School Papers

Thich the Vietnam war in 1967. At the

Thich Nhat Hanh is a
Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, that was revered around the world
for his teachings. He was born with the
name Nguyen Xuan Bao in 1926 in Quang Ngai, Vietnam. When he turned 16, he entered
the monastery at Tu Hiew temple as an amateur monk and took the name Thich Nhat
Hanh. During this time, he was actively participating in the movement to reestablish
Vietnamese Buddhism. While practicing as a monk, he founded the La Boi Press,
the Ban Hanh Buddhist University and the School of Youth for Social Service
which provided education, health care services and improving infrastructure to
rural areas of Vietnam. in 1960, he moved to the United States, where he studied
comparative religion at Princeton University. While at Princeton, he became
fluent in several languages and grew his knowledge in different religious traditions. Throughout the ’60s, Thich
Nhat Hanh actively participated with fellow Buddhists in supporting non-violent
efforts in Vietnam and founded the Order of Interbeing which is guided by the
Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. Despite not siding with any affiliation,
Buddhists frequently faced censure from the South
Vietnamese government. Although he fought for peace, Thich Nhat Hanh was also
critical of the United States government with its involvement in the Vietnam
war. By the mid-1960s, Thich Nhat Hanh
was acquainted with Martin Luther King Jr. and got MLK to speak out against the
Vietnam war in 1967. At the time, MLK’s speech was highly rejected by citizens,
but as the war dragged on, Americans began to side with him. In order to give
people the opportunity to practice meditation and mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh
founded the Plum Village in France and later other centers were founded around
the world. The centers were open to all people, monks, and non-practitioners, who are able to visit. Because of his open
disapproval of the Vietnamese government, Thich Nhat Hanh was exiled from his homeland
for years. He decided to settle in France, though he frequently traveled to spread his teachings. Eventually,  in 2005,  Thich Nhat Hanh was able to return to Vietnam
and establish new Plum Villages and publish some of his books in the language.

 

            During the events of the Vietnam war, Thich Nhat Hanh’s
efforts for peace was very influential and had a lasting impact for years to
come. He returned to the United States in 1966 to hold an assembly about
Vietnamese Buddhism at Cornell University and continue to spread the message of
peace in Vietnam. During this visit in the United States, Thich Nhat Hanh had
the opportunity to meet Martin Luther King Jr. and he publicly urged him to
oppose the Vietnam war. Consequently, in
1967, MLK gave a speech that questioned the United States’ involvement with
Vietnamese affairs.  During his time in
the United States, he was exiled from Vietnman. Thich Nhat Hanh didn’t let his
exile affect him and continued to travel spreading the message of peace and
brotherhood. MLK called him an “Apostle of Peace” and nominated him
for a Nobel Peace prize in 1967 for his peace efforts. Along with spreading the
message of mindfulness, he was pleading the Western leaders to end the violence
in the Vietnam war eventually leading the Buddhist delegation to the Paris
Peace Accords in 1969. The School of Youth for Social Service, lead by Chan
Khong while Thich Nhat Hanh is away, continued to help both communists and
anti-communists during the Vietnam war. This group consisted of 10,000
volunteers who worked in villages in Vietnam teaching young children, rebuilding
bombed houses and helping farmers find food and feed their families. After
MLK’s speech, Thich Nhat Hanh moved to
France to become the chair of the Buddhist Peace Delegation in Vietnam. From
1976 to 1977, he leads efforts to assist
Vietnamese sailors in the Gulf of Siam; however, he stopped due to pressure
from Thailand and Singapore governments. During this time, he continued to
teach, lecture and write on his beliefs of mindfulness and peace.

 

            After being exiled by the Vietnamese government, Thich
Nhat Hanh formed a small community in France that he called “the Sweet Potato” in 1975. This community, led by Thich Nhat Hanh, began mindfulness
retreats. In 1981, many newcomers arrived
which forced the Sweet Potato community to relocate. Eventually, in 1982, Thich Nhat Hanh purchased land now known as
Lower Hamlet and after a hailstorm occurred, he purchased more land and called
it Upper Hamlet. The area was renamed Plum Village due to plum’s faring better
on the rocky soil in which the community settled on. Under his spiritual
leadership, the Plum village grew from a small rural farmhouse to a highly
active Buddhist monastery. Plum Village welcomes all people regardless of age
or faith who want to learn practices that
teach the body mindfulness and peace. Many of the practices taught are derived
from ancient Buddhist practices in which Thich Nhat Hanh simplified and
developed to be easily applied to the modern era.

 

             Thich Nhat Hanh
was known around the world for his teachings and message. His unique approach
was to combine different elements of Buddhist tradition, such as Zen and
Mahayana to place less emphasis on dogma. While many of his followers would
consider his life to be Thich Nhat Hanh’s most powerful lesson, his key
teaching is that, through mindfulness, everyone can learn to live in the moment
and be happy with themselves. Throughout his life, Thich Nhat Hanh experienced
the horrors of war; however, his love and compassion were created out of these experiences. To find the compassion
within himself, Thich Nhat Hanh had to be an engaged Buddhist and to have the
highest love of service. He believed that
practicing to look deeply within ourselves while meditating and to reflect will
transform those “energies” into understanding and compassion. With
understanding and compassion, humans will finally be able to understand each
other. Another teaching that Thich Nhat Hanh’s students considered key was his
belief of transforming energy into something positive. Similar to his other
teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches his students to transform anger into
compassion. Believing that rejecting waste spiritually can help his students do
the same in the physical world. Beloved by
many around the world, Thich Nhat Hanh is a very important spiritual leader and
his legacy will continue to impact many lives for years to come.