Tag Archives: thich nhat hanh

Review: Buddhist Visions of the Good Life for All

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 30, 2023

Buddhist Visions of the Good Life for All. Edited by Sallie B. King. Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism. Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2021, xvi + 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-367-56181-9 (hardback), $160, 978-1-00-310045-4 (e-book), $44.05.

Reviewed by Timothy Loftus

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Thich Nhat Hanh’s Ecological Humanism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 29, 2022

Collapsing Space and Time: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Ecological Humanism

Victor Thasiah
California Lutheran University

Identifying with non-human organisms, such as flora and fauna, and non-living members of the natural world, such as winds and clouds, was central to Thich Nhat Hanh’s (1926–2022) practice of Buddhism and conduct of resistance during the Vietnam War. This deep affinity with nature enabled him to “become himself” and sustain his public service and humanitarian work under duress. We examine Nhat Hanh’s extended accounts of identifying with the natural world during the war, relevant material from his 1962–1966 memoirs and 1963 poem “Butterflies over the Golden Mustard Fields.” They set out what we call his ecological humanism, his paradoxical overcoming of self-alienation through a close rapport with relatively wild nature. With no critical biography yet available, this focused, ecocritical interpretation, the first of its kind on Nhat Hanh during this major period, contributes to a better sense of the making of this global Buddhist influencer, who at the time was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Buddhist Self-immolation and Mahāyānist Absolute Altruism, Part Two

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Thresholds of Transcendence: Buddhist Self-immolation and Mahāyānist Absolute Altruism, Part Two

Martin Kovan
University of Melbourne

In China and Tibet, and under the gaze of the global media, the five-year period from February 2009 to February 2014 saw the self-immolations of at least 127 Tibetan Buddhist monks, nuns, and lay-people. An English Tibetan Buddhist monk, then resident in France, joined this number in November 2012, though his self-immolation has been excluded from all accounts of the exile Tibetan and other documenters of the ongoing Tibetan crisis. Underlying the phenomenon of Buddhist self-immolation is a real and interpretive ambiguity between personal, religious (or ritual-transcendental), altruistic, and political suicide, as well as political suicide within the Buddhist sangha specifically. These theoretical distinctions appear opaque not only to (aligned and non-aligned, Tibetan and non-Tibetan) observers, but potentially also to self-immolators themselves, despite their deeply motivated conviction.

Such ambiguity is reflected in the varying historical and current assessments of the practice, also represented by globally significant Buddhist leaders such as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Vietnamese monk and activist Thích Nhất Hạnh. This essay analyses the symbolic ontology of suicide in these Tibetan Buddhist cases, and offers metaethical and normative accounts of self-immolation as an altruistic-political act in the “global repertoire of contention” in order to clarify its claims for what is a critically urgent issue in Buddhist ethics.

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