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[Last updated: 5 October 1993]
This text addresses some of the most fundamental and delicate religious
issues. Therefore, it should be read, quoted and analysed in a mindful
All copyrights to this document belong to Sister Annabel Laity, Plum
Village, Meyrac, Loubes-Bernac, France.
Enquiries: The Editor, "Mind Moon Circle", Sydney Zen Centre, 251 Young
St., Annandale, Sydney, NSW 2038, Australia. Tel: + 61 2 660 2993
SISTER ANNABEL LAITY
In our tradition we say that the sound of the bell is the voice of the
buddha. The buddha just doesn't mean anything particularly historical -
it doesn't mean Shakyamuni Buddha. The buddha just means "the awakened
one". Shakyamuni Buddha told us that there had been many buddhas before
and there would be many buddhas after him and there were also buddhas in
the present moment with him. So please don't think you have to be a
Buddhist to talk about buddha. It just means "awakened mind". Everyone
has that aspect of mind which is capable of waking up and we say that
the sound of the bell, is that aspect of the awakened mind which can
wake up. So for that reason we call it a Php Kh, which is the
Vietnamese pronunciation of the Chinese. Kh means tool and Php means
dharma. It is a dharma tool - one of those things you take with you when
you go on a retreat in order to make the retreat possible.
In Vietnamese history there are all sorts of miraculous stories about
bells, about people diving into rivers and finding bells in the bottom
of the river, or people digging foundations to make a monastery and
finding bells. And people dreaming about finding a bell in a certain
place and then going there and finding a bell. So the bell is very
significant for the Vietnamese people. Every temple has its own very big
bell, hanging up. And when the bell rings out you can hear it for a
long way round the whole village and it used to be the tradition that
everybody would stop when they heard the bell and they would say
something like "Namo Amitabhaya Buddha". In our tradition when we hear
the bell, we stop. We use the bell to help us clear our minds. We
stop talking and we just enjoy our breathing. It's a wonderful way to
renew yourself. We say that when we hear the bell, a new dawn arrives so
it's like waking up from a good sleep. You feel refreshed and you feel
renewed when you hear the bell. And when you stop, you have the
opportunity of allowing the feeling of compassion to arise in you,
because the feeling of compassion can be blocked by too much thinking.
So if we stop our thinking, it's easier for compassion to arise.
Everybody has compassion. We shouldn't say to anybody, "You don't have
any compassion." We should never say about anybody, "She doesn't have
any compassion." It isn't true. Everybody has a big store of
compassion. The problem is they don't know how express it; they don't
know how to bring it out. Everybody has plenty of blood but you have to
cut yourself for the blood to come out. Compassion is the same.
If we can stop thinking we can look with compassion on all that lives.
We only have to look on the things near us. If I look with compassion
on the rose, the rose contains the whole universe. The rose contains
the little insect that pollinates the flower, the sunshine, the rain.
So we only have to look with compassion on the rose and we're already in
touch with many things. And I only have to look with compassion on my
friends in the practice centre when I hear the bell to appreciate their
preciousness. How precious it is to have friends in the practice and to
keep them close to us. Obviously if they really don't want to stay we
don't force them to stay but we do our best.
There was a monk in the Buddha's sangha who was not keeping the
precepts. Another monk said, "Lord Buddha, you should call him to you
and instruct him that he should keep the precepts. You should correct
The Buddha said, "If you have a child who has lost one eye and only
has one eye left, wouldn't you do everything to look after that one
And the disciples of the Buddha said, "Yes, Lord, we would."
He said, "It's the same with this disciple who breaks the precepts.
He has very little self-confidence; he has very little faith; he has
very little capacity to keep the precepts. But if I call him to me and
tell him off, he will lose what he has. I want to protect him, so that
is why I'm not saying anything at the moment." So it's not the
intention of the Buddha that we have to keep the precepts to stay in the
The Buddha also said, "The Dharma is like the ocean, and the ocean
never receives a dead body. It always washes the dead body up onto the
shore. It's the same. Somebody who really doesn't get on with the
practice will quite naturally be washed up on the shore. They won't be
able to stay in the ocean of the practice. You monks don't have to do
anything about it. It happens quite naturally."
