Talks of war take me back to Vietnam. Marty and I had been married four months when he got his orders to go. They'd promised he wouldn't have to. Having graduated from the University of Florida as a second lieutenant in the army, they needed him at Fort Bliss to train the men who would be going. It was gruelling work waking up at four in the morning, running with his men in the blistering cold and returning to our apartment after dark, getting them ready for thier inevitable orders. We were both in shock when he got his orders. He'd be leaving in a month.
A year later he was back, but so much of the terror he experienced with the 11th armoured cavalry was brought back with him. I wish we'd both known about the teaching of a young monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, who was there during his tour of duty from April 1969 to April 1970. Marty earned every award a platoon leader could win. Just to remind us of how awful war is, I'll quote just one of the things he had to do to be given these awards:
"his platoon was on a reconaissance mission when the lead vehicles in the armored column suddenly came under intense small arms, automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire from an estimated enemy battalion. Lieutenant Amestoy quickly located the source of the heaviest hostile fire and directed his vehicles into an assault formation and led an attack on a group of enemy positions. Because of a loss of radio contact, he stood on his vehicle and directed his platoon by hand signals. While in this exposed position, he was wounded when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby. Refusing medical attention, he continued to lead his vehicles in overrunning the hostile positions. Several times during the four-hour battle, he left his vehicle and ran through enemy fire to aid casualties and reorganize the assault formation."
At the height of the war, there were more than half a million U.S. troops in Vietnam. More than three million Vietnamese died in the war. I'm telling you all of this to let you know about the big "Aha" moment I had while reading Thich Nhat Hanh's latest articles in Lion's Roar Magazine.
NaMestoy Farm was created with the same intention that Thich Nhat Hahn had for his communities. After his exile from Vietnam, Nhat Hanh was granted asylum in France. In 1982 his community bought the land in southern France that would become Plum Village. All of this history has been given to say that what Plum Village is doing now, Nhat Hahn recommends that others should do to regain their sense of priorities. What is needed is to set up an environment where people live simply and happily, and invite others to come and observe. That is the only thing that will convince them to abandon their materialistic idea of happiness.
I'm not saying that we are doing this daily at NaMestoy Farm, but I will say that most of the time groups of people come here for retreat they get a taste of what that can be like. Nhat Hahn says, 'We need to demonstrate that living simply with a practice of the dharma can be very fulfilling, because until people see it and experience it, they cannot be convinced. In Plum Village, we laugh all day long, yet not one of us has a private bank account, car, or telephone.... I think in Buddhist circles we have to reorganize so that we can show people a way of living happily based on mutual understanding, not materialism. Just a dharma talk isn't enough, because a dharma talk is just a talk. Only when people see such an unmaterialistic community, when they see such a way of life, will they be convinced."
In remembrance of Thich Nhat Hahn and Marty's contributions to creating space for communities to live in peaceful coexistence, we will be playing the gong every hour on the hour on Sunday to remember the peace that is always in us and praying that war will be no more! Yo-Chi-Ahh! will be from 9:30 -10:45 and Meditation will be on-going from 11:00AM - 3:00 PM. Come feel the Peaceful Presence....