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Why I’m a Student of Thich Nhat Hanh

I know of no spiritual teacher or person who more fully embodies peace and compassionate understanding than Thich Nhat Hanh, or Thay, as he is lovingly known by his students.

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Headshot of Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo Credit: Richard Friday

“All religions and spiritual traditions,” William James famously wrote, “begin with the cry ‘Help!’” Like so many, I began my spiritual quest in earnest when I began to heal consciously from an instance of violence in my early childhood and the pain and confusion around it. Why, I wanted—I needed—to know, did bad things happen, not only on the personal level, but all around us in the world? The world is full of injustice and destruction: how are we to understand our present moment and transform it? I needed a larger frame.I had read the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s work before, and I knew to go back to his writing and teachings. When Thay teaches that the present moment is a wonderful moment, he is not speaking from a position of naïve privilege.Thay lived through the Vietnam War and saw immense pain, violence, suffering, and tragedy firsthand. He broke with the established Buddhist leaders and urged greater engagement; together with other young activists, Thay went into the countryside, where the fighting was worst, and provided support—rebuilding towns, schools, villages. He risked his own lif …

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Spiritual TeachersBuddhismThich Nhat Hanh

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