Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Thich Nhất Hanh

Vietnamese Peace Activist, Zen Buddhist Monk, Teacher, Community Leader, Author, Chair of Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks, Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, Author of more than 100 books

"Anger is rooted in our lack of understanding of ourselves and of the causes, deep-seated as well as immediate, that brought about this unpleasant state of affairs. Anger is also rooted in desire, pride, agitation and suspicion. The primary roots of our anger are in ourselves. Our environment and other people are only secondary. It is not difficult for us to accept the enormous damage brought abut by a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or a flood. But when damage is caused by another person, we don’t have much patience. We know that earthquakes and floods have causes, and we should see that the person who has precipitated our anger also has reasons, deep-seated and immediate, for what he has done."

"Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory or ideology. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth. Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times."

"Recall a simple and ancient truth: the subject of knowledge cannot exist independently from the object of knowledge."

"Our life is a work of art."

"Understanding and love are not two things, but just one... True love needs understanding. With understanding, the one we love will certainly flower."

"People normally cut reality into compartments, and so are unable to see the interdependence of all phenomena. To see one in all and all in one is to break through the great barrier which narrows one’s perception of reality, a barrier which Buddhism calls the attachment to the false view of self... means belief in the presence of unchanging entities which exist on their own. To break through this false view is to be liberated from every sort of fear, pain, and anxiety."

"We need harmony, we need peace. Peace is based on respect for life, the spirit of reverence for life. Not only do we have to respect the lives of human beings, but we have to respect the lives of animals, vegetables, and minerals. Rocks can be alive. A rock can be destroyed. The earth also. The destruction of our health by pollution of the air and water is linked to the destruction of the minerals. The way we farm, the way we deal with our garbage, all these things are related to each other."

"The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the physical, material, and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves “inside the skin” of the other."

"When we are in touch with the refreshing, peaceful, and healing elements within ourselves and around us, we learn how to cherish and protect these things and make them grow. These elements of peace are available to us anytime... nourishing awareness in each moment."

"Our own life is the instrument with which we experiment with truth."

"It has become a kind of habit to look at things with the intention of getting something. We call it “pragmatism,” and we say that the truth is something that pays. If we meditate in order to get to the truth, it seems we will be well paid. In meditation, we stop, and we look deeply. We stop just to be there, to be with ourselves and with the world. When we are capable of stopping, we begin to see and, if we can see, we understand. Peace and happiness are the fruit of this process. We should master the art of stopping in order to really be with our friend and with the flower."

"Peace is every step."

"Your mindful breath and your smile will bring happiness to you and to those around you. Even if you spend a lot of money on gifts for everyone in your family, nothing you could buy them can give as much true happiness as your gift of awareness, breathing, and smiling, and these precious gifts cost nothing."

"Reality has three natures: imagination, interdependence, and the nature of ultimate perfection One considers interdependence. Because of forgetfulness and prejudices, we generally cloak reality with a veil of false views and opinions. This is seeing reality through imagination. Imagination is an illusion of reality which conceives of reality as an assembly of small pieces of separate entities and selves."

"Our daily lives, the way we drink, what we eat, has to do with the world's political situation."

"Chopping wood is meditation. Carrying water is meditation. Be mindful 24 hours a day, not just during the one hour you may allot for formal meditation or reading scripture and reciting prayers. Each act must be carried out in mindfulness. Each act is a rite, a ceremony. Raising your cup of tea to your mouth is a rite. does the word “rite” seem too solemn? I use the word in order to jolt you into the realization of the life-and-death matter of awareness."

"The secret of meditation is to be conscious of each second of your existence and to keep the sun of awareness continually shining - in both the physical and psychological realms, in all circumstances, on each thing that arises."

"There are some people who believe that they will enter the Kingdom of God, or the Pure Land, after they die. I don’t agree with them. I know that you don’t have to die in order to get into the Kingdom of God. In fact, you have to be alive to do so."

"We seem to believe that our daily lives have nothing to do with the situation of the world. But if we do not change our daily lives, we cannot change the world. Drinking a cup of tea, picking up a newspaper, using toilet paper, all these things have to do with peace. Because nonviolence can be called awareness, we must be aware of what we are, of who we are, and of what we are doing."

"Please Call Me By My True Names - Don't say that I will depart tomorrow- even today I am still arriving. Look deeply: every second I am arriving to be a bud on a Spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone. I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive. I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river. And I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly. I am a frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond. And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog. I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks. And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda. I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate. And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving. I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands. And I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to my people dying slowly in a forced-labor camp. 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. Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up and the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion."

"The Buddha recommends we live our daily life, seeing everything in the light of interbeing. A flower cannot be by itself alone. A flower can only inter-be with sunshine, with the rain, with the earth. So "to be" means "to inter-be." When we live the wisdom of interbeing in every minute, then we will not be caught in our small self. We will see that we are everywhere."

