Meditation for Thursday 17th February 2022
As we have discussed at our meditation group recently the death of Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) on 22 January this year is a vivid reminder to us all of the power of living a mindful life. Undoubtedly Thay popularized Mindfulness so that today it has been embraced by many sectors in society including business, industry, education, mental health and medicine. Thay called Mindfulness “medicine for the soul.” His is a distinctive legacy that Jon Kabat-Zinn and others have embraced and introduced to new audiences.
Although a Buddhist from the Vietnamese Zen tradition he was widely respected by teachers from all spiritual traditions and none. The simplicity of his teachings has resonated and assisted countless thousands. He was conscious that so many people have forgotten about suffering, about getting old and about dying. Denial of these things he would teach prevents us from exercising compassion to others. Being present, being mindful to these things helps us to reach out. It was this aspect of his teaching that underpinned his ‘Engaged Buddhism” which he often likened to the social activism found in Christianity.
As a young man I was deeply impressed by the Young Christian Worker ethic of “See, Judge, Act”.
We would ‘see’ a problem, ‘judge’ what we could do to fix the problem; and that included reflection or prayer to help clarify our mind and only then take action, to ‘Act’ to rectify the problem. This method is very similar to Thay’s teaching and one that we subscribe too in meditating not just for ourselves but for the benefit of others. This is easy to say but the ‘benefit’ is not only in the meditation period but the action that arises from the meditation. Thay made his name doing human rights and reconciliation work but never neglected his contemplative life of meditation and mindfulness. Thousands, including myself flocked to his hamlet in the south of France where each day he would invite his permanent community and all the visitors to join him in a mindful walk around the lake that graced the Village des Pruniers or Plum Village.
I am left with three images of Thich Nhat Hanh; as a serious practitioner of meditation, as a man whose every moment was mindful and as an activist who sought to build a better world. These are our goals as we settle down to our daily practice.
“The energy of mindfulness has many functions. Calming is one of them.
To practice meditation is, first of all, to generate and cultivate the energy of mindfulness.
As we know the function of mindfulness is to produce our true presence
and make us alive in the present moment.”
‘The Path of Emancipation’ – Thich Nhat Hanh, Parallax Press 2000.