“Where is Thay?” A Christmas message from Plum Village



23rd December, 2018


Dear Beloved Community,

Our dear Teacher has been at Từ Hiếu Root Temple now for two months, with many of our elders, including Sister Chan Khong, Brother Phap An and a team of monastic attendants. Thay is doing well, his eyes as bright and lucid as ever. Even in the heavy rains, Thay visits the tomb of his teacher everyday, sometimes three times in the day. He has been coming out to enjoy the grounds of the Root Temple, visiting the Half Moon Pond, along all the paths past the bamboo groves, and the well where he would wash his feet as a young novice after attending the buffaloes. It has been lovely to see so many people visiting Hue to be near Thay, to enjoy the Root Temple and to pay tribute to our spiritual ancestors.

Thay’s return to Từ Hiếu has been a bell of mindfulness reminding us all of how precious it is to belong to a spiritual lineage with deep roots. Whether we have attended a retreat; or simply read one of Thay’s books or watched a talk, and have been touched by his teachings—we are all connected to this ancestral stream of wisdom and compassion. Throughout his teaching career, Thay has opened the Dharma door of connecting with our ancestors, as a way to tangibly practice the Buddha’s teachings on no-self, and to see ourselves as a continuation and not a separate self-entity.


Connecting to our true home
In this holiday season, we have a chance to return home to our roots, to be with our loved ones, and to take time to come back to ourselves. With our mindful breath and steps, with our awareness and care for our physical body, and with our connection to our community of fellow practitioners, we know that, wherever we are, we can have a true spiritual home to take refuge in.

As Thay would often remind us, the greatest gift we can offer to othersand ourselves—is our true presence. To return home is to be present. Breathing in and out with the energy of mindfulness is enough to establish ourselves in the present moment, right where we are, with whoever is around us; whether they are joyful and festive, or facing challenges, loneliness and sorrow. With our mindful breathing we can truly be there with whatever is coming up, in ourselves and in our loved ones. Simply being present with compassion, care and deep listening is enough to make a difference and bring relief.

Where is Thay?
Looking deeply with the eyes of signlessness, we can see that Thay is not only in Vietnam. Thay is fully present in us as we enjoy a meal with our loved ones, knowing it is a precious moment. Thay is sitting at our side as we breathe relaxingly and wait in our car at a stop light. Whether we are in a city, a remote village or out in the field of action for climate and social justice, wherever the practice is, our teacher is there too. Thay is there when we can pause and enjoy the simple wonders of life and when we can resist the rush, confusion and noise of modern society. Thay is there in our community wherever any of his students, lay and monastic, are practicing mindful walking, breathing, listening and engaging.

We know that our planet is facing great challenges, in terms of environmental destruction, climate change and species extinction. Our human family is experiencing profound political instability, social turmoil, continued violence and displacement. When we reflect on the past year as practitioners, we are asking ourselves, What can we do to help? What’s the best we can contribute as individuals and as mindful communities to the collective awakening? Where can we find a true refuge for ourself and for others?

Thay’s words of guidance are clear:

To take refuge, first of all, is to take refuge in the island of ourselves and then in the island of a
These islands are communities of resistance. “Resis­tance” does not mean to oppose others. It means to protect ourselves, like staying inside the house to protect ourselves from the weather. We resist being destroyed by society’s pollution, noise, unhappiness, harsh words, and negative behavior. If we do not know how to take care of ourselves, we may get wounded and be unable to help others. If we join with others to build a sangha that can nourish and protect us and resist society’s destructiveness, we will be able to return home. Many years ago, I suggested that peace activists in the West establish communities of resistance. A true sangha is always therapeutic. To return to our own body and mind is already to return to our roots, to our true home, to our true person. With the support of a sangha, we can do it.

Thich Nhat Hanh ("Finding our True Heritage")

The power of communities
Internationally, our community of resistance is growing stronger and becoming a stable refuge for many people from all walks of life. As a sangha we are practicing to go forward one breath at a time, one step at a time, one person at a time, beginning with ourselves. With the support of the collective we can recognize, embrace and transform whatever is coming up inside us, so we can see clearly what to do and what not to do to help the situation. We now have over 1,500 local sanghas, and every week new sanghas are forming around the world. We have the Earth Holder Sangha, the ARISE Sangha, the Wake Up movement of young people and the Wake Up Schools network cultivating mindfulness in education. Each year, dozens of young men and women from many different nationalities are ordaining as monastic brothers and sisters; our growing community now reaches over 100,000 people per year worldwide, joining us for retreats, public talks and mindfulness workshops. Our new Healing Spring Monastery outside Paris opened in November and will be offering a peaceful refuge for many Parisians this holiday season. This autumn, our monastic brothers and sisters in Plum Village came together to deepen our chanting in English and French, the fruit of which is the new CD Chanting as a River. We will “resist” together as a spiritual family by bringing freshness to pollution, serenity to noise, kindness to places of harshness, and seeds of peace to the fields of hate.

