DHARMA IN EVERYDAY LIFE

THE APRICOT FLOWER BLOOM SEASON
By Nhất Quán
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          Today is January 11, 2020
         The lecture I would like to introduce to the public today is the apricot flower bloom season.
          According to Vietnamese tradition, every spring comes, no matter what life circumstances, In the house also decorate a branch of apricot blossom to celebrate Tet if you are living in southern Viet Nam. If you live in the north, then the cherry blossoms bloom. Because believing that apricot twigs and cherry blossom branches have the ability to chase away evil spirits, bring luck and happiness. In addition, both cherry blossoms, and Apricot blossoms, not only a symbol of Spring, but the vibrant color of flowers with small buds, and the young green shoots, as a wish for New Year joy, fortune, and happiness.  
          In terms of the meaning of the apricot blossom, from the past, the apricot blossom was considered as one of the four types of precious plants and flowers: conifer, chrysanthemum, bamboo, and apricot. These plants and flowers all have striking properties that symbolize the good qualities of the Vietnamese people:
          - The conifer is firm, resilient,
          - The bamboo is slender, but supple and durable;
          - Chrysanthemum has a simple and elegant beauty
          - Apricot flowers are beautiful, rich, and glorious.
          The idea of spring often not until after New Year's Eve, the spring appears, but on the last day of December, when nature stirring to the blooming flowers and the thousand of sprouting leaves that people called that is the auspicious symbol. Right that time, spring came back on the flower gardens, at the food stalls waiting for people to start, while struggling for their livelihoods and the New Year holiday.
          In those moments, children waited for the new year, and adults after busy decoration in the house, outside the gate, now sat on the porch, drinking wine filled with memories; And always hope the joy it will last for the coming days, to make up for the unsatisfied things that it does not expect but still comes. Those are the days to enjoy the taste of spring or to celebrate the traditional New Year of the nation. After that, everyone had to whir around, planning, struggling for their daily living.  
          As once said, every beginning of the year is the apricot blossom bloom season, bright yellow like sunshine, the buds are full of branches, racing to full bloom in the spring days. That is why our ancestors chose this kind of flower as a symbol of Spring in the past; Gradually, everyone grew apricot blossom, and decorated apricot flower on the New Year's Day. Yellow apricot flower not only exorcises but also a symbol of good luck and prosperity throughout the year, and these young flower buds are a blessing for the prosperous new year and a lot of fortune.
          As you all know, the yellow apricot flowers are both beautiful and symbolic of the new year, so people are very fond of and decorate more and more popular. Many people also graft a tree to produce both yellow apricot and white apricot flowers. Particularly yellow apricot, many people prefer it all, looking at the radiant yellow colors of yellow apricot blossom is you see the spring. Many people have experience and understanding of apricot blossom, they have a way to take care of apricot blossom and how to make an apricot bloom right in the new year; So, at about 20th of December onwards, they began to leave apricot leaves leaving only the branches, young leaves, and flower buds; thus, flowering plants have enough nutrition to flower much.
          There are many people when they are buying apricot blossoms for the new year, they choose beautiful trees, stout branches, balanced, buds, and evenly distributed throughout the tree, so when the flower bloom they look very beautiful. Today there are many other flowers used for the new years such as the marigold, orchid, lilies, etc ... and many other flowers, which are beautiful, also bring good luck for the new year; But no matter what, the branch of the yellow apricot flowers decorate on the new year holiday is true to tradition. Therefore, if anyone wants to be lucky the whole year, please buy a branch of yellow apricot flower to decorate in the new year. 
          Regarding apricot flowers, in Việt Nam, these apricot species are most naturally distributed in the forests of long mountain range and provinces from Quang Nam Da Nang to Khanh Hoa. This apricot flower is also abundant in the mountains of the Mekong delta, and also in the highlands, but in small numbers.
          In the northern of Viet Nam, there is Yen Tu yellow apricot was determined to be the same species as the southern yellow apricot. Northern apricot blossom not only in the mountain of Yen Tu area, but also in the northern mountainous provinces. According to the research of professor Dang Van Dong, head of the research, conservation, storage, and development of Yen Tu yellow apricot variety; Yellow apricot flower in the mountain of Yen Tu area has up to 700-800-year-old trees, 40-50cm diameter.
          Yellow apricot flower tree is a perennial living species tree, can live for over a hundred years, with large stump, convex and concave roots, rough trunk, multiple branches, leaves intertwined. Yellow apricot blossom blooms brightly every spring, so it symbolizes the coming spring.
