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A Cloud Never Dies

In response to the war and growing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, our international Plum Village community is releasing A Cloud Never Dies, a documentary about our teacher, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), and we have written an open letter calling for peace and an immediate ceasefire.

Watch the Documentary

Throughout his life, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) was a tireless advocate for peace and human rights. Some of his deepest teachings, insights, and practices were forged in the wars in Vietnam.

There is no path to peace; peace is the path.

Thich Nhat Hanh

As Thay’s “spiritual continuation,” and in response to the war and growing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, on April 2, 2022, the International Plum Village Community is releasing A Cloud Never Dies, a moving documentary about Thay’s life, as well as a letter from his senior monastics calling for all parties to stop the killing in Ukraine.

Narrated by actor Peter Coyote, A Cloud Never Dies provides an intimate glimpse into the life of the global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist revered around the world for his pioneering teachings on mindfulness, global ethics, and peace.

The film is a collaboration involving monastic historians and community members and filmmakers Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis. Links to the letter on Ukraine, the film, a facilitators’ guide for sharing and responding to the film with Sanghas and other community members, and other resources are found below.

Open Letter Calling for Peace

Dear Human Family,

Watching the tragedy of war continue to unfold daily in Ukraine, we open our hearts to the suffering of people young and old. As an international community of Engaged Buddhism in the Plum Village tradition, we observe the war with pain and alarm.

In our Buddhist community, every Christmas we listen with great joy to the sound of Russian church bells, and we open our hearts to the rich spiritual heritage of Russia and Europe. Our teacher, the venerable Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, has said that “A bell is always a bell; whether it’s Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or Buddhist, it is still a bell.” Listening to the bell, no matter what our cultural or religious roots are, we can have a deep encounter where we touch peace and a shared spiritual dimension. We all yearn for peace. We all need peace.

Our community’s own roots lie in the tradition of Engaged Buddhism in Vietnam, where more than three million people died in a war that lasted nearly 20 years and some two million fled as refugees. We know from our teacher that war is never a solution. It leads only to division and hatred that can last for generations.

Read the full letter.

Watch it together

Designed for Sangha and other community leaders, this downloadable PDF offers background information about the film and about Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, suggestions for facilitating a discussion of the film, and resources for learning more about Thay’s teachings on peacemaking and ways practitioners can cultivate non-violence.

Become an Advocate for Peace

A Cloud Never Dies isn’t only intended to inform viewers. We hope it also inspires you to take action, in keeping with Thay’s teachings on engaged Buddhism. After watching this film, and reading the letter on Ukraine, you may ask: what can I do to be Thay’s continuation and to be an instrument of peace? Following are several suggestions, compiled with help from our lay Dharma teachers, for you to consider as your next steps:

  • Start a Book Discussion: Using one of the books listed below under Selected Resources, form an online or in-person book discussion group to explore more deeply Thay’s use of non-violent action during the Vietnam War. 
  • Walk for Peace: Schedule an outside, silent walking meditation for peace in your community. Before your walk, invite the bell and consider reading one of Thay’s poems (such as Call Me by My True Names) or a passage from one of Thay’s books. Afterward, consider forming a circle, dedicating the merit of the walk to all the victims of war and violence (including the perpetrators), and invite participants to share from their hearts anything that may have noticed along the walk, inside themselves or around them. 
  • Write Love Letters: Thay and Sister Chan Khong often wrote “love letters” to political leaders, addressing them as brothers and sisters, and asking them to choose the path of peace when considering legislation and leading their country or state. If you are part of a sangha, consider coming together to write letters to your political leaders, always keeping in mind that loving kindness opens more hearts (and doors) than anger and criticism. 
  • Commit to Right Action: The Plum Village Community offers the 5 Mindfulness Trainings and 14 Mindfulness Trainings to support ethical and peaceful living. Regularly reciting these precepts, alone or as part of a sangha, can provide nourishment and support as you determine how best to speak and live in a world struggling with violence and despair.
  • Join Hands with Additional Good Friends: Thay’s students have much to offer the peace, environmental, and racial justice communities. In return, we have much to learn from other groups working on these subjects. Look for opportunities to work together in mindfulness as friends on the path! 

About the Documentary

Narrated by actor Peter Coyote, A Cloud Never Dies is the first authorized biographical film made about the life of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Weaving together original video and photographic archive, this film depicts the rise of a young humble Vietnamese monk who became one of the world’s most influential and beloved spiritual leaders, inspiring millions to practice mindfulness to find peace in themselves and in the world. This film was commissioned by the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism and created by Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastic historians and community members, together with Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis, who produced the feature documentary, Walk With Me.”

About the producers

  • Marc J. Francis is a director, producer and cinematographer whose documentary films have won world wide critical acclaim and have been distributed across cinemas, television and streaming platforms. As a storyteller and seeker of wisdom Marc shines a light on the human condition by exploring the extraordinary stories of marginalized characters and unsung heroes in his signature immersive and intimate style.
  • Max Pugh is a Franco-British feature documentary and fiction film director who has also gained critical acclaim worldwide for his video art and installation work with the composer and filmmaker Michael Nyman. Max has also directed television drama and written and directed short films supported by the UK Film Council.

Responses

Thich Nhat Hanh said that even if all of the bombs in the world were shipped to the moon, until we cultivated peace in our hearts, war and violence would persist. Peace, he said, begins with ourselves. After watching A Cloud Never Dies, or as you and your Sanghas explore ways to be peace in your communities, we would love to hear your insights and stories. Please feel free to share them below.

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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