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. What was left was just the love he had for his family, but if he could not find the answer to his questions then living was no different than dying. 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, he went to the South with the Venerable Thich Giac Thanh at An Khong Am in the district of My Luong. 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 areca palms, suddenly… no longer body nor scene… only the vibration of the questions that had long weighed on the mind bursted, opening up a wide, empty space, pure, undisturbed and indescribable happiness. Sky and earth, grass, flowers, leaves, everything seemed revitalized, fresh, beautiful and vibrant... This moment lasted up to 6 to 7 days. There were many poems written during this time.
Then, on a trip to Dalat, the Most Venerable Thich Thanh Tu assigned him a 2-acre piece of land in the Prenn Pass valley, with only one small "kuti" in the pine forest that had enough room to house only a wooden bed and a "stove" formed by 3 bricks. Everyday Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi did gardening during the day and sitting meditation at night, to contemplate deeper the Awakening moment.
Zen Master Thich Thong Hoi stayed there until 1992. He then moved to My Tho and lived there until 2001. Then the Most Vernerable Thich Nhat Hanh invited him to come to the United States to visit the Deer Park Monastery. 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 travelled back and forth. In 2003 he moved to the United States and 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, believe, and realize the capacity to Wake Up within. At present, the number of ordained students who vowed to walk the entire path toward Awake is also increasing. Universal Door Meditation Center has moved to a new location to accommodate the growing number of activities and Awake retreats.
In 2011, both Zen Masters guided several retreats in the city of Dallas/Fort Worth. 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.
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... both the Zen Masters guide people to develop the goal to Wake Up to break the cycle of birth and death.