Remembering Thich Nhat Hanh

I was sad to learn last week that the Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, had passed away in January at the age of 95. I admit that I only found out about this while in a local bookstore, which had a tribute for him in the Buddhist section.

Thich Nhat Hanh was a prolific writer on Buddhist subjects, especially mindfulness and meditation,1 but I admit that I was more interested in his translations and commentaries of Buddhist sutras.

In my bookshelf above, you can see several books I own. I bought many of them in my early years when I really wanted to better understand Buddhist teachings, and needed a good walkthrough. Thich Nhat Hanh really helped with this, starting with the Heart Sutra (Heart of Understanding), and on through the Lotus Sutra (Heart of the Cosmos) and Amitabha Sutra (Finding Our True Home) among others. I didn’t always agree with Thich Nhat Hanh’s somewhat romanticized style of writing, preferring a more calm, analytical style like Bhikkhu Bodhi or the late Yin-Shun, but the fact is is that he covered a lot of important subjects in Mahayana Buddhism that other Western authors simply never did. And still don’t.2

So, I don’t say this lightly, but Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, teachings, translations and commentaries were really important to me in my early years, and have stayed with me since. Thank you “Thay”, and I hope wherever you are now, you’re having a good rest.

Namu Amida Butsu
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu

1 I used to meditate a lot more than I do now, but even then it was never “into” meditation the way some Buddhists are. Then again, Buddhism is broad with many dharma gates for all types.

2 The gaps in Western Buddhist literature, especially on practical subjects, compared to the Asian equivalents would probably surprise you. It’s why I try to read sources in Japanese as much as I can (some of which ends up in blog posts here 🙂). I hope to write a book to fill in these gaps someday, but at my current progress it’s doubtful I will ever finish.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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