One of the best parts of my job as editor of the Shambhala Sun is the chance to discuss dharma seriously, even intimately, with great teachers. I’m a Buddhist student before I’m a journalist, and the questions I ask are often ones that have deep meaning to me as a person and a practitioner. The result is less an interview, in the standard sense, than the record of a teaching that I received. This is a great honor and privilege for me, and I hope it is of benefit to you.
I met Thich Nhat Hanh at Deer Park Monastery near San Diego, a mix of East and West, funky and elegant, mindful and playful. It sits in a little mountain valley in splendid isolation from the suburbs just a mile away. Many of its low, one-story buildings have the temporary feel of an army camp (it has been a nudist camp and a police training center) but its elegant new meditation hall is of majestic scale. Outside, young Vietnamese-American monks play basketball while elderly nuns in traditional conical hats sweep leaves off the dry ground, and earnest Western lay practitioners debate the dharma. The breakfast buffet is traditional Vietnamese fish alongside Corn Flakes and peanut butter, and everything stops when the clock chimes so people can practice a few moments of mindfulness.
I spoke with Thich Nhat Hanh for about an hour and quarter, and then he showed me the calligraphies, the ones in this issue, which he had done beforehand as a gift to the Shambhala Sun. Although he is best-known for his political and community-building work, I found he was so much more. I met a multidimensional teacher who was deep and realized, committed to both practice and community, steeped in traditional dharma and the ways of the world. He spoke directly to my heart, and if you get a chance to hear him teach, do. Words in print do not do him justice.