Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has died at the age of 95. The peace activist gained prominence in the 1960s as a major opponent of the Vietnam War and is known as a pioneer of Buddhism in the west.
In a tribute, the Dalai Lama said he was saddened by the death of “his friend and spiritual brother,” adding that "venerable Thich Nhat Hanh lived a truly meaningful life. I have no doubt the best way we can pay tribute to him is to continue his work to promote peace in the world."
Perhaps Thich Nhat Hanh's most famous body of work is his Ten Love Letters to Earth. Today, and for each of the next nine Sundays, we publish one of his letters. These meditations are an invitation to engage in intimate conversation, a living dialogue, with our Earth.
Love Letter I: Beloved Mother of All Things
Dear Mother Earth,
I bow my head before you as I look deeply and recognize that you are present in me and that I’m a part of you. I was born from you and you are always present, offering me everything I need for my nourishment and growth. My mother, my father, and all my ancestors are also your children. We breathe your fresh air. We drink your clear water. We eat your nourishing food. Your herbs heal us when we’re sick.
You are the mother of all beings. I call you by the human name Mother and yet I know your mothering nature is more vast and ancient than humankind. We are just one young species of your many children. All the millions of other species who live—or have lived—on Earth are also your children. You aren’t a person, but I know you are not less than a person either. You are a living breathing being in the form of a planet.
Each species has its own language, yet as our Mother you can understand us all. That is why you can hear me today as I open my heart to you and offer you my prayer.
Dear Mother, wherever there is soil, water, rock or air, you are there, nourishing me and giving me life. You are present in every cell of my body. My physical body is your physical body, and just as the sun and stars are present in you, they are also present in me. You are not outside of me and I am not outside of you. You are more than just my environment. You are nothing less than myself.
I promise to keep the awareness alive that you are always in me, and I am always in you. I promise to be aware that your health and well-being is my own health and well-being. I know I need to keep this awareness alive in me for us both to be peaceful, happy, healthy, and strong.
Sometimes I forget. Lost in the confusions and worries of daily life, I forget that my body is your body, and sometimes even forget that I have a body at all. Unaware of the presence of my body and the beautiful planet around me and within me, I’m unable to cherish and celebrate the precious gift of life you have given me. Dear Mother, my deep wish is to wake up to the miracle of life. I promise to train myself to be present for myself, my life, and for you in every moment. I know that my true presence is the best gift I can offer to you, the one I love.
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