Harvard University announces Thich Nhat Hanh Mindfulness center for Public Health

In honor of the late Venerable Buddhist Monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Harvard University has announced the launch of a mindfulness center in his name.  

The Thich Nhat Hanh Center for Mindfulness will be the newest addition to the Harvard T.H. Chan School for public health.  The T.H. Chan School came about at the turn of the last century as a response to rapid social reform and public health activism, becoming a separate body from the medical school in 1946.  

Thich Nhat Hanh’s dedication to peace, activism, the dissemination of zen teachings, and mindfulness led to him becoming influential in many reform movements and political dialogues, as well as meeting with many influential figures in his lifetime, including Martin Luther King, Oprah Winfrey, and Pope Paul IV.  He is also seen as the “father of mindfulness”, having influenced the discourse and study of Buddhist practices that fit the mindset and lifestyle of the modern West.  

In keeping with the direction of Hanh’s work in making mindfulness accessible to all, the Thich Nhat Hanh Center (which was made possible via a donation of $25 million dollars by an anonymous donor) will seek to add more scientific research to bolster the proof of the efficacy of mindfulness in the realms of physical and mental health.  

Walter Willett, the center’s director and a professor of epidemiology and nutrition, gave a statement in a press release on Monday: 

“We are looking forward to establishing the Center as a hub of rigorous inquiry and to collaborating with colleagues around the world to advance the science of mindfulness.”

Speaking of his friend and first zen teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn said the center was a long time coming.  Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic, in 1979, at the University of Massachusetts medical school, which provided an evidence-based program to reduce chronic pain and stress.

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