Vincent: Ok. So there was one section of the movie, I think toward the end. And I know that you used to practice in a community that was associated with Thich Nhat Hanh, the famous Vietnamese Zen teacher.
Michael: That was the community I was ordained in. I was ordained at the Order of InterBeing in 1997.
Vincent: …by a couple of the teachers. So from my perspective, this seemed like a little bit of a tangent. I mean, I know it ties in with authority, but it seemed like potentially this was you or those teachers sort of venting their frustration about this situation. And that was kind of a confusing part for me.
Vincent: I was wondering if you want to respond? [laughs]
Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Of course. We could spend the rest of the podcast talking about this, but we will not. Thich Nhat Hanh’s a brilliant teacher. And I can’t think of anybody who is practitioner, or someone who’s just interested in sort of religion or spirituality, who hasn’t found a lot of… a wealth of wisdom and inspiration in Thich Nhat Hahn’s teachings. And so I want to be really clear about that. And I feel that way strongly, too.
But I worked for Thich Nhat Hanh: I was ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh, and I was a member of the Ti?p Hi?n Order, the Order of Interbeing. And when I moved to California, I worked for the organization the Community of Mindful Living, and I worked adjacent to Parallax Press. And was very much involved at a time, in the late ’90s and early 2000s, that was particularly difficult within that community and within the sort of super-structure of that community, the way that the various arms of the organization were kind of working together, the machinery of it.
And I had real direct experience with Thich Nhat Hanh and with the sort of senior members of the community, as a young ordained practitioner, who was also kind of, this was my job. I was doing program directing and I was doing other kinds of work for the organization. And I experienced some real disappointment. I experienced some real suffering. Both myself, but also seeing other people who’d been with Thich Nhat Hahn for many, many years. And it very much informs my perspective. And I also have enough distance and enough, I believe, understanding, that this is not unique to just the Thich Nhat Hahn community. It’s something that’s happened in many of the Buddhist communities where there’s been some difficulty, some struggle, some internal turmoil, and there’s a way that we have to find to address it.
Now, the film is not called “Thich Nhat Hanh Superstar,” right? It’s not a expose or a documentary about Thich Nhat Hanh.