Talk:Thích Nhất Hạnh/Archive 1

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This is an archive of Talk:Nhat Hanh. Please do not edit this page. If you have a need to discuss any of these points, to be sure your ideas are heard, it is best to start a new discussion point on the main Talk:Nhat Hanh page.

Nice work

Some nice work on Thich Nhat Hanh so far. Thanks! [By, 20:25, 2001 Sep 27, as noted by Jerzy(t) 01:58, 2005 Jan 11 (UTC).]]

BTW, what is the purpose/effect of the colon in the above article name? --Jerzy 18:04, 2004 Jan 16 (UTC)
I now realize that that edit was before the "(Automated conversion)" by User:Conversion script; i think it was somewhere in between that i learned or began to suspect that there was a time when, maybe, the article namespace had to be indicated more explicitly than now. --Jerzy(t) 01:58, 2005 Jan 11 (UTC)

Troublesome language

The following language,

In 1969, Thich Nhat Hanh led the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks and remained there until the peace accords were signed in 1973. Since 1966, he has lived in exile in France.
A political refugee since 1972,

from the two main 'graphs respectively, is a hopeless mess, if not contradictory. Perhaps at the same time, it should be fixed to reflect the almost certain fact that any "Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks" was misrepresenting itself by choosing that name. They were perhaps an ongoing monitoring effort, and an attempt to draw attention to their exclusion from the negotiations: the delegations were IIRC 4 in number, the US, N VN, S VN, and the NLF ("Viet Cong"). (And the only substantive negotiations were between US & N VN; no pacifists need apply.) Someone should work on it and return an acceptable acct for the period since 1966 to the article.

Could it mean

In 1966, he left South (i think, but perhaps North) Viet Nam, either with the consent of that gov't, illegally, or by failing to return as that gov't expected, settling in France for his safety, freedom of action, and/or as a protest. He continued to protest the Viet Nam War, including 1969-1973 during the Paris Peace Talks by setting up an ongoing monitoring effort and/or attempt to draw attention to pacifists' exclusion from the negotiations and describing this as a "Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation" to the talks. It became clear in 1972 that he would not be permitted to return to either North or South Vietnam, and he has remained in France as of 2002.

(See Wikipedia:As of.)

[The above was the bulk of a single contribution, signed
--Jerzy 20:50, 2004 Jan 16 (UTC)
but the last, 1-sent. 'graph turns out be of wider interest and to be part of an extended discussion. That 'graph has been moved to #Separate Use of "Nhat" by Jerzy(t) 01:58, 2005 Jan 11 (UTC).]

I found that Thầy has been mispelled, it shouldn't be Thây since that means 'dead body' and not Thầy which means 'teacher.' Nhuocdong

You are absolutely correct! I was shocked when I read this, because the majority of Western sites that use this term to refer to Thich Nhat Hanh use the "â" rather than the "ầ". However, in checking , Thich Nhat Hanh's monestery site in Vietnamese, the word "Thầy" is used. Thank you for making us aware of this. I'll make this correction in the article. Nightngle 18:41, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

Excessive Coverage of Teachings

I have deprecated the former section head ==Papa don't preach== as less informative (even if more fun) than the new one above; sorry if someone has linked to it, but the What links here doesn't make that likely.

IMO, the description of his teachings beyond the bare bones is an intrusive attempt to preach in an article that is justified by his press coverage over the years, but not by whatever innovations or role in resolving/sustaining intra-Buddhist differences he may be responsible for. (Those who want to understand the content, rather than the jargon, of his teachings can link from here to an article on the subject (such as the broken links in the following or in the text i've retained in the article!) if anyone cares to write them, and if they survive VfD review.

He is today (2002) the charismatic head of the Order of Inter-Being (a group of lay people who are dedicated practitioners and accept the 14 Mindfulness Trainings), as well as a monastic community that cherishes the full consciousness of being . He teaches mindfulness in the Plum Village Buddhist Center in Dordogne, France.
In 1982 he founded Plum Village, a meditation community in the south of France. A founder of "Engaged Buddhism", he is known for his works which discuss both Christianity and Buddhism.
"The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon."

(The quote, which is apparently profound for his disciples, but which prompts even this Buddhism-sympathetic reader only to recall that Eastern thought has no monopoly on pretentious profound crap, illustrates the unsuitablility of including much abt his teachings in the bio article.) --Jerzy 20:50, 2004 Jan 16 (UTC)

"The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon" has real meaning and is not pretentious. In buddhism constant emphasis is placed on direct, subjective experience of reality. There are many schools within buddhism, each with their own emphases. However, a fundamental tenet of all Buddhism is that the individual practitioner not place dogma above direct experience of ultimate reality. Therefore, the "religion", philosophy or teaching one employs as an assist to enlightement are only tools or exercises and must never be given excessive emphasis or placed above your own experience. This breif phrase is a poetic reminder of that concept. The teachings are symbolized as "the finger pointing at the moon". The moon being enlightenment itself. But one is reminded that faithfull adherence to the teachings will not assure enlightenment, they are not to be confused with enlightenment itself. The "path" is not the same as the "destination". I do not beleive buddhism or Wikipedia benefits from the type of "sympathy" illustratd above.

- Jody

I appreciate your sentiment here, Jody, but I have to side with Jerzy here since the quote - which is a quote from the Buddha, not TNH, afterall - was simply stuck into the entry in isolation. Your explanation of the quote was an improvement, but even then, the purpose of including information on TNH's teachings should help explain how his teachings enhance, add to, or help Buddhism evolve rather than simply promote Buddhism. The section on Buddhism here would be a great place to explain and expound on the above quote.Nightngle 13:38, 13 March 2006 (UTC)

Name or Title

[Two sections subordinated here to a new section by Jerzy(t) 01:55, 2004 Dec 19 (UTC)]

Thich, a title

"Thich" means "Venerable" and is a title, not part of his name. Moving the page accordingly (of course usiing "Move this page" rather than cut and paste.) --Jerzy 18:04, 2004 Jan 16 (UTC)

Thich, again

After chatting with a Vietnamese friend of mine, I started thinking that maybe this page should be moved back to Thich Nhat Hanh. I get the impression that "Thich" is not exactly a title, but is more like a special surname traditionally taken by monks. It appears that "Thich" does not mean venerable specifically, but is the first syllable of the Vietnamese term for Shakyamuni, which is also customarily adopted as a surname by Chinese monks (the Chinese equivalent is 释, "Shì", and literally means "to explain", although I don't think that the literal meaning is being referenced here). An unusual case, to be sure, but to me it seems fair to say that it is part of his name. - Nat Krause 04:46, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

