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Lions Roar : July 2010
V) V) p::: p., x .....:i .....:i p::: p., o >-< V) E--< p::: o u V) o E--< o ::r: p., group of other students left, taking up residence at a temple in Saigon, where they studied Western philosophy and science with the belief that these subjects would enable them to revive Viet- namese Buddhism. In the 1930s, a youth -oriented Buddhist re- form movement had begun in Vietnam, and Nhat Hanh's move away from Bao Quoc made it clear that he was aligning himself with that movement. To contribute to the reform, Nhat Hanh taught and wrote about Buddhism and, by his mid-twenties, he had several books under his belt and a reputation for having something refreshing and relevant to say. According to his writings at the time, he believed that in or- der to save Buddhism from growing stale, it had to evolve with the rest of the world. The first noble truth deals with suffering-that is fixed-but in every age the flavor of suffering changes. Nhat Hanh taught that in order for practitioners to alleviate suffering, they needed to have a direct experience of the suffering of their era. His thinking was colored by the grave situation in Vietnam. During the Second World War, Japan had invaded the country and ousted the French colonists. When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, there was a power vacuum in Vietnam. This enabled the Viet Minh Front-a communist-led independence movement Martin Luther King Jr. and Thich Nhat Hanh were among the distinguished signatories of the statement of the International Committee of Conscience in Vietnam. King nominated Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize. The first six members of the Order of Interbeing. Sister Chan Khong is on the far left. Third from the left is Nhat Chi Mai, who one year later immolated herself to protest the Vietnam War. popular with the people-to launch a revolution. The Allies, however, had agreed that France could reestablish their rule and in 1947 full-scale war erupted. In 1954 the French withdrew after their defeat at Bien Dien Phu, and at an international conference in Geneva, Vietnam was divided into two states-pro- Western in the south, communist in the north-that would reunify after in- ternationally supervised free elections. But the Americans feared that elections would bring the communists to power throughout the country, and they made sure the elections never took place. Even then, it quickly became clear that only American power- SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2010 39