Thích Nhất Hạnh (/ˈtɪk ˈnjʌt ˈhʌn/; Vietnamese: [tʰǐk̟ ɲə̌t hâjŋ̟ˀ] (listen); born as Nguyễn Xuân Bảo on October 11, 1926) is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, founder of the Plum Village Tradition.
Thích Nhất Hạnh spent most of his later life residing in the Plum Village Monastery in southwest France, travelling internationally to give retreats and talks. He coined the term “Engaged Buddhism” in his book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire. After a long term of exile, he was given permission to make his first return trip to Vietnam in 2005. In November 2018, he returned to Vietnam to spend his remaining days at his “root temple,” Từ Hiếu Temple near Huế.
Nhất Hạnh has published over 100 books, including more than 70 in English. He is active in the peace movement, promoting nonviolent solutions to conflict. He also refrains from animal product consumption (veganism) as a means of nonviolence towards animals.
- 3Names applied to him
- 4Awards and honors
- 6See also
- 8External links
Buddha hall of the Từ Hiếu Pagoda
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Born as Nguyễn Xuân Bảo, Nhất Hạnh was born in the city of Huế in Central Vietnam in 1926. At the age of 16 he entered the monastery at nearby Từ Hiếu Temple, where his primary teacher was Zen Master Thanh Quý Chân Thật.A graduate of Báo Quốc Buddhist Academy in Central Vietnam, Thích Nhất Hạnh received training in Vietnamese traditions of Mahayana Buddhism, as well as Vietnamese Thiền, and received full ordination as a Bhikkhu in 1951.
In 1956 Nhất Hạnh was named editor-in-chief of Vietnamese Buddhism, the periodical of the Unified Vietnam Buddhist Association (Vietnamese: Giáo Hội Phật Giáo Việt Nam Thống Nhất). In the following years he founded Lá Bối Press, the Vạn Hanh Buddhist University in Saigon, and the School of Youth for Social Service (SYSS); a neutral corps of Buddhist peaceworkers who went into rural areas to establish schools, build healthcare clinics, and help rebuild villages.
On May 1, 1966 at Từ Hiếu Temple, he received the “lamp transmission”, making him a dharmacharya, from Zen Master Chân Thật.Nhất Hạnh is now recognized as a dharmacharya (teacher), and as the spiritual head of the Từ Hiếu Pagoda and associated monasteries.
In 1961 Nhất Hạnh went to the US to teach comparative religion at Princeton University, and was subsequently appointed lecturer in Buddhism at Columbia University. By then he had gained fluency in French, Chinese, Sanskrit, Pali, Japaneseand English, in addition to his native Vietnamese. In 1963, he returned to Vietnam to aid his fellow monks in their non-violent peace efforts.
Nhất Hạnh taught Buddhist psychology and prajnaparamita literature at Vạn Hanh Buddhist University, a private institution that taught Buddhist studies, Vietnamese culture, and languages. At a meeting in April 1965, Vạn Hanh Union students issued a Call for Peace statement. It declared: “It is time for North and South Vietnam to find a way to stop the war and help all Vietnamese people live peacefully and with mutual respect.” Nhất Hạnh left for the U.S. shortly afterwards, leaving Chân Không in charge of the SYSS. Vạn Hạnh University was taken over by one of the Chancellors who wished to sever ties with Thich Nhất Hạnh and the SYSS, accusing Chân Không of being a communist. From that point the SYSS struggled to raise funds and faced attacks on its members. The SYSS persisted in their relief efforts without taking sides in the conflict.
Nhất Hạnh returned to the US in 1966 to lead a symposium in Vietnamese Buddhism at Cornell University, and to continue his work for peace. While in the US, Nhất Hạnh stopped at Gethsemani Abbey to speak with Thomas Merton. When Vietnam threatened to block Nhất Hạnh’s re-entry to the country, Merton penned an essay of solidarity entitled “Nhat Hanh is my Brother”. He had written a letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965 entitled: “In Search of the Enemy of Man”. It was during his 1966 stay in the US that Nhất Hạnh met with King and urged him to publicly denounce the Vietnam War. In 1967, Dr. King gave a famous speech at the Riverside Church in New York City, his first to publicly question the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Later that year, Dr. King nominated Nhất Hạnh for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize. In his nomination Dr. King said, “I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of [this prize] than this gentle monk from Vietnam. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity”. The fact that King had revealed the candidate he had chosen to nominate and had made a “strong request” to the prize committee, was in sharp violation of the Nobel traditions and protocol. The committee did not make an award that year.
