Thich Nhat Hahn passed away January 22, 2022 in his home country of Vietnam. He was 95. Thay, as he was called by his followers, taught mindfulness and is mourned by millions today around the world. He wrote 100 books and pamphlets on meditation and living in the present (in English) that have significantly penetrated western thought. I was not a follower, per se, but his teachings have certainly had an influence on me.
In times of pain and suffering, Thich Nhat Hahn taught that we must come home to the present moment. There is a tendency to want to run away, either literally or by escaping into the past or the future, into food, entertainment or other distraction. Through the practice of mindfulness, we are given the strength to look into the nature of our suffering. It may be hard but if we can embrace our pain we can calm it down. Then we have the ability to transform the suffering. When we do this we can help others transform their pain. This is being of service.
He taught (and I’m summarizing) that everyday we need to become sweeter, more joyful in the present. In this way others around us find hope and encouragement that they too can find this in themselves. He believed and actively taught that embracing pain, instead of running away from it, is not only a vital practice for individuals but also for the spiritual community (sangha). When communities practice this very powerful form of mindfulness, the benefit to relieving the suffering of the world is much greater.
Buddhists and many others like myself who are not Buddhists believe there is no death. This is a moment of great sorrow. Of immense loss. So I will not say Rest In Peace because that would be a contradiction to his beliefs. Still, Thich Nhat Hahn’s presence will surely be missed.
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