Viet Nam Buddhist Church welcomes visit from monk

HA NOI, Vietnam -- A private Buddhist delegation headed by a Vietnamese-French monk is set to arrive in Viet Nam today and the Viet Nam Buddhist Church (VNBC) has promised to facilitate the visit and help the visitors get first-hand knowledge of the renewal process and Buddhism in the country.

<< Thich Nhat Hanh

Most Venerable Thich Gia Quang, deputy head of the International Buddhism Board under the VNBC?s Executive Council, told the Viet Nam News Agency on Monday he hoped the 190 monks and nuns led by Monk Thich Nhat Hanh would recognise Viet Nam?s policy of respecting religious freedom and promoting national unity.

The VNBC has co-ordinated with agencies concerned to ensure highest safety for the delegation in every aspect ? transport, food, health care, security...," Quang said.

"The VNBC has made all preparations in co-ordination with not only the central government and localities the delegation is expected to stay in Ha Noi, HCM City, Hue and Binh Dinh, but also in provinces where it will only go for short visits, like Quang Ninh, Phu Tho, Bac Ninh, and Ha Tay."

Monk Thich Nhat Hanh and his delegation, comprising 100 monks and nuns, and 90 followers, most of them overseas Vietnamese, will be in Viet Nam for over three months ? until April 14, to be exact.

Hanh, aged 82, is French of Vietnamese origin. He now practices at the Lang Mai Pagoda, or Mai Village Pagoda, in France. He is a world-renowned religious figure who is making his first visit to his homeland in 40 years.

The group will meet with leaders of the VNBC, hold discourses and meet with Buddhists in Ha Noi, HCM City, and Hue City and Binh Dinh Province in the central region. They will also visit many pagodas across the country.

We are looking forward to meeting the delegation," nun Thich Dam Lan told the Viet Nam News Agency. She belongs to the Bo De pagoda in Ai Mo in Ha Noi?s suburban district of Gia Lam, where the Zen master and his entourage will stay during their time in the capital. "It is said that every monk arriving at the pagoda is a Buddha, but it is our karma [a Sanskrit word meaning destiny] that we have the chance to receive such a special delegation."

Lan said the pagoda was making preparations for the visit for the past month, refurbishing rooms and stocking up on food and blankets.

She said the pagoda was used to hosting up to 3,000 visitors during annual celebrations to mark Buddha?s birthday and delegations of up to 150 monks and nuns every summer.