After being refused the Right to return to Vietnam, Thích Nhất Hạnh formed a small Mindfulness community 100 miles south-west of Paris called the Sweet Potato, the Food that poor Vietnamese eat. Following Thích Nhất Hạnh's expulsion from Singapore following illegal attempts to rescue Vietnamese boat people, he settled in France and began to lead Mindfulness retreats. In 1981, Sweet Potato community held its first summer Retreat, which attracted more people than it could accommodate. Thích Nhất Hạnh then traveled south with his colleague Chân Không to find a larger site. They found a piece of land in Thenac which seemed ideal. The landowner, Mr. Dezon, didn't want to sell, so they continued looking. A few days later, on September 28, 1982, Thích Nhất Hạnh purchased a tract of land about 6 kilometers away, which is now known as the Lower Hamlet (Xóm Hạ). Later that year, a hailstorm destroyed the vineyards on Mr. Dezon's property and he was forced to put his land on the market. Nhất Hạnh bought the land and called it Upper Hamlet (Xóm Thượng). Initially, these two hamlets were named Persimmon Village (Làng Hồng), but it soon became clear that plum Trees fared much better on the rocky soil, so it became Plum Village (Làng Mai).
The following is the schedule for an average day at Plum Village (Làng Mai):
- 5:00am: Rise
- 6:00am: Sitting and Walking meditation
- 7:30am: Breakfast
- 9:00am: Dharma talk / Class / Presentation / Mindful work period
- 11:30am: Walking meditation
- 12:30pm: Lunch
- 1:30pm: Rest
- 3:00pm: Working Meditation
- 5:30pm: Sitting Meditation
- 6:30pm: Optional dinner
- 8:00pm: Personal study, Happiness Meeting, beginning Anew
- 10:00pm: Noble Silence begins
- 10:30pm: Lights out
Today, Plum Village (Làng Mai) is made up of four major residential hamlets. Upper Hamlet (Xóm Thượng) houses approximately 65 Monks and laymen, as well as being Thích Nhất Hạnh's residence. Lower Hamlet (Xóm Hạ) houses over 40 Nuns and laywomen. Son Ha Temple houses approximately 20 Monks, and the New Hamlet (Xóm Mới), 20 minutes away by bus, houses approximately 40 Nuns and laywomen.