Update: Plum Village France is currently closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sister Chan Khong on Thich Nhat Hanh: He’s Getting Stronger Every Day

Sister Chan Khong brings us up to date on Thich Nhat Hanh’s health and the future of his teachings and community (https://www.lionsroar.com/thich-nhat-hanh-getting-stronger-every-day/).

Photo by Paul Davis


Melvin McLeod: Following his stroke three years ago, Thich Nhat Hanh is now resting and recovering at Plum Village in Thailand. How is he doing?

He cannot stand up on his feet yet, but he is stronger and stronger every day. He has started to say a few words, although not very clearly. Sometimes we sing songs like, “I have arrived, I am home in the here and now,” and he’ll say “here,” “now,” and so on. He is making good progress, but it is slow.

I had the honor to visit Thay when he was being treated in San Francisco. He was in a wheelchair and didn’t speak, but it was clear he was as sharp, present, and engaged as ever. You were with him in San Francisco then, and you told me how close he had come to death.

Thich Nhat Hanh already had serious health problems for many years—with his lungs and his digestive system—before he had the stroke. When he had the stroke, the neurologists said he would not live more than one day. I think it was a miracle that he survived.

Yes. You told me that you believe the prayers and good wishes of people around the world—students and non-students, Buddhists and people of other faiths—made the difference.

When he was still alive after three days, they moved him to the best neurological hospital in that part of France. Then the press mistakenly reported that Thich Nhat Hanh had died. Andrea Miller from Lion’s Roar called me and asked if it was true. I said, “No, my master is still alive.” She said, “Can we announce that he is still alive?” and I said, “Of course, please.”

After that, millions of people sent the energy of healing and love from their hearts to him. Then the neurologist discovered that the fluid in Thay’s brain had reduced quite a lot. He said, “I cannot understand why that happened, but now I can guarantee you he will live.”

His teachings have benefited millions of people around the world, and over the decades, hundreds of thousands have attended his teachings in person. I was fortunate to attend one of his five-day retreats and his Dharma teachings were among the most powerful and comprehensive I have heard. Now that he is no longer teaching personally, will his teachings continue to reach people?

At the beginning after Thay’s stroke, we thought it would be difficult to continue. Every year, we have a gathering at Plum Village in France for four days to practice and hear Dharma talks. When Thay was giving the talks, about twelve to thirteen hundred people would come for them. Now, the same number of people come to hear the talks at Plum Village, maybe even more.

“There’s no doubt that Thay’s impact is growing.”

So the benefit of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings will continue in Europe, in the United States, in Asia, and elsewhere. I don’t think there will be any problem with the continuation of Thay’s teachings. Many people come because they have read his books. They try their best to transform and so they come for a day or a week of mindfulness. There’s no doubt that Thay’s impact is growing.

Thich Nhat Hanh never named a successor, even you as his most senior disciple. What is the future of his lineage and community?

Even before the stroke, I think Thay prepared everything in advance. He didn’t want to have one heir to replace him. He said the sangha’s collective insight is very important.

So his continuation is the sangha of Dharma Teachers, the sangha of monks and nuns, and the sangha of lay practitioners. That is the key for us. Sometimes, as a big sister, I might think I have the power and the right view. But it’s not true. We need the collective insight of many Dharma Teachers. That is one of the Dharma seals of Thich Nhat Hanh. He gave his heritage to the whole sangha of monastics and lay practitioners.

Join the conversation

  • Dear sister Khong, I trust that you have already the help of the best specialists in speech recovery. I’ve read that working on the hands is of paramount importance for it. So I ask all the friends and Sangha to offer him in turn an extra personal hand massage and hand bath with rosemary and ginger and thyme. Also nice if you can find some Metamorphic technique practitioner.
    With love

  • Thay you are a prophet, a humble servant of love and kindness. From a floor in San Francisco, you lifted me up. You filled my heart with joy, faith and the ultimate belief in love. You permeate all spaces you transcend all cultures, you reach hearts from wherever you are. I’m in Africa now and still I Count on you in my deep darkest moments….I look to you for strength and guidance. You are stronger than pain, despair and sadness. I send you love, healing, hope healing and I wish you less suffering as you help others to suffer less. I know this message will reach you. Look at the blue sky and feel the love that we all wish in you.you my greatest teacher.I ove you!

  • Today we have learned that at our daughter’s school is more violence and sexual abuse between the kids going on than we have come to know over the last few months already. Our daughter is 7 years old …
    In all the processing of my anxiety and worry about the world we live in and how on earth we can keep her safe, I realized how wonderful it is to have a community of people that is concerned with bettering themselves, coming to grips with themselves and practicing mindfulness towards themselves and others. And even though it’s online and I cannot get in touch with you in person, the knowing of that all of you are there to make this world little bit by bit better is assuring and comforting. I feel deep gratitude for Thay, for the Sangha around him, and every single person mediating and coming bit by bit to peace .
    Deep heartfelt thanks to you for your practice. 🙏❤️

  • I have just recently started to listen to Thich Nhat Hanh. He has already made a big impact on my life. I am practising mindfulness on a daily basis and I feel a real connection to his teachings. I pray he continues to get stronger and stronger. What a blessing he is to the world. I have just recently bought 2 if his books and I look forward to reading them. I can learn a lot from this wonderful man. Sending him love ❤️

  • I have watched a number of the posted Dharma talks given by Brothers and Sisters at Plum Village since Thay had to pass along this role. It has given me great joy to see how wonderful a continuation of Thay they are! On the one hand, all these monastics sincerely convey the same basic messages as Thay would–yet each is a genuine creative individual in the best sense, sharing their personal stories that give life to what they have disvovered and are sharing. And the best part is that there’s none of what can sometimes happen in these circumstances…of someone ‘showing off’ that they are or should be thought of as the ‘next Thay’. There’s zero of that sort of attitude. These students are Thay’s best testimonial!

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    What is Mindfulness

    Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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