Thích Nhất Hạnh
|Thích Nhất Hạnh|
Thich Nhat Hanh in Paris in 2006
Linji school (Lâm Tế)|
Founder of the Order of Interbeing
42nd generation (Lâm Tế)|
8th generation (Liễu Quán)
|Other names||Thầy (teacher)|
October 11, 1926|
Huế, Thừa Thiên-Huế Province, Vietnam
|Based in||Plum Village|
|Teacher||Thích Chân Thật|
Thích Nhất Hạnh (/ /; Vietnamese: [tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ]; born as Nguyen Xuan Bao on October 11, 1926) is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist. He lives in Plum Village in the Dordogne region in the south of France, travelling internationally to give retreats and talks. He coined the term "Engaged Buddhism" in his book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire. A long term exile, he was given permission to make his first return trip to Vietnam in 2005.
Nhất Hạnh has published more than 100 books, including more than 40 in English. He is active in the peace movement, promoting nonviolent solutions to conflict and he also refrains from animal product consumption as a means of nonviolence towards non-human animals.
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Born as Nguyễn Xuân Bảo, Nhất Hạnh was born in the city of Huế in Central Vietnam in 1926. At the age of 16 he entered the monastery at Từ Hiếu Temple near Huế, Vietnam, where his primary teacher was Zen Master Thanh Quý Chân Thật. A graduate of Báo Quốc Buddhist Academy in Central Vietnam, Thích Nhất Hạnh received training in Vietnamese traditions of Mahayana Buddhism as well as Vietnamese Thiền and was ordained as a monk in 1949.
In 1956, Nhất Hạnh was named editor-in-chief of Vietnamese Buddhism, the periodical of the Unified Vietnam Buddhist Association (Vietnamese: Giáo Hội Phật Giáo Việt Nam Thống Nhất). In the following years he founded Lá Bối Press, the Vạn Hanh Buddhist University in Saigon, and the School of Youth for Social Service (SYSS), a neutral corps of Buddhist peaceworkers who went into rural areas to establish schools, build healthcare clinics, and help rebuild villages.
Nhất Hạnh is now recognized as a dharmacharya (teacher) and as the spiritual head of the Từ Hiếu Pagoda and associated monasteries. On May 1, 1966 at Từ Hiếu Temple, he received the "lamp transmission", making him a dharmacharya, from Zen Master Chân Thật.
During the Vietnam War
In 1960, Nhất Hạnh went to the U.S. to study comparative religion at Princeton University, and was subsequently appointed lecturer in Buddhism at Columbia University. By then he had gained fluency in French, Chinese, Sanskrit, Pali, Japanese and English, in addition to his native Vietnamese. In 1963, he returned to Vietnam to aid his fellow monks in their non-violent peace efforts.
Nhất Hạnh taught Buddhist psychology and prajnaparamita literature at Vạn Hanh Buddhist University, a private institution that focused on Buddhist studies, Vietnamese culture, and languages. At a meeting in April 1965 Vạn Hanh Union students issued a Call for Peace statement. It declared: "It is time for North and South Vietnam to find a way to stop the war and help all Vietnamese people live peacefully and with mutual respect." Nhất Hạnh left for the U.S. shortly afterwards, leaving Chân Không in charge of the SYSS. Vạn Hạnh University was taken over by one of the Chancellors who wished to sever ties with Thich Nhất Hạnh and the SYSS, accusing Chân Không of being a communist. From that point the SYSS struggled to raise funds and faced attacks on its members. The SYSS persisted in their relief efforts without taking sides in the conflict.
Nhất Hạnh returned to the US in 1966 to lead a symposium in Vietnamese Buddhism at Cornell University and to continue his work for peace. While in the US, Nhất Hạnh stopped at Gethsemani Abbey to speak with Thomas Merton. When Vietnam threatened to block Nhất Hạnh's re-entry to the country, Merton penned an essay of solidarity entitled "Nhat Hanh is my Brother". He had written a letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965 entitled: "In Search of the Enemy of Man". It was during his 1966 stay in the U.S. that Thích Nhất Hạnh met with Martin Luther King, Jr. and urged him to publicly denounce the Vietnam War. In 1967, Dr. King gave a famous speech at the Riverside Church in New York City, his first to publicly question the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Later that year, Dr. King nominated Thích Nhất Hạnh for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize. In his nomination Dr. King said, "I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of [this prize] than this gentle monk from Vietnam. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity". The fact that King had revealed the candidate he had chosen to nominate and had made a "strong request" to the prize committee, was in sharp violation of the Nobel traditions and protocol. The committee did not make an award that year.
Nhất Hạnh moved to France and became the chair of the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation. When the Northern Vietnamese army took control of the south in 1975, Thích Nhất Hạnh was denied permission to return to Vietnam. From 1976–1977 he led efforts to help rescue Vietnamese boat people in the Gulf of Siam, eventually stopping under pressure from the governments of Thailand and Singapore.
