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Remembering Thích Nhất Hạnh

Social Science, Philosophy and Religion Department, Central Library,
Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh. Photo credit: plumvillage.org

Thích Nhất Hạnh, the influential Vietnamese Buddhist monk who achieved a worldwide following with his message of mindfulness, peace, and compassion, died at age 95 on Saturday, January 22, 2022.

Thích Nhất Hạnh was born in Hue, Vietnam in 1926. He joined a monastery at age sixteen and received his novice ordination in 1945. During this time, Thích Nhất Hạnh witnessed great suffering from starvation, poverty, and violence in Vietnam due to the Japanese occupation at the end of World War II, and then the First Indochina War from 1946-1954. As Thích Nhất Hạnh continued his studies to become a monk, he conceived of Engaged Buddhism: the concept that Buddhism’s core teachings could be used to solve societal problems and promote a peaceful and nonviolent solution to end the strife in his homeland.

From 1961-63 Thích Nhất Hạnh traveled to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship to study at Princeton Theological Seminary and at Columbia University. Thích Nhất Hạnh later credited his time in the United States and where he realized his path in life, due in part to being able to decompress and experience the peace of living fully in the moment.

As war intensified in Vietnam, Thích Nhất Hạnh returned home and assisted those in need by organizing a volunteer organization to help rebuild villages damaged by bombings and to help build schools and medical facilities. He also delivered food and needed supplies to those living in battleground areas. Over time, Thích Nhất Hạnh became an influential voice in the nonviolence movement, giving him the opportunity to meet at various times with Pope Paul VI, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Merton, and high-ranking United States government officials. In 1967, Dr. King nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize, calling him an “apostle of peace and nonviolence”.

Despite his advocacy for peace, Vietnam exiled Thích Nhất Hạnh, not allowing him to return to his homeland until 2005. During his exile, France granted him asylum, where he established the Plum Village monastery in southwestern France. He also established Buddhist centers in the United States, Germany, Australia, and Thailand. In 1975 he published his influential work, Miracle of Mindfulness, which showed how to apply mindfulness to everyday activities in one’s life. Over time, he authored many novels, poetry collections, short stories, Buddhist texts, and spiritual guides. In his teachings, he continued to point out the similarities between Buddhist tenets and those found in Christianity and other faiths. Beginning with retreats held during the 1980s, his philosophy has since touched millions of adherents. He became an in-demand speaker, holding mindfulness events before diverse audiences such as government officials in the United States, Britain, and India, and at the Harvard School of Medicine, Google, and the World Bank.

The Los Angeles Public Library owns many of his works in print as well as digital through hoopla and Overdrive. See the list below for a sample of the titles available in our collection.

Recommended Reading

The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now
Nhất Hạnh, Thích

The Art of Power
Nhất Hạnh, Thích

Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers
Nhất Hạnh, Thích

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy & Liberation
Nhất Hạnh, Thích

A Lifetime of Peace: Essential Writings by and about Thich Nhat Hanh
Nhất Hạnh, Thích

The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual of Meditation
Nhất Hạnh, Thích

No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering
Nhất Hạnh, Thích

Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh: Engaged Spirituality in an Age of Globalization
King, Robert Harlen

You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment
Nhất Hạnh, Thích

Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet
Nhất Hạnh, Thích