Thích Nh?t H?nh () (born October 11, 1926) is a Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist now based in France.
He joined a Zen (Vietnamese: Thi?n) monastery at the age of 16, studied Buddhism as a novice, and was fully ordained as a monk in 1949. The title Thích is used by all Vietnamese monks and nuns, meaning that they are part of the Shakya (Shakyamuni Buddha) clan. In the early 1960s, he founded the School of Youth for Social Services (SYSS) in Saigon. This grassroots relief organization rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools, established medical centers, and resettled families left homeless during the Vietnam War. He traveled to the U.S. to study at Princeton University, and later to lecture at Cornell University and Columbia University. His focus at the time, was to urge the U.S. government to withdraw from Vietnam. He urged Martin Luther King, Jr. to publicly oppose the Vietnam War; King nominated Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in January 1967. He created the (non-Zen) Order of Interbeing in 1966, establishing monastic and practice centers around the world. In 1973, the Vietnamese government denied Nhat Hanh permission to return to Vietnam and he went into exile in France. From 1976-1977 he led efforts to rescue Vietnamese boat people in the Gulf of Siam.
Nhat Hanh has become an important influence in the development of Western Buddhism. His teachings and practices aim to appeal to people from various religious, spiritual, and political backgrounds, intending to offer mindfulness practices for more Western sensibilities. As of 2007, he has been based at the Plum Village Monastery in the Dordogne region in the South of France, travelling internationally to give retreats and talks. He coined the term Engaged Buddhism in his book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire. A long-term exile, he was given permission to make his first return trip to Vietnam in 2005 and has returned regularly since. He was awarded the Courage of Conscience award in 1991.
Nhat Hanh has published more than 100 books, including more than 40 in English. A journal for the Order of Interbeing, The Mindfulness Bell, is published quarterly which includes a Dharma talk by him. Nhat Hanh continues to be active in the peace movement, promoting non-violent solutions to conflict. He has also been featured in many films, including The Power of Forgiveness showcased at the Dawn Breakers International Film Festival.
Thich Nhat Hanh was born Nguy?n Xuân B?o in Th?a Thiên (Central Vietnam) in 1926. At the age of 16 he entered the monastery at T? Hi?u Temple near Hu?, Vietnam, where his primary teacher was Dhyana (meditation Zen) Master Thanh Quư Chân Th?t . A graduate of Bao Quoc Buddhist Academy in Central Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh received training in Zen and the Mahayana school of Buddhism and was ordained as a monk in 1949.
In 1956, he was named editor-in-chief of Vietnamese Buddhism, the periodical of the Unified Vietnam Buddhist Association (Giáo H?i Ph?t Giáo Vi?t Nam Th?ng Nh?t). In the following years he founded Lá B?i Press, the Van Hanh Buddhist University in Saigon, and the School of Youth for Social Service (SYSS), a neutral corps of Buddhist peaceworkers who went into rural areas to establish schools, build healthcare clinics, and help re-build villages.
Nhat Hanh is now recognized as a Dharmacharya and as the spiritual head of the T? Hi?u Temple and associated monasteries. On May 1, 1966 at T? Hi?u Temple, Thich Nhat Hanh received the "lamp transmission", making him a Dharmacharya or Dharma Teacher, from Master Chân Th?t.
During the Vietnam War
Nhat Hanh taught Buddhist psychology and Prajnaparamita literature at the Van Hanh Buddhist University, a private institution that focused on Buddhist studies, Vietnamese culture, and languages. At a meeting in April 1965 Van Hanh Union students issued a Call for Peace statement. It declared: "It is time for North and South Vietnam to find a way to stop the war and help all Vietnamese people live peacefully and with mutual respect." Nhat Hanh left for the U.S. shortly afterwards, leaving Sister Chan Khong in charge of the SYSS. Van Hanh University was taken over by one of the Chancellors who wished to sever ties with Thich Nhat Hanh and the SYSS, accusing Chan Khong of being a communist. From that point the SYSS struggled to raise funds and faced attacks on its members. The SYSS persisted in their relief efforts without taking sides in the conflict.
