He was born and raised in a scholarly family, whose religion
was Cao Dai (a popular religion in Vietnam). At young age, he
had revealed some unique characteristics such as compassion,
contemplation, poise, honesty, and reading interests. As time
progressed, his compassion to beings and thought of renunciation
grew stronger. Witnessing human's suffering during wartime,
he was awakened and determined to become a monk. His goal was
to find a way to help beings relieve their sufferings. At the
age of 25, he was ordained by Master Thich Thien Hoa at Phat
Quang temple after 3 months of Buddhist duties. His Buddhist
name was given as "Thich Thanh Tu." Ten years passed
by with much of effort in learning and practicing, he had completed
his basic, intermediate, and high Buddhist education at known
Buddhist schools in Vietnam. Later on, he started teaching at
various locations, which include Van Hanh Buddhist school, Duoc
Su Buddhist school, and Hue Nghiem Buddhist College. Over the
years of teaching, he had held several important positions and
published a few valuable books.
But his goal would not rest at that point. After 3 years
of his serving as an expression of gratitude to his Master,
he decided to leave on his own to find his "true self"
or his "unlearned knowledge." Knowing the "Pure
Land" method would not help him to accomplish his goal,
he decided to proceed with meditation. This set of mind had opened
a new chapter for "The Vietnamese Zen at late 20th century" which he relates in a book he later wrote with this title.
In 1966, he built Phap Lac meditation center and lived there
to pursue his practice. During this period of time, he continued
his writings and translations. Two years later, he made a
public announcement that he would practice in seclusion indefinitely.
His goal was "if I don't thoroughly discern the Way, I
won't leave the meditation chamber." He had tried different
methods such as contemplations of "Six Marvelous Methods,"
"Impurity," and even the riddles, etc. But these
gave no results. Though, the failure would never make him
quit. At last, his determination made a harvest as he discerned
the concept of "Nothingness." He then reviewed the
Mahayana suttras that discussed about Nothingness and was
able to understand them all. By remembering the phrase "after
realization, enlighten others," he decided to expose
himself to the public to perform Buddhist teachings and other
In December of 1971, the first study program started with
10 students. His principle of teaching is "learning and
practicing concurrently." The reason is he needs to make
sure that our understanding and practicing follow what is said
in the suttras. This helps practitioners to evade mistakes
that could lead to ailments. His lectures were on the Buddhist
scriptures, discourses, and history as well as the basic meditation
methods. The focus is "aware the false thoughts, but
not attach to them." Three years later, he opened the
second program at 3 locations: Linh Quang monastery, Chan
Khong monastery, and Bat Nha monastery. Upto now, he has made
many significant accomplishments through various forms: Writing,
translation, lecturing, establishing monasteries, and teaching
over a thousand of monks and nuns. Currently, all monasteries
(established by the Master) are learning and practicing the
principle of Truc Lam sect. He always wants to implement what
quintessential from Vietnamese Zen masters that has been forgotten
for the past centuries.
Gradually, his dharma teachings have spread all over the
world through his lecture tapes and writings. For several
years, he has visited some foreign countries to give dharma
lectures. Numbers of practitioners, scholars, and Buddhist
laities have studied and practiced his Zen methods. His words
are quite simple, but profound and excellent, that people
from any background (from a blue color worker to a doctor)
could understand. To make this "transmission of the light"
propagate wider to different ethnicities, some of his books
have been translated into English. Also, the Vietnamese Buddhist
Meditation Congregation has established in 2001 and its headquarter
is at Dai Dang monastery in California.
Looking back to his past, we have to praise his intentions,
achievements, and merits. He had done what no one had done
which is the task of "Renovating Truc Lam Zen sect"
of Vietnam. With much respect and gratitude, we all try to
follow his footsteps to maintain the existence of Vietnamese
Zen. Despite these facts, he is still humble as he said in
the poem "The Wild Sunflowers": He is just a wild
sunflower a wild sunflower that ensconces aside the highways!