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Thich Nhat Hanh on Finding Peace

By Thich Nhat Hanh on Thursday February 20th, 2020

Image: Max Duzij

The Power of Peace

Humankind has become a very dangerous species. We need people who can sit still and be able to smile, who can walk peacefully. We need people like that in order to save us.

Recently I was sitting with a group of children, and a boy named Tim was smiling beautifully. I said, “Tim, you have a very beautiful smile,” and he said, “Thank you.” I told him, “You don’t have to thank me, I have to thank you. Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful. Instead of saying, “Thank you,” you should say, “You’re welcome.”

Spreading Happiness

If a child smiles, if an adult smiles, that is very important. 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. When I see Tim smiling, I am so happy. If he is aware that he is making other people happy, he can say, “You are welcome.”

Many of us worry about the situation of the world. We don’t know when the bombs will explode. We feel that we are on the edge of time. As individuals, we feel helpless, despairing. The situation is so dangerous, injustice is so widespread, the danger is close.

In this kind of a situation, if we panic, things will only become worse. We need to remain calm, to see clearly. Meditation is to be aware and to try to help.

Calm in the Storm

I like to use the example of a small boat crossing the Gulf of Siam. In Vietnam, there are many people, called boat people, who leave the country in small boats. Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats may sink.

The uplifting nature of peacefulnessIf you can be happy, everybody will benefit from it. Image: Jared Sluyter

But if even one person aboard can remain calm, lucid, knowing what to do and what not to do, he or she can help the boat survive. His or her expression – face, voice – communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will listen to what he or she says.

One such person can save the lives of many.

You are That Person

Our world is something like a small boat. Compared with the cosmos, our planet is a very small boat. We are about to panic because our situation is no better than the situation of the small boat in the sea. You know that we have more than 50,000 nuclear weapons.

Mahayana Buddhism says that you are that person, that each of you is that person.

Humankind has become a very dangerous species. We need people who can sit still and be able to smile, who can walk peacefully. We need people like that in order to save us. Mahayana Buddhism says that you are that person, that each of you is that person.

The Wonders of Life

Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby.

To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, all the time.

If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. 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.

The wonders of lifeThe wonders of life are all around you if you take the time to look. Image: Yoel Kamara

Enjoy Every Minute

Do we need to make a special effort to enjoy the beauty of the blue sky? Do we have to practice to be able to enjoy it? No, we just enjoy it. Each second, each minute of our lives can be like this.

Wherever we are, any time, we have the capacity to enjoy the sunshine, the presence of each other, even the sensation of our breathing.

Wherever we are, any time, we have the capacity to enjoy the sunshine, the presence of each other, even the sensation of our breathing. We don’t need to go to China to enjoy the blue sky. We don’t have to travel into the future to enjoy our breathing. We can be in touch with these things right now. It would be a pity if we are only aware of suffering.

Making the Most of Our Precious Time

We are so busy we hardly have time to look at the people we love, even in our own household, and to look at ourselves.

Society is organized in a way that even when we have some leisure time, we don’t know how to use it to get back in touch with ourselves.

We have millions of ways to lose this precious time – we turn on the TV or pick up the telephone, or start the car and go somewhere. We are not used to being with ourselves, and we act as if we don’t like ourselves and are trying to escape from ourselves.

The Beauty Beneath

Meditation is to be aware of what is going on – in our bodies, in our feelings, in our minds, and in the world. Each day 40,000 children die of hunger. The superpowers now have more than 50,000 nuclear warheads, enough to destroy our planet many times.

Yet the sunrise is beautiful, and the rose that bloomed this morning along the wall is a miracle.

Life is both dreadful and wonderful. To practice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects. Please do not think we must be solemn in order to meditate. In fact, to meditate well, we have to smile a lot.

Excerpts from Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh.

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

Words By Thich Nhat Hanh

Originally posted on

 

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23 Responses to Thich Nhat Hanh on Finding Peace

  1. Hi there :), I love the Buddhist philosophy by Thich Nhat Hanh and I’ve been personally studying his work and other Buddhist pioneers in this modern world and I absolutely love it and live it!
    When contemplating about the peace in this world I have realized that if the Peace is not inside each one of us individuals, it can’t manifest into reality.

