22 July 2021, The Tablet

The fourth man

The fourth man

Thich Nhat Hanh
Photo: Alamy/Zuma


Eyes of Compassion: Learning from Thich Nhat Hanh
(ORBIS, 160 PP, £14.99)
Tablet bookshop price £13.49 • tel 020 7799 4064

Jim Forest has written renowned ­biog­raphies of three prophetic twentieth-century American Catholic figures: Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan. However, there was a fourth ­distinctive presence in the Justice and Peace movement whom Forest lived and worked with closely over 16 years. He has now written a memoir of his friendship with Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen master and teacher. It is not a full biography, but is written as a series of reflections which make for inspired daily spiritual reading.

Thich Nhat Hanh, still alive and living in community in Vietnam, though severely debili­tated by a stroke, brought the notion of engaged Buddhism to the West. The essence of engaged Buddhism was to link insights from Buddhist teachings to everyday situ­ations, especially where people were suffering. This resonated profoundly with Merton and Berrigan. Merton met with Thich Nhat Hanh, and famously referred to him as his brother. Merton told his novices that Thich Nhat Hanh described the essence of what was happening to the Vietnamese people in war in three words: “everything is destroyed”.

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