Renowned Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, known affectionately to his followers as “Thay” (Vietnamese for “teacher”), traveled from Tu Hieu, his root monastery in Vietnam’s Hue Province, to Bangkok for medical treatment, according to a letter from Plum Village this week. The letter, dated 1 December, announced that Thay had traveled to Bangkok on 28 November for a full medical check-up. The trip and hospital visit both went smoothly.
The doctor who accompanied Thay on the flight to Thailand remarked that he seemed to be “doing even better in the air.” (Plum Village) Thay sat upright and alert on the flight and enjoyed the view of the scenery below. The flight was met at the airport by 50 monastic and lay students, who accompanied Thay to the hospital.
Following the medical check-up, Thay wished to travel to the nearby Thai Plum Village community in Pak Chong, on the edge of Khao Yai National Park, some 175 kilometers from Bangkok. There he will stay, enjoying the sunshine and dry air, to recover from pneumonia under the watchful eye of specialists not available in Vietnam, according to the letter. Thay, who turned 93 in October, is expected to remain in Pak Chong for some time, returning to Vietnam ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year on 25–27 January.
“We are grateful that Thay is so clear and engaged with respect to his medical care, which helps us make decisions to support his needs. We are learning from Thay’s grace and dignity as he rides the waves of physical fragility. We are investing all our hearts in nurturing Thay’s spiritual community, continuing his teachings and aspiration in the world.” (Plum Village)
Thay was hospitalized in France in November 2014 after a brain hemorrhage. He stayed in the hospital for several months, before returning to Plum Village to recover. In July 2015, he traveled to UCSF Medical Center, in San Francisco, California, to receive specialized rehabilitation treatment. There, he regained partial ability to communicate for the first time since his stroke. In January 2016 he returned to France and remained among his community until December 2016, when he expressed his wish to travel to Thailand to be closer to his birthplace of Vietnam.
Thay visited Tu Hieu, his root monastery in Vietnam, in 2017, and Thay decided to return in November 2018 to live out “his remaining days.” (Plum Village)
Thich Nhat Hanh has been a key figure in 20th and 21st century Buddhism, strongly influencing the reception of Buddhism in the West. He coined the term engaged Buddhism in his book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire (1967) and has published more than 100 books on topics of Buddhist practice and philosophy as well as interreligious dialogue and environmental concern. His work has been studied by Buddhist ethicists and academics including Sallie King, Damien Keown, Barbra Clayton, and Paul Fuller. He founded the Order of Interbeing in Saigon in 1966 and Plum Village in France in 1982 and until his stroke traveled extensively promoting peace and the practice of mindfulness.