Hearing from our larger community is one of the greatest joys for staff and volunteers at the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation. We feel that cultivating an ever deeper understanding of our community’s needs and interests is instrumental to our work serving monastic and lay practitioners. This past spring, over eight hundred Foundation supporters shared written thoughts with us and answered our survey questions. We are immensely grateful for your assistance in guiding our aspirations and understanding our collective priorities.
Below are some of the major themes we heard from your responses this spring, along with a summary of how we combined your responses, the monastics’ guidance, and a consensus planning approach to set the Foundation’s direction for the coming years.
There was strong agreement that the Foundation should continue to focus on taking care of our monastics and our practice centers, bringing the Dharma out to the community, and helping young people and marginalized groups touch the Dharma. Your top priorities were:
1. Support for the monastics, including monastic health care.
“Make sure your monastics are fully supported to live and practice. This is the basis of the sangha and draws others to your centers and keeps them vibrant.”
“I believe EVERY monastic should have good ongoing health care insurance regardless of passport origin or current location.”
2. Support for the practice centers.
“Keeping the meditation centers strong so people can learn this practice and have wonderful experiences.”
“Maintaining the existing Practice Centers and the monks, nuns, and lay people who live and/or help out there.”
“Being able to attend a dharma talk or program led by very experienced teachers.”
3. Dharma outreach and Sangha building, particularly for youth, urban, and underserved communities.
“Dharma sharing programs that reach diverse groups including Wake Up, sanghas of color, etc.”
“Helping bring the teaching outside of the echo chamber of existing practitioners and to new and more inaccessible communities.”
“Connecting to communities who don’t have awareness or access to practical mindful practice. Through public service, social media, community outreach.”
4. Online access to Dharma talks and teachings.
“Supporting lay practitioners by providing audio and video teachings.”
“A long-term goal of teaching and spreading mindfulness over several generations through personal contact and online content.”
5. Humanitarian relief.
“Humanitarian aid, children in particular.”
6. World peace through sharing of our practice.
“World peace through training in mindfulness & compassion.”
Additionally, many of you shared the deep transformation you and your communities have experienced thanks to Thay’s teachings, our monastics, and our Dharma Teachers:
“My heart opens softly always when I watch, listen or read Thay’s words. I don’t know how to adequately express his impact and enduring mark on me.”
“Help keep the community going so others can experience the healing that I have experienced through this community.”
“It is medicine needed in our world today. The practice has helped me so much in my life.”
Vision Plan for the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation
In April, the TNHF Board gathered to assess what we heard from our community and to set the Foundation’s direction for the next several years. We are fortunate to have on our board senior monastics from all three U.S. practice centers, and volunteers experienced in the practice and in lay skills related to the Foundation’s work. Our Board met for three days and in our planning journey we gained a stronger understanding of how best to realize our mission.
Several board members with professional experience in strategic planning guided us through our visioning, as monastics helped us apply their suggestions to be true to Thay’s teachings. We enjoyed transforming our first step in strategic planning, known as situation analysis, into “stopping and looking deeply.” Strategic planning concepts like goal setting and strategy development transformed into exercises in “intention setting” and “finding an appropriate path.” These exercises gave us all a deeper understanding of each other and of how we can work in harmony to support the community.
Through our vision planning, the Foundation Board set the following aspirations for the next three years:
1. Aware that our monastics are the foundation of the Plum Village tradition and the monasteries serve as an important place of refuge and transformation, we aspire to secure and develop the monastic practice centers to meet the needs of the growing monastic and lay community.
2. Aware of the inter-being nature of the health of our monastics, ourselves, and our society, we aspire to provide for the health and wellbeing of our monastics.
3. Aware that true community is rooted in inclusiveness, we aspire to offer Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village teachings to a wide and diverse audience, nurture a “beloved community,” and realize collective awakening.
4. Aware of the suffering caused by the economic, political, social and environmental realities around the world and the great need for teachers to help illuminate a path of happiness, peace, compassion, and solidity for our society, we aspire to facilitate the support and development of monastic and lay Dharma teachers.
5. Aware that we are cells in one Sangha body, we aspire to continue to build brotherhood and sisterhood, understanding, and harmony by expanding communications and growing relationships within our collective Plum Village community.
Our board and staff will be using these aspirations and the vision plan to guide our operational plans for the next three years. The board will keep our aspirations fresh by reviewing them regularly and as conditions change.
As our dear Thay has said “Happiness is knowing you are on the right path.” The board and staff feel that happiness and we feel the support and trust of our community.
Thank you for your practice and thank you for being on this path with us.