Living Buddha, Living Christ: Remembering Thich Nhat Hanh (1926-2022) by Vickie MacArthur
“With a deep mindful breath, we announce the passing of our beloved teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, at Tu Hieu Temple in Hue, Vietnam on 22nd January, 2022 at the age of 95.”
As I read these words through a blur of tears, memories of being with this dear Buddhist teacher on retreat at his monastery in southern France come flooding back: the slow, measured way he entered the meditation hall, as if imprinting peace with every step, the way his delicate hands cradled his cup of tea before savoring a long slow sip, the way his dazzling smile could light up every person in the room, the graceful arc of his arm as he drew it back before inviting the sound of the meditation bell to awaken our hearts and minds, the peaceful countenance of a Zen master deep in meditation, the child-like wonder as he gazed at the first lotus blossom of the season, the playful glint in his eyes as he invited the children to come forward, and finally, the way he would stop and look at you in the middle of a dharma talk, his wise words seemingly speaking to the deepest questions of your heart.
Since his passing, there has been a huge outpouring of both grief and gratitude around the world for this peaceful and courageous Buddhist monk. A true bodhisattva, his teachings on mindfulness, along with his life of compassionate action, have touched millions. Born in Vietnam in 1926, he lived an inspiring life of both contemplation and service: entering the monastery as a novice monk at the tender age of sixteen, choosing to leave the safety of the monastery to help rebuild bombed-out villages during the Vietnam war, traveling to the United States to advocate for the end of that war, with the help of Dr. Martin Luther King, then being exiled from his homeland when he tried to return. Eventually settling in France, Thich Nhat Hanh continued to advocate for peace and eventually built a thriving monastery near Bourdeaux, ordaining hundreds of monks, nuns, and dharma teachers who continue to teach and offer retreats all over the world. (Read more at www.plumvillage.org.)
Although Thich Nhat Hanh has been described as an artist, a poet, a mystic, a scholar, and activist, it is his loving and compassionate presence that has touched me to the core. Looking into Thay’s eyes was like looking into a mirror that was a pure reflection of love. It felt like looking into the eyes of the “Living Buddha, Living Christ.” Thay’s book of the same name connects Buddhism and Christianity; his legacy ensures that millions now also see the deep connections between these two great traditions.
Watch for Vickie’s upcoming spiritual memoir, A Lotus On Fire: How a Buddhist Monk Ignited the Love in My Heart
Yours in Christ,
Gwyn, Kat, and Shannon
community of christ
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