Nhất Hạnh moved to France and became the chair of the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation. When the Northern Vietnamese army took control of the south in 1975, he was denied permission to return to Vietnam. From 1976–1977 he led efforts to help rescue Vietnamese boat people in the Gulf of Siam, eventually stopping under pressure from the governments of Thailand and Singapore.
Nhất Hạnh created the Order of Interbeing (Vietnamese: Tiếp Hiện) in 1966. He heads this monastic and lay group, teaching Five Mindfulness Trainings and the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. In 1969 he established the Unified Buddhist Church (Église Bouddhique Unifiée) in France (not a part of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam). In 1975 he formed the Sweet Potato Meditation Center. The center grew and in 1982 he and his colleague Chân Không founded Plum Village Monastery, a vihara[A] in the Dordogne in the south of France. The Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism  (formerly the Unified Buddhist Church) and its sister organization in France the Congregation Bouddhique Zen Village des Pruniers are the legally recognized governing bodies for Plum Village in France, for Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, New York, the Community of Mindful Living, Parallax Press, Deer Park Monastery in California, Magnolia Grove Monastery in Batesville, Mississippi, and the European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Waldbröl, Germany. According the Thích Nhất Hạnh Foundation, the charitable organization that serves as the fundraising arm of the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism the monastic order established Thich Nhat Hanh comprises 589 monastics in 9 monasteries world-wide. 
He established two monasteries in Vietnam, at the original Từ Hiếu Temple near Huế and at Prajna Temple in the central highlands. Thích Nhất Hạnh and the Order of Interbeing have established monasteries and Dharma centers in the United States at Deer Park Monastery (Tu Viện Lộc Uyển) in Escondido, California, Maple Forest Monastery (Tu Viện Rừng Phong) and Green Mountain Dharma Center (Ðạo Tràng Thanh Sơn) in Vermont and Magnolia Grove Monastery (Đạo Tràng Mộc Lan) in Mississippi, the second of which closed in 2007 and moved to the Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, New York . These monasteries are open to the public during much of the year and provide ongoing retreats for laypersons. The Order of Interbeing also holds retreats for specific groups of lay people, such as families, teenagers, veterans, the entertainment industry, members of Congress, law enforcement officers and people of color. Nhất Hạnh conducted a peace walk in Los Angeles in 2005, and again in 2007.
Notable students of Thích Nhất Hạnh include: Skip Ewing, founder of the Nashville Mindfulness Center; Natalie Goldberg, author and teacher; Joan Halifax, founder of the Upaya Institute; Stephanie Kaza, environmentalist; Chân Không, Dharma teacher; Noah Levine, author; Albert Low, Zen teacher and author; Joanna Macy, environmentalist and author; John Croft, co-creator of Dragon Dreaming; Caitriona Reed, Dharma teacher and co-founder of Manzanita Village Retreat Center; Leila Seth, author and Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court; and Pritam Singh, real estate developer and editor of several of Nhất Hạnh’s books.
In 2005, following lengthy negotiations, Nhất Hạnh was given permission from the Vietnamese government to return for a visit. He was also allowed to teach there, publish four of his books in Vietnamese, and travel the country with monastic and lay members of his Order, including a return to his root temple, Tu Hieu Temple in Huế. The trip was not without controversy. Thich Vien Dinh, writing on behalf of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (considered illegal by the Vietnamese government), called for Nhất Hạnh to make a statement against the Vietnam government’s poor record on religious freedom. Thich Vien Dinh feared that the trip would be used as propaganda by the Vietnamese government, suggesting to the world that religious freedom is improving there, while abuses continue.
