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Thread: Monks dying in lotus

  1. #1
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    Monks dying in lotus

    I thought there was a thread for this here but I can figure out how to search it. Maybe it's on some other forum I read. If anyone finds it, post here and I'll merge.

    Mummified monk is ‘not dead’ and in rare meditative state, says expert
    By Kate Baklitskaya
    02 February 2015

    As police say lama found in lotus positon was destined for sale on black market, there are claims it was one step away from becoming a Buddha.


    The mummified remains, covered in cattle skin, were found on January 27 in the Songinokhairkhan province. Picture: Morning Newspaper

    A mummified monk found in the lotus position in Mongolia is 'not dead' and is instead one stage away from becoming a real-life Buddha, it has been claimed.

    Forensic examinations are under way on the amazing remains, which are believed to be around 200 years old, having been preserved in animal skin. But one expert has insisted the human relic is actually in 'very deep meditation' and in a rare and very special spiritual state known as 'tukdam'.

    Over the last 50 years there are said to have been 40 such cases in India involving meditating Tibetan monks.

    Dr Barry Kerzin, a famous Buddhist monk and a physician to the Dalai Lama, said: 'I had the privilege to take care of some meditators who were in a tukdam state.

    'If the person is able to remain in this state for more than three weeks - which rarely happens - his body gradually shrinks, and in the end all that remains from the person is his hair, nails, and clothes. Usually in this case, people who live next to the monk see a rainbow that glows in the sky for several days. This means that he has found a 'rainbow body'. This is the highest state close to the state of Buddha'.

    He added: 'If the meditator can continue to stay in this meditative state, he can become a Buddha. Reaching such a high spiritual level the meditator will also help others, and all the people around will feel a deep sense of joy'.

    Initial speculation is that the mummy could be a teacher of Lama Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov.

    Born in 1852, Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov was a Buryat Buddhist Lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, best known for the lifelike state of his body.



    Mummified monk is ‘not dead’ and in rare meditative state, says expert

    The 'meditating monk' and the house in Mongolia where it was hidden. Pictures: Morning Newspaper

    Ganhugiyn Purevbata, who is the founder and professor of the Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art at Ulaanbaatar Buddhist University, said: 'Lama is sitting in the lotus position vajra, the left hand is opened, and the right hand symbolizes of the preaching Sutra.

    'This is a sign that the Lama is not dead, but is in a very deep meditation according to the ancient tradition of Buddhist lamas'.

    The mummified remains, which were covered in cattle skin, were found on January 27 in the Songinokhairkhan province of Mongolia.

    However, there is more to the story and now police have revealed that the monk had been stolen from another part of the country and was about to be sold off.

    An unnamed official said that it was taken from a cave in the Kobdsk region by a man who then hid it in his own home in Ulaanbaatar.

    He had then been planning to sell it on the black market at a 'very high price', with local media claiming he wanted to take it over the Mongolian border. Police uncovered the plot and quickly arrested a 45-year-old, named only as Enhtor.

    According to Article 18 of the Criminal Code of Mongolia smuggling items of cultural heritage are punishable with either a fine of up to 3million roubles ($43,000) or between five and 12 years in prison. The monk is now being guarded at the National Centre of Forensic Expertise at Ulaanbaatar.
    Gene Ching
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  2. #2
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    Well if he's only meditating, they should've dipped him in a little oil or something along the way because if he did come to, looks like it'd hurt.
    "The perfect way to do, is to be" ~ Lao Tzu

  3. #3
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    Black market mummies?
    Why the western world hasn't seen that in at least 2 or 3 days! lol
    Kung Fu is good for you.

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    Slightly OT

    Mummified remains of monk found inside 1,000-year-old Buddha statue
    Audrey Akcasu 21 hours ago



    When you think of mummies your mind probably goes straight to Egypt and Halloween. But not all mummies are pyramid-dwelling, bandaged pharaohs. Asia has had its fair share of mummies over the millennia as well, but instead of pharaohs they were Taoist and Buddhist monks, and instead of being mummified post-mortem, they mummified themselves before dying.

