Vietnam’s influential Buddhist leader says he is back home for good

By Vo Thanh   October 30, 2018 | 06:46 pm PT
Vietnam’s influential Buddhist leader says he is back home for good
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (C) arrives at Tu Hieu Pagoda in Hue in central Vietnam on Sunday. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who has returned from Thailand to his native Vietnam, said he is back for good.

Thich Nhat Hanh, one of Buddhism’s most influential leaders, said in a letter to his disciples he would live in the Tu Hieu Pagoda in Hue, central Vietnam, where he studied and practiced Zen Buddhism from 1942.

“The Buddhism knowledge and wisdom I learned from Tu Hieu is now spreading all over the world, and I believe it’s time for me to get back to my roots,” he said.

“Students of Tu Hieu are now living and practicing Buddhism in many different places around the world and as a way to remind them of their roots, I want to die here in Tu Hieu.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, considered the second most influential Buddhist leader in the world after the Dalai Lama, returned to Vietnam last Saturday.

Born in 1926, he became a monk at the age of 23 after studying Buddhism for seven years. 

In the 1960s he spearheaded a movement by Buddhists in South Vietnam that called for a negotiated end to the Vietnam War.

He left the country in 1966 and has lived in Plum Village in southern France for decades, traveling regularly throughout North America and Europe to give lectures on mindfulness and peace.

His key teaching is that through mindfulness people can learn to live happily in the present, which is the only way to truly develop peace, both within oneself and in the world outside.

He has visited Vietnam several times, in 2005, 2007 and 2008 meeting with devout Buddhists and offering prayers for war victims. He stayed at Tu Hieu during a private trip in August last year.

In 2014 he suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in France for four and a half months. He stayed at Plum Village in Thailand from 2016.

Thich Nhat Hanh is also a poet and peace activist. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967, and is the author of more than 100 books, including the bestselling “The Miracle of Mindfulness.”

"Walk With Me," a documentary about Thich Nhat Hanh and his Buddhism practice, was released in cinemas in Vietnam in March last year.

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