"Unusual" because (the Islamic world notwithstanding) we expect surnames to be too clearcut for language like
not exactly a title, but is more like a special surname
But in any case, so far lacking any indication of verifiability.
On the other hand, in the first 100 Google extracts for the search
"Nhat Hanh"
i found (in spite of the rarity of those interested in putting him on the Web other than because they venerate him, or because they want to sell books that on which he has listed himself as "Thich Nhat Hanh"), i found sites that
  • display what purports to be ML King's Nobel-nomination letter (at Washington Mindfulness Community), referring to him always as "Thich Nhat Hanh" except at the second reference, which is "the Venerable Nhat Hanh".
  • refer to him only as "Nhat Hanh" (at World Economic Forum), and
  • list his works in the Ns by surname, in the form "Nhat Hanh, Thich." (not a rendering anyone one would produce by the mistake of confusing surname and given name), at the presumably reasonably Buddhism-savvy DharmaNet Store].
The Google search
"Nhat Hanh" -"Thich Nhat Hanh"
is much sparser (about 13,400 instead of about 168,000), but the abstracts of the first page's 10 hits use either "Nhat Hanh, Thich", "Nhat Hanh, T.", or simply "Nhat Hanh". These first 10 include New Vision Bookshelf: Buddhism Book List and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship Bibliography of Socially Engaged Buddhism.
When used in the English language, it is a title of veneration, and doesn't belong in the title (tho those who enter the title and name have long been redirected to this article).
--Jerzy(t) 01:55, 2004 Dec 19 (UTC)
Well, I appreciate your involvement here and, I think it's not very important where the page is, so I'll happily leave it for now. I don't really know what the definitive answer to this question is. It's certainly true that a lot of sources, including Dharmanet, think that he should alphabetized under "N". On the other hand, the equally Buddhism-savvy states: "All Sangha take the name 'Thich', to signify that they have left their worldly family, and have joined the family of the Buddha." Also, I doubt that "Nhat" is really his family name, because the other references I can find don't show Vietnamese monks keeping any part of their secular names; and because Vietnamese people seem to always have three-word names and "Nhat Hanh" is only two -- which also means that "Thich Nhat Hanh" fits the pattern of a name. Generally speaking, in a case like this, I would think the best course would be to err on the side of the most common appelation, but since it's not important I won't worry too much about it. I might put it up on Requests for Comment later.
In any event, I am fairly certain that, name or title, "Thich" is part of the word Shakyamuni (something like "Thich-ti-mo-ni" in Vietnamese) and therefore it does not mean "venerable" in any direct sense. I'll make that change to the article. - Nat Krause 04:21, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Sounds sensible. As to the structure of names, to be honest i was, until finding those authorities, troubled by remembering how many Nguyens there are, and suspecting that the number of surnames is as small as in Korea, and doubting i'd ever heard the surname Nhat before. And indeed i cannot think of a VN name w/ other than 3 syllables.
I'm beginning to believe i'm likely to end up of the opinion that VN monks are a case that abuses the boundaries of any reasonable rules.
I'd like to draw a line around Mahatama Gandhi & Mother Teresa (and probably Sister Wendy, whom i haven't checked, tho if WP is still holding the line against her, i'm not going to throw the first stone to get her inside the line): they're the only moderns who are universally immediately identifiable with the honorific, and very likely not to be recognized without it. With all the other moderns (i.e., outside the line forced on us by that handful of cases of practical necessity), i'd like to mention their honorifics in the article as "widely used, especially by those who admire them", but uphold NPoV by visibly avoiding giving any opportunity (e.g., honorific or pseudo-honorific in the article title) to misinterpret us as endorsing the validity of some titles over the title that someone decides on Tuesday to grant themself.
So i'd like to refuse "the benefit of the doubt" to shadowland cases such as you're describing these as: two or three is a nice small number, and your argument for TNH would muddy the waters with another X thousand VN-monk cases that give ammunition to PoVsters who want article titles to reflect the Great Hero of his People status of their controversial, maybe even genocidal, icon. Saying "Senator, you're no Gandhi or Mother Teresa" serves that goal. And so does "Sorry, Mark Twain's pseudonym never got mistaken for a spiritual hero's name. Your dumping your surname can make you a guy with just a given name, but you shouldn't expect anyone to call you Father or Sister or Light as if it were your new surname. You've just got no surname; those who want to give you a title are entitled to call you by it, and anyone else is just gonna call you "that jerk who thinks he's got the Light".
--Jerzy(t) 07:11, 2004 Dec 19 (UTC)

While this aspect of the topic seems to have brought out some strong feelings for a variety of different reasons, I do think that there should be consistancy in all the articles about Vietnamese monks and nuns. The wikipedia articles about Thich Quang Duc and Thich Thien An are titled "Thich Quang Duc" and "Thien An". The word "Thich" does not, as it seems is now agreed here, mean "Venerable". It also is not used the way Westerners assume as "Reverand" or "Father" or other term that another religion might use singularly in addressing the cleric. For instance, one would never address a monk "Thich", although one would address the monk or nun as "Thây". Just because Westerners erroneously assume "Thich" means Reverand and therefore is a POV issue, doesn't make it so, nor should it dictate proper usage of the name. It would be inappropriate to title this article "Thay Nhat Hanh". To support my position, on website's ebook section, "The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism" can be found and it lists Vietnamese monks with the naming convention one would expect using "Thich" as a surname. I would propose changing all article titles about Vietnamese monks to this convention: "Nhat Hanh, Thich". I believe this would reflect Vietnamese names and usuage of "Thich" correctly. (I'm pretty new at this, so please forgive any techical errors - do let me know if I can correct how I've posted this so I can do it right next time :) Thanks, Cheryl Nightngle 15:11, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

translated as Venerable?

This iportion of the article I think is currently objectionable, and so I think it should be removed:

"[Thich] is usually translated as a title "Venerable".

What is the evidence that "Thich" is normally translated as Venerable or anything else in English? I note the following usages from Google (search for thich -nhat): "Ven. Dr. Thich Thien-An", "Ven. Thich Quang Do", "Ven. Thich Nhu Dien", "The Most Ven. Thich Huyen Quang", etc. - Nat Krause 06:09, 12 Jan 2005 (UTC)

