Ahimsa is a volunteer driven, non profit organisation geared towards cultural, social development and educational work aimed at creating peace and harmony within oneself, ones' family and in society. Ahimsa aims to spread the ethics of peace and non violence through alliances and programmes in the areas of mindfulness in education, culture, environment, gender sensitization, responsible tourism and sustainable livelihoods.
Ahimsa Trust represents the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh and his community in India.
Ahimsa Trust organizes regular mindfulness meditation practice sessions and other programmes. For more details, please click here
Re: Thay’s present health condition and how to support Thay’s recovery
Plum Village, September 08, 2015
To all Plum Village Practice Centers,
To all Practice Centers and Sanghas World Wide,
To our Dear Beloved Friends,
It has been two months now since Thay arrived in America, with the hope of getting more intensive treatment to recover from his stroke. Thanks to the incredible support of our Beloved Community we have been able to obtain the very best doctors and therapists for Thay, across all treatment modalities. We are happy to be able to share that Thay is benefitting from the best of Western, Eastern, conventional, and alternative medical approaches. Thay is receiving acupuncture every day, as well as physical therapy, speech therapy, osteopathy, and neurofeedback, with the support and oversight of a phenomenal team of doctors at UCSF.
With Thay’s advanced age, the severity of the hemorrhage, as well as various complex health issues, recovery is extremely challenging. When Thay first started physical therapy, Thay was very engaged and enthusiastic with his therapists and the program that they had created for him. Preparing for Thay’s sessions of physical therapy, we could all feel the joyful determination in his body language. We would tell him, “Thay, let’s get ready for physical therapy” and Thay would raise his fist in the air and smile, as if to say “Let’s go!”
However, the level of fatigue and physical discomfort that Thay was experiencing when we first arrived in the US limited his ability to participate in the sessions. With the help of the whole team of doctors and therapists we have been able create an integrated program of treatment which allows Thay to have restful sleep, and more alertness, ease and peace in his body, enabling him to more fully participate in the sessions of therapy.
A recent breakthrough has been that whilst using a partial weight support walking frame, Thay’s right leg has started to make small movements, initiating the stepping motion.
Thay has received training from three different speech therapists over the last two months, one of whom was able to help Thay speak his first words since the stroke. It was a legendary day. We are happy to be able to share his very first words:
In, out (several times)
Happy (several times)
Thank you (several times)
and “Vui quá” (meaning, “So happy,” in Vietnamese)
It was like a guided meditation. Everyone was crying and laughing at the same time, including Thay.
Unfortunately, as the speech therapist who helped him to achieve this breakthrough lives far from San Francisco, she had to go back home after three days and Thay lost some momentum. We have tried a number of other speech therapists but have not been able to maintain Thay’s initial rapid progress. We are still looking for a local speech therapist, ideally fluent in Vietnamese, who would be able to work with Thay several times per week.
Besides all the medical treatments and therapy, Thay has been able to enjoy the Bay Area, going to visit the beach at least twice a week, enjoying beautiful views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge, being in touch with nature and the wonderful fresh Pacific air. Every day Thay continues to remind us to enjoy the wonders of life, often pointing at the blue sky and helping us come back to the present moment. Sometimes Thay playfully switches roles with the doctors and therapists, putting a finger on his lips and inviting them to stop. In these moments he often indicates for us to prepare tea so his doctors can have a chance to enjoy a cup of tea in mindfulness. One therapist knelt down by his side, looking out of the window and began to cry silently. She later shared with us that it was perhaps the first time in her life that she had really stopped and appreciated the blue of the sky.
A very good friend of Thay’s came to visit and shared his own experience of balancing his intention to live in the present moment with the natural wish for a loved one to recover as much as they can. He said that every moment with Thay is a “bonus moment,” and that all we have to do is cherish these bonus moments. Every moment that Thay has to breathe, to smile, and to enjoy the blue sky is indeed a bonus moment, reminding us all to appreciate life fully, without expectation, peacefully accepting things as they manifest.
This is the spirit in which we have been continuing our large mindfulness retreats, both in Europe and now in the United States. We know that it has long been Thay’s deepest wish to build a Beloved Community of practitioners, and it has been powerful and joyful for thousands of us to come together and realise that dream in France, Germany and now here at Blue Cliff Monastery in New York, where we have just finished a 5-day retreat. We have generated a strong collective energy in our silent sitting meditations under starlit skies, and in our walking meditations along streams and forest paths. We have sung together, laughed together, cried together, and celebrated the miracle of community. We see so clearly our Teacher’s presence here with us at this retreat; he is not only in San Francisco. As Thay said in 2009 when for health reasons he could not be at the retreat in Colorado:
The presence of the Sangha carries Thay’s presence. Please let me walk with your strong feet, breathe with your healthy lungs and smile with your beautiful smiles.
