I have a dream...
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thich Nhat Hanh
Vision, Wisdom, and Teachings

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk who played a central role in the Buddhist nonviolent peace movement in Vietnam during the 1960s and served as Chair of the Buddhist Peace Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks. He is an internationally known author, poet, scholar and peace activist who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Meditation

“Caring for yourself, re-establishing peace in yourself, is the basic condition for helping someone else. The practice of meditation consists of coming back to ourselves in order to restore peace and harmony.”

“If we practice meditation, we can transcend our fear, despair and forgetfulness.”

“Meditation is not to avoid problems or run away from difficulties. We do not practice to escape. We practice to have enough strength to confront problems effectively. To do this, we must be calm, fresh and solid....Meditation is essential for our survival, our peace, our protection.”

“Understanding is the fruit of meditation. When we practice deep looking directed toward the heart of reality ...... we receive understanding, we receive the wisdom that makes us free.”

“Through the practice of meditation...we can cultivate calm, we can cultivate awareness, and we can cultivate compassion.”

Mindfulness

“For us to be happy, we need to water the seed of mindfulness that is in us. Mindfulness is the seed of enlightenment, awareness, understanding, care, compassion, liberation, transfomation and healing. If we practice mindfulness, we get in touch with the refreshing and joyful aspects of life in us and around us, the things we are not able to touch when we live in forgetfulness. Mindfulness makes things like our eyes, our heart...the beautiful moon and the trees deeper and more beautiful. If we touch these wonderful things with mindfulness, they will reveal their full splendor. When we touch our pain with mindfulness, we will begin to transform it.”

“The practice of mindfulness helps us to be aware of what is going on. Once we are able to look deeply into the suffering and recognize its roots, we will be motivated to act....The energy we need is not fear or anger, but the energy of understanding and compassion.”

The Natural World

“We human beings have always singled ourselves out from the rest of the natural world. We classify other animals and living beings as 'nature', a thing apart from us, and we act as if we're somehow separate from it. Then we ask, 'How should we deal with nature?' We should deal with nature the same way we should deal with ourselves: nonviolently. Human beings and nature are inseparable. Just as we should not harm ourselves, we should not harm nature. To harm nature is to harm ourselves and vice versa.”

“Walking mindfully on the Earth, we are nourshed by the trees, the bushes, the flowers and the sunshine. Touching the Earth is a very deep practice that can restore our peace and our joy. We are children of the Earth. We rely on the Earth and the Earth relies on us. Whether the Earth is beautiful, fresh and green, or arid and parched, depends on our way of walking. Please touch the Earth in mindfulness, with joy and concentration. The Earth will heal you and you will heal the Earth.”

“So many beings in the universe love us unconditionally. A bird's song can express joy, beauty and purity, and evoke in us vitality and love. The trees, the water and the air don't ask anything of us, they just love us. Even though we need this kind of love, we continue to destroy these things. We should try to do our best to do the least harm to all living creatures.”

“Everyone of us can do something to protect and care for our planet. We have to live in such a way that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren. Our own life has to be our message.”

Our Relationship to Others

“It is clear that the fate of each individual is inextricably linked to the fate of the whole human race. We must let others live if we ourselves want to live. The only alternative to coexistence is co-nonexistence. A civilization in which we must kill and exploit others in order to live is not a healthy civilization. To create a healthy civilization, all must have equal access to education, work, food, shelter, world citizenship, clear air and water and the ability to circulate freely and settle on any part of the earth.”

Thoughts and Speech

“Thought and speech are forms of action. When we produce a thought that is full of anger, fear or despair, it has an immediate effect on our health and on the health of the world. Painful thoughts can be very powerful, affecting our bodies, our minds and the world. We should make an effort not to produce these kinds of thoughts too often. If you've said something that is not worthy of you, say something else today and that will transform everything. A positive thought will bring us physical and mental health and it will help the world to heal itself.”

Listening

“Listening is also a deep practice. We have to listen in a way that we understand the suffering of others. We have to empty ourselves and leave space so we can listen well. If we breathe in and out to refresh and empty ourselves, we will be able to sit still and listen to the person who is suffering.”

Achieving Peace

“It never helps to draw the line and dismiss some people as enemies, even those who act violently. We have to approach them with love in our hearts and do our best to help them move in a direction of nonviolence. If we work for peace out of anger, we will never succeed. Peace is not an end. It can never come about through non-peaceful means.”

“To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women.”

“To create fundamental change, we, the members of society, have to transform ourselves. If we want real peace, we have to demonstrate our love and understanding so that those responsible for making decisions can learn from us.”

“Our real enemy is forgetfulness. If we nourish mindfulness every day and water the seeds of peace in ourselves and those around us, we have a good chance to prevent the next war and to defuse the next crisis.”

“With mindfulness...we can begin by working to transform the wars in ourselves. There are techniques for doing this. Conscious breathing is one. Every time we feel upset, we can stop what we are doing, refrain from saying anything and breath in and out several times, aware of each in-breath and each out-breath. If we are still upset, we can go for walking meditation, mindful of each slow step and each breath we take. By cultivating peace within, we bring about peace in society.”

The Effects of War

“Then the war came. The actual killing was massive and we called it a victory. When the 500,000 trooops returned home, they were deeply wounded from practicing so much violence...For several generations millions of their children and grandchildren will inherit those seeds of violence and suffering. How can we call that a victory?”

“After a war, many people, especially young people, see violence as the way to solve problems. The next time there is a conflict somewhere in the world, they will be tempted to support another military solution, another quick war. This kind of thinking and acting damages the consciouseness. If we want to protect life, we have to look deeply as individuals and as a nation into the true nature of war.”

Real Strength

“Real strength is not in power, money or weapons, but in deep, inner peace.”

Compassion and Forgiveness

“When we look deeply into our anger, we see the person that we call our enemy is also suffering. As soon as we see that, we have the capacity for accepting and having compassion for him.”

“Everyone makes mistakes. If we are mindful, we see that some of our actions in the past may have caused others to suffer, and some actions of others have made us suffer. We want to be forgiving. We want to begin anew. 'You, my brother or sister have wronged me in the past. I now understand that it was because you were suffering and did not see clearly. I no longer feel anger towards you'. That kind of forgiveness is the fruit of awareness. When you are mindful, you can see all the causes that led the other person to make you suffer. When you see this, forgiveness and release arise naturally. You can't force yourself to forgive. Only when you understand what has happened can you have compassion for the other person and forgive him or her.”

Action and Non-Action

“These are the three domains of action - body, speeech and mind. In addition there is non-action, which is often more important than action. Without our doing anything, things can sometimes go more smoothly just because of our peaceful presence.”

Jail

"You don't need to kill with your body to go to jail. You need only to kill with your mind and you are already there."