I had this post half-finished waiting to be published for a few months now. Today, while celebrating Martin Luther King's birthday and legacy, is perhaps the best time to share my (re)discovery of Thich Nhat Hanh, a living boddhisattva. A Vietnamese monk, poet, scholar, and peace activist, Thich Nath Hahn has been known for his life long efforts to generate world peace and reconciliation founded on the Buddhist teachings of interconnectedness of all beings. His approach has been to combine a variety of traditional & Zen teachings with methods from Theravada Buddhism and insights from Mahayana Buddhism. In the 60s, he traveled to the U.S. and was giving lectures, urging the U.S. government to withdraw from Vietnam. He had meetings with Martin Luther King, Jr., inspiring him to publicly oppose the Vietnam War; King nominated Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in January 1967.
In a recent trip to San Francisco, in the guest room I was staying in, I found a book entitled The Sun My Heart which turned out to be written by Thich Nath Hahn. As a seeker, I believe that when one fully accepts one's life mission, the universe will open up doors to guide one's search (and challenges as well). This book was one of those life's gifts.
1967 25, January
The Nobel Institute
As the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate of 1964, I now have the pleasure of proposing to you the name of Thich Nhat Hanh for that award in 1967. I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam.
This would be a notably auspicious year for you to bestow your Prize on the Venerable Nhat Hanh. Here is an apostle of peace and non-violence, cruelly separated from his own people while they are oppressed by a vicious war which has grown to threaten the sanity and security of the entire world.
Because no honor is more respected than the Nobel Peace Prize, conferring the Prize on Nhat Hanh would itself be a most generous act of peace. It would remind all nations that men of good will stand ready to lead warring elements out of an abyss of hatred and destruction. It would re-awaken men to the teaching of beauty and love found in peace. It would help to revive hopes for a new order of justice and harmony.
I know Thich Nhat Hanh, and am privileged to call him my friend. Let me share with you some things I know about him. You will find in this single human being an awesome range of abilities and interests.
He is a holy man, for he is humble and devout. He is a scholar of immense intellectual capacity. The author of ten published volumes, he is also a poet of superb clarity and human compassion. His academic discipline is the Philosophy of Religion, of which he is Professor at Van Hanh, the Buddhist University he helped found in Saigon. He directs the Institute for Social Studies at this University. This amazing man also is editor of Thien My, an influential Buddhist weekly publication. And he is Director of Youth for Social Service, a Vietnamese institution which trains young people for the peaceable rehabilitation of their country.
Thich Nhat Hanh today is virtually homeless and stateless. If he were to return to Vietnam, which he passionately wishes to do, his life would be in great peril. He is the victim of a particularly brutal exile because he proposes to carry his advocacy of peace to his own people. What a tragic commentary this is on the existing situation in Vietnam and those who perpetuate it.
The history of Vietnam is filled with chapters of exploitation by outside powers and corrupted men of wealth, until even now the Vietnamese are harshly ruled, ill-fed, poorly housed, and burdened by all the hardships and terrors of modern warfare.
Thich Nhat Hanh offers a way out of this nightmare, a solution acceptable to rational leaders. He has traveled the world, counseling statesmen, religious leaders, scholars and writers, and enlisting their support. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.
I respectfully recommend to you that you invest his cause with the acknowledged grandeur of the Nobel Peace Prize of 1967. Thich Nhat Hanh would bear this honor with grace and humility.
Martin Luther King, Jr.to find a copy of The Sun My Heart, or any other works of Thich Nath Hahn. You can also find more essays & retreat schedule on the site of Plum Village, the community he'd founded in France.