Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist Peacekeeper
“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.” ~ says Thich Nhat Hanh, the renowned Buddhist Zen master.
His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live in the present moment instead of in the past and in the future. Dwelling in the present moment is the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.
Originally from Vietnam, the 86-year old peace activist, poet, writer and teacher, has been an apostle of peace from the age of 16 when he became a monk. During the Vietnam War, he faced the question of whether to remain hidden in the monastery and follow the contemplative life of a monk or to go out and help the villagers suffering under bombings.
Nhat Hanh chose to do both, which gave rise to the ‘Engaged Buddhism’ movement – which means to apply Buddhist teachings to bring social and political reform. He opposed his own government during the war, due to which he was banned from his own country, for 39 years.
Prior to that in early 60s in Saigon, Vietnam, Nhat Hanh started a relief organisation that rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools, medical centers and resettled homeless families. Nhat Hanh also founded a Buddhist University, a publishing house, and a peace activist magazine in Vietnam, all this led to his ban.
He traveled to the US to encourage peaceful activism, persuaded Martin Luther King, Jr. to oppose the Vietnam War publicly, and in a way helped to galvanize the peace movement. In 1967, King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Subsequently, Nhat Hanh led the Buddhist delegation to the Paris Peace Talks. He eventually settled in Southern France, and founded Plum village, a Buddhist meditation practice center and monastery where he conducts retreats on mindfulness, attended by people from around the world.
Nhat Hanh’s teaching of Mindfulness
Nhat Hanh exudes a sense of peace and calmness, something which is quite evident in his talks and teachings, and his thoughts, are simple, but yet profound. In the video above, ‘Awakening the heart,’ Nhat Hanh talks about being happy with the way things are and to cherish the small wonders of life, many are still running because we haven’t got what we wanted, happiness is possible at any time.
We are so often, caught in sorrow, regret, fear, concern for future, anger, that our mind is not there with our body, we aren’t truly present, but once we bring our mind home to our body, then we are fully present. The way to achieve this, Nhat Hanh says, is by mindful breathing. Mindfulness is the capacity to be aware of what is going on.
It gives the energy of being in the present; breathing in and out mindfully can bring a lot of joy and freedom. In the clipping below, Nhat Hanh shows the ten mindful movements practiced at Plum village, it focuses on breathing in and out.
There are also videos available of the teachings taking place at the Plum village that you can watch, here’s the link to videos of the monastery.
The message from Nhat Hanh is similar to every other spiritual person or ancient tribe like the Kogis, to avert catastrophe we have to reconnect with Mother Earth, because we are all part of the universal consciousness!