Janine Schipper, Professor, Northern Arizona University
Personal Reflexive Statement:
My approach to humanistic sociology has been largely shaped by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. His essential teaching, to use the insights of mindfulness to inspire social change, has impacted my teaching, research, and writing. I assign Nhat Hanh’s books as the final reading in most of the courses I teach. Whether teaching Introductory Sociology, Social Problems, Environmental Sociology, Medical Sociology, or Consciousness and Society, Nhat Hanh offers deep insights and tangible approaches to addressing our deepest social problems. My research and writing have also been strongly influenced by Nhat Hanh. In 2018 I co-published a book entitled, Teaching with Compassion: An Educator’s Oath to Teach from the Heart (Rowman and Littlefield). The book was heavily influenced by Nhat Hanh and one reader remarked that reading it was like taking a walk in the park with Thich Nhat Hanh. I can’t imagine a greater compliment.
Reflecting on Thich Nhat Hanh
Respectful of countless Buddhas,
I calmly light this candle,
Brightening the face of the Earth (1)
Thich Nhat Hanh, affectionately known as Thay by his students, passed away last week. I want to honor his life, pay tribute to him, and share how my life has been deeply impacted by his. I light a candle as I recite one of Thay’s gathas (mindfulness versus). I surround myself with his books, feeling that in doing so, I’m bringing him closer to me.
I feel overwhelmed. It’s hard to put into words 32 years of learning from this gentle Zen monk from Vietnam, whose dedication to alleviating suffering through present moment awareness has touched countless lives. How do I begin writing about someone who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967, whose Engaged Buddhism influenced the American Peace Movement, and who has been described as a gift to humanity? I wonder what Thay would say. How would Thay advise me to begin?
Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.
Breathing in, I dwell deeply in the present moment
Breathing out, I know this is a wonderful moment (2)