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 this Saturday (22), aged 95, surrounded by his followers at the temple where his spiritual journey started.
“The Plum Village International Community of Engaged Buddhism announces that our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh passed away peacefully at Tu Hieu Temple in Hue, Vietnam at 12:00 am on January 22, 2022, aged 95,” reads a statement on his official Twitter account. .
His week-long funeral will be held at the temple in a quiet and peaceful manner, according to his followers.
“Thich Nhat Hanh will be remembered as one of the world’s most influential and prominent religious leaders,” said US Chargé d’Affaires Marie C. Damour. Mission to Vietnam said in a statement.
“Through his teachings and literary work, his legacy will live on for generations to come,” she said, adding that his teachings, in particular on bringing mindfulness into everyday life, have enriched the lives of countless Americans.
In a majestic array of works and public appearances over the decades, Thich Nhat Hanh spoke in soft but powerful tones of the need to “walk as if kissing the earth with your feet.”
He suffered a stroke in 2014 that left him unable to speak and returned to Vietnam to live out his last days in the central city of Hue, the former capital and 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 regularly spoke about the practice of mindfulness – identifying and distancing yourself from certain thoughts without judgment – to the corporate world and his 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 said in a 2013 lecture.
“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 when 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-Vietnam War, demonstrated by protests. of self-immolation by several monks.
“I saw communists and anti-communists killing and destroying each other because each side believed they had a monopoly on the truth,” he wrote in 1975. “My voice was drowned out by bombs, mortars and screams.”
“Like a pine tree”
At the height of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, he met civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., 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 personally don’t know anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam,” King wrote in his nomination letter.
While in the United States to meet with King a year earlier, the South Vietnamese government forbade Thich Nhat Hanh from returning home.
Monk Haenim Sunim, who once acted as translator for Thich Nhat Hanh during a trip to South Korea, said the Zen master was calm, thoughtful 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.”
The works of Thich Nhat Hanh and the promotion of the idea of mindfulness and meditation have enjoyed renewed popularity as the world reels from the effects of a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than a million people and augmented everyday life.
“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear,” wrote Thich Nhat Hanh. “If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear the difficulties today”.
“If you can refrain from hoping, you can bring yourself fully into the present moment and discover the joy that is already here.”
Reference: CNN Brasil