The letter Thay sent to parents on the day before his ordination ceremony
Truc Lam Zen Monastery, the 14th day of the 7th lunar month, year of the cat (1999)
*In Eastern countries, especially Buddhist ones, people use the lunar calendar, in which each year is associated with an animal of the 12 zodiac signs.
Dear father and mother!
Dear my beloved brothers and sisters!
Dear my beloved nephews and nieces!
I have set foot in the Zen monastery safely and tomorrow will be my ordination ceremony. From then on, I will become a Buddha's disciple and follow the path that the Buddhas took. Father, mother, and the whole family, please be happy!
I have asked for the recording tape to send home so you all can watch it. You will feel very happy and touched. Accompanying me in this ordination ceremony will also be some fellow Buddhists already in their sixties. They are really knowledgeable about the Buddha Dharma and truly determined to enter monkhood. Even young people like us may not even be able to keep up with them. Here, every hour is the time to study and cultivate. To be a true Buddhist disciple is not easy at all. One must cultivate in every posture and gesture, including walking, standing, lying, sitting, talking and speaking manners. We always have to keep our body and mind solemn and dignified.
Dear parents! Buddhism is the noble path, which develops and nurtures the noblest qualities within a person. Those are the things that I have cherished since childhood. Maybe in previous lives, I used to be a monk. You probably also agree that morality is the basis of all happiness. In a family, from grandparents to parents and to their descendants, if they all have a virtuous lifestyle, the family will then become harmonious, orderly, and everything will be safe and sound. Cultivating morality will result in beauteousness and happiness in current life, and even blissful things in the afterlife. As our family has taken refuge in the Three Jewels, you (Thay's mother and father) should advise everybody to adhere to the 5 precepts: refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, wrong speech, and intoxicants or drugs. I believe that good merits will come to our family. Father, please don't let anyone in our family violate these precepts lest bad retributions befall them. Please don't ever think: "Why should I keep the precepts when other people don't?". Father and mother, you must believe that your self-cultivation will lead to your own benefits, don't indulge yourself just because others do so, it's sinful.
I become a monk with only a wish for the whole family to follow a good moral path…You are now past your prime, father and mother, I just hope that you will soon think of the Buddha, read his scriptures and stay mindful about him, that is all I ever wish for. In life, reunion comes with separation, nothing stays with us forever, hence, we must cultivate good things with haste. I hope that you will soon realize the truth to cultivate and advise the family to study the Dharma as well as perform good deeds. Our body must be cultivated and trained in order to gain good things. Just as we become lazy and self-indulgent, degenerate things will immediately follow.
In the Zen Monastery, all of us have to cultivate ourselves very rigorously, everyday we wake up and meditate at 3 a.m., do meritorious works at 5 a.m., have breakfast at 6:30 a.m., study at 7 a.m., have lunch at 11:30 a.m., take a break at 12 a.m., meditate at 1 p.m., do meritorious works at 3 p.m., attend the repentance ritual at 6 p.m., meditate at 7:30 p.m., practice walking mediation at 9:30 p.m., go to sleep at 10:30 p.m. There is never a moment to let oneself loose. I think it's very good for us to train ourselves to become a better person. Indeed, the old saying: “Study, study more, study sorever” is very true.
Here, we don't get to write letters much and hardly do we go out of the Zen Monastery, to spend time on cultivating endeavors, therefore, I hope that you and the family will understand. I left home with the aspiration to cultivate myself, so if you and the family also try to do good things at home, then we all cultivate ourselves and have our own duties to fulfill. How happy that would be.
Well, now it's the end of the letter, I wish you and the whole family good health, diligence in Buddhist works, especially father and mother, you should stay mindful about the Buddha, and read more Buddhist scriptures. I pray that the Three Jewels will protect and bless the whole family in plenty. Since I have to study and practice the Dharma relentlessly, I probably won't have time to visit home much, thus, I hope you all have unshakable faith in the Buddha and preserve the good things as I have always longed for.
I write down this Buddhist poem so you all can practice together:
“To do no evil,
to do only good,
to purify the will,
is the doctrine of all Buddhas.”
If there is something in need at home, you should tell Thanh to come to brother Vinh and sister Hoa's house on 202 Tay Son street to notify me. But it must be really necessary, because at the Zen Monastery, the monks are very strict, if the letters distract our cultivation, they will not allow us to see them.
When the circumstance allows, father and mother, you should travel to Da Lat to visit the Zen Monastery once, it does not cost much, you should try!
My farewell to you, father, and the whole family.
May our family be more brilliant every day.
Your son: Vu Minh Hieu
Dharma name: Chinh Thuan.