Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and founder of the Engaged Buddhism movement, died on 22 January 2022 in his home country of Vietnam. He was 95.
Thich Nhat Hanh has often been referred to as “the father of mindfulness.” His simple yet deeply profound teachings led countless people towards a life of mindfulness, joy, and peace.
Thich Nhat Hanh began teaching mindfulness in the West in the early 1970s. His 1975 book The Miracle of Mindfulness presented new practices he had developed to inspire his students and social workers back in Vietnam, to help prevent them burning out in the turmoil and challenges of war.
Thich Nhat Hanh found new ways to teach the art of mindful breathing and mindful walking as the foundation of meditation. He created simple practices like mindful teeth-brushing, mindful dishwashing and “tangerine meditation”. He developed a new style of walking meditation, and ways to combine deep listening with mindfulness of compassion to open up communication.
For Thich Nhat Hanh, mindfulness is an energy to be cultivated all day long, to sustain compassionate action so we can help relieve suffering in ourselves and the world. Click HERE to watch a short video of his teaching on mindfulness.
You can read more about his mindfulness practices HERE.
You can listen to Thich Nhat Hanh guiding his well-known Calm – Ease breath meditation HERE.
Thich Nhat Hanh always taught mindfulness within the context of ethics, with the Five Mindfulness Trainings. The Five Mindfulness Trainings represent a way to bring mindfulness into every area of life. With the energy of mindfulness comes mindful consumption, mindful relationships, and ethical livelihood. For him, mindfulness is not a tool but a path: mindfulness is not an instrument to get something else—whether that something is healing, success, wealth or winning. True mindfulness is a path, an ethical way of living, and every step along that path can already bring happiness, freedom and wellbeing, to ourselves and others.
Rather than hard and fast rules, the Five Mindfulness Trainings offer us a framework to reflect on our actions, speech and thinking so we can create more happiness for ourselves and for the world around us. They are one of the most concrete ways to practice mindfulness, they are non-sectarian and their nature is universal: they are true practices of compassion and understanding.
The first training is to protect life, to decrease violence in oneself, in the family and society. The second training is to practice social justice, generosity, not stealing and not exploiting other living beings. The third is the practice of responsible sexual behaviour in order to protect individuals, couples, families and children. The fourth is the practice of deep listening and loving speech to restore communication and reconcile. The fifth is about mindful consumption, to help us not bring toxins and poisons into our body or mind.
With mindfulness, we are aware of what is going on in our bodies, our feelings, our minds and the world, and we avoid doing harm to ourselves and others. Mindfulness protects us, our families and our society. We arrive at our own insight, it is not imposed on us by an outside authority. – Thich Nhat Hanh, Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices (2009).
In his lifetime, Thich Nhat Hanh authored more than 100 books, which have been translated into 35 languages, on a vast range of subjects — from simple teachings on mindfulness to children’s books, poetry, and scholarly essays on Zen practice. His most recent book, Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet, was published by HarperCollins in October 2021.
It is estimated that Nhat Hanh created over 10,000 works of calligraphy in his life, each sharing unique, simple messages: “Breathe, you are alive”; “Happiness is here and now”; “Present moment, wonderful moment”; “Wake up; It’s now”; “This is it”. His life itself was a meditation in action, creating peace with every step.