About Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh

Thay Stories, 23:20 PM, May, 20 2023

"I want to turn Ba Vang Pagoda into a big Buddhist center to enlighten and save as many people as possible, to connect them with the Buddha Dharma and guide them toward goodness. I vow that even if I have to die here, I will not hesitate." — Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh - The Abbot of Ba Vang Pagoda.

The Origin of Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh

Thay (lit. “Master” or “Teacher”) Thich Truc Thai Minh was born Vu Minh Hieu on March 3, 1967, in Ngoc Quan village, Lam Thao commune, Luong Tai district, Bac Ninh province, Vietnam. He is the fifth child in a family of seven siblings.

Brought up in a well-educated and disciplined family with Buddhist tradition, Thay showed himself to be an intelligent, studious and filial person.

According to his family, Thay, from a young age, was a very hard-working son. He understood that his family was in difficult circumstances so he did not pester his parents. Thay always thought about his parents and was very plain in his eating and dressing. After school, he used to help his parents with the housework. In particular, Thay had great respect for his grandmother — a gentlewoman, a faithful layperson who respected the Three Jewels (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha).

One day, Thay's grandmother gave him a Buddhist Sutra of the Buddhist Princess of Huong Pagoda (or Third Princess, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva). Upon reading the Sutra, he was deeply moved by the story of how the princess cut her hands and gouged out her eyes in order to make medicine for her father - King Trang Vuong. Thay was only 8 years old at that time. He didn't understand much or know what a vow was, but a thought immediately arose in his mind: "If my parents become seriously ill and need my eyes and my hands as medicine, I will be willing to sacrifice my eyes and my hands, like the Third Princess did."

With the respect for the Buddha Dharma and the obedience to his grandmother's teachings, Thay diligently recited the Buddha's name from an early age. At the age of nine, while Thay was herding buffaloes and sitting on a hill, reciting the Buddha's name, he witnessed a beautiful image of a Bodhisattva with aureole in the center of a white cloud. He felt happiness spreading in his heart. Coming home, Thay drew that image and at that point, his belief in the existence of the Buddha was formed.

Time kept flying by, Thay grew up with the love of his parents, brothers, and sisters. As an intelligent and studious student, he was chosen for specialized classes in the district and province. Especially, he had a direct offer to the only class for mathematically gifted students in Hai Duong province and took exams in Maths and Physics at the National Excellent Student Contest.

Photograph of Vu Minh Hieu with his family

Photograph of Vu Minh Hieu with his family

During 3 years at Hong Quang High School (now is Nguyen Trai High School for gifted students, Hai Duong Province),  Thay was well-liked by his teachers and peers. In addition, Thay was considered a near-perfect person, both ethically and academically. After high school, he was accepted into the Hanoi National University of Education. However, he decided to take an entrance exam to the National Economics University and became a student in the 26th class of the university. After graduating from the National Economics University, he was retained as a lecturer. More than five years later, Thay moved to the Machine Manufacturing Institute under the Ministry of Industry.

Why did Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh choose to become a monk?

Once Thay returned to his hometown, he suddenly heard the news that his cousin had just passed away. He was shocked, startled, and rushed to visit her grave. He was standing in front of his cousin's grave with so many emotions. Thay pondered about life as a human being and its value. He thought that his loved ones and even himself would die, lie in a coffin, and be buried in the deep ground. High social status and career would become meaningless. He asked himself: "For which reason do we live? Should we live only to compete for fame and end up in a grave like this? Is death the end? If there is existence after death, what will I be? Where will I go? If death was the end of everything and we become inanimate corpses after all, life would truly be meaningless."

thay lives in the forest

Questions about life, death, and the value of life kept clinging to his mind and made him unable to concentrate on his work. After that, Thay decided to take a week off from work in order to clear his head and find the answer.

From the National Economics University, Thay went to Quan Su Pagoda with the hope to find the answer from Buddhist teachings. Among thousands of Buddhist scriptures, Thay randomly pulled out the Shurangama Sutra. Every word in the sutra answered all the questions in his mind. He uttered in happiness: "Here it is, the path I have to follow. The truth is here!"

After that, Thay spent a lot of time researching and learning about the Buddha Dharma. Thay set up a Buddha Altar and practiced the Buddha Dharma at home. Sometime later, Thay and some friends established the Truc Lam Quan Su Buddhist Group to practice the Dharma together and help each other become better.

