Thich Nhat Hanh's Final Mindfulness Lesson: How to Die Peacefully (2023)

editor's note: Hi International Plum Blossom Village Buddhist Association Community έχειbe introducedthisThich Nhat HanhDied January 22, 2022 in Hue, Vietnam. The following interview with one of his high school students was first published in March 2019.

Thich Nhat Hanh has done more than any other Buddhist today to articulate and spread the fundamental Buddhist teachings of mindfulness, kindness, and compassion to a broad global audience. The Vietnamese monk, author of more than 100 books, is second only to the Dalai Lama in fame and influence.

Nhat Hanh rose to prominence through his human rights and reconciliation work during the Vietnam War, which led Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him for a Nobel Prize.

he is believed to be his father"Believe in Buddha", A movement that combines mindfulness practice with social action. a networkAbbey and Patience CenterIn six countries around the world, including the United States.

Thich Nhat Hanh, 93, suffered a stroke in 2014Pfraumendorf, the monastery and retreat center he founded in southwestern France in 1982 and is also his headquarters. Despite being unable to speak after a stroke, he continues to lead the community, communicating with his left hand and facial expressions.

In October 2018, Nhat Hanh surprised students by telling them he wanted to return to Vietnam to spend his final daysCixiaogen TempleHe was ordained in Hue in 1942 at the age of 16. (New York Timesreference(Nine U.S. senators visited him in April.)

liam fitzpatrick as agehe wroteNhat Hanh was deported from Vietnam for his anti-war activism from 1966 until his last return in 2005. However, his return was less about political reconciliation than about something deeper. It has lessons for all of us on how to die peacefully and let go of those we love.

When I heard that Nhat Hanh had returned to Vietnam, I wanted to know more about this decision. So in February, I visited Brother Phap Dung, a senior student and monk who helped manage Plum Village during Thich Nhat Hanh's absence. (I spoke with Phap Dung in 2016, right after Donald Trump won the presidency, c.How We Can Use Mindfulness During Times of Conflict.)

Our talk has been edited for length and clarity.

Thich Nhat Hanh's Final Mindfulness Lesson: How to Die Peacefully (1) Verhoeven

Eliza Buckley

Tell me about your teacher's decision to go to Vietnam and how you came to understand the significance of it.


It's definitely going back to its roots.

He returned to the place where he grew up as a monk. This message is to remind ourselves that we didn't just come out of nowhere. We have root. We have ancestors. We are part of the lineage or stream.

It is a beautiful message to see yourself as a stream, as a stream, and it is also the deepest tenet of Buddhism: no self. We have no ego of our own, while we are filled with our ancestors.

(Video) No Birth No Death | Thich Nhat Hanh

He highlighted the Vietnamese tradition of ancestor worship as a custom in our community. Worship here means remembering. Being back in Vietnam means that we are a stream that can be traced back to the time of Buddha in India and even beyond Vietnam and China.

Eliza Buckley

So he reconnected his previous stream. This suggests that the larger community it created was also connected to the stream. The river will continue to flow behind him.


Like the circles he often draws with a brush. After living in the West for 50 years, he returned to Vietnam. When he first went to call for peace during the Vietnam War, that was the beginning of a cycle. Later, he went to other countries to teach and perform on tour. Then slowly back to Asia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China. Eventually, Vietnam opened the door and let him come back three more times. This return now looks like it closes the loop.

It is also as if the candlelight is carried on to the next candle, to more candles, to continue living, practicing and continuing to work. To me, it feels like a light is going on in each of us.

Eliza Buckley

As one of the oldest monks, do you want to pass the candle on?


I didn't know it until I met Thay in 1992, while I was busy with my ambitious architectural project in the US. But it taught me to really enjoy being in the moment, which is something we can train.

When I practice now, I keep candles lit and I can share my practice with others. Now I teach and take care of monks, nuns and lay friends who come to our community like our teachers.

Eliza Buckley

So he's 92 years old, he's in a fragile condition, but he's not bedridden. What was he doing in Vietnam?


When he gets there, the first thing he does is go to a stupa (shrine), light a candle and touch the ground. So much respect - it's like joining. You can gain so much energy by remembering your teachers.

He will not sit and wait. He is doing his best to enjoy the rest of his life. He eats regularly. He can even drink tea now, inviting his students to join him for a drink. And he moves very consciously.