So we do our best to keep our sangha intact. Everybody has something
valuable to add to the sangha. Sometimes people are going through a
very hard time. Sometimes people have suffered so much in their life and
they've been very busy and so their busy-ness has meant that their
suffering is repressed. They don't realise it's there because they keep
their conscious mind so occupied all the time. And then they begin to
meditate and the conscious mind no longer has so many things to occupy
it and so all the suffering from the past begins to manifest. They
begin to touch it. And when they touch it they not only feel suffering
within themselves but they feel suffering all around them too. So they
can be rather difficult to live with. So we need to be able to help
them be in touch with their suffering. We need above all to be able to
listen to them.
This is something we say every morning in our sangha. It's an
invocation of the name of the Bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara because
Avalokitesvara is not only one who looks but one who listens. The
Chinese word is Kwan Am, I think. "Kwan" means to look; "Am" means the
sound. So it means to look at the sounds, to be aware of the sounds of
the world, the sounds of pain.
We invoke your name, Avalokitesvara. We aspire to learn your practice of
listening In order to help relieve the suffering in the world. We shall
sit and listen without judging and reacting. We shall sit and listen
with all our sincerity and open-heartedness. We shall sit and listen so
deeply That we can hear what the other person is saying And also what
has been left unsaid. We know that just by listening deeply We already
relieve a great deal of the suffering of the other person.
So the practice of listening is a very deep one and it is very useful
when you are building a sangha. To build a sangha means to make a
community of practitioners and to build a sangha really is building
work. If you want to make a house you have to do it properly. But you
don't have to get caught in the idea of "This is my house. I want it
this way." Quite simply, I'm doing the work of building a house so that
other people can come and practise in that house. Because when we have
a beautiful sangha that's living in harmony, it's a wonderful place for
people who are overstressed, or overworked or over-anxious to be able to
come and feel refreshed. It's like a beautiful house they can come to.
So that is really why we build our sangha.
The most helpful way to build a practice community is the work of
listening and knowing how to express yourself. To know how to listen,
we have to know how to stop thinking. The best way for me is to follow
my breath, not to make my breathing unnatural, not to force my breathing
but just to be aware of how it naturally comes and goes, like a circle -
breathing in turns into breathing out - I feel the breath in my body and
in that way I find that my thinking is stopped.
So when I listen to somebody talk, I meditate while they're talking. I
follow my breath. I really enjoy the feeling of my body but I'm
listening with all my attention at the same time. Because when I enjoy
the feeling of my body, I'm really there. I'm in the present moment
because my body is really here in the here and now. And the other
The wonderful thing about a session of Beginning Anew is that you never
reply. It helps us not to think, because if you think, "Oh, dear, I have
to reply to that person in a minute," you may be thinking, "What am I
going to say?" But when you know you don't have to reply, you don't
have to think about what you are going to say. Even if the other person
is saying, "Oh you're a liar, you're this, you're that," you don't have
to think, "Well, I have to tell this person I'm not a liar." It's OK.
You just listen to them.
We need an atmosphere of lightness and calm. We shouldn't allow the
atmosphere to get heavy, if we can help it. For the Beginning Anew you
have a special chairperson who invites the bell. This should be arranged
maybe by consensus - somebody you feel is really stable and light, that
is, not a very heavy person - because that person will influence the
whole community. And they have the bell and the way that they invite
the bell, the way in which they sit there and follow their breath, is
quite important. And you can have a different chairperson every time.
