The seed of enlightenment


After I recovered from a psychotic episode I was bitterly disappointed. Common mythology had it that the psychic and the psychotic lay close together and that some psychoses were spiritual emergencies in which the sufferer would experience an epiphany.

There was no epiphany for me. Instead there were puzzles and questions. My sanity was now determined by tablets. During my recovery my mind, once my pride of intelligence and imagination was dulled and grey. What was I if I was not a creative writer and a smart one at that? And who was I? My name was not Zyprexa at least not yet.

Then I went on a pilgrimage with Thich Nhat Hanh in Vietnam in 2007. He is a well known VIetnamese Zen Master and he sought to heal all sufferers from the war with Great Ceremonies of Mourning. This I took to readily. The rape I had suffered from an uncle who was a refugee, I understood to be a product of the war. I too had suffered from the war.

We listened to dharma talks and partook of a five day retreat at Prajna Monastery. Prajna Monastery was the jewel in the crown of the three monasteries following his teachings. Gorgeous young pine forests, large meditation halls and a giant white Buddha statue sitting above a waterfall featured in the hills of Bat Nha.

From his teachings I was fortunate enough to have the epiphany I sought.

There was no self.

What was meant was that we were not islands onto ourselves, we were all connected and we inter-are. Interbeing was the name Hanh titled it, the self is made of non self elements just like a rose is made up of soil, sunlight and seeds- non rose elements.

The questions I had, Western Socratic questions were meaningless.

I interpreted my new found wisdom as meaning I was made up of my ancestors, my parents and my friends. I was never truly alone.

I returned home with the ideal of the pilgrimage- that peace was possible.

Then in 2009 word from the internet informed us all that Prajna was under siege. Prajna Monastery was destroyed by the Vietnamese government who paid locals to vandalise and harass the monastics. It happened at the same time that Vietnam was the head of the UN security council. Wikileaks would then reveal that the US Embassy did know of what happened when it happened and did nothing.

Currently most of the Prajna monastics are in Thailand. Thich Nhat Hanh announced that “Prajna is legend” and that all the monastics carry the seed of Prajna with them.

I hope my seed now planted will grow.

Hoa Pham

Author: Hoa Pham

Hoa Pham is the founder of Peril. She is the author of seven books and a play. Her novella The Other Shore won the Vive La Novella Priize, and her book Wave is being adapted to film. For more information please visit

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