One day, Thay went to visit a friend.  He came across a four-sentence verse:

"He who aspires to see all Buddhas of the ten directions,

to bestow countless virtue and merit,

and to put an end to the sufferings of all beings,

should promptly generate his Bodhicitta."

On reading the verse, he was thrilled. He realized his aspiration to actualize Bodhicitta. Thay went to Quan Su Pagoda with the desire to learn about the Bodhi mind. In front of thousands of scriptures in the library, Thay accidentally pulled from the shelf the book "Exhortation to Resolve Upon Bodhi'' by Great Master Sying An. After poring over and thinking carefully about that book, Thay decided to find a master to witness his generation of the Bodhi mind.

Finding a master and becoming a monk to seek enlightenment 

There was an event that happened before the day Thay went to the South of Vietnam. He said in front of the Buddha's statue: "O Buddha, I really want to generate bodhicitta. I sincerely wish to dedicate my life to the Buddha. May the Buddha witness my willing heart". To prove his sincerity, Thay took some burning incense sticks and pressed them firmly against his chest. The first time when the incense was brought close to the chest, the hand holding the incense suddenly popped out reflexively. At that moment, Thay calmed himself: "I have vowed to sacrifice myself for the Buddha, why am I afraid?". Bravely reaffirming himself, with all effort, Thay pressed the incense to his chest. When the flesh started burning, he felt like his whole body was completely broken, but his heart was filled with pure joy and happiness.

Thay departed to the Zen Monastery where he spoke out the great vows:

- This is my first vow: I vow to practice the Buddha Dharma determinedly and always search for the Buddha Dharma. The path is long, but I will never grow weary. Buddhahood is difficult to attain, but I will never become disheartened. I will diligently practice every practice until I attain absolute enlightenment.

- This is my second vow: Even if there are countless sentient beings, I vow not to become discouraged. Even if it is difficult to rescue them, I will never waver. I vow to bring the light of the Buddha Dharma everywhere so that every sentient being will attain Buddhahood.

- This is my third vow: Even if I have to die, I vow to support the righteous Buddha Dharma and uphold the Three Jewels so that the Three Jewels will last forever.

- This is my fourth vow: I vow to engage with the Bodhi Mind and never forget, no matter how many obstacles I face, I will never give up.

- This is my fifth vow: I vow to follow and practice the Ten Great Vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva (Bodhisattva Universal Worthy).

1. To respect all Buddhas

2. To praise Tathagata (one of the ten names for Buddha)

3. To make offerings extensively

4. To repent karmic obstacles

5. To rejoice at others' meritorious deeds

6. To request the turning of the Dharma wheel

7. To request the Buddha to remain in the world

8. To constantly follow the Buddha's teachings

9. To accommodate all sentient beings, and

10. To dedicate all merits universally

Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh on the Bodhicittas actualization ceremony at Truc Lam Zen Monastery in Da Lat

Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh on the Bodhicittas actualization ceremony at Truc Lam Zen Monastery in Da Lat

After the ceremony of generating the Bodhicitta, Thay saw clearly the way to the enlightenment and knew exactly that was the path to follow. Returning from Da Lat, Thay told his girlfriend about his decision. His girlfriend, despite being heartbroken,  agreed to sacrifice her own feelings. She did not prevent him. More than that, she was the first one who encouraged and convinced Thay's parents to let him go his own way.

At that time, Thay had left the National Economics University and started the new work at the Machine Manufacturing Institute under the Ministry of Industry. Not long after that, he resigned to go to Phuc Duc Pagoda in Ha Tay (known as Hanoi these days) to practice monasticism. After that, Thay and the members of Hien Tri Bodhgaya returned to his hometown to ask his parents' permission to let him be ordained. Desperately, his mother kept crying for days because she did not want to lose her beloved son. But with the determination to attain enlightenment, Thay used all means to convince his parents. When they realized his steadfast will, they finally agreed. Thay paid gratitude to their parents for giving birth and raising him, bowed his head to them for the final time, and expressed his heartfelt thanks to their endless love. That day, it was raining so hard outside, while inside, everyone was moved to tears, choking with emotions.

