Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Master who has been instrumental in bringing Buddhism and mindfulness practices to a Western audience. Born in Vietnam in 1926, he became a novice monk at 16. In response to the Vietnam War, he founded the Engaged Buddhism movement, an idea that he had originally presented in 1954 in a series of articles called “A Fresh Look at Buddhism”. The year of the Geneva Accords, 1954 was when Vietnam split into North and South, and as Thich Nhat Hanh says about that time, “…there was great confusion in the minds of people in Vietnam.” Thich Nhat Hanh presented Engaged Buddhism as a way to apply Buddhist teachings and principles to aspects of daily life rather than simply sitting in meditation or living in an isolated monastic community. During the war, Engaged Buddhism became a way to apply Buddhist teachings to the fight against injustice and to help those who were suffering the atrocities of war.
In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh traveled to the U.S. to advocate for peace in Vietnam. It was there that he met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. Because of his call for peace, he was denied the right to return to Vietnam, an exile that would last for 39 years. Thich Nhat Hanh established the “Sweet Potato” community near Paris in the mid-70s, which he later moved to southwest France in 1982 and renamed “Plum Village.” This community of monastics continues to thrive and welcome thousands of visitors from around the world. Thich Nhat Hanh has also established monastic communities in the U.S., including New York, Mississippi and California. See our related links page.
Thich Nhat Hanh has published over 100 books on Buddhism and mindfulness, on specific topics ranging from anger and power to love and community. His students respectfully refer to him as “Thay” (pronounced Tay or Tie) which is Vietnamese for teacher.
As of January 2015, Thay is still recovering from a brain hemorrhage that he suffered in November of 2014. He continues to make progress, and, as of the last report from Plum Village, has woken from his coma. Although he is not yet speaking, he is smiling and has even chuckled.
This is a very abbreviated biography of our dear teacher. For more, visit his biography at Plum Village’s website.