Thich Naht Hahn and His Life
Thich Naht Hahn is wonderful Buddhist monk and a great asset to the Buddhist religion. He has had and is having an interesting life. He is known for many things. These include he talks during the Vietnam War for peace, organizing help for villages, instituting schools for youths, and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. Thich Naht Hahn has one of the most amazing backgrounds that lead up to the legacy of this Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
Thich Naht Hahn has been living in exile from his native land of Vietnam since he was forty years old. In 1966, he was banned by both the non-Communist and Communist governments for his role in undermining the violence he saw affecting his people. He has been a Buddhist monk since he was 16 years old, he earned a reputation as a respected writer, scholar, and leader. He is known as Thay (“Teacher”) to his followers.
He has headed a movement known as “Engaged Buddhism,” which involved traditional meditative practices with active nonviolent civil disobedience. This movement lays behind the establishment of the most influential center of Buddhist studies in Saigon, the An Quang Pagoda. He has also set up relief organizations to rebuild destroyed villages, instituted the School of Youth for Social Service (a Peace Corps of sorts for Buddhists peace makers), founded a peace magazine, and urged world leaders to use nonviolence as a tool. Although his struggle for cooperation meant he had to relinquish a homeland, it made him known around the world (Jones p.262)
Thich Nhat Hahn is a Zen Buddhist monk, scholar, poet, and political figure from Vietnam: He actively opposed the war in Vietnam. Because of this he came to the United States in 1966 as a spokesman for monks who felt that reconciliation was possible in Vietnam, if the United States stopped its war effort against Vietnam. This was first of many humanitarian visits. However, this was not new to him: he has been to the United States and experienced the American culture before. He was here because he was attending Princeton, and more recently as a professor at Columbia. He had been invited to speak on behalf of Buddhist monks, and offered an enlightenment view on ways to end the Vietnam conflict by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Cornell. He has spoken on college campuses, met with administration officials, and impressed social dignitaries. Thich Naht Hahn has been nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize, the same year that Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace prize.
He has also helped organized rescue missions well into the 1970’s for Vietnamese trying to escape from political oppression. Even after the change in government in Vietnam, the government stills sees him as a threat-ironic, when one considers the subjects of his teachings: respect for life, generosity, responsible sexual behavior, loving communication, and cultivation of healthful life style.
Thay is now in his seventies, his strength as a world leader and spiritual guide grows. He has written more than seventy-five books of prose, poetry and prayers. An example of one of his works is a writing that he wrote on “institutional violence” Thich Nhat Hahn wrote:
If nonviolence is a stand, then it would be an attack on violence. But the most visible form of violence is revolutionary and liberational violence. So if you stand for nonviolence, you automatically stand against actual revolution and liberation. Quite distressing! ‘No! We are against the other side, the side of the institutions, the side of the oppressors. The violence of the system is much more destructive, much more harmful, although it is well hidden. We call it institutional violence. By calling ourselves nonviolent we are against all violence, but we are first against institutional violence.’…Military invasions have been used for the purpose of intervention, colonization and exploitation, yes. But colonization, exploitation and capitalism have also been able to operate nonviolently even in Europe, not to mention in Asian-African countries. The people of the system are very clever in ‘nonviolent’ strategies. The strategies that have been used by us within nonviolent movement, if compared to‘nonviolent’ strategies used by capitalism and colonialism, look like young babies. Perhaps we need to go to them (the oppressors and exploiters),to learn more about ‘nonviolent’ strategies in order to be able to fight them back.”
Since Thich Nhat Hahn is a Vietnamese monk, he is also involved the in the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam. Buddhism was brought to Vietnam from China somewhere between the sixth and seventeenth centuries. It produced its own version of Zen and, as in China and Korea, blended it with Pure Land practice. All the parts of these beliefs and practices were combined into the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam in 1963. Buddhism has played an important role in the various Vietnamese patriotic uprisings, and, during the Vietnam War (Fenton p.143). Vietnamese Buddhism is still remains largely unstudied. Today the work of the Unified Buddhist Church and its allies for religious freedom and other human rights continues in the face of much persecution, and organizations and individuals all over the world have rallied to the support of the ‘prisoners of conscience’ – monks, nuns, writers, artists and academics(Morgan, p. 260).
Today, Thich Nhat Hahn lives in southwestern France, where he founded a retreat center twelve years ago. At the center, Plum Village, he continues to teach, write, and garden. Plum Village houses only thirty monks, nuns, and laypeople, but thousands from around the globe call it home. Accommodation is readily available for short-term visitors seeking spiritual relief, for refugees in transit, or for activists in need for inspiration. Thich Nhat Hahn gathers people of diverse nationalities, races, religions, and sexes in order to expose them to mindfulness and taking care in the present moment, being profoundly aware and appreciative of life. He is the author of many books, that are known worldwide and nation wide throughout the United States.
Thich Nhat Hahn is a caring man and is also a great religious leader. He has done many things throughout his life to show this. With his courage and religious beliefs behind him he has helped to establish relief organizations to rebuild villages that are and were destroyed during fighting, he has help with the foundation of schools, and also became a political figure during the Vietnam War for wanting peace and believing that it was possible to accomplish. Thich Nhat Hahn is still helping people today by have retreats to help people live a better life. Thich Nhat Hahn is wonderful Buddhist monk and a great asset to the Buddhist religion.
Eppsteiner, Fred. The Path of Compassion: Writing on Socially Engaged Buddhism.
Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, 1988.
Fenton, John. Religions of Asia. St.Martins Press, Inc, 1993
Morgan, Kenneth W. The Path of the Buddha: Buddhism Interpreted by Buddhists. Dehi. Motial Banarsidas, 1986.
Queen, Christopher & King, Sallie. Engaged Buddhism. State University of New York Press, Albany, 1996.
Brown, Suzzanne. “Buddhism in Vietnam”. http://ssd1.cas.pacificu.edu/as/students/vb/index.html
Putnam Berkley. “Thich Nhat Hanh”. http://www.mca.com/putnam/authors/thich_naht_hahn/txt_author.html (21 Oct. 97)
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