    Recently, researchers in the Netherlands have discovered the mummified remains of a Buddhist monk who is thought to be Liuquan, a master of the Chinese Meditation School, within a bronze Buddha statue! Keep in mind, this guy lived around 1100 AD!



    The Buddha statue has been on display at the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands. Experts had a hunch that the statue may contain a mummified corpse, so they took it the Meander Medical Center and performed a CT scan and endoscopy to see what was really inside.

    ▼ At least he doesn’t feel that camera going up his butt!


    Their hunch was correct, however, they discovered something even more bizarre than a preserved corpse along the way. While the skeleton was intact, they found that the internal organs had been removed and replaced with sheets of paper covered in ancient Chinese writing. There’s no word yet about what the text says, but chances are they are Buddhist scripture.

    ▼Buddha meets 21st century science.


    As exciting as this is in the scientific and historical worlds, this isn’t actually the first Buddhist mummy that’s been excavated, but it is the first that’s been accessible for Western researchers to study in such depth.

    Self-mummification was apparently kind of the thing to do back thousands of years ago, although only the extremely ascetic Buddhists went through with it and not all of them did it successfully. It’s a grueling process, but it was thought to be the path to immortality. Some sects of Buddhism saw it as transcendence rather than death, and others believed that those who went through the process did not die by slipped into a death-like trance, waiting to be called upon to help mankind.

    ▼ He even looks like he’s holding back a secret.


    While this recently discovered mummy was from China, Japan actually has a pretty long history with self-mummifying Buddhists as well, specifically in Yamagata Prefecture. In that area they practiced in the issei gyonin sect of Shingon Buddhism, which combined Buddhist and Daoist practices with local beliefs.

    The monks who performed this “final spiritual act,” are known as sokushinbutsu, translated to “Monks who practice austerity to the point of death or mummification.” And austere they had to be, because mummifying yourself is no easy process. A monk seeking immortality through mummification had to prepare their body for a grueling 3,000 days (about eight years)!

    Aside from the strict religious regimen, the monk had to change his diet and exercise a lot to decrease his body fat to nearly zero. The diet change required cutting out cereals: so no Cheerios, wheat, soybeans, millet or even rice. In place of these foods, he would stick to the “tree diet” (read: an extreme form of the current fad, The Paleo Diet): nuts, berries, pine needles, tree bark and resin. The diet would get stricter and smaller as the monk’s days became numbered.

    ▼ Yum! Bark and resin for dinner!


    Some of the foods had a mummifying effect on the body, including toxic cycad nuts and a “tea” made from the Toxicodendron vernicifluum tree sap, from which lacquer is made. As you can imagine, lacquer does wonders for the mummifying process, making the body toxic to even decay-causing bacteria and flesh-eating insects. Gross.

    So, once the monk has dieted and nearly embalmed himself alive, he sits in a stone chamber and gets completely buried inside, save for an air hole. He sits in the chamber, meditating, chanting and occasionally ringing a bell to let his buddies outside know he’s still living. Once the bell stops ringing, the air hole is closed and the monk remains there for three years. Upon excavation, if the body is successfully preserved, the monk is elevated to the status of Buddha, suitably clothed, placed in a shrine and worshiped as sokushinbutsu.

    ▼ How many more mummies do you think are hiding in Buddha statues around the world?


    Not all monks are so lucky though; sometimes the bodies show signs of decay. These monks, although honored for their endurance and asceticism, are thought to not have reached their spiritual goal, so they are not given the title of Buddha.

    Apparently, the Chinese master Liuquan prepared well and successfully mummified himself. At some point, it seems, someone decided to cover him in bronze and stuff his insides with paper, however, we’re not yet sure why or when this happened.

    If you’re in Europe and fancy seeing the statue (with the skeleton still inside), it/he is on loan to the Natural History Museum of Hungary until May of this year.

