Greatest mindfulness teacher of the last 50 yearsJan 27, 2022
Thich Nhat Hanh teaching at a retreat. Photo credit: Plum Village.
Long live Thich Nhat Hanh
In the summer of 2009, I heard about "Enlightenment Is Now Or Never," a 5-day mindfulness retreat. It would be led by Thich Nhat Hanh in upstate New York in the fall. At the time, I was not sure I had ever been in the presence of a holy person. With my wife's blessing, I decided to go.
Thay (as he is known to his students) put my doubts to rest. Deeply rooted in the energy of mindfulness, he seemed to be healed of all suffering, having done what needed to be done, completely whole. There were nearly 1,000 people at the retreat. We were all in the presence of a holy person, and the holy community he had inspired.
Thich Nhat Hanh died last week at the age of 95. To my mind, he was the greatest mindfulness teacher of the last 50 years. Why? Because “if you want to be great, you must be the servant of all.” (Mark 10:35-45) Thay was a servant to everyone he met, helping more people become rooted in the energy of mindfulness than any other teacher of the last half century, in my opinion.
There are lots of reasons for his reach and effectiveness, but at least three are worth remembering today:
- Openness – He was a Buddhist monk, but his retreats and his teachings were open to people from diverse wisdom traditions. He encouraged people to rediscover the jewels in their own traditions.
- Integrity – He lived everything he taught. His words, deeds, and livelihood were aligned. There was complete harmony between his life and his teaching.
- Results – Looking at his life and impact, we can see 10+ practice centers around the world, a hundred books published, and millions of people touched by his presence. Truly remarkable accomplishments for someone who renounced private property, owned nothing, and was exiled from his home country for 40+ years. Results show he was doing something right, many things right.
Thich Nhat Hanh is dead. Long live Thich Nhat Hanh! Or as he might say, “If you hear I died, don’t believe it. I continue beautifully into the future.”
May we learn from Thay's openness, integrity, and results, continuing beautifully into the future.