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The Dartmouth
February 26, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Plum Village monastic teachers visit Dartmouth

Senior monastic Dharma teachers visited Dartmouth this past week to lead guided meditation sessions, mindfulness presentations and discussions on topics such as climate change and wellbeing.

Monks.jpeg

This past week, senior monastic Dharma teachers from Deer Park Monastery in California visited Dartmouth to conduct presentations, discussions and meditation sessions with members of the community, according to a Tucker Center flier promoting their visit. 

The monks practice in the Plum Village Tradition, credited as the inspiration behind engaged Buddhism. The Tradition was founded by Vietnamese zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, who is known as the father of mindfulness. 

“[The monastics] will share practical examples of how mindfulness practices can be applied in our daily lives so we can find dynamic responses to the ever-changing difficulties in our study, work and relationships,” the flier stated. “When we train our mind and learn to trust our inherent goodness, new possibilities manifest that cannot be discovered by thinking alone.” 

Epidemiology professor at Geisel School of Medicine Diane Gilbert-Diamond organized the event after she received a message from monastic Douglas Bachman ’97, her former Dartmouth classmate, asking to visit Dartmouth. 

Bachman, who now goes by Brother Stream or Phap Luu in Vietnamese, said he was surprised by the broad support the visit elicited in the Dartmouth community, with over 100 people attending one 8 a.m. guided meditation session. The monastics last visited in 2011 on the Sunday after homecoming, which Brother Stream said led to a low turnout. 

Brother Stream said his experience at Dartmouth inspired him to pursue a profession as a monastic.

“I had a deep experience at Dartmouth as a student,” Brother Stream said. “I had a deep sense my senior year that I still need to learn so much more. Four years at Dartmouth opens up how much understanding we need in the world in order to be a true human being.” 

After a temporary job at a Hanover bookstore post-college, Brother Stream became ordained as a monastic in Plum Village, France. He once traveled with Hanh to Vietnam and has practiced monasticism for the past 20 years. 

Hanover resident Cheryl Andrew said she visited Vietnam in 2020 and met Hanh. She described the monastic’s meditation as “very gentle, very tenderhearted.” 

“It’s a privilege to have them,” Andrew said of the monastics who visited. 

According to chaplain and director of the William Jewett Tucker Center Nancy Vogele, the monastics led a “beautiful” relaxation meditation session with more than 65 people, each on their own yoga mat. Vogele said she hosted many of the events in Rollins Chapel, a space large enough to accommodate the size of the group and one that reflects the sacredness of the activities. 

Tammy Stemen, a friend of a Dartmouth community member, traveled to Hanover for the event and found “it was so much better than anything [she] expected.”

“Why don’t I meditate all the time?” Stemen said. “It was so special to have the monks visit.”

Gilbert-Diamond said she experienced social isolation during her first year as a student at Dartmouth, adding that she believes the monastics can help mitigate those feelings. 

“I am so happy that the monastic visit has helped so many members of the Dartmouth community connect with each other and feel each other's support and love,” Gibert-Diamond said.

Bryanna Entwistle ’23 said the monastics spoke about their experiences practicing mindfulness during her REL 41.04: “Buddhist Meditation Theory” class, inspiring her to attend one of the monastic guided meditation sessions. She said she left feeling calmer and more attentive. 

Sovi Wellons ’24, also in the class, said she had been “struggling” with meditation prior to the event, and she appreciated the guidance provided by the monastics. 

“It was lovely to hear and learn from [the monastics],” Wellons said.

Gilbert-Diamond said the monastics have helped teach the community how to show themselves compassion. 

“The monastics have taught us that… we are enough just the way we are, and that cultivating that understanding will give us the capacity for immeasurable growth and learning,” Gilbert-Diamond said. “It will also give us the capacity to love and support each other, and to make a positive impact on the world.”

Correction Appended (April 24, 11:59 p.m.): A previous version of this article misspelled Bachman's last name and included an incorrect year for the last time the monastics visited Dartmouth. The article has been updated.