[UPDATE: adds tributes and links to memorial schedule]
The community of Plum Village has announced the death of the internationally beloved and revered teacher and engaged Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh at Tu Hieu Temple in Hue, Vietnam. Thay, as the Vietnamese Zen master was known affectionately to his followers, is reported to have passed away at midnight on 22 January at the age of 95.
In a notice published on the Plum Village website, the monks and nuns of Plum Village in southwestern France shared:
With a deep mindful breath, we announce the passing of our beloved teacher, Thay Nhat Hanh, at 00:00hrs on January 22, 2022 at Từ Hiếu Temple in Huế, Vietnam, at the age of 95.
Thay has been the most extraordinary teacher, whose peace, tender compassion, and bright wisdom has touched the lives of millions. Whether we have encountered him on retreats, at public talks, or through his books and online teachings–or simply through the story of his incredible life–we can see that Thay has been a true bodhisattva, an immense force for peace and healing in the world. Thay has been a revolutionary, a renewer of Buddhism, never diluting and always digging deep into the roots of Buddhism to bring out its authentic radiance.
Thay has opened up a beautiful path of Engaged and Applied Buddhism for all of us: the path of the Five Mindfulness Trainings and the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing. As Thay would say, “Because we have seen the path, we have nothing more to fear.” We know our direction in life, we know what to do, and what not to do to relieve suffering in ourselves, in others, and in the world; and we know the art of stopping, looking deeply, and generating true joy and happiness.
Now is a moment to come back to our mindful breathing and walking, to generate the energy of peace, compassion, and gratitude to offer our beloved Teacher. It is a moment to take refuge in our spiritual friends, our local sanghas and community, and each other.
We invite you to join our global community online, as we commemorate Thay’s life and legacy with five days of practice and ceremonies broadcast LIVE from Hue, Vietnam and Plum Village, France, starting on Saturday January 22nd. There will also be ceremonies hosted in Deer Park Monastery, California, and other practice centers in our tradition. Please reach out to your local practice center or sangha for more information.
Let us each resolve to do our best over the coming days to generate the energy of mindfulness, peace, and compassion, to send to our beloved Teacher.
Over the coming hours on the Plum Village website, we will publish some inspirational chants, texts, and mindfulness practice resources, to support you to come together with your local sangha to generate a collective energy of mindfulness and compassion, and create your own ceremony or session in tribute to our Teacher. As Thay has always taught, nothing is more important than brotherhood and sisterhood, and we all know the power of collective energy.
To join us in this time of collective practice over the coming days, please sign up to our international email list for more updates: https://bit.ly/3fJx7pd
With love, trust, and togetherness,
The Monks and Nuns of Plum Village, France
A river memorials flowed in from around the world as the countless people whose live have been touched by the words and deeds of this agent of peace and liberation and a pioneer of Buddhism in the West were moved to offer personal tributes. The renowned Korean Seon (Zen) master and fellow engaged Buddhist Ven. Pomnyun Sunim published a touching message that expressed the sadness felt by millions:
As one who has always had great respect for Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, I am deeply saddened by the news of his passing. I would have liked him to stay with us a little longer for those who are suffering in this world.
Born in Vietnam during the French colonial rule, he experienced the Vietnam War and witnessed the atrocities of mass killing and destruction, which led to a refugee crisis in Vietnam.
Despite all the adversity and danger, he did not hesitate to sacrifice himself in realizing social justice based on the spirit of peace and reconciliation. Furthermore, he spread his philosophy of peace and reconciliation beyond Vietnam to the entire world.
He led a peace movement based on nonviolence and compassion.
We, the practitioners around the world, regardless of nationality, ideology, and religion, vow to continue the nonviolent peace movement you have led. Please entrust us with the task. May you rest in eternal peace!
I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
From Ladakh in northern India, the renowned spiritual leader and socially engaged Buddhist monk Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena observed of Thay:
He was some time called as the Dalai Lama of the west. He was a poet, educationist, and peace activist, lover of gardens and natures and prolific writer and author of many books. His books written lucidly and beautifully have become famous worldwide and to be found in the all the world major libraries. . . .
Though he was born and brought up in the Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist tradition, his teachings of meditation basically remained based on the famous Mahasatipatthana Sutta fond in PALI TIPITAKA. His popular meditation retreat “the art of mindful living” attracted huge numbers of seekers of truth and lovers of peace. . . .
