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Buddhadharma : Summer 2019
40 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY The Vietnam in which Thich Nhat Hanh grew up was a place of tensions: between old and new, French and Vietnamese, Buddhist and Catholic. Buddhism in Vietnam has long been a rich tapestry: though Mahayana traditions have predominated in Vietnamese his tory, Khmer communities, in the southwestern part of the country, follow Theravada traditions; when Thich Nhat Hanh was young, Buddhism retained characteristics from a time when monks served local communities as healers, fortunetellers, geomancy (feng shui) experts, and more. As a young man, Thich Nhat Hanh’s interests reached beyond the traditions he had inherited; in the late 1950s he obtained a diploma at a new institute for Buddhist studies in Saigon and also obtained certificates in Vietnamese Literature and History of Philosophy from Saigon University. During Thich Nhat Hanh’s youth, Buddhism in Asia was under going a revival: nationalist platforms arose in Sri Lanka, Burma, China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Japan, and Tibet, in which mon astics and laypeople took actions to “revive” Buddhism in hopes of making it a springboard for national rejuvenation. In his 1967 book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire, Thich Nhat Hanh writes about Vietnam’s own revival, which was influenced in part by the Chinese monk Taixu (1890–1947), who called for a “Buddhism for this world,” one that emphasized education and training for Buddhist monastics, translation of Buddhist texts, modern publishing, and charity and social work. A number of monastics and laypeople in Thich Nhat Hanh’s circles were among the first generation of Bud dhist reformers—practitioners who looked back to what they viewed as a golden age of Buddhism during the Ly and Tran dynasties and Thich Nhat Hanh presenting a peace proposal in Washington, DC (June 1, 1966). The South Vietnamese government subsequently declared him a traitor and banned him from returning home. ©PARALLAXPRESS©PARALLAXPRESS