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A Patchwork Rope

by My Tong



The Wakeup retreat at Deer Park monastery last week was so inspiring and beautiful. I see so much talents and potentials in the young people and also so much suffering, but I know we have the way out of suffering too. I found out what worked well for me. The body is my dharma door. Staying in the body, being aware of what the body and the mind need at the moment, I naturally understand and choose what is the right action or wise thing to focus on at the moment (yoniso manasikara) so both my mind and body can work in concert and rest together, that is a great happiness.


When I was at ease and compassion was born in the heart, another insight arose. I could find the nourishing element in something or someone I initially thought was not nourishing or edgy to me. Someone said something that touched some racial suffering in me, and when I intentionally came near intending to ask that person to clarify what he/she said, I observed their energy and realized that ah, this person was suffering from his/her internal knots too, and I didn’t feel the need to add fuel to the fire as this person might not have the space in their heart to answer my question right now. I let the question go. Compassion told me to say something I truly feel nourished by and appreciate about him/her, and I saw the person’s face brighten up and the heart slightly more open to connection. It was okay to slowly connect, no need to rush. Slow and authentic connection is the way.


The next breakfast it suddenly dawned on me that ah, this was exactly what the Buddha was talking about in the sutra ‘5 ways to put an end to anger’ - when a monk could pick up a piece of clean scrap of cloth from the heap of feces that it lied on, clean it up and sew it to his patchwork robe. That is to find the healing element in an initially seemingly non-healing heap. If we look a bit clearer, we can see kindness and the Buddha nature in the other person underneath all that scars and violence and we can feel our heart widen. Suddenly it’s natural that we want to empower and encourage this person in their path. Suddenly we want to see this person shine brightly some day.


A monk’s patchwork robe is made from all his career of kind actions throughout his lifetime by recognizing piece by piece the light in the other people (plants, animals, land...) around him. Kindness is what we wear and continually nourish in ourselves and others. Imagine if this is the world we live in and we all wear clothes made up of kindness. Long robes, short robes, kimonos, T-shirts, short sleeves - the quilt of harmony in ourselves and peace in others.

I remembered Thay’s talk on this sutra and the delight in his voice when one day, the roommate who was difficult at first and whom he nourished day by day with his kind encouragement suddenly one day blossomed and was able to transform his difficulties. That was the sympathetic joy of seeing others blossom and we are so happy for them. I think it’s probably similar to how parents feel too when their kids blossom.

I am so thankful to the monks and nuns for being there for us to come and learn to live together as community. Thank you Thay so much for his far insight and compassion for creating the Wake up movement with the 5 mindfulness trainings as foundation for young people despite initial protest from others. We all benefit so much from your revolution of kindness, dear Thay.