I AM A HIGH RANKING MEMBER OF THE COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT OF VIETNAM. Bat Nha is an opportunity for me to look deeply at the truth and find peace in my own heart and mind. If I don't have peace, how can I have happiness? But how can I have peace, when I don’t really believe in the path I walk on, and especially when I don't have faith or trust in those I call my comrades? We may be bedfellows, but are we dreaming different dreams? Why can’t I share my real thoughts and feelings with those I call my comrades? Am I afraid of being denounced? Of losing my position? Why do we all have to say exactly the same things when none of us believe it? Isn't this a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes, where all the members of the Emperor’s court swear the Emperor is wearing a beautiful robe, when in fact he is completely naked?
My greatest dream is for my own happiness to be in harmony with my country's. Just as trees have their roots and water has its source, our homeland has its heritage of spiritual insight. The Ly dynasty was the most peaceful and compassionate dynasty in our country's history. Under the Tran dynasty, the People's unity was strong enough to enable them to push back the attacks from the North. This unity was possible thanks to Buddhism's contribution as an inclusive and accepting spiritual path, that could co-exist with other spiritual and ethical traditions, such as Taoism and Confucianism, and so build a country that never needed to expel or eliminate anyone.
I’ve had the opportunity to study. I know Buddhism is not a theistic religion but is solidly humanist. Buddhism is open-minded and undogmatic; it has the spirit of rational enquiry. In the new century, Buddhism can go hand in hand with science. 'Science' here means the spirit of scientific inquiry, the willingness to let go of old views in order to embrace new ones that are closer to reality. Modern science has gone far beyond traditional science, especially in the area of quantum physics. Is what I took for science in the past still science today? Mind and matter are just two manifestations of one reality. They contain one another and depend on one another to manifest. Modern science is putting all its energy into overcoming dualistic ways of thinking – about mind and matter, inside and outside, subject and object, space and time, mass and speed, and so on. If I am still caught in my anger, anxiety, craving and discrimination, then my mind cannot be collected and concentrated enough to see the truth. No matter how sophisticated the instruments are that I use, behind all that technology there is still the mind that observes.
In my heart I know that the people supported the revolution so strongly because they loved their country, not an ideology. If the people's support had been based only on an ideology, and not on their deep love for the country, then we would surely have failed. I know that in the 1940s some of us, out of zealous and fanatical devotion to an ideology, crushed and assassinated revolutionaries fighting alongside us against foreign aggressors. To this day, the wounds of that time have not been healed.
As for class struggle, I should ask myself: Which class is holding power now? The proletariat or the capitalists? Is there such a thing as 'The People’s Capitalism', or is that just a convenient fiction?
If we want to be successful, the Party's policy must reflect the People's deep wishes (Y Dang, Long Dan). The People's deep wish is for monks and nuns to have the freedom to practice and help the world according to their ideal, in line with the laws of the land. The People’s deep wish is for every citizen to be able to speak his or her mind without fear of denunciation or arrest. The People's deep wish is to separate religion from political affairs, and take the politics out of religion. If the deep wishes of the People are satisfied, then there will naturally be unity, and the Party will be supported. If the Party were in harmony with the hearts of the People, the Party would no longer need to appeal for unity or support. Such is the wish of the People. What is the policy of the party?
I know that during the Tran and Ly dynasties, Buddhism's spirit of inclusiveness united the whole nation. Thanks to that spirit, everyone who loved their country had an opportunity to contribute to the work of building and protecting the nation, and no-one was excluded. This spirit of inclusiveness in Buddhism is called 'equanimity', and is one of the four Buddhist virtues, alongside loving kindness, compassion and joy. Inclusiveness is a precious spiritual heritage, a cultural treasure. I know that during the Ly and Tran dynasties, kings and politicians practiced Buddhism just as the people did. By keeping the Buddhist precepts, following a vegetarian diet and doing good works, they were able to earn their people's trust and confidence.
How can we eradicate the hideous social evils of drug abuse, prostitution, gambling, violence, corruption and abuse of power, when the officials responsible for abolishing them are themselves caught up in those very evils? How can the government's policy of 'cultural districts' and 'cultural villages' ever be successful if it is based merely on perfunctory inspections and punishment? Who is the one that needs to be inspected and who is the one that needs to be punished?
I know that any family that practices and keeps the mindfulness trainings enjoys peace, joy and happiness. For the last two thousand years, Buddhism has been teaching people how to live ethical lives, be vegetarian and keep the trainings. Following a vegetarian diet is a sign of mastery over the craving mind, of not giving in to desires. When Buddhists observe a vegetarian diet, keep the trainings and do good deeds, they do so voluntarily and not by force or fear of punishment. At this very time, the young monks and nuns of Bat Nha are going in this direction, reinvigorating this ethical way of living. They have the potential to succeed. So why do we want to repress them and wipe them out? Are we afraid that if they have mass support, it will be at our expense? Why can't I open my heart to practice like them, to be one with them and benefit from their support? Why can’t we do as the kings of the Tran and Ly dynasties did? Just because we are Marxists, does that mean we don’t have the right to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, to be vegetarian and practice the mindfulness trainings?
I know that in the party and in the government, many people now claim to be open-minded towards religion and spirituality. In fact, all the top officials believe in things like feng shui, destiny, psychic powers and even the idea of extending one person's lifespan by transferring life-years from someone else. They have gone from one extreme to another. And yet they outwardly claim not to be superstitious.