#915 – The peaceful path of Thích Nhất Hạnh

By Cathryn Wellner / January 17, 2014
Thich Nhat Hanh

By Duc (pixiduc) from Paris, France. (Thich Nhat Hanh Marche meditative 06) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

My first introduction to the Vietnamese Zen master, Thích Nhất Hạnh, was about twenty years ago when I picked up a copy of his book, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. It was such a slim little book. I figured I would read it in a couple of hours and pass it on to someone else. Instead, I tucked it into a box every time I moved. I still have it. It contains lessons I have not yet mastered, along with gems like these:

We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living.

We can see and taste the whole universe in a piece of bread!

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.

Thích Nhất Hạnh’s practice combines the contemplative life with community action. When his country was devastated by war, he helped found the “engaged Buddhism” movement.  He founded the School of Youth Social Services to rebuild villages, set up schools and clinics and resettle displaced families. Despite government opposition to his non-violent activism, he established Van Hanh Buddhist University, a publishing house and a peace magazine.

Denied re-entry into Vietnam after the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973, Thích Nhất Hạnh went into a 39-year exile in France. The monastery and retreat center he established there attracts thousands of people every year.

When Oprah Winfrey interviewed Thích Nhất Hạnh for her Super Soul Sunday show, he talked to her about his practice of being in the moment, no matter what stressful situation may be troubling him. His answers to her questions are worth the 22 minutes it takes to watch the video. You will feel your breath slow, your mind calm. His peacefulness and abounding compassion radiate through his words.

Even major companies are seeking him out, in spite of his warnings that social and environmental damage may lead to the collapse of civilization and that materialism is not the path to happiness. Perhaps his words will crack through the crazy bubble of endless growth and reach us with his message:

Our society needs a collective awakening in order to save ourselves from the crisis we are in. So the practice is that awakening should take place in every step, every breath. And if you have awakening you know you have a path of happiness. You stop suffering and then you can help other people to do the same.

As he nears his 90th birthday in 2016, the beloved teacher continues to live joyously, bringing hope to a wounded world.

You can follow Thích Nhất Hạnh on Facebook, the Thich Nhat Hanh Dharma Talks and Twitter.

Among over 100 books by Thích Nhất Hạnh:



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