Today I was blessed to sit in meditation with my new friend and brother, Thich Thien Tri, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who leads the Zen and Mind Family and teaches in New Orleans East and at local universities. First we visited about our common experiences of valuing the gifts of mindfulness through years of practice. He taught me some from his tradition. He asked me to share some from my own.
He served me tea, and offered his jacket since his office was cold. Then he brought in a space heater. He was dedicating himself to my comfort in every way possible. I shared how much I am filled by practicing oneness with other people and then inviting them to share whatever arises from within. I told him I do more gathering for practice than teaching. He commented that people do need teaching of basic mindfulness skills in a culture that promotes much division. I agreed.
As we spoke, I became filled with brotherly love. Our hearts were wide open to each other. I told him I could sense the loving-kindness flowing between us, and what a gift it is to experience that as a force beyond traditions. Truly, our coming together as brothers was in no way limited by our differences of background or religious tradition.
He agreed to lead us in a period of mindfulness meditation in the meditation hall. We sat on raised pillows: I in the half-lotus position and he in the full lotus position. He brought a blanket for warmth and a roll of towel to support my raised knee. He non-self-consciously led us into meditation, with a few phrases, a gong sound, and an extended period of silence. Then he chanted the phrase “Gate’, Gate’ Para Gate’.” (One translation is “gone, gone, completely gone.”) Then he finished with a few more gong sounds and stretching our bodies after the period of sitting.
I walked away by offering a hug, we bowed, and I was off to a centering prayer group with friends in the School for Contemplative Living.
In heaven, perhaps we will take turns leading each other as brothers and sisters from all the traditions. And we will laugh at the oddity of the time on earth when we all thought there was only one way to oneness, our own.