Will your New Year be new?
The New Year 2019 is an opportunity to reflect on what ways we can resist to ensure a better path forward for ourselves, our community and our planet. It will require us to be courageous in making changes in our life to ensure the New Year will truly be “new”. We can resist by making a clear, compassionate resolution in terms of daily mindfulness practice, transforming habit energies, or taking our life in a new direction, even in small ways.

In October, new scientific research called for a change in diet away from meat and dairy towards less resource-intensive plant-based foods. We can commit to a number of plant-based food days per week. We can find ways to eat local, seasonal and organic foods; and maybe ask our local restaurant to offer more vegan or vegetarian choices. We can make other consumption choices that reduce damage to our planet. For example, making a commitment not to buy any more clothing items for this coming year by looking into our closet and asking, Do we really need another sweater or pair of shoes? In this kind of resistance there is no corporation, no politician and no policy to oppose or to rebel against. It all comes down to our own free conscious choice to change the way we consume whether that is food, fuel, energy or other items from around the world. We can make these choices in the spirit of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, with compassion and joy, and without judging others or imposing our views.

Collective insight
Changing the collective consciousness will require us to gather, discuss action and exchange ideas in our local sanghas to find ways to inspire and propel change. As a 15-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg reminded us at the recent Poland climate conference, we do not want to steal the future from our children. Sacrifices must be made, conveniences reduced, and habits changed. Looking deeply together we can continue our Teacher and find skilful ways to support new frontiers of healing and compassion for our planet.

Dear beloved community, as we write this message, the days are getting longer as more light shines on the northern hemisphere. It is a great happiness to have each other and a beautiful path to walk together. Wherever we are this holiday season, we are not alone. We have a path of practice, we have a community.

We wish you a peaceful and warm holiday season,

The brothers and sisters of Plum Village

p.s. If you would like to receive updates like this about Thay and news about the community continuing his legacy directly in your inbox, please sign up here.



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Just a simple monk!

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38 comments on ““Where is Thay?” A Christmas message from Plum Village
  1. Claire says:

    Dearest Thây, I have been practicing the calm/ease meditation for you and sending love, peace, joy and healing to you, to all of the sangha and to all living beings. I feel you have given me the greatest gifts of my life and I thank you with all of my heart. ‘Dear one, I know you are there and I am here for you.’
    Thank you so much, brothers and sisters of Plum Village, for this update and for all that you are and all that you do.

  2. gabrielle morningstar says:

    I am so glad that plum village is not too far away. My goal is a trip there as soon as possible.

  3. Bingbing says:

    Dear Thay
    I miss you very much even though I have never met you in person.One day my teacher gave me a book “walking meditation “ Since then,you have been my teacher.I know you are in Vietnam please tell me when I go there this month, Is it possible to see my dear Thay?

    • happy says:

      tu hieu root temp is at hue, and you may book hotels nearby which are beautiful and not expensive at all. it is super peaceful and joyful here, even i still have no.chance to meet him yet i am already very happy

  4. Ilja says:

    Good suggestion about the commitment to not buy any new clothing this year ! I have that commitment adopted for 2019 ! Thanks dear community and teachers for being there/here.

  5. Thu Ly says:

    Thank you for this lovely letter, I take it as a reminder when and where, we seem lost in the rat race!
    And from this year, I told my family,relatives,friends that I won’t buy them anymore presents for birthday,Xmas,New Years…the intended spending money would go to some charities, and they all happily agree.

  6. Peggy Redmond says:

    Many thanks for this beautiful words. I really needed inspiration today. My wonderful Sangha at York is vitally important to my happiness, and progress.

    Peggy Redmond

  7. Karen T Rowan says:

    I first became aware of Thay when he spoke before a musical program with Ravi Shankar at the Washington National Cathedral years ago. His teachings have helped transform my vision of what is possible in this world and in my life. Sending best wishes to Thay and the world-wide Sangha for 2019 and beyond.

  8. Kat says:

    Thank you honorable teacher for this beautiful and meaningful message.
    2019 will definitely be a year of movement toward peace, as our youth are fed up. Yet, we hope that their hearts find peace in their language and actions with great compassion nd love.

  9. Bryan Palmer says:

    May we all enjoy and prosper life to the fullest this upcoming 2019.

  10. Lise says:

    Thank you to Thay and the sangha, Feeling very greatful for the teachings…I really love the teaching on offering my true presence to others.

  11. FERNANDO ARTURO Senior says:

    With gratitude

  12. Chagwang Garel says:

    Hello and thank you so much for this beautiful letter. I will be in Vietnam in early March. Can you please tell me if you except visitors at the Temple? Is there someone I can write to in order to discuss details for example particular times or days that I can come? Thank you for your time.

