Thich Nhat Hanh, known affectionately to his followers as “Thay” (teacher), recently traveled back to his homeland in Vietnam from Thailand, where he has 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 that he had decided to spend the remainder of his life at Tu Hieu Pagoda in Hue, where he was ordained at the age of 16.
“The Buddhist knowledge and wisdom I learned from Tu Hieu is now spreading all over the world, and I believe it’s time for me to get back to my roots,” Thay, who is reported to be in stable health, said in his letter. “Students of Tu Hieu are now living and practicing Buddhism in many different places around the world and as a way to remind them of their roots, I want to die here in Tu Hieu.” (VnExpress)
Thich Nhat Hanh arrived in Vietnam on 26 October, a year after his previous trip to his homeland.** His itinerary includes spending several days in Da Nang, with a visit to his birthplace in nearby Thua Thien in Hue. This is Thay’s fifth journey to Vietnam since he left the country in 1966. His previous visits have taken place in 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2017.
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 has been residing 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.
Born Nguyen Xuan Bao in central Vietnam on 11 October 1926, and was ordained at the age of 16 at Tu Hieu Temple, in Hue City, 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.
Walk With Me, a new documentary film about Thich Nhat Hanh and his Plum Village monastic community made its world premier at the prestigious South by Southwest festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas in March last year. Narrated by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, the flm has been shown in cinemas across the world.***
* Thich Nhat Hanh Travels to Thailand to “Be Closer to his Homeland” (Buddhistdoor Global)
** Thich Nhat Hanh Returns to Vietnam for the First Time in a Decade (Buddhistdoor Global)
***Walk With Me Documentary About Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village Community Premieres at SXSW (Buddhistdoor Global)