Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Jan 22 (EFE).- Revered Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh died on Saturday at the age of 95 in his home city of Hue, Vietnam.
“Our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh passed away peacefully at Tu Hieu Temple … at 00:00hrs on 22nd January,” announced his Zen teaching organization, the International Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism.
“We invite our beloved global spiritual family to take a few moments to be still, to come back to our mindful breathing, as we together hold [him] in our hearts in peace and loving gratitude for all he has offered the world,” the organization said.
Thich Nhat Hanh was considered the most influential Buddhist figure in the world after the Dalai Lama, and authored some 70 books on Zen teachings, sold throughout the world.
He had returned to Vietnam in 2018 and moved into the same temple where he became a monk in 1942 at the age of 16 to spend the final years of his life. In 2014 he had lost his speech and become dependent on a wheelchair after a stroke.
The monk spent most of his life between the United States and France after he first left the country during the war with the United States, when he became a symbol of pacifism.
He began to gain international recognition in 1966, when in the US toward the height of the Vietnam War he met Martin Luther King Jr, who a year later proposed him as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam,” King wrote in his nomination letter. “His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.”
Exiled by the pro-American government of South Vietnam for opposing the war, Thich Nhat Hanh was unable to return to his homeland during the war and was also denied entry by the regime in place since the victory of the communist North in 1975.
For decades, the return to his homeland was one of the great wishes of the Zen master, until in 2005 he received authorization and was also able to see some of his books on meditation and Buddhism translated into Vietnamese, today sold in bookstores throughout the country.
In 1982, he had settled into the Plum Village monastery that he established in southern France, and lived there until 2016, when he moved to Thailand after his stroke.
Two years later, he moved into Tu Hieu Temple where his life ended on Saturday.
The success of his books and spiritual retreats allowed Thich Nhat Hanh to spread a modernized version of Buddhism to the West, based on mindfulness and inner peace, which he linked to practical situations of contemporary life.
Another major cornerstone of his teachings is that humans have to “be at peace” inside themselves to overcome negative emotions such as anger, fear and regret. EFE