[The following two bullet points by User:MatthewJ refactored here, where they seem more relevant, by Jerzy(t) 03:41, 2005 Jan 17 (UTC); someone might feel that their context is changed in some way by the two other bullet points of the same edit, by him, that remain below at #Separate Use of "Nhat"
  • I am of the opinion that forcing these names into western containers is more POV than just using what he is normally called. In my opinion Asians who adopt western name formalities, calling themselves Mr. Chang or Mr. Mao, should be entered in with the surname only. However, for someone who does not use western name formalities, using the surname is distorting, as this western practice is not compatable.--MatthewJ 01:26, 12 Jan 2005 (UTC) [This 'graph moved within page by Jerzy(t) 03:41, 2005 Jan 17 (UTC), whose note above may be consulted.]
    • Hi, Matt, and welcome to WP. As you get to know us, you'll see that
      • when we say "PoV", we are contrasting that with relevant facts. The stand that it's harmless to follow generally, as we do, the pattern of referring e.g.
      is indeed PoV. And so is your stand that it is "distorting" or whatever for this monk; but
      • whether
        • it is WP that is "forcing these names into western containers" or
        • doing so is currently accepted English usage,
      is a matter of fact.
    Such facts (and not the suggestion that one PoV is "more PoV" than another) are what determine our practice, in this case because failing to conform to it would cause confusion, thus interfering with the clear communication on which we strive to base our work. (In a less clear case (see point 2 after following the link) than the ones you mention, there is no single established English usage, so even our unusually long footnote links to a long external article. And the discussion of the problem on Talk:Saddam Hussein has been refactored into the still inordinately large Talk:Saddam Hussein/naming.)
    (I happen to think it's stupid and perhaps spiritually harmful to spell to spell "she", "we", and "you" lowercased, but "I" uppercased; i go so far as to lowercase the first-person singular pronoun whenever i'm communicating with my colleagues here, but the one time i did so in an article, it was a careless editing error.)
    You may ask, "And you call that fair?" No, i don't; there isn't any level playing field. Our readers rely on an enormously complex communications medium (much more than strictly a "language") called English, developed by its lifelong use by about a half-billion native speakers (living ones, and others now dead, and with amazing contributions by a relative handful of mostly geniuses among second-language speakers). English favors all sorts of assumptions typical of Western-derived culture, but fortunately
    • it's not Newspeak,
    • Whorf was wrong in thinking natural languages are a major straitjacket of thought, and
    • its speakers (and thus its writers) have been able to pursue the study of aspects of other languages' cultures widely enough to make it surprisingly effective for challenging those assumptions.
    So instead of some pipe dream of starting from a level playing field for ideas, an institution like WP is a great way to help inform people about ideas that using real English shortchanges, and probably even about how those disadvantages work. Which, BTW, is likely to be much more effective in changing how English works than telling us how it should work.
    --Jerzy(t) 04:43, 2005 Jan 22 (UTC)
  • I have never heard or seen Thich used as Venerable. May I ask your source Jerzy?--MatthewJ 01:26, 12 Jan 2005 (UTC) [This 'graph moved within page by Jerzy(t) 03:41, 2005 Jan 17 (UTC), whose note above may be consulted.]
    • I first noticed, and responded to, a very similar question Nat put to me the same day, and this response goes further in addressing his as well. (I note i had, even earlier, referred to MLK's letter in that context, which one would ignore at their peril: even if King was mistaken (or has since been misinterpreted) when he wrote as if "the Venerable Nhat Hanh" was interchangable with "Thich Nhat Hanh", his letter's influence on English-language practice is probably more significant than that of thousands of average seekers of the monk's darshan.)
    As i said to Nat, whether the word "translation" is the ideal one does not matter much to me, and "used as" -- or "used like" -- may be a rewording for the relationship between Thich and Venerable that won't confuse the literal-minded. The etymology of Thich seems to me only slightly more relevant than an argument that pope (from "papa") can't mean the same as pontiff (from "bridge builder"). (What's venerable really mean, anyway? Is it impossible to venerate, say, Tony Soprano?)
    It may be worthwhile giving the literal answer to your question: i'm not sure what led me to equate the two terms. The King letter did not seem familiar when i Googled it up in December. But
    • i had been aware of the "Thich Nhat Hanh" version since the Vietnam-War era;
    • i remember so little reference to him since, that i am pretty sure nothing between then and the '90s had occasion to overcome my understanding of "TNH" as a surname and double-syllable given name. And
    • i encountered at least one of his books in the early '90s, and
    • again i doubt i've heard more until i noted the entry that i edited (now at List of people by name: Thf-Thn#Thi, though its history is now at List of people by name: Tho and i edited it at List of people by name: Th);
    • at that point, my immediate reaction was "This belongs under N, not T." So
    • i probably formed that impression solely from a brief inspection of that book or two, and recalled the abstract fact despite having forgotten the details of my learning it. The new research below is consistent with that deduction, by revealing two separate sources of information (which could especially have informed me by working together).
    I recently found that an search on either
    "Nhat Hanh"
    "Thich Nhat Hanh"
    comes up with current editions of various of his books, most with viewable dust jackets and copyright pages. The Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication (CIP) data had long ago helped me straighten out Brinch Hansen, Per, so i looked at it in several cases. (In case the URLs for the Amazon references are not portable, the page images are each accessible from the Amazon page for the respective book, via the "Search inside this book" link and then either "Copyright" or "Back Cover" among the "View:" links.)
    • I found CIP on the copyright pages of most of those i checked, e.g. Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames and Thich Nhat Hanh: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters), each presenting his name as "Nhat Hanh, Thich". (Their being identical is no surprise: my understanding is that LoC would regard two CIP texts presenting the same person's name differently as meaning they had made a serious error: e.g., the CIP for Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer must include "Clemens, Samuel".) I think there is one unreasonable explanation for "NH,T", and one reasonable one:
      • I rule out this explanation: they screwed up; they think Nhat Hanh is a two-word surname (paralleling "Brinch Hansen") and Thich is a given name (paralleling "Per"). That is too much at odds with
        • the well-known surname-given-name order of East Asia,
        • the pattern mentioned elsewhere on this page of single-syllable surnames and usually two-syllable given names,
        • the professionalism of the LoC staff, and
        • the resources (including requiring access to publisher staff) that LoC CIP builds into their process.
      • I believe instead this explanation:
        • The entry is a close parallel to that for "Chiang Kai-shek, Madame" in the index of Truman by David McCullough (item 26 at my Amazon search in Books for "Madame Chiang Kai-shek" -- Or go to the page for MuCullough's Truman, link to "search this book", and search for "Chiang Kai-shek, Madame"). (I offer that, since i could find no work by her recent enough to be searchable for CIP.), and
        • LoC CIP regards TNH similarly as an oriental name (i.e., one not calling for the interchanging of the order of the surname and given name that Western ones get) that is preceded by something best described as a title rather than a proper part of the personal name. (And (at least passive) acceptance of the authority that LoC's CIP is intended to command is the explanation of the 10K + hits for that word order.)
    • Several of the TNH titles had blurbs that seem to cast light on the question.
    IMO that is substantial evidence that
    • treating "Thich" as simply a surname is a misrepresentation,
    • it can be omitted at least in subsequent references, and
    • it must be omitted in subsequent references, since the only reason not to shorten it in English would be to satisfy the PoV of his admirers that the only short name for him is the PoV one meaning "teacher" (which is at least deferential if not reverential).
    There is no question that
    • the overwhelming majority of Web references to him use Thich,
    • "Thich Nhat Hanh" must work when typed into the search box with the "Go" button being pressed (which is true at present because of the redirect at Thich Nhat Hanh), and
    • "Thich" must be mentioned somewhere in the lead 'graph, under the principle of minimum surprise.
    But that prevalence, while it would be necessary to show "Thich Nhat Hanh" should be used at all within WP, is not sufficient to show anything interesting. It is insufficient evidence for our use because the following known facts are enough to ensure that prevalence:
    • Use of "Thich" contributes to the atmosphere of veneration around him, in the context of a tradition that venerates its monks and teachers;
    • He and his publishers choose to use it as part of the author's name on his books;
    • Almost all those with a significant interest in him are people who value his teachings.
    These ensure prevalence of the TNH version on the Web, independent of how many or few well informed English speakers, who are not interested in venerating him, call him that. In fact, if, for the sake of argument, it were true that even they do so, those three facts it would make it impossible in practice to verify that they do.
    --Jerzy(t) 04:43, 2005 Jan 22 (UTC)
  • Thanks, Nat, for helpfully following up on my refactoring (mostly of what the IPs and i had not kept orderly). I think the discussion is voluminous enough that keeping these aspects separate will pay off in clarity and reduced effort in the long run. (The Thich aspect and the Nhat Hanh one do interact, but IMO, viewing that interaction explicitly as something with some structure to it is worth the extra effort.) And i don't feel it's necessary to resolve "Thich" before commenting further on "Nhat Hanh", tho i'm giving "Thich" priority at least until i can get these thoughts down.
I'm not sure "translated" is the word to use in the article, even if my general thrust of not treating Thich as we do a typical surname is correct. I wrote, above in #Thich, again, about wanting to draw a line around a very small group of moderns whom it would be silly and confusing to identify without their titles of courtesy or veneration. (It occurs to me, now that i say "courtesy or", that Mr. Blackwell is one of those inside the line.) Of course this does not trump the need for accuracy, but on the other hand i think it is important enough to justify going into more detail in that area than would normally be reasonable in a bio.
Specifically, i think Thich may be more like a surname than Reverend and President are, and, notwithstanding that, less so than Washington and Krause, and than even Blackwell (in the case of Mr. Blackwell) and Monroe (in the case of Marilyn). My model is that in cultures with a tradition of using surnames (and excluding royalty and nobility):
  • Upwards of 90% of names have two major subdivisions, given name and surname, with each surname being either
    • the surname of a parent or spouse,
    • a suffixed or prefixed given name of a parent, or
    • a combination of two such surnames.
  • People who differ from that dominant pattern usually change to a name that someone else could have gotten within those dominant patterns, and either
    • use it only professionally, or
    • stay within those dominant patterns when subsequently marrying and naming children.
Occasionally there are exceptions within such societies; Tiny Tim and Method Man come to mind. I'd say that the "princes of the Church" such as John Paul II and Catholic cardinals are in effect part of the royalty and nobility exceptions; Christian monastics follow different rules still, and in their case it seems clear that Mother, Sister, etc. are titles but i don't know if they truly abandon their surnames.
As with the Christian monastics, i think Thich breaks the dominant pattern even more than name changes in English-speaking societies do:
  • I'm not sure modern Zen monks are supposed to be celibate, but it is hard, from what you say, to imagine even a "fallen" monk's child inheriting Thich;
  • As you've said, there is only a metaphoric family relationship implied in normal cases;
  • It also sounds like Thich is probably not an ordinary surname like Pope, that is also the name of an literal family of laypeople; thus, in yet another way, it is specifically intended to contrast with the great majority of Vietnamese names (and probably even with nearly all other changed surnames), rather than resemble them.
And possibly all that should be reflected by the existence of an article Thich:
In Vietnamese Buddhism, the word Thich plays a role that resembles those of a surname, a clerical title, and perhaps a title of veneration; its roles when used in English further complicate the picture.
This article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.
(You, of course, have already contributed some of the material that should help flesh out that stub.)
I think putting such info in an article might be a good way of making it available without it overwhelming his bio, and that having immediate access to more information along those lines is more important than whether it appears as running text in his bio, in a form like
Thich Nhat Hanh is ...
or in one like
Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, often referred to as Thich Nhat Hanh, especially by his admirers...
IMO both the citations i previously offered (where he is alphabetized under "Nhat Hanh, Thich"), and the evidence you have found of combining "Ven." with "Thich", contribute to a complex picture of not so much how to translate "Thich" as what practices are established for referring in English to people who carry it. IMO there's more worth knowing. I'd also be interested to know about
  • who gets "Ven." or "Most Ven." in front of their name within the Catholic Church,
  • what those people expect to be called in Vietnamese by Vietnamese Catholics, and by Vietnamese Buddhists,
  • whether those Vietnamese terms are used, in Vietnamese, in referring to people bearing Thich, especially the ones you cited above.
(I wonder to what degree interaction in Viet Nam between Catholics and Buddhists has influenced what is said, at least in languages other in Vietnamese, in connection with Zen monks.)
I was only interested in drawing a clear line between "Thich" and "regular surnames" for the sake of keeping the other line i've mentioned "tight" around the handful who need titles to separate them from similar names; there may well be better, even more accurate, language for that than i've yet proposed.
BTW, while i think i will probably end up continuing to advocate for the two-word article title rather than the three-word one, i assume we can agree that both titles need to appear as either article title or a redirect; IMO, that means that which is the title and which the redirect is probably the least momentous question we're grappling with. I take some comfort in that. [smile]
--Jerzy(t) 03:13, 2005 Jan 17 (UTC)

