Thich Nhat Hanh

How to love: Legendary Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on mastering the art of “interbeing”

Maria Popova, Brain Pickings: “To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love.”

What does love mean, exactly? We have applied to it our finest definitions; we have examined its psychology and outlined it in philosophical frameworks; we have even devised a mathematical formula for attaining it. And yet anyone who has ever taken this wholehearted leap of faith knows that love remains a mystery — perhaps the mystery of the human experience.

Learning to meet this mystery with the full realness of our being — to show up for …

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A mindful gift from Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) to all of us

wildmind meditation newsElisha Goldstein, PsychCentral: Last week I wrote about Thich Nhat Hanh’s brain hemorrhage landing him in the hospital. The most recent update from Plum Village shows that while his condition is still in a critical stage he has opened his eyes and even reached out to touch the attendant next to him. In continuing this time of honoring his life I wanted to share with you one of the gifts he has given me that I often share with others.

These are the short phrases he weaves into breathing or walking that helps us be more present, loving, grounded, and aware in …

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Thich Nhat Hanh: is mindfulness being corrupted by business and finance?

wildmind meditation newsJo Confino, The Guardian: The Zen master discusses his advice for Google and other tech giants on being a force for good in the world.

Mindfulness has become an increasingly popular topic among business leaders, with several key executives speaking publicly in recent months about how it helps them improve the bottom line.

Intermix CEO Khajak Keledjian last week shared his secrets to inner peace with The Wall Street Journal. Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of the Huffington Post, discussed mindfulness in Thrive, her new book released this week. Other business leaders who meditate include Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff …

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Google seeks out wisdom of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh

Jo Confino, The Guardian: Why on earth are many of the world’s most powerful technology companies, including Google, showing a special interest in an 87-year-old Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk?

The answer is that all of them are interested in understanding how the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, or Thay as he is known to his hundreds of thousands of followers around the world, can help their organisations to become more compassionate and effective.

In a sign that the practice of mindfulness is entering the mainstream, Thay has been invited later this month to run a full day’s training session at Google’s main campus in California.

Thay, who has sold over 2m books in America alone, is also meeting more than 20 CEOs of other major US-based technology companies in Silicon Valley, to offer his wisdom on the art of living in the present moment.

He plans to discuss with them how they can…

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Uniting ‘American Buddhism’ with global citizenship

Jeff Ourvan, Globalpost: Can someone be an American Buddhist?

Is there an American Catholicism compared to what Catholics practice the world over? An American Judaism? Perhaps, but only from a demographic or political perspective.

Buddhism in the US, however, has developed a distinct American flavor. The very philosophical tenets of Buddhism have been adapted since the religion reached the United States in the 1960s. How, then, do “American Buddhists,” if they indeed exist, relate to the rest of the world?

American Buddhists are clearly part of a global Buddhist community. For one, the Buddhist movement Soka Gakkai International (SGI)…

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The second reminder: Death and impermanence

Dead, withered rose

‘One day I will die. I can not escape it. Death comes to everyone, including me.’

As I write this I have goose bumps. It enlivens me as well as scares me. There are many days I don’t want to die, and yet I know this is the cycle of life. Once I am born I am old enough to die. I remember speaking with one of my friends when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She wanted to know how long she had? Little did she know she only had seven weeks. Reflecting on this question, I realized she had 49 years to live, it took 49 years for her to die. How long did she have? She had now.

And yet so many of us, including myself live life as is we are immortal as if we are immune to death, as if it will not happen to us. As if our first terminal diagnosis is the first warning that we get that we will die.

The Four Reminders

I remember once saying to a friend who was diagnosed with cancer three years ago: “Hold on, hold on I could die before you. Your husband could die before you. Some of your friends could die before you. There is no guarantee you will die first.” Life is immediate for all of us, our death is immediate to all of us, if we wake up to that reality. I know that to be so true. I have woken up in the morning, felt on top of the world, had a great day at work, jumped on my bicycle and been knocked down by a car, more than once. Life is fragile, we do not know when it will end, but we know it will end. The uncertainty of not knowing can be more stressful than the actual dying.

