Thich Nhat Hanh
The moment I die
I will try to come back to you
as quickly as possible
I promise it will not take long.
Isn't it true
I am already with you.
as I die each moment?
I come back to you
in every moment.
feel my presence.
If you want to cry,
that I will cry with you.
The tears you shed
will heal us both.
Your tears are mine.
The earth I tread this morning
Spring and winter are both present in this moment.
The young leaf and the dead leaf are really one.
My feet touch deathlessness,
and my feet are yours.
Walk with me now.
Let us enter the dimension of oneness
and see the cherry tree blossom in the winter.
Why should we talk about death?
I don't need to die
to be back with you.
—Thich Nhat Hanh
Please Call Me by My True Names
Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow—
even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.
I am a mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.
I am a frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.
My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion.
—Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh, influential Zen Buddhist monk, dies at 95
By Hau Dinh , Elaine Kurtenbach and Hrvoje Hranjski
Associated Press—January 24, 2022
HANOI, Vietnam — Thich Nhat Hanh, the revered Zen Buddhist monk who helped spread the practice of mindfulness in the West and socially engaged Buddhism in the East, has died. He was 95.
The death was confirmed by a monk at Tu Hieu Pagoda in Hue, Vietnam who said that Nhat Hanh, known as Thay to his followers, died at midnight on Saturday. The monk declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to media.
A post on Nhat Hanh's verified Twitter page attributed to The International Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism also confirmed the news, saying, "We invite our beloved global spiritual family to take a few moments to be still, to come back to our mindful breathing, as we together hold Thay in our hearts."
Born as Nguyễn Đình Lang in 1926 in Hue and ordained at age 16, Nhat Hanh distilled Buddhist teachings on compassion and suffering into easily grasped guidance over a lifetime dedicated to working for peace. In 1961 he went to the United States to study for a time at Princeton Theological Seminary. He later taught at Columbia University.
For most of the remainder of his life, he lived in exile at Plum Village, a retreat center he founded in southern France.
There and in talks and retreats around the world, he introduced Zen Buddhism, at its essence, as peace through compassionate listening. Still and steadfast in his brown robes, he exuded an air of watchful, amused calm, sometimes sharing a stage with the somewhat livelier Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama.
"The peace we seek cannot be our personal possession. We need to find an inner peace which makes it possible for us to become one with those who suffer, and to do something to help our brothers and sisters, which is to say, ourselves," Nhat Hanh wrote in one of his dozens of books, "The Sun My Heart."
The Dalai Lama said he was saddened by the death of "his friend and spiritual brother."
"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, but also how individuals cultivating peace of mind contribute to genuine world peace, the Venerable lived a truly meaningful life," he said.
Surviving a stroke in 2014 that left him unable to speak, Nhat Hanh returned from France to Vietnam in October 2018, spending his final years at the Tu Hieu Pagoda, the monastery where he was ordained nearly 80 years earlier.
Nhat Hanh plunged into anti-war activism after his return to his homeland in 1964 as the Vietnam War was escalating. There, he founded the Order of Inter-being, which espouses "engaged Buddhism" dedicated to nonviolence, mindfulness and social service.
In 1966, he met the U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in what was a remarkable encounter for both. Nhat Hanh told King he was a "Bodhisattva," or enlightened being, for his efforts to promote social justice.
The monk's efforts to promote reconciliation between the U.S.-backed South and communist North Vietnam so impressed King that a year later he nominated Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In his exchanges with King, Nhat Hanh explained one of the rare controversies in his long life of advocating for peace — over the immolations of some Vietnamese monks and nuns to protest the war.
"I said this was not suicide, because in a difficult situation like Vietnam, to make your voice heard is difficult. So sometimes we have to burn ourselves alive in order for our voice to be heard so that is an act of compassion that you do that, the act of love and not of despair," he said in an interview with U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey. "Jesus Christ died in the same spirit."
Sulak Sivaraksa, a Thai academic who embraced Nhat Hanh's idea of socially engaged Buddhism, said the Zen master had "suffered more than most monks and had been involved more for social justice."
"In Vietnam in the 1950s and 1960s, he was very exposed to young people, and his society was in turmoil, in crisis. He was really in a difficult position, between the devil and the deep blue sea — the Communists on the one hand, the CIA on the other hand. In such a situation, he has been very honest — as an activist, as a contemplative monk, as a poet, and as a clear writer," Sivaraksa was quoted as saying.
According to Nhat Hanh, "Buddhism means to be awake — mindful of what is happening in one's body, feelings, mind and in the world. If you are awake, you cannot do otherwise than act compassionately to help relieve suffering you see around you. So Buddhism must be engaged in the world. If it is not engaged, it is not Buddhism."
Both North and South Vietnam barred Nhat Hanh from returning home after he went abroad in 1966 to campaign against the war, leaving him, he said, "like a bee without a beehive."
He was only allowed back into the country in 2005, when the communist-ruled government welcomed him back in the first of several visits. Nhat Hanh remained based in southern France.
The dramatic homecoming seemed to signal an easing of controls on religion. Nhat Hanh's followers were invited by the abbot of Bat Nha to settle at his mountain monastery, where they remained for several years until relations with the authorities began to sour over Nhat Hanh's calls for an end to government control over religion.
By late 2009 to early 2010, Nhat Hanh's followers were evicted from the monastery and from another temple where they had taken refuge.
Over nearly eight decades, Nhat Hanh's teachings were refined into concepts accessible to all.
To weather the storms of life and realize happiness, he counseled always a mindful "return to the breath," even while doing routine chores like sweeping and washing dishes.
"I try to live every moment like that, relaxed, dwelling peacefully in the present moment and respond to events with compassion," he told Winfrey.
Nhat Hanh moved to Thailand in late 2016 and then returned to Vietnam in late 2018, where he was receiving traditional medicine treatments for the after-effects of his stroke and enjoyed "strolls" around the temple grounds in his wheelchair, according to the Buddhist online newsletter LionsRoar.com.
It was a quiet, simple end to an extraordinary life, one entirely in keeping with his love for taking joy from the humblest aspects of life. "No mud, no lotus," says one of his many brief sayings.