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Buddhism in the News


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Is the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh a Radical? Hardly.

As most of you know I have been following the crisis within the community of monastics following the teachings of the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh in Vietnam. The Western news organization, "The Guardian" quoted some of his followers in that Southeast Asian country. These monastics made the statement that their tradition is radical. "The Guardian" though didn't seem to investigate why or what made them say their tradition was "radical." It then assumed that this must mean that Thich Nhat Hanh is a radical. However, they missed the context by a mile. I'd expect the Vietnamese Communist government to say such but not a Western news outlet who should know better. It's lazy journalism.

Here's the context: The Zen tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh might be radical in Vietnam where the iron-fisted government maintains strict control over the actions of religious organizations. However,it's not radical in free societies like the U.S. and France where Nhat Hanh is most established. So calling their beliefs "radical" must be taken in the context of what radical means in a dictatorial country like Vietnam.

The full quote from the monastics was, "The followers, who describe their monastery as the 'most radical and fastest growing' in Vietnam, say the authorities regard Nhat Hanh as a threat to their tight control over religious observance.

: They clearly missed that important distinction even though it was lying right in front of them in their own quote!! Perhaps the distinction was implied but that's still misleading and confusing to those who aren't aware of Thich Nhat Hanh or his order. The way it reads makes it appear as if Nhat Hanh is some warrior monk, which couldn't be further from the truth. Thich Nhat Hanh is a peaceful, loving, kind, compassionate, non-violent devotee to the Buddhadharma. That hardly makes him a "radical" in the eyes of most people around the world. I hope, "The Guardian" realizes their mistake and corrects it in the future because the idea of a skinny, 82 year old Zen Buddhist monk being a radical except in the eyes of the paranoid Vietnamese government is laughable. When I think of radical I think of those anarchists who protest G-20 meetings and other international summits/conferences.

Can you picture Thich Nhat Hanh manning the barricades, wearing a gas mask and throwing Molotov Cocktails at police and military personnel? So when a Western news agency labels Thay a "radical" they are making a factual mistake. However, what's worse is that they are creating undo suspicion of a man many consider to be one of the most positive, beneficial and serene beings to walk the Earth today. In fact the world would be an even better place with many more "radicals" like him.

~Peace to all beings~

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Reino Ruusu said...

Amazing. I wouldn't have expected this from the Guardian. Thich Nhat Hanh is a radical in the eyes of the Vietnamese government like Dalai Lama is a radical for the Chinese.

Marco said...

Is he really a radical? I think so. digital signage software

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