    Disclaimer: RocketNews24 does not recommend trying the “tree diet” or self-mummification, even if you do quite like the idea of being encased in bronze after you’ve bitten the dust.

    Sources: Plginrt Project, io9 (1, 2), Living Buddhas: The Self-Mummified Monks of Yamagata, Japan, Toronto Sun
    Images: Plginrt Project, Wikimedia Commons (Dietmar Down Under)
    mmmmmmmmmm. resin.
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  5. #5
    For all your information. China has plenty of pyramids. I read they seldom let outsiders go to them and they seldom allow pictures to be taken of them.

  6. #6
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    From the sound of the contents, they can have them.
    "The perfect way to do, is to be" ~ Lao Tzu

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    might wanna revoke any sort of "expert" label on the dude that thinks that corpse is alive.

    It is honorific to be buried within a statue of Buddha though I would imagine.
    Kung Fu is good for you.

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    More on that mummified monk

    Most of the museum treasures outside of China were stolen. That's a major issue for the Chinese nowadays. But most of those items were stolen back when the Qing fell over a century ago. 1995 is much more recent.

    Mummified monk on display in Hungary suspected to have been stolen from China in 1995



    Chinese relic experts believe that the "living Buddha" statue which had recently been on display at a history museum in Budapest was stolen from China in 1995.

    The Fujian Cultural Relic Bureau announced on March 22 that based on research, photos, historical records and media reports, experts were able to confirm that the statue on exhibition at the Hungarian Natural History Museum was a relic stolen from Yangchun Village of Fujian 20 years ago.

    The Buddha was believed to be Zhanggong Zushi, a cowherd. When he grew older, he won fame for helping treat people's diseases for free. He became a monk and self-mummified sometime around China's Song Dynasty (960-1279). The statue had been worshipped at the village temple until it allegedly went missing in 1995.



    The village provided three points to support its claim, China Daily relays:

    First, according to the villagers, the statue on exhibition in Europe is very similar in appearance to the photo of the village's statue of Master Zhanggong Liuquan (or Zhanggong Zushi) that was stolen in 1995.

    Second, the scan by the Netherlands' scientists show the Buddhist's remains dating to the 11th or 12th century, which matches the periods of Zhanggong Liuquan's self-mummification of occurred during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

    The statue was bought and sold again to a Dutch private collector in 1996, one year after the village's mummified statue went missing. The timing of the two instances might be more than coincidence.

    A local bureau spokesman said they will continue the investigation in the village and search for more information to eventually trace the stolen relic in compliance with normal procedures.

    By Lucy Liu

    [Image via Xinhua // China Daily]

    [Video via BTV ]
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    Now they be a curse and must send that fellow home. Mummies talk after all.
    "The perfect way to do, is to be" ~ Lao Tzu

  10. #10
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    Slightly OT

    A modern gold mummy.

    LOOK: Revered Buddhist monk gets mummified in gold



    Last year it was reported that a medical team in the Netherlands discovered the mummified remains of an ancient Buddhist monk entombed within a golden statue of the Buddha. Scholars believe that the monk, Liu Quan, passed away sometime around the year 1100, and was mummified in a bid to become a “living Buddha.”
    Fast forward 900 years later to the present day, and there is now a website for that! Still, it would seem that the more traditional practice of preserving revered monks is alive and well. Earlier this week, the body of a revered monk from the Fujian city of Quanzhou finished the final stage of a three-year mummification process.
    According to the Quanzhou Evening News, the monk, Fu Hou, passed away back in 2012, at the age of 94. At the behest of head abbot Li Ren, he was preserved and placed inside a porcelain statue in lotus position. Fu was a devout follower of Buddhism and veteran monk, who joined the order when he was just 17.



    Now, after three years of rest, the corpse has finally seen the light of day yet again. It looks to be in pristine condition (save for some very dry skin). The body was washed, covered in gauze and lacquer, before finally being coated in a gold leaf.



