‘Mindfulness’ monk Thich Nhat Hanh dies aged 95

He lived much of his life in exile at Plum Village, a retreat centre he founded in southern France.

Thich Nhat Hanh, centre, arrives for a great chanting ceremony
Thich Nhat Hanh, centre, arrives for a great chanting ceremony

The revered Zen Buddhist monk who helped pioneer the concept of mindfulness in the West and socially engaged Buddhism in the East has died aged 95.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s death was confirmed by a monk at Tu Hieu Pagoda in Hue, Vietnam who said that the monk, known as Thay to his followers, died at midnight on Saturday. The monk declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to media.

A post on Nhat Hanh’s verified Twitter page attributed to The International Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism also confirmed the news, saying: “We invite our beloved global spiritual family to take a few moments to be still, to come back to our mindful breathing, as we together hold Thay in our hearts.”

Born as Nguyen Xuan Bao in 1926 in Hue and ordained at age 16, Mr Nhat Hanh distilled Buddhist teachings on compassion and suffering into easily grasped guidance over a lifetime dedicated to working for peace.

In 1961 he went to the United States to study, teaching comparative religion for a time at Princeton and Columbia universities.

For most of the remainder of his life, he lived in exile at Plum Village, a retreat centre he founded in southern France.

There and in talks and retreats around the world, he introduced Zen Buddhism as peace through compassionate listening. Still and steadfast in his brown robes, he exuded an air of watchful, amused calm, sometimes sharing a stage with the somewhat livelier Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama.

Surviving a stroke in 2014 that left him unable to speak, he returned to Vietnam in October 2018, spending his final years at the Tu Hieu Pagoda, the monastery where he was ordained nearly 80 years earlier.

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