"I am not dreaming This is a real day, a beautiful one. Do we want to return to the past and play hide-and-seek? We are here today, and we will be here tomorrow. This is true. Come, you are thirsty. We can walk together to the spring of fresh water."

"Promise me, promise me this day, promise me now, while the sun is overhead exactly at the zenith, promise me: Even as they strike you down with a mountain of hatred and violence; even as they step on you and crush you like a worm, even as they dismember and disembowel you, remember, brother, remember: man is not your enemy. The only thing worthy of you is compassion --invincible, limitless, unconditional. Hatred will never let you face the beast in man. One day, when you face this beast alone, with your courage intact, your eyes kind, untroubled(even as no one sees them), out of your smile will bloom a flower. And those who love you will behold you across ten thousands worlds of birth and dying. Alone again, I will go on with bent head, knowing that love has become eternal. On the long, rough road, the sun and the moon will continue to shine."

"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."

"A human being is like a television set with millions of channels. We cannot let just one channel dominate us. We have the seed of everything in us, and we have to recover our own sovereignty."

"A real love letter is made of insight, understanding, and compassion. Otherwise it's not a love letter. A true love letter can produce a transformation in the other person, and therefore in the world. But before it produces a transformation in the other person, it has to produce a transformation within us. Some letters may take the whole of our lifetime to write."

"A Sangha is our refuge. Taking refuge in the Sangha is not a matter of faith, or belief; it is a matter of practice. Talk to your child, your companion, and your friends about the necessity of having a Sangha. If you have a Sangha, you are safe. You can nourish your home and protect yourself. You can enlarge your home all the time to include the clouds, the trees, and the walking meditation path. As you have learned, everything belongs to our home, everything belongs to our Sangha."

"A teacher cannot give you the truth. The truth is already in you. You only need to open yourself – body, mind and heart- so that his or her teachings will penetrate your own seeds of understanding and enlightenment. If you let the words enter you, the soil and the seeds will do the rest of the work."

"A summer breeze can be very refreshing; but if we try to put it in a tin can so we can have it entirely to ourselves, the breeze will die. Our beloved is the same. He is like a breeze, a cloud, a flower. If you imprison him in a tin can, he will die. Yet many people do just that. They rob their loved one of his liberty, until he can no longer be himself. They live to satisfy themselves and use their loved one to help them fulfill that. That is not loving; it is destroying."

"Anyone can practice some nonviolence, even soldiers. Some army generals, for example, conduct their operations in ways that avoid killing innocent people; this is a kind of nonviolence. To help soldiers move in the nonviolent direction, we have to be in touch with them. If we divide reality into two camps - the violent and the nonviolent - and stand in one camp while attacking the other, the world will never have peace. We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence in ourselves. We must work on ourselves and also with those we condemn if we want to have a real impact."

"Around us, life bursts with miracles--a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life's daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there."

"All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle."

"As a human being, you have the right to get angry; but as a practitioner, you do not have the right to stop practicing."

"As an organic gardener, you are not afraid of the garbage. It can always be transformed to make a beautiful flower."

"At any moment, you have a choice, that either leads you closer to your spirit or further away from it."

"Be aware of the contact between your feet and the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. We have caused a lot of damage to the Earth. Now it is time for us to take good care of her. We bring our peace and calm to the surface of the Earth and share the lesson of love. We walk in that spirit."

"Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to the spiritual path."

"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in the body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society."

"Be yourself. Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search or struggle. Just Be."

"Be still and know."

"Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful."

"Because you are alive, everything is possible."

"Before each meal, we can join our palms in mindfulness and think about the children who do not have enough to eat. Doing so will help us maintain mindfulness of our good fortune, and perhaps one day we will find ways to do something to help change the system of injustice that exists in the world. In many refugee families, before each meal, a child holds up his bowl of rice and says something like this: Today, on the table, there are many delicious foods. I am grateful to be here with my family enjoying these wonderful dishes. I know there are many children less fortunate, who are very hungry. Being a refugee he knows, for example, that most Thai children never see the kind of fine rice grown in Thailand that he is about to eat. It is difficult to explain to children in the overdeveloped nations that not all children in the world have such beautiful and nourishing food. Awareness of this fact alone can help us overcome many of our own psychological pains. Eventually our contemplation can help us see how to assist those who need our help so much."

"Breath is aligned with both body and mind and it alone can bring them together."

"Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again."

"Being rich is an obstacle to loving. When you are rich, you want to continue to be rich, and so you end up devoting all your time, all your energy, in your daily life to stay rich."

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

"Breathing in, I’m aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I release the pain in my body."

"Breathing and walking with awareness generates the energy of mindfulness. This energy brings our mind back to our body so that we're really here in the present moment, so we can be in touch with the wonders of life that are there inside us and around us. If we can recognize these wonders, we have happiness immediately. Fully available to the present moment, we discover that we already have enough conditions to be happy - more than enough in fact. We don't need to go looking for anything more in the future or in some other place. That's what we call abiding or dwelling happily in the present."

"Breathing in, I’m aware of my eyes, breathing out, I smile to my eyes."