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Thai Plum Village:In The Stream of Spiritual Practice

“The highland after the fire,

Is greener and more fragrant than ever.”

Dear friends,

Another spring is coming to Khao Yai highland. In spring, there is some gentle rain after quite a bit of dry and cold days; trees offer their buds, and it is time for you to visit the Monastery to take part in special events like Vietnamese traditional Tet Lunar New Year, retreats, or The Great Precepts Transmission ceremony. But we all know that no spring is the same. If you had been present with this land from its beginning, you would have seen trees growing, getting greener and greener every day; new faces of monastic brothers and sisters mature every day along with our various construction projects at Thai Plum Village, also known as Nursery Monastery (Vườn Ươm). This year, you will have a chance to accompany us in celebrating our 10th anniversary. Looking at the past ten years, we will understand how Thai Plum Village has been and will proceed to continue Thay in our individual practice and also in our practice as a community. Each tree, each pebble found on the walking meditation path, each monastic brother and sister who used to be with us, who is still with us now, each being and non-being can tell us a story. Our history of more than ten years on this land is still manifesting itself in the present. As Thay has taught us, coming back to the present moment allows us to get in touch with the past.

A Newly Formed Village

Ten years ago, our Beloved Thay has given Thai Plum Village a new ‘body’. However, the story of this land has already started many years before the milestone year of 2013. Thanks to countless Bodhisattvas, the Nursery Monastery was well prepared in terms of spirit, materials, and human resources. Bearing a deep love towards this newborn yet far away child, Thay managed to visit the Kingdom of Thailand many times to set up the future of this monastery. Thousands of practitioners have witnessed Thay performing the purification ceremony, planting the bodhi tree in the New Land, which would later become the Thai Plum Village International Monastery.

The New Land at that time only had gardens of mango trees, lines of tamarind trees, and clumps of bushes; while the construction sites were only pieces of concrete set on the ground. Now every room, every corner of this land has been filled with human warmth and joyful energy. Our bamboo lines, gardens of mahogany, flamboyant, and peach blossom… may still be young, but have been able to offer shades, replacing acacia trees and cogon bushes. The planted trees have offered greenery all over the residences. Well-surfaced walk paths around the hills have now replaced the muddy worn paths after every heavy rain. Newly built guest houses have now replaced temporary tents. Passing by the new kitchen, food serving hall, dining hall, all the way to the classrooms, the playground, etc., you will easily see a monastic in a brown robe with a fresh smile. Whether in the Meditation Hall, on Anapana Hill (Đồi An Ban), in Looking Far Hut (Cốc Nhìn Xa), or the Buddha Garden, you will always be able to find a space that satisfies your yearning for nature.

Arriving at Thai Plum Village, you will become our resident for seven days, two weeks, three months, or longer. As a villager, you will attend working sessions in groups; each group takes care of a specific work, diligently together like a swarm of bees, sweeping the floor, planting vegetables, watering trees, or classifying rubbish, etc. The Village’s vitality is most clearly seen in community activities. Thay was a cultural activist and this Village located in Khao Yai highland is continuing his aspirations to preserve Viet Nam’s cultural beauty, integrate it with Thai culture, all the while being aware of the multicultural trend of modern society. However, Thai Plum Village is not a cultural museum. It is a living cultural entity reflected by its cuisine, costumes, ceremonial chants, and language, etc. If you visit the Village at the right time, you will experience activities like putting up the ‘Nêu tree’ (high bamboo representing wishes for the new year) and wrapping ‘bánh chưng’ (traditional square sticky rice cake or “Earth Cake”), welcoming New Year’s Eve, reading ‘Kiều’ (poetic lines explained as instruction for one’s practice), Songkran water festival, lion dance, playing with lanterns in the mid-autumn festival, clipping a rose on your pocket during the lunar month of July, as well as celebrating Christmas, etc. Compared to simple activities in the early days, our events have become homey routines, and when the time nears, everyone will be eager to prepare and look forward to attending them.

A Well-disciplined Monastery

Thầy not only gave Thai Plum Village a body but also a direction for the land’s consciousness, which is to be a place where a mindfulness community would consider a home to share. A practice community is different from a normal village. We monastics always have a practice schedule at hand and are always ready to organize our activities accordingly wherever we go. From our early days with a humble range of activities, now Thai Plum Village from morning till night, has The Great Bell, the activity bell, the harmonious sound of the bell and the fish drum, together with the chanting voice, making a well-disciplined monastery.

Arriving at the monastery, you will quickly see everyone stop, smile, and enjoy their breath as the clock chimes; you will also attend silent meals, days of mindfulness when the fourfold sangha practice walking meditation together, attend Dharma talks and share their practice in Dharma sharing sessions. When you come to the meditation hall early in the morning, you will see beautiful seated practitioners coming early for the activity. Even during the noble silence time, you will still see our novice brothers practice Touching the Earth, etc.

In this environment, no matter what purpose you come to the Monastery with, you will always see yourself surrounded by a community that is always practicing. Despite being in the form of “practicing together”, each activity is an opportunity for us to return to our own mind, to take refuge in the island within.

An Institute of Applied Buddhism

The past ten years have seen Thai Plum Village sangha thrive every day. During our first days in the New Land, the monastic sangha could only manage to care for the monastic community; we did not have many guests visiting. As the Monastery could offer retreats more frequently, our capacity to take care of more significant events with more participants also started to be better. Events like retreats for Vietnamese speakers, WakeUp, Thai New Year, Teenagers, Year-end Holiday, Order of Interbeing, monastics, sh