A funeral was held on Saturday for the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, a week after the renowned Zen master died at the age of 95 in Hue in central Vietnam.
Thousands of monks and disciples trailed a procession of pallbearers carrying 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 coffin went past.
Nhat Hanh was globally recognised for helping spread the practice of mindfulness in the West and socially engaged Buddhism in the East.
Born Nguyen Dinh Lang in 1926 in Hue and ordained at the age of 16, Nhat Hanh distilled Buddhist teachings on compassion and suffering into easily grasped guidance over a lifetime dedicated to working for peace.
He founded the Plum Village Tradition, a practice of the art of mindful living, and gained a significant number of followers worldwide.
During the seven-day wake, Nhat Hanh was laid in state in Tu Hieu Pagoda’s full moon reception hall, where his disciples came to pay respect in silence and practise 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 Nhat Hanh’s who travelled from Ho Chi Minh City with his family for the funeral. “Su Ong” is an affectionate Vietnamese term meaning “Grandpa Monk”.
According to his wishes, Nhat Hanh will be cremated and his ashes will be scattered at Plum Village centres and monasteries around the world.
As a pioneer of Buddhism in the West, Nhat Hanh formed the “Plum Village” monastery in France.
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 US-backed war and launch a relief group to run schools and clinics, rebuild bombed villages and resettle war refugees.