And so if somebody asks you, "Will you please be our chairperson at
today's Beginning Anew session?" and you feel agitated, or you have a
toothache, or something like that, say, "Sorry, I don't feel very well
today. I don't think I can do it." Be very honest, because you know
that your own agitation, your own lack of good health will influence the
rest of the community. So just say that and they can find somebody else
to do it.
In our community we try to come together once a week. We make a set
time. If you live in a family it's good to do that as well, otherwise
the time flies; it passes and you can't find it again. So it's
important to make a time. Once a week we recite the precepts and the
day before we recite the precepts we do Beginning Anew. Usually we come
together in the evening after supper. Somebody has chosen a flower and
they put it in the centre of the circle and we sit around the flower,
and one person sits with the bell. Now that person doesn't have to say
anything really if they don't want to. The way they are is what's
important, not what they say. It may be just by sitting there, just by
their deep listening, they already do a lot to help. So the person who
invites the bell shouldn't feel, "Oh I have to direct everybody, make
everybody go in a particular direction." You shouldn't feel you have to
do anything like that. And they take the bell, if they want in their
hand, and they invite it three times. And the sound is an invitation.
There's a space for people to breathe at least three times.
After the bell, it's open for the community to speak. The person who
wishes to speak joins their palms and waits to be acknowledged by the
rest of the community who will join their palms in return. Then that
person will stand up and bring the flower before them. It's like
saying, "I want to be as fresh as a flower when I talk because if I talk
in the wrong way it will cause somebody to suffer in my community."
Sometimes you can't help but cause somebody to suffer. You shouldn't
think always "I have to speak in a way that won't, because when you say,
"You made me very angry, when you did something or you said something,"
maybe you will suffer but I have to accept it because if I cannot
express my anger and I keep it inside me, it will bring ill health.
Every time I see you, I will have the feeling that you are going to make
me angry again and so I get a wrong perception about you. So I need to
clear it up with you. So I have to say sometimes, "On Thursday, when
you told me that the floor wasn't properly swept, I felt very angry
because I spent over three hours sweeping the floor." I need to say
that to you. Then you will think a little bit about that, "Oh my
goodness, it wasn't very mindful of me to say that." So you will be
more careful in the future. "It's beneficial for us both and the person
who hears it will get more benefit than the person who says it, very
When we started having Beginning Anew in Plum Village about three years
ago, we had some problems. The first session of Beginning Anew started
about half past seven and went on until midnight. And how many people
talked? Two people! Problems had been building up over a long time.
And they made some mistakes. We knew they were suffering; we knew they
were unhappy and that one of them at least was seriously considering
leaving the community. So we wanted to give them a chance to express
their suffering, why they were suffering, what had made them unhappy.
But they didn't do it very skilfully.
And we learnt lessons from that which I would like to pass on to you.
People would say something like, "What I dislike about this community is
that people always talk about the Dharma but underneath they don't
really practise at all." They talked in generalisations like "people do
this; people do that". And everybody listening was thinking, "Oh, I
must be the person they're talking about." And when they talked they
were quite angry so a lot of us had a feeling, "This person's very
angry." But in fact, they never said outright, "Oh, when Sister Annabel
does this it makes me very unhappy," because if they'd said that, it
would be much easier. I would know that when I did that, I make them
unhappy. So I would think about it and try and do something about it.
But if I have a vague sort of statement about "people doing this", I
only suspect it might be me and I don't have enough motivation to want
to do something about it.
So I suggest you never make general statements about people because
you're too afraid to mention somebody's name, when you practice
Beginning Anew. Don't think, "If I mention that person's name they'll
get mad at me so I'd rather just make it general." But about six or
seven people in the community will think you're talking about them and
they will get a bad feeling about you from that. And if you do talk to
somebody you shouldn't say something like, "Your pride, your attitude,
your general attitude towards life makes me very upset." When somebody
hears something like that they don't know where to begin. How can I
possibly change my attitude towards life? It's too difficult, it's too
much. The person's simply left feeling hopeless. We need to help people
correct what they're doing by being absolutely specific. We have to
say, "On Thursday morning, when you did, or when you said such and such
a thing, I was very upset." And then you can go on explaining a bit,
"Maybe because I hadn't slept the night before. Maybe because I've seen
you do something like that to me once before" You can go on explaining
after that. But take the general out of it and make it specific.
