About Our Teacher

 

Zen Master, poet, peace and human rights activist, Thích Nhất Hạnh was born in central Vietnam in 1926 and joined the monkhood at the age of 16. In Saigon in the early 1960’s, he founded the School of Youth for Social Services (SYSS), a grass roots relief organization that rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools and medical centers, resettled homeless families, and organized agricultural cooperatives. Rallying some 10,000 student volunteers, the SYSS based its work on the Buddhist principles of non-violence and compassionate action. Despite government denunciation of his activity, Nhất Hạnh also founded a Buddhist University, a publishing house, and an influential peace activist magazine in Vietnam.

Exiled from Vietnam, he traveled to the U.S. where he made the case for peace to federal and Pentagon officials including Robert McNamara. He may have changed the course of U.S. history when he persuaded Martin Luther King, Jr. to oppose the Vietnam War publicly, and so helped galvanize the peace movement. The following year, King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Subsequently Nhất Hạnh led the Buddhist delegation to the Paris Peace Talks.

Often referred to as the most beloved Buddhist teacher in the West, Thích Nhất Hạnh’s teachings and practices appeal to people from various religious, spiritual, and political backgrounds. Nhất Hạnh offers a practice of “mindfulness” that is beneficial for people of all faiths, by helping us resist and transform the speed and violence of our modern society. His life and teachings have deeply influenced millions of people, including scores of luminaries in different fields: politician Jerry Brown, civil rights champion Martin Luther King, Jr., eco-activist Joanna Macy, and Catholic mystic Thomas Merton – to name a few.

Thích Nhất Hạnh is affectionately referred to as Thầy (Vietnamese for teacher) by his many students. He has published more than 100 titles, including more than 40 in English: Peace is Every Step, Being Peace, Touching Peace and many more. His books are published by Parallax Press

On 11 November 2014, a month after his 88th birthday and following several months of rapidly declining health, Nhất Hạnh suffered a severe stroke. Although he was unable to speak, and was mostly paralyzed on the right side, he continued to offer the Dharma and inspiration through his peaceful, serene and valiant presence.

In November 2018, Thích Nhất Hạnh moved to Từ Hiếu Temple in Vietnam where he ordained with his teacher when he was sixteen years old. He expressed a wish to stay there for his remaining days. He came out regularly in his wheelchair to visit the temple altars and to lead the sangha on walking meditation around the ponds and ancestral stupas. Thầy’s return to Từ Hiếu was a bell of mindfulness reminding us all of how precious it is to belong to a spiritual lineage with deep roots. Whether we have attended a retreat, or simply read one of Thầy’s books or watched a talk, and have been touched by his teachings—we are all connected to this ancestral stream of wisdom and compassion.

Thầy passed away peacefully in the early moments of 22 January 2022, in the Deep Listening Hut at Từ Hiếu Temple in Huế, surrounded by loving disciples. Around the world, online and in-person, hundreds of thousands of people in the Plum Village International community collectively observed a week of mindfulness practice and ceremonies, generating a powerful energy of compassion, peace, and brotherhood and sisterhood. Thích Nhất Hạnh’s Funeral and Cremation took place on Saturday 29th January in Huế, his ashes distributed among his practice centers in Europe, the US and Asia.