The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.
―Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ
* * *
Thich Nhat Hanh died Saturday, January 22. He was 95 years old.
He was born in Vietnam, protested the war, was expelled, settled in France, and founded Plum Village Monastery. Over his lifetime he published more than 100 books, traveled and lectured widely. He returned to Vietnam in 2005. He suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2014 and lived out his days at Tu Hieu Temple where he had become a novice at age 16. His friends and students called him “Thay” (teacher).
Thay was a Zen master, a teacher, a sower. He sowed seeds of compassion, justice, and peace.
Whoever is listening, be my witness:
I cannot accept this war.
I never could, I never will.
I must say this a thousand times before I am killed.
I am like the bird who dies for the sake of its mate,
dripping blood from its broken beak and crying out:
“Beware! Turn around and face your real enemies
—ambition, violence, hatred, and greed.”
Thay is dead. But the seeds he sowed live on. Many people treasure and cultivate his seeds. I’m one.
Twenty-five years ago I read Living Buddha, Living Christ. The Buddha and Christ both taught mindfulness. Both taught gratitude and compassion. Neither espoused creeds.
Many Christians get tangled up in byzantine doctrines. I did too. But Thay showed me the center of Jesus’s teaching. In fact, it’s literally at the center of Luke’s gospel.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—oh, you of little faith! Do not be afraid for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12)
Thank you, Thay.
The Great Bell Chant. Visual montage with voice of Thich Nhat Hanh