Major Figure of Buddhism Engaged, Master Zen Vietnamese Thich Nhat Hanh, born in 1926, was extinguished on January 22nd. “[Nime] religions” returns to the course and thought of this peace activist.
by Marie-Laurence Catoire
Known worldwide, Thich Nhat Hanh had received us in 2014, at the dawn of his 88 years, for what was one of his last interviews. Victim of a stroke the same year, he no longer appeared publicly. He turned out on January 22 in Vietnam, at the age of 95 years. Today we republish this portrait made in the village of plum trees, in the Dordogne, the Buddhist community he had founded in 1969.
Portrait. Thich Nhat Hanh has made his life a commitment. If it is now considered a wise man by its many disciples, it has not been deeply revolutionary, denouncing religious sclerosis very early in his country. Ordered monk at the age of 16, he immediately federates many young Vietnamese animated by the vision of a modern Buddhism, ready to engage in the world.
He founded the Institute of Higher Studies of Buddhism An Quang, who will become the cradle of the non-violent struggle against the Vietnam War between 1963 and 1975. In 1965, he creates the School of Youth in the social service that brings together nearly 10,000 social workers, true peace craftsmen at the heart of the war. “Without Community, we can not work” is a conviction that he shared with Martin Luther King (1929-1968), from their first meeting in Chicago (1966). For the Buddhist monk, a politician, a teacher, a therapist, a man or a businesswoman should have the concern to constitute a sangha, a community, to be able to “realize their dreams”.
Its Western training (it studies in Princeton, the United States) reinforces the spirit of openness and this taste for a Buddhism accessible to the greatest number. In 1966, after resisted for years with threats and persecutions, Thich Nhat Hanh is forced to exile. He finds refuge in France in 1969, where he created in 1982 the monastery of the village of plum trees, in the Bordeaux, today one of the most important of the country. The “beloved community”, to use the expression of his friend Martin Luther King, has been able to present a “meditation in action”, welcoming thousands of laity every year.
“One Smile can change the world “
The natural authority of Thich Nhat Hanh, which is necessary on a severe face, contrasts surprisingly with the bright smile that he arbore as soon as he begins to speak. “One smile can transform the world”, the Zen monk knows it. To meet him, it is to discover an infinitely solid man who, however, has kept intact the vulnerability and tenderness of the child he carries in him.
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