Thich Nhat Hanh

釋一行Thích Nhất Hạnh (IPA: listen (help·info); zh. 釋一行 Chinese Pinyin: Shì Yī Xíng), born in 1926, is an expatriate Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist, and prolific author in English. (The title Thích applies to all Vietnamese Buddhist monks. Further nuances are discussed below.)



Thich Nhat Hanh was born in central Vietnam in 1926 with the birth name Nguyen Xuan Bao. At the age of 16 he entered the monastery at Tu Hieu Temple near Hue, Vietnam, where his primary teacher was Dhyana (Meditation) Master Thanh Quy Chan Tiet . Thich Nhat Hanh underwent a thorough training in Zen and the Mahayana school of Buddhism and received full ordination in 1949. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is now recognized as the spiritual head of that same Tu Hieu Temple as Elder of the Tu Hieu branch of the 8th generation of the Lieu Quan lineage in the 42nd generation of the Lam Te Dhyana school (Lin Chi Chan in Chinese or Rinzai Zen in Japanese). Thầy (“teacher” in Vietnamese) Thich Nhat Hanh has combined his deep knowledge of a variety of traditional Zen teaching methods with methods from Theravada Buddhism and ideas from Western psychology to form his approach to modern Zen practice. Thich Nhat Hanh has become an important influence in the development of a western Zen.

In 1956 he was named Editor-in-Chief of Vietnamese Buddhism, the periodical of the All Vietnam Buddhist Association. In following years he founded La Boi Press, Van Hanh Buddhist University in Saigon and the “School of Youth for Social Service,” a corps of Buddhist peaceworkers aiding peasants who were caught between warring groups in Vietnam.

In 1960, Thich Nhat Hanh came to the U.S. to study comparative religion at Princeton University, and he was subsequently appointed lecturer in Buddhism at Columbia University. In 1963 he returned to Vietnam to aid his fellow monks in their non-violent peace efforts. In 1966 Thich Nhat Hanh was invited to return to the US to lead a symposium in Vietnamese Buddhism at Cornell University.

When Thich Nhat Hanh called for a unilateral ceasefire the South Vietnamese government made it clear that he would not be allowed to return home. Subsequently he was granted asylum in France.

For his pacifist activism during the Vietnam War, Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize. In his nomination Rev. King said, “I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of than this gentle monk from Vietnam. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.” (Despite King’s high praise, the committee decided not to make an award that year. King’s revelation of his nomination was a violation of tradition and the explicit “strong request” of the prize committee.)

In 1982 he founded Plum Village Buddhist Center, a meditation community in the Dordogne in the south of France. As of 2005 he heads a monastic community and the lay group, the Order of Inter-Being, teaching the Five and Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings and “Engaged Buddhism.” Thich Nhat Hanh and the Order of Interbeing have also established monasteries and Dharma centers in the United States at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California, Maple Forest Monastery, and Green Mountain Dharma Center, both in Vermont. Additionally, there are numerous local sanghas or Mindfulness Practice Groups of the Community of Mindful Living around the world where laypersons meet for meditation, Dharma talks, and Days of Mindfulness.

Names applied to him

The Vietnamese title Thích means, roughly, “of the Shakya (Shakyamuni Buddha) clan.” All Vietnamese (and Chinese) Buddhist monks and nuns adopt this title as their “family” or surname implying that their first family is the Buddhist community.

Neither Nhất nor Hạnh — which approximate the roles of middle or intercalary name and given name, respectively, when referring to him in English — was part of his name at birth. Nhất approximates “first-class,” or “of best quality,” in English; Hạnh approximates “right conduct” or “good nature.” Thích Nhất Hạnh has translated his Dharma Names in the following manner: Nhất = One, and Hạnh = Action. Taken collectively, his Dharma Names are best translated as “One Action”. Vietnamese names follow this naming convention, placing the family or surname first, then the middle or intercalary name which often refers to the person’s position in the family or generation, followed by the given name.

Thích Nhất Hạnh is often referred to as “Thầy” (“master; teacher”) or Thầy Nhất Hạnh by his followers. Any Vietnamese monk or nun can be referred to and are often addressed as “Thầy” or “Thầy tu” (“priest; monk”).

Thich Nhat Hanh Quotes

  • When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help.
  • Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.
  • Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
  • To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.
  • Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.
  • People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
  • Sitting in meditation is nourishment for your spirit and nourishment for your body, as well.
  • Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.
  • We are all the leaves of one tree. We are all the waves of one sea.

Selected works

  • Anger, Riverhead Trade, 2002, ISBN 1573229377
  • Being Peace, Parallax Press, 1987, ISBN 0938077007
  • Essential Writings, Robert Ellsberg (Editor), Orbis Books, 2001, ISBN 1570753709
  • Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals, 1962-1966, Riverhead Trade, 1999, ISBN 157322796X
  • Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers, Riverhead Books, 1999, ISBN 1-57322-145-7
  • The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, Broadway Books, 1999, ISBN 0767903692
  • Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism, Parallax Press 3rd edition, 1999, ISBN 1888375086
  • Living Buddha, Living Christ, Riverhead Trade, 1997, ISBN 1573225681
  • The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation, Beacon Press, 1999, ISBN 0807012394 (Vietnamese: Phép lạ c̉ua sư t̉inh thưc).
  • No Death, No Fear, Riverhead Trade reissue, 2003, ISBN 1573223336
  • Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha, Parallax Press, 1991
  • Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Bantam reissue, 1992, ISBN 0553351397
  • The Raft Is Not the Shore: Conversations Toward a Buddhist/Christian Awareness, Daniel Berrigan (Co-author), Orbis Books, 2000, ISBN 157075344X
  • Touching the Earth: Intimate Conversations with the Buddha, Parallax Press, 2004, ISBN 1888375418
  • Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living, Parallax Press, 1992, ISBN 0-938077-57-0
  • Vietnam: Lotus in a sea of fire. New York, Hill and Wang. 1967.
  • Zen Keys: A Guide to Zen Practice, Three Leaves, 1994, ISBN 0385475616
buddha monk

buddha monk