Thich Nhat Hanh, the influential Zen Buddhist monk, poet and peace activist who spread the concept of mindfulness to the West died in Hue, Vietnam on Saturday. He was 95.
"The International Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism announces that our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh passed away peacefully at Tu Hieu Temple in Hue, Vietnam, at 00:00hrs on 22nd January, 2022, at the age of 95," said his official Twitter account. His week-long funeral will be held at the temple in a quiet and peaceful manner, according to Reuters.
Born Nguyen Xuan Bao in 1926, Thich Nhat Hanh was ordained as a monk at the age of 16. During the height of the Vietnam War in the 1960s he met civil rights leader Martin Luther King in the US and persuaded him to speak against the conflict. As a pioneer of Buddhism in the West, he formed the Plum Village monastery in France and spoke regularly on the practice of mindfulness, or identifying and distancing oneself from certain thoughts without judgement, to the corporate world and his international followers, reports Reuters.
Apart from teaching other mindfulness techniques, he pioneered the concept of ‘hugging meditation’ to surmount communication difficulties, saying that “When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings”.
Thich Nhat Hanh suffered a stroke in 2014 which left him unable to speak and returned to Vietnam to live out his final days in Hue, his place of birth, after spending much of his adult life in exile.
Known for his powerful words and gentle ways, he gained a massive following around the world. Lounge picks five books and speeches that distill the essence of what the monk who believed "the art of happiness and the art of suffering always go together", and advocated the need to "walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet".
HOW TO LOVE
What does love mean? It's a question we've all asked, and in this slim book, Thich Nhat Hanh explains that "understanding is love's other name". It's the most universal and powerful emotion yet “To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love,” he tells us.
PEACE IS EVERY STEP: THE PATH OF MINDFULNESS IN EVERYDAY LIFE
Simply-worded yet beautifully written, Peace is Every Step is a book for meditations, commentaries and personal anecdotes from Nhat Hanh's life as a monk, peace activist and community leader. He explains how to increase our awareness of our body and mind through conscious breathing. There's a beautiful section on ‘Tangerine Meditation’, where he observes that if you are offered an orange, the magnitude of your enjoyment will depend on the level of your mindfulness. “If you are free of worries and anxiety, you will enjoy [the tangerine] more. If you are possessed by anger or fear, the tangerine may not be very real to you,” he writes and shares a mindfulness practice.
FEAR: ESSENTIAL WISDOM FOR GETTING THROUGH THE STORM
The concept of deep listening, which leads to greater understanding, better communication, freedom from fear and peaceful coexistence, forms the core of this book. “When we're not held in the grip of fear, we can truly embrace the gifts of life," he writes, while providing practices to overcome fear. “When you make the effort to listen and hear the other side of the story, your understanding increases and your hurt diminishes.”
PODCAST: LIVE HAPPILY IN THE PRESENT MOMENT
We're constantly on the move, searching, and looking for happiness, but how can we be happy in the present moment? In this recording of one of his older speeches, Thich Nhat Hanh explains how walking meditation is a wonderful way to learn how to stop.
On Google Podcasts, 11 minutes
VIDEO: HOW TO DEAL WITH STRONG EMOTIONS
In this 20-minute teaching, Nhat Hanh explains how to avoid being overcome by intense emotion, whether anger, fear, hate or even happiness. He points out that mindfulness is a practice developed over time by breathing right and consciously “and we should not wait until the strong emotions come in order to practice”.
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