Before the Lunar New Year, tourists come here to enjoy the flower market. On the way back, he directed the procession to change course and go to certain temples. At first everyone was confused, but later they realized that these temples are actually related to our church. He remembered the exact location of these temples and the directions to get there. Everyone present understood that he wanted to visit the temple of a monk who had lived in Plum Village, France for a long time. The other is where he studied as a young monk. It is clear that despite being physically challenged and confined to a wheelchair, he is still living his life and doing what his body and health allow.

(Video) This Body Is Not Me | Thich Nhat Hanh (short teaching video)

As long as he's healthy enough, he'll show upSangha meetingand community meetings. Even if he doesn't have to do anything. He didn't retire.

Eliza Buckley

But you're going to let him go too, aren't you?


Of course, walking away is one of our main practices. It has to do with realizing the permanence of things, the world and those we love.

This period of transition is his final and most profound teaching for our community. It shows us how we can transition gracefully even after a stroke and with physical limitations. He still takes every opportunity to enjoy his day.

My approach was not to wait until the moment when he breathed his last. Every day I practice letting go of it and letting it be with me, inside me, with every conscious breath I take. He lives in my breath, in my consciousness.

When I inhale, I breathe with my inner teacher. Exhaling, I see him smiling at me. When we take a step of kindness, we let him go with us, following in our footsteps. Letting go also means letting the teacher live inside of you and realizing that he is more than just a physical being in Vietnam now.

Eliza Buckley

What did you learn about death from your teachers?


In terms of letting go of this body, letting go of emotions, feelings, those things that we call identities, and practicing letting go of them, death exists.

The problem is we don't allow ourselves to die day by day. Instead, we have thoughts about each other and ourselves. Sometimes this is good for our growth, sometimes it is bad. We emerge and get stuck in an idea.

Before the age of 90, leaving is not a habit. This is one of the highest practices. This can lead you to a state of stillness, a state of freedom, a state of peace. Waking up every day as if reborn is practice.

On the historical dimension, we practice accepting that we are reaching a point where our bodies become limited and we are sick. There is birth, old age, sickness, and death. How will we deal with it?

Thich Nhat Hanh's Final Mindfulness Lesson: How to Die Peacefully (2) PVCEB

Eliza Buckley

What are some of the most important teachings of Buddhism about death?


We know that one day we will all rot and die - our neurons, our arms, our flesh and our bones. But if our practice and awareness are strong enough, we can see beyond the dying body and focus on the spiritual body as well. We move on through the spirit of our words, thoughts and actions. The three aspects of body, speech and mind still exist.

(Video) How to Bring Peace to Our Body | Thich Nhat Hanh (short teaching)

In Buddhism we call it the nature of no birth and no death. It is absolutely another dimension. It's not something idealized or pure. The body has to do what it does, and so does the mind.

But there is also continuity in the last dimension. We can develop this awareness of our eternal nature, this ultimate way of life. Then, little by little, our fear of death decreases.

This awareness also helps us to be more mindful in our daily lives, loving every moment and everyone in our lives.

One of the most powerful teachings he shared with us before his illness was not to build a stupa [a temple dedicated to his relics]. For him, put his ashes in a container for our prayers. He urges us not to. I'll paraphrase his message:

"Please don't build me a stupa. Please don't put my ashes in a vase, lock me up, restrict me from being me. I know it will be difficult for some of you. But if you For a stupa to be built, be sure to put up a sign that says "I am not here." A third sign says, "If I am anywhere, it is in your conscious breath and calm footsteps." "

Further reading:

  • Brother Phap Dung explainsAwareness of times of political conflict
  • Zen Master Frank OstaceskiWhat the living can learn from the dead
  • An interview with its author, Robert Wrightbecause buddhism is true
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(Video) How Can I Fall Asleep Quickly? | Thich Nhat Hanh

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Thich Nhat Hanh's Final Mindfulness Lesson: How to Die Peacefully (3)


What did Thich Nhat Hanh say about dying? ›

On death. “Our greatest fear is that when we die we will become nothing. Many of us believe that our entire existence is only a life span beginning the moment we are born or conceived and ending the moment we die. We believe that we are born from nothing and when we die we become nothing.

What was Thich Nhat Hanh's famous quote? ›

Thich Nhat Hanh Quotes
  • Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. ...
  • There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way. ...
  • It's very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. ...
  • Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity.

What must we do to overcome suffering according to Thich Nhat Hanh? ›

Some say that suffering is only an illusion or that to live wisely we have to “transcend” both suffering and joy. I say the opposite. The way to suffer well and be happy is to stay in touch with what is actually going on; in doing so, you will gain liberating insights into the true nature of suffering and of joy.

