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Thread: Monks dying in lotus

  1. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.

    Continued from previous post

    His reputation grew in exile. Hippies set his antiwar poetry to music. In 1967, he was nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 1969 he headed a Buddhist delegation to the peace talks in Paris. He eventually based himself in southwest France, where he turned the Plum Village Buddhist monastery into Europe’s largest, and established eight others from Mississippi to Thailand. He oversaw the translation of his books into more than 30 languages. When Western interest in Buddhism went through a revival at the turn of the century, Nhat Hanh became one of its most influential practitioners.

    In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. urged the Nobel Prize committee to honor “this gentle monk from Vietnam” Edward Kitch—AP

    Nhat Hanh taught that you don’t have to spend years on a mountaintop to benefit from Buddhist wisdom. Instead, he says, just become aware of your breath, and through that come into the present moment, where everyday activities can take on a joyful, miraculous quality. If you are mindful, or fully present in the here and now, anxiety disappears and a sense of timelessness takes hold, allowing your highest qualities, such as kindness and compassion, to emerge.

    This was highly appealing to Westerners seeking spirituality but not the trappings of religion. Burned-out executives and recovering alcoholics flocked to retreats in the French countryside to listen to Nhat Hanh. An entire mindfulness movement sprang up in the wake of this dharma superstar. Among his students was the American doctor Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course that is now offered at hospitals and medical centers worldwide. Today, the mindfulness that Nhat Hanh did so much to propagate is a $1.1 billion industry in the U.S., with revenues flowing from 2,450 meditation centers and thousands of books, apps and online courses. One survey found that 35% of employers have incorporated mindfulness into the workplace.

    Nhat Hanh’s approach has been commercially successful partly because it makes few demands, at least of beginners—unlike the more rigorous meditation advocated by that other great exponent of Buddhism in the West, the Dalai Lama. “Thich Nhat Hanh provides a simple version of Buddhism, but I would not say it is oversimplified,” explains Janet Gyatso, Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies at Harvard University’s Divinity School. The “basic philosophy is the same” as that of the Dalai Lama, she says. “Mindfulness and compassion.”

    Nhat Hanh, center, led a silent peace walk in Los Angeles in 2005, as the Iraq War escalated Paul Davis—Touching Peace Photography

    Courting Controversy

    In an unpublished interview he gave to TIME in 2013, Nhat Hanh declined to say if he wanted to return home for good. Instead he praised Vietnam’s youthful dissidents. “If the country is going to change, it will be thanks to this kind of courage,” he said. “We are fighting for freedom of expression.”

    In fact, the situation for all rights in Vietnam is critical. During Nhat Hanh’s exile, hundreds of thousands of people were sent to re-education camps or killed by a Communist Party that, today, has absolute control. Activists are beaten, tortured and jailed. Rights of association are restricted, as is the press and judiciary. Religious freedom is heavily curtailed, and the official Buddhist Church of Vietnam is controlled by the state.

    To his critics, the monk should have made greater use of his position to draw attention to these abuses. Ai, the UBCV spokesman, says Nhat Hanh was “world-famous abroad but longed to be famous in his homeland” and accuses him of cooperating with the regime in order to be given permission for his 2005 tour. Hanoi granted Nhat Hanh permission to visit that year as it sought Vietnam’s removal from the USCIRF list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC), where it kept company with North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The official communist daily Nhan Dan quoted Nhat Hanh as saying, “The Vietnamese want to be liberated from what the Americans call liberation for the Vietnamese,” without explaining that he had said these words decades earlier, in the entirely different context of the Vietnam War.

    Washington obliged Hanoi by removing Vietnam as a CPC in 2006, to the fury of nonconformists forced into exile. “Many [who] had looked on Thich Nhat Hanh as a living Buddha, with total respect and admiration, were deeply disappointed to see him pandering to the communist authorities,” says Ai. Bill Hayton, associate fellow of the Asia program at London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs, explains that many in the Vietnamese diaspora will not tolerate any compromise with Hanoi. “In their eyes, Thich Nhat Hanh is a sellout because he is prepared to work within the limits imposed by the Communist Party.”

    But Nhat Hanh was not totally silent. During his 2007 visit to Vietnam, he asked then President Nguyen Minh Triet to abolish the Religious Affairs Committee, which monitors religious groups. The Plum Village annual journal of 2008 went further and called on Vietnam to abandon communism. His followers paid a heavy price. In September 2009, police and a hired mob violently evicted hundreds of monks and nuns from a monastery that Nhat Hanh had been allowed to build at Bat Nha in southeast Vietnam, which had been attracting thousands of devotees.

    Yet if Nhat Hanh courted controversy by engaging with the party, he also won the ability to gain access to the Vietnamese people—and that might have been the goal all along. The official Vietnamese Buddhist Church, says Hayton, “has no leader to compare with Thich Nhat Hanh or his ideas of mindfulness.” During Nhat Hanh’s tours, he was able to champion a concise, modernized form of Buddhism very different from the religion sometimes perceived as old-fashioned and arcane. The impact is still felt by young Vietnamese today. In November, Linh Nhi, 27, traveled from Saigon to keep vigil at Tu Hieu. “If I can meet him, that’s good,” she told local media. “If not, I’m still happy because I can feel his presence.”

