As I write this column on May 1, it has been 100 days since the passing of internationally known Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Many of you have heard of Thich Nhat Hanh (affectionately called “Thay”, meaning teacher), others may have not. Either way, generations of us were affected by his life.
From humble beginnings, Nhat Hanh came to international attention in the 1960s as a peace activist during the Vietnam Conflict. Because of his public opposition to the war, it was felt his life might be in danger; so in 1962-63 Nhat Hanh came to the U.S. to study at Princeton and teach at Columbia University.
Returning to Vietnam in 1964, he espoused Engaged Buddhism, with social action being a part of spiritual practice. He put this idea into use during the war by organizing and training volunteers to help bombed villages by rebuilding homes and schools, offering first aid, and assisting in as many ways as they could.
In 1966, he returned to the U.S. to speak at a seminar on Vietnamese Buddhism and on tour arranged by the Fellowship of Reconciliation; met with Thomas Merton, Senator William Fulbright, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara; and met twice with Martin