The Unified Buddhist Church established the Order of Interbeing, (Tiep Hien in Vietnamese), in the mid-1960s at a time when the Vietnam War was escalating and the teachings of the Buddha were desperately needed to combat the hatred, violence, and divisiveness enveloping his country. From its inception and into the present, the Order has been comprised of all four membership categories of the original Buddhist community: monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen.

One meaning of the word tiep is "being in touch with." What are we to be in touch with? The answer is reality, the reality of the world and the reality of the mind.

To be in touch with the mind means to be aware of the processes of our inner life-feelings, perceptions, mental formations-and also to rediscover our true mind, which is the wellspring of understanding and compassion. . . To be in touch with the reality of the world means to be in touch with everything that is around us in the animal, vegetable, and mineral realms.

If we want to be in touch, we have to get out of our shell and look clearly and deeply at the wonders of life-the snowflakes, the moonlight, the songs of the birds, the beautiful flowers-and also the suffering-hunger, disease, torture, and oppression. Overflowing with understanding and compassion, we can appreciate the wonders of life, and at the same time, act with the firm resolve to alleviate the suffering.

One meaning of the word is to realise or realisation. This means not to dwell or be caught in the world of doctrines and ideas, but to bring and express our insights into real life. First of all, realisation means transforming ourselves. If we wish to share calmness and serenity, we should first realise these qualities within ourselves. Working to help people who are hungry or sick means to be peaceful and loving during that work. This means making it real here and now.