Thich Thien Duyen

Thich Thien Duyen, Kim Quang Buddhist Temple, Sacramento, California

Thich Thien Duyen, Kim Quang Buddhist Temple, Sacramento, California

“One day, when I was a child in Vietnam, I was walking with my grandmother to the temple. A monk was coming downhill as we were walking uphill. He held his reed hat sideways to cover his face from the sun, and he looked very relaxed, very beautiful. It is difficult to put it in words. At the time I was 9 years old, and I thought to myself: oh, how beautiful. I told my grandmother that I would like to become a monk and look just like him. Later on, this monk became my Master.”

“Transforming my life is the most difficult thing I have done so far. By that I mean changing my attitude and behavior. People often say that your behavior is related to genetics, it comes from parents and grandparents. Regardless of the origin, with a solid practice behaviors and emotions can change. When you practice, day by day, you can change even those behaviors and attitudes that you find extremely difficult to control.
My parents are very straight people, so I grew up being a straight person too. For example, when I was younger, the incense had to be in the incense burner just right, very straight. It was extremely important to me. This was the influence of my family and of my Master. But in practice, I have to step forward, I move my legs longer than they did. When we practice and look deeply we become more aware, and we discover that life is unlimited. Today we might practice deeply, and we can see that life is unlimited, yet the next day our practice might not be quite as deep, and right away we feel that we are limited, we are unable to enjoy anything. The degree of difficulty depends on how much we practice. I feel fortunate because I am not stuck on my genetics. And I am happy because I don’t only receive the Buddha’s teachings, but I also receive teachings from other teachers and even from lay people. This helps me to reflect on my own ways.”

“For me, everything comes from practice. I practice and therefore I can see the beauty in everything. The mind is huge like the universe. Even a little rock on a path, a grass blade or a flower is beautiful. It is art. Art is healing to me. When you respect, you see the beauty in everything. But when you do not respect, you do not accept. Even a broken cup can be beautiful. When I practice like that, I am not worried or upset.”

“Earlier this year, I visited India, where the Buddha was born. When I arrived it felt like I was coming home, although the Buddha lived 2600 years ago. We now follow in the Buddha’s steps, but not exactly because times have changed. We now live in modern times. The main point is to continue. Walking where the Buddha walked, I knew I need to continue the practice, but my steps don’t look exactly like those of the Buddha. As life constantly changes, we need to move on and at the same time figure out which changes are good and which aren’t. I respect different traditions, and every tradition wants to keep the original way. If we don’t keep the original way, we may lose the practice. But if we only stick to the original way, everything will stand still. We need to work it out, change and develop. The Buddha’s teachings don’t ask us to stand still, we need to move forward.
Over time, many of the old buildings and the land have been destroyed or deteriorated. But the teachings of the Buddha have spread. The core is solid, the value is strong, and the heart is deep and wide. It depends on the individual practitioner if the Buddha’s teachings remain alive. If your practice is not solid, it can be destroyed instantaneously, but if you practice well, you can continue what the Buddha taught.”

“I want to serve people without condition. Serving means to share something with all people. My practice is not only giving Dharma talks, chanting and sitting meditation, but I practice anytime and anywhere, I practice when I enjoy a cup of tea, trim a tree, sweep the leaves, cook in the kitchen … work is practice.”

“In my view, a Sangha is not only for monastics. A Sangha can be lay people, non-Buddhists, it can be everyone who knows how to protect themselves and other sentient beings. When you protect, you build up your compassion. In Buddhism compassion means that you open your heart. With the technology nowadays, like LinkedIn or Facebook, people can connect and build Sanghas. A wide community getting to know each other, opening their hearts. When your mind is good, you can do great things with technology, but when your mind is not good, you can use technology to do some things that are not good.”




  1. Thank you Master Duyen for your wonderful words of wisdom. When ever you speak I hear it as Dharma.

  2. Soooo beautiful! Thanks Thay for this wonderful wisdom!

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