          In southern Viet Nam, there is a yellow apricot flower tree in the grounds of Ba Chua Xu temple at Sam mountain. This is a yellow apricot flower that grows wild in the forest, each flower has from 5 to 9 wings, sometimes up to 12-18 wings, called the mountain yellow apricot flower. In the Western Highlands, mountain apricot flowers are distributed quite popular. In addition, there are also yellow apricot forest with brown stems, large leaves with serrated and glossy green, yellow flowers grow in a cluster, so the call cluster apricot.
          From the point of view of producing many flowers, this species has a hard stem, tumors growing on its branches, surrounding the tumors, many young buds grow out, and from there the flower buds grow quite thick when the flowers bloom close together and form clusters. People called this species of yellow apricot flower is the apricot king. Currently, in the South, there are many varieties of yellow apricot flowers.
          Another kind of yellow apricot grows in sandy areas, in coastal forests. This yellow apricot flower species has a straight and round trunk, flowers are scattered on the branches. This yellow apricot flower species are also scattered in the areas of the middle provinces of Viet Nam from Quang Binh, Quang Tri to the south until Dong Nai and Tay Ninh.
         Usually, the yellow apricot blossom scents are difficult to recognize. In particular, in Viet Nam, there are five-petaled yellow apricot species with a stronger flavor than other apricot blossom species, so it is easy to recognize and is called fragrant apricot. This kind of yellow apricot blossom is often grown in Ben Tre in South Viet Nam. 
          In the Ca Na forest area, there is a species apricot yellow flower with small trunk and meager, very brittle branches, oval leaves, slippery, and smooth serrated. 
          In Vinh Hao forest area, there is also a species yellow apricot flower, the trunk is heavy and hard, brittle branches, small leaves, large and flat flowers, long-lasting. Because its trunk is heavy and hard, so people often called it is the rock apricot blossom.  
The people living Central Viêt Nam often prefer Hue apricot and Binh Dinh apricot to decorate in the new year. Binh Dinh apricot leaves are thinner, tapered, and pointed than other types of apricot; apricot flowers can be dark browner than other apricot varieties, but Binh Dinh apricot is more popular because the price is not too expensive.
         Hue apricot blossom is also popular because of its valuable, beautiful stump and decorative for many years. This species apricot flower grows only in the ancient capital of the Imperial City and is also a specialty of the Huong River and Ngu mountain area. Yellow apricot blossom in Hue must be five petals, very rare to have many petals. Hue apricot has no red leaves like pink leaves apricot of the Central region of Viet Nam or species with many petals of South Viet Nam that Hue apricot has five petals, green leaves and thick. In particular, bright yellow flowers are more beautiful than other apricot flowers and is pure in one color.
          The apricot is a species special flower that blooms only when the weather gradually changes from cold winter to warm spring. Therefore it is loved by the Vietnamese people as a close friend, indispensable in the festivals, and the traditional new year of the nation. In addition to that special feature, it is also a symbol of the rising after sleep in the bleak days and the cold of the autumn-winter season. When people see the bright yellow of apricot blossom, people still think that it accompanies spring in the occasional coming New Year. It brings joy, happiness, luck, abundance, prosperity, health, and youth.
          The apricot blossom bloom season is also a season of magnanimous vitality that makes people joyful, relax, optimistic, love life, and love people more. Therefore, when yellow apricot blossomed bloom, spring comes an endless source of inspiration for the mind of writers and poets. Yellow apricot blossoms are a species luxurious and precious flower, highly respected by many writers and poets. But the group of words used as the title of books, the title of the songs, the name of the villages, the name of the people mentioned was mostly inspired by the Chinese-Vietnamese poem " feign illness to teach disciples" of Man Giac Zen Master in the Ly Dynasty(1052-1096). The original Chinese-Vietnamese characters are as follows:
          Spring has passed, hundreds of flowers fall
          Spring comes, hundred of flowers bloom
          Things passed by the front of eyes
          Life is getting old now
          Do not think spring is over, flowers fall out
          Last night, apricot blossom in front of the corridor
          Or:
          - Spring has passed, the weather has changed
          Hundred flowers withered and fallen
          The law of the perpetual circulation
          Then spring comes, hundreds of flowers bloom
          Life is very short, with time
          Youth through, old age to gray hair
          Do not think spring is over, flowers fall out
          Last night, apricot blossom in front of the corridor
         The poem of spring in the meditation door was reminded by many people. Special is the last sentence:
          - Last night, apricot blossom in the front of the corridor
          There are only seven words in this short poem of thirty-four words in Chinese-Vietnamese, many people have learned the religion, many writers, poets, musicians, using the idea of the poem a lot without being boring. A short poem, lasting for nearly a thousand years, still affects the spirit and emotions of the next generation in the country, abroad, and even for foreigners, it must be said to be immortal. This is one of the poems that the monks, writers, and poets often recall the depth, the wonderful, the beauty of the idea of poetry in the spring come back.
