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, June 28, 2015
To all Plum Village Practice Centers,
To all Practice Centers and Sanghas World Wide,
To our Dear Beloved Friends,
We are happy to report that Thay’s health has improved greatly since he returned to his Plum Village Hermitage in early April. Every day Thay has been out in nature, enjoying the blossoms, listening to the birds and resting at the foot of a tree. Thay enjoys lying in his hammock next to the running creek, in the fresh cool of the bamboo grove he planted more than thirty years ago.
Doctors and nurses continue to visit Thay, and he receives physiotherapy, massage and acupuncture daily. The team of attendants continue to care for Thay and support his needs around the clock.
Despite his advanced age, Thay has been making remarkable progress.
One day, Thay decided for himself that he was ready to start swallowing solid food, and directed his attendants to prepare an apple, then a lemon and then an avocado. Thay enjoyed each bite with great delight, chewing each mouthful at least forty times before swallowing. Everyone was very surprised. Thay’s mindfulness, concentration and joy to really savor the food was remarkable. Since that day, with great concentration and determination, Thay has been able to enjoy feeding himself. The sisters have been investing their love and creativity in preparing diverse nutritious healthy food for Thay, which he eats with delight. As soon as Thay was able to nourish himself with several wholesome meals a day, he surprised all the doctors by successfully removing his own feeding tube, without any complications. Thay smiled, and we all smiled.
More recently, Thay has begun to develop his vocalisation, joining the attendants when they hum or sing. The first time this happened, one of the sisters was chanting in Vietnamese the name of Avalokita, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion: Nam Mo Bo Tat Quan The Am. Thay suddenly pronounced the final sound “Âm” (pron. “um”) clearly and on cue. Miraculously, the word “Âm” actually means “sound”. Thay looked at those around him, his eyes gleaming, as if to say “everything is possible”. It was a very moving moment, and the attendants all gathered to continue to chant with Thay. Since that very first “um”, Thay now enjoys singing and humming every day, all the familiar Plum Village tunes in Vietnamese, English and French. At this point, Thay is able to voice the melody and, once in a while, he can form a word. He raises his arm in such a way as to express the meaning of each line, and has great joy and surprise every time he is able to produce a clear and accurate word.
Thay’s therapists have been struck by his extremely strong will to recover, and have pointed out to us that this is the most important factor in his rehabilitation. Thay has been very determined to train himself so he can recover his physical strength and regain his balance and posture. Thay is clear about what he wants to do, and what he does not want to do. He is now able to sit by himself, beautifully upright. In the last three weeks Thay has wanted to start walking, even though his right side remains paralysed. With the support of one attendant behind, and one at his right leg to help move it forward, Thay now practices walking meditation in the garden, several times a day. We can feel Thay’s delight and freedom at each step. Even though it takes great effort, we can see that, for Thay, each step is a step of victory, an affirmation of life and joy to be alive on this beautiful Mother Earth.
From time to time the whole monastic community of 150 monks and nuns has come to practice walking meditation with Thay. Last week we could feel Thay’s joy to see his disciples, and his happiness to lead the sangha in walking meditation. Thay pointed to the blue sky, the swaying bamboo, the smile of a brother, directing us to enjoy the present moment. Thay’s courage, determination and joy, despite his physical limitations, was a clear teaching for all those present as we walked behind Thay with our two healthy feet. With every step, Thay demonstrated that he will continue to practice no matter what the conditions. Thay was affirming that he would never desert the Path. He was encouraging us to stay on the path, and enjoy the wonders of life.
We would like to thank everyone for offering your loving support to Thay and the sangha through the past months. We are deeply grateful for your energy of compassion and prayers, and for your commitment to continue to practice mindfully and deeply for Thay. A special thank you to those who have sent us beautiful children’s drawings for Thay’s room and those who have sent us heartfelt donations to support Thay’s care.
The lotuses are blooming in our ponds, the plums are ripening in our orchards, and we are preparing our hamlets to welcome our guests for the Summer Retreat, around 800 people each week, for a whole month. The Summer Retreat is one of Thay’s favorite times of year. We will welcome families and children, and the Dharma Talks will be given by Thay’s continuation in the form of his Senior Dharma Teachers. Under the shade of the oak trees, bamboo groves and verandas in the late afternoon sun, we will see many circles of friends sharing deeply with one another. Hearts will be open, tears will be shed, as the sound of the bell reverberates.
Nine years ago Thay was asked,
“You will be 80 this year. Do you plan to retire as a spiritual teacher at any point?”
This is the answer he gave:
In Buddhism we see that teaching is done not only by talking, but also by living your own life. Your life is the teaching, is the message. And since I continue to sit, to walk, to eat, to interact with the Sangha and people, I continue to teach, even if I have already encouraged my senior students to begin to replace me in giving Dharma talks. In the last two years, I have asked Dharma teachers, not only in the monastic circle but also in the lay circle, to come up and give Dharma talks. Many of them have given wonderful Dharma talks. Some Dharma talks have been better than mine. I see myself in my continuation, and I will not retire. I’ll continue to teach, if not by Dharma talks then in my way of sitting, eating, smiling, and interacting with the Sangha. I like to be with the Sangha. Even if I don’t give a Dharma talk, I like to join walking meditation, sitting meditation, eating in mindfulness and so on. So don’t worry. When people are exposed to the practice, they are inspired. You don’t need to talk in order to teach. You need to live your life mindfully and deeply. Thank you.
These inspiring words are our compass as we prepare to lead retreats for thousands of people in the coming months: here in Plum Village this Summer, at the EIAB in Germany in August, and on the Miracle of Mindfulness Tour of the United States this fall. Please join us.
May you cherish the presence of those you love, and enjoy each step together.
With love and trust,
The Monks and Nuns of Plum Village
As Thay’s condition is now stable, and his path of recovery is long, we will post updates only occasionally. We will keep our global community informed of any major developments in Thay’s recovery. All official updates 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.