On 22nd January 2022 our much loved and respected teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), passed away. He was 95 years old, and was with his monastic brothers and sisters at his root temple near Hue, in central Vietnam, where he has lived for the past three years.
Ordained as a monk aged 16 in Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh soon envisioned a kind of engaged Buddhism that could respond directly to the needs of society.
He was a prominent teacher and social activist in his home country before finding himself exiled for calling for peace.
In the West he played a key role in introducing mindfulness and created mindful communities (Sanghas) around the world. His teachings have impacted politicians, business leaders, activists, teachers and countless others.
In January of this year the Plum Village Community in Scotland planted a plum tree in the community garden in the meadows in Edinburgh. This ceremony was on the day of Thays passing. In May we have visiting monastics from Plum Village France, who will conduct a ceremony and lay a stone plaque with the carved inscription “Peace is every step” – “Thich Nhat Hanh”. This is to commemorate and celebrate his visit in 2003, the first in the UK. The location also marks the start of a peace walk which went from the Meadows to Princes Street Gardens. The plum tree is the true tribute to Thays visit but we would like to mark in some small way what the tree represents and the inscription “Peace is every step” in Thays words and own calligraphy seemed very appropriate. The plaque will be carved on a piece of riven Westmoreland slate 18″ by 12″ wide. Ian, our stone mason, was on the original peace walk with his children in 2003. Many of those who attended the tree planting ceremony were on the peace with Thay walk twenty years ago .
Any contribution however small, will enable us to make this small tribute to our much loved and respected teacher, in the heart of Scotland’s capital city in the beautiful Meadows Community Garden.
Join us for this month’s Breathing for the Earth, which will be taking place on Saturday 1st October, and will be a special event. We will meet at the earlier time of 12 noon at Coffee Saints for a mindful climate conversation, a space to share our feelings about the ecological crisis. This will be followed, at about 1pm, by a public meditation and Bell Busking session outside in the square (by the Paolozzi sculptures), where we will play meditation bells (aka singing bowls) made from butane and propane gas cylinders, in a symbolic act of transforming the energy of fossil fuels into the energy of mindfulness. Please come to one or both parts of the event, and bring your friends!
We’ve passed the equinox and the weather has become autumnal, by turns rainy and chilly. The mile-long queues to view the royal coffin have gone, as have the heaps of cut flowers from supermarkets and recycling centres.
I didn’t particularly want to join the queue*, so marked the Queen’s passing with a ceremony of my own: I went to scrump apples in Holyrood Park (which belongs to the Crown, of course). Since I picked them on Friday, the day after she died, but before Charles took the oath of Accession, does that mean they were technically interregnal apples, with no actual owner? Either way, they made a delicious crumble which, as it happened, we shared with friends on the day of the funeral.
What I did wonder, though, as I watched the endless queues and the blanket media coverage of what was, after all, the passing of one particularly well-known and -respected human being, a symbolic grandmother to more than one nation, was this: When will we see the mass outpourings of grief for the suffering and damage done to that great bodhisattva, our cosmic mother, Planet Earth? Are we as a society so disconnected from nature that we are not able to grieve when ancient woodlands are destroyed to make way for roads or high-speed rail lines, when floods and wildfires appear on our screens almost daily, when the mercury hits 40 degrees in England? Do we just numb our feelings with more consumption and carry on rushing faster and faster into an ever more ominous future?
These questions may seem gloomy or depressing. In this culture, we are not exactly encouraged to explore uncomfortable feelings in public. But as Earth Holders, we believe it’s vital for us to get in touch with our feelings about the ecological crisis: to remain mindful and conscious of them, though not to be overwhelmed by them. For this reason we have decided it’s a good moment to hold a “Mindful Climate Conversation”, where we will be able to share our feelings about the ecological crisis. This will be followed by an outdoor session of meditation and Bell Busking, as described above.
We hope you can make it!
For the earth,
Robert for Earth Holders Edinburgh
* PS: The word QUEUE is very accurate, as it consists of one letter doing something useful and four letters standing in a row behind it doing nothing at all. (Not an original or new observation but I though it was quite relevant.)
About Earth Holders Edinburgh
Earth Holders Edinburgh is a community taking mindful action for Mother Earth. We practice non-violent direct action for the sake of our beloved planet and all life. We see this as an integral part of our spiritual life, balancing the inner path of mindfulness with the outer path of action. We come from different spiritual traditions, and are open to members of all faiths and none. We draw strength and wisdom from our connection with nature and with the Earth. We are an evolving and inclusive group actively seeking new members. You can sign up to our newsletter or see our full purpose statement here.