He's been a Buddhist monk for more than 60 years, as well as a teacher, writer, and vocal opponent of war—a stance that left him exiled from his native Vietnam for four decades. Now the man Martin Luther King Jr. called "an apostle of peace and nonviolence" reflects on the beauty of the present moment, being grateful for every breath, and the freedom and happiness to be found in a simple cup of tea.
The moment I meet Thich Nhat Hanh at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan, I feel his sense of calm. A deeply tranquil presence seems to surround the Zen Buddhist master.
From the front lines of activism in war-torn Vietnam to worldwide prominence as a Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh has dedicated his life to peace and the dharma.
In seven boats filled to the brim with food, Thich Nhat Hanh and a small team of volunteers rowed up the Thu Bon River, going high into the mountains, where soldiers were shooting at each other and the air reeked of dead bodies. The team was without mosquito netting or potable water, and, despite the icy winds, they slept and took their meals of plain rice in their boats. Under these harsh conditions, Nhat Hanh, who had previously contracted malaria and dysentery, suffered a recurrence of both diseases. It was 1964 in South Vietnam. After days of heavy rain in the region, gorges had overflowed so quickly that it was impossible to escape the floods, leaving more than 4,000 people dead and thousands of homes washed away. The whole country mobilized to provide relief but the victims in the conflict areas were suffering the most and no one—except Nhat Hanh and his team—were willing to risk getting caught in the crossfire of the war to go to their aid.
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Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh
One of the best known and most respected Zen masters in the world today, poet, peace and human rights activist, Thầy (teacher) has led an extraordinary life. Born in central Vietnam in 1926, He was ordained a Buddhist monk in 1942 at the age of sixteen. Just eight years later, He co-founded what was to become the foremost center of Buddhist studies in South Vietnam, the Ấn Quang Buddhist Institute.