Wednesday, January 26, 2022
The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
My Neighbor’s Prayer: The Vocabulary of Blessing as Common Bond
Thich Nhat Hanh has been tangentially influential to me over the years in the kind of way that ebbs and flows, maybe not unlike the ebb and flow of consciousness and awakening his meditation tries to inhabit. When he died last Sunday (January 22), I was surprised how little his death rocked the boat of public sympathy. Maybe we’re all distracted by global unrest and quieted by the cocooning of winter and pandemic.
I found that I had an old rugged copy of “Living Buddha, Living Christ” on my shelf purchased in 2008, and suddenly realized why his influence had been spread gently across my life. He was friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. who said about him “Thich Nat Hanh is a holy man… his ideas for peace if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.” He was also friends with Thomas Merton, who said about him, “Thich Nhat Hanh is more my brother than many who are nearer to me in race and nationality, because he and I see things the same exact way.” I have spent many years reading King and Merton, so no wonder Hanh has made his way into my life.
The website for Plum Village, the Buddhist monastery he founded near Bordeaux France, is full of beautiful reflections written by and about him. It’s worth a deep dive if you have the time. And as a voracious writer, there is certainly something among his many publications that piques your interest.
If you think you’d be interested in reading excerpts from King, Merton, and Hanh (and possibly the work of other writers who were among the same spiritual and transformational peace-oriented friend-group) with me sometime this spring, let me know and we’ll get a reading group together.
Below is a meditation that is used daily at Plum Village before meals. I must be hungry. It is definitely not the most famous of all of Thich Nhat Hanh’s writings, but something about it spoke to me. He explores many mindfulness practices here.
My Neighbor’s Prayer
This food is a gift of the earth, the sky,
numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.
May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude
so as to be worthy to receive this food.
May we recognize and transform unwholesome mental formations,
especially our greed and learn to eat with moderation
May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way
that reduces the suffering of living beings,
stops contributing to climate change,
and heals and preserves our precious planet.
We accept this food so that we may nurture
our brotherhood and sisterhood,
build our Sangha and realize our ideal of serving all living beings.
Mealtime Meditation at Plum Village
In memory of their founder
Thich Nhat Hanh (1926–2022)