The world-famous Vietnamese Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh has emerged from his coma and may be transferred to a rehab at a French hospital where he has been treated for a brain hemorrhage since November 11.
“Thay [the Vietnamese term for master has gradually emerged into wakefulness, and has his eyes open for much of the day, to the point where the doctors can now say that he is no longer in a coma,” reads a post on his website, plumvillage.org.
Nhat Hanh, 88, is now able to recognize familiar faces and very responsive to verbal stimuli, the site said.
It said he has began smiling in recent days.
“However at the present time Thay is not able to speak. This indicates some degree of aphasia, which is being monitored closely and may evolve favorably following therapy,” the site said, adding “there are plans for Thay to be transferred to a specialist Stroke Rehabilitation Clinic soon.”
Nhat Hanh, also known as a peace activist, has lived in his monastic community at Plum Village in southern France for decades.
He has traveled regularly throughout North America and Europe to offer lectures on mindfulness and peace.
Described as a monk with “an apparently stern face that suddenly blooms into the infectious smile of a child” by Italian journalist Claudio Gallo, Nhat Hanh was a pioneer in bringing Buddhism to the West after he moved there from his home country Vietnam in 1973.
An author of more than 100 books, including 40 in English, Nhat Hanh founded six monasteries and dozens of practice centers in America and Europe, as well as more than 1,000 local mindfulness practice communities, known as ‘sanghas’.
He has built a thriving community of over 600 monks and nuns worldwide, who, along with his tens of thousands of lay followers, apply his teachings on mindfulness, peace-making and community-building in schools, workplaces, businesses – and even prisons – throughout the world.
The work of Nhat Hanh has been acknowledged by several global leaders over the past 50 years. Current World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has said his practice is one "in which one can be deeply passionate and compassionate toward those who are suffering."
Martin Luther King nominated him for the Nobel peace prize in 1967 for his efforts to end the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975.
Nhat Hanh’s key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment -- the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.
Remarkably, Thay, as Thich Nhat Hanh’s students call him, does not ask his Western followers to abandon their religion.
Nhat Hanh has returned to Vietnam three times--in 2005, 2007 and 2008--to meet with Buddhist followers and offer prayer requiems for the war dead.