RIP Thich Nhat Hanh

I am deeply moved by today’s news that Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (“Thay”) has passed out of this life at the age of 95.

If you know don’t know who he is, the obituary in the New York Times, though short, is the best one I’ve read so far, and the only one that gives you a sense of the kind of wisdom he preached.

If you are interested in the core, life-changing teachings of Buddhism, as far as I am concerned there is no better introduction in English than the first two parts (a little over 100 pages) of Thay’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. Here is one small excerpt from an early chapter that demonstrates Thay’s habit of referring to the natural world to make a point:

Suppose someone standing alongside a river throws a pebble into the air and it falls down into the river. The pebble allows itself to sink slowly and reach the riverbed without any effort. Once the pebble is at the bottom, it continues to rest, allowing the water to pass by. When we practice sitting meditation, we can allow ourselves to rest just like that pebble. We can allow ourselves to sink naturally into the position of sitting — resting, without effort. We have to learn the art of resting, allowing our body and mind to rest. If we have wounds in our body or our mind, we have to rest so they can heal themselves.

A chief candidate for the title of Living Buddha left our world today. I am grateful for the time he spent here, and the many writings he left behind as gifts for us.