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“In that peacefulness, I saw for the first time the suffering in me, brought with me from the war zone.” —Cuong Lu, author of THE BUDDHA IN JAIL during an interview with Buddhistdoor Global

Monday, July 8th, 2019

Buddhistdoor Global interviewed Cuong Lu, author of The Buddha In Jail.

BUDDHISTDOOR GLOBAL: In the introduction to The Buddha in Jail, you write: “I saw that I could help others overcome loneliness, as I had, and find meaning again in their lives.” Did your experiences growing up in a war zone have a bearing on your decision to serve others who are suffering?

CUONG LU: I was born during the Vietnam war. My thinking and consciousness were programmed by the war, full of violence and fear. I didn’t notice that until I came to Holland, a peaceful country. In that peacefulness, I saw for the first time the suffering in me, brought with me from the war zone. Step by step, I have gone through that suffering and found peacefulness in me with Buddhist practice. I am a lucky person.

This experience has helped me to recognize the violence and fear in others. I want to help because I know how painful it is to have a war inside of you. It makes you feel lonely and hopeless. And I have also discovered that I can help. I can share with others my practice in a non-Buddhist way. Sometimes, I don’t even have to say something to help. When you are there without a war inside, other people can see that.

BDG: Can you tell our readers about your experiences as a monk in the Plum Village community and then as a prison chaplain?

LU: I was trained as a monk by Thich Nhat Hanh. That was a wonderful time. You are taken care of by your spiritual father. The connection between him and me was totally necessary for my spiritual growth. A teacher is much more than we think. A real teacher doesn’t transmit only his knowledge to you; he transmits himself to you. When you look into me, you see Thich Nhat Hanh.

As a prison chaplain, my role was taking care of the prisoners. These are people who have gone through a lot of suffering and they have caused suffering to many victims. I don’t agree with what they have done, causing suffering to others and to themselves. But I believe in their capacity to begin anew. As a prison chaplain, I give myself to each prisoner. I give them my deep trust as I have received it from my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.

Read the full interview here.

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