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Quote of the Week: Sister Chân Không

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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.


If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to visit my other website: The Liberated Life Project — a personal transformation blog with a social conscience.

Bat Nha Monastery: The Latest News

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Since June, 400 monks and nuns at Bat Nha Monastery in Vietnam have been harassed by the government. The situation has gotten worse of the past few months, with more than 300 of the monks and nuns (many of them followers of Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh) violently expelled from the monastery in September. More background on the situation is available here.

According to a press release issued on November 26, “the European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the violence against Bat Nha monks and nuns and calling on Vietnam to curb its violations of freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly and respect its human rights commitments and Vietnam’s own Constitution.”

If you want to take action on this issue, take a look at this page from the Help Bat Nha Monastery website.

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