On the 15th of the seventh month in the year of the Cat (25/8/1999), Thay had his head shaved and was ordained at Bamboo Forest Zen Monastery in Dalat. Most Venerable Master Thich Thanh Tu gave him the Dharma name Thich Truc Thai Minh.

- "Thich" is inherited from the lineage of Shakyamuni Buddha 

- "Truc" is taken from the "Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen" sect (or "Bamboo Forest Zen" sect) established by King Tran Nhan Tong

- "Thai" refers to the tremendousness.

- "Minh" refers to the wide insight

After being ordained, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh received the precepts of a novice monk who enthusiastically and happily served people by doing all kinds of daily labors such as serving, cleaning toilets, and boiling water.

The wishes of Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh

In 2002, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh was sent to Northern Vietnam by Most Venerable Thich Thanh Tu to contribute to the development of the Yen Tu Bamboo Forest Meditation Monastery. In 2007, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh became the Abbot of Ba Vang Pagoda with the permission of Most Venerable Thich Thanh Tu as well as the sincere invitation of the authorities, Buddhists, and citizens of Quang Trung Ward, Uong Bi City, Quang Ninh Province.

Ba Vang Pagoda at that time was just a small temple in a remote and mountainous area, with no electricity nor fresh water.  All that was left was a stone stele with inscriptions from the time of the Tran Dynasty. Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh, with two bare hands, a fortune worth no more than 3 robes and the great Bodhicitta, has overcome all difficulties and hardships to build up today's Ba Vang Pagoda, where there live the pure Sangha who are following the footsteps of the Buddha. Besides this, the pagoda now is a Buddhist hub which offers sufficiently favorable conditions for Buddhists from all around the world to come and practice the Buddha Dharma.

1. For Ba Vang Pagoda

After many times of renovations, Ba Vang Pagoda has turned itself from a small temple into a spacious pagoda with the largest main hall on the mountain in Indochina. The road to the pagoda was widened, connecting the pagoda with the center of Uong Bi city. Not only that, electricity and water on the top of Thanh Dang Mountain are transported to the pagoda. The inner resident halls of the Sangha and the living quarters of the Buddhists were gradually established. Buddhists and citizens wholeheartedly showed their respect to Thay and his effort, who embellished the Three Jewels in Ba Vang Pagoda amidst wild mountains and forests; so that there can be a large Buddhist coniferous forest with a total area of ​​22 hectares.

The huge and majestic pagoda is a means to save sentient beings by helping many people be connected with the Buddha Dharma so that they will be able to benefit themselves with happiness. Thay once shared: "It is difficult to be born as human, we must make the most of this body. There is nothing more helpful than generating Bodhicitta and practicing Dharma. The vow to spend the whole lifetime promoting the Buddha's teachings, the aim to save sentient beings, and build a Fourfold Assembly practicing the Dharma, would benefit anyone with karmic conditions.

Besides the education of the Sangha, which resembles that of the Buddha's time, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh paid special attention to the cultivation of lay Buddhists. Thay wishes: Every Buddhist must learn how to live righteously and practice the six harmony practices. They must respect each other, bow down to the seniors and tolerate the youngsters. A community of either monks or Buddhists will have strength and success if they have harmony and unity.

That is the reason why Thay allowed the establishment of the Yellow Chrysanthemum Club - Practising Six Harmonies on the early days of Ba Vang Pagoda to provide a great environment for all lay Buddhists. They are six points of reverent harmony that the Buddha taught for the Sangha and Buddhists so that they can live in happiness and peace. The Six harmonies are harmony in living together, harmony in speaking without conflict, harmony in having the same viewpoints, harmony in observing the same precepts, harmony in Dharma integration, and harmony in sharing benefits.

Based on the Yellow Chrysanthemum Club - Practising Six Harmonies at Ba Vang, numerous Buddhist groups have been established locally and internationally. At the beginning, in 2012 there were 10 groups with 700 members. By February 2023, there were nearly 450 Buddhist groups spread across Vietnam such as Hanoi, Lao Cai, Lang Son, Lam Dong, Gia Lai, Tien Giang, Ba Ria - Vung Tau…

In addition, under the guidance of Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh and the stimulation of the president of Cuc Vang (Chrysanthemum) Club, many Buddhist groups for Vietnamese who live abroad were formed. With just over 7 months of establishment, these groups have developed their active areas to over 30 countries and territories. These include, for example, the US, UK, Australia, Germany, Cyprus, Thailand, Singapore, Canada, etc.

