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About Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien

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Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien is an Awakened teacher and the founder of Universal Door Meditation Center in Houston, TX in 2003.

Deep Questions - Life Long Search for Awake Destination

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Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien, originally named Diệu Thiện, surnamed Nguyễn, was born on August 20, 1971, in Hue, Vietnam. Born into a devout Buddhist family, from a very young age Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien already had deep questions and doubt about the constant changes in life and the suffering of birth and death. And at the same time, she also knew that there is a world where there is no suffering, no birth and death. However, she did not know how to return  to that world. Her persistent questions about Awake were the powerful motivation to help her constantly seek answers.

Ordination in Search of Awake


Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien

  Master's Degree in 2000

At the age of 13, she had a chance to read books about the Bodhisattva Gautama's journey to search for Awake (the Crown Prince Siddhartha). The Zen Master was very happy to know that there was an Awakened teacher who found the light of Awake and attained Enlightenment to end the cycle of birth and death. This was strong evidence that gave her more trust, motivation, and strength to ordain in search of Awake.


In 1989, the Zen Master graduated from high school at the age of 18, ordained as a nun with Abbess Thích Như Châu at Hoa Nghiêm Meditation Center, Định Quán.


In 1993, received bhikkhuni ordination at Đại Tòng Lâm.


In 1994, graduated from the College of Buddhist Studies at Thiện Hòa Nunnery (Bà Rịa, Vũng Tàu) in Vietnam.


Even in those five years she diligently studied the sutras, vinaya and shastras - the Buddha’s teachings, disciplinary codes and analytical doctrines - with early morning and late evening devotion, diligently practicing, her deep and persistent questions grew stronger because she still could not find the answer.

In 1994, at the age of 23, the Zen Master immigrated to the United States with her family and settled in Houston, Texas.


In 1995, the Zen Master was invited to Tâm Quang Temple, Michigan. She taught Buddhist practitioners and then attended Western Michigan University, studying Buddhism with the hope to find her answers.


At the end of 2000, the Zen Master graduated with high honors, receiving a Master's degree in Comparative Religion and Holistic Health. Holding the Master's degree in her hands, looking ahead to the future, all became meaningless to her because she still had not found the answer to her deep questions about the Awake destination.

Traveling Around the World Searching for an Awakened Teacher


Zen Master Thích Diệu Thiện and her American classmate Kathleen (who is now Sư Cô Phổ Nguyện, the Zen Master's first ordained disciple) are reading the map to start the journey searching for an Awakened teacher

Six years had passed with a vast amount of Buddhist practice and knowledge, but it did not lead her to Enlightenment. In February 2001, at the age of 30, the Zen Master decided to let go and leave everything behind, with no regard for her life, traveling around the world, hoping to meet the Awakened teacher. The Zen Master made a great vow, "On this trip, if I cannot find the Awake Destination, I will not return to America." When learning that the Zen Master was beginning the journey in search for Awake, the Abbot of the Vietnam Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles, California, the Most Venerable Thích Mãn Giác, was persistent to convince her to reconsider because of all the unforeseen dangers along the way. In the end, seeing that the Zen Master already had a decision, the Most Venerable Thích Nguyên Hạnh wished her to soon achieve her goal.

Long ago, the Bodhisattva Gautama spent six years in ascetic practice, experienced many meditation practices, and attained the four stages of meditation and four stages of concentration with the gurus, but he also renounced it and finally took a vow to look within to face himself and became enlightened under the Bodhi tree. In this modern day, Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien, a woman, but carried the will of a great, noble minded man, went alone with three robes and one alms-bowl, one small suitcase, some clothes and a little money to go on a quest to find Awake. She did not plan in advance where to stay, sometimes slept in the forest, on the mountain, at the train station, eating only crackers and a few bananas everyday... She also stopped at many prestigious meditation centers in countries such as France, Sri Lanka, Thailand...experienced many meditation practices, breaking through and fully realizing many layers of consciousness inside, but the Zen Master still had to depart, because she had not yet found the answer to the deep questions of her life.

Merging into the Awake Mind, Ending the Suffering of Birth and Death

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Finally, in Thailand, hitting rock bottom of her search, and deadlocked in her quest for Awake, the Zen Master decided to stop and took a vow to turn within to face herself. On April 8, 2001, at the Suan Mokkh International Dharma Hermitage, the 8th day of the 10-day meditation retreat, the Ultimate Truth of Awake burst forth, the deep questions were answered. The Zen Master had “shattered the source of ignorance, infnite wisdom appeared, seeing the truth, breaking the system of greed and hatred, completely merging into and living with the pure, immense, immaculate essence of the Buddhas. Right there, all questions had answers: What is Awake? Where? What is suffering? Why is suffering present? Who am I? How to Wake Up to end the cycle of birth and death?  The Zen Master returned to and has been living in the Awake Mind every moment.”

The Great Vow to Help Sentient Beings

In the very moment of Waking Up, the Great Vow to help all sentient beings Awaken appeared. Awakened Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien vowed to continue spreading her living Awake teachings to countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan until the end of 2001, when she returned to the United States.


I just want people to be truly happy,

Soon find the source of Awake light,

Which has been illuminated for so long

But covered by ignorance for many lifetimes,

Soon return to fully realize the source of Awake light within.


Even knowing it is difficult to wake people up,

Nothing stops me

Because of life, I vow to fully devote

Guiding the Awake seeds to blossom in people

And from now, I commit myself fully to wake people up from the source of suffering

So the forever smile is always blooming on their lips

On everyone's lips…

(Forever Blooming Smile on the Lips – Awakened Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien)

A Short Video about

Zen Master Thich Dieu Thien's

Inspiring Life Journey

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