Freedom in every smile: parallel verses for the Lunar New Year

Plum Village offers these parallel verses to mark Tết, the Lunar New Year.

About this tradition

Thich Nhat Hanh has established a tradition, on the eve of the Lunar New Year, of offering the sangha a simple poetic couplet in calligraphy that can inspire and nurture our mindfulness practice throughout the year. Thay’s innovation has been to offer the couplet in English, French and Vietnamese (rather than in Chinese characters). The Plum Village Community is very happy to continue this beautiful tradition.

In Plum Village practice centers all around the world, we print out these calligraphies (keeping the diamond form), paste them onto coloured cards, and pin them up around the dining halls, meditation halls and living quarters in preparation to celebrate the Lunar New Year. We hang them from early-blossoming Japonica and Plum branches that we bring in to brighten our rooms.

While reciting these phrases we can combine each line with our breathing. For example, we can contemplate “Peace in every step” as we breathe in, and contemplate “Freedom in every smile” as we breathe out. These words are not a declaration, but a living aspiration we wish to nurture.

We post the two complementary diamonds as a pair, near each other (above, below, or besides). You can print out and post the couplets on your fridge, doors or near light switches as an auspicious reminder to be mindful of their message, and renew ourselves by applying them in our daily lives. You can get creative with how and where to post and practice the phrases.

Last year, Br Bao Tang created a special version of 2022’s parallel verses for all our Happy Teachers. The verses read:

Harmony at school
Peace all around

We wish you much joy in your practice during the year ahead.

Download the 2023 Gathas in English, French, or Vietnamese to print on A4. (Various sizes)

To read more about this beautiful tradition, see this article from Plum Village.

Freedom In Every Smile – Parallel Verses for the Lunar New Year