In Honor of a Wise and Very Beloved Teacher

by | Feb 2, 2022

Zen master Thich Nath Hanh.

Thay, as his disciples called him, died last week in Vietnam, after 33 years, he returned to his home country. He had not been welcome because of his political opinions. Collaborator of Martin Luther King, bringer of Mindfulness to the West, Environmental advocate and bringer of peace.

My feeling is that he even had a more profound influence in the West than most of us realize, not only for his monks and nuns and lay followers but for all of us. I have been greatly influenced by his teaching this last decade since my formal Mindfulness education. Sitting meditation, walking meditation, sitting meditation, inviting the gong, singing, reading sutras, and mindful speaking, I practice this in a local Sangha. A Sangha, you can see as little hubs worldwide, where people practice these simple formats. Peaceful and profound.

Despite the injustices Thich Nath Hanh experienced and the suffering he has witnessed in Vietnam, Thay has always found ways to respond to injustice with the healing balm of compassion and nonviolence. Thich Nath Hanh has found ways to embrace everyone—even those who have caused you harm or harbored ill-will.


A Poem by Thich Nhat Hanh

The moment I die,

I will try to come back to you

as quickly as possible.

I promise it will not take long.

Isn’t it true

I am already with you,

as I die each moment?

I come back to you

in every moment.

Just look,

Feel my presence.

If you want to cry,

please cry.

And know

That I will cry with you.

The tears you shed

will heal us both.

Your tears are mine.

The earth I tread this morning

transcends history.

Spring and Winter are both present in the moment.

The young leaf and the dead leaf are really one.

My feet touch deathlessness,

and my feet are yours.

Walk with me now.

Let us enter the dimension of oneness

And see the cherry tree blossom in Winter.

Why should we talk about death?

I don’t need to die

to be back with you.

Call Me By My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh (1993)