For instance, one time in Beginning Anew, somebody said to me, "On
Sunday in tea meditation when you passed me the biscuits you didn't even
look at me." I was just sitting there following my breath and I
suddenly had a very clear image of exactly what I looked like from the
outside - very serious, rather superior, passing the biscuits like that.
And I saw myself exactly as that other person saw me and I understood,
because she had given that specific occasion so it was very helpful to
me. Of course I didn't feel I was hurting her at the time at all; I
didn't have any intention at all to hurt her, but I did. So I knew in
the future how not to hurt her. And after that our relationship
changed. Just by mentioning a little thing like that, somehow some
energy between us began to flow again and our relationship became much
When we speak we try to do so with a very even voice. If we feel our
voice getting agitated or high or louder, that is a sign that we feel
agitated about what we're talking about and we should maybe stop and
come back to our breathing. If we start to cry, we should stop.
There's nothing wrong with crying but we need to come back to our breath
and calm down before we go on. The sound of our own voice is a very good
sign to us of how we are when we're speaking and we should listen to our
Before I take the flower and speak, I have to do it at the right time
because if I speak at the wrong time, it will have the wrong effect.
It's very subtle. The right time and the right place is very subtle.
It's not my conscious mind that tells me when the right time is; it's
something that comes up from my unconscious mind. And so I sit there.
Last night we had Beginning Anew with the Vietnamese people and I knew
there was something I had to say. And I thought, "Oh maybe when we
start to talk, I will." But somehow, it wasn't the right time. I just
knew it wasn't the right time. So I just sat there and followed my
breath and I didn't have any plans for the future at all. And then
there was a big space of silence and somehow some sort of emptiness -
you feel some sort of emptiness - it's not particularly you who's taking
the flower - and at that time you just get up and you take the flower.
And you talk. And you talk to help everybody - to help you, but to help
everybody else too. And maybe you fail. Well, it isn't so awful. We
all fail from time to time so it doesn't matter. And next time you can
be better. It's not the end of the world.
The main thing is after Beginning Anew you feel lighter, you feel you've
learnt something. You feel maybe a little bit hurt, but it isn't so
serious. To feel a little bit hurt is better than somebody having to
repress some bad feelings about you for many years . Because when you
feel bad about somebody else, you feel bad about yourself. You
understand? If somebody else feels bad about you, they're feeling bad
about themselves. Because as soon as we have a bad feeling about
somebody else, we know that we're feel bad about ourselves. So we're
doing it for everybody; we're not just doing it for ourselves.
We know so well that in our consciousness are buried
all the wholesome seeds,
seeds of love and understanding,
all the seeds of peace and joy.
But because we do not know how to water them
and we always allow sorrow to overwhelm them,
how can they spring up fresh and green?
When we begin Beginning Anew we want to water those seeds of love and
understanding. So from the deep part of my heart, with all my
sincerity, I say something with a meaning to somebody in my community I
know who needs watering because their flower is a little bit droopy.
And everybody can do that. Some of the people who are best, the most
skilful at watering flowers, are usually the youngest people in the
community. We know they're inclined to be sincere. When you hear a
young person saying something nice about you, you know that they
probably mean it. An older person gets better at flattery we don't
want to do flattery though.
Sometimes you want to tell somebody how they've hurt you by some
unskilful action they've done. You may say, "Remember how we were both
ordained together and how our practice has always been linked?
Therefore I want to clear something up with you which I feel is
bothering me at the moment. On Thursday when you did such and such I
felt very hurt. You're always such a sweet person. You have such a
lovely smile. I know that you didn't mean to hurt me but I want you to
know, I really want you to know that you did hurt me, deeply, when you
said such and such."
