Prior to Plum Village did you see yourself as a religious or spiritual person? What, if any, was your religious or spiritual upbringing?
I had always been a Buddhist since I was a little girl when I was in the Mekong Delta. I had rigorous, formal practices and meditations every morning and evening at home with my father and little brother. I attended monthly Buddhist meetings for repentance ceremonies on the new moon and the full moon. In the ceremony we bowed and prostrated ourselves down onto the earth 108 times (this practice is similar to the modern version of Touching The Earth and Beginning Anew by Thich Nhat Hanh).
Before I went to Plum Village, I practiced Buddhism by intuition. I understood it in my heart, but not in my head. I grasped its essence, but was unable to articulate and elaborate it. I lived by its simple wisdom such as letting go, forgiveness, compassion, non-materialism, etc. but my understanding was not deep enough to free me from my own suffering.
The teaching that I learnt when I was young was mostly in Sanskrit and Chinese. I didn’t understand much of the meaning behind those foreign sounds. One of the treasures I found in Plum Village was these Buddhist teachings beautifully and poetically translated into Vietnamese, English and French by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Today thanks to his teachings, particularly his interpretation and translations from the old text books, I am able to understand Buddhism better and realise that the teaching is so beautiful, vast and deep. What is so wonderful about Thich Nhat Hanh is that he is able to talk to everyone from young to old and on every spectrum from science to politics. He has successfully brought 2600 year old Buddhism to modern daily life, relevant to our time, easy to understand and simple to practice.