Thich Nhat Hanh joined a Zen Vietnamese monastery at the age of 16, studied Buddhism as a novice, and was fully ordained as a monk in 1949. His approach has been to combine a variety of traditional Zen teachings with methods from Theravada Buddhism, insights from Mahayana Buddhism, and ideas from Western psychology – to offer a modern light on meditation practice. He has published more than 100 books.
In celebration of the human spirit, here are some inspiring thoughts from Thich Nhat Hanh,
From Going Home, Jesus and Buddha as Brothers:
The Buddha is not Buddha just because he was born in such and such a place, has a particular name, is the son of a gentleman called Suddhodana and a lady called Mahamaya, Siddhartha is a Buddha because in him there is the element of enlightenment. What is enlightenment? Again, an idea about enlightenment is not enlightenment. Look into yourself, and you know that enlightenment is something you may have within yourself. When you begin to understand, when you have been able to free yourself from a notion, that is enlightenment. And you have been enlightened so many times in the past. You have entertained illusions in the past. You have suffered because of these things and when you got out of these illusions and wrong perceptions, enlightenment was born in you. Don’t say that enlightenment is foreign to you. You know what it is. When you drink coffee, when you hold the hand of your child and walk, when you are really there, fully present and concentrated, you enjoy it more. You understand more of what is going on. That is mindfulness…
The First Mindfulness Training Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my
thinking and in my way of life…
Thich Nhat Hanh Reflects on Working Toward Peace:
How can I put into words the true nature of Great Compassion, mahakaruna?
When we begin to see that black mud and white snow are neither ugly nor beautiful, when we can see them without discrimination or duality, then we begin to grasp Great Compassion. In the eyes of Great Compassion, there is neither left nor right, friend nor enemy, close nor far. Don’t think that Great Compassion is lifeless. The energy of Great Compassion is radiant and wondrous. In the eyes of Great Compassion, there is no separation between subject and object, no separate self. Nothing that can disturb Great Compassion.
If a cruel and violent person disembowels you, you can smile and look at him with love. It is his upbringing, his situation, and his ignorance that cause him to act so mindlessly. Look at him-the one who is bent on your destruction and heaps injustice upon you-with eyes of love and compassion. Let compassion pour from your eyes and don’t let a ripple of blame or anger rise up in your heart. He commits senseless crimes against you and makes you suffer because he cannot see the way to peace, joy, or understanding.
Plumb Village, September 2009: Non-discriminative Wisdom. The bodies of the Buddha:
The Buddha is someone who can operate on the ground of non-discrimination. Whether you see the white color or the black color there is no discrimination. Whether you see a person with a Ph.D. degree or a person who has never been able to go to school, there is no discrimination at all. Inhabited by the wisdom of non-discrimination you do not suffer and you do not make the other person suffer. And that is the wisdom of non-discrimination; it is not an idea, it is not a notion it is a reality that you can observe. Just look at every cell of your body, just look at your right hand and left and you see that the wisdom of non-discrimination is acting, it is operating. It is a reality. It is not a hope, it is not a notion, an idea.
Do it like a Buddha, do it like an enlightened one because you have the seed of enlightenment within yourself. You have the seed of awakening within yourself. You can do it just like him; you need only to have that desire, that motivation. It is not impossible to be a Buddha. If you want to be a Buddha then you can be a Buddha. Mindfulness is the kind of energy that helps us to be aware of what goes on and the seed of mindfulness is within us. We are all capable of drinking our water in mindfulness. We are all capable of making steps in mindfulness, we are all capable of washing our bowl in mindfulness. You know that the problem is whether you want to do it, and you do it not only for yourself, you do it for the Sangha, for your ancestors and your children and their children. If you do it you get a lot of happiness and you will transcend birth and death by that practice. And birth and death are first of all notions that are in your head.
Quotes for thought …
Do not just look for what you want to see, that would be futile. Do not look for anything, but allow the insight to have a chance to come by itself.
That insight will help liberate you.
Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.
Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.
The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.
People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.
Live your daily life in a way that you never lose yourself. When you are carried away with your worries, fears, cravings, anger, and desire, you run away from yourself and you lose yourself. The practice is always to go back to oneself.
People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?
Reconciliation is to understand both sides; to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side, and then go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side.
The practice of peace and reconciliation is one of the most vital and artistic of human actions.
A bodhisattva is someone who has compassion within himself or herself and who is able to make another person smile or help someone suffer less. Every one of us is capable of this.
Harm no person, animal, plant or mineral.