Prayer to Mother Earth and Our Ances­tors – New Year 2021

This letter was originally wrote by Thich Nhat Hanh and updated for 2021 by Deer Park Monastery.

Dear Beloved Moth­er Earth,  

Dear Blood An­ces­tors and Spir­i­tu­al An­ces­tors,  

We stand be­fore you, on the cusp of the New Year  2021, with aware­ness, grat­i­tude, and the deep as­pi­ration to live in har­mo­ny as a spir­i­tu­al fam­i­ly. We know  that you are alive in us, and that we can al­ways take  refuge in you.  

Dear Moth­er Earth, we see that we and all our an­cestors are your chil­dren. With your pa­tience, sta­bil­i­ty,  en­durance and cre­ativ­i­ty you have nour­ished us and  guid­ed us through many life­times. You have giv­en birth to count­less Great Be­ings, Bud­dhas, Saints, and Bod­hisattvas. You are the great Earth, you are Ter­ra, you are Gaia, you are this beau­ti­ful blue plan­et. You  are the Earth Re­fresh­ing Bod­hisatt­va—fra­grant, cool, and kind. We see that al­though we and our an­ces­tors have made many mis­takes, you have al­ways for­giv­en us. Each time we re­turn to you you are ready to open  your arms and em­brace us.  

Due to our wrong per­cep­tions and dis­crim­i­na­tion, we have lived a life of sep­a­ra­tion, ha­tred, lone­li­ness, suffer­ing, and de­spair. This year has brought new and  un­fore­seen chal­lenges. The Covid-19 pan­dem­ic contin­ues to rage across the globe, and in its wake we strug­gle to re­main calm and free from delu­sion. We have al­lowed in­di­vid­u­al­ism to pre­vail, and it has  caused se­vere dam­age and hard­ship to you and to our­selves. By con­tin­u­ing to run af­ter fame, wealth,  pow­er, and sen­su­al plea­sures—for­get­ting that these

pur­suits can nev­er bring us true hap­pi­ness—we neglect to heal and trans­form our own suf­fer­ing and the  col­lec­tive suf­fer­ing. With­out such heal­ing and trans for­ma­tion, fear and racism en­grained deeply in the fab­ric of our so­ci­ety and its in­sti­tu­tions con­tin­ue to  com­pound old wounds with fresh wounds.  

Through many life­times we have been un­able to recog­nize you, Moth­er Earth, man­i­fest­ing as the Pure  Land, as the King­dom of God, as the most won­drous  home that we have. We have con­tin­ued to run af­ter a  dis­tant Promised Land in heav­en or in the fu­ture. This has caused us and you much suf­fer­ing. Tonight,  as we touch the Earth, we stop grasp­ing at an imagined hap­pi­ness, and, in­stead, of­fer you and our an­cestors our true pres­ence. We have ar­rived. You are our  home—our only home.  

We have learned that only love and com­pas­sion can make our lives mean­ing­ful, al­low­ing us to pro­tect and  pre­serve your beau­ty and to heal our­selves. We can  learn to live as one fam­i­ly—as a com­mu­ni­ty of brothers and sis­ters, all chil­dren of the same Great Moth­er Earth—, giv­ing our de­scen­dants a chance for a healthy and bright fu­ture. Dis­crim­i­na­tion, vi­o­lence  and ha­tred, which have brought about sys­temic racism and the cli­mate cri­sis, will not con­tin­ue to per­sist if we learn to look at one an­oth­er with eyes of com­pas­sion and non-fear. We know that only through build­ing broth­er­hood and sis­ter­hood like  that in the present mo­ment can we make this fu­ture  a re­al­i­ty here and now.  

Dear Moth­er Earth, tonight, as we en­ter the New  Year of 2021, we make the vow to learn to live in harmo­ny and peace in the very heart of our fam­i­ly and  our com­mu­ni­ty—just as bees in the same bee­hive, and cells in the same body. We prom­ise to de­vel­op  the ca­pac­i­ty to re­main open-heart­ed in our com­muni­ca­tion with mem­bers of our fam­i­ly and our commu­ni­ty, and not to get caught in our own per­ceptions. We prom­ise to al­ways lis­ten deeply and to use  the kind of peace­ful and lov­ing speech that can bring about real trans­for­ma­tion and heal­ing. We shall learn  to lis­ten to your voice, Moth­er Earth, to un­der­stand you deeply, tak­ing to heart your guid­ance and the  guid­ance of our an­ces­tors. Your voice of in­sight and wis­dom lives in­side of us. We also vow to lis­ten to our  broth­ers, our sis­ters, our friends, and to our chil­dren—see­ing you in them—so that we may live in peace  and har­mo­ny to­geth­er. We prom­ise to learn to see  the hap­pi­ness and well-be­ing of our fam­i­ly and commu­ni­ty as our own hap­pi­ness and well-be­ing.  

Dear Moth­er Earth, with great rev­er­ence we be­gin anew. We prom­ise to you and to our chil­dren that we  shall learn to breathe and walk mind­ful­ly in each moment of our dai­ly life, to use the eyes and ears of the  fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty in or­der to un­der­stand, to live sim­ply and to love with­out dis­crim­i­na­tion—as you  do. You, Moth­er Earth, ac­cept all things: the rain, the  sun, the de­cay­ing or­gan­ic mat­ter of our very bod­ies, as well as our trash, virus­es and dis­ease, and count­less  poi­so­nous chem­i­cals and oth­er ma­te­ri­als—all without com­plaint. You coura­geous­ly work to trans­form  every­thing giv­en to you—even if it takes mil­lions of years—so that life can con­tin­ue to man­i­fest in new  forms. We prom­ise to learn from you to stop run­ning  from our suf­fer­ing, and, in­stead, to rec­og­nize, embrace and trans­form it. Only by stop­ping to un­der stand our suf­fer­ing can we heal and touch true hap­piness, and, at the same time, restore your beau­ty and  fresh­ness.  

You have been call­ing to us, and some of us have  heard your pain. You have been ask­ing us for many  life­times whether you can count on us. Tonight, with  palms joined and with one heart, we say, “Yes, Moth er, you can count on us.” We shall prac­tice for you  and for all our an­ces­tors so that joy, peace and harmo­ny will be­come pos­si­ble again.  

Please ac­cept our of­fer­ings of in­cense, flow­ers, fruit,  tea, and our love. Al­low us, dear Moth­er, to touch the Earth deeply be­fore you three times.

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