Parallel Verses for the Year of the Dragon

Plum Village offers these parallel verses for Tet (the Lunar New Year), to usher in the Year of the Dragon in 2024.

Join us in this practice 

Thich Nhat Hanh has established a tradition, on the eve of the Lunar New Year, of offering the sangha a simple poetic couplet in calligraphy that can inspire and nurture our mindfulness practice throughout the year. Thay’s innovation has been to offer the couplet in English, French and Vietnamese (rather than in Chinese characters). The Plum Village Community is very happy to continue this beautiful tradition.

In Plum Village practice centers all around the world, we print out these calligraphies (keeping the diamond form), paste them onto colored cards, and pin them up around the dining halls, meditation halls and living quarters in preparation to celebrate the Lunar New Year. We hang them from early-blossoming Japonica and plum branches that we bring in to brighten our rooms.

While reciting these phrases we can combine each line with our breathing. For example, we can contemplate “Spacious Mind” as we breathe in, and contemplate “Inclusive Heart” as we breathe out. These words are not a declaration, but a living aspiration we wish to nurture.

We post the two complementary diamonds as a pair, near each other (vertically or horizontally). You can print out and post the couplets on your doors, near light switches, on the window or other prominent places in your home as an auspicious reminder to be mindful of their message, and renew ourselves by applying them in our daily lives. You can be creative with how and where to post and practice the phrases.

You may download the pdf of the parallel verses calligraphed by Br. Phap Huu to use at home:

If you want the parallel verses in French and in Vietnamese, you can download here.

Commentary on the Parallel verses

Sister Chan Duc (also known as Sr. True Virtue/Sr.Annabel) shares how she will practice with this year’s parallel verses.

Spacious Mind – Inclusive Heart

At this new year we have a chance to look at how much room there is in our heart and how much space there is in our mind. We can practice to enlarge the capacity of our heart and mind every day. We may notice that there is someone we have not yet allowed into our heart and we begin to look deeply to see how we can allow that person a place in our heart.

We need a spacious mind in order to deepen our understanding and with more understanding we grow the capacity of heart to include all.

Sometimes we tell ourselves: “I must forgive,” but forgiveness is not possible without understanding. I learn to forgive myself. I acknowledge the mistakes I have made and the harm I have done in order to look deeply into my ignorance and my situation when committing the act. When I recognize the pressure I was under or my needs at the time, I feel compassion for myself and I forgive myself, vowing not to make the same mistake again.

By learning to forgive myself, I learn to forgive others who have made mistakes and caused harm. I see the situation they are in and I feel their suffering that arises from their ignorance. Only then can I feel compassion, forgive them and allow them into my heart.

Learning to open my heart more and more is a gentle and gradual process. It needs perseverance and a daily practice of mindfulness and looking deeply. The practice of mindfulness recognizes when I close my heart and the practice of looking deeply allows me to understand myself and others. Love is not possible without understanding and understanding is not possible without love.

Inclusiveness is taught as bringing us to the other shore (kṣānti pāramitā 忍辱波羅蜜多). It is the ability to be patient in times of adversity. The understanding which brings us to the other shore (prajñā pāramitā) goes along with the inclusiveness that brings us to the other shore. 

Just as the sun shines on everyone without discrimination and the earth nourishes us all, we do not run away from our suffering or people we do not like but use understanding to look deeply and so be liberated from our aversion and the pain of division, fragmenting ourselves, our communities and the world.

The Buddha taught: “Even though robbers and murderers should be severing your limbs and joints with a saw and you should give way to anger, you would not be following my teachings.”It is a good reminder, when we see the seed of anger beginning to arise, to recognize, embrace and look deeply into it with understanding and compassion. This sincere practice has the power to transform, to heal division and water seeds in the collective consciousness that help us all live in greater harmony with ourselves, others and the earth.

Plum Village and Deer Park Monastery wishes one and all a safe, peaceful and harmonious Year of the Dragon.

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