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Plum Village Shares an Update on Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

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Thich Nhat Hah with his attendants in Hue in 2019. From plumvillage.org

The monastic community of Plum Village in southern France on Friday provided an update on the health and circumstances of the revered Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, and author Thich Nhat Hanh, known affectionately to his followers as “Thay” (teacher), who now resides in Vietnam and is approaching his 94th birthday.

“Thay’s health is still very variable, with times when he is weak and other times when he is stronger. Although his spirit remains bright and strong, in the last month or so, Thay’s body has been notably weaker and he has lost his appetite.” the monks and nuns of Plum Village stated in the updated dated 18 September. (Plum Village)

Thich Nhat Hanh returned to his homeland in October 2018 from Thailand, where he had been convalescing since late December 2016, following a severe stroke in 2014. The celebrated Zen master said in a letter to his disciples at the time that he had decided to live the remainder of his life at his root monastery, Tu Hieu Temple, in the central Vietnamese city of Hue, where he was ordained as a novice monk at the age of 16.

Plum Village said that since retiring to Tu Hieu, Thay had been able to spend time visiting  the temple grounds and joining the monastic community there for walking meditation, attending ceremonies and festivals, and interacting with visiting students and well-wishers from all over the world. Since the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tu Hieu has been closed to the public, with precautions in place to protect the health of the celebrated Dharma teacher.

“As Thay’s disciples, we are responsible for ensuring [that] Thay has every support he needs for body and spirit, and ensuring that all provisions for his care are adapted to the current COVID situation,” said Plum Village. “At present, there is a quarantine in place before anyone can enter Vietnam, and another quarantine upon arrival in Hue. Since many of Thay’s senior disciples have been serving and teaching in other countries over the last two years, it is our wish that some of those close to him can be present with Thay for his upcoming birthday on 11 October. We are grateful that they have been given permission to enter the country during the pandemic.” (Plum Village)

All international visitors are required to undergo 14 days of quarantine upon entering Vietnam, and then a further two weeks of isolation after arrival in Hue.

Thich Nhat Hanh with monks, nuns, and lay Buddhists during walking meditation at Tu Hieu. Photo by Phuc Dat. From laodong.vn
Thich Nhat Hanh with monks, nuns, and lay Buddhists during walking meditation at Tu Hieu. Photo by Phuc Dat. From laodong.vn

A report published on Sunday by the Lao Dong news website said that after a period of declining health, weak appetite, and disturbed sleep, Thay had shown signs of improvement by 19 September. An attendant also observed that Thay’s health had similarly  weakened around the same time last year, but had subsequently improved after five weeks of treatment.

Thay’s senior disciple Sister Chan Khong was quoted by Voice of America’s Vietnamese-language news website as saying that after showing an unexpectedly strong recovery from the stroke, Thay’s conditioned had gradually weakened each year. “There have been days when Thay was healthy and his attendants were able to walk with him around the pagoda . . . and sometimes receive guests. There have been other days when Thay has been tired and rested in retreat,” she said. (Voice of America)

“We know that what nourishes and sustains Thay’s spirit the most, is to hear all the ways that his students, both lay and monastic, all over the world, are continuing to put his teachings into practice in their daily life and in society,” said the monks ands nuns of Plum Village. “To celebrate Thay’s ‘continuation day’ on 11 October, we are inviting all of Thay’s hundreds of thousands of students to practice walking meditation, and to forgive and love those with whom they have difficulties. This is a beautiful way to continue Thay in the world, and nourish his spirit while he is still with us. May the energy of the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion continue to embrace our Teacher, our community, and all those who face difficult moments during this time.” (Plum Village)

Thay was hospitalized in France in November 2014 following a severe brain hemorrhage. After months of rehabilitation, he returned to his Plum Village monastic community in April 2015, 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. In September 2015, Thay spoke his first words since his stroke and in 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 his homeland Vietnam in more than a decade, spending several days in Da Nang before visiting his hometown in nearby Hue and paying his respects at his ancestral shrine and his lineage’s root temple, Tu Hieu, of which he remains the abbot.

“We are so happy that Thay has compassionately stayed with us since his massive stroke almost six years ago, offering his presence, stability, and witness, as we step up to nurture and grow the Plum Village international community, and continue his teachings and legacy,” the monks ands nuns of Plum Village concluded. (Plum Village)

“He is an apostle of peace and nonviolence.” — Martin Luther King Jr. From plumvillage.org
“He is an apostle of peace and nonviolence.” — Martin Luther King Jr. From plumvillage.org

Born Nguyen Xuan Bao in central Vietnam on 11 October 1926, Thay is an influential Zen teacher, poet, and the author of more than 100 books, including the bestselling The Miracle of Mindfulness. As an active advocate for peace, he was influential in the anti-war movement, encouraging non-violent protests during the Vietnam War. Before leaving Vietnam, he spearheaded a movement by Buddhists in the south calling for a negotiated end to the bloody conflict. In 1967, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by 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 founded the Order of Interbeing and the Unified Buddhist Church, and in 1982 established the Plum Village Buddhist Center in France with Sister Chan Khong. He has been 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, science versus faith, and religion versus spirituality.

Thich Nhat Hanh Travels to Thailand to “Be Closer to his Homeland” (Buddhistdoor Global)

See more

Autumn News of Thầy in Huế (Plum Village)
Thông tin mới về sức khỏe Thiền sư Thích Nhất Hạnh (Lao Dong)
Thiền sư Thích Nhất Hạnh suy yếu, đại đệ tử được phép về thăm (Voice of America) 

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