I've never spoke to this man, but I call him a friend. My wife and I saw him speak in a crowded university gymnasium in Chicago. On a sweaty late-summer night we witnessed his monks chant and sing to a crowd of impetuous, murmuring westerners and calmed them en masse into a state of peaceful receptiveness I'm sure few had ever experienced. People were overflowing, sitting in the aisles as other weaved through, shifting another inch tighter together to fit another person nearby, all in an atmoshpere of calm anticipation. Soon, he came to the stage. Draped in a brown robe, he sat cross-legged on a cushion surrounded by younger, brown-robed figures. A small, elderly man who spoke in a quiet tenor that, even amplified, required close attention to hear. That was part of his purpose, I think now; to force three thousand bustling Americans to attend to his words he delivered them quietly. And we listened. For almost three hours, Thich Nhat Hahn delivered his speech to the American people - about politics, about war, about living in an age of globalism. Mostly, he spoke of peace. And we listened. "Thich Nhat Hahn (pronounced Tick-Naught-Han) is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. During the war in Vietnam, he worked tirelessly for reconciliation between North and South Vietnam. His lifelong efforts to generate peace moved Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. He lives in exile in a small community in France where he teaches, writes, gardens, and works to help refugees worldwide. He has conducted many mindfulness retreats in Europe and North America helping veterans, children, environmentalists, psychotherapists, artists and many thousands of individuals seeking peace in their hearts, and in their world." Today, I'm reminded of him as a quote of his passes my virtual desktop:
Understanding and compassion are very powerful sources of energy. They are the opposite of stupidity and passivity. If you think that compassion is passive, weak or cowardly, then you don't know what real compassion is. If you think that compassionate people do not resist and challenge injustice you are wrong. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
I call this man friend because this man "gets it". He knows how to live. Thich Nhat Hahn knows life because, through his experiences during the Viet Nam war, he became intimate with death. through his experiences in that war, he came to know peace. He knows life because as a Buddhist, he has trained in compassion, universal love, and has tamed his own mind. This man, whom I've never spoken to, is my friend because he is the embodiment of Peace. And we all need peace.