Lotus in a Lake of Fire: Honoring Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh, pronounced Tik-N’yat-Hawn, is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk. I stumbled across him when studying Buddhism about ten or so years ago. Over time I collected 15 of his books, out of the many he has written.
One of several highly influential people I have encountered in my short life, who has shaped who I am as a writer and inspired me in ways few can. One of those profound human beings you’ve probably never heard of, who has effected this world in ways you can only dream of.
A modern day legend in human rights the world over, who chose to stay in Vietnam and care for the injured in the hell fire of the Vietnam War, he’s been a monk since he was 16 years old. Now 89, and unable to speak due to a stroke he suffered two years ago, he continues to practice by action.
A spiritual leader, author, artist, humanitarian, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, there are few people who can speak on matters of the heart and soul the way that Nhat Hanh has for the last 7 decades.
A bright light, pure and unyielding, from a generation far stronger than my own. Humble, balanced and wise souls like him are what our country and our world needs the most and yet has the least.
I find it deeply saddening that his remaining time in this world will be short. However, he will be leaving behind a phenomenal legacy, that will carry on through his students for generations to come.
Thich Nhat Hanh spent a lot of time and effort bringing Zen Buddhist practices to the West in a way that was practical and useful to our American way of life.
I honestly do not know anyone else from Zen Buddhism who is as strong of a spiritual leader as Nhat Hanh has been.
A poem by Nhat Hanh:
Promise me this day,
Promise me now,
While the sun is overhead
Exactly at the zenith,
Even as they
Strike you down
With a mountain of hatred and violence;
Even as they step on you and crush you like a worm,
Even as they dismember and disembowel you,
Man is not your enemy.
The only thing worthy of you is compassion – invincible, limitless, unconditional.
Hatred will never let you face the beast in man.
One day, when you face this beast alone,
With your courage intact, your eyes kind,
Untroubled (even as no one sees them),
Out of your smile
Will bloom a flower.
And those who love you
Will behold you
Across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.
I will go on with bent head,
Knowing that love has become eternal.
On the long, rough road,
The sun and the moon
Will continue to shine,
Guiding my way.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
He wrote this in response to the 1967 executions of 4 young Buddhist monks, who had joined the School of Youth for Social Service in Vietnam during the war, an organization led by Thich Nhat Hanh that provided medical care to victims on both sides of the conflict.