    Fu Hou will eventually be robed, interred inside a glass case (protected with an anti-theft device) and then placed upon a mountaintop to be worshiped by pilgrims. ****, the best we can hope for is being turned into somebody's earring.
    But out with the old and in with the new! As the world observes the ascension of Fu Hou to godhood, a new generation of monks is coming to the forefront to help bring Buddhist teachings to the masses, spearhead by Xian'er, the adorable robo-monk at Dragon Spring Temple in Beijing.

    Pondering questions regarding the meaning of life, the universe and everything? Xian’er can be reached by WeChat at the handle, “賢二機器僧.”
    While some worshipers have expressed skepticism at the idea of a future in which temples are populated by adorable automatons, the behavior of some monks in recent years has certainly compelled us to wonder if this current generation of flesh-and-blood monks will be able to inspire piety and reverence for the Buddha. Recent wrongdoings range from petty squabbles to serious corruption scandals at the famed Shaolin Temple.



    Xian'er would never do any of those things.
    By Stanley Yu
    [Images via Quanzhou Evening News]

    By Shanghaiist in News on Apr 29, 2016 9:15 PM
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  11. #11
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    Ci Xian

    The golden mummy: Incredible pictures show the perfectly preserved gilded body of 1,000-year-old Buddhist Master Ci Xian

    A CT scan reveals the mummified monk still has healthy bones and a brain
    The remains of Master Ci Xian is worshipped at the Dinghui Temple, China
    Ci Xian travelled from Indian to China 1,000 years ago to promote Buddhism

    By Tracy You For Mailonline
    PUBLISHED: 11:17 EDT, 13 July 2017 | UPDATED: 03:25 EDT, 14 July 2017

    The mummified body of a Buddhist Master from 1,000 years ago still has healthy bones and a complete brain, a CT scan has revealed.

    The discovery was made last week after the gilded remains of Master Ci Xian was given a medical check at the Dinghui Temple in Wu'an, northern China's Hebei Province.

    Master Ci Xian was said to be a respected monk who had travelled from ancient India to ancient China to promote Buddhism.



    The preserved body of Buddhist Master Ci Xian underwent a CT scan last week in China



    The mummified monk is kept at the Dinghui Temple in Wu'an. The temple's monks had the Ci Xian's remains gilded last year. Above, the pictures show the body before and after


    Master Ci Xian's remains were found in a cave in the 1970s. It has been kept at the Dinghui Temple since 2011. The temple decided to add a golden layer to the remains to show its respect


    The respected monk's remains were varnished before being gilded at the Dinghui Temple

    HOW WAS CI XIAN'S BODY PRESERVED?

    According to Master Du at the Dinghui Temple, ancient Chinese monks preserve their master's body using natural means.

    Master Du said usually a Buddhist master could feel it when he is about to pass away.

    He would then tell his disciples if he would like his body to be cremated or preserved.

    After the master passes away, the disciples would put his remains inside a large ceramic jar filled with natural anti-corrosive substances.

    After three years, the disciples would remove the body from the jar.

    If the master had reached a certain spiritual level, then his body would not rot.

    The disciples would then cover the body with a special paste made with stick rice to produce a so-called 'meat body Buddha'.
    The CT scan took place on July 8 and was witnessed by monks, media and prayers.

    People were shocked when doctors said Master Ci Xian still had a full skeleton, and a complete brain.

    Dr Wu Yongqing told Pear Video after the scan: 'We can see his bones are as healthy as a normal person's.

    'The upper jaw, the upper teeth, the ribs, the spine and all the joints are all complete.

    'It's incredible to see this.'

    According to historic records, Master Ci Xian was originally from India.

    He travelled to the Kingdom of Khitan (916-1125) in north-east part of modern China near the Korean Peninsula to spread Buddhist philosophy.

    He is said to have translated 10 major Sutras into Chinese characters. Later, he was named the national Buddhist Master of Khitan by the king.

    Some of his translations were engraved into stone tablets and can be seen today.

