Tag: Wikipedia

Thích and Thày: Name or Title?

Thich Nhất HạnhAs I often do while I wait for programs to compile, I was browsing Wikipedia one day when I came across the page for Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh. I was surprised to see my query for “Thich Nhat Hanh” redirected to “Nhat Hanh,” and when I read further, I was disappointed by the explanation given:

Commonly referred to as Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese: Thích Nhất Hạnh), the title Thích is used by all Vietnamese monks and nuns, meaning that they are part of the Shakya (Shakyamuni Buddha) clan.

Almost right, but not quite. The Wikipedia article unfaithfully refences the Order of Interbeing, which actually informs us that Thích is a name, not a title:

Thích () is Vietnamese for Sakya, which is the Buddha’s family name. Every monastic member in the Vietnamese Buddhist tradition has a name which begins with Thích.

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Norton Simon and the Buddha Torso

Inspired by the always delightful DharmaRealm podcast which discussed the oddity of seeing Buddha statues in museums in a recent episode

A year or so ago, when I went to the Norton Simon museum for a completely non-Buddhist reason and found a basement full of Buddhist art, I had three main questions:

Vietnamese Theravada?

Recently, I was cleaning up the list of Theravada Buddhist monks on Wikipedia. Sometimes names get accidentally sorted by their honorific. For example, Ṭhanissaro Bhikkhu should be sorted by ‘T’, and not ‘B’, since bhikkhu is a title, not a last name. I was making sure each name was sorted right. It’s fun because you have to visit each page, and then you get to learn about monks you’ve never heard of before.

One such monk was Bhante Kassapa.

He’s described as the “first non-Vietnamese Monk in the Vietnamese Theravada Sangha in America”. I didn’t read on because I was still hung on the first question that popped into my mind. There’s a Vietnamese Theravada Sangha in America?

See, I regularly attend a Vietnamese temple, but my practice is more in line with what I’ve learned from my Theravada teachers. For me this means that I could actually merge my temple and my personal practice! Anyway, I did a search, and found an article by Binh Anson all about the history of the Theravada Sangha in Vietnam (also here). I’d previously thought that all Theravada Buddhists in Vietnam were Khmer Krom, but Vietnamese in fact have their own recently conceived Theravada sangha. How cool.

Now all I have to do is find a Vietnamese Theravada temple in Southern California.

Ordination of a new Vietnamese monk
Photo of Vietnamese Theravada ordination from Bhante Kassapa’s site.