The life of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh is a highly influential Buddhist leader in the West and actively promotes peace.

Zen master was born in 1926 in Thua Thien – Hue with the birth name Nguyen Xuan Bao. At the age of 16, he ordained a monk to follow Zen Buddhism at Tu Hieu pagoda. Zen master graduated from Bao Quoc Buddhist Institute, studied Zen according to the Mahayana school of Buddhism and officially became a monk at the age of 23. He is both a teacher and a teacher, a writer, a poet, a researcher, a social activist, and a peace advocate.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has combined his knowledge of many schools of meditation with methods from the Theravada Buddhist tradition, insights from the Mahayana tradition, and a number of psychological discoveries. contemporary Western studies to form a new approach to meditation.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Germany 2009. Photo: Plum Village

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Germany 2009. Photo: Plum Village

He was the one who introduced the concept of “engaged Buddhism” in the book “Vietnam: Lotus in the sea of ​​fire”. In an interview with journalist John Malkin more than a decade ago, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh explained about engaged Buddhism: “When the bomb hits sentient beings’ heads, you cannot sit in a monastery. Meditation is the awareness of what’s going on, not just inside but around your body and emotions.”

“Buddhism has to do with everyday life, with the pain of you and those around you. You have to learn how to help an injured child while maintaining mindful breathing. You have to keep yourself safe. lost in action. Action must be accompanied by meditation,” he emphasized.

In 1956, he worked as the Editor-in-Chief of Vietnamese Buddhism, the newspaper of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam. In the 1960s, he founded the School of Youth for Social Service (SYSS), a charity that helped rebuild bombed villages, build schools, clinics, and assist homeless families after the war. paintings in Vietnam.

He is also one of the founders of Van Hanh University, a prestigious private school that focuses on many researchers on Buddhism, Vietnamese culture and language. In a meeting in April 1965, the student union of Van Hanh College made a “call for peace”, with the main content urging the North and South to find “a solution to end the war and bring give the Vietnamese people a peaceful life with mutual respect”.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has traveled to the US many times to study and lecture at Princeton University and Cornell University. Later, he joined the faculty at Columbia University. However, the main purpose of his travels abroad was still to advocate for peace.

In 1966, he founded the monastic order of Tiep Hien and established many practice centers and monasteries around the world. He has been abroad since the Paris Agreement was signed in 1973, living mainly at Plum Village Monastery, Dordogne region, southern France.

As one of the great teachers of Buddhism in the West, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and methods attract the attention of many people with different religious, spiritual and political views. He shows how the practice of mindfulness is often adapted to Western perception.

Mindfulness is knowing what is and is happening. “When holding a baby’s hand, let’s focus 100% on her hand. When holding a loved one in your arms, it’s the same. Be really present, really awake. This is the exact opposite of the way you live and do things. We used to have a habit of multitasking. Answering e-mails while talking on the phone. While in a meeting about this one project, we wrote down notes for a project. Instead of always doing many things at once, we must get into the habit of doing only one thing at a time,” Zen master wrote in his book “True Power”. He believes that the practice of mindfulness helps to recognize pain and suffering and transform them.

He has written more than 100 books, of which more than 40 are in English, with some outstanding works such as The Old Road with White Clouds, The Miracle of Awakening, Happiness in Hand, Buddha in Me, God in Me.

His life is associated with activities for peace. In June 1965, Zen Master wrote a letter to the famous American activist Martin Luther King Jr. to call on him to openly oppose the Vietnam War. A year later, the two met for the first time in Chicago, discussing peace, freedom, and community. In the press conference that followed, King strongly opposed the Vietnam War. In 1967, King nominated Zen Master for the Nobel Peace Prize, but no one was awarded that year.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh said he “did not believe it” when he heard that King was assassinated in 1968. “I think the Americans created King but failed to protect him. I was a bit angry at the time. That point. I don’t eat, I don’t sleep. But the determination to work and build community continues.”

He organizes meditation retreats for Israelis and Palestinians, encourages them to listen and learn from each other, gives lectures calling on warring countries to cease fighting and seek peaceful solutions to conflicts. In 2005, he organized a march for peace in Los Angeles with the participation of thousands of people.

In May 2013, during a three-hour lecture at a stadium in South Korea, Zen Master discussed the relationship between North and South Korea. “Nuclear weapons are an obstacle to good relations between the two Koreas. It reflects the fear, anger and suspicion of North Korea because otherwise it would not have built nuclear weapons. For the sake of peace, the basic thing to do is not to get rid of nuclear weapons but to get rid of fear, anger and suspicion in each person. Thereby, reconciliation will be easy.”

According to Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, the key to reconciliation is “listening”. He also advised politicians to follow the path of Buddhism to help in negotiations and reconciliation.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh talks with Buddhists in Hong Kong in 2013. Photo: Plum Village

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh talks with Buddhists in Hong Kong in 2013. Photo: Plum Village

After more than four decades away from his homeland, he returned to Vietnam for the first time in 2005 and in 2007 he traveled around the country, holding retreats, Dharma talks and meeting with Buddhist monks and nuns. At the beginning of 2007, he organized three large sacrificial ceremonies in three regions of Vietnam with the name “Great son of Chan sacrifice to clear injustice”, praying and releasing unjust sufferings for those who had suffered the consequences of war.

At the United Nations Day of Vesak in Hanoi, he was invited to Vietnam as the keynote speaker. In 2014, Zen Master went into a coma due to a brain hemorrhage. After recovering, Zen master in 2016 came from France to recuperate at Plum Village Meditation Center in Thailand to be closer to his homeland. In 2017, he once again returned to Vietnam and visited Tu Hieu Pagoda.

On October 28, 2018, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh returned to this temple from Thailand to recuperate and share his wish to live here until his death. Every day, he was taken care of by monks and nuns, taking care of food and travel. On nice weather days, the Zen master sits in a wheelchair to meditate in the temple grounds.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a letter to the monks, stating his intentions after returning to Tu Hieu’s Patriarchate. He told his disciples: “If one day the teacher dies, don’t build a tomb tower for him. It costs money. It costs the people’s land. Our people are still very poor. Let’s cremate the teacher. They all distribute them to the Zen monasteries of Plum Village around the world and then spread them on the roads where the children go to meditate every day. In doing so, every day, the teacher and the children still go to the walking meditation together.”

The Plum Village Sangha today announced that Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh passed away at Tu Hieu Communal House, Thuy Xuan Ward, Hue City at 0:00 on January 22, at the age of 96.

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has become the second most influential Buddhist leader in the West, after the Dalai Lama, AP evaluated in a 2009 article. Huffington Post At the end of 2012, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh was called “the calmest person in the world”.

Oprah Winfrey, an American TV host who interviewed him in 2009, praised his teachings as inspiring people. “People always have difficulty letting go of suffering. With fear of the unknown, they choose to suffer in the familiar,” she shared a saying.

Phuong Vu (Follow CSM)

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