Mindfulness Matters

thayBeloved Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH) has experienced a severe cerebral hemorrhage and remains in critical condition. He recently had his 88th Birthday. I surmise that he is, along with the Dalai, Lama, one of the two most readily recognized Buddhist figures in the world today. Affectionately known as “Thay” TNH has written seemingly countless books on mindfulness including the classic The Miracle of Mindfulness.

A eulogy seems premature. He had been in a coma and expected to die but it appears he is not ready to go just yet and he has emerged from his coma.

Like so many others, I have appreciated his teachings–especially his earlier writings that were straightforward and heartfelt. I especially appreciated his work with Vietnam veterans and forgiveness. I often relate a story that I heard him tell about one of these veterans. Without forgiveness, he remained in prison. This time, a prison of his own design.

I also love his phrase “no mud, no flower” pointing to the necessity of messiness for growth.

His more recent work on power and work, I found less compelling and often too moralistic. This can be an issue with Asian teachers and I have also found this, at times, with the Dalai Lama.

Thay is the embodiment of the gentle mindfulness practitioner so much so that he is ready caricature. As mindfulness burgeons in popularity, we will need to expand the image of mindfulness from the peaceful, soft-spoken monk to an image that suits the way most of us live–as ordinary human beings finding our way through the world.

Still, it wouldn’t hurt to be able to channel that peaceful monk once in a while.

Buddhists around the world are sending their well-wishes and prayers to TNH. Here is an excerpt from the Interdependence Project:

Thay is still in the hospital. He is OK thanks to the patriarchs. If someone want to send healing energy to Thay please ask them to keep one day per week avoiding eating beef, pork, chicken and fish (vegetarian) per week and send the merit to offer life to Thay.

With my secular approach to the Buddha’s teachings, I am not sure what to make of this prayer recommendation. I don’t know if it will help TNH, but it may make you feel better if you do this.

Better yet, the legacy of any teacher is embodied in their teachings. Grab one of his books off of your bookshelf or go and get one like Peace is Every Step and celebrate the life of this great yogi by trying to embody the wisdom he has generously offered through his words and life example.