Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, who has returned to his home monastery in Vietnam after decades spent teaching abroad,* has been awarded one of this year’s Luxembourg Peace Prizes. The awards were announced on 21 June in Luxembourg by the Schengen Peace Foundation, an organization founded in 2005 with the aims of promoting peace, tolerance, and understanding around the world through multicultural discussions, publications, online platforms, and educational programs.
In their profile for the Thich Nhat Hanh, known affectionately to his followers as “Thay” (teacher), the award committee writes: “Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist revered throughout the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace. His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in oneself and in the world.” (Luxembourg Peace Prize)
Thay was given the award for “Outstanding Inner Peace,” a category of the annual awards aimed at people or institutions that promote health for body and mind. The different categories of the Luxembourg Peace Prize aim to draw greater attention to the goals of the World Peace Forum, which offers an online forum and annual events aimed at facilitating leaders in peacebuilding around the globe. The 12 different categories awarded each year are: peace education, peace activist, peace organization, public peace efforts, peace support, peace technology, youth peaceworker, peace process, peace journalism, environmental peace, art for peace, and inner peace.
Thich Nhat Hanh, who is 93 years old, was unable to attend the award ceremony in person, but two monks from his order attended to receive the prize on his behalf.
Thay is known around the world for his efforts to find peace in the midst of the war in Vietnam in the 1960s. His activism then led to a friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr., who nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. At the time, King told the prize committee: “I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam.” (Plum Village)
Since then, Thich Nhat Hanh has toured the world as a Zen Buddhist teacher, and a prolific author, poet, and peace activist. His teaching has consistently drawn from the Buddhist concepts of mindfulness and interconnectedness. He founded the Order of Interbeing in Saigon in 1966 and the Unified Buddhist Church in 1969. In 1982, he went on to establish the Plum Village Buddhist Center in France with his colleague Sister Chan Khong.
Thay was able to return to Vietnam for the first time in 2005 and again in 2007 and 2008.** In 2014, Thay suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in France for many months before being transferred to the US for specialist treatment. In 2016, still in recovery, he moved to Plum Village in Thailand. He has been back in Vietnam since 26 October last year, having declared his intention to remain there for the remainder of his life.
He has stated: “I promise myself that I will enjoy every minute of the day that is given me to live. It is thanks to the practice of mindful walking and mindful breathing that I can enjoy deeply every moment of my daily life.” (Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, Riverhead Books 2002)
* Thich Nhat Hanh Returns to His Roots in Vietnam (Buddhistdoor Global)
** Thich Nhat Hanh Returns to Vietnam for the First Time in a Decade (Buddhistdoor Global)