The international sangha of Plum Village has released a new documentary about the life of the revered teacher and engaged Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh (known affectionately as Thay). Shared as a response to the war and growing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, A Cloud Never Dies, documents the life and impact of the renowned Zen master and is accompanied by an open letter calling for peace and an immediate ceasefire.
“As Thay’s ‘spiritual continuation,’ and in response to the war and growing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine . . . the International Plum Village Community is releasing A Cloud Never Dies, a moving documentary about Thay’s life, as well as a letter from his senior monastics calling for all parties to stop the killing in Ukraine,” the sangha announced on 2 April. (Plum Village)
A Cloud Never Dies seeks to offer an intimate insight into Thay’s legacy as a Buddhist practitioner, author, poet, peace activist, and global spiritual leader, whose teachings on mindfulness, global ethics, and peace have had, and continue to have, an immeasurable impact that extends across the world.
“Throughout his life, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh . . . was a tireless advocate for peace and human rights,” said Plum Village. “Some of his deepest teachings, insights, and practices were forged in the wars in Vietnam.” (Plum Village)
Narrated by actor Peter Coyote, A Cloud Never Dies is the outcome of a collaboration that has involved monastic historians and Plum Village community members working with filmmakers Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis.
“A Cloud Never Dies isn’t only intended to inform viewers. We hope it also inspires you to take action, in keeping with Thay’s teachings on engaged Buddhism,” Plum Village noted. “After watching this film, and reading the letter on Ukraine, you may ask: what can I do to be Thay’s continuation and to be an instrument of peace?” (Plum Village)
Plum Village also offers suggestions for practitioners to consider as their next steps toward peace, including book discussions, walks for peace, writing love letters, and committing to Right Action.
The accompanying open letter Plum Village on the Ukraine crisis—signed by Thay’s lifelong collaborator in the Dharma, Sister Chan Khong, and elder disciple Thich Chan Phap An—begins:
Dear Human Family,
Watching the tragedy of war continue to unfold daily in Ukraine, we open our hearts to the suffering of people young and old. As an international community of Engaged Buddhism in the Plum Village tradition, we observe the war with pain and alarm.
In our Buddhist community, every Christmas we listen with great joy to the sound of Russian church bells, and we open our hearts to the rich spiritual heritage of Russia and Europe. Our teacher, the venerable Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, has said that “A bell is always a bell; whether it’s Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or Buddhist, it is still a bell.” Listening to the bell, no matter what our cultural or religious roots are, we can have a deep encounter where we touch peace and a shared spiritual dimension. We all yearn for peace. We all need peace.
Our community’s own roots lie in the tradition of Engaged Buddhism in Vietnam, where more than three million people died in a war that lasted nearly 20 years and some two million fled as refugees. We know from our teacher that war is never a solution. It leads only to division and hatred that can last for generations.
Born Nguyen Dinh Lang on 11 October 1926 in Hue, central Vietnam, and ordained at the age of 16, Thay achieved global recognition for teaching the practice of mindfulness in the West and for propagating the philosophy and practice of engaged Buddhism, built on the concept of interbeing. Over a lifetime that was dedicated to working for peace, the revered master succeeded in distilling the Buddhist teachings on compassion and cessation of suffering for new generations of Buddhist practitioners. Having suffered a severe stroke in 2014, Thay returned to Vietnam in 2018 to live out his final days at his root temple, of which he remained the abbot, after spending most of his adult life in exile.
There is no path to peace; peace is the path.— Thich Nhat Hanh
A Cloud Never Dies (Plum Village)
An Open Letter Calling for Peace (Plum Village)
“A Cloud Never Dies” biographical documentary of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh narrated by Peter Coyote (YouTube)
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