    After Master Ci Xian passed away, his disciples had his body preserved but it later went lost over the years.

    His remains were re-discovered in 1970s inside a cave.


    The temple's management arranged a CT scan for master Ci Xian's body on July 8


    Monks were shocked when doctors said Master Ci Xian still has healthy bones and a brain


    An X-ray provided by Ding Hui Temple shows the skull of Master Ci Xian, from 1,000 years ago


    His upper jaw, the upper teeth, the ribs, the spine (pictured) and all the joints are all complete

    Master Du from the Dinghui Temple said Buddhist Master Ci Xian's preserved body had been worshipped at the Dinghui Temple since 2011.
    The temple decided to have the remains gilded last year.
    Master Ci Xian is expected to be moved from the Dinghui Temple to the Shendu Temple on Xiangtang Mountain, which is being constructed.
    Master Du said the public could still worship Master Ci Xian at the Dinghui Temple from now to the end of 2017.


    Monks and the public worship Master Ci Xian's preserved body at the Dinghui Temple
    Not sure 'healthy' is the right term for dead bones and brain, but I do like the term 'meat body Buddha'.
    Gene Ching
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  12. #12
    Greetings,

    I see that the Bodies exhibit isn't the only way to get rid of political dissidents. How macabre!


    mickey

  13. #13
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    Mummy controversy

    More on this mummy here & here

    Chinese villagers head to court to recover a 1,000-year-old mummified monk inside a Buddha statue



    The monk's remains are said to be encased inside a Buddha statue CREDIT: ATTILA VOLGYI/XINHUA/ALAMY LIVE NEWS
    Neil Connor, beijing
    15 JULY 2017 • 2:18PM

    Chinese villagers have taken their campaign to retrieve a “stolen” 1,000-year-old mummified monk to a Dutch court, as China ramps up efforts to reclaim precious artefacts scattered across the globe – including in the UK.

    The latest legal battle involves residents of Yangchun in south-eastern China seeking to force a Dutch art collector to return a Buddha sculpture which they claim went missing from their village in 1995.

    The villagers say the 1.2 metre-tall golden sitting Buddha, which is called Zhanggong Zushi, contains the skeletal remains of one of their ancestors, a monk who lived and was worshipped in Yangchun since the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD).

    The sculpture sat in a temple in the village for a thousand years, the villagers claim, before being stolen 22 years ago.


    The statue is one of many artefacts China hopes to recover from abroad CREDIT: ATTILA VOLGYI/XINHUA/ALAMY LIVE NEWS

    One of the locals recognised the sculpture after it was displayed at an exhibition in Hungary in 2015 and the village has banded together to try to recover it with the help of the Chinese government.

    "I am very confident we will win the case,” said lawyer Liu Yang, ahead of the first day of the Amsterdam trial on Friday.

    “The statue belongs to the villagers, and I think the Dutch owner should act in a graceful way to take himself out of a predicament," he told The Telegraph.

    Mr Liu has previously fought a series of cases to retrieve allegedly stolen Chinese artefacts from abroad.

    Beijing has made the return of such relics a priority as it flexes its growing international muscle and tries to build public support at home.


    Chinese state media say more than 10 million Chinese cultural relics have yet to be returned. CREDIT: ATTILA VOLGYI/XINHUA/ALAMY LIVE NEWS

    Chinese state media say more than 10 million Chinese cultural relics have yet to be returned.

    In 2013 French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault returned two bronze fountainheads from Beijing's Old Summer Palace.

    The site was ransacked by British and French troops in 1860 during the Second Opium War, an event seen in China as a national humiliation.

    Many in China also believe artefacts which are now at the British Museum were originally pillaged from that monument, and later, at the destruction of the Forbidden City during the Boxer Rebellion.

    The British Museum previously said the “overwhelming majority” of its Chinese collection, which numbers around 23,000 items, were “peacefully traded or collected”.

