Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, who popularized mindfulness in the West, has died at the age of 95, his Zen teaching organization announced on Jan. 22.
The peace activist and meditation master “passed away peacefully” at Tu Hieu Temple in Hue, Vietnam, at midnight on Jan. 22, according to the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism’s statement.
“We invite our beloved global spiritual family to take a few moments to be still, to come back to our mindful breathing, as we together hold [teacher] in our hearts,” the organization said.
Born as Nguyen Xuan Bao in 1926 in Hue, Nhat Hanh was ordained as a monk at age 16. He traveled to the United States to teach comparative religion at Princeton and Columbia universities in 1961.
According to Plum Village’s website, Nhat Hanh founded a grassroots relief organization of 10,000 volunteers based on Buddhist principles of non-violence and compassion. He also founded a Buddhist university, a publishing house, and an influential peace activist magazine.
He traveled to the United States and Europe in 1966 to call for an end to hostilities in Vietnam, during which he met U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King, who nominated him for the Nobel Prize a year later due to his efforts to promote reconciliation between the U.S.-backed South and communist North Vietnam.
Following his mission to call an end to the Vietnam-American War, Nhat Hanh refused to take sides in the conflict and was subsequently banished from his homeland, forcing Nhat Hanh to live in exile for 39 years.
He was only allowed back into the country in 2005, when the communist-ruled government welcomed him back in the first of several visits. Nhat Hanh remained based in southern France.
Nhat Hanh had a stroke in 2014 that left him unable to speak. He returned to Vietnam in October 2018, spending his final years at the Tu Hieu Pagoda, the monastery where he was ordained nearly 80 years earlier.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.