Plum Village celebrated the Memorial day of our Grandfather teacher (Thich Nhat Hanh’s teacher) Master Thanh Quý- Chân Thật, on March 20th this year, and these are some of the memories of him that were recalled this year.
Dear friends of Plum Village,
Our Grandfather Teacher Thanh Quý – Chân Thật, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s teacher, is greatly respected not only for his high spiritual dignity but also for his rare humility, as well as great love but reticence towards his students.
Let us enjoy together some of the memories that our Uncle Teacher Chí Mậu (younger brother of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh) had of our Grandfather Teacher, as an opportunity for us to know and cherish the precious spiritual values that we have inherited from one of our spiritual ancestors.
Our Grandfather Teacher Thanh Quý – Chân Thật
(Stories told by Our Uncle Teacher Chí Mậu)
Our Grandfather teacher’s practice and his vow to help others was endlessly great and cannot all be described. He had a very beautiful practice, his practice was being humble, he was always joyful, and had plenty of loving-kindness and compassion.
In one incident, seeing that the baby monks only liked to have fun and were lazy to study the sutras, Grandfather Teacher called them up to his room one by one to lovingly encourage them: “Here, I have a pack of candy and I am giving it to you, try your best to study and memorize the sutras quickly, and do not let the others know.” Every baby monk was called to his room and they were all told the same thing. After receiving the candy, each baby monk was very delighted, thinking that Grandfather Teacher loved him the most, and tried his very best to study to receive Grandfather Teacher’s affection. And so during that time, all the baby monks memorized the sutras very quickly.
One day during the winter, it was a specific baby monk’s turn to cook, and he woke up late because of the cold weather. He hurried to the storage to bring out the rice that was to be cooked and somehow unmindfully bumped into the biggest pot, which fell to the ground and broke into two. The baby monk was so afraid; he ran out to the tamarind tree near the cow barn to cry. Grandfather Teacher frequently visited the garden with his walking stick, and upon hearing someone crying he searched around and found the baby monk. He approached the baby monk and asked: “My little one, why do you cry? Do you miss your family?” The baby monk joined his palms and related in detail what had happened. After listening, Grandfather Teacher comforted him and said: “It’s alright. Come, follow me, I will give you some money, and you can go to town along with Uncle Kien and buy a new one to replace it.”
After uncle and baby monk bought the pot, brought it home, and put it in back the storage, the baby monk saw that it was noticeably newer than all the other pots and was still very afraid. So he told Grandfather Teacher: “Dear Grandpa-teacher, the pot is so new. Sooner or later the work coordinator will find out and scold me.” Grandfather Teacher laughed and then said: “I have a plan. Tonight, you bring the pot to a corner of the field, and put in it some pine twigs to burn. After burning it overnight, the new pot will look exactly the same as the old one.” The baby monk did just as he was told, and in the morning when he removed the ash it looked exactly the same as the original one that he broke. He was very happy and went to pay his respects to Grandfather Teacher. From then on, deep within his mind and at the bottom of his heart was where he kept his gratitude for Grandfather Teacher. The baby monk who broke the pot was none other than myself (our Uncle Teacher Chí Mậu).
In the winter, the weather was cold and there was heavy rain, the baby monks in the temple regularly churned and pounded wheat. In the winter, pounding wheat keeps you very warm. At that time in the temple, meals were eaten twice, 9:00 in the morning and 5:00 in the evening. When it was time to pound the wheat, and the work coordinator was not home, Grandfather Teacher with his walking stick, made his way down to where the baby monks were at work and taught them: “My dears, you should take the rice and grind it, and so that each morning you can stir a couple of spoonfuls with sugar in some hot water and have it for breakfast. In the morning, when you wake up early to sweep the temple yard, if you eat this it will help you withstand the wind and cold. But remember not to let the work coordinator know, for you will be scolded, alright?” The baby monks loved and respected Grandfather Teacher very much because of the love that he had for them.
Aside from his compassionate virtue, he also embodied the characteristic of great humility. When lay friends came to pay their respects to the Buddha, they would also ask to touch the earth at the feet of Grandfather Teacher. Not only did he refuse to let them do so, but he also told them: “If you touch the earth at my feet, I will do it to you too!” Truly, if there existed a person who was able to touch the earth at his feet, even if only once, that person would have to possess incredible merit! One fine day, the grandfather teacher of Thuyền Tôn Temple told one of his little monks to deliver an invitation letter to our grandfather teacher, wanting to invite him to Thuyền Tôn Temple for a visit. The little monk respectfully requested that Grandfather Teacher be seated so the invitation letter could be read, but Grandfather Teacher only stood and would not sit. Then he told the little monk: “When we listen to letters written by the Most Venerables, we should be respectful, just as if they were present.”
 A young child who enters the monastic life at a very young age, who is in training to receive the novice precepts.