    However, Mr Liu said Chinese artefacts exhibited in Britain were a “big issue” in China, and that the legal team involved in the court battle for the Buddha would use that experience to devise a strategy against “museums in other countries”.

    Asked directly if China was considering retrieving artefacts at the British Museum, he said: “Once China knows how to do it through the courts, China will do it."

    Additional reporting by Christine Wei
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    Even more on that mummified monk

    'Our spiritual leader': Chinese villagers appeal for return of 1,000-year-old monk
    Residents of Yangchun tell Dutch court of importance of Buddha statue which contains mummified remains
    Agence France-Presse
    Wed 31 Oct 2018 20.12 EDT Last modified on Thu 1 Nov 2018 20.45 EDT


    A Buddha statue next to an X-ray showing the remains of a monk inside. Villagers from Yangchun, eastern China, are appealing for the return of the statue, known as the Zhanggong patriarch. Photograph: Drents Museum

    A group of Chinese villagers have travelled to the Netherlands to make a passionate plea for the return of the remains of a 1,000-year-old monk as the legal fight over its ownership wrapped up in a Dutch court.

    The small eastern Chinese village of Yangchun has accused Dutch collector Oscar van Overeem of buying the stolen Buddha statue containing the mummified remains of the monk in Hong Kong in 1996.

    “We grew up with the statue. He was there day and night. He is our spiritual leader,” Yangchun village spokesman Lin Wen Qing said shortly after lawyers closed their arguments at Amsterdam district court on Wednesday.

    “For us, it is the most important thing to have him back,” said Lin, speaking through an interpreter. He was one of six villagers who travelled from Yangchun to attend the hearing.

    The village is asking Dutch judges to rule that the human-sized Buddha statue be returned to the temple from where it was stolen in late 1995, after being worshipped there for centuries.

    Missing for two decades the statue, called the Zhanggong patriarch, resurfaced in 2015 when villagers recognised it as part of a display at the Mummy World Exhibition at Budapest’s natural history museum.

    A scan of the statue revealed a skeleton inside – said to be that of a Chinese monk who lived nearly a millennium ago during China’s Song dynasty. The statue was subsequently withdrawn from the exhibition.

    The case is being closely watched because it could mark one of the first successful retrievals of Chinese relics in court.

    The villagers said they were convinced that the statue which Van Overeem bought was their missing idol. “There is a very special bond between the villagers and the statue,” their lawyer Jan Holthuis told the judges.

    Van Overeem reiterated in court that he did not have the statue, which he said he exchanged in a swap with a Chinese collector in 2015. “I swapped the statue in a transaction. I was happy to hear that it would go back to China,” van Overeem told the court, adding he did not know the identity of the collector with whom he did the swap.

    He rejected Holthuis’s claims that he was in fact a dealer in Chinese art, and bought the statue in Hong Kong in 1996 – a known destination for stolen artefacts. “I’m an architect and a passionate collector. But I’m not a dealer,” van Overeem said. He said he did not know where the statue was.

    Judges are due to hand down a ruling on 12 December.

    Previous retrievals of Chinese artefacts have been done through diplomatic channels.

    Beijing in recent years has vehemently protested against the sale of artefacts that it said were stolen, particularly in the 19th century when European powers began encroaching on Chinese territory.
    More to come on Zhanggong on Dec 12.
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    Slightly OT

    He's not dead yet. And who knows if he'll attempt the lotus passing. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating read:

    The Monk Who Taught the World Mindfulness Awaits the End of This Life


    Thich Nhat Hanh, shown in an undated photo at his Plum Village monastery in France, introduced ways to meditate that anyone could master Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism
    By LIAM FITZPATRICK / HUE, VIETNAM
    January 24, 2019

    At a Buddhist temple outside Hue, Vietnam’s onetime capital, 92-year-old Thich Nhat Hanh has come to quietly “transition,” as his disciples put it. The ailing celebrity monk—quoted by Presidents and hailed by Oprah Winfrey as “one of the most influential spiritual leaders of our times”—is refusing medication prescribed after a stroke in 2014. He lies in a villa in the grounds of the 19th century Tu Hieu Pagoda, awaiting liberation from the cyclical nature of existence.

