Welcome to Oak Sangha
The Oak Sangha is part of the Community of Interbeing, which is the name given to the network of people around the world who practise Mindfulness meditation, following a Buddhist path according to the teachings of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thây as we call him, meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese – see short biography below). In order to support the growing numbers of practitioners in our tradition, the Community of Interbeing has established a network of local UK Sanghas, each with their own activities and contacts. Currently, there are over 70 Community of Interbeing Sanghas in the UK. Community of Interbeing UK – registered charity 1096680.
The Oak Sangha meets in the town of Hexham in Northumberland. We meet on Saturday afternoons, but not every one, so please contact Bernadette for information - telephone and email details are at the top of the right-hand side of this page.
(Pictures on right – retreat gatherings from around the UK - Dorset, Nottingham and Derbyshire.)
Short Biography of Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh, born 11 October 1926 in central Vietnam, is an expatriate Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, and peace activist. He joined a Zen monastery at the age of 16, studied Buddhism as a novice, and was fully ordained as a monk in 1949.
In the early 1960s, he founded the School of Youth for Social Services (SYSS) in Saigon, a grassroots relief organization that rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools and medical centres, and resettled families left homeless during the Vietnam War. He travelled to the U.S. a number of times to study at Princeton University, and later lecture at Cornell University and teach at Columbia University. His main goal of those travels, however, was to urge the U.S. government to withdraw from Vietnam. He urged Martin Luther King Jr. to oppose the Vietnam War publicly, and spoke with many people and groups about peace. On January 25 1967, in a letter to the Nobel Institute in Norway, Martin Luther King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Thich Nhat Hanh led the Buddhist delegation to the Paris Peace Talks. Exiled from Vietnam for many years, he has been allowed in recent years to visit and lead retreats.
One of the best known Buddhist teachers in the West, Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and practices appeal to people from various religious, spiritual, and political backgrounds. He created the Order of Interbeing in 1964, and established monastic and practice centres around the world. He offers a practice of mindfulness adapted to Western sensibilities and has provided us with a version of the Five Precepts (common to all Buddhist traditions) called the Five Mindfulness Trainings, which is a list of ethical guidelines (these are not commandments). Currently, his home is Plum Village Monastery in the South of France and he travels internationally leading retreats and giving talks. He coined a term translated into English as “Engaged Buddhism” – see the Glossary for more information.
Thich Nhat Hanh has published more than 100 books, including more than 40 in English. He also publishes a quarterly Dharma talk in the journal of the Order of Interbeing, the Mindfulness Bell. He continues to be active in the peace movement, sponsoring retreats for Israelis and Palestinians, encouraging them to listen and learn about each other. He has given speeches urging warring countries to stop fighting and look for non-violent solutions to problems; conducted a peace walk in Los Angeles in 2005, and again in 2007, attended by thousands of people; and urging support of the demonstrating monks in Myanmar.
The Community of Interbeing UK website has more information about Thich Nhat Hanh and the Order of Interbeing. Go to www.interbeing.org.uk/about/ and follow the links on list on the right of that page.
Plum Village – the home of Thich Nhat Hanh– was founded in 1982. It comprises three main hamlets and other community buildings, all located in south-west France, near Bergerac in the Dordogne valley. It is a residential retreat centre and home to many monks, nuns, and lay practitioners.
During the year, retreats are held at Plum Village and these are attended by practitioners from all over the world, contributing an international atmosphere to the centre. In particular there is a Summer Opening of four weeks held each year from around mid-July to mid-August. The three-month Winter Retreat (The Rains Retreat) is also a regular feature of the programme, taking place from around mid-November to mid-February. In addition it may be possible to visit at other times of the year in order to practise with the residential community and support the work of the Plum Village community.
In recent years centres have also been established in the United States. Like Plum Village, these centres are home to monks or nuns ordained by Thây, as well as offering residential retreats.
Accommodation at Plum Village is simple and basic, with good vegetarian food. Retreatants sleep in dormitories of varying sizes in the original stone buildings or more modern additions. During the Summer many retreatants, in particular families with children, bring tents and camp in the extensive grounds. The daily programme varies during the week. On retreats, Thây will generally offer dharma talks on most days. He teaches in Vietnamese, English, or French, with simultaneous translation into these and several other languages as appropriate for those attending. Some retreats are conducted predominantly in English. Besides the teachings by Thây, each week will include a variety of meditations, discussions and celebrations. Retreatants are expected to contribute fully to the work of the Community which is a vital part of our mindfulness practice. Every week also incorporates a Lazy Day which is a day when everyone can relax and do as they like.