A CIA-document from the Vietnam War has called Thích Nhất Hạnh a "brain truster" of Thich Tri Quang, the leader of a dissident group.
Establishing the Order of Interbeing
Nhất Hạnh created the Order of Interbeing in 1966. He heads this monastic and lay group, teaching Five Mindfulness Trainings and the Fourteen Precepts. In 1969, Nhất Hạnh established the Unified Buddhist Church (Église Bouddhique Unifiée) in France (not a part of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam). In 1975, he formed the Sweet Potatoes Meditation Center. The center grew and in 1982 he and his colleague Chân Không founded Plum Village, a vihara and zen center in the Dordogne in the south of France. The Unified Buddhist Church is the legally recognized governing body for Plum Village in France, for Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, New York, the Community of Mindful Living, Parallax Press, Deer Park Monastery in California, Magnolia Village in Batesville, Mississippi, and the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany.
He established two monasteries in Vietnam, at the original Từ Hiếu Temple near Huế and at Prajna Temple in the central highlands. Thích Nhất Hạnh and the Order of Interbeing have established monasteries and Dharma centers in the United States at Deer Park Monastery (Tu Viện Lộc Uyển) in Escondido, California, Maple Forest Monastery (Tu Viện Rừng Phong) and Green Mountain Dharma Center (Ðạo Tràng Thanh Sơn) in Vermont both of which closed in 2007 and moved to the Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, New York, and Magnolia Village Practice Center (Đạo Tràng Mộc Lan) in Mississippi. These monasteries are open to the public during much of the year and provide on-going retreats for laypersons. The Order of Interbeing also holds retreats for specific groups of lay people, such as families, teenagers, veterans, the entertainment industry, members of Congress, law enforcement officers and people of color. He conducted a peace walk in Los Angeles in 2005, and again in 2007.
Notable students of Thích Nhất Hạnh include: Skip Ewing, founder of the Nashville Mindfulness Center; Natalie Goldberg, author and teacher; Joan Halifax, founder of the Upaya Institute; Stephanie Kaza, environmentalist; Chân Không, Dharma teacher; Noah Levine, author; Albert Low, Zen teacher and author; Joanna Macy, environmentalist and author; John Croft, co-creator of Dragon Dreaming; Caitriona Reed, Dharma teacher and co-founder of Manzanita Village Retreat Center; Leila Seth, author and Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court; and Pritam Singh, real estate developer and editor of several of Nhất Hạnh's books.
Return to Vietnam
In 2005, following lengthy negotiations, Nhất Hạnh was given permission from the Vietnamese government to return for a visit. He was also allowed to teach there, publish four of his books in Vietnamese, and travel the country with monastic and lay members of his Order, including a return to his root temple, Tu Hieu Temple in Huế. The trip was not without controversy. Thich Vien Dinh, writing on behalf of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (considered illegal by the Vietnamese government), called for Nhất Hạnh to make a statement against the Vietnam government's poor record on religious freedom. Thich Vien Dinh feared that the trip would be used as propaganda by the Vietnamese government, suggesting to the world that religious freedom is improving there, while abuses continue.
Despite the controversy, Thích Nhất Hạnh again returned to Vietnam in 2007, while two senior officials of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) remained under house arrest. The Unified Buddhist Church called his visit a betrayal, symbolizing his willingness to work with his co-religionists' oppressors. Võ Văn Ái, a spokesman for the UBCV, said "I believe Thich Nhat Hanh's trip is manipulated by the Hanoi government to hide its repression of the Unified Buddhist Church and create a false impression of religious freedom in Vietnam." The Plum Village Website states that the three goals of his 2007 trip back to Vietnam were to support new monastics in his Order; to organize and conduct "Great Chanting Ceremonies" intended to help heal remaining wounds from the Vietnam War; and to lead retreats for monastics and lay people. The chanting ceremonies were originally called "Grand Requiem for Praying Equally for All to Untie the Knots of Unjust Suffering", but Vietnamese officials objected, saying it was unacceptable for the government to "equally" pray for soldiers in the South Vietnamese army or U.S. soldiers. Nhất Hạnh agreed to change the name to "Grand Requiem For Praying".
In 2014, major Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian leaders, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist leaders, met to sign a shared commitment against modern-day slavery; the declaration they signed calls for the elimination of slavery and human trafficking by the year 2020. Nhất Hạnh was represented by Chân Không.
In November 2014, Nhất Hạnh experienced a severe brain hemorrhage and was brought back to a hospital. After months of rehabilitation, Nhất Hạnh was released from the stroke rehabilitation clinic at Bordeaux University Hospital. On July 11, 2015, Nhất Hạnh was flown to San Francisco to speed his recovery with an aggressive rehabilitation program through UCSF Medical Center. He is at present back in France since 8 January 2016.
