From MLK to Silicon Valley, how the world fell for ‘father of mindfulness’ | Vietnam

Before he acquired sick, Thich Nhat Hanh urged his followers not to put his ashes in a vase, lock him inside and “restrict who I’m”. As a substitute, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, poet and peace activist apparently informed them: “If I’m anyplace, it’s in your aware respiration and in your peaceable steps.”

And after the 95-year-old’s loss of life on Saturday, the breadth of the legacy of his extraordinary life was laid naked as information of his loss of life reverberated round the world, drawing tributes from main figures from throughout psychology, faith and social justice.

The Dalai Lama, the religious chief of Tibetan Buddhism, stated he lived “a really significant life”, including: “I’ve little doubt the finest means we will pay tribute to him is to proceed his work to promote peace in the world.”

Hanh, generally known as the “father of mindfulness” and a number one advocate of “engaged Buddhism”, rose to prominence and was exiled from his dwelling nation over his opposition to the Vietnam conflict. After persuading Martin Luther King to communicate out in opposition to it, the civil rights chief nominated him for the Nobel peace prize in 1967, writing that he didn’t know of anybody extra worthy “than this mild Buddhist monk from Vietnam”.

‘Thay’ with Martin Luther King Jr at a press conference in Chicago in 1966
‘Thay’ with Martin Luther King Jr at a press convention in Chicago in 1966. {Photograph}: Edward Kitch/AP

Hanh’s affect even reached the tech world. In 2013 he spoke at Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, telling staff: “We’ve got the feeling that we’re overwhelmed by info. We don’t want that a lot info.”

His affect additionally spanned medical psychology, along with his 1975 e book The Miracle of Mindfulness laying the foundations for what would later be used to deal with despair and described as mindfulness-based cognitive remedy.

“He was there at the very begin of bringing mindfulness from east to west,” stated Mark Williams, emeritus professor of medical psychology at Oxford College and founding director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. Williams first heard about mindfulness from Marsha Linehan, a professor of medical psychology at the College of Washington, who he stated stored Hanh’s e book in her pocket and referred to it as her “bible”.

He stated: “I first met her in the late 80s however this was revealed in 1975 so she had been utilizing that e book to affect her, and it was her work and her recommendation that influenced us in in search of to incorporate mindfulness into our strategy to stopping despair, which then grew to become generally known as mindfulness-based cognitive remedy.”

Buddhist monks and nuns greet Thich Nhat Hanh (centre) at a temple in Hue, Vietnam, in 2020
Buddhist monks and nuns greet Thich Nhat Hanh (centre) at a temple in Hue, Vietnam, in 2020. {Photograph}: Linh Pham/Getty Photos

In the present day, mindfulness is a ubiquitous time period of fashionable life, however with out Hanh’s affect western mindfulness wouldn’t, he believes, be what it’s right this moment.

Williams stated: “What he was ready to do was to talk the necessities of Buddhist knowledge and make it accessible to folks throughout the world, and construct that bridge between the fashionable world of psychological science and the fashionable healthcare system and these historic knowledge practices – after which he continued to try this in his instructing.”

Those that met Hanh stated his presence was not like the rest they’d encountered.

Anabel Temple, a member of Coronary heart of London Sangha, half of Hanh’s monastery community, first got here throughout his teachings in his e book Being Peace about 30 years in the past. She ended up travelling with him in China and Vietnam in 2005, when he returned after 4 a long time of exile, and has been to his Plum Village monastery in France many instances. Scrolling by way of her telephone, she exhibits dozens of photographs of Hanh – also referred to as “Thay”, or trainer – travelling.

“He had that kind of means. You go right into a room and there have been lots of of folks there in a Dharma discuss however he had that potential and talent to really feel that he was singling you out personally in that room, talking immediately to you,” she stated.

The final time Temple noticed him was at Plum Village earlier than a stroke, which left him unable to communicate, in 2014. After that he returned to his birthplace Hue, in Vietnam.

“Thay was such humility, such dignity, such presence,” she stated. “He was humorous, indignant, unhappy. He took childlike enjoyment of issues and in addition a profound peace and tranquility and a unprecedented humanity.”

Suryagupta, chair of the London Buddhist Centre, first encountered him at a retreat in England about 25 years in the past.


“He’s undoubtedly a large of a person and I had the success to be on retreat with him in my very early days of exploring Buddhism,” she stated. “And what was so putting was that each time he walked into an area, generally there can be lots of of folks there, with out saying a phrase actually as quickly as he walked in his presence would simply instil this kind of stillness and calmness in the crowd… and in addition a softness, you felt your self loosen up and be alert one way or the other in his presence.” Suryagupta stated his inclusivity was a central characteristic of his instructing. “He confirmed that Buddhism was actually accessible for everyone and as a Black girl that was actually necessary to me.”

He died peacefully surrounded by his followers in Tu Hieu temple – the similar temple that his religious journey began – the place they are going to maintain a week-long funeral.

Marianne Williamson, writer and former US presidential candidate, stated: “He was an awesome religious trainer clearly who introduced tens of millions of folks round the world right into a deeper understanding of the tenets of Buddhism and how to apply them in our every day lives.”

However she is definite that his legacy will stay on. “His present to the planet was so important I don’t suppose it is going to in any means reduce along with his loss of life. With some folks, and positively there are these everyone knows of right this moment, their negativity permeates the consciousness of the planet,” she stated. “With Thich Nhat Hanh, his love and compassion permeated the consciousnesses of the planet and now it’s our duty to carry it ahead from right here.”

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