The monastics at Plum Village have issued a new update today on the health of Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay). They are in the midst of an annual three-month Winter Retreat. Thay is joining the monastics in regular activities, including sitting meditations. Despite noting his “remarkable progress” in June, they write today:
Sadly, at this time, Thay has made only slight improvements and is still unable to speak. He continues to sing with us, and is making more and more recognizable words whenever we sing the Plum Village songs he remembers so well. We witness Thay putting a lot of effort and energy into trying to form the words, even though it can sometimes be frustrating for him. We are happy to report that we have now found a new speech therapist who will be working with Thay on a daily basis throughout January. In addition, we continue to explore many new and groundbreaking neuroplastic healing techniques, including neurofeedback, and cold laser therapy.
Thay continues to enjoy peaceful and happy moments gazing at the Golden Gate Bridge and making outings to the botanical gardens and other beautiful scenic spots in San Francisco. With the support of a brace on his right leg, Thay has begun to put more weight through the right side of his body and is training to become gradually more independent in terms of balance and standing. He continues to practice walking every day, for several hours per day, with the support of his physiotherapist and monastic attendants, who are receiving expert guidance and training.
We are inspired by Thay’s spiritual vitality, his strong perseverance, and his immense will that has directed his recovery from the start. Thay is teaching us that he does not appreciate pity; he appreciates practice – and is sensitive to the mindfulness and true presence of everyone around him. We are learning from Thay’s great dignity in accepting what he has. We can see in his whole way of being that, for Thay, what he has is enough. This does not hold us back, however, from doing everything we can to support his recovery; nor does it hold Thay back from diligently re-training body and mind.
The monks and nuns go on to discuss the very humanness of Thay’s condition, a reflection of Buddha himself who was, after all, just a fellow human. And at the same time they note the interconnectedness of life itself, beginning with a grounding in the present moment, recalling the phrase “This is it” and moving out to the broader sangha. They say, “As a community, we are taking care of every aspect of Thay’s body because we see deeply that he is not just in San Francisco. We can see his Sangha Body thriving a little bit everywhere, in ourselves, in each of the new novices, and in everyone. Thay’s vision of the next Buddha manifesting as a Sangha is being realized.”
Finally, they conclude with graditude:
We would like to express our deep gratitude to our spiritual family for being there, practicing wholeheartedly wherever you are. Each one of us is a cell in Thay’s Sangha Body, and we contribute to taking care of Thay by coming home to take care of ourselves, our practice and our loved ones. In this way we are a beautiful, active cell in Thay’s Sangha Body and Dharma Body.
In noting this gratitude and the importance of connectedness, especially this time of the year for many of us, I’m posting a talk Thay gave 3 years ago around the holiday season, on the teaching that “Loneliness is the Ill Being of our Time”