Late at night,
the candle gutters.
In some distant desert,
a flower opens.
(From “Disappearance” by Thich Nhat Hanh)
In 1966, Thomas Merton met Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, Zen Master, peace activist, and poet from Vietnam. He came to the U.S. as part of a reconciliation journey, to show Americans a face of Vietnam we were not getting in the news. Because of Nhat Hanh’s tireless work for peace and reconciliation between deadly enemies, he was exiled from Vietnam in 1966. He relocated to Plum Village, at a retreat center in southern France.
In 2014, Nhat Hanh suffered a massive stroke that has left him unable to speak or walk, but it does not seem to have hampered his spiritual path. In October 2018, he returned to his home country of Vietnam to “live his remaining days” at Tu Hieu Pagoda, a Buddhist temple in Vietnam, where he was ordained at age 16.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s health is “remarkably stable,” a representative from Plum Village told Lions Roar, a Canadian Buddhist publication. The 92-year-old beloved Buddhist teacher is receiving Eastern treatment and acupuncture and regularly goes out for strolls around the temple grounds in his wheelchair.
“When there’s a break in the rains,” wrote a Plum Village representative, [he] comes outside to enjoy visiting the Root Temple’s ponds and stupas, in his wheelchair, joined by his disciples. Many practitioners, lay and monastic, are coming to visit Tu Hieu, and there is a beautiful, light atmosphere of serenity and peace, as the community enjoys practicing together there in Thay’s presence.”
Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most famous Buddhist teachers in the world and is credited with helping to popularize mindfulness in the West. Known for his anti-war activism, in 1967, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by his friend Martin Luther King, Jr.
It is important to remember our elders. To walk in the path of the saints, do not simply do what they did; instead, dream what they dreamed.