On January 22nd, Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese writer and poet, Zen buddist monk and teacher of life in mindfulness died at the age of 95.
He was a peace activist. He fought in the VietNam and was persecuted both by the communist North as well as by US backed South. In 1972 he became a political refugee in France where he lived until 2014 in the monastery in Plum Village (Dordogne, in the South of France).
What is the meaning of dying? A poem of his tells us.
I am not here
I have a disciple in VietNam who wants to build a stupa to keep my ashes when I die.
He and others want to add a plaque with the words
“Here lies my beloved master”.
I told them not to waste the land of the temple.
“Do not put me in a small vessel and place me there! – I said -.
I do not want to continue like that.
Scattering my ashes outside would be better to help trees grow”.
I suggested that if they still insist on building a stupa,
they should have the plaque say: “I am not here”.
But in case people do not understand it, a second plaque could be added:
“Neither am I out there”.
Should people still not understand it,
then they can write on the third and last plaque:
“You can find me in the way you breathe and walk”.
This body of mine will disintegrate,
but my actions will continue me.
In my daily life, I always practice seeing my continuation around me.
We do not need to wait until the total disolution of this body to continue,
we continue in every moment.
If you think that I am just this body,
then, you have not truly seen me.
When you see my friends, you see my continuation.
When you see someone walking with mindfulness and compassion,
you know he is my continuation.
I do not see why we have to say “I’ll die”,
because I can already see myself in you,
in other people and in future generations.
Even when the cloud is not there, it continues as snow or rain.
It is impossible for a cloud to die.
It can become rain or ice, but it cannot become nothing.
The cloud does not need to have a soul to continue.
There is no beginning or end. I will never die.
This body will dissolve, but it does not mean my death.I will always continue.
(ThichNhatHanh, At home in the world)