Thich Nhat Hanh, poetic peace activist and master of mindfulness, dies at 95

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Jan 22 (Reuters) – Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist monk, poet and peace activist who rose to prominence in the 1960s as an opponent of the Vietnam War, died on Saturday at the age of 95 years old surrounded by his disciples in the temple where his spiritual journey began.

“The International Community of Plum Village of Engaged Buddhism announces that our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh passed away peacefully at Tu Hieu Temple in Hue, Vietnam, at 00:00 a.m. on January 22, 2022, at the age of 95,” said its official Twitter. Account.

His week-long funeral will be held at the temple in a calm and peaceful manner, according to his supporters.

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“Thich Nhat Hanh will be remembered as one of the world’s most influential and prominent religious leaders,” Charge d’Affaires Marie C. Damour of the U.S. Mission in Vietnam said in a statement.

“Through his teachings and his literary work, his legacy will live on for generations to come,” she said, adding that his teachings, particularly on bringing mindfulness into everyday life, have enriched the lives of countless Americans.

In a body of work and public appearances spanning decades, Thich Nhat Hanh spoke in soft yet powerful tones about the need to “walk as if you kiss the earth with your feet”.

He suffered a stroke in 2014 which left him unable to speak and returned to Vietnam to live out his final days in the central city of Hue, the former capital and his birthplace, after spending much of his adult life in exile.

As a pioneer of Buddhism in the West, he formed the “Plum Village” monastery in France and spoke regularly about the practice of mindfulness – identifying and moving away from certain thoughts without judgment – to the world of company and its international followers.

“You learn to suffer. If you know how to suffer, you suffer much, much less. And then you know how to make good use of suffering to create joy and happiness,” he told a lecture. in 2013.

“The art of happiness and the art of suffering always go together”.

Born Nguyen Xuan Bao in 1926, Thich Nhat Hanh was ordained a monk as the revolutionary founder of modern Vietnam Ho Chi Minh led efforts to liberate the Southeast Asian country from its French colonial rulers.

Thich Nhat Hanh, who spoke seven languages, taught at Princeton and Columbia universities in the United States in the early 1960s. He returned to Vietnam in 1963 to join a growing Buddhist opposition to the US-Vietnamese War, demonstrated by demonstrations of self-immolation by several monks.

“I have seen communists and anti-communists kill and destroy each other because each believed they had a monopoly on the truth,” he wrote in 1975.

“My voice was muffled by bombs, mortars and shouting.”

“Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh lived a truly meaningful life. I am convinced that the best way to pay tribute to him is to continue his work to promote peace in the world,” said the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. . Twitter.

‘LIKE A PINE’

At the height of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, he met civil rights leader Martin Luther King, whom he persuaded to speak out against the conflict.

King called Thich Nhat Hanh “an apostle of peace and non-violence” and nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“I know of no one more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this kind Buddhist monk from Vietnam,” King wrote in his nomination letter.

While in the United States to meet King a year earlier, the South Vietnamese government banned Thich Nhat Hanh from returning home.

Monk Haenim Sunim, who once acted as Thich Nhat Hanh’s translator on a trip to South Korea, said the Zen master was calm, attentive and loving.

“He was like a big pine tree, allowing many people to rest under his branches with his wonderful teaching of mindfulness and compassion,” Haemin Sunim told Reuters.

“He was one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.”

Thich Nhat Hanh’s work and promotion of the idea of ​​mindfulness and meditation has seen a resurgence in popularity as the world reels from the effects of a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than a million people. people and disrupted daily life.

“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear,” wrote Thich Nhat Hanh. “If we think tomorrow will be better, we can stand a test today.

“If you can refrain from hoping, you can fully immerse yourself in the present moment and discover the joy that is already there.”

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Reporting by James Pearson; Additional reporting by Tom Heneghan in Paris and Diane Craft in New York; Editing by Nick Macfie, Jacqueline Wong and Alistair Bell

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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