About Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi
When Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi was young, he started to question about life. He realized that the worldly happiness is very fragile…the moments of togetherness cannot bring true happiness because of the fear of the moments of separation.
Growing up in the face of the country at war and witnessing people scattered, dead, and suffering, he realized that life is impermanent…living today and dying tomorrow…nothing is sustainable. Since then, many questions were formed: How to liberate from the suffering of human life? How to break the cycle of birth and death? He began to study the sutras, the Buddhist doctrines, and materials about meditation. The Awake horizon was opened, but deep down he had many questions. Who am I? Where do I come from? Where do I go after death? How to Wake up to break the cycle of birth and death?
The war was getting more intense. The future of young people was highly uncertain with no escape. The questions about the suffering of birth and death were more and more tormenting, deepening, restlessly occupying the mind.
At the age of 23, he was a college student at the Saigon University of Literature, but he was no longer connected to everyday life, school, relatives, or friends, not even wanting to eat or sleep. He became very pale and skinny, and his family did not know why.
He finally decided to give up everything to follow the Most Venerable Thich Thanh Tu to ordain to be a monk at Chan Khong Meditation Center in Vung Tau, Vietnam. Really, there was nothing that he had to give up because he disconnected with the worldly life since the rise of his deep questions. If he could not find the answer to his questions then living was no different than dying. Since ordination and living up on the mountain, every day he listened to the Dharma teachings and he believed that he had the capacity to Wake Up. Therefore, he diligently practiced, but there were still stuck points inside, still no closer to finding the answer.
In 1975, the country changed dramatically and people were living separated and scattered. Sometimes, the pictorial scene of his family in the turmoil showed up in his mind, but he thought-- how could he help anyone if he had not yet found the answer? Deep inside him, the restlessness grew stronger.
A few years later, Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi went to the south, sometimes at Am Khong Tinh, Dong Thap with Venerable Phuoc Tinh; sometimes with Venerable Giac Thanh at An Khong Am in My Luong, Long Xuyen. Here, in the morning on the full moon day in May 1979, the Venerable Thich Giac Thanh went to the market. Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi stayed at the center, walking back and forth under two rows of green areca palms; his questions about birth and death and the Awake destination grew stronger. Suddenly, there seemed to be no body, no scene, only the vibration of the questions that had long weighed on the mind bursted, opening up a vast, empty space, pure, undisturbed and indescribable happiness. Sky and earth, grass, flowers, leaves, everything seemed revitalized, fresh, beautiful and vibrant... The state of mind... immense, spacious, pure, clear, all knowing, without a thought... lasted up to 6 to 7 days.
After that, Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi returned to Tinh Xa Huong Van, Da Lat, doing gardening during the day and sitting meditation at night, to contemplate deeper the moment of merging into Awake world. Until one day, what was left was finally realized and shattered to the source, just like snow melting instantly under sunlight. From that moment, the mind is completely spacious, pure and immaculate. Wisdom, Compassion and the Great Vow to help all sentient beings immediately appeared.
In 1993, Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi returned to My Tho and lived in a kuthi inside an orchard, and kept the same name "Tinh Xa Huong Van". Here, besides teaching at the Buddhist schools aiming to help young monks and nuns to reaffirm their goal to Wake Up and liberation, Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi opened practice groups, depending on the time and place, to help sentient beings realize and merge into Awake Mind, liberating suffering of birth and death.
In 2001, the founder and Abbot of Plum Village invited Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi to come to the United States for a visit. On that trip, he visited the Most Vernerable Thich Giac Thanh, staying with him until October when the Most Vernerable Thich Giac Thanh passed away. Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi returned to Vietnam and since then, he traveled back and forth. In 2003 he moved to the United States and temporarily settled in Hawaii.
In 2004, by chance, Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi met Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien, the founder and Abbess of Universal Door Meditation Center, in Hawaii. Through a few exchanges, our two Awake teachers, Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien and Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi, realized that they are from the same world... that is Awake World. Therefore, Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien invited Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi to come to Universal Door Meditation Center (Houston, TX) to join the mission to teach and guide all people to become Awake. In 2005, Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi moved to Houston. Here, they both devote their lives, day and night helping students understand, trust, realize and merge into Awake Mind already within themselves.
In 2011, both Zen Masters guided several retreats in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Many families developed the goal to Wake Up and have Awakened happiness in life. In 2013, the two Awakened Zen Masters together established Suoi Tu Meditation Center in Dallas, continuing to help all people to return and live with Awake Mind within to break the cycle of birth and death.
At present, the number of ordained students who vowed to walk the entire path toward Awake is increasing. Universal Door Meditation Center and Suoi Tu Meditation Center have moved to new locations to accommodate the growing number of activities and Awake retreats.
Most of his life, with the vow to help all people, Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi has been with Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien and the monastic sangha at the two centers – Universal Door and Suoi Tu, traveling to many states within the U.S. such as California, North Carolina, Minnesota.... and countries around the world like Australia, Canada, India, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam... The journey of helping people is expanding... Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi vows to help people to understand, trust, realize and merge into Awake Mind to break the cycle of birth and death.