Despite the controversy, Thích Nhất Hạnh again returned to Vietnam in 2007, while two senior officials of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) remained under house arrest. The Unified Buddhist Church called his visit a betrayal, symbolizing his willingness to work with his co-religionists’ oppressors. Võ Văn Ái, a spokesman for the UBCV, said “I believe Thích Nhất Hạnh’s trip is manipulated by the Hanoi government to hide its repression of the Unified Buddhist Church and create a false impression of religious freedom in Vietnam.” The Plum Village Website states that the three goals of his 2007 trip back to Vietnam were to support new monastics in his Order; to organize and conduct “Great Chanting Ceremonies” intended to help heal remaining wounds from the Vietnam War; and to lead retreats for monastics and lay people. The chanting ceremonies were originally called “Grand Requiem for Praying Equally for All to Untie the Knots of Unjust Suffering“, but Vietnamese officials objected, saying it was unacceptable for the government to “equally” pray for soldiers in the South Vietnamese army or U.S. soldiers. Nhất Hạnh agreed to change the name to “Grand Requiem For Praying”.
In 2014, major Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian leaders, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist leaders, met to sign a shared commitment against modern-day slavery; the declaration they signed calls for the elimination of slavery and human trafficking by the year 2020. Nhất Hạnh was represented by Sister Chân Không.
In November 2014, Nhất Hạnh experienced a severe brain hemorrhage and was hospitalized. After months of rehabilitation, Nhất Hạnh was released from the stroke rehabilitation clinic at Bordeaux University Hospital, in France. On July 11, 2015, Nhất Hạnh was flown to San Francisco to speed his recovery with an aggressive rehabilitation program through UCSF Medical Center. He returned to France on January 8, 2016.
On November 2, 2018, a press release from the Plum Village community confirmed that Nhất Hạnh, now aged 92, had returned to Vietnam a final time and will reside at Từ Hiếu Temple to “live his remaining days”. In a meeting with senior disciples, he had “clearly communicated his wish to return to Vietnam using gestures, nodding and shaking his head in response to questions.”
Thích Nhất Hạnh’s approach has been to combine a variety of teachings of Early Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhist traditions of Yogācāra and Zen, and ideas from Western psychology to teach Mindfulness of Breathing and the Four Establishments of Mindfulness, offering a modern light on meditation practice. Hạnh’s presentation of the Prajnaparamita in terms of “interbeing” has doctrinal antecedents in the Huayan school of thought, which “is often said to provide a philosophical foundation” for Zen.
In September 2014, shortly before his stroke, Nhất Hạnh completed new English and Vietnamese translations of the Heart Sutra, one of the most important sutras in Mahayana Buddhism. In a letter to his students Nhất Hạnh explains that he wrote these new translations because he thought that a poor choice of words in the original text had resulted in significant misunderstandings of these core Buddhist teachings for almost 2,000 years.
Nhất Hạnh has also been a leader in the Engaged Buddhism movement (he is credited with coining the term), promoting the individual’s active role in creating change. He cites the 13th-century Vietnamese king Trần Nhân Tông with the origination of the concept. Trần Nhân Tông abdicated his throne to become a monk and founded the Vietnamese Buddhist school of the Bamboo Forest tradition.
Nhất Hạnh at Phu Bai International Airport on his 2007 trip to Vietnam (aged 80)
The Vietnamese name Thích (釋) is from “Thích Ca” or “Thích Già” (釋迦), means “of the Shakya clan”. All Buddhist monastics in East Asian Buddhism adopt this name as their surname, implying that their first family is the Buddhist community. In many Buddhist traditions, there is a progression of names that a person can receive. The first, the lineage name, is given when a person takes refuge in the Three Jewels. Thích Nhất Hạnh’s lineage name is Trừng Quang (澄光), meaning “Clear, Reflective Light”. The next is a Dharma name, given when a person, lay or monastic, takes additional vows or when one is ordained as a monastic. Thích Nhất Hạnh’s Dharma name is Phùng Xuân (逢春), meaning “Meeting Spring”. Additionally, Dharma titles are sometimes given, and Thích Nhất Hạnh’s Dharma title is Nhất Hạnh.
