This is an excerpt from Thây’s Dharma Talk of the 3rd of April 2008, Plum Village, where he first proposed the idea of 'young european buddhists for a healthy and compassionate society' to the Plum Village practice community. It is translated from the Vietnamese by Hân.
Recently we organized a Mindfulness Day for young people in Napoli, Italy. It took place at a cinema and 500 students from the age of 16 to 19 years and also some of their teachers came in order to practice with the Plum Village Sangha. This Mindfulness Day was very joyful and nourishing. Practicing with the young people in Napoli was very inspiring for the monastic sisters and brothers, as they felt that the young people responded to the Dharma and the practice very wholeheartedly.
At the beginning of the Dharma Talk I talked about the presence of both the seeds of anger, suffering, violence and the seeds of love, hope, happiness in our minds. If we live in an environment - the environment in the family, school and society - which is not nourishing, then the negative seeds in us are watered and the positive seeds are not. Our happiness depends very much on the environment we are living in.
We learn a lot in school, i.e. geography, mathematics, history, literature, etc. but the teachers don’t teach the students how to deal with and transform the suffering, anger and violence in their minds. Therefore it is necessary to teach students how to deal with strong emotions such as anger, violence, depression, desire etc. in school in the future, and at the same time the method how to cultivate the seeds of love, understanding and joy. The ministry of education needs to train teachers in the art of love and transformation - these two subjects don’t exist yet.
On the flight back to France I had the idea to build up a youth group, which applies the teaching and the practice of the Buddha into their daily life in order to cultivate the beauty and ethical responsibility of human beings and to build up a healthy society with love and compassion. Nowadays there are so many youth groups who are active in helping the society, i.e. reducing famine and poverty, fighting for social justice, social revolution, etc., but there is not a youth group yet who make life more beautiful through an ethical and spiritual aspiration. We already have many young people in different countries, who have this aspiration. With a good organization we will be able to build up such a youth group - parallel to the building up of the European Institute for Applied Buddhism in Germany - and create a movement in Europe. There are already conditions, we only have to unite them in order to realize this.
Sitting in the plane, I have also thought about a name for this group which fits to our time. In 1964 I have also founded a youth group – it was called “The Youth for Social Service”. I have suggested the following name: Buddhist Youth for A Healthy and Compassionate Society. This means we need a direction, a direction of building up a healthy society because there is so much confusion, illness and violence in our society and a lack of love; but the word “love” is not precise enough, compassion is more suitable, very Buddhistic and precise - we need to treat each other with compassion. The word “healthy” is nice, as this word contains the word “heal” and “health”. There is also the word “sane” - this has nothing to do with “insane”, hehehe - and “stubborn”, hehehe. We need to discuss, look up the dictionary and find words which are suitable for the name.
The reason why we use the word “European” is because the European Union - originated in a conference in Rome with the intention to build up an economical and political union - is in the beginning of its development; it’s still a dream that is now slowly being realized. The people still love Europe. In the past the United States was a very beautiful dream and many people trusted in them. But now the image of the USA is not as beautiful as it was before – now many people hate the USA, but they don’t hate Europe yet. That is why we use the word “European” instead of “International”, as Europe is still a beautiful dream which we can lean on. When the people begin to hate Europe, we will change the name, hehehe.
The name I suggested is too complicated and long though. So I am asking you, young monastics and lay friends, to help me finding a short and suitable name, the sooner the better.
To my mind young people need an ideal in life, an ideal of love and compassion – we have to live in such a way to maintain our physical and mental health, transform our suffering and cultivate joy and happiness in order to build up a society. Therefore the foundation of this youth group’s practice is The Five Wonderful Mindfulness Trainings – a concrete expression and practice of love and compassion. If everyone in the world would practice the 5 MTs, the suffering could be relieved and there would be peace and happiness in this world. If young people practice like that they will be able to bring happiness to themselves and their families, and with this ability they will be able to build up a healthy society. We have to find a way to pass on such an ideal to young people.
I always have to laugh when I am thinking about how the members of this youth group will greet each other - holding up our five fingers (to represent the 5 MTs)? hehehe
Everyone who has listened to this Dharma Talk today should please think about the basic conditions and a way to create such Youth Sanghas in many countries.
[Sound of the bell]
Today the Dharma Talk has been a bit short….hehehe.
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