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Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh dies at 95

French-based Buddhist zen master Thich Nhat Hanh gestures during his arrival at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok October 11, 2010. Nhat Hanh is making a pilgrimage to Thailand till October 30 as part of his 2010 Southeast Asia tour together with 80 monks from Plum Village in France, according to local media reports. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk, poet, and peace campaigner who rose to notoriety in the 1960s as a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, died on Saturday at the age of 95, surrounded by his devotees at the temple where his spiritual path began.

What’s being said: “The International Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism announces that our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh passed away peacefully at Tu Hieu Temple in Hue, Vietnam, at 00:00hrs on 22nd January, 2022, at the age of 95,” said his official Twitter account.

  • According to his supporters, his week-long funeral would be held at the temple in a quiet and serene manner.
  • “Thich Nhat Hanh will be remembered as arguably one of the most influential and prominent religious leaders in the world,” Chargé d’Affaires Marie C. Damour of U.S. Mission to Vietnam said in a statement.
  • “Through his teachings and literary work, his legacy will remain for generations to come,” she said, adding that his teachings, in particular on bringing mindfulness into daily life, have enriched the lives of innumerable Americans.
FILE PHOTO: Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who left Vietnam in 1966 and lives in France, walks among believers after finishing a speech at the opening ceremony of a requiem mass at the Non Nuoc pagoda in Soc Son mountain, 64 km (40 miles) north of Hanoi, April 20, 2007. REUTERS/Kham

Who was Hanh: Thich Nhat Hanh spoke about the importance of “walking as if you are kissing the earth with your feet” in a magnificent body of work and public appearances spanning decades.

  • After suffering a stroke in 2014 that rendered him speechless, he returned to Vietnam to spend his final days in Hue, the old capital and his birthplace, after spending much of his adult life in exile.
  • He founded the “Plum Village” monastery in France as a pioneer of Buddhism in the West, and he talked often to the corporate world and his international followers on the practise of mindfulness – identifying and removing oneself from particular thoughts without judgement.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh was born Nguyen Xuan Bao in 1926 and ordained as a monk as contemporary Vietnam’s founding revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh, was leading attempts to liberate the Southeast Asian country from its French colonial rulers.
  • In the early 1960s, Thich Nhat Hanh, who spoke seven languages, gave talks at Princeton and Columbia universities in the United States. In 1963, he returned to Vietnam to join a rising Buddhist anti-Vietnam War movement, which included self-immolation protests by numerous monks.
  • Towards the height of the Vietnam War in the 1960s he met civil rights leader Martin Luther King, whom he persuaded to speak out against the conflict.
  • King called Thich Nhat Hanh “an apostle of peace and non-violence” and nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • The South Vietnamese authorities barred Thich Nhat Hanh from returning home after he visited the United States to meet King a year before.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh was calm, attentive and loving, according to fellow monk Haenim Sunim, who once served as his translator during a tour to South Korea.
FILE PHOTO: French-Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh waves to the crowd at the Bo De pagoda in Hanoi in this picture taken January 12, 2005. REUTERS/Stringer

What’s important: As the globe reels from the consequences of a coronavirus pandemic that has killed over a million people and upended daily life, Thich Nhat Hanh’s works and advocacy of the idea of mindfulness and meditation have regained appeal.

  • “Hope is important, because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear,” Thich Nhat Hanh wrote. “If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.
  • “If you can refrain from hoping, you can bring yourself entirely into the present moment and discover the joy that is already here.”
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