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Buddhadharma : Summer 2019
ELISE DEVIDO 43 and Buddhist music, chanting, and other rituals updated for the modern world. However, some Buddhist leaders in Vietnam—even the pioneers in the Buddhist revival movement—were less than enthusiastic about Thich Nhat Hanh’s seemingly secular views, and some may have perceived him as too great a challenge to Buddhist institutional hier archies. Still, he continued to forge his own path. In 1961 he visited the US to study at Princeton Theological Seminary and obtained a master’s degree in religion from Union Theological Seminary/ Columbia University in 1963. He returned to Vietnam and in 1966 founded his own sangha, Tiep Hien, known in the West as the Order of Interbeing. In this community, he began to outline new ways of holding the tradition. He ordained members himself, contrary to centuriesold monastic rules about ordination as a collective cere mony led by senior monastics. And laypeople played vital leadership roles—including Cao Ngoc Phuong, who would later become Sister Chan Khong. For his sangha, Thich Nhat Hanh created fourteen precepts (later called mindfulness trainings), based upon the traditional five pre cepts and the eightfold path but reflecting a modern sensibility (the first reads, “Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones”; the third, “Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views.”) Over the years, he and his community have also revised— and continue to revise—the five precepts (now the Five Mindfulness Trainings) to include vocabulary reflecting presentday concerns: protecting the environment, upholding committed romantic/sexual relationships, preventing the sexual abuse of children, and being aware of the possible toxic effects of media, to name a few.