Sister Chân Không, who was born in 1938 in Ben Tre, Vietnam, is one of the pioneers of socially engaged Buddhism. She is best known for her collaboration with Vietnamese Zen teacher Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh.
A student of Thây’s since 1959, she assisted him in establishing the Van Hanh University and the School for Youth and Social Service (SYSS) in Vietnam.
In 1966, Sister Chân Không was ordained as one of the first members of the Order of Interbeing. Throughout the Vietnam War, she was at Thay’s side and helped him to organize the Buddhist Peace Delegation which campaigned for peace in Vietnam during the Paris Peace Talks.
Since the end of the war, Sister Chân Không has continued to be involved in support efforts for the people of Vietnam. Her autobiography, Learning True Love: How I Learned to Practice Social Change in Vietnam, was originally published in 1993 and released in a revised edition in 2007.
This quote comes from an interview with Alan Senauke and Susan Moon which appeared in Turning Wheel magazine in Winter of 1994. What I love about it is the encouragement to stay with simple steps in working toward peace and justice… a welcome reminder during our own time of so much social transition and turmoil.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. But I try to work one day at a time. If we just worry about the big picture, we are powerless. So my secret is to start right away doing whatever little work I can do. I try to give joy to one person in the morning, and remove the suffering of one person in the afternoon. That’s enough.
When you see you can do that, you continue, and you give two little joys, and you remove two little sufferings, then three, and then four. If you and your friends do not despise the small work, a million people will remove a lot of suffering. That is the secret. Start right now.
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