Sometimes we're just a little bit irritated with somebody. I think
maybe we ought to say that too. "I was irritated with you when you did
that." It's good to be able to say that too. Not just deeply hurt, but
just irritated. Because small irritation can build up into something
big and it's best to nip it in the bud, to acknowledge that I am
irritated, and to be able to say to the other person, "You irritated
Sometimes we don't want to say it to the whole community. For instance,
if you suspect your dharma sister has stolen a lot of money, you
wouldn't want to say in front of the whole community, "I was very hurt
when I discovered you had stolen a lot of money." But you would want to
say it just to them because you don't want other people to know. And so
you have to arrange a time to talk to them just with one other very good
dharma friend who's neutral and can sit there and keep the atmosphere
stable and serene. So there'll just be three of you, in fact.
When we have problems which are specifically between two people, we
usually invite those two people to come together with a third impartial
person who looks after the bell, and we have several sessions. At one
session one of the people can talk and the other person just listens the
whole session and we bow and go away. And in the next session the other
person talks. And so on, until it is resolved.
And if we know somebody has what we call an internal formation, that is
a bundle inside, a sort of knot inside, made up of feelings and
thoughts, causing them to suffer, but they can't express it, we should
be able to encourage that person to speak - somehow to get them to speak
- and that's very difficult sometimes. Because they can't undo the knot
and we want to help them to talk. And sometimes when they begin to
talk, it's very difficult to listen to them because they suffer so much
and it sort of pours out and it's like a sort of poison coming out of a
wound, like pus coming out of a wound, and it's not very pleasant.
So we have to know ourselves, "How much can I take?" We don't want to
overstretch ourselves. And so that when we hear this coming out, we sit
and listen and breathe as long as we can. And when we feel that we've
had enough, we can't take any more, we have to bow and say, "I'm sorry.
I'm very tired. Can we carry on another time please?" And you have to
have another session to finish it off. I had to do that in Vietnam. I
had to listen to somebody express their suffering from five o'clock in
the morning until ten o'clock. At ten o'clock I couldn't take any more.
So I had to say, "I'm sorry, I have to stop. I can't take any more.
We'll carry on another day."
When some people express their suffering a lot of violence comes out
too. What is important then is the quality of our listening. We
support each other by listening. But we have to know that this is
helping this person to express their hurt. The quality of our listening
is what helps. If we don't listen, what will happen is that as they
express their suffering, it gets resown in their subconscious because it
is not being accepted and they might say, "I feel like I'm talking to
myself." And talking to myself may not be helpful because it's getting
resown. But if we are receptive and we really sit and listen, then it's
a chance that that suffering can be transformed for that person. So we
should encourage them.
Generally we have four things that we may talk about in Beginning Anew.
The first is you may water flowers, as we talked about. If you see a
flower in your community is a little bit droopy, you can water it.
The second thing is you can talk about how you regret having done
something during the past week. But it really must be a regret - not
just to impress people by repenting or something like that. That can
happen, by the way. You should really feel deep regret and if when you
say it you feel better, you know that that was right. You feel relief.
And the third thing we need to express is how we've been hurt or how we
are irritated and so on Those are usually the three things: watering
the flower, expressing our regret for something we have done and saying
how we've been hurt. The third is the most difficult. It takes the most
humility. It takes more humility than repenting something that you've
done, I think. Because you need to admit that you are still an
unenlightened being who gets hurt, even if it's about something very
trifling like not getting a smile when you get the biscuits in the tea
Sometimes we allow a fourth thing as well, and that is an explanation to
my community of my past experiences so they know what I'm going through
psychologically in the present moment. That gives my community a chance
to understand me better. So that if I look very grumpy, or I'm very
short with people from time to time or I seem to be completely locked up
in myself, and I can talk about my past, then my community says, "Oh
yes! That's why you're like that!" And they won't feel that you've got
a personal grudge against them. They'll understand the hurt and want to
support you and help you.