In 1960, Nhat Hanh came to the U.S. to study comparative religion at Princeton University, subsequently being appointed lecturer in Buddhism at Columbia University. By then he had gained fluency in French, Chinese, Sanskrit, Pali, Japanese and English, in addition to his native Vietnamese. In 1963, he returned to Vietnam to aid his fellow monks in their non-violent peace efforts.
Nhat Hanh returned to the US in 1966 to lead a symposium in Vietnamese Buddhism at Cornell University and to continue his work for peace. He had written a letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965 entitled: "In Search of the Enemy of Man". It was during his 1966 stay in the U.S. that Thich Nhat Hanh met with Martin Luther King, Jr. and urged him to publicly denounce the Vietnam War. In 1967, Dr. King gave a famous speech at the Riverside Church in New York City, his first to publicly question the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Later that year Dr. King nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize. In his nomination Dr. King said, "I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of [this prize] than this gentle monk from Vietnam. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity". The fact that King had revealed the candidate he had chosen to nominate and had made a "strong request" to the prize committee, was in sharp violation of the Nobel traditions and protocol. The committee did not make an award that year.
In 1969, Nhat Hanh was the delegate for the Buddhist Peace Delegation at the Paris Peace talks. When the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973 the Vietnamese government denied Thich Nhat Hanh permission to return to Vietnam and he went into exile in France. From 1976-1977 he led efforts to help rescue Vietnamese boat people in the Gulf of Siam, eventually stopping under pressure from the governments of Thailand and Singapore.
Establishing the Order of Interbeing
Nhat Hanh created the (non-Zen) Order of Inter-Being in 1966. He heads this monastic and lay group, teaching Five Mindfulness Trainings and Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. In 1969, Nhat Hanh established the Unified Buddhist Church (Église Bouddhique Unifiée) in France (not a part of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam). In 1975, he formed the Sweet Potatoes Meditation Center. The center grew and in 1982 he and his colleague Sister Chân Không founded Plum Village Buddhist Center (Làng Mai), a monastery and Practice Center in the Dordogne in the south of France. BBC - Religion & Ethics - Thich Nhat Hanh The Unified Buddhist Church is the legally recognized governing body for Plum Village (Làng Mai) in France, for Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, New York, the Community of Mindful Living, Parallax Press, Deer Park Monastery in California, and the Magnolia Village in Batesville, Mississippi.
He established two monasteries in Vietnam, at the original T? Hi?u Temple near Hu? and at Prajna Temple in the central highlands. Thich Nhat Hanh and the Order of Interbeing have established monasteries and Dharma centers in the United States at Deer Park Monastery (Tu Vi?n L?c Uy?n) in Escondido, California, Maple Forest Monastery (Tu Vi?n R?ng Phong) and Green Mountain Dharma Center (Đ?o Tràng Thanh S?n) in Vermont both of which closed in 2007 and moved to the Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, New York, and Magnolia Village Practice Center (??o Tràng M?c Lan) in Mississippi. These monasteries are open to the public during much of the year and provide on-going retreats for lay people. The Order of Interbeing also holds retreats for specific groups of lay people, such as families, teenagers, veterans, the entertainment industry, members of Congress, law enforcement officers and people of color. He conducted a peace walk in Los Angeles in 2005, and again in 2007.
Notable students of Thich Nhat Hanh include: Skip Ewing founder of the Nashville Mindfulness Center, Natalie Goldberg author and teacher, Joan Halifax founder of the Upaya Institute, Stephanie Kaza environmentalist, Sister Chan Khong Dharma teacher, Noah Levine author, Albert Low Zen teacher and author, Joanna Macy environmentalist and author, Caitriona Reed Dharma teacher and co-founder of Manzanita Village Retreat Center, Leila Seth author and Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, and Pritam Singh real estate developer and editor of several of Nhat Hanh's books.
