One day on holiday we cycled out to Sigoules, a nearby village/town. As we were entering the town I had to do a 'double take' as walking towards me up the road was a group of Buddhist monks and nuns. It really wasn't what I was expecting to see in the middle of rural France! We ended up having lunch in a little cafe in the town (not as lovely as it sounds as the only place we could find was opposite the petrol station in a little arcade). Our fellow diners included two men who were obviously studying something, a couple of younger men on holiday who paid the bill with the French equivalent of luncheon vouchers that are given to the lower paid to help them pay for their holidays and an English group, dressed very smartly, that were waiting for the Mairie to open as two of them were getting married! As we left I asked the chef/owner about the monks. He told me that there is a community in Thenac; a neighbouring village.
I relayed my story a few days later to Herman, who claims he is a Buddhist.
'Yes, there is a community nearby..but they aren't proper Buddhists. They're a bunch from Vietnam. I've been there once.'
I left it at that but on return looked them up and found that there are from a community called the plum village and are pretty much our neighbours, owning several plots of land nearby. I mentioned this to a colleague at work who is a Buddhist and teacher of mindfulness meditation. Far from being a bunch of improper Buddhists it seems that they are a pretty influential and important group!
I like the quote on their home page:
If your cup is small, a little bit of salt will make the water salty. If your heart is small, then a little bit of pain can make you suffer. Your heart must be large.
Thay Nhat Hanh