Separate Use of "Nhat"

[The following 'graph was the end of a much longer contrib, the rest of which remains at its orginal position and has thus been incorporated into the section #Troublesome language. The 'graph has been moved here, along with responses to it, to be part of the discussion that stems from it, by Jerzy(t) 01:58, 2005 Jan 11 (UTC).]

The repetition of the full name and title in this langues language is contrary to WP style as well: 2nd and subsequent references should be to family name, Nhat. --Jerzy 20:50, 2004 Jan 16 (UTC)

  • [For the prevention of brain-sprain, i offer the following not just reformatted but partially rewritten, as suggested by the type styles. Jerzy(t) 18:56 & 01:58, 2005 Jan 11 (UTC)]
    As a follower of Thich Nhat Hanh for many years, the undersigned this editor feels qualified to state that he TNH is never referred to as Nhat alone. He is usually called Thay or Thich Nhat Hanh. [By User: 09:45, 2004 Dec 29, at the end of the page but clearly in response to either my 20:50, 2004 Jan 16, contrib (now 2 'graphs above), or to the usage in the article which they changed 2 minutes earlier. Noted by Jerzy(t) 18:56, 2005 Jan 10 (UTC).]
  • Nhat Hanh is a single, 2 part name. Nhat is vietnamese roughly for First class, or Best quality, and Hanh is roughly right conduct or good nature. To just say Nhat is inappropriate (adjective without a noun :-P) [By User: 02:58, 2005 Jan 10, immediately following Jerzy's 20:50, 2004 Jan 16, contrib above in this section. At 3:02 they also contribued the same first two sentences (but omitted the last), immediately following the "As a follower..." contrib that still immediately precedes this. All as noted by Jerzy(t) 18:56, 2005 Jan 10 (UTC), and reformated.]
    [Jerzy made the following response to the first, three-sentence, version of the twice appearing contrib. --Jerzy(t) 01:58, 2005 Jan 11 (UTC)]
    • If that's a problem in Vietnamese, it's a problem when speaking/writing Vietnamese. English, on the other hand, is full of surnames (various colors, Small), that are English adjectives, and of surnames, like Schwarz and Klein, that are adjectives in other languages. The transformation of such words from adjectives into proper names (and thus nouns) poses no problem in English nor in English 'pedias. --Jerzy(t) 15:59, 2005 Jan 10 (UTC) & 01:58, 2005 Jan 11 (UTC)
    [Jerzy made the following non-overlapping response to the combination of the "As a follower..." contrib and the second, two-sentence, version of the twice appearing contrib. --Jerzy(t) 01:58, 2005 Jan 11 (UTC)]
    • OK, so he changed all his names to words that if not treated as names are make incredibly vague, and outrageous, PoV claims about him; his followers' accepting that PoV does not bind the rest of the world; and it has already been shown that the rest of the world adheres to no single version. In particular,
      • Thich is still understood in English as being equivalent to Western titles like "Venerable",
      • "Nhat Hanh" is what distinguishes him from other monks;
      • he's Vietnamese, so we need much better reasons than this not to treat "Nhat" like a surname and "Hahn" like a given name.
    • --Jerzy(t) 15:59, 2005 Jan 10 (UTC)
      I don't quite agree with your objection. A lot of people's names constitute POV claims if they are taken literally. My given name literally means "gift of God", but people don't normally object to calling me that even if its accuracy remains unproven. The current Pope changed his name to "John Paul"; John means "God is merciful", which is clearly also a POV claim, but would you go back to calling him Karol Wojtyla?
      Accordingly, I'm uncomfortable with following text from the article:
      "Apparently neither "Nhat" nor "Hanh" -- which approximate the roles of surname and given name, respectively, in referring to him in English -- was part of his name at birth. "Nhat" approximates "first-class", or "of best quality", in English; "Hanh" approximates "right conduct" or "good nature".
      My concern about this is: what is the evidence that "Nhat" and "Hanh" approximate a surname and a given name? This strikes me as simplistic and marginally POV, because Thich could easily be seen as occupying the spot where most Vietnamese people keep their surnames. - Nat Krause 17:29, 10 Jan 2005 (UTC)(note: some comments by me moved to other locations as part of me refactoring my comments. I hope and believe that this will not cause serious inconvenience.-Nat Krause 06:09, 12 Jan 2005 (UTC))
      • All monks, and many Vietnamese, are intentionally given names which have literal meanings. Unlike many Westerners, who have forgotten what their names mean, Asians often have real meaning to their names. --MatthewJ 01:26, 12 Jan 2005 (UTC)
      • A bit of info on Nhat Hanh's name might be helpful. When he ordained as a monk, he gave up his birthname. He is never, ever, called by his birthname, even in formal government documents. When he ordained as a novice, he was given the name Phung Xuan. When he ordained as a full monk, he was given the name Nhat Hanh, and fully joined the monastic Buddhist community, receiving the family name Thich. "Phung Xuan" is, more or less, one idea, image or name, while "Nhat Hanh" is another. Adding to the confusion, other monks of his generation and liniage have the name Nhat. I.e., his colleague Nhat Tri. (source, Call me by my true names: The collected poetry of Thich Nhat Hanh) --MatthewJ 01:26, 12 Jan 2005 (UTC)
        • While i don't understand the significance of "lineage" in the context of monks sharing "Nhat" (and while that suggests Nhat being something at least more surname-like than Hanh is), i think there is plenty of reason to say that Nhat Hanh is a fairly unitary given name, like Tiny Tim and Method Man, and that therefore indeed neither "Nhat" nor "Hanh" should be used alone in the article.
        (Less importantly, it's worth my briefly commenting on "literal interpretation" of names and PoV in naming. I probably invited confusion by complaining about "names are [that] make incredibly vague, and outrageous, PoV claims", in the context of the literal meanings of Nhat and Hanh having been explained: while the sense of offense i betrayed at the "claims" implicit in those two names is real, it was relevant only peripherally, in the sense that IMO such claims
        • are part of a pattern of PoV-pushing intent in the identification of monks, and
        • may support my contention that Thich is more like a title of veneration than an authentic surname.
        I was wrong in not taking more responsibility for the confusion that i might think, for instance, that his birth names needed to be dug up to replace Nhat Hanh. I quite agree that PoV does not of itself disqualify a word from being a name, or make the name unsuitable. My concern is distinguishing
        • verbal labels that are more descriptive of the individual's office or vocation or the honor supposedly due them (certainly His Holiness and Pope, and, in my mind, Thich) from
        • the labels that identify an individual (John Paul II, and Nhat Hanh).
        While i don't want to also get sucked into the conflicts apparently in progress at his article, i think these concerns apply equally there: the language should approximate "John Paul II has held the office of Pope since" X and "his followers refer to him as 'His Holiness', or place that phrase before his name.")
        --Jerzy(t) 06:26, 2005 Jan 29 (UTC)
[Two more individually signed bullet points by User:MatthewJ, that appear relvant in a previous section, but not in this one, moved by Jerzy(t) 03:41, 2005 Jan 17 (UTC) to #translated as Venerable?]


