Thich Nhat Hanh: Being Peace

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Source: Being Peace

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”

“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”

“Understanding means throwing away your knowledge.”

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.”

“In modern society most of us don’t want to be in touch with ourselves; we want to be in touch with other things like religion, sports, politics, a book – we want to forget ourselves. Anytime we have leisure, we want to invite something else to enter us, opening ourselves to the television and telling the television to come and colonize us.”

“From time to time, to remind ourselves to relax and be peaceful, we may wish to set aside some time for a retreat, a day of mindfulness, when we can walk slowly, smile, drink tea with a friend, enjoy being together as if we are the happiest people on Earth.”

“If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.”

“You are not an observer, you are a participant.”

“I would not look upon anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight… I have to deal with my anger with care, with love, with tenderness, with nonviolence.”

“Please don’t wait until the doctors tell you that you are going to have a baby to begin to take care of it. It is already there. Whatever you are, whatever you do, your baby will get it. Anything you eat, any worries that are on your mind will be for him or her. Can you tell me that you cannot smile? Think of the baby, and smile for him, for her, for the future generations. Please don’t tell me that a smile and your sorrow just don’t go together. It’s your sorrow, but what about your baby? It’s not his sorrow, its not her sorrow.”

“There is a story I would like to tell you about a woman who practices the invocation of the Buddha Amitabha’s name. She is very tough, and she practices the invocation three times daily, using a wooden drum and a bell, reciting, “Namo Amitabha Buddha” for one hour each time. When she arrives at one thousand times, she invites the bell to sound. (In Vietnamese, we don’t say “strike” or “hit” a bell.) Although she has been doing this for ten years, her personality has not changed. She is still quite mean, shouting at people all the time.

A friend wanted to teach her a lesson, so one afternoon when she had just lit the incense, invited the bell to sound three times, and was beginning to recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha,” he came to her door, and said, “Mrs. Nguyen, Mrs. Nguyen!” She found it very annoying because this was her time of practice, but he just stood at the front gate shouting her name. She said to herself, “I have to struggle against my anger, so I will ignore that,” and she went on, “Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha.”

The gentleman continued to shout her name, and her anger became more and more oppressive. She struggled against it, wondering, “Should I stop my recitation and go and give him a piece of my mind?” But she continued chanting, and she struggled very hard. Fire mounted in her, but she still tried to chant “Namo Amitabha Buddha.” The gentleman knew it, and he continued to shout, “Mrs. Nguyen! Mrs. Nguyen!”

She could not bear it any longer. She threw away the bell and the drum. She slammed the door, went out to the gate and said, “Why, why do you behave like that? Why do you call my name hundreds of times like that?” The gentleman smiled at her and said, “I just called your name for ten minutes, and you are so angry. You have been calling the Buddha’s name for ten years. Think how angry he must be!”

“Guarding knowledge is not a good way to understand. Understanding means to throw away your knowledge.”

“An oak tree is an oak tree. That is all it has to do. If an oak tree is less than an oak tree, then we are all in trouble.”

“The problem is whether we are determined to go in the direction of compassion or not. If we are, then can we reduce the suffering to a minimum? If I lose my direction, I have to look for the North Star, and I go to the north. That does not mean I expect to arrive at the North Star. I just want to go in that direction.”

“Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow because even today I still arrive.”

“It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.”

“During the last 2,500 years in Buddhist monasteries, a system of seven practices of reconciliation has evolved. Although these techniques were formulated to settle disputes within the circle of monks, i think they might also be of use in our households and in our society.

“Preventing war is much better than protesting against the war. Protesting the war is too late.”

“Life is both dreadful and wonderful. To practice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects.”

“There is a Zen story about a man riding a horse that is galloping very quickly. Another man, standing alongside the road, yells at him, “Where are you going?” and the man on the horse yells back, “I don’t know. Ask the horse.” I think that is our situation. We are riding many horses that we cannot control.”

“If you cannot be compassionate to yourself, you will not be able to be compassionate to others. When we get angry, we have to produce awareness: “I am angry. Anger is in me. I am anger.” That is the first thing to do.”

“We do so much, we run so quickly, the situation is difficult, and many people say, “Don’t just sit there, do something.” But doing more things may make the situation worse. So you should say, “Don’t just do something, sit there.” Sit there, stop, be yourself first, and begin from there.”

“My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.”

“If I don’t understand you, I may be angry at you, all the time. We are not capable of understanding each other, and that is the main source of human suffering.”
things, they’re just one.”

“We are imprisoned in our small selves, thinking only of the comfortable conditions for this small self, while we destroy our large self.”

“If you wish to have children, please do something for the world you will bring them into. That will make you someone who works for peace, in one way or another.”

“No argument, no reasoning, no blame, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.”

“We have to be in the present time, because only the present is real, only in the present can we be alive. We do not practice for the sake of the future, to be reborn in a paradise, but to be peace, to be compassion, to be joy right now.”

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