THE LIFE OF THE LATE MOST VENERABLE THICH THIEN MINH
Born in 1921 at Bích Khê Village, TriOEu Phong District, Quäng TrÎ Province, with the name of ñ‡ Xuân Hàn. He left home to become a monk at a very young age with the Most Venerable ThuyŠn Tôn Thích Giác Nhiên as his teacher. He was given a Buddhist name of Tâm ñÙc, which was later changed to ThiOEn Minh when he was ordained the Most Venerable.
• In 1936, he completed the primary level of education at the School of Buddhism located at Trúc Lâm Temple in Hu‰.
• In 1938, he started the secondary level at the Bäo QuÓc School of Buddhism, Hu‰.
• In 1943, he completed the secondary level.
• In 1944, he started the higher education level at the University of Buddhism Studies.
• In 1948, he received the Bikkinu precepts and was ordained the primary rank at the Bäo QuÓc Precept Ceremony. At the end of this year he was elected president of the ñà Låt Buddhism School; at the same time held a position of instructor for the Buddhism Congregation at Lâm ñÒng Province.
Concurrent to the above responsibilities, he established the Buddhist Youth Association Groups at Lâm Nguyên, CÀu ñÃt, Tråi Mát, and Tråm Hành. He also organized training camps for unit as well as sub-unit leaders of the youth association.
• 1948 - 1951, he established a Buddhism Branch at CÀu ñÃt, Blao, ñÖn DÜÖng, and La Ba.
• 1952, he was transferred and became president of the Khánh Hòa School of Buddhism. Here, he also established the first eight Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Associations in a time frame of 8 months. Notably during this same year, he organized the LiÍu Quán Regional Board of Directors.
• 1955, along with several Honorables of the Northern and Midwest regions, and Mr. Mai Th† TruyŠn, he organized the second Vietnamese Buddhist Association General Conference.
Also in 1955, he organized and convened the third Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Conference at ñà Låt with the purpose of reviewing the organizational format, expanding the Buddhist Youth Association to rural areas, modifying the by-laws, and amending the format of the units with the youth association.
• 1957, he went back to Hu‰ to manage the Buddhism affairs of the Middle Region.
• 1960, under his sponsor, the Vietnamese Buddhist National Board of Directors planned to organize a national youth camp at Nha Trang; however, the government did not grant permission citing security reason.
During this year, a National Buddhist Youth Conference was held at Sài Gòn with Thích ThiOEn Minh as the presiding chairman. The purpose of the conference was to unify the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Association in all aspect. It was at this conference that the official by laws were written.
• 1963, during the movement to fight the religious (particularly Buddhism) prejudice and persecution policy of the Ngô ñình DiOEm Administration, he held the leadership role of the United League to Protect Buddhism.
• 20 August 1963, he was arrested, along with several other monks and nuns, and students at TØ ñàm Temple, Hu‰. It was not until the fall of the DiOEm Administration on 01 November 1963 that he was released along with other leaders.
• 1964, he assumed a very important duty of Chairman of the Central Buddhist Youth Committee of the Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation.
During this time, working beside the existing Buddhism Youth Association, he also established such groups as Buddhist Youth (teenagers only), Buddhist Scout, etc.
• 1965, he led the movement to fight for a democratic government in Vietnam. During this year, another National Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Conference was held at Sài Gòn, also under his presiding authority. The purpose was to review the Buddhism Study and Training program for all levels.
• 01 June 1966, he survived an assassination attempt but was critically injured.
• 1967, although Buddhism was still being heavily suppressed and many Buddhist Youth leaders as well as members had even sacrificed their lives for religious freedom, Thích ThiOEn Minh organized a national conference for the Buddhist Youth Association with the intention of discussing new and improvedways to operate the association under current conditions.
• 17 March 1969, he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years by the NguyÍn Væn ThiOEu Administration for reasons of leading the movements to request an election for a Congress, to write a constitution, movement for a democratic government, and campaign for peace in Vietnam.
• 11 November 1969, with the intervention of the International Amnesty and the Committee to Annul Thích ThiOEn Minh’s Sentence, he was released after 9 months of confinement and inhumane torture.
• 1970, he attended the Peace and Religious Conference in Tokyo with a position of Group Leader and Vice President of the conference.
• 1973, he was elected to be the Director of the Buddhism Institution of the Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation.
• 1974, he was the advisor of the Buddhism Institution and attended the Peace Conference at Belgium.
On 13 April 1978, he was imprisoned by the Vietnamese Communists and placed at the Police Headquarters. He was in a dark basement cell, stripped bare of clothing, savagely beaten and tortured. After a period of confinement at this location, he was secretly transported to the Phan ñæng LÜu Prison Camp, along with several other monks. During this time, he was not allowed any visitation at all, including the then current director of the Buddhist Institution, the Most Venerable Thích Trí Thû.
On 17 October 1978, after 6 months of torture and abuse, he passed away at the age of 57.
The Buddhist community only know for sure "a face bruised black and blue covered with long unkempt hair and beard resting finally in the coffin. All the rest of the body were covered up. No one knew for certain the full extent of physical damage inflicted hidden from view."
That was the last image described of the late Most Venerable Thích ThiOEn Minh when the Most Venerable Thích Trí Thû and few other monks were finally allowed to come and view his body for the last time.
Above are only a brief history of The Most Venerable Thích ThiOEn Minh and a few of his contributions to the Buddhism Religion. He was the one who laid the foundation for the Buddhist Youth Association as well as for all Vietnamese youths.
His entire life was a role model for future generations. He is a Boddhisatva who had accomplished his pledges to serve Buddhism, to readily sacrifice himself for his country, fighting for peace and freedom for the people, and is a great loss for the Vietnamese people.
His death left the Buddhist community as well as the Vietnamese people with great sorrow and regrets. Nevertheless, his reputation and honor continue to shine, not only in Vietnam but also for all Buddhist communities in the world.
Each leaders of the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Association are heirs to the legacy he left behind. In our individual ways, we must continue strive to be deserving of being his followers and to be a leader in an organization that is still being guided by his ever-present spirit.
- Course Instructor: Htr. Nguyên Túc Nguyễn Sung - <firstname.lastname@example.org>