2022 Posts: #7: Our True Names

On 1/22/22 a world spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh, crossed over. It seems only appropriate to simply acknowledge him here even though his passing has been widely acknowledged. Many would say he is the most influential Buddhist leader second only to the Dalai Lama. I would surely agree. His writings have inspired me throughout my life. So much has been written about him. Click here to see what Wikipedia has posted about him and click here to read and listen to On Being with Krista Tippett, Remembering Thich Nhat Hanh, Brother Thay. Krista Tippett writes about him and posts an older wonderful interview with him. The interview, as always, is excellent. It has some focus on mindfulness and law enforcement – a topic so relevant today.

Here I will simply, reverently share my favorite older poem of his that has been written about widely:

PLEASE CALL ME BY MY TRUE NAMES

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow –
Even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch
to be a tiny bird, with still fragile wings,
learning to sing in my nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
Of all that is alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing
On the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
That swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
In the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass – snake
That silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
My legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
Selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
With plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced – labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries
and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
So I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thomas Merton referred to Thich Nhat Hanh as his brother. The story of their meeting and relationship is written about beautifully in Robert H. King’s book Thomas Merton and Nhat Hanh: Engaged Spirituality in an Age of Globalization.

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