“Call Me By My True Names”

Thich Nhat Hanh 12 (cropped).jpg

 

As Thich Nhat Hanh lies in critical condition in a hospital after a brain hemorrhage, I sit here and try to take in these challenging words.  If we can get to the point of recognizing how evil intention lives in ourselves, perhaps we can get to the point of forgiveness and reconciliation with the perpetrators of evil deeds.

 

Call Me by My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh

From: Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh
In Plum Village, where I live in France, we receive many letters from the refugee camps in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, hundreds each week. It is very painful to read them, but we have to do it, we have to be in contact. We try our best to help, but the suffering is enormous, and sometimes we are discouraged. It is said that half the boat people die in the ocean. Only half arrive at the shores in Southeast Asia, and even then they may not be safe.

There are many young girls, boat people, who are raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries try to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, sea pirates continue to inflict much suffering on the refugees. One day we received a letter telling us about a young girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate. She was only twelve, and she jumped into the ocean and drowned herself.

When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we cannot do that. In my meditation I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, there is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in twenty-five years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we may become sea pirates in twenty-five years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.

After a long meditation, I wrote this poem. In it, there are three people: the twelve-year-old girl, the pirate, and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other? The tide of the poem is “Please Call Me by My True Names,” because I have so many names. When I hear one of the of these names, I have to say, “Yes.”

Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

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

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
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 in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs 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.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Dharma Writing Workshop

The Dharma Writing Workshop http://www.quietspaces.com/dharmawriting.html

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia

March 21, 1960 Sharpeville Massacre: REMEMBER

blog post on sparkeville massacre

Nelson Mandela
Winnie Mandela
Steve Biko
Desmond Tutu
Robert Sobukwe
Chief Albert Luthuli
Walter Sisulu
Albertina Sisulu
Ruth First
Joe Slovo
Helen Suzman

Hundreds of others…

Amandla!

On March 21, 1960 in the township of Sharpeville five to seven thousand Africans gathered in front of the police headquarters to protest the carrying of mandatory pass books.  Their intention was to leave their passbooks at home and fill the jails until there was no more room, thus costing the government financially, and depriving white employers of workers.  Police threw tear gas into the crowd without warning and some protesters reacted by throwing rocks at them.  A police officer opened fire with live ammunition, and a reported 70 people were killed, among them eight women and ten children.  One Hundred Eighty were injured.  The BBC reported on this day that, ” Police Commander D H Pienaar said: “It started when hordes of natives surrounded the police station….He said that,  “If they do these things, they must learn their lessons the hard way.”

“Hordes,”  “Natives,” “Lessons,” Africans with rocks, police with loaded guns.  Unbelievable, I say.  I, the one whose country brutally colonized American Indians and enslaved Africans, while perpetrating deplorable crimes against them.  I who am still financially complicit in their inequality, and unconsciously complicit in my ignorance.  We all are called to look within on the anniversary of this terrible massacre.

Helen Suzman, Ruth First, and Joe Slovo were South African Jews.  They knew that Shoah can happen again if we stop remembering.  It happened again in South Africa in Sowetto Township on June 16 1976.  More than 176 and up to 700 people were killed by police who fired into a gathering of school children simply demanding to study in their own language rather than in mandatory Afrikaans. The BBC on that terrible day quoted South African Prime Minister Vorster as saying, “We are dealing here not with a spontaneous outburst but with a deliberate attempt to bring about polarisation between whites and blacks.  “This government will not be intimidated and instructions have been given to maintain law and order at all costs.” [emphasis mine].”  Denial purports to cover a multitude of sins.

As spiritual persons we are called to remember.  It makes us human.  Today let us hold our own truth and reconciliation hearings in our own hearts, to one another, and to the world beyond.