Dear Beloved Community,
It is with deep joy, gratitude, and respect that we present this very special edition of La Thu Lang Mai, The Plum Village Newsletter.
When we began our work in Plum Village, France, during the Rains Retreat in autumn 2021, our aspiration was to celebrate the blossoms and fruits of 40 years since the founding of Plum Village in southwest France in 1982. Many of us remember Thay’s joy and delight to celebrate “The Day I Turn Twenty” in summer 2002, and the festival to celebrate Plum Village’s 30 years in summer 2012 with a special calligraphy exhibition in Son Ha, as well as picnics, music performances, and dance. Today, we can feel Thay’s joy in our joy as we celebrate four decades of bringing the Dharma to the West and building a beloved international community together. If in 2012 we could feel that the Plum Village Tradition has two feet firmly rooted into the soil, in 2022 we can see clearly the path ahead and know we have nothing to doubt or fear.
It was just as we were completing our work, ten days before Tet, that Thay chose his moment to peacefully transform into a cloud. The week of Thay’s ceremonies was a powerful, sacred time for us all, as hundreds of thousands of Thay’s students came together to generate the energy of mindfulness and peace and honor Thay’s life and teachings. It is extraordinary that Thay has been able to give our beloved Plum Village community four full decades of love, guidance, and support. Our gratitude is beyond words. We begin this special edition with an account of the days of Thay’s memorial ceremonies, and a selection of memorable tributes to Thay that we received from around the world. As we continue Thay’s legacy, and in particular his work of sangha-building, it is an honor for us to include here—for the first time—an English translation of one of Thay’s most powerful teachings on why sangha-building is our highest career.
Our brotherhood and sisterhood as young monastics has been nourished by the work to collect the voices of so many well-known and beloved elders. We are delighted to share their personal, loving and joyful memories of Thay in the chapter “The Early Years of Plum Village,” and in the chapter “Harvesting the Fruits,” you can be inspired by their stories of personal transformation and healing. We are also honored to include the tender and unforgettable testimonies of those closest to Thay over the past few years, including our beloved elder Sister Chan Khong, as well as Sister Dinh Nghiem, Sister Thao Nghiem, and Brother Phap Huu.
In the chapter “Hands Reaching Out,” we have captured a glimpse of Thay’s immense legacy of engaged Buddhism, with voices from the monastic and lay community sharing their experience of bringing Thay’s teachings into education, healthcare settings, and the 2020 international COP26 climate conference in Glasgow. This year we also celebrate ten years of the Plum Village Happy Farm and our growing initiatives to take better care of our beautiful planet. As ever, it is a joy for us to bring you the voices of young monastics from many different backgrounds and countries. In the chapter “Tending the Garden”, you can enjoy reading stories of their practice and transformation in our diverse community.
Dear Beloved Thay, dear Beloved Sangha, many times over the past few months we have asked ourselves, How can we ever do justice to the last 40 years of Plum Village and Thay’s extraordinary legacy? It is an almost impossible task, but, as Thay would say when climbing a high mountain, “You only ever need to take one step.” And so, in this spirit, we offer this unique edition of La Thu Lang Mai, compiled with much love, brotherhood and sisterhood, knowing that there are so many more stories yet to be told and enjoyed in the months and years to come.
We look forward to continuing on this beautiful path together.
With a deep bow,
The La Thu Lang Mai Editorial Team
In Plum Village, France, and Tu Hieu, Vietnam