Collected by Karina Lutz
Beloved Thầy (teacher) Thích Nhất Hạnh, the Vietnamese monk who coined the term “interbeing” to make the Buddhist concept of mutual causality more accessible to westerners, died Jan. 22, 2022 at his root temple in Hue, Vietnam, at the age of 95. Mutual causality, sometimes translated as “dependent co-arising,” is central to Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes, and the subject of Joanna Macy’s dissertation Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems.
Here is an obituary/biography of Thầy by The Fellowship of Reconciliation, an international pacifist organization he had been involved with:
I have used Thầy’s guided meditation on embracing fear from his book entitled Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm as a segue from Honoring our Pain to Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes. That book has a new deeply resonant and philosophically contextualized review by Maria Popova here: https://www.themarginalian.org/2020/12/01/thich-nhat-hanh-fear-love/
Democracy Now reposted this speech by Thầy upon his death, and it is even more useful now, about how to embrace anger (honor our pain) as people who want to stop war. Note it is in two parts, both linked from this page: https://www.democracynow.org/2001/9/26/thousands_gather_to_hear_vietnamese_monk. (In contrast to the Work, Thầy takes an entirely internal approach to anger, without expression or social witness. His book on this is: Anger: Wisdom for Coolng the Flames, https://www.parallax.org/product/anger/.)
Shortly after that speech at Riverside Church, at a retreat with Thầy in Massachusetts, nonviolence scholar Arthur Stein told me he thinks history will recognize Thầy‘s impact on Buddhism, the movement towards social engagement, as equivalent to Martin Luther’s impact on Christianity. At the very least, he joined in that great shift with the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Maha Ghosananda of Cambodia, and other great Buddhist teachers displaced by wars of colonization in the last century.
Plum Village, the monastery and retreat center Thầy and other monastics established in France while in exile for their antiwar activities, has many resources, including a meditation app and a website with a range of talks and practices, etc. Here is an example, Thầy’s statement on climate: https://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/letters/thich-nhat-hanhs-statement-on-climate-change-for-unfccc/
Another great resource often used in the Work is the Touching the Earth practice, using prostrations with intent to reconnect with Gaia: https://plumvillage.org/articles-fr/touching-the-earth-to-mother-earth/.
Here is the Great Bell Chant including translation into English by Thầy with music and translation into English. I find listening to it helps me reconnect, and is a way to step into the present as a form of “bodhisattva check in,” like the Work That Reconnects practice. It transmits the energy of deep longing to end all suffering on Earth: https://plumvillage.org/library/chants/the-great-bell-chant/
In light of the teaching of “no birth, no death,” Thầy called birth and death “continuation.” May we all be his continuation, and may the next Buddha be a community, as he often said. Or perhaps a network of networks dedicated to the Great Turning! Another of his teachings was of the impermanence of civilizations, which can add to our active hope, even as we mourn and celebrate his continuation.
March 11-12, Thay’s 49th day ceremony and as his ashes were scattered at Plum Village.