I recently discovered that practising mindfulness and silence could help a lot for activism. Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is the one whom I read recently and was inspired by. I know he died when he was in Thailand but misunderstood that he died in Bangkok. He actually passed away in Samut Prakan, my hometown, in the Red Cross stay home where he came to a seminar addressing Marxism and Religion in 1968.
As I am active in the heritage preservation movement, after knowing the fact, I suddenly went out to find where he was, and found the article written by James Ford, a Zen priest, who came to visit here in 2019 as a source. In the article, it said that the building was scheduled to be demolished. However I feel the urge to visit and see by myself, and I am surprised to find that it still exists.
I thought it would be great if the building could be renovated to be usable again for the purpose of well-being and retreats. This is an overambitious task. I asked many people for advice and came to the conclusion that the plaque dedicated to him might be the best start.
So, I have asked the secretary of the Thai Red Cross to meet and discuss the matter and also started the campaign Petition in support of the Thomas Merton Memorial in Thailand to the secretary of the Thai Red Cross which you support and sign here; https://forms.gle/gPPNocZP1sQRjkep7
You also could read here the letter in support of the memorial written by Dr Paul M. Pearson ITMS Resident Secretary & Director, the Thomas Merton Center.
Letter to the Thai Red Cross
Dear Dr Tej Bunnag, Secretary, Thai Red Cross
We are writing in support of a memorial for Thomas Merton whose life had ended in Sawang Khanivat, Thai Red Cross, Samut Prakan in December 1968.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is one of the most influential American Catholic authors. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold millions of copies and been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote numerous books on various topics including contemplative life, social justice and others which inspired the civil rights movement and many others. He was also deeply interested in Asian religions and promoted the Interfaith dialogue. He was a friend of Martin Luther King Jr, the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Han During the trip to a conference on East-West monastic dialogue in Samut Prakan, he died on December 10, 1968.
In Thailand, The Way of Chuang Tzu was his only book that was translated and became one of the most popular introductory books on Chinese philosophy. This book influenced many students of the 1960s to learn a spiritual way of life and some became one of the most well-known Buddhist monks.
In Prades, France, where he was born, there is a plaque for him as a historical marker in
Louisville, and his gravesite at the Abbey. Although, the place where he died is still missing the memorial of any sort.
Therefore, we encourage that Thomas Merton’s memorial is placed at the place where he died, Sawang Kaniwat, to complete the circle, and to celebrate his great contribution to our humanity.