    Buddhism teaches that Nhat Hanh needs to offer his presence, and in doing so, he is embracing the roots of his suffering in the Vietnam War. He is surely aware that Hanoi will make political capital out of his homecoming. But then the Zen master is evidently playing the long game—the longest game of all, in fact, which is eternity.

    —With reporting by Supriya Batra/Hong Kong and Bryan Walsh/New York
    No, I never met him but was inspired by some of his writings.
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  2. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.

    More on Thich Nhat Hanh facing death

    I suppose this could be separated into its own indie thread...unless TNH manages to pass in lotus. After a stroke, who knows?

    Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk who introduced mindfulness to the West, prepares to die
    March 18, 2019 6.46am EDT

    Brooke Schedneck
    Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Rhodes College

    Disclosure statement
    Brooke Schedneck does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

    Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. AP Photo/Richard Vogel

    Thich Nhat Hanh, the monk who popularized mindfulness in the West, has returned home to Vietnam to enjoy the rest of his life. Devotees from many parts of the world are visiting the ailing 92-year-old, who has retired to a Buddhist temple outside Hue.

    This thoughtful and accepting approach to his own failing health seems fitting for the popular Buddhist teacher, whose followers include a thousand Buddhist communities around the world and millions more who have read his books. For everyone, his teachings encourage being present in the moment.

    As a scholar of the contemporary practices of Buddhist meditation, I have studied his simple yet profound teachings, which combine mindfulness along with social change.

    Peace activist

    In the 1960s, Thich Nhat Hanh played an active role promoting peace during the years of war in Vietnam. Hanh was in his mid-20s when he became active in efforts to revitalize Vietnamese Buddhism for peace efforts.

    Over the next few years, Thich Nhat Hanh set up a number of organizations based on Buddhist principles of nonviolence and compassion. His School of Youth and Social Service, a grassroots relief organization, consisted of 10,000 volunteers and social workers offering aid to war-torn villages, rebuilding schools and establishing medical centers.

    He also established the Order of Interbeing, a community of monastics and lay Buddhists who made a commitment to compassionate action and supported war victims. In addition, he founded a Buddhist university, a publishing house, and a peace activist magazine as a way to spread the message of compassion.

    In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh traveled to the United States and Europe to appeal for peace in Vietnam.

    In lectures delivered across many cities, he compellingly described the war’s devastation, spoke of the Vietnamese people’s wish for peace and appealed to the U.S. to cease its air offensive against Vietnam.

    During his years in the U.S., he met Martin Luther King Jr., who nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

    However, because of his peace work and refusal to choose sides in his country’s civil war, both the communist and noncommunist governments banned him, forcing Thich Nhat Hanh to live in exile for over 40 years.

    During these years, the emphasis of his message shifted from the immediacy of the Vietnam War to being present in the moment – an idea that has come to be called “mindfulness.”

    Being aware of the moment

    Thich Nhat Hanh first started teaching mindfulness in the mid-1970s. The main vehicle for his early teachings was his books. In “The Miracle of Mindfulness,” for example, Thich Nhat Hanh gave simple instructions on how to apply mindfulness to daily life. This book was translated into English for a global audience.

    In his book, “You Are Here,” he urged people to pay attention to what they were experiencing in their body and mind at any given moment, and not dwell in the past or think of the future. His emphasis was on the awareness of the breath. As you follow the breath, he taught his readers to say internally, “I’m breathing in; this is an in-breath. I’m breathing out: this is an out-breath.”

    Thich Nhat Hanh emphasized that mindfulness could be practiced anywhere. Antonio Guillem/

    People interested in practicing meditation didn’t need to spend days at a meditation retreat or find a teacher. His teachings emphasized that mindfulness could be practiced anytime, even when doing routine chores.

    Even when doing the dishes, people could simply focus on the activity and be fully present. Peace, happiness, joy and true love, he said, could be found only in the moment.

    Mindfulness in America

    Hanh’s mindfulness practices don’t advocate disengagement with the world. Rather, in his view, the practice of mindfulness could lead one toward “compassionate action,” like practicing openness to other’s viewpoints and sharing material resources with those in need.

    Jeff Wilson, a scholar of American Buddhism, argues in his book, “Mindful America,” that it was Hanh’s combination of daily mindfulness practices with action in the world that contributed to the earliest strands of the mindfulness movement. This movement eventually became what Time Magazine in 2014 called the “mindful revolution.” The article argues that the power of mindfulness lies in its universality, as the practice has entered into corporate headquarters, political offices, parenting guides and diet plans.

    For Thich Nhat Hanh, however, mindfulness is not a means to a more productive day but a way of understanding “interbeing,” the connection and codependence of everyone and everything. In a documentary “Walk With Me,” he illustrates interbeing in the following way:

    A young girl asks him how to deal with the grief of her recently deceased dog. He instructs her to look into the sky and watch a cloud disappear. The cloud has not died but has become the rain and the tea in the teacup. Just as the cloud is alive in a new form, so is the dog. Being aware and mindful of the tea offers a reflection on the nature of reality.

