wisconsin). Christa Tippet described being in Thich Nhat Hahn's prescience as "..sitting next to God..."

I'm not sure if your sister is one of the monastics or the lay-people traveling with Hahn but in either case, that honor impresses me as much as someone might be impressed by the Congressional Medal of Honor. I've considered becoming a Buddhist monk (in probably a Theravadan order) if this whole working and living in the world thing doesn't work out.

Give her my honor, praise and best wishes, along with a tinge of jealousy, subdued with mindfulness ;)


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[1] See, you could use this as fodder for a "Sid" joke, but that would be wrong...
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From:fengshui
Date:July 8th, 2007 04:00 pm (UTC)
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Sarah was part of the lay delegation.
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From:schlafmanko
Date:July 9th, 2007 03:36 am (UTC)
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That's awesome! Thick Nhah Hahn rocks (in a sort of peaceful way in the here and the now).

The people in Danang actually did introduce Thich Nhat Hanh's dharma talk with a fog machine, colored lights, and a girl dancing as Avalokiteshvara. But yes, he rocks. And I don't think Sarah would use the phrase "like sitting next to God," but from what I've heard, he really does have presence. So did some of the other monks travelling with him.

I'm not completely surprised; Buddhism is a reaction to the intense feelings.

That makes sense, given Buddhist teachings and the sorts of circumstances that lead people to convert more generally. I'd suspect that other people would drift into Buddhism as part of an ongoing spiritual quest, though, rather than as an immediate response to emotional turmoil -- but does that mesh with the experiences of the people you've encountered?

BTW, probably not important, but the relationship I was writing about last summer wasn't my sister's. It was a friend who you don't know, but he'd asked us not to tell anyone else about the situation. Sarah's been a Buddhist for at least six years now, because I remember I was already buying her Buddhist books for her birthday in early 2001. But she was dealing with a lot of heavy emotional stuff then, too, and Buddhism has certainly helped her. She's still a lay person, although she was thinking about becoming a nun for a while and has spent time in a monastery. But right now she's living in Chicago and in love with her boyfriend, who I've only met once but seems like a good guy. All of us, including Sarah, suspect they might get married sooner or later.

I'm not sure if your sister is one of the monastics or the lay-people traveling with Hahn but in either case, that honor impresses me as much as someone might be impressed by the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Nod. Some Vietnamese revere Thich Nhat Hahn so much that they saw everyone in the delegation as a bodhisattva. That said, being part of the lay delegation was more self-selected than the Congressional Medal of Honor. There were cumulatively about 300 lay people in the lay delegation, entering and leaving at various points, but there weren't many formal restrictions on which lay people were allowed to come along. Still, I'm impressed, too.
From:emacsen
Date:July 9th, 2007 10:49 am (UTC)
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And I don't think Sarah would use the phrase "like sitting next to God," but from what I've heard, he really does have presence.

See, in my mind, God has a thick Vietnamese/French accent. ;)[1]

I'd suspect that other people would drift into Buddhism as part of an ongoing spiritual quest, though, rather than as an immediate response to emotional turmoil -- but does that mesh with the experiences of the people you've encountered?

Yes, and it takes a great deal of maturity to get to that point, but it's undeniable that a central theme in Buddhism, and a central theme used when the Budda went around selling Buddhism, was the elimination of suffering.

In one of Alan Watts lectures, he says that Buddhism is the anti-religion and that monks exist to tear down religious ideas. Only once you've torn down everything, gotten rid of everything associated with religious ideas and props and bells and incense and all that, then you can have your rituals, bells, incense, statues and whatnot, because religion is fun.

...I'm not at a point where I'd be comfortable taking part in any organized religious service. My experiences with Buddhists come mainly from reading and podcasts (other than Thai people who are born Buddhist). And of course my own experiences.

BTW, probably not important, but the relationship I was writing about last summer wasn't my sister's.

I don't think I remember what you're referencing here. I'm thinking of conservations we had over mail several years ago.

She's still a lay person, although she was thinking about becoming a nun for a while and has spent time in a monastery.

Have I ever told you about the Buddhist Nun I met on the greyhound bus?

Some Vietnamese revere Thich Nhat Hahn so much that they saw everyone in the delegation as a bodhisattva.

I sort of tear down that image of myself as peaceful when I make jokes eh?[1] The joke is that everyone there might be. One of the Buddhist podcasts I listen to made reference to liking to think of that annoying person in line at the supermarket as a bodhisattva, giving up their own enlightenment to give you an opportunity to practice calm and compassion, so now I walk around trying to cultivate loving compassion for the million or so bodhisattvas I ride the metro with every day, and that word has become somewhat charged.

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[1] See comment I make later about jokes.

[2] OTOH 30 seconds before I replied to this email, I was dreaming about a child getting corpus callosotomy and am still trying to shake off how disturbing that was (I have already worked out the meaning).
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From:themagdalen
Date:July 8th, 2007 11:19 am (UTC)
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Wow.

That is awesome.

Makes me wish you could sneak a recorder onto the kitchen table.
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