I am a journalist. When I first begin my career, over thirty years ago, I was fervently devoted to this profession. I tried to use my pen and my mind to tell the truth, to serve the readers and my beloved country of Vietnam. I could never imagine that one day I would have to leave my country because of political turmoil, and adopt a life of exile in a foreign country.
This was not the very first time that my family and I were obliged to live far away from our homeland. In the 1950s, under the First Republic of South Vietnam, I had accompanied my parents to seek political refuge in Cambodia. However, during this time, I was only a small child who did not know much about life. Moreover, Cambodia and Vietnam are very close; many Vietnamese had settled in Cambodia, because the social context and the way of life of the two countries were quite similar. The difficulties in adapting were expected, but with my optimistic innocent age, I did not feel too much pressure or difficulty.
The second time I left my country was at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 which brought a traumatic turning point in my tender years as a young adult who had just begun a new life. This time, the separation seemed like forever and was extremely painful like cutting off a piece of our body, an arm, or a half of the soul.
On the flight to the United States, when the American pilot announced the fall of Saigon-South Vietnam, everyone around me, all members of my family gave each other a haggard look. Instantaneously, just like under the control of an electronic remote, our eyes turned red, tears fell down desperately. My father carried a stoned-face. That was the third time that he suffered being hopelessly taken from his fatherland, driven by terrible circumstances in the country and within the religion.
Living in a foreign land, especially during the first few years, I often felt like a tree being dug up and carried away to a new soil, again and again without having time to take root. There were many changes, from the weather, the land, the social conditions, languages, cultures and technology-oriented Western civilization. All of these new experiences required a long time to assimilate. I felt frequently suppressed and frustrated. However, during this time, I also had the chance to broaden my understanding, especially comparing various religions of the world, so that I could really seek the answers about human fate, and spiritual life. This has been developing stronger and clearer in my continuously changing life.
In 1982, my wish to leave a secular life and take full religious life became strong. I felt a great desire, almost an envy toward my (single) friend who became a Buddhist nun and took full religious practice in a pagoda. I felt miserably torn between my family's life and my ideal of leaving a secular life.
During this crisis caused by conflicts between material and spiritual lives, the religious dogma of Hoa Hao Buddhism helped me to overcome this infuriating storm. My family, fellow believers’ group, together with many intellectuals including priests and laypersons, all helped me a lot during this phase in seeking a path and finding a proper spiritual equilibrium. I deeply bear in mind this gratitude.
When I started my first wobbly steps on the spiritual path, from contemplation during the time of meditation or just in relaxation, many times I was suddenly inspired to write down spontaneous thoughts. At first, these brief sentences came unexpectedly but profusely, and I wrote them down automatically, without thinking, anytime, anywhere. They seemed fragmented, but they were actually coherent and connected into a theme. Then, I composed them into a booklet, and named it “Human Love.” This was the period I worked in the Bilingual Education Office of Long Beach University, in 1982.
During this time, I also had an unexpected inspiration to write a collection of short poems in English. (I used rhymes, although I had never learned how to compose poems), and some reflections in English, in the form of a Journal, which I collected and wrote a second booklet, naming it “The Lonely Search.”
Afterward, these spontaneously inspired reflections in Vietnamese increased in length, emerged more often, and more naturally. I picked up a set of these writings [most of them were patriotic], compiled them into a book and had it published under the title “The Sacred Spirit of the Nation” (publishers: Mõ Làng & Tân Văn - 1997).
The next book is entitled THE TEACHINGS OF THE PROPHET: A Spiritual Journal - I. It consists of the reflections written down in the above-mentioned spiritually inspired way with full record of days and even hours of writing. When these spiritual thoughts came to me, I registered them, most of the time without pondering.
I have been very deliberate in the choice of the title. If I made it simply “A Spiritual Journal,” I would feel insincere, since ninety percent of these writings were written after I had worshipped Buddha, and went into a tranquil meditation facing the altar of the Three Jewels of Buddhism ( see glossary). These are not articles (which I often compiled), nor regular diary, nor plain commentary; in fact they were reflections after my mind became fixed, sometimes they suddenly came to me when I had had spiritual questions without answers. I usually wrote them down very fast, automatically, without thinking; it seemed like there was a guidance or a teaching of a Divine Spirit, a Master, a Prophet. As I discovered, they are “The Teachings of the Prophet.”
After serious considerations and contemplations, I realized that these writings, except for a few personal experiences and thoughts during my religious process, were the guidance of a Divine Spirit about the religious Way. I have no right to keep them for myself, nor dare having the thought that they were mine, but I have the responsibility to share them with everyone, so that all of us may have useful means to find the proper path of deliverance for ourselves, in the equilibrium between material and spiritual lives.
We will also reorganize and publish the book entitle “THE NINE-DRAGON RIVER AWAKENS: A Spiritual Journal - II.” In the near future, under favorable circumstances, we will introduce the third one entitled “THE PROPHET HAS NEVER BEEN ABSENT: A Spiritual Journal - III.”
In the spirit of serving and contributing to the Religion and the People, we hope that readers inside and outside the country will acknowledge “THE TEACHINGS OF THE PROPHET: A Spiritual Journal - I” and the consecutive spiritual books, so that we all may be consecrated by the blessings of the Divine Spirit to both practical and spiritual lives.
Nguyễn Huỳnh Mai
July 27, 2004