Mindful Suffering

October 24, 2001

Author: Richard Higgins

Source: Christian Century


"This is," Chi Nguyen said, raising one hand and then the other, "because that is." The retired surgeon, a native of Vietnam who lives in Boston, was explaining how Buddhism helped him and other members of a local Buddhist temple forgive those who viciously attacked the temple last year.

The acts of forgiveness, which are still bearing fruit in improved neighborhood and interfaith relations, may hold special meaning for Christians as well as Buddhists, especially after the events of September 11. If Americans can transform their raw suffering into mindful suffering, Nguyen suggests, perhaps they can find a way to forgiveness and compassion.

"This" devastated Temple Vietnam: Three times last year, youths broke into the temple, which Nguyen, his wife and other followers of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh founded in 1991. It is located in a former day-care center in the working-class Boston neighborhood of Roslindale. The vandals used an ax from the temple toolshed to smash a statue of Avalokitesvara, the goddess of compassion, whom Nguyen calls "our Virgin Mary." They cracked or damaged the front doors, windows and the skylight of the temple's main hall.