In Vietnamese he is never known as "Nhat Hanh", always "Thich Nhat Hanh". It's fairly rude to refer to a person in a respected position by just their personal name (full name is usually preferred). Regardless of the origin of the honorary title "Thich", most Vietnamese consider it part of his name. Including a person's title in the article name is not without precedents in the English Wikipedia (Pope XYZ). I think this article should be at Thich Nhat Hanh instead of Nhat Hanh. DHN 18:03, 13 June 2006 (UTC)

It's not necessarily "rude" to not conform to using artifical titles as actual pronouns. Although he is typically called "Thich Nhat Hanh" in full, many in his own community simply call him "Nhat Hanh" or the even more familiar "Thay". I actually had the chance to spent a few days with him while he was in Quebec in the August of 2005, and witnesses others call him without the title. A fundamentalist follower of Buddhism will almost always avoid austere and artifical titles, aware that they are a manifestation of social conformity (whether it be Western or Confucian norms), which in turn will cause a form of social clouding or ignorance, as prescribed under the 8-fold path. So a Buddhist, with my understanding, would not only try to avoid condescending titles; as all things are nothing and are of the same origins, all things are "respected", and so they are no "respected titles" in the end, from the Dharmic perspective.

Let us not forget that the name "Thich", as mentioned by others in this discussion, is just a Vietnamesed term that was in turn a Sinified translitaration of the original Sanskirt, denoting membership to the "Shakyamuni clan". So we must consider this: how could an ethnic Vietnamese monk/scholar from the 20th century, really be part of a 5th century BC Indo-Aryan tribe, right? That said, it think keeping this page's title as "Thich Nhat Hanh" will avoid any possible "disambiguation"-related confusion.

And besides, his birth name was Nguyen Xuan Bao, so calling him "Thich Nhat Hanh" or simply "Nhat Hanh" would be in the end incorrect anyway. Le Anh-Huy 07:17, 17 June 2006 (UTC)

Jerzy's 2005-January refactor of article, and intent to refactor talk

  • As to talk: Material has been deleted from this talk page by IP User:, who has also neither signed nor dated their contribs, nor respected the need for formatting contribs in a way that supports quickly deducing the flow of the discussion. Also from earlier neglect of sigs, the page is now quite difficult to follow. If your contrib can wait, that would be appreciated until completion of a major refactoring of this page, to restore both deleted material & conformity with WP's standards for orderly discussion. --Jerzy(t) 15:59, 2005 Jan 10 (UTC) & Jerzy(t) 01:58, 2005 Jan 11 (UTC)
    • I must either
      • have misinterpreted a diffs screen, or
      • have been served an invalid diff as part of our recent transient slave-database errors.
    I am unable now to duplicate, or explain without claiming such errors, any diff with features that match what i remember having viewed. In any case, i thought the 'graph
    "Thich" means "Venerable" and is a title, not part of his name. Moving the page accordingly (of course usiing "Move this page" rather than cut and paste.) --Jerzy 18:04, 2004 Jan 16 (UTC)
    and two horiz rules surrounding it had been removed in either the 02:58, 2005 Jan 10 or 03:02, 2005 Jan 10 edit by User: I regret suggesting that this evidenced misconduct by that user.
    The fact is that i moved that in my Revision as of 01:55, 2004 Dec 19 as part of a previous refactor.
    --Jerzy(t) 16:55, 2005 Jan 10 (UTC)
  • As to article:
    • Again, per WP-norm style: full name at first reference; given name used thereafter only if needed to distinguish from others w/ same surname. As with Saddam Hussein, insert "or English substitute" as needed in this principle.
    • The nuances of his name (actually rather interesting when they aren't being used to promote special treatment for him!) are IMO worth thorough coverage. However, they are not worthy of placement in the 1st 'graph; i have moved them into a new section.
--Jerzy(t) 15:59, 2005 Jan 10 (UTC)


I've moved the pronunciation to a more reasonable place, and converted it to the standard IPA, since the Style Manual states that "Ad-hoc pronunciation guides are discouraged." However, since I neither speak Vietnamese nor am very familiar with IPA, this may need some touching up from someone with more knowledge in either, or, preferably, both of these areas.

Also, I'm wondering if accent marks should be used throughout the article, specifically in the "Names applied to him" section. Or is it common to leave accent marks off of Vietnamese words?

Still new at this... —Nogard5 09:01, Jun 5, 2005 (UTC)

I tried giving an IPA transliteration at Thich Quang Duc, but instead of correcting it someone just deleted the whole thing. -Tydaj 2 July 2005 19:44 (UTC)
The Vietnamese language and Vietnamese phonology pages would suggest that his name should be pronounced /tʰic ɲɜt hɐːɲ/. --Whimemsz 20:50, 18 September 2005 (UTC)


I have to confess that I'm really not sure why coverage of Ven. Thich Nhat Hahn's teachings was removed, and why they aren't given more coverage in this article. The value of the article is not just biographical; rather, it is also valuable from the standpoint of Buddhist studies. In this sense, including information on Thay's teachings is no different from including information on the teachings of religious figures such as the Maharesh Mahesh Yogi or H.H. Pope Jone Paul II. As Thay's teachings are very unique and also quite influental in Euro-American convert Buddhism, it seems all the more appropriate to cover them in the article.xanandax 21:07, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

I don't think that any material was removed. Go ahead and add material if you can. — goethean 22:00, 31 October 2005 (UTC)
Ah, that was the impression that I got from item #3, above. I'll add some stuff later, then, when I get some spare time. — xanandax 15:35, 1 November 2005 (UTC)

