Monday, February 8, 2016

Our first Tết, Vietnamese New Year, without Mom--the Embodiment of Compassion

Our first Tết, Vietnamese New Year, without Mom--the Embodiment of Compassion

Tết or Vietnamese New Year is like the Americans’ version of New Year’s Day, Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving combined. This priceless festival usually lasts from at least three to seven days, and represents purity and renewal not only in the families and communities but also in the universe. Vietnamese New Year brings a message of thankfulness, rejuvenation, renewal, hope, and optimism.

This year, we celebrate without our beloved Mother, Ai Tran, who along with our Father, Long Bach, brought us to this freedom and compassionate country, the United States of America from the war-torn native tongue homeland, Vietnam. On June 18th, 1991, we immigrated to this country and settled in Lincoln, Nebraska, where our Mom worked in the cleaning garment business until she retired and moved to Sacramento, CA. She just passed away on September 22nd, 2015.

Thanks to our parents, especially our Mother, we have a special family tradition in our family during this time of year. As Buddhists, we come to the temple to pray for world peace, to well wishes to the elders in families, enjoy traditional food, the heavenly music, the joys and laughter. But more importantly, it is the time for the well wishes, doing charities, and praying for peace for our community and world peace. And our Mother ensured we do just that in this blessed season with joy, happiness, and loving-kindness (metta). Mother is the source of unconditional love, who provides comfort, security, and joy every day to all eight of us. I wrote this poem to honor her.


Mother always lives her life the way it should be:
Caring, loving, with devotion and tolerance.
All mothers' love mortifies The Cradle by Berthe Morisot:
It is the embodiment of

Mother's life is packed with compassionate heart and mind.

Today, letting go of her hair, she lets go of all negativities;
The seed of Bodhi sprouts awaken, in homage to Buddha.
Oh! Mother, may you live so our lives undergo less suffering.
Even though we understand impermanence,
mother's shore is beckoning
this human realm always, dreamable nonetheless unpredictable.

We wish to still have you, 
Mother! Even so thin and skinny you have turned out to be,
We wish to still have you, Mother, 
in order for us to understand the ups and downs of this human realm.
Let go of this hair – let go of this realm
with love and peace.

           Our mother was born on December 20, 1934 in Vinh Hoi Village, Phu My District, in the Binh Dinh Province, a beautifully romantic coastal province located in the central region of Vietnam. She was always soft spoken, gentle, patient, modest, and willing to make sacrifices. Our parents were married for a little over 60 years via pre-arranged marriage. Their love grew with time while they cared, nurtured, and passed on the beautiful culture, heritage, and humane values to every one of us. Our Mother, like all mothers, is the embodiment of compassion and of love.
            To us, our Mother is beyond wonderful. It seems impossible to fully describe how much my mother loved and cared for us. Her love is a sweet miracle. My mother is a pure stream, as shiny as a thousand stars, as peaceful as the sounds of bells and praying. She is a Bodhisattva, as vast as a rice field, as great as the taste of fresh air from our village. She is as great as the scent of herbs, as great as a Vietnamese lục bát poem. 
            "My dear Mother! We don’t have enough words to describe you! Your love is immense and it overwhelms our lives. How can we use the limit of language or the finite words to write about the infinite love of our mother?" 
            The day our mom passed, our hearts just broke and filled with sorrows. But we were in the realization of impermanence, and at ease when our own children began to understand the important concepts in Buddhist teachings. After nearly 24 hours of our Mother's passing, I went home and picked my sons up from the hospital. I was hungry and about to eat some food, when the thought of offering a bowl of food to our mom first before eating brought tears to my eyes. The tears just kept flowing down my cheeks. My wife comforted me, but the one who reminded me that this life is impermanent was our own 9-year-old son, Khang. He said, "It is normal, daddy. Everyone dies. Our grandmother died, you will die, mommy will die, and I will die, too. Don't be sad." Because life is impermanent, that is why our Mom and us are actively loving, living, and contributing more to this life. Our Mother lived a very beautiful life, and so was her passing. It was beautiful in the beginning, it was beautiful in the middle, and it was beautiful in the end. 
         Comes and goes as the moonlight always shines above our head
         Departing in peacefulness rhythms with the Buddha’s Name.
         (Đến đi trăng sáng trên đầu                       

         Thong dong tự tại nhiệm mầu Phật ngôn).

            We recognize that our Mother still lives in us, her children and grandchildren, as Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said, "MOTHER, YOU CONTINUE WELL IN ME!" Our Mothers' hope, ambition, trust, love, and virtues will live on in her children and grandchildren. We will continue what Mom lived by her examples, speeches, and actions. So, Mom, please take your leisured journey to the realms of Amitabha Buddha.
       Mother is vast -- the realms of compassion
  Just the cloud flows over the mountain to escape its impermanence
       Amitabha Buddha is your native land
       (Mẹ mênh mông cõi từ bi
       Mây qua đỉnh núi thoát ly vô thường
       Di Đà đất Phật quê hương)
           Our dearest Mother! Dad, all of us and our families are paying our last gratitude and respect in this earthly realm. This holiday season, we are celebrating without your physical form, but you are here with us in the spirit. We will continue our tradition of living and working together to elevate many forms of suffering and pain. We are bringing mutual respect, understanding, and compassion. 
May all of us safe. May all of us well in a year filled with peace and happiness in our communities and in the world.

Happy New Year to all.

Phe Bach

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