A compassionate smile lights up his firm
face when Thay Nhu Dinh sits in a sea of rubble amidst the Indian villagers in Gujarat
rendered homeless by the countrys deadliest earth quake this January. A little
careless move by his team members in distributing the relief material makes him talk
toughhe came on his individual initiative to personally help the quake-stricken
victimsand means business.
Dinh, a 42-year-old Vietnamese Buddhist
monk from Australia, was here in February to share the grief and burden of Indias
earth quake victims. The quake according to rough estimates left over one lakh people dead
and caused massive destruction and suffering.
And suffering motivates Dinh, since he has
suffered much and knows what suffering can be; and what it can do to human personality.
Twice he was jailed in Vietnam and tortured too before he finally escaped to Australia to
carry on his social relief work.
Exceptionally sprightly for his age, Dinh
has fished out rotting bodies abandoned by families and relatives in Vietnam floods. He
has collected material for Turkey quake relief too. He believes in putting into practice
the compassion that the Buddha preached. There is an unusually soft heart behind his
determined, business-like face; when you see him donning the monks robes in the
Indian rural sites; he symbolizes the Buddhas compassion, but in a practical way.
The nose piercing smell of rotting dead bodies under the mass of debris did not deter him.
He is used to the smell of the dead and
knows too well that life and death are part of the same human experience; and says,
"We will all be dead like themthe smell comes as we are livingone day we
all will be with them." And he went, wherever the help was needed the most; to the
poorest and the farthest.
"Go deep" were his mandatory
words to his team of seven when distributing the relief materials in the remote villages.
When most of the International agencies were dumping the relief materials in the most
publicized and already over-supplied cities; Dinh took care and hectic effort to reach the
neglected interior villages of Gujarat and distributed personally alongwith his team,
three truckfuls of tents, blankets, buckets, clothes, medicine and food items. Squatting
amidst the grief-stricken villagers, he would talk and listen to them with the help of
spontaneous gestures though he did not know their language. Warmth and empathy need no
"I am moved by the patience of
Indians. They have suffered so much in this calamity, yet they have accepted it as part of
their destiny and not lost hope," admires Dinh while comparing Indians patience
with that of the Vietnamese.
Life has brought Dinh to experience
suffering very closely. His intimacy with suffering has not depressed him or made him a
cynic but goaded him to reach out to the suffering humanity and lend a helping, humane
hand. The only explanation he finds about the cause of suffering is in ones Karma.
However, in India, Dinh
says he has seen people suffering in silence and taking poverty as their destiny. While
the poor in Vietnam try to improve, the Indians seem to rest too much in destiny and
neglect individual effort towards improvement. And the gap between the rich and the poor
in India is too vast. "India is the only place in the world I have seen where you can
see heaven and earth co-existing," explains Dinh looking out of his hotel room in
Ahmedabad. "Here we sit comfortably in this cozy room while we can see out of the
window the shabby dwellings and the poor who may not have eaten for many days."
How would he describe his relief efforts
in India? Dinh says, "We tried to do whatever we could; but I am not satisfied with
the Indian authorities efforts towards relief. There is no co-ordination in relief
activities. Even the relief material provided by the international agencies and
non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is too less, considering the magnitude of
Dinh would not like to compare his relief
activity in India to his earlier relief works. You ask him and he replies plainly: "I
forget my previous works; and every time I go for the relief work its always the
first one for me."
About to leave India after having done the
job he came for, you ask Dinh to describe his Indian experience with the victims. Dinh
becomes silent again--and emotional too, his eyes turning moist: "Physically and
geographically I might be away from them but my mind is still with them."