BFFE: My Life is My Message (+ De Stilte Voorbij)

Thich Nhat Hanh was born in Vietnam in 1926 and became a monk, Zen teacher and writer. As a peace activist he organized a nonviolent resistance movement after the outbreak of the Vietnam war. During ‘memorial day’ of  9-11 in Washington DC he is teaching ‘Mindful living’ to members of Congress on site. His aspiration is to convey his peace message in the centre of worldpower as effectively as possible.

Every year thousands of people join the meditation retreats that are being guided by him. Likewise he works with groups of Palestinians and Israelis in his home base in Southern France, Plum Village. Gruesome experiences are being exchanged here and discussed together for the very first time in the hope that empathy and recognition of the other’s suffering will come about.

Thich Nhat Hanh learnt what it means to live in dire, life threatening conditions during the Vietnam war as well as later in exile. His modesty, his intense social involvement and the fact that he lives what het preaches make him well-loved.

He knows how to convey the essence of the Buddhist teachings in simple terms, connecting them directly to the practice of daily life. 

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De Stilte Voorbij - Zentuin in de Zuidas (Marleen van der Werf, 2015)

In the middle of a rapidly expanding business district in Amsterdam called the Zuidas (literally: South Axis), one can find a hidden green oasis. It is the only Chinese Penjing-garden in Holland, a miniature landscape composed of small plants and rockery.

Penjing is an art which the Chinese already practice for more than 2000 years and which was later adopted in Japan as bonsai. Penjing miniatures are viewed as meditation objects ‒ the links that connect gods, nature and human beings. The yin-yang elements in the landscape reflect the opposites in the human mind, like emptiness-matter, high-low, strong-soft, light-dark.

Bank employees, those undergoing hospitalization, and students find tranquility and inspiration here. In passing one gets to know the visitors of the garden. Why do they go here? Where are their thoughts wandering off to? What does silence mean to them?

The tranquility here contrasts sharply with the bustle in the Zuidas that keeps on moving up in the direction of the garden. One can hear the city waking up in the background; in the distance wailing sirens sound; a trauma helicopter is passing; above the apple tree a crane is moving; and far away piles are being rammed into the ground. For how long will the balance between silence and the city here stay as it is?