    In Dharma, Chagwang Jennifer Garel

  13. Mỗi đêm trong giờ cầu nguyện, con đều hướng lòng về Sư Ông, về Tăng Đoàn, về Mẹ con 96 tuổi, và những người thân đang có tâm/thân bệnh. Con nhìn lên đức Bụt và cám ơn tất cả đã cho con có được con đường đạo để sống và là hành trình trong cuộc đời còn lại của con để thực tập Bi, Trí và Dũng. Con chọn sống tỉnh thức, thực tập lời dạy của Sư ông suốt cuộc đời còn lại của con.
    Con biết ơn Giáo Pháp, con biết ơn sự dạy dỗ của Sư Ông và sự thực tập của Tăng đoàn, con biết ơn Cha Mẹ sanh thành và muôn loài đã có mặt để cuộc đời con có ý nghĩa, và đáng sống.

  14. Hugo Abad says:

    Thank you for this energy. I’m so grateful for this message and for all the people who are working, including me, for a society who takes care of the planet and every human being.

  15. Baratosi Iosif-Gavril says:

    Thank You!Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to Thay and the Sangha!

  16. Linh Tran says:

    All positive thoughts and really inspiring others in the noisy life as today. Much appreciated for this great mind.

  17. Jon Stein says:

    A beautiful festive message, thank you! I feel proud to be part of this wonderful spiritual family, and, at the same time, gently challenged to renew my efforts in the service of peace and awakening. Blessings to all my brothers and sisters in the sangha, with great gratitude to Thay and the monastic community for their tireless work, guidance and encouragement.

    • Lucia says:

      Thank you to Thay for creating this great comunity in the world. For giving us his wisdom and love without frontiers. For remembering us we have a path. Wishing him have health and good quality of life and that be between us long time.

  18. Scott.hovda@gmail.com says:

    Happy new year! Sending love to Thay and the Sangha!

  19. karina says:

    Thank you .

  20. Vicenta says:

    Thank you very much for this beautiful and inspiring message for our beloved teacher. Peace, beauty and harmony for all of you and my deepest gratitude to Plum Village.

  21. Donna Barnett says:

    Oh, thank you Teacher and Plum village for this Christmas wish come true tonite. I read and share all l can of my Teacher’s words and philosophies.l would like to begin 2019 as Thay suggests. Grant us mindful peace and courage to save this lovely place for our Precious children and Grand6. HAVE MERCYDonna Barnett, A woman who loves God and her Teacher her on earth.

  22. Stephanie says:

    For the love and wisdom, thank you to Thay and to all who continue his work. Namaste.

  23. Will Desjean Sr says:

    Mindful Blessings

  24. Daniel (True Transmission of Life) says:

    Dear Respected Thay, noble Brothers and Sisters, and far flung friends, thank you for the peace of this message, for the continuation of light, for the planting of seeds.

  25. cinda says:

    Thank you for this compassionate and kindloving message,
    and for keeping us in connection with Tay’s journey.
    All Blessings,
    Have a healthy and joyous mindful 2019 New Year!

  26. David Nelson says:

    I’m feeling gratitude for this loving Christmas message of Thay’s well-being & his continuing in compassionate, wise actions through the sangha, in the ten directions. May we be joyful & diligent practicing together, helping ensure that a future is possible.

  27. Bryan says:

    Pax et bonum

  28. Joan says:

    Prayers for peace in the world and continued lit flames of light in those who are devoted to sharing the light and love with all. Many thanks to Thay for all he has shared and continues to share by his life.

  29. Jon Anderholm says:

    All he gives to humanity….
    and to Nature…
    The great teacher….

  30. Jill H Cooper says:

    If I had to describe the times I listened to Thay in 2 words, they would be “looking deeply”. From his teachings we can all learn to do just that. Thank You for your time and lessons with us Thay.

  31. We had the privilege of hearing Thay at UMass. Here are the aspects that I remember:
    (1) before the talk, we were encouraged to quiet ourselves in order to be open to really listening and hearing:
    (2) monks chanted, children gathered around the place where the teacher would sit.
    (3) Thay walked out quietly, without a word, and took his seat in the midst of the children, looking out at all of us.
    (4) He gave sublime messages by telling simple, real stories, whichhad both an outer layer, but so much more, to take with us and reflect on our way home.
    Such a blessing, so many lessons@ Mary Latela

  32. Nancy G. says:

    All Good thoughts and many blessings for ease and peacefulness to Thay and all.

  33. Andrew says:

    Peace be with you always 🙏

  34. Katherine Kelly says:

    Although I have never been to plum village, I did try to get there. I also have never met Thay, but read and believe his tried and tested philosophy (way of life that is best practiced for peaceful co existance with humanity). I bought a number of his books for Christmas presents, and know they will be appreciated.
    Thanks to Him for sharing all of his insights with us , gained from his experience of life (very painful , I gather, a lot of the time).
    May Christmas be a continuation of this great human’s peaceful discovery.