Frankly I thought the teachings presented in the article's previous incarnation were excessively preachy rather than informative. If some mention of his teachings were reinserted, particularly as they relate to American convert Buddhism, I would suggest emphasizing the uniqueness of his teachings in terms of (1) their relationship to Buddhist Modernism (rationalism, textualization, blurring of monastic/lay distinction, emphasis on meditation, etc.) and (2) their relationship to contemporary and traditional Vietnamese Buddhism(s) (blending Theravada, Thien, and Pure Land Teachings; emphasis on filial piety; etc.). The "finger pointing to the moon" stuff is certainly not "unique" to Thay in any way, nor is his emphasis on mindfulness; rather, these are part of larger trends within Buddhism. Emphasizing these aspects would be, in my opinion, more objective and less preachy than the page's previous informtion, which I could have pulled verbatim out of one of his Parallax Press press releases! Blech. -Natalie

Zen master

The intro now says that Thích Nhất Hạnh is recognised as Zen master. By whom is he recognised? What does that even mean, anyway? - Nat Krause(Talk!) 20:02, 26 May 2006 (UTC)

What that means is that he received Dharma Transmission from his teacher Zen Master Chan That. He was recognized by his teacher as being the teacher's successor in a lineage of Zen Masters in the Rinzai Zen School. The history of the last eight generations of this lineage are present in English now on the website (click on the reference in the wikipedia article, the reference in the paragraph where it talks about the date and place of receiving Dharma transmission, or permission to teach as a Zen Master), and further history is present in Vietnamese on the Vietnamese part of the website, A Zen Master is recognized when that person's teacher (who himself is a Zen Master) certifies, or ordains, the student as being a Zen Master. In Japanese, I believe, this is called "inka shomei".Bertmayo 20:47, 26 May 2006 (UTC)
So anyone who receives dharma transmission is a zen master? That doesn't seem quite right, given that almost all Soto priests in Japan receive transmission. I wouldn't call all of them Zen masters. - Nat Krause(Talk!) 21:05, 26 May 2006 (UTC)

I don't know about the details of Japanese Soto. I just know that Thich Nhat Hanh was recognized by his teacher as a Zen Master. Check out the references. In addition to the written references I know from conversations with knowledgeable monks and nuns that he was recognized by his teacher as a Zen Master. In Thich Nhat Nahn's group there are several transmissions. The Five Mindfulness Trainings is a transmission. The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings is a transmission. The position of Dharma Teacher is a transmission. Thich Nhat Hanh received transmission as a Zen Master. Bertmayo 01:21, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

I guess what I'm getting at is that "Zen Master" is not a term which has a particular meaning (I wouldn't normally expect to hear it used in reference to moderns), so we should clarify what we mean when we say it. If Zen Master is a title used within OI, then we should specify that. - Nat Krause(Talk!) 20:59, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

not....."used in reference to moderns" ????? The Wikipedia article on James Ishmael Ford begins "American Zen master". The Wikipedia article on John Tarrant begins "...Western Zen master". The Wikipedia article on Shunryu Suzuki begins "...Japanese Zen master". The article on John Daido Loori says "...American Zen Master". So I think the useage is common and fairly well understood.

The discussion of whether or not Thich Nhat Hanh had received recognition from his teacher came up a couple of months ago when I had an email discussion over a period of a couple of weeks with Rev. James Ford about a book he is writing on American Zen. We were able to obtain definitive statements that Thich Nhat Hanh was a recognized Zen master. The question arose because some older clerics from Vietnam were not aware of this because TNH received Dharma transmission only a few days before he left Vietnam.

Now there _are_ people out there who claim to be Zen masters but have never received transmission. I don't want to speak for Rev. Ford but I got the impression that members of the American Zen Teachers Association, with which he is associated, are thinking about setting up professional standards. It was my impression that the standard might contain the stipulation that any "Zen master" should be able to state when, where, and from what teacher he received permission to teach as a Zen master, and that this information should be freely available to prospective students. Given that the phrase "Zen master" is already so widely used in the Wikipedia, it seems strange that any special requirement should fall on the OI, especially given that Thich Nhat Hanh has already openly complied with the "when, where, and from what teacher" statement as expressed in the Wikipedia article. Bertmayo 00:00, 28 May 2006 (UTC)

I'd like to say that my purpose is not to call into question Thich Nhat Hanh's bona fides as a Zen teacher. In fact, I find his use of the term Zen master less offensive because he is not part of the stereotypical Western Zen movement. That makes "Zen master" seem more like just a couple words and not so much of an attempt to cloak himself in the whole Zen mystique rigamarole. Therefore, I don't begrudge him using the title "Zen master", but I still feel that the meaning of that phrase is not at all clear. As for the examples you've cited above, to be totally frank, I think that Wikipedia is often home to examples of bad writing, and these are that. Those articles will not contain the phrase "Zen master" after I edit them momentarily (I guess I will acquiesce to Shunryu Suzuki the way it is for the time being, since he is deceased). I don't "Zen master" is so simple as to mean anyone who has received inka shomei. Furthermore, whether or not inka should be taken seriously is something of recursive problem, as one must then establish that the inka comes from a teacher who also received it, and so on back into the indefinite past.
The American Zen Teachers Association is definitely developing a set of professional standards. However, you'll note that the phrase "Zen master" is almost never used on their website (it appears to be used only in the titles of a couple of people associated with the Kwan Um School). Also, the criteria don't say anything about dharma transmission; it says "authorized to teach by an authorized teacher in a recognized Zen lineage" but that's not quite the same thing. - Nat Krause(Talk!) 02:36, 28 May 2006 (UTC)

I guess I still can't understand what is objectionable or why. I imagine we must have had very different experiences. If unscrupulous or unskillful people have misused the term "zen master," then unscrupulous or unskillful people can also misuse the term "zen teacher". All of the Zen masters and Dharma teachers (and monks and nuns) that I have known have been really modest, really sweet people, and it is hard for me to imagine how it came about and what feelings must been stirred in you for you to find any of this to be "offensive," but I'm sorry that it has happened to you. Bertmayo 05:15, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

On the contrary, I've never met anyone who claimed to be a Zen master, nor have I had any indirect dealings with one. However, I still don't know what the phrase "Zen master" means (a Zen teacher, naturally, someone who teaches Zen). - Nat Krause(Talk!) 05:29, 29 May 2006 (UTC)
I agree, Nat. I think that even though further information about TNH's ordination has been made available on the site, questions still remain. TNH himself gives transmission to both monastic and lay members to teach and transmit the 3 refuges/5 percepts, but I don't know if this transmission is the equivelent of what he himself received, or if his transmission was to give him permission to form his own order.
In the history of the OI in Sister Chân Khong's book, she states that she and the other women who were ordained by TNH into his Order of Interbeing had a choice to live as nuns or laywomen, but that the Vietnamese Buddhist establishment did not consider them true monastics. She doesn't explain further why this contention would happen if TNH had indeed been ordained at the level needed for him to ordain monastics had occured.
What I need to understand better is Vietnamese Buddhism. We can't apply Japanese Zen "rules" to Vietnamese Zen. The politics of Vietnam have affected Vietnamese Buddhism as well. I attend a Vietnamese Buddhist pagoda here and the members love TNH, but the Vietnamese pagoda nearer to my house does not approve of his teachings and doesn't recognize him as a legitimate teacher.
On a personal note, I am a student of TNH. For me, the curiosity into the issue is just that, historical interest. His teachings are what have benefitted my life, so his credentials are irrelivant. For the sake of accuracy and fact, though, I do want to see more researched and written about this topic so that his legacy is factual, not a myth which could in the future discredit his wonderful work.Nightngle 14:15, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

On the contrary, Nightngle, look at your OI Certificate of Ordination, which Thay signed as "Dhyana Master ...of the 42nd generation of the Lam Te Dhyana School...". Granted, that is in the Sanskrit and Vietnamese languages and not in the generic Japanese words, but there it is nevertheless. Look at the references 3 and 5 given in the article. They're in English on, not langmai. You will see Abbot Thich Chi Mau and Thay Phap Dung, on two different continents, both using the phrase "Zen master" with reference to Thay. It's already there, in black and white, for those who don't refuse to look, in black and white, with no mythology involved. That part of the issue isn't really an issue.