What is a better energy than anger to act according to Thich Nhat Hanh? ›

Nhat Hanh: Anger is the energy that people use in order to act. But when you are angry, you are not lucid, and you might do wrong things. That is why compassion is a better energy. And the energy of compassion is very strong.

What is the Buddhist mantra for the dying? ›

May I know myself forgiven for all the harm I may have thought and done, May I accomplish this profound practice of phowa, and die a good and peaceful death, And through the triumph of my death, may I be able to benefit all other beings, living or dead.

What is the Buddhist process of dying? ›

Generally, Buddhist teaching views life and death as a continuum, believing that consciousness (the spirit) continues after death and may be reborn. Death can be an opportunity for liberation from the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

What is true love Thich Nhat Hanh about? ›

In order to love in a real way, Thich Nhat Hanh explains, we need to learn how to be fully present in our lives. In True Love he offers readers the technique of conscious breathing as a method for synchronizing the mind and body to establish the conditions of love.

What does Thich Nhat Hanh say about love? ›

At the heart of Nhat Hanh's teachings is the idea that “understanding is love's other name” — that to love another means to fully understand his or her suffering. (“Suffering” sounds rather dramatic, but in Buddhism it refers to any source of profound dissatisfaction — be it physical or psychoemotional or spiritual.)

What do you mean by to be beautiful means to be yourself? ›

You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself - Quote. You are the most beautiful when you are yourself and not try to be anything you are not.

How do Buddhist get rid of suffering? ›

If a Buddhist wants to end suffering, they should search for ways to avoid ignorance, hatred and cravings. If they can do this then they will become free from samsara and reach enlightenment .

What is the only way to end suffering? ›

The only way to overcome suffering is to maintain a happy mood, enjoying every moment of our impermanent, brief, and changeable life. To end sufferings, we should: Identify and acknowledge the suffering. Practice meditation — the most powerful tool.

How do you transform suffering? ›

“A powerful way to transform your suffering,” Vandita says, “is through presence—focusing your awareness on the present moment rather than dwelling on past regrets or worrying about what the future holds.” Mindful presence can be cultivated with meditation or meditative experiences, like a favorite hobby or activity.

What does emptiness mean according to Nhat Hanh Thich? ›

– Thich Nhat Hanh. Tweet. 'Emptiness means to be full of everything but empty of a separate existence. ' This concise description of the notion of interbeing was one of Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh's defining contributions to the understanding of emptiness in the Buddhist tradition.

What is the root of anger? ›

Feelings of anger arise due to how we interpret and react to certain situations. Everyone has their own triggers for what makes them angry, but some common ones include situations in which we feel: threatened or attacked. frustrated or powerless.

What is the Buddhist state of wanting nothing? ›

Bodhidharma-Third practice, Seeking Nothing. “People of this world are deluded.

Which mantra remove fear of death? ›

Shiva Gayatri Mantra is extremely powerful, it gives you peace of mind and that pleases Lord Shiva. This is a very powerful mantra that helps you ask for forgiveness from Lord Shiva for any sin that you may have done along the course of your life. This extremely powerful mantra helps us escape the fear of death.

What is the most powerful mantra in Buddhism? ›

Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ (Sanskrit: ॐ मणि पद्मे हूँ, IPA: [õːː mɐɳɪ pɐdmeː ɦũː]) is the six-syllabled Sanskrit mantra particularly associated with the four-armed Shadakshari form of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.

What is the Buddhist calming prayer? ›

It goes “Om Mani Padme Hum” which translates as “hail to the jewel in the lotus.” This is the mantra of the Compassion of Buddha, and it is said to calm fears, soothe concerns, and even mend broken hearts.

What color flowers are not acceptable in Buddhist funerals? ›

Buddhist Funeral

White flowers are the traditional Buddhist flower of mourning and may be sent to the family. Sending red flowers or gifts of food are considered poor funeral etiquette.

Do Buddhists cry when someone dies? ›

Buddhists don't reject grief as “bad” or “wrong.” You're not a “bad Buddhist” if you grieve when someone dies. Buddhism simply holds that the experience of grief can be one of spiritual awakening if you grieve with intention and knowledge. » MORE: A will is only the first step.

What is life after death called? ›

The afterlife or life after death is a purported existence in which the essential part of an individual's stream of consciousness or identity continues to exist after the death of their physical body.

What are the 4 secrets of true love according to Buddhism? ›

The first is maitri – friendship, brotherhood, loving-kindness. And the second is karuna – capacity to understand the suffering and help remove and transform it – compassion. Mudita is the third element – joy – your joy is her joy, her joy is our joy. The last element is upeksha – nondiscrimination.

