Beliefnet
FINALIST:
THICH NHAT HANH
Buddhist monk and peace activist



Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh is a man whose commitment to peacemaking was forged in the crucible of war.

During the Vietnam conflict, Thich Nhat Hanh responded in true Buddhist fashion to the devastation around him. "When we learned of the bombing of Ben Tre village in Vietnam, where the pilots told the journalists that they had destroyed the village in order to save it," the 75-year-old spiritual teacher, poet, and peace activist once said, "I was shocked, and [racked] with anger and grief. We practiced walking calmly and gently on the earth to bring back our calm mind and peaceful heart."

This year, Thich Nhat Hanh published an important and well-timed book, "Anger," in which he describes how meditation allows us to step back from hatred and anger so that we can gain perspective, understanding--even compassion towards those who may hurt us.

In a Beliefnet interview, he stunned--and gave pause--to readers by declaring that the first thing he would do if he were to meet Osama bin Laden is listen. He's urged leaders and citizen to achieve "calmness and clarity" before acting. Beliefnet user Connietyl put it well: "I nominate him because he knows that each of us is both good and evil and has devoted his life to helping people find the good in themselves and act upon it. His writings have inspired me more than any one other than the sayings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and the writings of Mahatma Gandhi. He follows closely in the wake of both these great men."

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