A more important part of the issue, from what people have told me, is that there may be people in our practice who have had unpleasant experiences with some other form of Zen practice and may not want to be reminded of that word. One solution is denial. A better solution is to show a warm and compassionate Zen. Maybe some people do not want to feel that there is any religious context at all. In the practice we need to allow room for all, those who wish to refer to "Zen master" as well as those who wish to refer to "monk," or just to "that fellow who writes those books." I attend three sanghas in this region: one of them is Buddhism Light, group therapy with meditation, one is Buddhism Medium with some dharma study, and one is Buddhism with liturgy and ceremony and vidoes of Thay's lectures. All of them a fill a need and all benefit from Thay's teachings.

We don't practice non-attachment by denying our heritage. Non-attachment means just dealing with it and moving on. Bertmayo 21:23, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

As an additional response to Nightngale, please note that "dharma transmission" not the same thing as Buddhist monastic ordination. The latter is governed by vinaya (with some exceptions), while the former is specific to Zen and some other schools that came out of the same medieval Chinese milieu. One need not be ordained as a monk to receive dharma transmission (and the converse is true as well). - Nat Krause(Talk!) 21:39, 30 May 2006 (UTC)
This discussion really has nothing to do with feeling offended, denying anyone's heritage, or discrediting anyone. It has to do with understanding the structure of the Lam Te school, Vietnamese Zen, and how it is similar or different from the other branches of Zen.
In the Order of Interbeing, one is given a lineage name by taking the 5 precepts and 3 refuges with TNH or a Dharmacharya. Next a person would receive a Dharma name by being ordained a member of the Order of Interbeing by taking vows to follow the 14 Mindfulness Trainings. These trainings were written by TNH and are not part of any other Buddhist school. When one receives this transmision, there are no other rights given other than helping lead mindfulness practice groups and the like. TNH and Sr. Annabell Laity can both transmit the 14 MTs, but I don't know if anyone else in the order can.
Dharmacharyas are given the Lamp Transmission, which is what the transmission given to TNH is called in the [[1]] "Letter to our friends about our lineage" document found on the site. The Dhamracharyas are ordained by TNH to teach and to transmit the 5 precepts and give lineage names to their students. Their students have the lineage name ending "of the source" being the 44th generation, while those who received the 5 from TNH have "of the heart" in their name being the 43 generation.
I wonder what other level of ordination Sr Annabel, for instance, has received, if any, to allow her to transmit the 14 MTs. I do know that lay Dharmacharyas are not given authority to transmit the 14 MTs, nor could they ordain monastics or start their own order by virtue of receiving the Lamp Transmission.
The question remains in my mind is if there are other levels of ordination that give a person the authority to ordain monastics, create a new order, etc? This hasn't been answered completely. Nat's question of what does "Zen Master" mean is a good one, too, since it seems to have a number of meanings depending on the school of Zen one is talking about. I have no emotion about this, it doesn't impact me personally since I'm not a monastic. However, historically it is an important thing to understand. I'm also curious about the parallels and diferences between the different branches of what we commonly call Zen. Nightngle 18:15, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

I want to mention that the scholar Cuong Tu Ngyuyen from George Mason University (he's not a cleric, BTW) & co-author A.W. Barber argue that no, Thay is not a Thien Master (See "Vietnamese Buddhism in North America" in Prebish and Tanaka, The Faces of Buddhism in America, Berkeley: UC Press, 1998, pp. 129-146). They are pretty vicious in their characterization of him, though, so that makes me somewhat suspicious of their conclusions. However, I asked my Viet.-American friend (who is at the highest eschalons of the UBC/Plum Village Sangha hierarchy and knows Nhat Hanh personally) what she thought of Nguyen's comment, and she told me that Thay became a Thien Master simply because he had been practicing for a certain number of years, even though--and these were her words--"he was never ordained by his master because he left [Vietnam] and then couldn't go back [because his life was threatened by the gov't]" (personal interview, 2003) She contended that he was "supposed" to receive transmission and never did, but because he was "supposed" to and had practiced the right number of years, he was therefore a master. Whether this means he is or is not "really" a Thien master is up for debate, but nowhere does the Plum Village web site call him a "Zen Master," so that is not a reliable source. Nor have I ever heard him refer to himself as such. Also, Thay really broke with the Thien and mainstream Vietnamese tradition in a whole host of ways (including revising the pratimoksa, devising the 14 MTs, offering lamp transmission to the laity, and creating a bunch of new rituals), so I think it might be more helpful to recognize him as a charismatic leader of a New Religious Movement and not a "traditional" Vietnamese Buddhist at all. In this sense, the issue of "master" or whatever starts to become unimportant. But I ramble.... --Natalie indeed 01:08, 8 June 2006 (UTC)

Sorry, to blather, but I have one more thing to add: There is no recognized authority by which we can call *anyone* a "real" Zen master. There is no organization that recognizes such titles or bestows them. To call someone a "real" Zen Master means that one accepts that Bodhidharma received mind transmission from a line tracing itself directly to the Buddha, and that Bodhidharma propogated that same mind transmission in the direction of the master in question. As such, it is an issue of insider/outsider, of "authenticity," which is beyond the bounds of the Wikipedia enterprise. If we accept that mind transmission exists, then someone is a real Zen master because they received this transmission. But outsiders cannot judge; we just can't measure if anyone really received an actual mind transmission using scientific or quasi-scientific criteria (at least not at present). I suggest, then, that anyone who calls him/herself a Zen master is free to do so from a social scientific perspective. Our job is not to decide if they are "really" legitimate, but rather, to give the reader enough background to judge for herself. Otherwise, we're turning theological (Buddhological?) assertions into "facts." This forum, as an encyclopedia, ain't the place for that. Okay, no more blathering! --Natalie indeed 01:27, 8 June 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for your comments, Natalie. I agree with you that the place of Wikipedia is not to judge TNH or any other religious leader "legitimate" or to promulgate the formula for who can or can not be called "Zen Master". It is interesting to me, however, and a good use of Wiki space to record the structure of the Order of Interbeing as part of the Lam Te school's lineage. Perhaps we're getting a little closer to that.Nightngle 13:46, 9 June 2006 (UTC)

Colors of Compassion

Requesting a truce on further edits of this phrase

  • I have listed a "request for comment" on the religion and philosophy page to attempt to foster collaboration here, rather than continue a tug of war over the phrase "people of color".Nightngle 19:45, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

The concept of Colors of Compassion is not only about and/or for people of color. It means all colors equally important and desirable, whereas "for people of color" implies that non-whites should feel inferior and hence need encouragement. I am surprised that as a buddhist fan, you failed to notice the subtle difference.

