Following the recent death of Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, we honour his memory with the publication today of the fifth in our series of his Ten Love Letters to Earth, with another next Sunday...
These meditations are an invitation to engage in intimate conversation, a living dialogue, with our Earth.
Love Letter V: Heaven on Earth
Dear Mother Earth,
There are those of us who walk the Earth searching for a promised land, not realizing that you are the wondrous place we’ve been looking for our whole lives. You already are a wonderful and beautiful Kingdom of Heaven—the most beautiful planet in the solar system; the most beautiful place in the heavens. You are the Pure Land where countless buddhas and bodhisattvas of the past manifested, realized enlightenment, and taught the Dharma. I do not need to imagine a Pure Land of the Buddha to the west or a Kingdom of God above where I will go when I die. Heaven is here on Earth. The Kingdom of God is here and now. I don’t need to die to be in the Kingdom of God. In fact, I need to be very much alive. I can touch the Kingdom of God with every step. When I touch the present moment deeply in the historical dimension, I touch the kingdom; I touch the Pure Land; I touch the ultimate; and I touch eternity. In deep contact with the Earth and wonders of life, I touch my true nature. The exquisite orchid flower, the ray of sunshine, and even my own miraculous body—if they do not belong to the Kingdom of God, what does? Contemplating the Earth deeply, whether a floating cloud or a falling leaf, I can see the no-birth, no-death nature of reality. With you, dear Mother, we are carried into eternity. We have never been born and we will never die. Once we have realized this, we can then appreciate and enjoy life fully, no longer afraid of aging or death, nor caught in complexes about ourselves, nor yearning for things to be different than they are. We already are, and we already have, what we are looking for.
The Kingdom of Heaven exists, not outside of us, but within our very own hearts. Whether we’re able to touch the Kingdom of God or not at every step, depends on our way of looking, our way of listening, our way of walking. If my mind is calm and peaceful, then the very ground I’m walking on becomes a paradise.
There are those who say that in their heaven there is no suffering. But if there is no suffering, how can there be happiness? We need compost to grow flowers, and mud to grow lotuses. We need difficulties in order to arrive at realizations about them; enlightenment is always enlightenment about something.
Dear Mother, I promise to cultivate this way of looking. I promise to enjoy the practice of dwelling peacefully with mindfulness in the here and the now, so I can touch the Pure Land, the Kingdom of God, day and night. I promise that with every step I will touch eternity. With every step I will touch heaven here on Earth.
Today's OGN Sunday Magazine articles
London's Eiffel Tower: Under England's national stadium in Wembley lie the foundations of what would have been the city's tallest building in the 1890s and would still, today, be taller than anything in the UK.