    At the gate, devotees take photos. Some have flown from Europe for a glimpse of Thay, as they call him, using the Vietnamese word for teacher. Since arriving on Oct. 28, he has made several appearances in a wheelchair, greeted by hundreds of pilgrims, though the rains and his frailty have mostly put a stop to these. On a wet afternoon in December, the blinds were drawn back so TIME could observe the monk being paid a visit by a couple of U.S. diplomats. The Zen master, unable to speak, looked as though he could breathe his last at any moment. His room is devoid of all but basic furnishings. Born Nguyen Xuan Bao, he was banished in the 1960s, when the South Vietnamese government deemed as traitorous his refusal to condone the war on communism. He is now back in the temple where he took his vows at 16, after 40 years of exile. Framed above the bed are the words tro ve—”returning”—in his own brushstroke.


    In the West, Nhat Hanh is sometimes called the father of mindfulness. He famously taught that we could all be bodhisattvas by finding happiness in the simple things—in mindfully peeling an orange or sipping tea. “A Buddha is someone who is enlightened, capable of loving and forgiving,” he wrote in Your True Home, one of more than 70 books he has authored. “You know that at times you’re like that. So enjoy being a Buddha.”

    His influence has spread globally. Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in 2016 that she could not have pulled off the Paris Agreement “if I had not been accompanied by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.” World Bank president Jim Yong Kim called Nhat Hanh’s Miracle of Mindfulness his favorite book.

    The monk’s return to Vietnam to end his life can thus be seen as a message to his disciples. “Thay’s intention is to teach [the idea of] roots and for his students to learn they have roots in Vietnam,” says Thich Chan Phap An, the head of Nhat Hanh’s European Institute of Applied Buddhism. “Spiritually, it’s a very important decision.”

    But practically, it risks reopening old wounds. Other Vietnamese exiles were infuriated by highly publicized visits Nhat Hanh made in 2005 and 2007, when he toured the country and held well-attended services that made international headlines. To his critics, these tours gave legitimacy to the ruling Communist Party by creating the impression that there was freedom of worship in Vietnam, when in fact it is subject to strict state controls.

    Other spiritual leaders have suffered under the regime; Thich Quang Do, patriarch of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), has spent many years in jail or under house arrest. In November, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the government panel that monitors freedom of religion globally, issued a statement condemning his treatment by Hanoi. In this context, Vo Van Ai, a Paris-based spokesman for the UBCV, said Nhat Hanh’s prior visits to Vietnam “played into the government’s hands.”

    The meaning of his return, therefore, carries great freight here in Vietnam. “[It] symbolizes that both he and the type of Buddhism he represents are fundamentally Vietnamese,” says Paul Marshall, professor of religious freedom at Baylor University in Texas. “For the government, this is both a challenge and an opportunity. If he lives out his life in peace, they can claim credit.”

    Flourishing in Exile

    Nhat Hanh has always gone his own way. He became a novice against his parents’ wishes, then left a Buddhist academy because it refused to teach modern subjects. He studied science at Saigon University, edited a humanist magazine and established a commune.

    After teaching Buddhism at Columbia and Princeton universities from 1961 to 1963, he returned to Vietnam to become an antiwar activist, risking his life with other volunteers to bring aid to war-torn communities. He refused to take sides, making enemies of both North and South Vietnam. His commune was attacked by South Vietnamese troops, and an attempt was made on his life.

    In 1966, as the war escalated, he left Vietnam to tour 19 countries to call for peace. He addressed the British, Canadian and Swedish parliaments and met Pope Paul VI. This proved too much for the regime in Saigon, which viewed pacifism as tantamount to collaboration with the communists and prevented him from returning. The next time Nhat Hanh saw Vietnam was during a visit in 2005.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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