          The poem feigns illness to teach disciples by Man Giac, an 11th century Vietnamese Meditation Master, during the Ly Dynasty, nearly a thousand years ago. Speaking is a poem, but actually not a poem. Saying It was not poetry because master Man Giac was a Meditation Master, in fact he did not write poetry. It can only be said, when the mind of the most tranquil and peaceful, when the ups and downs of the world are no longer a concern for him, when the broken petals of flowers fall down, it does not disturb and scare his mind anymore. And when in the fluctuations of all things, impermanent appears the everlasting, eternal of the true mind; the Meditation Master suddenly let out a surprised voice, suddenly enlightened to the intimate connection of the human being and the phenomenon of the world.
          Quietly and feeling that bliss and boundless wisdom, the Zen Master Master closed the door, reported the illness, and did not step out with the disciple as usual. While the disciples waited outside, anxious, restless, it felt like their master was about to die. In the evening, so as not to betray the concerned disciples, the Zen Master smiled and drafted a short verse, send out to the masses. 
          This short verse becomes the last Zen Master's teachings, kindness, most touching, and most sublime to his disciples. And the language of an enlightened person, standing on the towering pinnacle of wisdom, though not whittling, shaping, finding words, arranging ideas and words, had inadvertently become poetry. The verse or poem fake illness to teach the disciples becomes an immortal poem of humanity.    
          We should know, flowers fall or flowers bloom according to the weather is only for all things in this world over time that there is prosperity or decline. As time goes by, everything also transforms, relocates. As such, in this world there is nothing that is not eroded, thin-file by time:
          - Things passed by the front of eyes
          Life is getting old now.
          Everything has passed on the front of one's eyes, looking at the hair to know that old age has arrived. Every day, everything changes, either growing or declining. In terms of growth, just like we grow rice in a field, the rice grows from young seedlings to flowering rice. In terms of decline, it is ripe, golden rice, cut bring home to grind into rice for cooking. So do we humans, as we grow or decline over time. Birth and then grow there is growth, a moment of the silver head, wrinkled skin, old death, that is decline.
          Thus, all things and people are dominant by time, change does not stop. Life is a stream of impermanence, change, no one has the power to make it stop. So, being old, illness, and dying is a matter of course, we have to be willing to accept. Accepting in the spirit of joy is the one who knows how to live and freedom. Those who are faced with old age, sickness, and death come sad, and lament, those are the person who does not know how to live; Because people don't know how to live, so they have to keep on living, life afterlife. The following two sentences, Zen Master described things, and people always changing, impermanent, arising, and passing with the time:
          - Do not think spring is over, flowers fall out
          Last night, apricot blossom in front of the corridor.
          Do not say that the end of spring flowers also withered away. No, because last night in the front yard there was still a fresh apricot branch. An apricot branch is not affected by the weather. In order to enjoy the aroma of this apricot blossom, the cultivators must endure the freezing cold bone marrow. So, Zen Master Hoang Ba said:
          - There must be a cold bone,
          Apricot flowers do not smell easy.
         In this life from man to everything is governed by the Law of Impermanent, but there is one thing that is not destroyed by impermanent. That is the true mind and Buddha-nature is the enlightenment symbolized by the lotus, the jewel; Here, Zen Master Man Giac also shows the root of all Dharma, the wonderful nature of each of us. That true mind and Buddha-nature, is not dominated, destroyed by time. Thus the views of the Zen Masters are the same, even in the life of impermanent and vandalism, there is a constant that never disappears.
          You know that already, then when you witness the impermanent of things, of the body, of the heart, you are not depressed. You can do that to be a person who knows how to live, live healthily, and live happily.