A dear friend of mine died at age 44, from ovarian cancer. Initially she was given five years to live. But during surgery to remove her ovaries the surgeon punctured her bowel. This accelerated her living. She was terrified of dying, and her partner asked her: ‘What is so awful about dying?’. She couldn’t answer, but after this question her life changed. She accepted her dying process, to the extent that we gave her a living funeral. I remember telling her we wanted to celebrate her before she died. She lit up, and then proceeded to tell me what food she wanted, which people she wanted to attend. She said: “I want this celebration to help me pass over.” Her mom, brother, extended family and friends came to say goodbye to her. We all rejoiced in her life, told her we loved her, and said goodbye to her. She sat through every single bit of it, present and alert. Two days later she died. My friend taught me not to fear death.

Detox Your Heart, Vimalasara

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One of my best friends has just died. Was it a shock? Was it sudden? I know that my friends, family and i will die. And yet it still comes as a shock. I realize I still do not accept impermanence. I am in resistance to the change, that my dear friend will no longer share long talks with me, no longer laugh with me no longer support me. My selfish mind continues to cause me suffering. I have multiplied my pain by resisting it. I want Georgina to still be here, so I can here her call me V, so she can tell me everything that is going on back home in England.
I am more prepared for my own demise than the demise of those I love and know in my life.

Thich Nhat Hanh offers this practise. When we part with people we love – we hold each other – and look at each other with loving kindness and say: “I love you and one day you will die”

I leave you with this quote from Pema Chodron – “It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom—freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human.

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Ever mindful: Buddhist monastics practice simple life of meditation in Mississippi

Kristina Goetz: Before dawn, a Buddhist monk stands beneath a tall pine in a long brown robe the color of Mother Earth. He rings a bronze bell suspended from a low-hanging limb to signal it’s time for walking meditation.

By the light of a crescent moon, monks and nuns in the same brown robes walk slowly, silently. The crunch of gravel and the tap of footsteps on blacktop are the only sounds in the cool air. They focus on two things: breathing and walking. They may silently repeat a simple phrase.

Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in. Breathing out, I

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Thich Nhat Hanh explains why a spiritual revolution is needed to protect nature

Jo Confino, the Guardian: Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has been practising meditation and mindfulness for 70 years and radiates an extraordinary sense of calm and peace. This is a man who on a fundamental level walks his talk, and whom Buddhists revere as a Bodhisattva; seeking the highest level of being in order to help others.

Ever since being caught up in the horrors of the Vietnam war, the 86-year-old monk has committed his life to reconciling conflict and in 1967 Martin Luther King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, saying “his ideas for peace, if applied, would build a …

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Martin Luther King and Thich Nhat Hanh

Martin Luther King and Thich Nhat Hanh

On the occasion of Martin Luther King Day, it’s worth reading the letter he wrote to the Nobel Peace Prize committee, nominating the Buddhist monk-activist, Thich Nhat Hanh:

1967 25, January
The Nobel Institute
Drammesnsveien 19
Oslo, NORWAY

Gentlemen:

As the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate of 1964, I now have the pleasure of proposing to you the name of Thich Nhat Hanh for that award in 1967. I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize than this gentle Buddhist monk from Vietnam.

This would be a notably auspicious year for you to bestow your Prize on the Venerable Nhat Hanh. Here is an apostle of peace and non-violence, cruelly separated from his own people while they are oppressed by a vicious war which has grown to threaten the sanity and security of the entire world.

Because no honor is more respected than the Nobel Peace Prize, conferring the Prize on Nhat Hanh would itself be a most generous act of peace. It would remind all nations that men of good will stand ready to lead warring elements out of an abyss of hatred and destruction. It would re-awaken men to the teaching of beauty and love found in peace. It would help to revive hopes for a new order of justice and harmony.

I know Thich Nhat Hanh, and am privileged to call him my friend. Let me share with you some things I know about him. You will find in this single human being an awesome range of abilities and interests.

He is a holy man, for he is humble and devout. He is a scholar of immense intellectual capacity. The author of ten published volumes, he is also a poet of superb clarity and human compassion. His academic discipline is the Philosophy of Religion, of which he is Professor at Van Hanh, the Buddhist University he helped found in Saigon. He directs the Institute for Social Studies at this University. This amazing man also is editor of Thien My, an influential Buddhist weekly publication. And he is Director of Youth for Social Service, a Vietnamese institution which trains young people for the peaceable rehabilitation of their country.