    He believes this understanding could lead to more peace in the world.

    In 2014, Thich Nhat Hanh suffered a stroke. Since then, he has been unable to speak or continue his teaching. In October of 2018 he expressed his wish, using gestures, to return to the temple in Vietnam where he was ordained as a young monk.
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  3. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.


    The Japanese Monks Who Mummified Themselves While Still Alive
    By Krissy Howard
    Published October 25, 2016
    Updated August 20, 2019
    Sokushinbutsu may be self-discipline at its most extreme.

    Barry Silver/Flickr

    Between 1081 and 1903, around 20 living Shingon monks successfully mummified themselves in an attempt at sokushinbutsu, or becoming “a Buddha in this body.”

    Through a strict diet foraged from the nearby Mountains of Dewa, Japan, the monks worked to dehydrate the body from the inside out, ridding the self of fat, muscle, and moisture before being buried in a pine box to meditate through their last days on Earth.

    Mummification Around The World
    While this event may seem particular to Japanese monks, many cultures have practiced mummification. This is because, as Ken Jeremiah writes in the book Living Buddhas: the Self-Mummified Monks of Yamagata, Japan, many religions around the world recognize an imperishable corpse as a mark of exceptional ability to connect with a force which transcends the physical realm.

    While not the only religious sect to practice mummification, the Japanese Shingon monks of Yamagata are among the most famous to practice the ritual, as several of their practitioners successfully mummified themselves while still alive.

    Seeking redemption for the salvation of mankind, monks on a path toward sokushinbutsu believed this sacrificial act — done in emulation of a ninth-century monk named Kükai — would grant them access to Tusita Heaven, where they would live for 1.6 million years and be blessed with the ability to protect humans on Earth.

    Needing their physical bodies to accompany their spiritual selves in Tusita, they embarked on a journey as devoted as it was painful, mummifying themselves from the inside-out to prevent decomposition after death. The process took at least three years, its method perfected over centuries and adapted to the humid climate usually unsuitable for mummifying a body.

    Wikimedia Commons

    How To Turn Yourself Into A Mummy
    In order to begin the self-mummification process, the monks would adopt a diet known as mokujikigyō, or “tree-eating.” Foraging through nearby forests, practitioners existed only on tree roots, nuts and berries, tree bark, and pine needles. One source also reports finding river rocks in the bellies of mummies.

    This extreme diet served two purposes. First, it began the body’s biological preparation for mummification, as it eliminated any fat and muscle from the frame. It also prevented future decomposition by depriving the body’s naturally-occurring bacteria of vital nutrients and moisture. On a more spiritual level, the extended, isolated quests for food would have a “hardening” effect on the monk’s morale, disciplining him and encouraging contemplation.

    This diet would typically last for 1,000 days, though some monks would repeat the course two or three times to best prepare themselves for the next phase of sokushinbutsu. To begin the embalming process, monks may have added a tea brewed of urushi, the sap of the Chinese lacquer tree, as it would render their bodies toxic to insect invaders after death.

    At this point not drinking anything more than a small amount of salinized water, the monks would continue with their meditation practice. As death approached, the devotees would rest in a small, tightly cramped pine box, which fellow votaries would lower into the ground, about ten feet below the Earth’s surface.

    Equipped with a bamboo rod as an airway for breathing, monks covered the coffin with charcoal, leaving the buried monk a small bell which he would ring to notify others that he was still alive. For days the buried monk would meditate in total darkness, and ring the bell.

    When the ringing stopped, above-ground monks assumed the underground monk had died. They would proceed to seal the tomb, where they would leave the corpse to lie for 1,000 days.

    Shingon Culture/Flickr

    After unearthing the coffin, followers would inspect the body for signs of decay. If the bodies had stayed intact, monks believed that the deceased had reached sokushinbutsu, and would thus dress the bodies in robes and place them in a temple for worship. Monks gave those showing decay a modest burial.

    Sokushinbutsu: A Dying Practice
    The first attempt at sokushinbutsu took place in 1081 and ended in failure. Since then, a hundred more monks have attempted to reach salvation by self-mummification, with only around two dozen succeeding in their mission.

    These days, no one practices the act of sokushinbutsu as the Meiji government criminalized it in 1877, viewing the practice as anachronistic and depraved.

    The last monk to die of sokushinbutsu did so illegally, passing years later in 1903.

    His name was Bukkai, and in 1961 researchers at Tohoku University would exhume his remains, which now rest in Kanzeonji, a seventh-century Buddhist temple in southwest Japan. Of the 16 existing sokushinbutsu in Japan, the majority lie in the Mt. Yudono region of the Yamagata prefecture.

    For more global perspectives on death, check out these unusual funeral rituals from around the world. Then, have a look at bizarre human mating rituals that will challenge your notions of romance.
    An old gf sent me this for Halloween. Thought I'd share it here...
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

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