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< img alt="" src=" "> Thich Nhat Hanh, 92, checks out a book in January 2019 at the Tu Hieu temple. “For him to return to Vietnam is to mention that we are a stream,” says his senior disciple Sibling Phap Dung.|PVCEB

” Releasing is likewise the practice of letting in, letting your instructor live in you,” states a senior disciple of the celeb Buddhist monk and author.

In honor of 93rd birthday on October 11, we are republishing this interview with among his senior disciples. It initially appeared on Vox in March.

Thich Nhat Hanh has done more than possibly any Buddhist alive today to articulate and disseminate the core Buddhist mentors of mindfulness, compassion, and compassion to a broad global audience. The Vietnamese monk, who has composed more than 100 books, is 2nd just to the Dalai Lama in fame and impact.

Nhat Hanh made his name doing human rights and reconciliation work throughout the Vietnam War, which led Martin Luther King Jr. to choose him for a Nobel Prize.

He’s considered the dad of “engaged Buddhism,” a movement connecting mindfulness practice with social action. He’s likewise constructed a network of monasteries and retreat centers in 6 countries around the world, consisting of the United States.

In 2014, Nhat Hanh, who is now 93 years old, had a stroke at Plum Town, the monastery and retreat center in southwest France he founded in 1982 that was also his home. He was not able to speak after the stroke, he continued to lead the community, using his left arm and facial expressions to interact.

In October 2018, Nhat Hanh stunned his disciples by notifying them that he wish to return house to Vietnam to pass his last days at the Tu Hieu root temple in Color, where he became a monk in 1942 at age 16. (The New York Times reports that 9 US senators visited him there in April.)

As Time’s Liam Fitzpatrick wrote, Nhat Hanh was exiled from Vietnam for his antiwar advocacy from 1966 till he was finally welcomed back in 2005. His return to his homeland is less about political reconciliation than something much deeper. And it contains lessons for everyone about how to pass away quietly and how to let go of the individuals we enjoy.

When I heard that Nhat Hanh had returned to Vietnam, I wanted to find out more about the decision. In February I called up Sibling Phap Dung, a senior disciple and monk who is assisting to run Plum Town in Nhat Hanh’s lack. (I spoke with Phap Dung in 2016 right after Donald Trump won the governmental election, about how we can use mindfulness in times of conflict.)

Our discussion has been edited for length and clearness.

< img alt ="" data-mask-text
=” incorrect “src =”×0/filters:no_upscale()/ cdn.vox-cdn. com/uploads/chorus _ asset/file/15947225/ Thay_Phap_Dung ___ Uganda ___ PHOTO ___ Wouter_Verhoeven. jpg” > Wouter Verhoeven Brother Phap Dung, a senior disciple of Thich Nhat

Hanh, leading

a meditation on a trip to Uganda in early 2019. Eliza Barclay Tell me about your instructor’s decision to go to Vietnam and how you analyze the meaning of it.

Phap Dung

He’s certainly returning to his roots.

He has returned to the place where he matured as a monk. The message is to bear in mind we don’t originate from nowhere. We have roots. We have ancestors. We belong to a lineage or stream.

It’s a beautiful message, to see ourselves as a stream, as a lineage, and it is the inmost teaching in Buddhism: non-self. We are empty of a different self, and yet at the same time, we are full of our forefathers.

He has actually emphasized this Vietnamese tradition of ancestral praise as a practice in our neighborhood. Worship here means to remember. For him to go back to Vietnam is to mention that we are a stream that runs way back to the time of the Buddha in India, beyond even Vietnam and China.

Eliza Barclay

So he is reconnecting to the stream that came before him. And that suggests the bigger community he has actually built is connected to that stream too. The stream will continue streaming after him.

Phap Dung

It’s like the circle that he typically draws with the calligraphy brush. He’s gone back to Vietnam after 50 years of being in the West. When he first delegated call for peace during the Vietnam War was the start of the circle; gradually, he traveled to other countries to do the mentor, making the rounds. And then slowly he went back to Asia, to Indonesia, Hong Kong, China. Eventually, Vietnam opened up to enable him to return three other times. This return now is sort of like a closing of the circle.

It’s likewise like the light of the candle being moved, to the next candle light, to lots of other candle lights, for us to continue to live and practice and to continue his work. For me, it feels like that, like the light is lit in each one of us.

Eliza Barclay

And as one of his senior monks, do you feel like you are passing the candle light too?

Phap Dung

Prior to I satisfied Thay in 1992, I was not conscious, I was running hectic and doing my architectural, enthusiastic things in the United States. He taught me to really take pleasure in living in the present minute, that it is something that we can train in.

Now as I practice, I am keeping the candlelight illuminated, and I can also share the practice with others. Now I’m teaching and looking after the monks, nuns, and lay good friends who pertain to our community simply as our instructor did.

