In happy news from the monks and nuns at Plum Village, Thich Nhât Hańh has returned home to his dear Sangha in France.
After suffering a stroke in late 2013, Thich Nhât Hańh has spent the last 6 months in the San Francisco area at UCSF receiving treatment and therapy.
This news gives many of us in the global sangha (Buddhist community) of Hańh’s an extra reason to smile in gratitude for the health of our beloved teacher.
The loving monks and nuns of Plum Village released an update today announcing that Thay, as we affectionately call him, would be returning to Plum Village on January 8th. They said:
“Since the dawn of the New Year, Thay has very clearly communicated to us a wish to return to his hermitage in Plum Village, France. Thay is satisfied with the progress he has made so far, thanks to the phenomenal care and attention of the doctors at UCSF, as well as all the many wonderful therapists treating him in the past six months. Thay would now like to return home to benefit from the healing collective energy there and to be with his Plum Village family. The doctors approved of Thay’s decision and assured us that Thay could make the journey without risk. The attendant team will continue to care for our teacher around the clock and to find the most appropriate therapies.
We are profoundly grateful for all the support and loving donations that Thay and the attendants have received throughout their stay in San Francisco. The loving embrace of the global Sangha has allowed Thay to make great progress on his path of recovery, and he returns to Plum Village invigorated and full of joy. On the eve of the New Year, Thay joined in the joyful celebrations with his attendants, smiling and humming along as they sang. In the last few days, Thay has also enjoyed listening animatedly to recordings of his own voice reading some of his best-loved poems. We are all happy to trust in Thay’s new intuition to return to Plum Village. In the coming weeks we will celebrate the Lunar New Year, the Daffodil Festival, and the Great Ordination Ceremony at Plum Village, and are very happy to know that Thay will be able to enjoy these celebrations with us.”
To me, Thay is the embodiment of Buddhism—a beautiful, gentle soul who teaches with love.The fact that Thay is speaking, communicating and recovering brings such joy to my heart as I am a devoted student. His beautiful and simplistic teachings of the Buddhist principles came to me at a time where my soul was seeking answers and Thay’s teachings guided me to where I currently am today. I live forever in gratitude for the passing on of his wisdom.
Hańh has been recovering at UCSF since the middle of last year, receiving therapy and undergoing intensive speech therapy. Last November he so eloquently uttered his first words since the stroke:
In, out (several times)
Happy (several times)
Thank you (several times)
and “Vui quá” (meaning, “so happy” in Vietnamese).
His beautiful first words echoed his soothing guided meditations and talks. Since November he has been working hard to regain his ability to speak and move on his own, and his indication to return home serves as a beautiful reminder to me to appreciate the present while it is here.
Many of us were deeply saddened by news of his stroke last November, and many of his followers have been praying and sending healing love to him, including the nuns and monks of Plum Village. This collective healing is being felt.
The principles of Buddhism changed my life for the better, and I would encourage anyone to consider the wisdom that teachers such as Thay are here to pass on to us—regardless of their background or affiliation.
2016 may be a time for change and healing, and it may not. Only time will show but all we have is the present moment.
With that I leave you with the beautiful New Year’s Prayer for 2016 from Plum Village:
“Dear Beloved Thay,
Dear Beloved Ancestors,
Dear Beloved Mother Earth,
We have gathered as a fourfold sangha in this solemn moment of the New Year to express our gratitude and aspiration as a spiritual family, and to begin anew. We know that you, our ancestors, are present in every cell of our body, and that you are always there for us to take refuge in. We know that you, Thay, are also present with us in this very moment. As we touch the Earth tonight we feel deeply connected to you, Mother Earth. We, and all our ancestors, are your children. You are our beautiful blue planet, the Great Refreshing Bodhisattva – fragrant and cool, abundant and kind. Despite our many mistakes and shortcomings, every time we come home to you, you are ready to open your arms and embrace us.
Dear Beloved Thay, many times in the past year we have allowed uncertainty to water the seeds of insecurity and fear in our hearts. Our strong emotions and wrong perceptions have overwhelmed us, giving rise to feelings of helplessness, separation and despair.
Aware of this suffering, we are determined to take refuge in you, Thay, in our practice, and in our Beloved Community. Returning to our mindful breathing and mindful steps, we return to our true home, where we can find peace, clarity and calm. Dwelling in the heart of our community, we can be in touch with the collective energy of stability, helping us recognize and embrace our strong emotions and wrong perceptions.
Dear Mother Earth, as a human family, we have allowed greed and consumerism to prevail. We have been running after status, wealth, power and sensual comforts, forgetting that these things can never bring us true happiness and freedom. We have been so busy trying to cover up the feeling of emptiness inside, that we have not taken the time or space to stop and ask ourselves what we are doing, or where we are going. In the process, we have caused great harm to you, dear Mother Earth, destroying your natural richness, beauty and balance.
Aware of this, we are determined to simplify our life, to stop running, and to remember that in the present moment we already have enough conditions to be happy. With the energy of mindfulness and compassion we feel truly fulfilled and content. In the coming year, we are determined to consume less and to live in such a way that is sustainable for ourselves and for you, Mother Earth.
Dear Ancestors, we have allowed our fear and intolerance to divide us as a human family. We have caused suffering to one another, discriminating on the basis of religion, ethnic groups and nations. We have closed our hearts and our borders, out of fear and ignorance. We have forgotten that we are inter-dependent, and that our own happiness and suffering is deeply connected to and dependent on the happiness and suffering of others.
We trust that within us, there is the wisdom of non-discrimination and great compassion, transmitted to us by you, all our spiritual teachers, our ancestors, and by Mother Earth. We are determined to stay on the Path, to keep our hearts open, and to let go of our pride, so that understanding and love can prevail.
As we touch the Earth, we express our gratitude to you, our beloved teacher Thay, to our ancestors, and to Mother Earth. We have found the path of practice and a spiritual family to take refuge in. We have experienced joy, peace and transformation. We have tasted the freedom of letting go of our ideas and notions. We have felt the strength and warmth of brotherhood and sisterhood, and we know that together, we can face our challenges and realise our aspiration. We vow, in this moment, to continue to build our community and to open up the path for ourselves and our descendants.
Dear Thay, Dear Ancestors, Dear Mother Earth, please accept our offerings of incense, flowers, fruit and tea, as a sign of our deep aspiration, respect, gratitude and love.”
Dear readers, may you too find your true inner space of love this year, freeing yourselves of suffering and fear. May you all take sanctuary in mindfulness and the present moment.
Author: Lindsay Carricarte
Editor: Sarah Kolkka