What is the purest form of true love? ›

The purest form of love is selflessness.

What are the three parts of true love? ›

Psychologist Robert Sternberg's theory describes types of love based on three different scales: intimacy, passion, and commitment. It is important to recognize that a relationship based on a single element is less likely to survive than one based on two or more.

What are the 4 elements of true love? ›

True love is made of four elements: loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. In Sanskrit, these are maitri (also known as metta), karuna, mudita, and upeksha, also known as the Brahmaviharas.

What are the four qualities of true love? ›

So, the Buddha stressed that the Four Immeasurables are vital for happiness. For love to be true love, it must contain compassion, joy, and equanimity. For compassion to be true compassion, it must have love, joy, and equanimity in it. True joy must contain love, compassion, and equanimity.

Can a Buddhist have a girlfriend? ›

Buddhism encourages nonattachment in romantic relationships. In order to follow the path of enlightenment, Buddhism teaches people to discard all things in life that can cause pain, so one must detach from the idea of a perfect person and instead accept a partner unconditionally.

What is a truly beautiful person? ›

It's someone who appreciates the beauty in other people without any jealousy or mimicry. A beautiful person can look at you and actually see you, accept you and recognize the beauty and the divine in you. Their presence makes them beautiful.

How do I look at myself as beautiful? ›

11 Ways to Feel Beautiful
  1. STAND (AND SIT) TALL. ...
  6. JUST SAY "THANKS. ...
  7. WEAR COLOR. ...

How can I be the most beautiful version of myself? ›

10 effortless ways to be your most beautiful, confident self
  1. Be gracious. The first step to feeling beautiful is recognizing the beautiful things in your life. ...
  2. Laugh (especially at yourself) ...
  3. Do beautiful things. ...
  4. Treat yourself. ...
  5. Take care of yourself. ...
  6. Learn something new. ...
  7. Sparkle. ...
  8. Give yourself time.
Jan 9, 2017

What two things must a Buddhist follow to end suffering? ›

The Fourth Noble truth charts the method for attaining the end of suffering, known to Buddhists as the Noble Eightfold Path. The steps of the Noble Eightfold Path are Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

How do you end all the pain and suffering? ›

Tips for relieving suffering
  1. Make a commitment to yourself to accept the reality of a certain situation. Try not to judge yourself for not being able to accept your reality. ...
  2. Refocus on acceptance. ...
  3. Make your own list of things you'd like to accept. ...
  4. Break the situation down. ...
  5. Focus on the present. ...
  6. Don't try to accept judgments.

What is the Buddhist antidote to sadness? ›

Be patient and kind to yourself. A clean mind creates space for loving-kindness, compassion, and happiness. Emotional Hygiene is the antidote to destructive emotions.

What is the truth of ending suffering? ›

The key to ending suffering is to remove all desire, ill will and ignorance. Without these causes of suffering we can experience absolute happiness, perfect wisdom, peace and all the qualities of Enlightenment. Nirvana cannot be described, it is only understood truly by a person who has experienced it.

What is God's answer to suffering? ›

The cross is God's ultimate response to the brokenness of humanity – and that includes your pain and suffering. He walks through every season of life with you, seeing that exhaustion and frustration life can bring, reminding you that He is so compassionate towards you that He's already responded.

What were the 3 forms of suffering? ›

Types of suffering
  • Dukkha-dukkha – the suffering of suffering. This refers to the physical and emotional discomfort and pain all humans experience in their lives.
  • Viparinama-dukkha – the suffering of change. ...
  • Sankhara-dukkha – the suffering of existence.

What is the cure of suffering? ›

Cessation of suffering (Nirodha)

The Buddha taught that the way to extinguish desire, which causes suffering, is to liberate oneself from attachment. This is the third Noble Truth - the possibility of liberation. The Buddha was a living example that this is possible in a human lifetime.

Does suffering change a person? ›

Suffering can make us more resilient, better able to endure hardships. Just as a muscle, in order to build up, must endure some pain, so our emotions must endure pain in order to strengthen.

What are the 5 steps of suffering? ›

The five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – are often talked about as if they happen in order, moving from one stage to the other.

What did Thich Nhat Hanh say about death? ›

On death. “Our greatest fear is that when we die we will become nothing. Many of us believe that our entire existence is only a life span beginning the moment we are born or conceived and ending the moment we die. We believe that we are born from nothing and when we die we become nothing.

What are the two truths in Buddhism? ›

The Buddha's teaching of the Dharma is based on two truths: a truth of worldly convention and an ultimate truth. Those who do not understand the distinction drawn between these two truths do not understand the Buddha's profound truth.

