A New Lotus In The Far Western Land
by Son Tran, Vice-chair and sec. for Lien-Hoa Temple
Ven Nguyen Kim is already a 73 year old person. He is one of a few Vietnamese Buddhist monks doing the dharma works with American sangha at prisons or social centers in the state of Washington. Due to this relation, Thay Nguyen Kim and the sangha have helped quite a few Americans learned Buddhism, and a couple decided to receive ordination.
One day in the month of May 2013, Thay Nguyen Kim sent out a message that he and other rev. would come to a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple in a small town of Washington state to conduct ordination for a lady. He asked us to help preparing the facility for this event due to the temple was in a small town with not too many Vietnamese Buddhists.
When we arrived at the Lien Hoa temple in Olympia Washington, the parking lot was very much empty. There were two American ladies in the reception room, named Abby Layton and Kellyjoy. Abby has her head almost shaved completely. She is a psychotherapist with many years teaching meditation. Abby has a very friendly smile with a cheerful face that would make everyone feeling warm and delightful. Kellyjoy is Abby's student and close friend. Just like her teacher, Kelleyjoy was very pure and peaceful. She seems like a person has been practicing mindfulness meditation for many years.
Venerable Th�ch Minh Tịnh (Kozen Sampson) has been practicing Buddhist for more than 40 years and has been transmitted by the Zen Master Thich An Giao a student of Thich Thien An. He together with Thay Thich Nguyen Kim and four other dhamar masters conducted the ordination ceremony. Most of the ritual was done in English, including chanting, reading Dharma laws and taking vows.
The ordination ceremony was simple but very spiritual, warm and touching. Some of the guests had tears in their eyes when listening to Thay Kozen reading the ordination vows for Abby to accept them, especially when Thay Nguyen Kim shaved the last Abby's hair spot. From now on, Abby has a new name Th�ch Nữ Minh T�nh (Th�ch = Sakya [Buddha last name], Nữ: Female). There was an after party after the ordination to congratulate C� Minh T�nh joining the sangha.
When asked about her previous teacher "Abby", Kellyjoy shared:
"Abby is one of the most awake, loving, wise people I have ever encountered. She truly makes everyone she meets feel loved and accepted. I've never met anyone whose heart is that boundless. It's an amazing thing to be taught how to truly love. I aspire to have a generous, loving, kind heart like Abby has - so I think of her often and see her as much as I am able. I think role models are very important, and she is a role model for many, many people."
With C� Minh T�nh's permission, we conducted a short interview for Vietnamese Buddhist readers at home:
Q: Dear C� Minh T�nh, when was your first encounter with Buddhism?
A: My first encounter with Buddhism was when I was 18 years old. Suzuki Roshi came to Portland State University and taught. I have been practicing since.
Q: May you please share with us your first impression with Buddhism?
A: Here was a way of life that I could abide by. Practicing loving kindness, and awakening to the nature of mind and suffering, suited me well. And being dedicated to helping others, as I have done this since I was very young.
Q: Dear c� Minh T�nh, may you please tell us about your works before the ordination?
A: I have been a psychotherapist in Portland, Oregon for thirty years. I also taught meditation for fifteen years I worked in the Jewish community, teaching for many years. I started a sangha in Brookings, Or five years ago. Beside that, I practiced Vajrayana Buddhism for many years, studied Thich Nhat Hanh teachings, and also Zen teachings.
Q: May you please let us know the main factors that encouraged you to become a Buddhist and then a nun?
A: The two wings of Buddhist practice have been my life practices since I was very young. The wing of awareness, of getting to know the Mind, seeing clearly, understanding how suffering is created by the stories we tell ourselves. And the wing of loving kindness, and compassion. Softening the heart in all situations, and loving more.
Also, having a Sangha to live with, where our lives are held by the teachings of the Buddha has been a lifelong dream for me. Thay Kim said to me, " why are you staying in Kindergarten? Why don't you receive the blessings of being a nun?" This helped me make the decision to become a nun.
Venerable Kozen has been an inspiration to me. He consistently showed care and concern, and allowed me to become a nun in his Temple even though I was sick. This was inspiring. I saw that I could live a life of goodness, more effectively as a nun.
There are many traditions and practices in Buddhism, they are all equally important and reach the same goal. May you share with us the reason you choose to receive the ordination in the Vietnamese tradition?
The teachings of Thic Nhat Hanh spoke deeply to my heart and mind. The attention to loving kindness, and softening spoke to me. Also, the Vietnamese community has been so welcoming. When everyone visited from Seattle, the women were so loving, and open and kind, that I felt I was with a kindred group of kindness.
Q: May you tell us about your plan after ordination?
I will be living at Mt Adams Zen Center as a resident nun and teacher. I help lead services, teach meditation and metta, and support the community here as needed. We are also an organic humane farm, so I get to farm a little. I help people that want to come talk with me.
A: Is there anything you would like to say to the Buddhist followers in VN before we conclude?
You have a warm, deeply spiritual community. Be so happy. You have given me great blessings. May you have many many blessings of love and peace. Thank you for supporting the dharma. Thank you for being my Sangha.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. We hope one day you will be able to visit VN as Thay Kozen did. The Vietnamese will be very excited and welcome you wholeheartedlỵ. They would love to listen to you about your psychologist therapist and teaching meditation. We wish you peace, happiness and always in harmony with the Buddha teaching.