          Man Giac Zen Master sensed that the flow of the arising and destroying was operating depending on each other, without the independence that man was the victim of in that endless spin. But, even Man Giac Zen Master does nothing else, to share with those who have the same wistful, tumultuous mind…. Is it possible, in this life, we all have not escaped that obvious and harsh law, to have a lifetime of chasing time?
          But no, just reading the first two sentences of the verse, we have already heard the shock of space, and the whole heart, because of the uses of the precise and profound words to convey ideas. Although, the words are very simple for those who rarely use Chinese-Vietnamese words can still understand completely.; And it contains extremely magical meaning and ideas. Let's try to read the verbatim again:
          - Spring has passed, hundreds of fallen flowers
          When Spring comes, hundred of flowers bloom again.
          The operation of the natural like that. When the spring has gone, hundreds of flowers fall, but when spring will coming, spring is coming, hundreds of flowers bloom beautiful, under the gentle sunshine and few breeze swaying flowers or leaves as well. Spring comes and goes, in the eyes of the Zen Master is so, serene, gentle, calm, and peaceful like that. Therefore, even:
          - Short life with time
          The youth is over, the old age is quite surprising.
          Although a bit surprised, but nothing is bothered a mind. Because Formation, stability or development, dissolution or disintegration, and void are like that; So, just calmly live with what is in the present. The passed should not regret, what has not come, do not expect. The reason, every individual feels happy, angry, love, afraid, hatred or wants to be imperative in life because they can not control their desire.
          Such say, it is not necessary to eliminate the will to strive for personal growth in the social machine. On the contrary, it has a positive trend,  contributing to stabilizing, development, and bringing about world peace. Because each individual is a member of a nation or more broadly a member of the human community. So, each individual has perfect is social, the world will be peaceful. That is the necessary condition must-have. Therefore Man Giac Zen Master determined:
          - Do not think spring is over, flowers fall out
          Last night, apricot blossom in front of the corridor.
       To show us that, the law the universe's transformation and destruction is a jock for those who stand outside the operation of the universe and understand clearly life story like dust falling into the eyes a flexible way and freedom as Van Hanh Zen Master once saw:
          - Body as lightning in the afternoon
          Lush spring grass, to Autumn, wither
          Talk about failure  and the vogue of life
          The failure and vogue like dewdrops on the top of branches.
          For the Zen Masters enlightened is so, calmly before the change of weather, and the beach into a mulberry field; So, happy, sad, win, lost do not flinch their spirits. Meanwhile, our minds are always filled with the shadow of suffering, fear, anxiety, and avoid the truth. Therefore, when you gain is happy, the loss is sad. Separation is painful, close together is happy. Whoever praises the radiant face, who criticized the moody. Satisfied with you is rejoice, the opposite is angry. So, when face with the changing circumstances of the universe is a pity, and regrets as Mr. Nguyen Gia Thieu has once lamented:
          - Undergo a beach turned into a mulberry fields
          The things sight that painful heart.
          Meanwhile, in addition to the transformation of impermanent, there is eternity, peace of mind, and external. However, these profound and wonderful things must be cultivated, learned to penetrate the truth of the problem. As we have read many times the verse of Zen Master Man Giac, but still did not have the view of being free, peaceful, and liberated like Zen Masters. Reasonable, that is the key to the problem that Zen Master wants to send a message to us, should cultivate and practice meditation, living in meditation. Do not follow the external phenomenon and split the hair into pieces to find the truth in it.
          In short, the flowers bloom then decay, the full moon then wanes, but the decay starts a new future. The branch of apricot is still the wordless image of boundless optimism, and calmness. This poem was read by Man Giac Zen Master to the masses when he was about to die. So, in the poem of Man Giac Zen Master about the dying flowers, the blooming flowers ... The life story passes, the old age comes, etc. All everything is nothing to worry about, but the opposite is the means of practice to achieve enlightenment. About apricot branches are symbolic of everlasting life.
          In the spring of this year, spring begin a new era, a promising era of scientific achievement, to serve people in terms of the material. Let's us read through the poem by Man Giac Zen Master, a spiritual dish of the nation to have the opportunity to give to relative, brothers, sisters, and friends when meeting in the spring when lifting a cup of tea, jam to enjoy the taste of spring spread and pervade in us.
          At the same time, you should also quiet feel the bliss of a new spring, a spring of weather. But it brings a magnanimous vitality that makes the people's mind joyful, serene, relaxed, optimistic, loves life and lives of all, in the spirit of non-ego, altruism, and equality. It is the message of the Man Giac Zen Master had sent to us from centuries past!
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