Thích Nhất Hạnh's approach has been to combine a variety of traditional Zen teachings with insights from other Mahayana Buddhist traditions, methods from Theravada Buddhism, and ideas from Western psychology to offer a modern light on meditation practice. Hanh's presentation of the prajnaparamita in terms of "interbeing" has doctrinal antecedents in the Huayan school of thought, which "is often said to provide a philosophical foundation" for Zen.
Nhất Hạnh has also been a leader in the Engaged Buddhism movement (he coined the term), promoting the individual's active role in creating change. He cites the 13th-century Vietnamese king Trần Nhân Tông with the origination of the concept. Trần Nhân Tông abdicated his throne to become a monk and founded the Vietnamese Buddhist school of the Bamboo Forest tradition.
Names applied to him
The Vietnamese name Thích (釋) is from "Thích Ca" or "Thích Già" (釋迦), means "of the Shakya clan." All Buddhist monastics in East Asian Buddhism adopt this name as their surname, implying that their first family is the Buddhist community. In many Buddhist traditions, there is a progression of names that a person can receive. The first, the lineage name, is given when a person takes refuge in the Three Jewels. Thích Nhất Hạnh's lineage name is Trừng Quang. The next is a Dharma name, given when a person, lay or monastic, takes additional vows or when one is ordained as a monastic. Thích Nhất Hạnh's Dharma name is Phung Xuan. Additionally, Dharma titles are sometimes given, and Thích Nhất Hạnh's Dharma title is "Nhất Hạnh".
Neither Nhất (一) nor Hạnh (行)—which approximate the roles of middle name or intercalary name and given name, respectively, when referring to him in English—was part of his name at birth. Nhất (一) means "one", implying "first-class", or "of best quality", in English; Hạnh (行) means "move", implying "right conduct" or "good nature." Thích Nhất Hạnh has translated his Dharma names as Nhất = One, and Hạnh = Action. Vietnamese names follow this naming convention, placing the family or surname first, then the middle or intercalary name which often refers to the person's position in the family or generation, followed by the given name.
Thích Nhất Hạnh is often referred to as Thầy "master; teacher" or as Thầy Nhất Hạnh by his followers. Any Vietnamese monk or nun in the Mahayana tradition can be addressed as "thầy". Vietnamese Buddhist monks are addressed thầy tu "monk" and nuns are addressed as sư cô "sister" or sư bà "elder sister". On the Vietnamese version of the Plum Village website, he is also referred to as Thiền Sư Nhất Hạnh "Zen Master Nhất Hạnh".
Awards and honors
Nobel laureate Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. However, the prize was not awarded to anybody that year. Nhat Hanh was awarded the Courage of Conscience award in 1991.
Nhất Hạnh, along with Alfred Hassler and Chân Không, became the subject of a graphic novel entitled The Secret of the 5 Powers in 2013.
Thich Nhat Hanh has been chosen to receive 2015’s Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award.
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- Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh, Shambhala Publications, 2011, ISBN 978-1-59030-926-1
- Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, Rider, 2012, ISBN 978-1846043185
- The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh, Shambhala Pocket Classics, 2012, ISBN 978-1-59030-936-0
- The Art of Communicating, HarperOne, 2013, ISBN 978-0-06-222467-5
- Blooming of a Lotus, Beacon, 2009, ISBN 9780807012383
- No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, Parallax Press, 2014, ISBN 978-1937006853
- Is nothing something? : kids' questions and zen answers about life, death, family, friendship, and everything in between, Parallax Press 2014, ISBN 978-1-937006-65-5
- Mindful Movements, Parallax Press 2008, ISBN 978-1-888375-79-4
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- Buddhism in the United States
- Buddhism in Vietnam
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- Religion and peacebuilding
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Being vegetarian here also means that we do not consume dairy and egg products, because they are products of the meat industry. If we stop consuming, they will stop producing.
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- Parallax Press - publishing house founded by Thich Nhat Hanh
- La Boi Society - publishes books by Thich Nhat Hanh in Vietnamese
- Sangha Directory - List of communities (Mindfulness Practice Groups) practicing in Thich Nhat Hanh's tradition
- Plum Village - Thich Nhat Hanh's main monastery and practice center, located about 85 km east of Bordeaux, France
- Vietnamese website of Plum Village
- French website of Plum Village
- Deer Park Monastery - located in Escondido, California
- Magnolia Grove Monastery - newest practice center, located near Memphis, TN
- Order of Interbeing
- I Am Home - Community of Mindful Living; home of the "Mindfulness Bell" magazine with news, articles, and talks by Thich Nhat Hanh and other Order of Interbeing members
- Thích Nhất Hạnh's Five Mindfulness Trainings & the Fourteen Precepts