In the wake of a global outpouring of love and devotion from around the world on the passing of the revered teacher and engaged Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh (known affectionately as Thay) on 22 January at the age of 95, thousands of monastics and disciples gathered to pay their last respects on Saturday as the final funeral rites were held in Hue, central Vietnam.
A stream of devotees followed the bearers carrying Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s casket from his root temple Tu Hieu, where he spent the final years of his life, in a procession to the cremation site that was accompanied by chanting, drums, bells, flowers, and parasols. Along the route, thousands more gathered at the roadside, where they bowed in respect to the beloved teacher. The casket’s arrival at the cremation ground was followed by texts, poems, and songs offered by Thay’s senior monastic disciples, among them Sister Chan Khong, with whom he established the Plum Village Buddhist Center in France.
After an 18-hour open cremation ceremony, Thay’s ashes were collected in six ceramic urns and borne in a silent procession back to Tu Hieu Temple. At about 6:30am on Sunday morning, the ashes arrived at Tu Hieu, where the venerable teacher had begun his spiritual journey some 80 years earlier. As Thay had previously requested that no stupa be built as a memorial, the six ceramic urns holding his ashes will be kept at Tu Hieu and at centers and monasteries that Thay founded around the world.
“Thay’s funeral on Saturday, 29 January 2022, was one of the biggest Hue, Vietnam has seen for decades,” Plum Village shared. “Thousands came out to join the procession, in a deep expression of love and respect for a cherished spiritual leader, a humble monk, and an extraordinary human being. We feel grateful to bear solemn witness to such a powerful and elemental open-air cremation, just like in the time of the Buddha.” (Plum Village)
Born Nguyen Dinh Lang on 11 October 1926 in Hue, central Vietnam, and ordained at the age of 16, Thay achieved global recognition for teaching the practice of mindfulness in the West and for propagating the philosophy and practice of engaged Buddhism, built on the concept of interbeing. Over a lifetime that was dedicated to working for peace, the revered master succeeded in distilling the Buddhist teachings on compassion and cessation of suffering for new generations of Buddhist practitioners. Having suffered a severe stroke in 2014, Thay returned to Vietnam in 2018 to live out his final days at his root temple, of which he remained the abbot, after spending most of his adult life in exile.
During the week-long memorial period after his passing, during which Thay lay in state in Tu Hieu Temple’s Full Moon Reception Hall, disciples came to pay silent respect and practice meditation as a tribute to his teachings. Plum Village shared:
Our teacher Thay, has been given the formal title of being from the 42nd Generation of the Linji Dyana School, and Eighth Generation of the Lieu Quan Dharma Line, Patriarch and Abbot of Tu Hieu Lineage, Founder of the International Plum Village Dharma School, whose first name is Trung and whose second name is Quang, and whose lineage name is Phung Xuan, and whose Dharma Title is Zen Master Nhat Hanh, and whose family name is Nguyen, an Awakened Master.(Plum Village)
In a A Eulogy from Thay’s Disciples in Plum Village, published on the Plum Village website and excerpted here, the nuns and monks shared:
Dear Thay, we know that you are much more than your physical body. You are your teachings, your sangha, your immense compassionate action in the world. You are present wherever one of your students is taking a mindful breath or mindful step. You are also present in your cosmic body, just as the cosmos is present in you. And so, every time we enjoy the golden daffodils, or the purple bamboo, the view from the mountain peak, or the gentle creek winding its way to the ocean, we will enjoy these wonders with your eyes and with your smile.
You have said that, “Time is stilled in eternity, where love and the beloved are one.” Dear Thay, you are present here with us in this very moment, as we climb the hill of the twenty-first century together. What you have not yet completed, we promise to complete for you. We would like to express our deep love and gratitude as we make the vow to carry your teachings, compassion, and insight far into the future.
This is a legendary moment.(Plum Village)
This is a moment of continuation.
A Eulogy from Thay’s Disciples in Plum Village (Plum Village)
Eulogy from Thay’s disciples in Vietnam (Plum Village)
Thich Nhat Hanh: live blog (Plum Village)
Mortal remains of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh consigned to flames (VN Express)
Thich Nhat Hanh’s ashes collected (VN Express)
Thich Nhat Hanh memorial practice resources (Plum Village)
Thich Nhat Hanh’s full biography (Plum Village)
The essential teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh (Plum Village)
Free mindfulness app with guided meditations by Thich Nhat Hanh (Plum Village)
The Way Out is In official Plum Village podcast (Plum Village)
Related news reports from BDG
Ven. Bhikkhu Sanghasena: The World Has Lost Another Beautiful Flower
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim: Upon Hearing the News of Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh’s Passing
Sulak Sivaraksa: Thich Nhat Hanh – My Friend and My Teacher
Plum Village Announces the Passing of the Internationally Beloved Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh