The Buddha said in the Pali Canon “Happy is birth of the Awakened Ones. Happy is the teaching of the True Dharma. Happy is unity of the Sangha. Happy is a meditation of those in unity” (Dhp.194).
It is rare in life to find a great master. I feel very lucky to have found mine. In this article, I will share my reflection on the 20th Sangha Summer Retreat organised at the Thien An Monastery by my beloved Master Senior Venerable Thich Nhu Dinh. I will also share a bit about my Master’s background, his role and contributions to the Australian and Vietnamese community. Finally,I will share three key lessons I learnt from my Master.
I would like to express my deep appreciation for Master Thich Nhu Dinh for his incredible effort and dedication towards organising the 20th Sangha Summer Retreat. My Master has had many sleepless nights organising the Sangha Summer Retreat with the help of his students and volunteers. This is an excellent opportunity to gather over a hundred Sangha members (which include monks, nuns, and lay Buddhists) at the Thien An Monastery, Canley Vale (Sydney). Despite the challenges in accommodating all the attendees, my Master has wholeheartedly provided all the necessities to ensure everyone is as happy and comfortable at the Retreat as possible. This is a huge benefit for the Sangha to build a strong relationship with each other. Strong relationships, in turn, help build a sustainable community. A sustainable community gives rise to a peaceful and healthy world. Moreover, during the retreat the Sangha can refresh and exchange their knowledge of the Buddha Dharma. Additionally, during the Retreat, the Sangha can more actively practice the Dharma together, such as living together in one place, waking up early at 4.30am chanting, meditating, discussing and listening to the Dharma from the Venerables, Senior Venerables and Most Venerables. The younger generations can learn more about their culture and traditions and practice good manners and habits. Therefore, the Retreat provides an outstanding benefit for the Sangha and the community.
Now, I would like to share a bit of history about my beloved Master, Senior Venerable Thich Nhu Dinh. He was born in 1960 in Vietnam. In 1968, he became a novice monk when he was eight years old and in 1980, he became ordained as a monk in Vietnam at the age of 20. He fled from Vietnam as a refugee to The Philippines in 1985 and migrated to Australia in 1987. My Master is a well-known Vietnamese Buddhist scholar and teacher. He has dedicated his life to Buddhism and social welfare. He has dedicated his life to Buddhism and society not only in Vietnam but also overseas. He was the founder of many Buddhist Monasteries in Australia and overseas such as Thien An Monastery in Sydney, Tho Son Monastery in Vietnam among many others. He is currently associated with The Sangha Bhikshu of Australia and the Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation of Australia and New-Zealand.
In 1991, he bought the land and began building Thien An Monastery in 2013. He is currently the Abbot of Thien An Monastery, Sydney. The construction of his monastery adds to a growing legacy for Buddhism in Australia, especially for the Vietnamese community. Ever since he migrated to Australia, he has been teaching meditation and the Dharma to many Buddhists in Australia and throughout the world for almost three decades. Therefore, I believe he is an icon of a Buddha-to-be (Bodhisattva or Bo Tat).
I would like to share three key lessons I learnt from my Master, which have had a profound impact on me. The first key lesson is to have great compassion towards sentient beings. For example, my Master is a great father figure for orphan children. Under his guidance, many students have become successful in life. He cared for many orphaned children in Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, India, Bangladesh and others. I have also suffered similarly like these children when I was trying to find a proper place to study and continue my monkhood life. One day I was passing the Thien An Monastery and I asked permission from the Senior Venerable to live in his monastery and to my surprise, he didn’t ask for anything. He told me I could live here for as long as I like! His unconditional kindness contrasts that of the Family and Community Service department, who told me that I had to relinquish my Buddhist robes before they would give me accommodation. Besides me, the Monastery is open for all Sangha members and people in need of help regardless of their backgrounds, such as the homeless, widows and orphans.
The second key lesson I learnt is to be self-reliant. My Master taught me that we should not wait for others to help us but we should stand on our own two feet. For example, when my Master came to Australia, he did not rely on any government benefits but found himself a job making bread in the bakery despite not knowing how to speak English. Overall, one important lesson that I have taken from his teachings is that we should take control of our lives, make a valuable contribution and not let it be dictated by others.
The third key lesson I learnt is to be optimistic. Despite not having a background in construction, my Master was still willing to take part in the building of his monastery with his very own hands combined with an unbreakable spirit. He gave me some very sage advice, such as thinking before acting and to never say that “I can’t do anything”, but instead always say that “I can”. These are very motivating words for me as an overly prudent person.
In conclusion, I would like to express my great appreciation for the 20th Anniversary of the Sangha Summer Retreat to give me the opportunity to witness and share with you the great personality and good heart of my Master, who I admire very much. He is a great Buddhist monk, social worker, humanitarian-minded and a caring teacher. Thank you sincerely from my bottom my heart, Master!
May all Buddhists attending the Retreat benefit greatly from all the Dharma teachings and practices over the 10 days. I would like to conclude with a very important reminder from the Buddha as we go back into our daily lives or practices as a monastic or lay Buddhist alike:
“Let none find fault with others; let none see the omissions and commissions of others. But let one see one's own acts, done and undone.’’ (Dhp.50)