Neither Nhất (一) nor Hạnh (行)—which approximate the roles of middle name or intercalary name and given name, respectively, when referring to him in English—was part of his name at birth. Nhất (一) means “one”, implying “first-class”, or “of best quality”; Hạnh (行) means “action”, implying “right conduct” or “good nature.” Thích Nhất Hạnh has translated his Dharma names as Nhất = One, and Hạnh = Action. Vietnamese names follow this naming convention, placing the family or surname first, then the middle or intercalary name which often refers to the person’s position in the family or generation, followed by the given name.
Thích Nhất Hạnh is often referred to as Thầy “master; teacher” or as Thầy Nhất Hạnh by his followers. Any Vietnamese monk or nun in the Mahayana tradition can be addressed as “thầy”. Vietnamese Buddhist monks are addressed thầy tu “monk” and nuns are addressed as sư cô “sister” or sư bà “elder sister”. On the Vietnamese version of the Plum Village website, he is also referred to as Thiền Sư Nhất Hạnh “Zen Master Nhất Hạnh”.
Nobel laureate Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated Thích Nhất Hạnh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. However, the prize was not awarded to anybody that year.Nhất Hạnh was awarded the Courage of Conscience award in 1991.
He has been featured in many films, including The Power of Forgiveness shown at the Dawn Breakers International Film Festival and the 2017 documentary Walk with Me by Max Pugh and Marc James Francis.
In November 2017, the Education University of Hong Kong conferred an honorary doctorate upon Nhất Hạnh for his “life-long contributions to the promotion of mindfulness, peace and happiness across the world”. As Nhất Hạnh was unable to attend the congregation in Hong Kong, a simple ceremony was held on 29 August 2017 in Thailand, where John Lee Chi-kin, vice-president (academic) of EdUHK, presented the honorary degree certificate and academic gown to Nhất Hạnh on behalf of the university.
- Vietnam: Lotus in a sea of fire. New York, Hill and Wang. 1967.
- Being Peace, Parallax Press, 1987, ISBN 0-938077-00-7
- The Sun My Heart‘, Parallax Press, 1988, ISBN 0-938077-12-0
- Our Appointment with Life: Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone , Parallax Press, 1990, ISBN 1-935209-79-5
- The Miracle of Mindfulness, Rider Books, 1991, ISBN 978-0-7126-4787-8
- Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha, Parallax Press, 1991, ISBN 81-216-0675-6
- Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Bantam reissue, 1992, ISBN 0-553-35139-7
- The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion, Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Diamond Sutra, Parallax Press, 1992, ISBN 0-938077-51-1
- ‘Hermitage Among the Clouds‘, Parallax Press, 1993, ISBN 0-938077-56-2
- Zen Keys: A Guide to Zen Practice, Three Leaves, 1994, ISBN 0-385-47561-6
- Cultivating The Mind Of Love, Full Circle, 1996, ISBN 81-216-0676-4
- The Heart Of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra, Full Circle, 1997, ISBN 81-216-0703-5, ISBN 9781888375923 (2005 Edition)
- Transformation and Healing: Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness, Full Circle, 1997, ISBN 81-216-0696-9
- Living Buddha, Living Christ, Riverhead Trade, 1997, ISBN 1-57322-568-1
- True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart, Shambhala, 1997, ISBN 1-59030-404-7
- Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals, 1962–1966, Riverhead Trade, 1999, ISBN 1-57322-796-X
- Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers, Riverhead Books, 1999, ISBN 1-57322-145-7
- The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, Broadway Books, 1999, ISBN 0-7679-0369-2
- The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation, Beacon Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8070-1239-4 (Vietnamese: Phép lạ c̉ua sư t̉inh thưc).
