I had heard of Hanh before, but all I knew was that he was a living person who published a lot of books about meditation and Buddhism. I didn't learn more because this was enough to make me a little leery. It wasn't an objection to him personally but, as I have often stated on this blog, I'm generally leery of groups, gurus, books, and objects that I might want to join or purchase. Meditation should be all I need to find my way, so why bother with 'stuff'? In fact, such 'stuff' can be distracting and deluding by interposing itself between me and direct perception of reality.
The members of the sangha do not push Hanh, but their interest made me curious to read more about him. I learned he is a monk (and a legit one for sure), seems to have a positive purpose in his life, and certainly has a compelling history. But I was sold when I saw this interview with Oprah, where he blew me away with his ability to put into words the idea I call 'Everyday Zen' (see post). The way he describes it is so much clearer than how I described it in my post and is even clearer than the way I think about it in my head. His words helped crystallize my belief further.
An encounter with a teacher can be positive this way. It's not so much instruction as it is 'pointing the way'. Listening to Hanh speak in this interview was like that for me. That said, I'm not at all inclined to join a Hanh group, go to one of his retreats, read his books, or anything like that. As I said, doing these things feels like being pulled off the path to me, so the way I tend to feel about moments such as this is that I should simply smile thanks and continue on my way.
The full interview is also on YouTube and was fantastic from start to finish. Oprah asked really good questions.
PS: I'm not an Oprah groupie, but I love it how, when Hanh says it takes an hour to drink a cup of tea, she's like: "A cup of tea like this? One hour?" Despite all her power and glam and self-help agenda, I always see flashes like this that tell me the down-to-earth woman who took over AM Chicago is still part of her. She's open, but she's still got moxie!