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Dear Mr. Mudd: Did Thich Nhat Hanh Attend or Teach at Princeton University?

Dear Mr. Mudd,

I’ve read that Thich Nhat Hanh was a Princeton student, and also that he taught there. Do you have records associated with this?

In Fragrant Palm Leaves, set for re-release in 2020, prominent Buddist peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh wrote about his time in Princeton, New Jersey in the 1960s. The way he wrote, and subsequently spoke, about this time has raised questions about what he was doing in town, such as whether he taught, studied, or both, and whether that was at Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) or Princeton University. These are separate institutions and always have been, but their names and close relationship have often caused confusion.

Princeton Theological Seminary’s Alexander Hall, ca. 1843. Image courtesy Princeton Theological Seminary Archives.

We have located no records associated with him ever having been a student or faculty member at Princeton University. However, he is listed as a student at PTS in their 1961-1963 Handbook. At that time, he was using the name Nguyen Xuan Bao. You can find the Handbook online in two parts:

You can also find a photograph of him with other PTS students in this magazine article.

Though not a student at Princeton University, he could have taken courses here while a PTS student, as many PTS students have done throughout history and still do today. In 1961 the University hired a specialist in Buddhism to offer some new courses, Kenneth S. Chen, which expanded the department’s offerings in courses concerning Eastern religions, which might have made it more likely for Hanh to have been on campus. He could also, potentially, have worked as a preceptor. Aside from this, he may have interacted with Princeton University students socially. Fragrant Palm Leaves contains references to a Japanese student named Kenji. This may have been Princeton University graduate student Kenji Kobayashi *61.

5 responses to “Dear Mr. Mudd: Did Thich Nhat Hanh Attend or Teach at Princeton University?”

  1. Thanks to your concern, my people just know Thich Nhat Hanh and Plum Village with his fake biography after his death.

    His monastic community Plum Village, corrected its website to show that Thich Nhat Hanh attended Princeton Theological Seminary and later taught and conducted research at Columbia University.

    Conman and his followers never stop cheating unless when they can’t.

    In 1961, Thich Nhat Hanh traveled to the United States to teach Comparative Religion at Princeton University and the following year went on to teach and research Buddhism at Columbia University.

    • Dear Friend,

      Thanks for your comment. Our words should reflect compassion and truth and perhaps due to limited amount of information you mayn’t have seen this website explaining everything:

      Thích Nhất Hạnh’s life story has been published by many highly reputed newspapers and other media. It can’t be that all of them didn’t verify these facts before quoting.

      I hope you have peace and joy in your heart~

    • We appreciate everyone’s interest in the information we provide. The link you’ve shared supports the evidence outlined in our post regarding Thich Nhat Hanh’s affiliation with Princeton Theological Seminary and not Princeton University. Although the two are fully separate institutions and always have been, as we outlined in this post and also in more detail in another post, those who are not familiar with the area often confuse the two. It seems that this may have been the case with many reports about Thich Nhat Hanh that assert he was a student at Princeton University. Your link also notes that Thich Nhat Hanh did not enroll at Princeton University and instead attended Union Theological Seminary after a brief stay at PTS. Those who are interested in the time he spent at PTS can contact Princeton Theological Seminary’s archives.

      As we note, we can’t definitively say he never took a course at Princeton University, but we have located no records that would suggest he did, and several records associated with the time he spent at PTS. Those interested in conducting further research into this using our holdings are welcome to do so. If you’d like to follow up to learn more about conducting research at Mudd Library, please feel free to contact us through our Ask Us form.

      Thank you again for reading.

  2. Thich Nhat Hahn lived in Brown Hall @ Princeton. December 21, 1962 p.61 Fragrant Palm Leaves . Not sure if him living in a Princeton dorm means he was an enrolled student . He was 34-36 years old when he was there

    • Thanks for reading our blog. Records indicate that Thich Nhat Hahn lived in Brown Hall at Princeton Theological Seminary. Both institutions have a dormitory with the same name. You can see his room number in the 1961-1963 Handbook of Princeton Theological Seminary.

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