By Pat Kaczmarek
Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh died on January 22, 2022. He was 95 years old. The peace activist and advocate for civil rights gained wide recognition in the ’60s for his opposition to the Vietnam War. Thich Nhat Hanh, often called Thầy (pronounced Tai) by his followers, taught “engaged Buddhism,” dedicated to nonviolence, mindfulness and social service. These values are also part of Extinction Rebellion principles, especially #3, “Creating a culture which is healthy, resilient and adaptable” and #9, “Using non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change.”
We, as climate activists, are blessed by the monk’s last book Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet, published in October 2021. In it, Thầy shares his wisdom through Zen stories and experiences from his own activism over the past 60+ years. Wonderful insights from a longtime student, Sister True Dedication, are also included in the book.
Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet is a must-read for anyone coping with the enormity of the climate crisis. Thầy writes, “When you wake up and you see that the Earth is not just the environment, the Earth is us, you touch the nature of interbeing. And at that moment you can have real communication with the Earth… We have to wake up together. And if we wake up together, then we have a chance. Our way of living our life and planning our future has led us into this situation. And now we need to look deeply to find a way out, not only as individuals, but as a collective, a species.”
The book is available in print, ebook, and as an audiobook. I found that listening to the book offered a gentle healing and internal harmony that has renewed my energy toward climate action. You can reserve a copy at the Multnomah County Library.