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Thich Nhat Hanh




Thich Nhat Hanh

Doctor of Social Sciences
honoris causa

Mr Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lee, Professor Wilkinson, ladies and gentlemen,

We feel very humble and grateful that the University of Hong Kong has chosen to bestow on us this honour. Thank you very much on your love and trust. We are very glad to accept your act of brotherhood, loving kindness and generosity.

In fact, I am sure that you know in Plum Village. Plum Village is not only in France but everywhere. We have helped found thousands of communities of mindful living in the world. Plum Village is also in Hong Kong. You know that in Plum Village we do not operate as individuals but we operate always as a Sangha. So this honour I believe should go to every member of the Sangha, of the community.

In Buddhism, we practice the insight of no-self. And if we have been able to do anything to help the world, that is thanks to the Sangha as a community. Without the Sangha, nothing can be achieved. The Buddha after enlightenment, he knew that – that is why the first thing he did is to go out and look for elements of the community. The Buddha was an excellent Sangha builder. He knew that without the Sangha, the Buddha could not realize his dream of helping the world. And that is why he spent a lot of time building his Sangha. Right in the first year after enlightenment, he already had monastic Sangha of 1,250 monks and that continued to grow. And the King Prasenajit. During the last time he met with the Buddha, said that every time I see your Sangha have more appreciation and confidence in you, Lord Buddha.

When I met with Dr Martin Luther King in Chicago in 1966, we also discussed about the community building because Martin Luther King also knew that without the Sangha we cannot realize our dream. And instead of using the word Sangha he used the word ‘beloved community’. And the second time we met in Geneva we also discussed about community building and I was able to tell Martin Luther King that the people in Vietnam consider Martin Luther King as a great bodhisat tva working for human rights, civil rights, social justice and so on. I’m very happy I had the chance to tell him that because three months later he was assassinated and did not have the chance to continue his Sangha building. I was in New York when I hear the news about his assassination. I was sick because of that and I promise myself that I have to continue to build a Sangha for myself, for ourselves and for him also. And what I would like to tell the young people is that even if they have a big dream, they need a Sangha, a community in order to realize it, if they believe in the Buddha, if they believe in Martin Luther King.

The Sangha is a community where there is a brotherhood, sisterhood, harmony. And building the Sangha you have to devote a lot of time. A Family can be a Sangha, a university can be a Sangha. If there is brotherhood, mutual understanding, and love, we can achieve our goal and we can realize our dream. And that is why Sangha building is for everyone, even if you are a Director of a corporation, you can transform your corporation into a Sangha where everyone learns how to generate a brotherhood, sisterhood, mutual understanding so that your corporation not only can make money, but also generate the energy of brotherhood and sisterhood mutual understanding compassion. We need businessmen and business leaders to do the work of Sangha building in order to make our world a better place to live.

Here in Plum Village, we are also a community of learning. What we learn here is about how to generate the energy of peace, the energy of joy and happiness in our body, in our feelings and emotions. We also want to learn how to handle the suffering in us because we know that if we can do that for ourselves, we will not make other people around us suffer and then we can help them to do the same. So here, teachers and students are learning together. We want to build a Sangha and a good environment where people can be nourished and transformed and together we organize days of mindfulness, retreats of mindfulness in order to help people to come practice, transform, to suffer less and to taste the joy of life.

A retreat of mindfulness can last six days, a week, two weeks, three weeks or three months. We can always see the transformation happening in our retreats and that is very wholesome of source of nutriment for us. So to generate the energy of peach, to generate the energy of joy and happiness in our daily life, to know how to handle suffering and to suffer less, and to make good use of suffering in order to create happiness, the ways you make use of mud in order to grow lotus flowers is our learning and our practice. And that is why learning in the classroom is just one small part of our practice. We learn walking together, we learn to play soccer, basketball together, we learn to cook together, to organize retreats together, and during that time we create more brotherhood, sisterhood, harmony and peace, that will nourish us and nourish those who come and practice with us.

So that is the first thing I would like to propose to the young people of our time, if you have a dream, please build a Sangha, build a community in order to realize your dream. The second thing I would like to propose is that our love should direct to the whole planet, not only to our nation and people. I have learned that my home, my country is the whole planet earth. I do not limit my love to that tiny piece of land in Asia, Vietnam. I have a lot of transformation and healing just because I got that vision. Your love may be still too small. You have to enlarge your heart. Your love has to embrace the whole planet earth and that is the love of Buddha, the love of great human beings like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa and so on. So please have a beautiful, happy commencement day in Hong Kong University.

Thank you so much again for your generosity, for your love and blessings.


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