Chan Khong
Parallax Press, Berkeley, 1993.
258 pp., $16.00 (paper).

Chan Khong. Gaetano Kazuo Maida.
Chan Khong. Gaetano Kazuo Maida.

A young woman rides a motorbike along a road in Vietnam, a box of banned pamphlets strapped behind her, bombs exploding so near that she is sure she will be killed.

The same woman comes upon a platoon of U.S. soldiers preparing to destroy a village where they suspect the presence of Vietcong. Looking deep into their eyes, seeing their fear, she convinces them that no guerrillas lurk among the thatch houses. The soldiers leave.

Frustrated by obstacles to efforts she and activist monk Thich Nhat Hanh have made to save the boat people fleeing Vietnam, this woman convinces her brother and friends to join her on a “fishing boat.” In their small craft they ply the waters off the coast of Thailand, dodging pirates and government officials, to secretly aid the boatloads of Vietnamese refugees they encounter.

These and more images stay with me after reading Chan Khong’s Learning True Love. The book reveals a gifted, immensely resourceful, wonderfully brave woman whose immersion in Buddhist practice and principles guides her untiring activism on behalf of the Vietnamese people. It offers inspiration to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike who seek to cultivate peace. And through the life of one extraordinary woman we get a privileged glimpse into the experience of the Vietnamese people during the war.

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