Reading The Book: Joyfully Together

Posted by Xiaojuan Shu on Aug 10, 2016
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Being involved in ServiceSpace community has propelled me to think more deeply about community building. But by living and practicing day by day in a community like Casa de Paz has brought my sense of community to a whole new level. Happily, I accepted my book report assignment on Joyfully TogetherThe Art of Building a Harmonious Community by Thich Nhat Hanh. The book consists of innovative practices inspired by Buddhist traditions. Below are some highlights from the book that have left a mark in my consciousness.

A Sangha is a community of people who walks the path of liberation together. The Sangha building practices are even more important than studying the sutras, practicing sitting meditation, listening to Dharma talks, or attending Dharma discussions. The best way of building the Sangha is to turn ourselves into positive elements of the Sangha body by the way we walk, stand, sit or lie down in mindfulness. When others in the Sangha see our stability in this way, they will also become solid.

When people criticize the monks for drinking a little too much tea, I (Thich Nhan Hanh) smiled. If the monks drink tea mindfully and practice building brotherhood, it is sometimes more effective than long hours of sitting meditation or reciting the sutras without looking at each other.

There is no more beautiful task than spending one’s time in this work of love, discovering the talents of everyone in the Sangha. If the Sangha body is a forest, then each member is a tree with its own unique qualities, standing joyfully alongside the other trees. If you want the Sangha to be strong, you have to contribute your own energy to the Sangha.

When the Sangha has a matter to resolve, it should rely on the Sangha Eyes to look for solution, never on the eyes of one individual alone.

Skillful Means
When flexibility is needed, we can be flexible; when firmness is needed, we can be firm. Whatever method we use, it should always be practiced with compassion. But compassion does not mean that we just allow someone to continue to behave in an unwholesome way. We have to love without allowing our love to be misused. When we commit ourselves to Sangha building, we have to learn when to be gentle and when to be firm. Sometimes we have to act swiftly and not allow the situation to continue, because that is the only way we express our love.

Practice with Triangle
Triangle means one person is upset by another person. Instead of talking to that person directly, complains to the 3rd person. The triangle is a tiny shoot that sprout from the seed of division and unhappiness. Everyone has the duty to uproot the triangle before it grows.

Shining Light
We sincerely invite dharma sisters and brothers to shine light on us. They not only point out our shortcomings but tell us first what we have excelled in. Then they offer us concrete practices to maintain and increase our good qualities while transforming what is unwholesome. If there is any anger or irritation in us, it is better not to speak. We vow that every word spoken will be from a place of love within us.

Watering Flowers
Practice watering the flowers of your loved ones and your brothers and sisters in the Sangha. They may need your words of appreciation and encouragement. The practice of watering flower is an expression of our gratitude. When we are grateful, we will no longer suffer so much.

Nourishing Our Families
The most precious gift parents can offer their children is their own happiness. We can transform the negative habit energies we have received from our father and mother and not hand them to our children in the future. This is the deepest way of sharing our gratitude to our ancestors.

Practice: Write love letters to those in our family, especially those difficult ones.

It’s a great offering that we can make to ourselves, our beloved ones and our ancestors to do the work of reconciliation with our blood family. We reconcile with our mother and father inside of us, and we can also discover a skillful way to reconcile with our mother and father outside of us. It is never too late to bring peace and healing into our blood family.

Speak with the language of love. Only then loved ones will come to share their sufferings with us. Listen deeply. Only then we can understand them. Only then we can say we love them. Before that we thought we loved them, but our love wasn’t based on understanding. The more we love, the more they feel stifled. To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love.

Ask questions: Do you think I understand you? Do I understand your suffering, your difficulties, and your deepest wishes? If I do not, please help me to understand because if I do not yet understand, I will continue to make you suffer in the name of love.

Our own practice and transformation is the best way to help our brother and sister. :)

You can read more here, a summary from each chapter.

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Comments (2)

  • Madhur Khanna wrote ...

    It's good, useful wisdom and presented well!

  • Ariel wrote ...

    I feel so fortunate to have just been forwarded this at the perfect time (especially the practice of healing family wounds). Thank you Xiao for sharing.