In particular, the practice of the Buddhists in the Yellow Chrysanthemum Club has brought great results. This has been proven by thousands of Buddhists and their families. The transformation happened regarding physical illnesses, mental illnesses caused by non-humans, or the good changes in the personal character of Buddhists. These results of practicing the Buddha Dharma deserve plenty of praise because the Dharma practice has helped Buddhists transform their suffering and enjoy happiness right in their current lifetime. 

2. For the Sangha

In addition to the development of Ba Vang Pagoda into a Buddhist center, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh places great importance on the education and cultivation of the Sangha.

Only when the Sangha strictly upholds the precepts and practice diligently, shall they be able to maintain the Buddha Dharma. then they will spread the Dharma light to everywhere, save all sentient beings, help them to get rid of ignorance, and show them the way to true happiness.

Thay would like not only to build a pure Buddhist Sangha, but with his lifelong commitment to the Buddha Dharma, he also expects that people with aspiration and understanding of the Buddha Dharma will come to Ba Vang Pagoda and together propagate the Dharma.

3. For the young generation

For his whole life, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh wishes that he will definitely be an intellectual gardener, especially for young people. Because the youth needs to be cultivated morally, to live with ideals and enthusiasm so that they will create good values for themselves and society. From this wish, the Ba Vang Youth Club and the Rahula Club were allowed to be established.

Thay's vow to cultivate wisdom to youngster

Thay's vow to cultivate wisdom to youngster

At Ba Vang Youth Club, young people are equipped with skills, knowledge, and personal preparation for work and life. Moreover, they learn and practice the Buddha's teachings. Thanks to Thay's Dharma lectures in the series: "Explore the Garden of the Mind", young people have been studying the mind and learning how to master and control it. Being able to master the mind will lead to self-control of life, success, glory, and happiness, not only for the practitioners but also for the people around them.  

Originating from Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh's wish, the Rahula Club was founded for children aged 6 to 18. They are children and grandchildren of lay Buddhists of Yellow Chrysanthemum Club - Practising The Six Harmonies. The club was named after Rahula - the only son of Prince Siddhartha (who later became Shakyamuni Buddha). Rahula Club offers an environment for little children and teenagers to learn and follow the example of Rahula. The children will learn to become mature and brave people so that they will not be unprepared or panic when they encounter life. This is a good cause for them to reap success and blessings later in life.

4. Thay's regular Dharma lessons at Ba Vang Pagoda

Regularly on the 8th, 14th, 30th, or 29th of every lunar month, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh organizes the Eight Precepts retreat and delivers Dharma lessons to connect people with the Buddha Dharma. They will be able to truly apply the Buddha's teachings, which consequently helps them increase their good deeds.  Their Bodhi seeds will be nurtured and watered in their hearts and they will have practical benefits for themselves, their families, and society.

In addition, on the first Sunday of every month, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh will give a Dharma talk in the "Exploring the Garden of the Mind" series for the members of the Ba Vang Youth Club.

If you are interested in Dharma talks of Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh, you can follow these channels: 

English websites and channels:

Fanpage: Thich Truc Thai Minh 

Website: en.thaythichtructhaiminh.com

Youtube: Thich Truc Thai Minh

Instagram: Thich Truc Thai Minh

Twitter: Thich Truc Thai Minh

Vietnamese websites and channels:

Fanpage: Thầy Thích Trúc Thái Minh | Chùa Ba Vàng | Rahula Club | Youth Club | Chrysanthemum Club

Website: thaythichtructhaiminh.com | chuabavang.com

Youtube: Thầy Thích Trúc Thái Minh | Chua Ba Vang

From the Bodhicitta vow, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh led the Sangha and lay Buddhists into ​​Dharma Ocean of the Tathagatha. Thay led their disciples to walk on the path to the Buddhahood.

With great compassion and boundless love, Thay utilizes all means to guide people, who have any connection with him, to study and practice the Dharma. Thay has helped many people transform their karma, grow blessings and live a peaceful life. Thay has helped them become faithful Buddhists who protect the Three Jewels and propagate the Dharma.

His life story as a Buddhist monk is a valuable lesson, a guideline, and a great motivation for many people to achieve a true life toward liberation.

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