Two days ago, Jack and I got up at 5AM and drove from Spirit Rock (where we’re teaching the Teacher Training group) to San Francisco, for early morning meditation with the monastics who’ve been caring for Thich Nhat Hanh while he receives treatment for his stroke. Having decided he wants to go back to his community in France, Plum Village, this would be our last chance to practice with him, maybe forever… he flew away yesterday.
Halfway through the sitting, a monk carries Thây in and helps him into a chair. I can sense his presence and feel his mind and heart, vividly. It’s like peering into an emptiness that is dark and velvety and vast – both rich and implacable. Still mostly paralyzed, he quickly moves his left hand up into half of a bow.
It’s so moving to see him. When the sitting ends, he looks up and communicates with his eyes, powerfully. In his eyes, he is standing astride the threshold between worlds. His right eye, fathomless and empty, calmly viewing death; his left eye looking at each one of us one at a time, connecting, acknowledging us deeply, with a tiny half-smile.
We are filled with deep feeling as he leaves the room. We pass cups of tea around the circle, mindfully, from self to other, smiling, interconnected. I remember a phrase from many years of Zen practice and teaching. “Buddha Nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here and right now” — in this cup of tea, this moment — this inter-being with Thây, with the sisters and brothers who share their practice with us, and tend him with boundless understanding and loving care. We sit on the floor, on sacred ground.
A friend asked me today, what is deep Dharma to you? Just this. This is the profound truth, cherishing each moment and each other.