In Memoriam: Thich Nhat Hanh
Updated: Jan 21
Throughout my seven years as a buddhist, I was inspired by the works of Thich Nhat Hanh, the peaceful, lovable amazing Vietnamese monk made famous by a Nobel Peace Prize nomination from Dr Martin Luther King Jr. There have been so many quotable moments in his life, profound, heartfelt and inspiring. When I left Buddhism I kept the teachings of Thich That Hanh in my heart and though I agreed with almost every aspect of his teachings, I spoke in my new book about our only topic of contention. Perhaps life wore down on me. Perhaps I lost hope in humanity seeing the way people treat each other and how horrible the world is. Thay was a masterful teacher with so many genuinely educational books that say so much about life, love and the indestructible nature of the human spirit. A few of my favorites include "The Sun, My Heart," "Living Buddha, Living Christ" and "The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings." Thich Nhat Hanh acted as a bridge between Buddhism and Christianity, the east and west, and so many other opposing forces and nations. Without him I don't think I would have ever found peace with my spiritual self. I love you Thay and already miss you greatly, dear teacher. I have arrived. I am home.
I want to leave you with an excerpt from my book. How I left things with Thich Nhat Hanh and perhaps a sour note I wish I could resolve. If only I could ask him about this, gather his opinions. He helped us all see the world in such a loving, compassionate and forgiving way. Without him I am not sure what we will do. His loss is devastating.
“I don't think I am Buddhist anymore.”
Sam looked surprised, “Why not? Did you decide that there were evil assholes in the world and sitting around a campfire singing kumbaya was liable to get people killed?”
“I guess so. I'd like to say I had some great spiritual epiphany, but I just got tired.”
“Tired? Tired of what?”
“I got tired of lying to myself, telling myself real peace is possible. Peace is like a fleeting emotion. You pass in and out of it at any given time during the day and anyone can crash into your life and violently destroy it without warning. Thich Nhat Hanh said peace is not the destination, it is the path or something like that. Peace is the flowers along the path. The path is suffering. Sometimes I feel like there are only two types of people in the world: Those who suffer and those who enjoy their suffering.”
“Deep, yet pessimistic,” she chuckled. “I like it.”
“Furthermore, I feel that suffering is what makes humanity durable. The Buddha preached the middle path which was basically reaching an equilibrium between pain and pleasure, but what he failed to mention is that it is our suffering that has made us strong as a civilization. It inspires us to evolve, to innovate, to rebel against injustice. You know what happened when the communists wanted to invade Tibet?”
Sam rolled her eyes.
“They just marched right in and then monks started setting themselves on fire. Like so polite, here let me do it for you. Who wants to live like that?”
“Honestly, Daniel, any other day I would be shooting milk out of my nose about this shit but today, during the lockdown, I can't handle it. ”
We will miss you Thich Nhat Hanh. Until we meet again.