Return to Vietnam
In 2005, following lengthy negotiations,Nhat Hanh was given permission from the Vietnamese government to return for a visit. He was also allowed to teach there, publish certain of his books in Vietnamese, and travel the country with monastic and lay members of his Order, including a return to his root temple, Tu Hieu Temple in Hu?. The trip was not without controversy. Thich Vien Dinh writing on behalf of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (considered illegal by the Vietnamese government) called for Nhat Hanh to make a statement against the Vietnam government's poor record on religious freedom. Thich Vien Dinh feared that the trip would be used as propaganda by the Vietnamese government, suggesting to the world that religious freedom is improving there, while abuses continue.
Despite the controversy, Nhat Hanh again returned to Vietnam in 2007, while two senior officials of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam remained under house-arrest. The Plum Village Website states that the three goals of his 2007 trip back to Vietnam were to support new monastics in his Order; to organize and conduct "Great Chanting Ceremonies" intended to help heal remaining wounds from the Vietnam War; and to lead retreats for monastics and lay people. The chanting ceremonies were originally called "Grand Requiem for Praying Equally for All to Untie the Knots of Unjust Suffering", but Vietnamese officials objected, saying it was improper to "equally" pray for soldiers in the South Vietnamese army or U.S. soldiers. Nhat Hanh agreed to change the name to "Grand Requiem For Praying". He has returned regularly since.
Nhat Hanh's approach has been to combine a variety of traditional Zen teachings with methods from Theravada Buddhism, insights from Mahayana Buddhism, and ideas from Western psychology - to offer a modern light on meditation practice. Hanh's presentation of the Prajñ?p?ramit? in terms of "interbeing" has doctrinal antecedents in the Huayan school of thought, which "is often said to provide a philosophical foundation" for Zen.
Nhat Hanh has also been a leader in the Engaged Buddhism movement, promoting the individual's active role in creating change. He cites the thirteenth-century Vietnamese King Tr?n Nhân Tông with the origination of the concept. Tr?n Nhân Tông abdicated his throne to become a monk, and founded the Vietnamese Buddhist school in the Bamboo Forest tradition.
The Vietnamese title Thích (?) is from "Thích Ca" or "Thích Già" (??), means "of the Shakya (Shakyamuni Buddha) clan." All Buddhist monks and nuns within the East Asian tradition of Mahayana and Zen adopt this title as their "family" name or surname implying that their first family is the Buddhist community. In many Buddhist traditions, there are a progression of names that a person can receive. The first, the lineage name, is given when a person takes refuge in the Three Jewels. Thich Nhat Hanh's lineage name is Tr?ng Quang. The next is a Dharma name, given when a person, lay or monastic, takes additional vows or when one is ordained as a monastic. Thich Nhat Hanh's Dharma name is Phung Xuan. Additionally, Dharma titles are sometimes given, and Thich Nhat Hanh's Dharma title is "Nhat Hanh".
Neither Nh?t (?) nor H?nh (?) — which approximate the roles of middle name or intercalary name and given name, respectively, when referring to him in English — was part of his name at birth. Nh?t (?) means "one", implying "first-class", or "of best quality", in English; H?nh (?) means "move", implying "right conduct" or "good nature." Thích Nh?t H?nh has translated his Dharma names as Nh?t = One, and H?nh = Action. Vietnamese names follow this naming convention, placing the family or surname first, then the middle or intercalary name which often refers to the person's position in the family or generation, followed by the given name.
Thich Nhat Hanh is often referred to as "Thay" (, "master; teacher") or Thay Nhat Hanh by his followers. On the Vietnamese version of the Plum Village website, he is also referred to as Thi?n S? Nh?t H?nh which can translated as "Zen Master", or "Dhyana Master". Any Vietnamese monk or nun in the Mahayana tradition can be addressed as "Th?y" ("teacher"). Vietnamese Buddhist monks are addressed "Th?y tu" ("monk") and nuns are addressed "S? Cô" ("Sister") or "S? Bà" ("Elder Sister").