Thich Nhat Hanh today is virtually homeless and stateless. If he were to return to Vietnam, which he passionately wishes to do, his life would be in great peril. He is the victim of a particularly brutal exile because he proposes to carry his advocacy of peace to his own people. What a tragic commentary this is on the existing situation in Vietnam and those who perpetuate it.

The history of Vietnam is filled with chapters of exploitation by outside powers and corrupted men of wealth, until even now the Vietnamese are harshly ruled, ill-fed, poorly housed, and burdened by all the hardships and terrors of modern warfare.

Thich Nhat Hanh offers a way out of this nightmare, a solution acceptable to rational leaders. He has traveled the world, counseling statesmen, religious leaders, scholars and writers, and enlisting their support. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.

I respectfully recommend to you that you invest his cause with the acknowledged grandeur of the Nobel Peace Prize of 1967. Thich Nhat Hanh would bear this honor with grace and humility.

Sincerely,
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh

Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh

Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh is a prolific writer, with over seventy books to his name. ‘Your True Home’ is his latest: a compilation of 365 short teachings, one on each page.

The format means we can take the book’s subtitle ‘everyday wisdom’ literally, and visit the book daily for a nugget of this much-loved Buddhist teacher’s lore.

And nuggets they are, never taking up more than half a page in a book which has a short, chubby format to begin with (though too heavy to be pocket size – unless you have very big pockets).

Title: Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh
Author: Melvin McLeod (editor)
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 978-1-59030-926-1
Available from: Shambhala, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com Kindle Store, and Amazon.com.

The teachings fall into two broad categories: instructions and insights.

Day 144, for example, gives us a mindful breathing practice culminating in the lines, ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my body. Breathing out, I smile to my whole body.’

There’s an emphasis on positivity in Thich Nhat Hanh’s instructions. Our natural state is joy, he suggests, and we’d save ourselves a lot of trouble if we could appreciate that.

That emphasis isn’t there as strongly in his insight teachings. For example, on day 173: ‘When conditions are sufficient, something manifests. That is what we call a ‘formation’. The flower is a formation, and so are the clouds and the sun. I am a formation, and you are a formation.’

Similarly, on Day 62, he compares life to a kaleidoscope of changing patterns. ‘Should we cry every time one of these manifestations comes to an end?’

Core Buddhist tenets are being emphasised here: that life is contained in the present moment, and that the material world is constantly changing and unstable.

These truths may strike the reader as stark, presented as they are without back-up explanation. It makes the book an interesting mixture of comfort and challenge. Perhaps this reflects the two main practices within Buddhist meditation, Samatha (calming) and Vipassana (insight).

Editor Melvin McLeod is at pains to point out that the insight teachings are not ‘mere aphorisms to cheer us up or inspire us (though they do both). They are transformative insights and instructions, and we need to let them seep below the surface level of our intellect into our heart and guts, where wisdom gestates and real change happens.’

That would obviously be a fantastic outcome, but I’m not sure that reading this book on its own is enough to make it happen.

Having said that, who knows? Even if this is the only Buddhist book you ever read, bite-sized wisdom is a lot better that no wisdom at all. And even if we do take the teachings as aphorisms, at least they are thought-provoking ones.

Thich Nhat Hanh is sometimes criticised for endlessly presenting old teachings in new formats (and it’s possible to see this latest offering in that light, too).

But different formats undeniably make Buddhist teachings available and acceptable for the first time to a wider variety of people. Furthermore, re-presenting old ideas in new contexts can also be very powerful for those who are already familiar with them.

And so it is with ‘Your true home.’ While the meditation suggestions calm and focus us, the insight pages exert a ‘drip-drip’ effect. One day next year or in years to come (unlike a calendar, the pages are not dated, just tactfully numbered), we may read the right words at the right time and suddenly and unexpectedly recognize the living truth they are pointing to.

In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘When conditions are sufficient, something manifests.’ Putting the word out there in different ways is one method of helping establish them.

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