Thich Nhat Hanh 1926-present
Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most extraordinary men of the 20th and 21st century’s, he is a prolific author of over 100 books on mindfulness and meditation, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and is an advocate of non violence in every aspect of life. He is also Zen Buddhist Monk, inspirational speaker and teacher, he has spent almost his entire life dedicated to helping others always with compassionate and kindness.
Thich Nhat Hanh or Thay as he affectionately known was born in 1926 in the city of Hue in Central Vietnam. He entered the Buddhist monastic life at the age of 16 and received full ordination in 1951. In the few years they followed Thay started the school of Youth Social Service (SYSS) a Buddhist peace workers group, who would go into rural areas of Vietnam with the aim of establishing schools, healthcare clinics and rebuilding infrastructure.
By 1961 Thay has been invited to teach comparative religion at Princeton University which subsequently turned into lecturer of Buddhist philosophy at Colombia university in New York. After a few years Thay returned to Vietnam to help with the peace work undertaken by the SYSS, unfortunately during the decade between 65-75 the SYSS suffered heavy blows, Sister Chân Không, co-founder and Buddhist Nun was accused of being a communist, support dwindled until attacks on its members became frequent. Thay and sister Chân Không continued spreading non violence and non discrimination throughout these hard times, until 1975 when Thích Nhat Hanh was refused entry into Vietnam being accused by the North as helping and aiding the South and South Vietnam accusing him of helping the North.
It was in this year 1975 Thay sought solace as a political refugee in France. Gradually over time he would set up the community of Interbeing and the Plum Village Monastery in the Dordogne region of France, now home to over 150 monks and nuns. His monastery was open to monks, nuns and lay people alike, and he could be found simple tending his garden or giving lectures to hundreds of visitors. His numerous literary works include ‘peace in every step’ ‘the miracle of mindfulness’ and ‘old path white clouds’ to name just a few.
It wasn’t until 2005, and after lengthy negotiations with the Vietnamese Government, that Thich Nhat Hanh was finally allowed to revisit is homeland, and then again in 2007. After suffering a brain hemorage and undergoing extensive treatment Thay has been allowed to return to his original Monastery in Central Vietnam. He is now 93 years old and has spent his entire life selflessly helping others with kindness and compassion.
A truly extraordinary man who I have personally had the privilege to meet at his Plum Village Monastery, to sit in his presents was so calming, you didn’t feel anxious or nervous but simple and unconditionally loved. He glowed with a beautiful white light, just like the religious pictures of old. I met Thay while doing bare foot walking meditation in the snow, silently and gently I was walking around the perimeter of the monastery and around the corner came Thich Nhat Hanh doing exactly the same, a beaming smile on his face as he saw me. He motioned for me to sit next to him where he told me three things that changed my life forever. It sent me on a journey across continents in search of the truth, finally leading to my own ordination as Buddhist Monk and given the spiritual name of Dhamma Tapasa. I have visited Thay on two other occasions and each time I am blessed and humbled by this true meditation master.
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