With great gratitude we thank you for keeping your practice alive, with your mindful breathing, your mindful steps, and your gentle smiles. When we come together to generate a strong collective energy of mindfulness, compassion and insight, we are manifesting Thay’s vision for our collective future. Together we are discovering ways to continue Thay’s legacy of bringing peace, happiness and healing to ourselves and the world.
Please join us at our retreats and events in the US this fall: tnhtour.org
With love and trust,
The Monks and Nuns of Plum Village
As Thay’s recovery is progressing well, we will offer updates only from time to time. We will keep our global community informed of any major developments, and provide information on how you can continue to support Thay’s healing. All official announcements will continue to appear at plumvillage.org, langmai.org, villagedespruniers.org, and www.facebook.com/thichnhathanh.
Thay enjoying the fragrance of a lotus flower, 16 June, 2015
Our Beloved is in Us - message from Shantum
Dear Thay, Dear Sangha,
I am sitting in a hotel room in Kushinagar where the Buddha passed away. It is 3 am and I am awake being with Thay as he transitions from one state of consciousness to another.
The Thay I have known, associated with and loved for over 25 years will not be the same. I will have to look for him, visit him and listen to him in different ways and forms.
I recall in 1988 as we sat on a coach, traveling between Vaishali and Kushinagar 'In the Footsteps of the Buddha'. He was sitting in the front seat of the coach by the window and I sat next to him on the aisle seat. I was still a naive student and some of my interests in spirituality were linked to the developing of miraculous powers. I asked him whether I could practice so that I can develop the power to be in more than one place at the same time. He looked at me with compassionate and understanding eyes and said, 'All in good time'.
Today more than 25 years later, I see Thay everywhere. I see him in our traveling pilgrimage sangha, with Eileen, Valerie, Susan and 20 others as we walk together 'In the Footsteps of Thay'. I see him in the village in Vaishali where we met some Buddhists and he suggested we set up a practice centre. I see him relaxing on a hammock on Vulture peak. I see him teaching at Nalanda. I see him continuing to turn the wheel of the Dharma in Sarnath. I see him teaching the children of Bodh Gaya and I see him teaching on birth and death in Kushinagar.
I see him in the Banyan Tree that he planted on the land for the Mindfulness Practice Ashram in Dehradun, the Sita Ashok tree at Sanskriti in Delhi, the Banyan at the Root institute in Bodh Gaya and the Bodhi Tree in Sujata's village in Bakrour.
I see him in my daughter, Nandini whom he held so tenderly soon after she was born and called her the 'sangha baby' when we lived in Plum Village. I see him in Gitu, whom he calls Zhitu ( as the French pronounce G as a Zh), as he lovingly married us together and later made us role play Dharma drama, as a quarreling wife and husband who could 'begin anew' in front of village kids and later as mother and child, when Gitu was pregnant. I see him in our other daughter, Anamika, knowing that each time I call her name, which means 'cannot be defined by name' it is a teaching I received from Thay not to get caught in the idea or concept of something, and remembering that we are only 'participants in her life'. I see him in my mother and father with whom he so compassionately shared the practice of telephone meditation ( for the second time, on his return to India after 12 years). I see him in my in-laws who so hospitably hosted him in Dehradun, while the monks and nuns loved playing on the slides and swings. I see him in Aradhana (my sister) who caringly crafted a film on Thay's visit to India in 2008. I see him in Vikram (my brother) who mimics, 'Be Happy' in an affectionate way.
I see him in the Linden tree in Upper hamlet that supported the swing he sat on. I see him in the tasty tofu that he shared with us from his plate. I see him in each step I take on the pilgrimage, in how he encouraged that I develop 'pilgrimage as a practice'. I see him in so many of my brothers and sisters, so clearly in Sister Chan Khong, Sister Dinh Nghiem, in Brother Phap Huu, Brother Phap Niem and too many to mention. He is truly without boundaries and was never born and can never die.
I see him in the empty cup from which he has sipped cups of tea already knowing that he was transmitting himself in his presence. I see him on the empty cushion, knowing the sound of the bell is in the air and I bow deeply in the Eleven Directions (including the direction within).
As Sheila reads the teachings given to Anathapindika by Shariputra yesterday, as we sat in Vaishali near the stupa where the relics of the Buddha were found, I realised the profundity of the teachings and practice and Thay telling me once when I was wearing a turban, that the issue of life and death is as urgent as if my turban was on fire.
