A teacher of Buddhism and love, Thich Nhat Hanh has been a remarkable force of peace in the world. Gerry Ellen compiled a list of her favorite TNH lessons.
Where to begin with this peacefully graceful and compelling, simple man? He has a presence and a message in every moment; and throughout his 91 years on this fine earth, he has been gifting us with his Buddhist Zen wisdom. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Nobel laureate himself, nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 (the prize was not awarded to anyone that year). He since went on to be awarded the Courage of Conscience achievement honor for his work that has spanned over 50 years.
Born Vietnamese and a long-term exile, Thich Nhat Hanh has published more than 100 books on topics of spirituality, peace, love and consciousness. He is one of the most active leaders of the peace movement since Gandhi. His non-violent solutions to conflict are legendary, by proving his message and adhering to a strict vegan regimen. He feels by setting an example of non-violence and abstaining from cruelty towards animals, the consciousness of our world will understand true peace and love.
A little more of his history before I extol the values of his lessons and words.
He created the order of Inter-Being in 1966, which is a monastic and lay group, teaching 5 Mindfulness Training & 14 Precepts. His confirmation of traditional Zen teachings with insights from Mahayana Buddhist Traditions sets him apart from many other leaders of his generation.
In addition to his teachings and writings, he has established two monasteries in Vietnam as a means to remain close to his roots and the people who continue to support and honor him. In 2014, it was noted that for the first time in history, major Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian leaders, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist (including Chan Khong, who represented Nhat Hanh) met to sign a shared commitment against modern-day slavery. The declaration they signed calls for the elimination of slavery and human trafficking by the year 2020. It was a monumental event, and although Nhat Hanh was unable to attend due to illness, it will go down as one of his finest moments throughout his peaceful leadership.
Here are some significant lessons from the great teacher himself (and my own interpretation of what it means to me):
“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear hardship today.”
Living in the moment is the ultimate price of a happy life.
“Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.”
Smiling costs nothing, it takes less energy than a frown and our hearts will feel completely overwhelmed with joy when we grin from ear to ear (and it can positively affect those around you).
“We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal.”
Taking the time for self-care will always keep us sane and happy. The current busyness will take us down the wrong road. Too much technology and lack of real human connection is what’s missing. Once we practice daily self-love we can we share it with others.
“Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.”
We are responsible for all of our choices, words and subsequent actions. It is our individual karma in life that always needs to be dealt with.
“When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?”
This is one of my favorites and all too familiar. Being a good listener, staying loyal, committed, open, respectful and loving are the prime ingredients for a fulfilling relationship.
“Compassionate listening is to help the other side suffer less. If we realize that other people are the same people as we are, we are no longer angry at them.”
We’re all in this life together, learning, growing, sharing and changing. Accepting our differences will keep the flow when we tune into what others’ are truly saying from deep down in their hearts.
“There is no way to happiness—happiness is the way.”
This speaks for itself.
“We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality.”
Our brains and hearts are designed to stay alert and active. Once we allow our minds to turn to mush and our hearts to darken or close, we have all but eliminated our chances of participating in this beautiful life.
“Anger is like a storm rising up from the bottom of your consciousness. When you feel it coming, turn your focus to your breath.”
This emotion is something we all deal with, yet how we deal with it is mindfulness in action. Taking a moment before we speak to the subject of our anger is likely to produce a more mindful outcome. Kindness from the heart before words from the mouth.
“We fear that this moment will end, that we won’t get what we need, that we will lose what we love or that we will not be safe. Often, our biggest fear is the knowledge that one day our bodies will cease functioning. So even when we are surrounded by all the conditions of happiness, our joy is not complete.”
The expectations we place on ourselves and others are propelled by our own fear of losing control. Practicing non-attachment with love will help to squash the irrational mind from getting in the way.
His words will forever be etched in our lives. My hope and prayer is that his health remains optimistic, because his legend already precedes him.
[image: via d nelson on Flickr]