Following a brain hemorrhage last November, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (known to his followers as Thay) was finally able to return home to Plum Village in Dordogne, southern France, on 3 April. He was greeted by blooming magnolia flowers, loving students, and a team of doctors who will continue to help him to recover.
After feeling ill on 1 November, Thich Nhat Hanh was admitted to hospital in Bordeaux, where he suffered a massive stroke on 11 November. The brain hemorrhage led to hemiparesis, or paralysis of one side of the body, and over the next five weeks, he went in and out of a coma. Once he fully came out of his coma he was moved to the hospital rehabilitation center. There, he was attended by specialists in both Western and Eastern medicine, and slowly regained strength in body and mind as well as the ability to communicate.
Thich Nhat Hanh was born in 1926 and is an extremely influential figure in the Buddhist world. A poet, peace activist, and prolific writer who has authored over 100 books, he was influential in the anti-war movement for his encouragement of non-violent protests during the Vietnam War, and founded the Order of Interbeing as well as the Unified Buddhist Church. Together with his colleague Sister Chân Không, in 1982 he founded Plum Village Buddhist Center in France, and is recognized as a Dharmacharya who has received the Lamp Transmission of Vietnamese Buddhism from his teacher, Master Chân Thật. Thay was responsible for coining the term “Engaged Buddhism,” which he first used in his book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire (1967). He has been a central figure in the exportation of Buddhism to the West and in the marriage of an authentic Zen tradition and lineage with contemporary existential interests—practical relevance, social activism, science versus faith, religion versus spirituality, and many other issues.
In the last few weeks, Thich Nhat Hanh has been walking in the garden of the rehabilitation center, enjoying the warm spring sun and the birdsong, and savoring the delicious flavor of fresh tea. Last week, a medical team determined that if he wished, he could return to his home in Plum Village. However, although his progress towards recovery has been steady, he has not yet fully recovered his speech and remains in a vulnerable condition.
According to an official announcement from the monks and nuns of Plum Village on 6 April, “Thay expressed his clear wish to return home, and arrived on Friday April 3, in time to enjoy the beautiful magnolia blossoms, as well as the first spring leaves as they unfurl. We are all very glad that he can come back to his spiritual home, where his devoted team of monastic attendants is continuing to support him and care for him 24 hours a day, under the guidance of visiting doctors and nurses.”
It continued, “We hope that in the nourishing and peaceful environment of Plum Village, and with the support of on-site physical therapy and speech therapy, he will have favorable conditions to treat his hemiparesis and make progress in swallowing, and recovering his speech.”
The world is blessed with this great teacher’s presence, and his quick recovery at the age of 89 is certainly very encouraging and a relief to all.
Official announcement of Thich Nhat Hanh’s recovery (Plum Village)
Thich Nhat Hanh continues to recover from a severe stroke (National Catholic Reporter)