All wrong-doing arises in the mind.
When the mind is pure,
there is no wrong-doing there.
The white flowers today,
float freely in the sky.
This traditional gatha recognises all the seeds we have in our own
consciousness, in the collective consciousness. And our own
consciousness is only a part of the collective consciousness. We may
say, "I don't sow seeds of killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. So
I never break the five precepts." But in fact the seeds of breaking the
five precepts are there in all of us because they are there in the
society. And we are part of the society. So when we do Beginning Anew,
we're not just doing it for ourselves. We're doing it for our whole
We have all done things in the past that we regret and Buddhism is
something which doesn't like guilt. It is just another obstacle to our
practice. So it is not useful, really, to feel guilty about what we've
done in the past. It doesn't really help anybody. It uses up a lot of
energy, feeling guilty, and we could use that energy in a different way.
So that is why we have that wonderful gatha. "All wrong-doing arises in
the mind." If I'm going to kill somebody or steal something, I have to
think about it first. So the idea arises and then I go out and do it.
"When the mind is pure, there is no wrong-doing there." Well, I can
make my mind pure at any moment. All I have to do is maybe hear the
bell, sit and follow my breath, make my body and mind one. And my mind
is pure. So the wrong-doing is not there. "The white flowers today, as
always, float freely in the sky." I am free. I am free of concepts of
me, my wrong-doing and things like that. And I know there is only one
way to put right what went wrong in the past. And that way is how I am
in the present moment.
In Plum Village we sometimes have Vietnamese war veterans coming, and
obviously, when they come to a Vietnamese community, it is very
difficult for them. They remember how, during the war with Vietnam, they
killed a lot of Vietnamese people and they feel a lot of guilt. So we
tell them, "Please, what is done is done. There is no way you can undo
it. There is only one thing you can do and that is to begin anew in the
present moment." So we say, "Look, we are sending off medicine to
Vietnam today. Why don't you help us wrap up the parcels, because this
medicine may save a child's life. So all you can do now to put right
having taken a child's life in the past is to save a child's life now."
So we see that the way we are now in the present is the most important
thing, not what we have done in the past. Because the way we are in the
present is what will influence our future. And Buddhism has always been
very open about this, the thought that in our subconscious mind there is
a store of unwholesome seeds and a store of wholesome seeds and the
important thing is not how many unwholesome seeds there are but the
ratio of wholesome to unwholesome.
The thing is how we are now, what we do now. The ability to be able to
sit and to take in a few breaths and see that your mind has the capacity
to be pure now and then act out of that purity is all that matters. And
we don't need prisons and things like that if people know how to do
that. So when we say we are sorry for something, that means I'm saying
I'm sorry because I really want that person not to be hurt. Because
when I say I'm sorry I'm meaning I'm going to do things in a different
way now, do something different. Nobody wants to go back to the Vietnam
War and kill children any more. It's much more happy to send off
medicine, that is what I'm saying sorry is about - I won't do it again."
There's a tendency at first to always want to reply to people, to
respond. One good way not to react when somebody says something to you,
rather than say, "Ooh! I didn't say that!" or, "Ooh! I didn't do
that!" is to say something like this in our heart: "Thank you. I have
heard what you said and I have made a note of it. So I'm not going to
react now. I'm not going to say that you're right, but I'm not going to
say that you are wrong. I will take it away and over the week I will
think about it. It's very good." So you go away and you think, "Oh
that person is partly true. It's not a hundred percent true, but there
is some truth in it." And you see that. But if you react, you're
inclined to say it's completely right or completely wrong. But, "Thank
you. I have heard what you said and I have made a note of it," is very
open, not as a formality, but because you are open.
