In a Culture of Fear, Thich Nhat Hanh Cultivates Mindfulness

February 21, 2004

Source: Los Angeles Times,1,2151434.

On February 21, 2004 the Los Angeles Times reported, "Thich Nhat Hanh is a renowned Vietnamese Zen Buddhist teacher who has written numerous books, created 800 meditation groups in two dozen countries, led retreats for U.S. political leaders and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But when he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport in January for a three-month retreat, he said, he was pulled aside for an hour. Security guards searched his bags, read through his private letters and asked a fellow monk whether he had ever made bombs, he said. 'The war on terrorism has forced us to look at everyone as a potential terrorist,' Nhat Hanh said in a recent interview at his organization's Deer Park Monastery in Escondido. 'When the culture goes like that, it goes wrong, because you don't have much chance to discover the good things in people. In fact, we are trying to look for the negative things ... and that is very depressing.' To help Americans heal their trauma, anger and fear stemming from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Buddhist monk has decided to spend his annual winter retreat in the United States for the first time in what he calls 'a peace offering to America.' With about 250 fellow monks and nuns also visiting Deer Park, Nhat Hanh plans to present a series of public lectures, retreats and other events over the next month. The activities are aimed at sharing what he calls Buddhist mindfulness training — how to cultivate peace and calm in daily life through deep breathing, slowing down and living fully in the present.