Followers and admirers of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh from around the world marked the revered Buddhist teacher’s 95th birthday, or continuation day, on Monday. Thich Nhat Hanh, known affectionately to his students as “Thay” (teacher), now resides at his root monastery Tu Hieu in Vietnam’s Hue Province, where he is cared for by close disciples.
Thich Nhat Hanh returned to his homeland Vietnam in October 2018 from Thailand, where he had been convalescing since late December 2016 following a severe stroke in 2014.* The celebrated Zen master said in a letter to his disciples at the time that he had decided to spend the remainder of his life at his root monastery, Tu Hieu Temple, in the central Vietnamese city of Hue, where he was ordained as a novice monk at the age of 16.
Thay was hospitalized in France in November 2014, following a severe brain hemorrhage. In April 2015, after months of rehabilitation, he returned to his Plum Village monastic community where attendants from the monastery and visiting medical professionals continued to aid his recovery. In July of the same year, Thay was flown to San Francisco to undergo a more intensive rehabilitation program, and in September 2015 Thay spoke his first words since his stroke. The following January, he was allowed to return to Plum Village, where he remained under the care of the members of his community.
In December 2016, two months after his 90th birthday, Thay communicated a clear and determined wish to travel from France to Thailand in order to be closer to his homeland.* In August 2017, Thay made his first visit to his homeland Vietnam in more than a decade, spending several days in Da Nang before visiting his hometown in nearby Hue and paying his respects at his ancestral shrine and his lineage’s root temple, Tu Hieu, of which he remains the abbot.
The Master was born in central Vietnam on 11 October 1926, Thay is an influential Zen teacher, poet, and the author of more than 100 books, including the bestselling The Miracle of Mindfulness. As an active advocate for peace, he was influential in the anti-war movement, encouraging non-violent protests during the Vietnam War. Before leaving Vietnam, he spearheaded a movement by Buddhists in the south calling for a negotiated end to the bloody conflict. In 1967, Thay was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., who told the Nobel committee: “I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam.”
Thay founded the Order of Interbeing and the Unified Buddhist Church, and in 1982 established the Plum Village Buddhist Center in France with Sister Chan Khong. He has been a central figure in the transmission of Buddhism to the West and in marrying an authentic Zen tradition and lineage with a progressive approach to issues such as social activism, science versus faith, and religion versus spirituality.