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Revered Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh Turns 93

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Thich Nhat Hanh during a walking meditation session with monks and nuns in Vietnam in 2018. From laodong.vn
Thich Nhat Hanh during a walking meditation session with monks and nuns in Vietnam in 2018. From laodong.vn

The revered Zen Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, who now resides at his root monastery Tu Hieu in Vietnam’s Hue Province, on Friday turned 93 years old. The occasion was observed by lay and monastic well-wishers, who gathered at the temple on 11 October to pay their respects and wish a long life to the Dharma teacher known affectionately to his followers as “Thay” (teacher).

Thich Nhat Hanh traveled back to his homeland of Vietnam on 26 October last year from Thailand, where he had been convalescing since late December 2016. The celebrated Zen master, who has been recovering from a severe stroke since 2014, said in a letter to his disciples at the time that he had decided to spend the remainder of his life at Tu Hieu Pagoda, where he was ordained as a novice monk at the age of 16.

The monastic community of Thay’s Plum Village near Bordeaux in France on Friday published an online update on the well-being of their founder to mark the occasion of his 93rd birthday, providing a detailed account of his current circumstances.

Over the last few days, Thay’s monastic students from across Vietnam have been gathering at Từ Hiếu Temple to celebrate his “continuation day.” Brothers have come from nearby Từ Đức Temple, and sisters have arrived from the South. To celebrate this special day, the monastics have created an exhibition of Thay’s books in the Full Moon Meditation Hall. Thay has been coming out in his wheelchair every day to admire the preparations and savor the joyful atmosphere. Today, hundreds of people gathered to celebrate and offer their best wishes. The monastic community can feel the strength, peace, alertness, and vitality of Thay’s presence, and the warmth and harmony he is bringing to Từ Hiếu. (Plum Village)

Hundreds of well-wishers gathered at Chua Tu Hieu on Friday to celebrate the life of Thich Nhat Hanh on the occasion of his 93rd birthday. From laodong.vn
Hundreds of well-wishers gathered at Chua Tu Hieu on Friday to celebrate the life of Thich Nhat Hanh on the occasion of his 93rd birthday. From laodong.vn

Thay was hospitalized in France in November 2014 following a severe brain hemorrhage. After months of rehabilitation, he was released from the stroke clinic at Bordeaux University Hospital in April 2015 and 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 at the UCSF Medical Center. In September 2015, Thay spoke his first words since his stroke and in January 2016 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 Thailand, he resided at Thai Plum Village on the edge of Khao Yai National Park, the largest practice center in Asia in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition, with more than 200 monastic disciples. 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, Chua Tu Hieu, of which Thay remains the abbot.

Thay visiting an exhibition of his books at Chua Tu Hieu in Vietnam this week. From plumvillage.org.jpg
Thay visiting an exhibition of his books at Chua Tu Hieu in Vietnam this week. From plumvillage.org.jpg

These are the last few sunny days before the rains arrive. Despite the heat and humidity of recent months, Thay has coped very well, perhaps because this is the climate of his youth. (For some of Thay’s attendants, the hot weather has been much more challenging!) From time to time he has a chance to visit the beach for a few days, just thirty minutes from the temple. Thay’s health remains fairly stable overall, although from time to time he faces challenges with appetite, sleep, and physical discomfort. Thay continues to receive regular treatments from acupuncturists and physiotherapists, which are very beneficial.

Earlier this year in July, Thay made remarkable progress with his bilingual (Vietnamese-English) speech therapist, who had begun to help him in San Francisco in 2015, and with whom he has a very good connection. It seems that the mechanics for speech are still there, but that it will take a lot of training for Thay to recover the capacity to speak. Thay eagerly made swift progress over the course of two weeks of therapy, but following his great efforts his body became exhausted. Once he had rested, Thay made it known that he preferred not to continue with the speech training to conserve his energy for offering his presence in and around the temple. (Plum Village)

Plum Village also announced the launch of a redesigned website to mark the occasion of Thay’s birthday, which includes information about Thay’s life, and an expanded library of resources on his teachings “for environmentalists, peace-makers, teachers and business leaders.” (Plum Village) The members of the community acknowledged their united mission as a sangha to support the global movement to protect the Earth, as an expression of Thay’s environmentally aware teachings, and to support the student climate strikes.

Thay pays a short visit to the Full Moon Meditation Center at Chua Tu Hieu. After a year of convalescence at the monastery, the Zen Master's health has been stable and he is able to sign with his left hand. From vnexpress.net
Thay pays a short visit to the Full Moon Meditation Center at Chua Tu Hieu. After a year of convalescence at the monastery, the Zen Master’s health has been stable and he is able to sign with his left hand. From vnexpress.net

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 his colleague 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.

Thay with Senators Leahy, Murkowski, Stabenow, Whitehouse, Udall, Portman, Baldwin, Hirono, and Kaine, and their spouses, at Chua Tu Hieu on 19 April 2019. From plumvillage.org
Thay with Senators Leahy, Murkowski, Stabenow, Whitehouse, Udall, Portman, Baldwin, Hirono, and Kaine, and their spouses, at Chua Tu Hieu on 19 April 2019. From plumvillage.org

See more

Thich Nhat Hanh turns 93 (Plum Village)
Plum Village
Tăng ni, Phật tử về chùa Từ Hiếu mừng thọ Thiền sư Thích Nhất Hạnh (Lao Dong)
Chùa Từ Hiếu chật kín phật tử mừng sinh nhật thiền sư Nhất Hạnh (VN Express)

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