For my father Charlie who passed through the door 29 years ago tonight, but who is ever with me.
You can imagine the cloud being born. Before being born it was the water on the ocean's surface. Or it was in the river and then it became vapour. It was also the sun because the sun makes the vapour. The wind is there too, helping the water to become a cloud.
The cloud does not come from nothing; there has been only a change in form. It is not a birth of something out of nothing.
Sooner or later, the cloud will change into rain or snow or ice. If you look deeply into the rain, you can see the cloud. The cloud is not lost; it is transformed into rain, and the rain is transformed into grass and the grass into cows and then to milk and then into the ice cream you eat.
Today if you eat an ice cream, give yourself time to look at the ice cream and say: "Hello, cloud! I recognize you.”
“I suffered for more than one year after the passing away of my mother. But one night, in the highlands of Vietnam, I was sleeping in the hut in my hermitage. I dreamed of my mother. I saw myself sitting with her, and we were having a wonderful talk. She looked young and beautiful, her hair flowing down. It was so pleasant to sit there and talk to her as if she had never died.
When I woke up it was about two in the morning, and I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.
I opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants, and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet... wonderful!
Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. Those feet that I saw as "my" feet were actually "our" feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.
From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.”
“This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died.
Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies all manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek.
So smile at me and take my hand and wave good-bye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source, Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.”
~ Thích Nhất Hạnh, in his book No Death, No Fear
Zen Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist.
Plum Village Monastery