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If our front cover has placed you in a reflective mood, you may be ready for some reflections of a different vein. But first, a short explanation.

Go back to May 1966. The Vietnam War was heating up, and a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, was visiting the Trappist monk Thomas Merton at his monastery in Gethsemani, Ky. I was getting set to begin a two year stint in Vietnam, having volunteered to work with war refugees.

Nhat Hanh and Merton, though coming out of separate religious traditions, hit it off instantly during their days together. Two months later, Merton wrote an article in Jubilee magazine (August 1966) titled "Nhat Hanh is my brother." Merton later wrote a letter supporting Nhat Hanh's nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

It could have been expected that pacifist Nhat Hanh would be considered a threat to the war effort. In 1966 he was exiled from Vietnam. Two years later, he led the Vietnamese Buddhist delegation to the Paris peace talks, and it was then I first met him.

God willing, in a few weeks I will see him again, this time at a place called Plum Village, not far from Bordeaux, France, where the monk runs a retreat monastery. I will report that visit in a future NCR.

Now to the reflections. They are Nhat Hanh's and come from a pamphlet he wrote, The Sutra on the Eight Realizations of the Great Beings. I'm always intrigued by the spiritual insights of other religious traditions. They are often similar to those in our tradition, and they often prod us to think anew. So, the "Eight Realizations":

1. The awareness that the world is impermanent. All is in the process of change -- constantly being born, constantly dying.

2. The awareness that more desire brings more suffering. All hardships arise from greed and desire.

3. The awareness that the human mind is always searching and never feels fulfilled. Desires are limitless.

4. The awareness that laxness is an obstacle to good practice. Diligence can destroy that which binds us.

5. The awareness that ignorance is the cause of the endless round of birth and death and so listening and learning is needed to develop needed understanding.

6. The awareness that poverty creates hatred and anger, which creates a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and actions.

7. The awareness that living simply frees us from worldly things and allows us to treat people equally and with compassion.

8. The awareness that the fire of birth and death rages, causing endless suffering. So, we should vow to suffer with everyone and guide all to the realm of great joy.
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Title Annotation:Editorial; spiritual traditions and seeking
Author:Fox, Tom
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Apr 30, 1993
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