A few weeks ago as we sat at the place in Kushinagar, where the Buddha's relics were distributed into 8 parts by the Brahmin Drona, for stupas to be built on the relics, Brother Phap Dung shared how Thay did not want his remains encased in a stupa. However, Thay also knew that it is very likely that some of his grieving students will do exactly that, and so he said that if such a stupa is built, then a sign can be put on it saying ' Thay is not in here', and then he added in his gentle and humorous way that maybe it is also good to put another sign, saying, ' Thay is not out there either'.
This morning our pilgrimage sangha co led by Eileen and Jack from the Mountain Lamp sangha will walk to the cremation ground where the Buddha's body was cremated 2,600 years ago and sit by the Hiranyavati river to send healing energy through meditation, chanting and floating lotuses along the river (and of course one day the lotuses will return to be mud! ). However through Thay I realise that the Buddha never died. Tomorrow we shall cross the border to Lumbini, where the Buddha manifested as a baby from mother Maya's womb, and again Thay made me understand that the there was not a single point in time and space that we can say the Baby Buddha was born. He had been in his mother's womb for 10 months (Indian months are 28 days each) before that and in his mother and father before that and so on. He was never born and he never died and his umbilical cord was connected to everything, past, present and future. Thay as he transitions and transforms, continues to teach us as he always has - with patience, compassion and generosity.
The sun will rise as it always does. Another day will dawn. I will await news of Thay's health condition as his body struggles against the inevitability of sickness. My heart is deeply pained with sorrow, and yet I know that Thay is continuing to teach with each breath and non-breath. To paraphrase part of the Bhaddekaratta sutra, death comes unexpectedly, we cannot bargain with it. A sage is one who lives in the present, mindfully day and night.
Thay is free, as the Buddha was many centuries ago. There are few of us who are able to transcend the constraints and concepts of birth and death, but when our teachers show us the potential of the human being in being awakened, in being free, in being the white cloud in the blue sky, we know that we can do it too.
Thank you dear Thay for all you have shared with me, a young Indian, wandering in confusion on the west coast of the US. You showed me a path and how to walk on it, to touch peace, how to breathe in awareness, how to smile to the miracle of being alive, to accept and caress my pain and to develop love for my family, friends and four fold sangha. You showed me that the tear that is now trickling down my cheek will become rain one day and wash away the sorrow in so many, by providing nourishment and healing.
How can one person do so much and help free so many people. I see that in Gandhiji, I see that in Ambedkar, (both of whom I did not personally meet). I see that in the Dalai Lama in our time. I see it so clearly in Thay and I am blessed to be able to call him my teacher, my wise friend, my spiritual father and in that to know that freedom and awakening is possible.
I feel the Nobel Peace prize committee will regret that they did not give the recognition to the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, as they have regretted not giving that recognition to Mahatma Gandhi. I have been fortunate to be with him as he spoke with the most powerful parliamentarians and the president in India, to senators and congressmen in the US, to the many powerful business people of the world, to the czars of IT community, to the heads of media, to the leading medical practitioners, to thousands of Dalits who have embraced the BuddhaDharma, to parents of young people who are afraid of their children becoming monastics, to young children including the ragged beggar girls and boys whom he played with, to the thousands and thousands of people who came to hear him year after year all across the world. Each one, I feel was touched by his words and presence. In addition millions have been inspired by his books.
Thay and Sister Chan Khong jokingly used to remind me that I used to ask a lot of questions when we first met, and slowly, over time, I did not seem to ask many. But a few days ago, a question that has been nagging me, arose again. If everything is manifested due to causes and conditions, then what is the 'unconditioned' that is spoken about, what is the 'ultimate reality'? And now as Thay transitions from no-birth to no-death, I realise that the conditioned and the unconditioned are the same, the relative and the ultimate are the same, it is just how we 'view' it, how we 'live' it, and that nothing can be born and nothing can die and everything alchemises due to everything else.
We walk together hand in hand in the Avatamsaka realm and look over the valley to Lower Hamlet, from the gap between the trees on the walking mediation path in Upper Hamlet and Smile.
Shantum ( Satya Marg...True Path)
A brief report on the Mindfulness workshop and retreats by
monastic and lay teachers from the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh in Delhi in October 2012
In October 2012, a group of monastics and lay people, who practice in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh and Plum Village, visited New Delhi, India. Their aspiration was to cultivate mindfulness in schools. This video was captured during that trip.
Srihaswani or Creative Manual Skills for Self-Reliant Development (CMSSRD): A gender case study, 1996-2012 by Krishno Dey, Chandana Dey, and Brenda Gael McSweeney. (From a book 'Gender perspectives in case studies across continents', Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender. Editors: Gloria Bonder & Brenda Gael McSweeney... 2013), based on the work of Ahimsa in villages in West Bengal.