A True Hero: Thay

Thich Nhat Hanh, called Thay by his students, is an expatriate Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk. A teacher, author, and peace activist, Thay was born in central Vietnam on October 11, 1926. He joined a Zen monastery at the age of 16, studied Buddhism as a novice, and was fully ordained as a monk in 1949. Commonly referred to as Thich Nhat Hanh, the title Thích is used by all Vietnamese monks and nuns, meaning that they are part of the Shakya (Shakyamuni Buddha) clan. He coined the term Engaged Buddhism in his book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire.
In the early 1960s, he founded the School of Youth for Social Services (SYSS) in Saigon, a grassroots relief organization that rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools and medical centers, and resettled families left homeless during the Vietnam War. He traveled to the U.S. a number of times to study and later teach at Columbia University, and to promote the cause of peace. He urged Martin Luther King, Jr. to oppose the Vietnam War publicly, and spoke with many people and groups about peace. In a January 25, 1967 letter to the Nobel Institute in Norway, King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Thay led the Buddhist delegation to the Paris Peace Talks. One of the best known Buddhist teachers in the West, Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and practices appeal to people from various religious, spiritual, and political backgrounds. He offers a practice of mindfulness that is often adapted to Western sensibilities.
He created the Order of Interbeing in 1966, and established monastic and practice centers around the world. His home is Plum Village Monastery in the Dordogne region in the South of France. He travels internationally giving retreats and talks. Exiled from Vietnam for many years, he was allowed to return for a trip in 2005 and again in 2007. He has published more than 100 books, including more than 40 in English. He also publishes a quarterly Dharma talk in the journal of the Order of Interbeing, the Mindfulness Bell. Nhat Hanh continues to be active in the peace movement. He has sponsored retreats for Israelis and Palestinians, encouraging them to listen and learn about each other; given speeches urging warring countries to stop fighting and look for non-violent solutions to problems.

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