A funeral has been held for the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, a week after the renowned Zen master and peace activist died at the age of 95 in Hue, central Vietnam.
Thousands of monks and disciples trailed a procession of pallbearers carrying Thich Nhat Hanh’s coffin from Tu Hieu pagoda, where he spent his last days, to the cremation site. Others kneeled and clasped their hands in prayer on the roadside and bowed to the ground as the casket went past.
Thich Nhat Hanh was globally recognised for spreading the practice of mindfulness and socially engaged Buddhism, particularly in the west. He lived in exile for most of his life at Plum Village, a retreat centre he founded in southern France.
Born Nguyen Dinh Lang in Hue in 1926 and ordained at the age of 16, Thich Nhat Hanh distilled Buddhist teachings on compassion and suffering into easily grasped guidance over a lifetime dedicated to working for peace.
His campaign against the Vietnam war in the 1960s led to him being barred from returning to Vietnam. He was only allowed back into the country in 2005, when the communist-ruled government welcomed him in the first of several visits.
He survived a stroke in 2014 that left him unable to speak and returned home in October 2018 to spend his final years at the Tu Hieu pagoda.
Thich Nhat Hanh lay in state in the pagoda’s full moon reception hall during a seven-day wake. His disciples came to pay respect in silence and practice meditation as a tribute to his teachings.
“I am happy and feel at peace that I could come to Hue to say farewell and meditate with Su Ong for the last time,” said Do Minh Hieu, a follower of Thich Nhat Hanh’s who travelled from southern Ho Chi Minh City with his family for the funeral. “Su Ong” is an affectionate Vietnamese term meaning Grandpa Monk.
According to his wishes, Thich Nhat Hanh will be cremated and his ashes scattered at Plum Village centres and monasteries around the world.