Eliza Barclay

He is 92 and his health is vulnerable, however he is not bedridden. What is he up to in Vietnam?

Phap Dung

The very first thing he did when he got there was to go to the stupa [shrine], light a candle light, and touch the earth. Paying respect like that– it resembles plugging in. You can get so much energy when you can remember your instructor.

He’s not relaxing waiting. He is doing his finest to take pleasure in the rest of his life. He is consuming routinely. He even can now consume tea and invite his students to enjoy a cup with him. And his actions are extremely purposeful.

Once, the attendants took him out to go to before the lunar new year to enjoy the flower market. On their way back, he directed the entourage to alter course and to go to a few specific temples. In the beginning, everybody was puzzled, up until they discovered that these temples had an association to our neighborhood. He kept in mind the precise place of these temples and the direction to get there. The attendants recognized that he wished to go to the temple of a monk who had lived a long period of time in Plum Village, France; and another one where he studied as a young monk. It’s extremely clear that although he’s physically limited, and in a wheelchair, he is still living his life, doing what his body and health permits.

Anytime he’s healthy enough, he shows up for sangha events and community events. Even though he doesn’t need to do anything. For him, there is no such thing as retirement.

Eliza Barclay

But you are likewise in this procedure of letting him go, right?

Phap Dung

Obviously, releasing is among our primary practices. It goes along with recognizing the impermanent nature of things, of the world, and of our loved ones.

This shift duration is his last and inmost teaching to our community. He is revealing us how to make the shift with dignity, even after the stroke and being limited physically. He still enjoys his day every possibility he gets.

My practice is not to await the moment when he takes his last breath. Each day I practice to let him go, by letting him be with me, within me, and with each of my conscious breaths. He lives in my breath, in my awareness.

Breathing in, I breathe with my teacher within me; breathing out, I see him smiling with me. When we make an action with gentleness, we let him stroll with us, and we allow him to continue within our steps. Letting go is also the practice of letting in, letting your instructor live in you, and to see that he is more than just a physical body now in Vietnam.

Eliza Barclay

What have you found out about passing away from your instructor?

Phap Dung

There is dying in the sense of letting this body go, releasing feelings, emotions, these things we call our identity, and practicing to let those go.

The difficulty is, we do not let ourselves pass away day by day. Instead, we carry ideas about each other and ourselves. In some cases it’s great, but often it’s harmful to our development. We brand ourselves and imprison ourselves to a concept.

Releasing is a practice not just when you reach 90. It’s one of the greatest practices. This can move you toward equanimity, a state of liberty, a type of peace. Waking up each day as a renewal, now that is a practice.

In the historical measurement, we practice to accept that we will get to a point where the body will be limited and we will be sick. There is birth, old age, sickness, and death. How will we deal with it?

< img alt ="" data-mask-text =" incorrect" src =" ()/
cdn.vox-cdn. com/uploads/chorus _ asset/file/15947235/ Plum_Village_Practice_Center ___ Thich_Nhat_Hanh_leading_walking_meditation_in_Plum_Village __ France __ 2014 _. jpg “> PVCEB Thich Nhat Hanh leading a walking meditation at the Plum Village practice center in France in 2014.

Eliza Barclay

What are some of the most essential teachings from Buddhism about passing away?

Phap Dung

We know that a person day we are all going to weaken and pass away– our neurons, our arms, our flesh and bones. If our practice and our awareness is strong enough, we can see beyond the passing away body and pay attention likewise to the spiritual body. We continue through the spirit of our speech, our thinking, and our actions. These three aspects of body, speech, and mind continues.

In Buddhism, we call this the nature of no birth and no death. It is the other measurement of the supreme. It’s not something idealized, or clean. The body needs to do what it does, and the mind as well.

However in the ultimate measurement, there is extension. We can cultivate this awareness of this nature of no birth and no death, by doing this of living in the ultimate measurement; then gradually our worry of death will lessen.

This awareness also assists us be more mindful in our every day life, to cherish every minute and everybody in our life.

Among the most effective mentors that he shared with us prior to he got sick was about not developing a stupa [shrine for his remains] for him and putting his ashes in an urn for us to pray to. He highly commanded us not to do this. I will paraphrase his message:

” Please do not develop a stupa for me. Please do not put my ashes in a vase, lock me inside, and limit who I am. I understand this will be tough for a few of you. If you must build a stupa however, please make sure that you put an indication on it that states, ‘I am not in here.’ In addition, you can also put another sign that states, ‘I am not out there either,’ and a third indication that states, ‘If I am anywhere, it remains in your conscious breathing and in your peaceful steps.'”

Further reading:

  • An interview with Robert Wright, the author of