Thousands mourn Vietnamese Zen master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh
Hue (Reuters) – Mourners queued outside a pagoda in Vietnam’s central Hue province on Friday to pay their final respects to Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the world’s most prominent Buddhist teachers who died on Jan. 22 aged 95.
Nhat Hanh was a Zen Buddhist monk, poet and peace activist who came to prominence in the 1960s as an opponent of the Vietnam War.
His coffin has been on display in a week-long funeral at Tu Hieu, one of Vietnam’s largest and oldest pagodas, drawing tens of thousands of mourners including orange and yellow-robed monks. A cremation ceremony will take place on Saturday.
Trung Nguyen, one of his followers, said he had flown from Ho Chi Minh City to pay his respects.
“I want to offer my admiration and gratitude to my Master. That’s why I had to put aside my own business to be able to fly back to Hue for this funeral and just be here with him,” the small business owner said.
As a pioneer of Buddhism in the West, Nhat Hanh formed the “Plum Village” monastery in France and spoke regularly on the practice of mindfulness – identifying and distancing oneself from certain thoughts without judgement – to the corporate world and his international followers.
He suffered a stroke in 2014 which left him unable to speak and returned to Vietnam to live out his final days in the central city of Hue, the ancient capital and his place of birth, after spending much of his adult life in exile.
Nhat Hanh, who spoke seven languages, founded Engaged Buddhism, a movement to apply Buddhist thought to practical problems. That led him to oppose the U.S.-backed war and launch a relief group to run schools and clinics, rebuild bombed villages and resettle war refugees.