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May 17, 2005

Blair teacher travels to Vietnam accompanying the Zen Master

by Diana Frey, Page Editor
Blair NSL and Peace Studies teacher Joann Malone, accompanied the well-known Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh on a retreat to Vietnam for 18 days between March 22 and April 8. She visited Hanoi, Hue, Quy Nhon and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) while practicing Nhat Hanh's unique form of Buddhism.
Thich Nhat Hanh leads a group in practicing walking meditation in the Long Khanh Temple in Quy Nhon.<br><br><i>Photo courtesy of Joann Malone.<i><br><br>
Thich Nhat Hanh leads a group in practicing walking meditation in the Long Khanh Temple in Quy Nhon.

Photo courtesy of Joann Malone.



Nhat Hanh's History

According to the Washington Mindfulness Community, Nhat Hanh's protest against violence began at the early age of 16 when he became a monk. Originally from Hue (Central Vietnam), according to Malone, Nhat Hanh remained neutral when North and South Vietnam were having disputes and his neutrality supposedly threatened the government. This resulted in Nhat Hanh being exiled from the country in 1966.

Nhat Hanh has written over 100 books, in several different languages including Vietnamese, French and English. He founded a University in Saigon during the early 1960s called the School of Youth for Social Service (SYSS), a relief organization that trains young people in need how to peacefully help rehabilitate their country. According to the Washington Mindfulness Community, Nhat Hanh also helped convince Martin Luther King Jr. to publicly oppose the Vietnam War, and in response, King nominated Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. Nhat Hanh still regularly visits countries all over the world to give peace talks, Buddhist teachings and attempts to help those who are suffering.

Malone's Experience

Joann Malone poses with a monk who lives at the top of the Yente Mountain.  The third century monk who brought meditation practices to Vietnam also lived here.<br><br><i> Photo courtesy of Joann Malone</i><br><br>
Joann Malone poses with a monk who lives at the top of the Yente Mountain. The third century monk who brought meditation practices to Vietnam also lived here.

Photo courtesy of Joann Malone

Malone has admired Nhat Hanh ever since 1968, when she heard him tell stories of how the Vietnam War was affecting Vietnam, and causing the people to suffer. His touching stories inspired her to take her own stand and oppose the war in the US. Late last year when Malone heard that Nhat Hanh was having a retreat focusing on Buddhism in his home country, Malone applied as soon as she could. "[The trip brought together] my opposition to the war, my love for the Vietnamese people, and my love for Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings on peace which really liberated my life," says Malone, who considers being accepted into the retreat was a real privilege. Originally the trip was supposed to admit 600 people into Vietnam over a three-month period of time, but the Vietnamese government changed its mind, allowing Nhat Hanh to only bring 100 monks and nuns and 90 lay (non-clergy) people.
Joann Malone poses with a statue of Avalokiteshavara, the Goddess of Compassion, at the top of the Yente Mountain, which lies several hours outside of Hanoi.
<br><br><i>Photo courtesy of Joann Malone</i><br><br>
Joann Malone poses with a statue of Avalokiteshavara, the Goddess of Compassion, at the top of the Yente Mountain, which lies several hours outside of Hanoi.

Photo courtesy of Joann Malone



The retreat taught Malone values that Nhat Hanh encourages, while he also emphasized that one should "be faithful to their roots." The laity learned a prayer of gratitude to say before every meal, and learned to eat in silence, enabling them to be aware of their surroundings.

Nhat Hanh usually visited six to seven temples a day during the retreat. He encouraged Malone and the laity, to practice meditation in their everyday life. One way is to breath in and out with every step, enabling one to be aware of their mind being connected with their body. "When we would walk to a place where he would speak, we would walk mindfully," says Malone.

Practicing at home

There are two differences between traditional Buddhism and the form of Buddhism that Nhat Hanh teaches. Malone says the main difference is that anybody, no matter what religion they practice, can also practice Buddhism, finding peace and joy by combining his or her mind and body together during the present moment. Another difference Malone says is that Nhat Hanh strongly feels that monks and nuns should not be isolated from the rest of the world.

Since practice makes perfect, Malone decided to join the Washington Mindfulness Community, a place where she can continue her studies of Nhat Hanh's Buddhism. According to Malone, people can join mindfulness communities all over the country especially if one is in need of "extra relief."



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  • hey on May 17, 2005 at 2:15 PM
    fix the formatting of the last picture.

    also, "Saigon" is pronounced "Ho Chi Minh City."
  • alex gold on May 17, 2005 at 4:42 PM
    That's so cool!
  • ashley on May 18, 2005 at 11:21 AM
    interesting article
  • yay on May 18, 2005 at 2:29 PM
    VIETNAMESE PRIDE!
  • James Jackson (View Email) on May 18, 2005 at 2:36 PM
    Asian Pride!
  • woot on May 19, 2005 at 7:46 PM
    mrs malone rocks!
  • viet pride on May 23, 2005 at 1:06 PM
    to hey,

    HO Chi Minh City is the communist and official name for Saigon City now. Though Saigon is the original name of the city, after the Communists captured Saigon in April 1975, they changed Saigon to its official name now, Ho Chi Minh City, after the communist's leader, Ho Chi Minh.
  • Joann Malone (View Email) on May 26, 2005 at 8:46 AM
    Thank you very much to Diana and to Silver Chips for the interview about my trip to Vietnam. I'd also like to mention that students at Blair started a meditation club last year - Angeni. We met on Wednesdays at 2:15 in room 234 and will continue to do so next year - breathing, walking, relaxing and eating mindfully. If any students ever need a time to just stop, breathe and relax, we can teach you simple ways to do it.
  • Ron Stanko (View Email) on February 6, 2006 at 4:41 AM
    How can one practice in Vietnam? Where does one go? Thanks, Ron
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