On Facebook, friends of noted Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh were shocked to learn that the 88-year old teacher experienced a severe brain hemorrhage on November 11. For now, he is receiving 24-hour intensive care from specialist doctors, nurses and from his monastic disciples. He is still very responsive and shows every indication of being aware of the presence of those around him. He is able to move his feet, hands and eyes. There are signs that a full recovery may be possible.
Louise Reid Ritchie of Tallahassee, Fla., wrote that this is the time to remember Thich Nhat Hanh’s own words about 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. And so we are filled with fear of annihilation.
“The Buddha has a very different understanding of our existence. It is the understanding that birth and death are notions. They are not real. The fact that we think they are true makes a powerful illusion that causes our suffering. The Buddha taught that there is no birth; there is no death; there is no coming; there is no going; there is no same; there is no different; there is no permanent self; there is no annihilation. We only think there is. When we understand that we cannot be destroyed, we are liberated from fear. It is a great relief. We can enjoy life and appreciate it in a new way.”