Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is no longer in a coma, according to his doctors.
An official announcement from the Plum Village organization, released on 3 January, highlighted the gradual emergence of the influential Buddhist monk into “wakefulness.” He has been able to keep his eyes open throughout the day and recognize familiar faces, which has led his doctors to conclude that he is no longer in a comatose state. He remains in a state of recovery in Bordeaux, France.
According to the official announcement, “He [Thay] is very responsive to verbal stimuli and has brought everyone great joy by starting to smile in the last few days. One of Thay’s close attendants recounted some shared memories from being on tour with Thay. There was a particularly humorous story which, to his astonishment, even made Thay smile and chuckle.” The announcement also pays tribute to those keeping him in their thoughts: “We would like to thank everyone for continuing to generate the energy of healing and compassion for our Beloved Teacher.”
Thich Nhat Hanh is currently in stable condition but still suffers from aphasia, which is a language disorder arising from damage to the brain caused, for example, by strokes. As per Plum Village’s report, Thich Nhat Hanh is indeed suffering from the inability to articulate words, enunciate, or speak spontaneously (likely due to lesions to the language-relevant areas of the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes of the brain). There is no one treatment proven to be effective for the many types of aphasia, and his therapy will depend on a more specific diagnosis.
For his attendants and disciples, an important priority will be to help him regain his ability to move and speak. The stroke that followed his brain hemorrhage was extremely serious, but has been matched by professional and high-quality care by specialist doctors monitoring his condition around the clock. Plum Village reports that he is investing great effort in his physiotherapy sessions, and is practicing the prescribed exercises during the day. There are plans to transfer Thich Nhat Hanh to a specialist stroke rehabilitation clinic later on.
The Zen master, who has been an important figure in Western Buddhism since the mid-20th century, was admitted to a Bordeaux hospital on 1 November 2014 and suffered a brain hemorrhage on 11 November. He has been in poor health during the past few years, but has continued to travel the world giving retreats, lectures, and teachings. He will be 89 this year.