A Mysterious Journey Home

Sister Chân Lạc Hạnh

On 18 December 2022, the novice family (the “Red Cedar” family) was ordained in Thai Plum Village. They are the new generation of novices who carry Thay’s name in their Dharma name - the novice brothers carry the word Nhat (“One”) and the sisters the word Hanh (“Action”).
Here, we share some reflections from Sister Chan Lac Hanh (“True Action of Happiness”) on Day 2 of her monastic journey.

What an incredibly beautiful, mysterious journey life is! I sit here in the pre-dawn morning, listening to the night creatures and distinct sounds of the countryside in Thailand, contemplating the sheer magnitude of what it is to be alive and awake to the profoundness of life, and all the causes and conditions that bring me here today, a recently ordained novice in the Plum Village tradition.

How wondrous it is that a baby born in Korea, adopted by Belgian parents in Italy, grew up in the United States and felt compelled to seek a spiritual path through yoga at the age of 16, bringing her to India to practice with her teachers for 18 years, traveling, teaching yoga, and living around the world to finally reunite with her biological, birth parents in Korea, which gave rise to a deeply embedded, overwhelming suffering, and finally washing up on the shores of the practices and teachings of Thay and taking refuge in New Hamlet in Plum Village, France.

When does the seed of monastic aspiration manifest? Perhaps it is deep and ancient, inherited from one’s ancestors; or a life already lived through many previous lifetimes. Only in stillness and silence can this seed be observed deep in oneself, breaking through the shell of one’s social conditioning and parental expectations; growing stronger and higher in one’s heart; bursting through one’s own inherent resistances and self-imposed obstacles until it fully blooms through the care and attention, cultivated from one’s own practices and received from the collective teachings, guidance, wisdom, support, and love from the beloved sangha.

Who can actually comprehend all the different elements, causes, and conditions that unite 20 monastic aspirants from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, France, and Korea, ranging in age from 16 to 49, to ordain as novice monastics in the year of the tiger (Thay’s year), and in the physical presence of Sister Chan Khong and the noble, multi-fold sangha with Venerables and elders from around the world in a most beautiful, peaceful ordination ceremony in Plum Village, Thailand. The Buddha, all our spiritual and family ancestors, Thay, and family and friends around the world, although physically absent, could be deeply felt supporting us with their energetic presence.

Where this journey of freedom will carry each of us as we scatter in the ten directions to our respective monasteries is a mystery. We stand united as the Red Cedar family, our roots deeply intertwined. And now that we have a path, we have nothing to fear. We know that with each mindful step and each mindful breath, we are arriving in our true home, transforming our suffering and commit to helping others do the same, so that all beings can touch true happiness and peace.

Life is a miraculous gift. How sweet it is to be fully present to receive it and to taste the true happiness that is born out of the goodness of suffering. May we all be able to touch this in our lifetimes.

With deep love, respect, and gratitude to the totality of life, I bow to you.

Sister Chan Lac Hanh
(True Action of Happiness)
Plum Village Thailand, 24 December, 2022