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Compost And The Monk

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

A friend sent me a link to an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh ( ).  In it the 86-year-old Buddhist monk, one of the world\’s foremost spiritual leaders, talks, among other things, about his own mortality:

\”It is like the tea. When you pour the hot water in the tea, you drink it for the first time, and then you pour again some hot water and you drink, and after that the tea leaves are there in the pot but the flavour has gone into the tea and if you say they die it is not correct because they continue to live on in the tea, so this body is just a residue.  It still can provide some tea flavour but one day there will be no tea flavour left and that is not death. And even the tea leaves, you can put them in the flower pot and they continue to serve, so we have to look at birth and death like that.\”

And even the tea leaves, you can put them in the flower pot and they continue to serve… I could just see TNH using and reusing the tea leaves, then carefully dumping the residue into his African violet pot.  And it\’s true, tea leaves are the nectar of the gods to a houseplant.  I\’m sure that TNH has champion African violets, what with all the tea leaves and his equanimous presence.

What I\’m wondering is, where did this angelic figure learn about the benefits of tea leaves for houseplants–or do angelic beings automatically know such things?

Apparently this angelic being is deeply into compost.  When he learned that a temple in his native Vietnam was planning to build him a memorial, this was his reaction:

\”I said don\’t waste the land of the temple in order to build me a stupha. Do not put me in a small pot and put me in there. I don\’t want to continue like that. It is better to put the ash outside to help the trees to grow.\”

Such a cheering thought:  compost as the means to resurrection.  What better afterlife could any of us aspire to, than to to continue to serve by helping the trees to grow?

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