With the passing away of this great enlightened Master, one of the brightest lights of Buddha Dhamma will be missed. However his teachings and legacy will continue forever through his wonderful books teachings on social media. The world lost one of the most beautiful flowers of humanity!
I am one among millions who got benefits from his incredible teachings. I personally will miss this great flower of Dhamma.
And both His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness the Karmapa also offered public letters expressing heartfelt tributes. The Dalai Lama stated:
I am saddened to learn that my friend and spiritual brother Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh has died. I offer my condolences to his followers in Vietnam and around the world.
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 contributes to genuine world peace, the Venerable lived a truly meaningful life.
I have no doubt the best way we can pay tribute to him is to continue his work to promote peace in the world.
Born Nguyen Xuan Bao in central Vietnam on 11 October 1926, Thay was an influential Zen teacher, poet, and the author of more than 100 books translated into over 40 languages, including the bestselling The Miracle of Mindfulness, Peace is Every Step, and How to Love. As an unwavering advocate for peace, he was influential in the anti-war movement, encouraging non-violent protests during the American war in Vietnam. Before leaving Vietnam, Thay spearheaded a movement by Buddhists in the south calling for a negotiated end to the bloody conflict. In 1967, Thay was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who told the Nobel committee: “I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam.” (Plum Village)
Thay went on to found the Order of Interbeing and the Unified Buddhist Church, and in 1982 formed the Plum Village Buddhist Center near Bordeaux in southwestern France with Sister Chan Khong. Establishing a profoundly deep legacy of teachings, writings, and public works spanning decades, Thay became a central figure in the transmission of Buddhism to the West and in marrying an authentic Zen tradition and lineage with a progressive approach to issues such as social activism, peace advocacy, science versus faith, and religion versus spirituality.
Often known as “the father of mindfulness” who sowed the seeds of the modern mindfulness movement, Thay taught many of today’s leading mindfulness teachers, and developed healing methodologies that have been incorporated into mainstream clinical psychology to treat depression, anxiety, and stress.
Thay was hospitalized in France in November 2014, following a severe brain hemorrhage. In April 2015, after months of rehabilitation, he returned to his Plum Village monastic community, where attendants from the monastery and visiting medical professionals continued to aid his recovery. In July of the same year, Thay was flown to San Francisco to undergo a more intensive rehabilitation program, and in September 2015, Thay spoke his first words since his stroke. The following January, he was allowed to return to Plum Village, where he remained under the care of the members of his community.
In December 2016, two months after his 90th birthday, Thay communicated a clear and determined wish to travel from France to Thailand in order to be closer to his homeland. In August 2017, Thay made his first visit to Vietnam in more than a decade, spending several days in Da Nang before visiting his hometown in nearby Hue and paying respects at his ancestral shrine and his lineage’s root temple, Tu Hieu, of which he remained the abbot. Thay spent the remainder of his life at Tu Hieu Temple in the loving care of his closest followers until his passing on 22 January.
One of Thay’s senior monastic disciples, Brother Chan Phap Dung, recalled a powerful teaching shared by Thay before he became sick, in which he instructed his community not to build a traditional memorial stupa for his remains after his death:
“Please do not build a stupa for me. Please do not put my ashes in a vase, lock me inside and limit who I am. I know this will be difficult for some of you. If you must build a stupa though, please make sure that you put a sign on it that says, ‘I am not in here.’ In addition, you can also put another sign that says, ‘I am not out there either,’ and a third sign that says, ‘If I am anywhere, it is in your mindful breathing and in your peaceful steps.’”(Plum Village)
Thay’s work and legacy are continued by the International Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism, a global grassroots network comprising more than 1,000 local mindfulness groups, dozens of meditation centers, and 10 monasteries in the US, Europe, and Asia, as well as countless followers and practitioners around the globe.
Thich Nhat Hanh, 11.10.1926–22.01.2022 (Plum Village)
Thich Nhat Hanh: live blog (Plum Village)
Memorial Schedule for Thich Nhat Hanh (Plum Village)
Worldwide Memorial Services (Plum Village)
Plum Village (YouTube)
Thich Nhat Hanh memorial practice resources (Plum Village)
Thich Nhat Hanh’s full biography (Plum Village)
The essential teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh (Plum Village)
Free mindfulness app with guided meditations by Thich Nhat Hanh (Plum Village)
The Way Out is In official Plum Village podcast (Plum Village)
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