Plum Village said Thich Nhat Hanh passed away “peacefully” on Saturday morning local time.
“Thai [Thich Nhat Hanh] has been the most extraordinary teacher, whose peace, tender compassion and clear wisdom touched the lives of millions,” said Plum Village’s statement.
“Whether we’ve encountered him in retreats, public lectures, or through his books and online classes — or simply through the story of his incredible life — we can see Thay [Thich Nhat Hanh] has been a real one bodhisattva, an immense force for peace and healing in the world,” it said.
Born in 1926 in central Vietnam, he entered the Tu Hieu Temple in Hue city as a novice monk at the age of 16.
According to the Plum Village website, he was actively involved in the movement to renew Vietnamese Buddhism in the early 1950s, even as a young monk.
When the Vietnam War began in the 1950s, Thich Nhat Hanh dedicated himself to helping those around him who were suffering. He also continued to lead the contemplative life associated with Buddhism – this led him to found the Engaged Buddhism movement. Plum Village said, “his life has since been devoted to the work of inner transformation for the benefit of individuals and society.”
Thich Nhat Hanh traveled to the US in 1961 to teach comparative religion at Princeton University. Later that decade, he taught at Cornell and Columbia University, where he continued to spread a message of peace and lobbied Western leaders to end the Vietnam War, Plum Village said.
In the early 1960s, he founded the School of Youth and Social Service in Vietnam – a 10,000 volunteer grassroots aid organization based on the Buddhist principles of nonviolence and compassionate action.
Thich Nhat Hanh also founded Van Hanh Buddhist University in Saigon, the publishing house La Boi and an influential journal for peace activists. In 1966, he founded the Order of Interbeing, a new order based on the traditional Buddhist Bodhisattva precepts, according to the Plum Village website.
In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh traveled to the US and again to Europe to end hostilities in Vietnam and continue to advocate for peace in the war-torn country. During this trip, he met American civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1967 Luther King Jr. nominated. Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize, calling him “an apostle of peace and nonviolence.” However, no Nobel Peace Prize was awarded that year.
The much-respected monk led the Buddhist delegation to the Paris peace talks in 1969, while lobbying Western leaders to end the Vietnam War.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s mission to oppose the war led to both North Vietnam and South Vietnam denying him the right to return to either country for decades.
He was banned for 39 years and was only allowed to return to his homeland in 2005.
In 2014, he suffered a stroke that left him unable to speak. He spent the rest of his days at Tu Hieu Temple—the temple he first entered as a novice monk as a teenager.