On Saturday at San Francisco Zen Center we began the day with a memorial service for beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh after ringing the densho bell 108 times the night before. Since last Friday, January 21st, many sanghas have shared words and images of Thich Nhat Hanh in their newsletters. Here are five expressions of gratitude for his teachings and presence in the world.
The words and image below were offered by Ryumon Sensei, co-guiding teacher of Two Streams Zen in Western MA.:
The Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh
Beloved Teacher, Buddhist Monk, Activist, Embodiment of Peace,
Plunged into the Ocean of Buddha Midnight today at the age of 95.
(11 October 1926 – 22 January 2022)
In body no more
Walking gently into light
A mystery now
Houston Zen Center’s Abbot Gaelyn Godwin shared the Plum Village announcement of Thich Nhat Han’s death with these words: “A great teacher, one of the most important of our time, has passed away. The early roots of Houston Zen Community flourished in a group founded by followers of Thay. May our vibrant and flourishing Center continue his deep teachings of compassion and wisdom.”
Hakusho Ostlund of Brattleboro Zen Center in Vermont wrote: “The remarkable Buddhist teacher, peace activist, poet Thich Nhat Hanh passed away last Friday. As I was scheduled to give a talk at Santa Barbara Zen Center the following day, I tried to capture some of my deep appreciation for Thay’s teachings, the support I found within them as a young student of Buddhism, and how he himself seemed to embody them with every step he took. The video recording of my talk can be found here.”
“Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing? We must be aware of the real problems of the world. Then, with mindfulness, we will know what to do and what not to do to be of help. If we maintain awareness of our breathing and continue to practice mindfulness, even in difficult situations, many people, animals, and plants will benefit from our way of doing things. Are you massaging our Mother Earth every time your foot touches her? Are you planting seeds of joy and peace? I try to do exactly that with every step, and I know that our Mother Earth is most appreciative. Peace is every step. Shall we continue our journey?Then, with mindfulness, we will know what to do and what not to do to be of help. … Are you planting seeds of joy and peace? I try to do that with every step. Peace is every step. Shall we continue the journey?
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Chapel Hill Zen Center in North Carolina sent a message to their sangha, saying “We invite our global spiritual family to take a few moments to be still, to come back to our mindful breathing, as we together hold Thay in our hearts in peace and loving gratitude for all he has offered the world.”
Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento, CA posted a tribute to Thich Nhat Hanh on Saturday, with images and words focusing on his lifelong work for peace. Jim Hare, the guiding teacher, writes: “Now he has left us, but as he reminded us in his book “No Death, No Fear:”
“This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died. Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies All manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source, Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.”
Jim continues, “In Thich Nhat Han’s book “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” he explains that to truly
follow the Buddha or Christ, one must live exactly as they did. And this holds true for those of us who strive to carry on Thay’s work: engage wholeheartedly with the suffering we encounter in our daily lives, and meet it with love, compassion, and peace.”
May we all carry on Thay’s work, remembering that peace is every step.