This weekend I had the privilege of seeing one of my heroes, Thich Nhat Hanh, in New York City. He was in town for two days, leading an event called Building a Compassionate Society, sponsored by the Omega Institute.
As someone who is passionate about personal growth as much as natural foods, I jumped at the opportunity to see this Vietnamese Buddhist Monk. He is one of the most prolific Buddhist teachers and I have always found his writing to be very accessible, simple and profound. Obviously, I'm not alone, as tickets were very hard to get - opening night was sold out! [That's New York for you - plan ahead, cause everything sells out here!]
My introduction to Thich Nhat Hanh came from the book Timeshifting written by Stefan Rechtschaffen, founder of the Omega Institute. [I reviewed the book in December 2008.] I was intrigued my him ever since, especially when he described one of Thich Nhat Hanh's mindfulness walks. It seems when he leads one time stands still and by watching you become transformed. I was excited to learn that he'd by hosting one in NYC as well. So on Saturday afternoon we lined up outside the theater to give it a go. Unfortunately, with 2,000 other folks in attendance, I don't think it necessarily had the same effect.
Yet, the weekend was still powerful. I especially enjoyed his Dharma Talk on Saturday morning. He spoke of Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, and our President Obama. As someone close to Dr King, he said he sees a lot of the same characteristics in our President. He believes his winning the Nobel Prize this week will help shape his legacy, and help him stay true to his innermost beliefs. When one is in office he can easily be surrounded by folks wishing to influence him. This award, he hopes, will give him the courage to stay true to his convictions.
For an introduction to Thich Nhat Hanh and the power of his words and teachings, I strongly suggest the book Anger. It's an emotion we all share and can relate to, whether or not we care to embrace it.
On a side note--
I was saddened to hear of Thay's bittersweet homecoming in Vietnam. After being exiled for 39 years for his protest to the Vietnam War, his country's government opened its doors to him in 2005. His return has been embraced by many young people, eager to learn from him and become monks. Yet, apparently the government had a change of heart and views the Bat Nha monastery he set up as a threat to its power. There have been raids and mobs harassing the peaceful monks at Bat Nha and the government simply watched on as they took place. You can learn more about the situation at www.helpbatnha.org. I plan to write Senator Gillbrand's office to voice my concern.