What are the two kinds of emptiness? ›

We can speak of two kinds of emptiness: the emptiness of the dharma of teachings and the emptiness of the dharma of mind.

What mental illness is anger based on? ›

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a mental health condition marked by frequent impulsive anger outbursts or aggression. The episodes are out of proportion to the situation that triggered them and cause significant distress.

What are the 3 root poisons? ›

The basic causes of suffering are known as the Three Poisons : greed, ignorance and hatred. These are often represented as a rooster (greed), a pig (ignorance) and a snake (hatred).

What are the three cravings in Buddhism? ›

It is typically translated as craving, and is of three types: kāma-taṇhā (craving for sensual pleasures), bhava-taṇhā (craving for existence), and vibhava-taṇhā (craving for non-existence).

What are the three types of laziness in Buddhism? ›

The Mahayana tradition identifies three types of laziness: not wanting to do anything; discouragement; and busyness.

What is the Buddhist quote about dying? ›

"Life is uncertain; death is certain." This short quote sums up the idea death is inevitable and cannot ever be avoided or controlled. In the Dhammapada it is told Buddha said, "You too shall pass away.

What is the quote about meditation and death? ›

“Death hangs over thee. While thou livest, while it is in thy power, be good.” “Meditate upon what you ought to be in body and soul when death overtakes you; meditate on the brevity of life, and the measureless gulf of eternity behind it and before, and upon the frailty of everything material.”

What were the last rites of Thich Nhat Hanh? ›

Thich Nhat Hanh's funeral lasted seven days as a silent meditation course. Around 7:30 a.m., the coffin of Thich Nhat Hanh was moved from the pagoda. A long line of monks, nuns and people followed slowly. The distance from Tu Hieu Pagoda to the cremation site is about 8 km and everyone walked the last two km.

What is the Zen saying about death? ›

There is a saying in Zen: 'If you die before you die, then when you die, you don't die'!

How do Buddhists answer fear of death? ›

A central tenet of Buddhism is that we only fear death because we suffer from an illusion of a persistent self. Giving up that belief should reduce fear of death. In particular, it should reduce fear of death of the self.

What is Buddhist mindfulness of death? ›

Maraṇasati (mindfulness of death, death awareness) is a Buddhist meditation practice of remembering (frequently keeping in mind) that death can strike at anytime (AN 6.20), and we should practice assiduously appamada and with urgency in every moment, even in the time it takes to draw one breath.

What is a calm quote about death? ›

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death.” “The greatest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” “Life is for the living. Death is for the dead.

What did Marcus Aurelius say about death? ›

The Fear of Death and Dying According to the Stoics

Marcus Aurelius, the most famous Stoic, once said: “Stop whatever you're doing for a moment and ask yourself: Am I afraid of death because I won't be able to do this anymore?” (Meditations X, 29).

What are the 3 last rites? ›

Three of these sacraments – Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, and the Eucharist, or Final Communion – are considered Last Rites, or Viaticum.

What is said during last rites? ›

Eternal rest grant unto him/her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him/her. May he/she rest in peace. Amen. May almighty God bless us with his peace and strength, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

What is the last rite of the dead? ›

Zombies Anonymous (originally Last Rites of the Dead) is a horror/comedy zombie film released in 2006, starring Gina Ramsden and Joshua Nelson. It was written and directed by Marc Fratto and produced by New York production company Insane-o-rama Productions.

Is death of a loved one considered trauma? ›

Sudden bereavement is a type of trauma. Although it affects everyone differently there are common factors that influence a person's reaction: Whether or not the person was present at their loved one's death. If they were present, were they also injured or at threat of an injury.

How do I stop grieving before death? ›

There are many ways to help you manage feelings of anticipatory grief, such as:
  1. Find someone to talk to about your feelings. ...
  2. Keep a journal to record and work through your feelings.
  3. Try to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
  4. Limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume.

What medication is used for grief? ›

Common medications used in grief treatment regimens include antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds and medications to promote sleep.


1. Pebble for your pocket Meditation
2. "A Cloud Never Dies" biographical documentary of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh narrated by Peter Coyote
(Plum Village)
3. Loving-Kindness Meditation: How to Start the Year Right | Thich Nhat Hanh, 2009
(Plum Village App)
4. Stopping and Looking Deeply | Thich Nhat Hanh (short teaching video)
(Plum Village App)
5. Mindful Breathing Meditation with Thich Nhat Hanh
(Sounds True)
6. 6 Teachings By Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh
(Peaceful Breathing - Meditation and Mindfulness )


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