Thich Nhat Hanh and the Light We Carry Forward
The blessing he leaves behind
When a great soul leaves the earth, the gifts they shared while they were here dissolve into a misty blessing that remains though they are gone. So it is with the light of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk who died yesterday at the age of 95. It will only grow brighter now, as millions of people realize that if the light is to continue then we ourselves must carry it on.
Those who arouse in us a tender heart are our greatest teachers, from the mother who first cradles us to the holy men and women who, like Thich Nhat Hanh, apply the balm of spiritual consciousness to our wounded, disordered minds. His teachings, and his demonstration, of the ways of engaged Buddhism - an open and tender heart in the midst of chaos, a commitment to nonviolence as an avenue to conflict resolution, and the practice of mindfulness as an antidote to the personal and social chaos that plague the world - were the gifts of a bodhisattva. The question now is what we will do with those gifts, the extraordinary teacher having gone to meet what must surely be a blissful reward.
Where do we begin? In silence; in trust that the universe can repair itself, and that it will repair itself through us. Mindfulness is a point of stillness, bringing harmony not only to the psyche but to the world around us. It’s much like taking our hands off the steering wheel when we feel a car is lurching out of control, allowing the law of physics to realign its trajectory. That is where the world is today; it is lurching out of control. The mindfulness teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, like the practice of A Course in Miracles or any other serious spiritual path, are ways that the human psyche, cultivating stillness and practicing infinite compassion, allows the universe to recalibrate. The unloved and unloving mind is a reckless driver of world events; a holy, mindful instant takes the wheel out of its hands.
And that is what we are here to do. We cannot complain we do not know how, when in fact we do; holy teachings are now available everywhere. We cannot complain that there is no one to guide us, when great teachers who have lived before remain in our hearts like guiding spirits if we are willing to listen. The issue is not just what they achieved, but what we ourselves are now capable of achieving. The age of the soloist, spiritual or otherwise, is giving way to an age of the choir, a song of collective enlightenment. Millions of people, perhaps more - largely because of Thich Nhat Hanh - are practicing moments of mindfulness and compassion that will carry the light forward and cast all suffering from the world.
Thich Nhat Hanh has earned a joyful rest, his work on earth so extraordinarily well done. If he experiences now even a fraction of the blessing that he was upon the world, then his soul is in a state of joy unending. The greatest honor we can show him now is to carry on. His soul sang to us and I hope we will sing back: Thank you, great Teacher. We got this.