Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, a poet, a scholar, and a peace activist. His life long efforts to generate peace and reconciliation moved Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. When not traveling the world to teach “The Art of Mindful Living,” he teaches, writes, and gardens in Plum Village, a Buddhist monastery for monks and nuns, and a mindfulness practice center for lay people in southern France. (See his official bio.)
Known simply as Thay, he suffered a severe brain hemorrhage on November 11, 2014.
With this post, I’d like to express my thankfulness for his teachings and presence in the world, and inform those who don’t know about his work, and provide an update on his current state of health.
Although firmly rooted in the mindfulness tradition of his Zen heritage, to me, Thay is a world teacher because of the universality of his simple message and the sheer volume and impact of his worldwide work. I appreciate and admire him for his peace work, his elegant mastery, his smile and the truth he embodies.
Thay’s Plum Village community has made a couple of announcements since the decline in his health. The energy of these announcements are instructive in themselves (excerpts).
In the early morning, Saturday, November 15, Thay opened his eyes for the first time since his cerebral hemorrhage, to look at his attendants for a brief moment. He was very conscious and attentive to what was happening around him, lifting his left hand to touch the attendant next to him. Since then, he has also opened his eyes several times and his gestures of communication are clearer, nodding or shaking his head to respond. Thay has been able to rest and sleep peacefully for several hours each day. The doctors are cautiously optimistic and remind us that Thay’s condition is still in a critical stage and conditions can change at any moment.
We are aware and grateful for the love and practice that people are offering from all around the world to support Thay’s recovery… If possible, you can dedicate a day to eat vegetarian as a way to generate compassion to send to Thay. You can reconcile with your loved ones, or to let go of your resentment of someone and write them a love letter.
The doctors have expressed surprise at Thay’s resilience and stability over the last week, as the intensive treatment continues. Thay’s blood pressure and pulse are stable, he is still breathing on his own, and he is becoming increasingly peaceful. However, in recent days Thay has been sleeping more deeply and communicating less.
The monks and nuns attend our teacher continuously at his bedside, breathing with him, embracing him with their love, praying that the millions of healthy cells in Thay’s body may become millions of bodhisattvas, helping his brain to heal. As Thay’s condition remains critical, please intensify your practice of generating the energy of Great Compassion of Avalokita for Thay.
Let us support Thay by sustaining our practice of mindfulness throughout the day, wherever we are, keeping Thay alive within us and within our community. With deep conscious breaths and mindful steps, let us allow Thay’s teachings to ripen within us, helping us see Thay’s continuation body and Thay’s sangha body.
As with many masters who have dedicated their life to conscious awakening, Thich Nhat Hanh has written and produced prolifically. I certainly haven’t read all his books. The ones that I have continue to influence me deeply. In the end, it doesn’t really matter how much of Thay’s words one has absorbed. When truth sources from such an embodied place as his life clearly exemplifies, it’s a condensed seed of wisdom that has the power to unravel awakening within you no matter how familiar you are with his work.
I pray that whatever gratitude I’m able to generate in this time of Thanksgiving, produces enough merit to aid Thay in making a full recovery to add many to his 88 years on the planet.
I leave you with a teaching of his on love:
When the energy of love is strong in us, we can send it to beings in all directions. But we must not think that love meditation is only an act of imagination — we might imagine our love as being like waves of sound or light, or like a pure, white cloud that forms slowly and gradually spreads out to envelop the whole world. A true cloud produces rain. Sound and light penetrate everywhere, and our love must do the same. We have to observe whether our mind of love is present in our actual contact with others. Practicing love meditation in the sitting position is only the beginning.
But it is an important beginning. We sit quietly and look deeply into ourselves. With practice, our love will increase naturally, becoming all-inclusive and all-embracing. As we learn to see with the eyes of love, we empty our minds of anger and hatred.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
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