I don't think this is the page to debate whether "people of color" is a proper phrase to use. It is in common usage, and while I do see your point, I also am reporting the facts. The OI does have focused retreats - they have held a retreat especially for law enforcement officers, a retreat for people in the entertainment industry, politicians, they will have a retreat this fall for researchers in conciousness and neurology, etc. You didn't delete the reference to retreats for "professional and scientific", wouldn't making that distinction supposedly make those of us who are not "scientific" feel left out or "inferior" by that logic? Nightngle
Again, make sure it's clear in your head the difference between occupation and existence. Take this example: you can train a retriever into an assistance dog but you can't make it a rotweiller. Professionals, scientists, entertainers,... and veterans (I see somebody has corrected the article), all are occupations. People of color are different existences. It makes no sense if you mix up the two things. That's why I deleted out the silly PoC. Vario Uneseny 18:12, 7 July 2006 (UTC)
It strikes me that the phrase "People of color" is used extensivly by non-whites, so it is not inappropriate to report here. Do a Google search on the phrase and you'll see that there are over 8 million results. If you Google the term in Wikipedia only, you'll find 386 pages that contain it. Because the term is in such high usage in the general population, and the term is clearly used in the article cited, I contend that it stands as an accurate portrayal of the kinds of focused retreats given by TNH and the OI.
quoted from the article: "Finding Our True Home by Thich Nhat Hanh Colors of Compassion Retreat March 28, 2004 - In March, at the end of the three-month winter retreat, Thich Nhat Hanh and the Sangha offered a three-day retreat called Colors of Compassion, for people of color. Three hundred retreatants gathered to practice mindfulness, listen to teachings, and share with one another the experiences of joy and suffering that come from being a person of color." [2] (italics and bold, mine)
Everything's fine except the words you quoted are not the monk's words.
It's irrelivant whether TNH stated this or not. The article is stating that there are such retreats, lead by TNH, at his practice centers.Nightngle 18:08, 7 July 2006 (UTC)
May I recommend that this discussion and any commentary about the phrase "people of color" be continued on the Talk:Colored talk page, please? Additional information would enhance that article as well. Nightngle 15:12, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

Guys, we are trying to discuss (or I am trying to get across) the Buddhistic concept regarding differences in color here. Who cares about which phrase you wish to use. The concept is that all living things, no matter what, suffer. Why on earth should a Buddhist teaching aim to reach out to some particular (darker) colors, but omit other (brighter) colors?Vario Uneseny 18:12, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

If your aim is to look into Buddhism and race, that might be an interesting article, but in this article, I'm simply reporting on the fact that there are retreats given at Plum Village and other OI practice centers for various groups. They focus on the concerns of those groups. Some of the examples of those retreats include addressing the needs and issues of people who are in the racial minority of their society. If you've ever attended a retreat given by TNH and the OI, you'll find a sea of white, middle class faces - believe me, the plain yogurt skinned folks are not being omitted in any way. One of the questions Buddhists in the West do need to deal with is why there are so few people of color participating? Are we doing something unconsciously that is excluding racial minorities? Are we unconsciously racist? Are we doing enough to combat racism in the West? I think that motivates the desire to reach out more than anything else. Remember, too, that TNH and his many Vietnamese followers are also considered "people of color", and find difficulties with racism in their own families and communities.
On the other hand, I do hear you about the issues with the phrase "people of color", and as a member of the OI, I will post this on the discussion listserv to bring it to the attention of TNH and the monastics. I do want to thank you for bring this issue up, since it did lead me to look for the references to substantiate the special interest retreats, which is a good thing for an encyclopedia article. It also led me to consider other aspects of using this phrase. I do contend that, at the moment, it is a valid phrase to use in this application; it is worthy of further discussion in the proper forums, like [Political correctness], [Racism] and [Colored], etc. and when a better term is accepted by the folks that it refers to we can use that term. Nightngle 17:36, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

I feel a bit sorry that your way is so lost in the maze of living confusion. I hope one day you will find peace of mind and realize the truth and may Thich Nhat Hanh guides your way. I do appreciate your sense of racial tollerance, combatting racism, building towards a future brighter society, and so on. But be careful! Doing good is not the aim of Buddhist practice. A side-product it might be, but never the aim. By wanting to do good you create a desire, once a desire exists, suffering follows. I keep deleting the phrase because I fear your persistance in regarding Buddhist (or Thich Nhat Hanh's) teaching and practice as a means of doing good might mislead future learners. Though, I am bit surprised that Thich Nhat Hanh also finds it difficult with racism. A true Buddhist wouldn't have to. You're sure you understood him correctly?

What I care about or what I am looking for is immaterial here and I don't give a thing who wants to use which phrase. Use whatever you wish and forget about this people of color issue. Remember, if you want to practice Buddhism, forget about doing good. But, if you are looking for a way of doing good, maybe some other religions are more fit for the purpose.

This really isn't a discussion board, but a discussion of how best to edit this article on Wikipedia. Discussing my practice isn't appropriate. I would recommend, instead, that you look into a site like Beliefnet [3]] for on-going discussions about Buddhism. You might also want to peruse some of the Buddhism pages to see if you can further enhance those articles.
The bottom line is that the Colors of Compassion retreat happened on March 28, 2004, and is documented on an official website. Nightngle 19:10, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

Controversies about retreats

  • For some reason there is some controversy about the statement that there are retreats given by Thich Nhat Hanh and his monastics especially for people of color. I appreciate questioning this, because it led me to cite the reference [4], but once the reference is cited, I don't understand the continued deletion. The article about the "Colors of Compassion" given at Plum Village by TNH on March 28, 2004, states clearly that: 1) the retreat was specifically for people of color, 2) THN specifically discussed issues of racial identity, racism, and the feelings of alienation for minorities, and 3) the intention of continue having retreats for people of color in the future, which was continued at the Deer Park Monastery on Sept 14 - 18th, 2005 (and I believe there are plans to have this kind of retreat regularly)[5]. I'm not sure why these facts are not convincing, but welcome discussion here, rather than a tug of war over the phrase in the editing of the article.Nightngle 16:08, 6 July 2006 (UTC)
I didn't have the honor nor good fortune to attend the Plum Village March 28 Retreat, so I know nothing about the 3 CLEARLY stating points and the PoC future plan you claimed. As I mentioned earlier, there's not a single trace of "for people of color" left on the Plum Village Retreat Callendar. I am sorry, I really want to believe you, but you've got no CLEAR evidence apart from the silly PoC phrase you keep repeating. Please see also my Colors of Compassion discussion at the top. Just trying to help.
I did not attend the March 28th retreat either, I read the article and I'm explaining what is in the article. I'm sorry that you're not seeing the phrase "people of color" in the article; it's right at the top of the page. The article cited is from an official OI website, so it is, by definition clear evidence. Also, "People of color" is a common phrase, so I'm not sure where you're coming from saying it's silly. Is this your opinion, or is this a sentiment being used by advocate groups, etc.? Nightngle 18:08, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

RfC response

Please explain what the issue is specifically, but in an un-encyclopedic fashion. What exactly is it that should or should not be included in the article? -- SB Johnny 19:46, 8 July 2006 (UTC)

OK, got it. If "The Mindfulness Bell" is a publication of Nhat Hanh's ministry (which it certainly appears to be), then it's pretty clear that he held a lecture for "people of color", though in the text of the link provided he seems to imply that white is among the colors people of color might have (from the first paragraph: "You may be black, yellow, brown, or white"...).
The actual topic of the discussion seems to have more to do with alienation from the larger culture, perhaps "the culturally alienated" might be a better term to use? He doesn't seem to be addressing racial topics in more than a metaphorical manner. -- SB Johnny 03:10, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
It's pretty clear the retreat was aimed at "people of color". I'd guess that White people wanting to attend would not have been turned away, but that's not verifiable at present. So there's no reason why the phrase should not stand in this encyclopedia entry. In "The Mindfulness Bell" link there is discussion of how to respond to ethnic group labels. Could you quote from that to illustrate the holistic and non-exclusionary nature of Nhat Hanh's thought on this question? This is an interesting article and with some more references it could be ready for peer review towards featured article status.Itsmejudith 11:35, 10 July 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the interesting comments and suggestions. I agree that more references are needed. Perhaps better would be to expand the paragraph about the focused retreats, rather than it simply being a list in a sentence. It's a unique aspect of TNH's teachings and retreats that he works with special interest groups to help them with their needs. This would clarify the purpose for the retreats better. Nightngle 13:40, 10 July 2006 (UTC)