PRAY FOR THAY, AS A CLOUD OF WITNESSES (AND ACHIEVEMENTS)
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
PRAY FOR THAY, AS A CLOUD OF WITNESSES
A few days ago word came from the south of France, that the beloved Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh had suffered a serious brain hemorrhage. An announcement from Plum Village on November 12, 2014 said “at present, Thay is still very responsive and shows every indication of being aware of the presence of those around him. He is able to move his feet, hands and eyes. There are signs that a full recovery may be possible.”
Plum Village is a monastery and Buddhist practice centre. It has associated centres in the U.S., Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Germany, and 1000’s of smaller sangha communities located throughout the world. They welcome people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds.
photo courtesy of Plum Village and Paul Davis
Thich Nhat Hanh is affectionately known as Thay (pronounced tie) by those closest to him. It means teacher in Vietnamese. He is also widely respected by the inter-faith community and people of goodwill throughout the world. His leadership focuses on the “Art of Mindful Living” through the development of compassion, listening, respect and wonder – this can transform us towards peace and well being, both ourselves and the world. Nhat Hanh has been described as a cross between a cloud, a snail and a piece of heavy machinery. His faith has moved mountains.
I was first introduced to Thich Nhat Hanh in the late 80’s through his book The Sun My Heart. It had special significance to me as a young Solar Activist struggling within the Catholic tradition.
Thich Nhat Hanh shares with humble and practical simplicity. He is not technical. He speaks from the heart. He has said, “There is no way to peace – peace is the way.” His talks, poetry, story telling and writings about mindfulness, meditation, peace and reconciliation are published in over 100 books in dozens of language. He demonstrates a universal message.
Nobel Peace Prize Nomination – photo source unknown
Now an aged 88 years, Thay has dedicated his life to the practice of Engaged Buddhism, similar to the Social Gospel Movement and the Christian Beatitudes. In the early 60’s he studied and taught Comparative Religion at Princeton and Columbia and founded the Van Hanh Buddhist University in Saigon. With other university professors and students in Vietnam, he began the School of Youths for Social Services. Teams of young people went out to the countryside to help establish schools, health clinics, gardens and later to rebuild bombed villages. By the end of the Vietnam War more than 10,000 nuns, monks and social workers were involved.
photo by Dick DeMarsico, from the Library of Congress Public Domain
During Thich Nhat Hanh’s visits to United States in the 1960’s, Thay worked tirelessly to promote peace and reconciliation in Vietnam. He developed profound friendships with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Catholic monk Thomas Merton. In 1967, Dr. King nominated Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize, calling him, “An apostle of peace and nonviolence”, saying “His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.”
photo source unknown
During this period Thomas Merton wrote an essay – Nhat Hanh is My Brother – in support of Thay and his peace efforts. Five decades later it still rings true. Here is a portion of the closing paragraph.
“I have said Nhat Hanh is my brother, and it is true… I have far more in common with Nhat Hanh than I have with many Americans, and I do not hesitate to say it. It is vitally important that such bonds be admitted. They are the bonds of a new solidarity and brotherhood which is beginning to be evident on all the five continents and which cuts across all political, religious and cultural lines to unite young men and women in every country… This unity of the young is the only hope of the world. In its name I appeal for Nhat Hanh. Do what you can for him…”
With Mindfulness and loving action – let us keep Thich Nhat Hanh in our thoughts and prayers.
In peace – Bruce
In the early morning, Saturday, November 15, Thầy opened his eyes for the first time since his cerebral hemorrhage, to look at his attendants for a brief moment… The doctors are cautiously optimistic and remind us that Thầy’s condition is still in a critical stage and conditions can change at any moment…
Please continue to enjoy the blue sky for Thầy, the fresh morning air and the small pathways in nature for Thầy. Especially, please enjoy each other, your loved ones, and our togetherness for Thầy.
bruce witzel photo – through the luminary lens