- The Raft Is Not the Shore: Conversations Toward a Buddhist/Christian Awareness, Daniel Berrigan (Co-author), Orbis Books, 2000, ISBN 1-57075-344-X
- The Path of Emancipation: Talks from a 21-Day Mindfulness Retreat, Unified Buddhist Church, 2000, ISBN 81-7621-189-3
- A Pebble in Your Pocket, Full Circle, 2001, ISBN 81-7621-188-5
- Essential Writings, Robert Ellsberg (Editor), Orbis Books, 2001, ISBN 1-57075-370-9
- Anger, Riverhead Trade, 2002, ISBN 1-57322-937-7
- Be Free Where You Are, Parallax Press, 2002, ISBN 1-888375-23-X
- No Death, No Fear, Riverhead Trade reissue, 2003, ISBN 1-57322-333-6
- Touching the Earth: Intimate Conversations with the Buddha, Parallax Press, 2004, ISBN 1-888375-41-8
- Teachings on Love, Full Circle, 2005, ISBN 81-7621-167-2
- Understanding Our Mind, HarperCollins, 2006, ISBN 978-81-7223-796-7
- Buddha Mind, Buddha Body: Walking Toward Enlightenment, Parallax Press, 2007, ISBN 1-888375-75-2
- The Art of Power, HarperOne, 2007, ISBN 0-06-124234-9
- Under the Banyan Tree, Full Circle, 2008, ISBN 81-7621-175-3
- Mindful Movements, Parallax Press 2008, ISBN 978-1-888375-79-4
- Blooming of a Lotus, Beacon, 2009, ISBN 9780807012383
- Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. HarperOne. 2010. ISBN 978-0-06-169769-2.
- Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child, Parallax Press, 2010, ISBN 1-935209-64-7
- You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment, Shambhala, 2010, ISBN 978-1590308387
- The Novice: A Story of True Love, Unified Buddhist Church, 2011, ISBN 978-0-06-200583-0
- Works by or about Thích Nhất Hạnh in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh, Shambhala Publications, 2011, ISBN 978-1-59030-926-1
- Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, Rider, 2012, ISBN 978-1846043185
- The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh, Shambhala Pocket Classics, 2012, ISBN 978-1-59030-936-0
- The Art of Communicating, HarperOne, 2013, ISBN 978-0-06-222467-5
- No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, Parallax Press, 2014, ISBN 978-1937006853
- Is nothing something? : kids’ questions and zen answers about life, death, family, friendship, and everything in between, Parallax Press 2014, ISBN 978-1-937006-65-5
- Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise, HarperOne (1705), 2015, ASIN: B014TAC7GQ
- Old Path, White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha, Blackstone Audio, Inc.; 2016, ISBN 978-1504615983
- At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life, with Jason Deantonis (Illustrator), Parallax Press, 2016, ISBN 1941529429
- The Other Shore: A New Translation of the Heart Sutra with Commentaries, Palm Leaves Press, 2017, ISBN 978-1-941529-14-0
- How to Fight, Parallax Press, 2017, ISBN 978-1941529867
- The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now, HarperOne, 2017, ISBN 978-0062434661
- List of peace activists
- Buddhism in France
- Buddhism in the United States
- Buddhism in Vietnam
- Timeline of Zen Buddhism in the United States
- Religion and peacebuilding
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- ^ “First line up”. Dawn Breakers International Film Festival (DBIFF). December 5, 2009. Archived from the original on March 10, 2012. Retrieved September 13,2010.
- ^ Marc J Francis and Max Pugh (Directors), Benedict Cumberbatch (Narrator) (July 18, 2017). Walk with Me (Motion Picture).
- ^ Sperry, Rod Meade (May 2013), “3 Heroes, 5 Powers”, Lion’s Roar, 21 (5): 68–73
- ^ “Thich Nhat Hanh to receive Catholic “Peace on Earth” award”. Lion’s Roar. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
- ^ Diocese of Davenport (October 23, 2015). “Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award recipient announced”. Archived from the original on 2017-03-16.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Thich Nhat Hanh.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Thích Nhất Hạnh|
- Parallax Press – publishing house founded by Thich Nhat Hanh
- La Boi Society – publishes books by Thich Nhat Hanh in Vietnamese
- Sangha Directory – List of communities (Mindfulness Practice Groups) practicing in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition
- Plum Village – Thich Nhat Hanh’s main monastery and practice center, located about 85 km east of Bordeaux, France
- Vietnamese website of Plum Village
- French website of Plum Village
- Deer Park Monastery – located in Escondido, California
- Magnolia Grove Monastery – practice center, located near Memphis, TN
- Order of Interbeing
- I Am Home – Community of Mindful Living; home of the “Mindfulness Bell” magazine with news, articles, and talks by Thich Nhat Hanh and other Order of Interbeing members
- Thích Nhất Hạnh’s Five Mindfulness Trainings & the Fourteen Precepts