Sister Chân Không

With terrorist attacks, civil war in Syria, and other sporadic conflicts around the world, today can seem like an even more chaotically violent time than when Sister Chân Không started her work during the Vietnam War. But the Buddhist nun, who lives in France’s Plum Village with more than 100 nuns, laypeople, and monks, including her mentor, Thích Nhất Hạnh, sees things more cyclically, noting that violence was quite prevalent during the Buddha’s lifetime, too. As the Buddha preached then, she believes that “practicing peace” will help move the world in a better direction.

Sister Chân Không comes to Trinity Episcopal Church (1500 State St.) on Wednesday, October 12, at 7 p.m. to lead a meditation and speak with Pacifica Graduate Institute’s Joseph Bobrow in a talk titled Being Peace in Divisive Times, an event sponsored by the Deep Streams Zen Institute. We spoke over the phone last week, and here’s what she had to say.

Thoughts on terrorism? She wants to send peace to victims of terrorist attacks, but also perpetrators. “We must send good energy to those who are terrorists,” she said. “They are victims of their own wrong perception. By sending love and kindness to them, they will not think that way.”

How to practice peace? “It’s not only wishful thinking,” she explained. “When you practice peace, and your sister is horrible to you, you have no way to shout back at her. You can only be kind. Anybody can do it; during the day, during the night, when you’re sitting at home or on a plane, send good energy to the person in front of them, at their left, at their right. That gives them peace.”

Previous visits? “Santa Barbara is very dear to me,” she said. Her first visit was 30 years ago with Thích Nhất Hạnh to teach mindfulness to children ages 5-12. “What they loved most is the hugging meditation, when you hug deeply your mom or daddy or your friend,” she said. She also once met an American veteran in Santa Barbara who remained angry over losing his friend in Vietnam and was ashamed of the revenge he took. She helped him find a better path to helping children. “That was very rewarding for us,” she said.

What will she talk about? “I will talk a lot about wrong perceptions,” she said, explaining that if you expect an insulting comment, you may hear one even if the person didn’t intend that. “I will speak about the relationship between partners, between parent and children, and how we can overcome when we are divided. With calmness and listening, there is more reconciliation.”

See to attend Sister Chân Không’s October 12 talk.


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