“Cap your heels together three times and think to yourself: There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home!” – Gilda, The Good Witch of The North
I found myself in a Dorothy-like moment a few weeks ago, running through the magical Land of Oz… completely LOST. But unlike that girl from Kansas, I had made a conscious decision to be here; no tornado had swept me away and into this strange place. I wasn’t there by accident or chance, I chose giving up the comfort of an established life in the search of a new challenge. And in my impatient mind, the change had to happen sooner than later.
So there I was, strolling down the Yellow Brick Road when that painful emptiness hit me, a storm of reality pouring on my storybook plans, washing them clean until all that was left was a blot of confusion. It was time for me to go home… But I no longer knew where that was. And I had no ruby-red slippers to magically take me there.
So where is home anyway? It can’t possibly be in a single place. If that were the case, we’d be doomed to confinement, to a prison of comfort. Home can’t be “that house,” in that town you grew up in, or the one you’ll grow old in. Houses are limited to one place forever. But as humans, we’re meant to leave our houses to roam the world. And only then do we discover the true meaning of home. And we learn that home is always inside of us, no matter where we find ourselves.
Last Christmas, Thich Nhat Hanh gave a Dharma Talk in which he spoke of Jesus as a young refugee looking for his home. That story rang in my head all this time, until one night I had to look it up, because I just needed to hear it again. I needed to remind myself that even Jesus, Buddha and Thay were once lost looking for a place to call home. Sure enough, Thay’s words helped me to sleep through the night, as he’s done so many nights before. He reminded me that there is no need to look for a home, that home is here and now. It’s time to stop looking! I took notes of that talk, to share them with anyone who may need that reminder as much as I did, tonight or whenever, wherever you may be…
DHARMA TALK, CHRISTMAS 2010
If you are a young person like Jesus (was) and looking for home you are very much in his situation. You are very close to him, (closer) than you may think.
Jesus was once a young refugee looking for a home… The Buddha was also looking for a home. He was not comfortable in the palace. He was a prince, he was supposed to become a king and he had everything: wealth, power, beautiful women, but he did not feel at home. So he left and went away and found his true home. There are those of us that have found our true home, who are comfortable in the here and the now. They don’t want to go anywhere else, they don’t think about the future: the present is comfortable enough. And those of us who have found our true home do not want to look for anything else.
When I met Martin Luther King 44 years ago, we were very young… We met in Chicago and we discussed about community. He was trying to build a home. We discussed about sangha building. When I was a young monk, my deepest aspiration was to build a loving sangha. We had the impression that sangha is a home…
At the time I met Martin Luther King I had left my Sangha home. I thought that I would come to the West for a few months and then go home. But it turned out that I had to stay 40 years, without a sangha. Friends, brothers and sisters, co-practitioners were in Vietnam. I went to the West alone in intentions to support efforts to end the hostility in Vietnam. And that’s what the governments did not like: calling for peace. So because of my open call for peace I was not allowed to go home and I spent 39 years abroad, without a sangha.
But somehow I had the sangha in my heart. That is why I started looking for elements to build a sangha here. Without a sangha I would not survive. The sangha is like a beehive: every bee is woking for the wellbeing of the whole beehive. Every bee is a cell of the body of the sangha, if you belong to a sangha you are a cell of the sangha body. The sangha is a body, your body, the whole sangha is one body.
The time I spent in the west was devoted to sangha building. My sangha is a little bit every where now. I feel at home because I belong to my sangha, I am a cell in the sangha body, I don’t have to look for anything else.
When a bee is isolated from the beehive it will dry up and die. We should always be with the bee sangha. When I left my country I was like a bee cut off from the beehive. I knew, but I was capable of keeping the sangha in my heart. I did not dry up because I had the sangha in my heart. And because I had the sangha in my heart I was able to build a sangha around me again. There were no Buddhists around at the time, so I sat with Quakers, Christians and artists. I played with children. I would contemplate trees, listen to birds and enjoy flowers that were so different from ones in my tropical country. I tried to make the elements of my sangha. I practiced walking meditation in Paris. I played with children in Germany, England and France. I made friends and discussed how to have peace in ourselves and the world. I set up an office in Paris and worked for the cessation of war in Vietnam. Many young people came and helped us. And I wrote the miracle of mindfulness in English.
In the beginning the sangha seemed to be outside of you. The Buddha also. For beigginers the Buddha is outside. But if we practice well enough we find out that the Buddha is not outside, it’s inside of you. I take refuge in the Buddha in myself. You find out that Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are inside of you, so it is possible for you to travel with the three jewels in your heart. I believe that because of that I did not dry up like a bee separated from the beehive. That is why I was not discouraged during my work for the war. I could build up a sangha in the West.
With mindfulness we know what is there, and you can walk on this planet and enjoy every step. When you are awake, mindful and fully present you are a Buddha. When think it that way, we are all part time Buddhas. There are moments when we are carried away by forgetfulness, anger and fear; in these moments we are not Buddha. But if we go back to ourselves and become alive again, we are Buddha again. It’s easy to see that the Buddha is inside. He is available in the here and the now.