From The Intelligent Optimist Magazine
In this age of wild politicians and violent, disrespectful debates, it’s a sign of hope that someone like the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh—also known as “The other Dalai Lama”—is so popular with so many people. Thich Nhat Hanh, who recently turned 90 and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King in 1967, has inspired hundreds of thousands of people across the globe with his message of mindfulness. The new documentary “Walk with me” goes deep inside his life and work while telling the story of a Zen Buddhist community of monks who signed up for a life of chastity for one common purpose: to transform their suffering.
Four years ago, the disciples of Nhat Hanh invited filmmakers Max Pugh, who documented his friendship with a former child soldier in “The Road to Freedom”, and Marc Francis, known for the documentary “Black Gold” about Ethiopian coffee farmers, into their monastic community to observe their Buddhist practice and the essence of their approach to mindful living. The filmmakers were subsequently given access to the spiritual lives of the monks and nuns of Plum Village in the Dordogne in southern France, and traveled with Thich Nhat Hanh and his disciples to Vancouver, Mississippi, New York, Washington, San Diego, and London. The film offers a rare insight into why the monks and the nuns decided to leave their families and secular life behind to follow in his footsteps.
The documentary, beautifully narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”, “Sherlock”) who says that his life has been “touched” by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, is a cinematic journey into the world of mindfulness. “Finding truth is not the same as finding happiness”, Cumberbatch cites the words of Nhat Hanh, “Once you have seen the truth you cannot avoid suffering. Otherwise you have seen nothing at all.”
Nhat Hanh has published more than 100 books, almost half of them in English. And, yet his message shines more deeply and directly when you hear him speak in the documentary. His wisdom is ancient, not new—despite the popularity of mindfulness these days. But there’s something different when the same words are spoken by “a gentle monk” (King) who has campaigned for peace his whole life. Because mindfulness, for Nhat Hanh, is a practice of peace—to begin with oneself. Violence in society ends when you “stop treating yourself like an enemy”. May this documentary inspire an evening in your hectic life and may its message travel with you on your path to peace and softening the suffering of truth.