The monastic and lay community of Plum Village, founded in southern France by the revered Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, and author Thich Nhat Hanh (known affectionately to his followers as “Thay”), offered a New Year Prayer to Mother Earth and All Our Ancestors to mark the end of 2021 and the beginning of the new year.
“On New Year’s Eve each year, we gather as a four-fold community to express our aspirations for the New Year,” the monks and nuns of Plum Village said in a New Year message. “As we enter 2022, we at Plum Village, offer you our New Year’s Prayer to Mother Earth and Our Ancestors.” (Plum Village)
Acknowledging the multitude of global challenges that have characterized the past year, the prayer from the Plum Village community began with an expression of gratitude and an aspiration to begin anew as a spiritual family:
2021 has been another challenging year, as the pandemic continues and we do our best to adapt to new ways of living. Many of us have rediscovered the preciousness of life, the value of harmony in relationships, and the need for a spiritual dimension in our life. Amidst all the difficulties, we have begun the journey of healing injustice and inequality, and have awakened more to the needs of the Earth. At the same time, there have been moments when we allowed seeds of anxiety, restlessness, and fear to be watered in our hearts. Overwhelmed by strong emotions and wrong perceptions, we were unable to take refuge in the practice. And so, tonight, we wish to renew our commitment to strengthen our practice of mindful breathing and walking; to cultivate patience and compassion; and to take refuge in our Beloved Community, so we can be a true continuation of Thầy and our spiritual ancestors.(Plum Village)
Despite the widespread prevalence of greed, craving, and consumerism, and the almost universal pursuit of status, power, material possessions, and sensual comforts, the monks and nuns of Plum Village emphasized that the true path to happiness, insight, and liberation lies in the teachings of the Buddhadharma, offering a pledge to continue “ to simplify our life, to consume less, to live more deeply and with gratitude, and to remember that in the present moment we already have enough conditions to be happy” in the year ahead. (Plum Village)
The prayer also emphasized the recognition of interbeing—the profound and fundamental interconnectedness of all sentient beings—which is intrinsic to our own happiness and of the happiness of all life on Earth. Only with this foundational and experiential understanding can humanity hope to overcome the fanaticism and intolerance, discrimination and hatred, fear and ignorance that bring harm and suffering down on communities across the world and threaten to unbalance global ecosystems.
As we touch the Earth, we express our gratitude to you, our beloved teacher Thầy and our ancestors. You have given us a path of practice and a spiritual family to take refuge in. We know that together, we can face our challenges and realize our aspirations. We trust that within us, there is the wisdom of non-discrimination, inclusiveness, great compassion, right action, and non-fear, transmitted to us by you. In this solemn moment, we make the vow to practice wholeheartedly, and to strengthen the well-being and spiritual courage of our community, so we can open up the path for our own generation and for generations to come.(Plum Village)
“Dear Thay, Dear Ancestors, Dear Mother Earth,” the prayer concluded. “Please accept our offerings of incense, flowers, fruit and tea, as a sign of our deepest respect, and love.” (Plum Village)
Born Nguyen Xuan Bao in central Vietnam on 11 October 1926, Thay is an influential Zen teacher, poet, and the author of more than 100 books, including the bestselling The Miracle of Mindfulness. As an active advocate for peace, he was influential in the anti-war movement, encouraging non-violent protests during the Vietnam War. Before leaving Vietnam, he spearheaded a movement by Buddhists in the south calling for a negotiated end to the bloody conflict. In 1967, Thay was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., who told the Nobel committee: “I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam.” (Plum Village)
Thay founded the Order of Interbeing and the Unified Buddhist Church, and in 1982 established the Plum Village Buddhist Center in France with Sister Chan Khong. He has been a central figure in the transmission of Buddhism to the West and in marrying an authentic Zen tradition and lineage with a progressive approach to issues such as social activism, science versus faith, and religion versus spirituality.
Thich Nhat Hanh, known affectionately to his followers as Thay, returned to his homeland Vietnam in October 2018 from Thailand, where he had been convalescing since late December 2016 following a severe stroke in 2014.* The celebrated Zen master said in a letter to his disciples at the time that he had decided to spend the remainder of his life at his root monastery, Tu Hieu Temple, in the central Vietnamese city of Hue, where he was ordained as a novice monk at the age of 16.
* Thich Nhat Hanh Returns to His Roots in Vietnam (Buddhistdoor Global)
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