Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh dies at 95

By Vo Thanh, Minh Minh   January 21, 2022 | 04:05 pm PT
Thich Nhat Hanh, a monk with global influence, passed away at Tu Hieu Temple in his birthplace Hue on Saturday, aged 95.

Plum Village, the monastic organization that he founded, announced on its website that he "passed away peacefully."

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh at Plum Village in France, 2009. Photo by Plum Village

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh at Plum Village in France in 2009. Photo by Plum Village

The Zen Master, considered the second most influential Buddhist leader in the world after the Dalai Lama, studied and practiced Zen Buddhism from 1942.

He became a monk at the age of 23 after studying Buddhism for seven years.

He left Vietnam 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 was that through mindfulness people can learn to live happily in the present moment, which is the only way to truly develop peace, both within oneself and in the world outside.

For many decades Thich Nhat Hanh was promoting "engaged Buddhism", which focuses on humans' active role in facilitating change.

He visited Vietnam four times between 2005 and 2017, when he met with devout Buddhists and offered prayers for war victims.

In 2014 he suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in France for four and a half months.

In October 2018 he returned to live out his last days at Tu Hieu, where he first studied and practiced Zen Buddhism.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (C) with monks and nuns at Tu Hieu Pagoda in Hue, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (C) with monks and nuns at Tu Hieu Pagoda in Hue in 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh

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'.

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

"I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of [this prize] than this gentle monk from Vietnam," King had said in his nomination.

"His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity."

The Dalai Lama wrote in his condolence message on Saturday: "In his peaceful opposition to the Vietnam war, his support for Martin Luther King and most of all his dedication to sharing with others not only how mindfulness and compassion contribute to inner peace, how also how individuals cultivating peace of mind contributes to genuine world peace, the Venerable lived a truly meaningful life."

"I have no doubt the best way we can pay tribute to him is to continue his work to promote peace in the world," he added.

Thich Nhat Hanh dismissed the idea of death. "Birth and death are only notions," he wrote in his book, 'No Death, No Fear'.

"The Buddha taught that there is no birth; there is no death; there is no coming; there is no going; there is no same; there is no different; there is no permanent self; there is no annihilation. We only think there is."

On returning to Tu Hieu, he left instructions on what should be done with his body after his death: "If one day I die, don't build me any tomb or tower. It'll cost money, it'll cost people's land, and our people are still very poor. Cremate me. Bring my ashes to Plum Village monasteries around the world and scatter them on the roads of your walking meditation. So that every day I am still with you on our walking meditation."

Tu Hieu Temple will hold a seven-day funeral in silence.

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