Arriving in Delhi, Retreat in Dehradun
After a late night flight to India, with a short stop-over in Taipei, the five brothers and one sister from Deer Park supporting Thay in this six week teaching tour happily arrived at the Gandhi International Guest House at around 2 PM on September 24th. Thay had already arrived with many of our brothers and sisters from Plum Village only a few hours before.
In passing his room Thay invited us to come in to sit. Before coming he had been up to the newly purchased building and land of the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Germany, and he was eager to share with us about the consecration of the building itself along with the enthusiastic support we enjoy from the mayor and people of the town. Sitting listening to Thay share I reminded myself how fortunate we are to have a teacher with such a unique combination of practicality, long-sighted wisdom, and compassion. It seems that the conditions are sufficient for us to bring the practice of the Buddha's teachings to people of all races, religions, and classes at the level of an institute. Thay's joy and enthusiasm for these recent developments infected all of us.
Day 3 - Train to Dehradun
Last night we had our first public event at the Alliance Francaise -- a press conference hosted by the ambassador of France to India. Thay sat on stage with Shantum Seth, the Indian lay dharma teacher who did much to make this trip happen, and a number of dignitaries including the actress and filmmaker Nandita Das and the former government minister Arun Shourie. The session had a question-and-answer format, with questions ranging from how to face violence and fanaticism in society to what Thay's view on recent neuroscience research on meditative states is. In response to a question on dealing with despair in the face of calamity, Thay spoke on impermanence and global warming. "All civilizations will come to an end, including ours. But whether that happens sooner or later is in our hands. I don't think the Earth is very worried about global warming. The Earth has gone through great suffering and has always recovered her capacity to be a mother. It is us humans who need to worry. For after many million years of distress and churning, the Earth will bounce back and produce another civilization. Hope for humankind lies only in collective awakening."
From our train I look out on extensive fields of sugar cane and wheat enveloped by thick forest of poplar, banyan, and eucalyptus trees. Traditional bound mounds of cane stalk abound amidst the trappings of modern society: towering electrical lines, metal-framed industrial warehouses, and six-lane highways. Rusted concrete reinforcers in places point towards the sky as a reminder of unfulfilled dreams of construction in fields strewn with discarded plastic bags beside shantytowns of brick and corrugated aluminum roofing. The waste descends into puddles of raw sewage. India is clearly facing the same challenges of industrializing nations everywhere: widening disparities between the very rich and the poor majority, between traditional farmers and the urban elite, between the push to produce and consume and the inadequate management of the consequent waste and destruction of air, water and mineral resources.