this is my contribution to jennifer mannion’s heroes of healing project. it’s a project where bloggers write about people who put helping others ahead of whatever might come in the way. the people on this list have gone against the norm and had to put mainstream thinking aside to get their message across. they have all faced criticism, some of them persecution but it did not stop them from pursuing their important work because they knew they were helping many in the process.
my contribution is about thich nhat hanh.
thich nhat hanh, a zen master and human rights activist, was born in vietnam in 1926. he became a monk at 16. in the throes of the vietnam war, he chose to combine contemplation and activism, thus helping in founding the movement of “engaged buddhism”. among other things, and despite opposition on the part of the vietnamese government, thich nhat hanh founded a buddhist university, a publishing house, and an influential peace activist magazine in vietnam. after visiting the U.S. and europe in 1966 on a peace mission, he was banned from returning to vietnam. he may have changed the course of U.S. history when he persuaded martin luther king, jr. to oppose the vietnam war publicly. later, thich nhat hanh led the buddhist delegation to the paris peace talks.
in 1982 he founded plum village, a buddhist community in exile in france, where he continues his work to alleviate suffering of refugees, boat people, political prisoners, and hungry families in vietnam and throughout the third world. in september 2001, shortly after the world trade center attacks, thich nhat hanh addressed the issues of non-violence and forgiveness in a memorable speech.
thich nhat hanh has published over 80 titles of poems, prose, and prayers. one of my favourites is the miracle of mindfulness.
through mindfulness, we can learn to live in the present moment instead of in the past and in the future. dwelling in the present moment is the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.
this is the central teaching of thich nhat hanh.
this is part of a series of interviews with ram dass:what have i learned from thich nhat hanh?
i have learned so much from him. “the miracle of mindfulness” was the first buddhist book i ever bought. one of the things he talks about there is bringing mindfulness to washing the dishes. the image of lovingly washing a cup, with full attention, being aware of all that happens, has been one of my mental metaphors for zen buddhism ever since.
breathing in, the sensation of the cup’s shape and texture. breathing out, the light glinting off the running water. breathing in, the sounds of the dishes clinking against the sink. breathing out, the warmth of the water, juxtaposed against the air that feels cold on the exposed wet skin. breathing in, the smell of the dish soap. breathing out, compassion for my straying thoughts.
- plum village
- list of zen centers in canada (you can search for centers with thich nhat hanh’s lineage)
- … and for the united states (note: that site hasn’t been updated in a while; you may have to google the individual centres to get their updated information)
- thich nhat hanh videos
- books by thich nhat hanh
image by pixiduc
(this post appeared in the amazing visions blog carnival)