Loving Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Dearest Sangha,
As many of you have most likely heard, there is a humanitarian and refugee crisis for the Rohingya people of Myanmar. As many of you also know, our Plum Village tradition of Zen Buddhism is one of Engagement. To this end, the North American Plum Village Lineage Dharma Teachers Council, led by Jack Lawlor, recently released a response to this crisis and have outlined some concrete actions that we can take to respond. We invite you to read the entire response and consider taking action.

Concretely, you can:

  1. Read and contemplate the 4th (of the 14) Mindfulness Trainings
  2. Recite Thay’s poem – Please Call Me by My True Names. For your reference, it’s printed below in its entirety and you can also listen to Thay read it here. You can also listen to the song version, which has different words than the poem, but is quite lovely listen to – (this is a different and great version too).
  3. Make a restricted gift to Doctors Without Borders for the Rohingya

Bowing to you in gratitude,
Peaceful Ocean of the Heart

Here is Thay’s introduction to his poem. “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. … 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. … After a long meditation, I wrote this poem” (Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life pp. 121-122).

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 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,
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 that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of pond.
And I am also the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin andbones,
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 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 the door of my heart could be left open,
the door of compassion

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