The Order of Interbeing (Tiep Hien) was formed by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh in the mid-1960’s, at a time when the Vietnam War was escalating and the teachings of the Buddha were desperately needed to combat the hatred, violence, and divisiveness enveloping his country.
On the full moon day of February 1966, Zen Master Nhat Hanh ordained six members into the Order—three men and three women ranging in age from twenty-two to thirty-two. All were board members of the School of Youth for Social Service, which he had helped found the year before. During the ceremony, the six ordainees vowed to study, practice, and observe the Fourteen Precepts of the Order of Interbeing, a wonderful blend of traditional Buddhist morality and contemporary social concerns.
For ten years, no new members were permitted to join the Order’s core community. In fact, this “period of experimentation” was extended until 1981, when Nguyen Anh Huong, a microbiologist and lay meditation teacher, became the seventh member of the Order.
Today, just twelve years later, there are more than 150 members of the core community and thousands of others worldwide who regularly recite the Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism, which remain uniquely applicable to contemporary moral dilemmas. They are guidelines for anyone wishing to live mindfully. By developing peace and serenity through ethical and conscientious living, we can help our society make the transition from one based on greed and consumerism to one in which thoughtfulness and compassionate action are of the deepest value.