What if the person who has hurt you isn't there at the meeting? - which
often happens. It happened last night. Somebody asked the chairperson,
"I have been hurt by somebody who is not here - a member of our sangha
who is not here. Can I say so?" And the person inviting the bell said,
"Yes. But on certain conditions. One: you take complete responsibility
for what you say, so that if any of us goes to that person and says,
"Oh, by the way, Brother So-and-so said he was very angry when you did
that, that, that," you take responsibility for that. Two: you speak
with all your awareness and mindfulness as if that person were here and
you were speaking directly to them. And three: you do your best to go
to that person when you have the next opportunity and talk it out with
them. But we are very ready to listen to you now, to help you feel
better. But it's like a preparation. You are preparing now to be able
to go to that person with a flower and say to them, "You hurt me." Or,
"I felt very hurt when you said that." It's better to say it that way.
Sometimes if somebody is breaking too many rules the chairperson invites
the bell, and says "I think this is going against the principles," or
if somebody keeps interrupting, or hasn't taken the flower, "No it's not
When people seem to be getting weary, the chairperson may want to say,
"Noble community, some of you look a little tired, or uncomfortable,
would you like to end this session in about fifteen minutes or go and
stretch your legs? or have a breath of fresh air?" And at the end of
Beginning Anew, we all bow and take each other's hands so we feel some
connection with each other. And some people go up and smile or hug each
From Beginning Anew you learn how to listen. It's a wonderful gift. And
you can listen to anybody anywhere in the world. Sometimes it's the
best thing you can do, to understand a person, why they're like that,
what they've gone through in the past. It's quite enlightening when you
see how a person who makes everybody around them suffer, how deeply they
suffer themselves. Once you can touch the deep suffering they're going
through, it makes it much easier to love them. If you can't touch that
suffering, it's very difficult. Giving a person a bit of space to talk
can create the conditions for their Buddha-nature to flower.
It is also practice in itself, a practice of how to listen deeply, how
to be humble. The quality of the listening is so important. It is
important that there is a core group of people in the sangha who really
know how to listen and to speak, who commit to the practice of listening
and speaking. I don't know how much conflict or friction there is in
your sangha, what irritations, annoyances, or anger crops up. Is your
community as healthy as it could be? Very often the best way to
ascertain the health of the sangha is to ask, "How am I myself? How am
I when I come to my sangha? How do I feel? Do I feel we could make
things better? And if we could, then how?"
If there is a group who can practice Beginning Anew every month, like
the Board, they become a healthy core, because if the core is healthy,
the rest is healthy. If the blood is circulating properly in the Board
then it circulates everywhere. If all those people have their own
regular Beginning Anew session together, when they join the bigger group
they may be able to really help.
Because sangha building is the very basis of our practice. A sangha
needs to be growing all the time. It's like a tree. If the tree
doesn't put out new branches, we know it's not in good health. A sangha
needs to be developing, growing, changing the whole time, never the same
one year to the next. And the best way is to use the enlightened aspect
of everyone's mind in the sangha. And in order to do that you have to
have a very good communication between yourselves so everybody feels
they have something to contribute and they can be listened to. That
way the sangha can grow.
I can say without any doubt that my practice has been able to develop
because of Beginning Anew more than any other thing in my community
life. To be able to hear from other people how I have upset them, to be
able to see myself as other people see me from the outside has really
helped me to know myself better and to become a much happier person, a
much easier person to live with. It has helped me tremendously. And so
that is why when I go to teach people, I recommend the practice.
Although it's been difficult sometimes to hear about my faults, it's not
always been pleasant, in the end I've always felt lighter. And though I
sometimes go to bed after Beginning Anew feeling a little bit upset,
when I wake up in the morning, I always feel wonderful. I feel, "How
wonderful! I have a chance to begin to be a new person today."
It is like the miracle of humility. Humility takes you right back to
the beginning, right back to beginner's mind. You see that you haven't
made any progress at all. You're right where you were in the beginning.
And it's wonderful. You can begin anew.
[Sister Annabel is the Director of Practice at Plum Village, France]
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