Buddhist monk active during Vietnam War wakes from months-long coma

(Photo: REUTERS / Chaiwat Subprasom)French-based Buddhist zen master Thich Nhat Hanh gestures during his arrival at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok October 11, 2010. Nhat Hanh is making a pilgrimage to Thailand till October 30 as part of his 2010 Southeast Asia tour together with 80 monks from Plum Village in France, according to local media reports.

A Buddhist monk who gained renown as a peace activist during the Vietnam War has awoken from a coma he has been in since November in France, paving the way for his rehabilitation.

Supporters said the Vietnamese Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh has managed to open his eyes, prompting doctors looking after him to declare him out of the comatose state he entered on November 11.

"Thay [the Vietnamese term for master] has gradually emerged into wakefulness, and has his eyes open for much of the day, to the point where the doctors can now say that he is no longer in a coma," a post on his website, plumvillage.org, read.

The report stated that Nhat Hanh, 88, has been able to distinguish familiar faces and to respond to verbal stimuli. He also managed to flash his renowned infectious smile, according to the website.

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Doctors are still keeping a close watch on the monk, whom they expect to regain speech in the coming months.

"However at the present time Thay is not able to speak. This indicates some degree of aphasia, which is being monitored closely and may evolve favorably following therapy," his site said.

"There are plans for Thay to be transferred to a specialist Stroke Rehabilitation Clinic soon," it continued.

Nhat Hanh sustained a brain hemorrhage on November 11, slipping into a comatose state. Doctors managed to stabilize his condition.

He had erected a monastic community at Plum Village in southern France where he has lived for decades. He flies to North America and other parts of Europe to promote his lectures on mindfulness and peace.

The monk is credited for being among the pioneers who brought Buddhism to the West after leaving Vietnam in 1973.

He put up six monasteries and dozens of practice centers in the United States and in Europe, as well as over 1,000 mindfulness practice communities.

His followers are estimated to include more than 600 monks and nuns around the world, with thousands of lay followers practicing his teachings on mindfulness, peace-making and community building.

The central precept in Nhat Hanh's teaching is that mindfulness allows a person to learn to live in the present, which is vital to developing peace in one's self and in the world.

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