    Totally love this saying/quote I found in your article, It cannot be more accurate and true – “Humankind has become a very dangerous species. We need people who can sit still and be able to smile, who can walk peacefully. We need people like that in order to save us.”

  2. I have read through some similar topics! However, your article gave me a very special impression, unlike other articles. I hope you continue to have valuable posts like this or more to share with everyone!

  3. I just watched this video and I smiled almost all the way trough (besides being distracted for just a moment or 2)… https://youtu.be/cZkvo9WrZp0

    I will copy the 11 teachings beneath here for those who are eager to forget the website of Maha Sambodhi Dharma Sangha Guru has got 2 pages 😉

    THE ELEVEN MAITRI PRECEPTS

    1. Never discriminate on the basis of name, appearance, complexion, class, belief, community, power, position, or qualification; even discard differentiating between the concepts of material and spiritual.

    2. Being acquainted with the Eternal Dharma, the Path, and the Guru, respect all religions and beliefs.

    3. Forsake lying, allegations, counter-allegations, belittling and spreading falsehood through baseless gossip.

    4. Forsaking philosophies or ways that make boundaries of divisiveness and difference of opinion, take up the Satya Marga – The Perfect Path.

    5. Following the Satya GuruMarga – the True and Perfect GuruPath – throughout life, renouncing evil actions, always remain intent in union with the Guru Tattva – The Guru Essence.

    6. Not having reached enlightenment oneself, do not seek to prove what it is with clever words; and while still in confusion, do not make others confused.

    7. Renouncing such craven behavior as killing sentient beings and violence, consume wholesome food.

    8. Do not keep narrow-minded thoughts about people and countries on the basis of national identity.

    9. Including oneself in the pursuit of the Satya GuruMarga – the True and Perfect GuruPath – perform actions that benefit the Earth.

    10. When one realizes the Truth, the GuruMarga – the GuruPath – takes form, so achieve Enlightenment for all sentient beings.

    11. Staying in the highest and deepest state of Chitta – Pure Awareness – be free from all bondage by having assimilated within the self these precepts.

    ( the website has got 3 pages by the way 😉 )

  4. Dear people, to sit still and smile is not what I do not want to do. I often go out and meet people in the world and travel to many continents and countries where I talk hours with people I have just met and introduce them to ‘little things’ I learned recently or a long time ago.

    I do this with telepathy because I am most often just at home watching porn & movies – I treat all these people (actors & actrices) the best I can and tailor my ‘little things’ for each person I meet in the mind as they all are unique and perfect as they are.

    The best I can do for you readers is to share my ‘latest thing’ I received in a conversation with Rey Skywalker (Matriarch & human) and Maha Sambodhi Dharma Sangha Guru (God-person & human) :

    “be both” – just as in the Islam… there and everywhere else everything is divided in 2 (except God off course) and so should or are all things we think.

    If you think :”I hate you !” so there is a thought :”I love you..” – “I am one” and “I am many” , both appear simultaneously, yet we are always dividing ourselves behind one or the other thought.

    My own “little thing” :”to discriminate is to separate you from your self”

    I think I should not fill this comment with more than these 2 little things .. ah, I will leave just a few little proza’s I have made when I was younger 😉

    1. “If I think, I forget who I am. That I will never forget.”

    2. “In the emptiness of knowing, all that I perceive is an illusion of sorts. You see, my eyes too are an illusion.”

    3. https://maitriya.info/en/dharma/ (many languages available in the menu above)

    I hope I increased your appetite to share a little more besides a generous smile 😉

    I greet you with an open heart & complete trust !

    Alain (Humanist for live, not against it)

    ps. here’s a kilo of ‘pure world-love’ for each and every one of you, you deserve it !-)

  5. The words are gentle, well-balanced, sane, loving. I hear his voice as I read. The image of Tim stays with me. Yet. Too, the figure of 40,000 children dying from hunger daily.
    I can remember to smile and feel the wonder. But, 40,000? How do we respond to that. Uplift is possible with action. Action begins from knowledge, ‘Life is both dreadful and wonderful’, Thich writes. We must engage with both.
    Food for thought. Thank you. One of your most profound postings, such is the nature of Thich Nat Hanh

    • We’re really glad you found value in this post 🙂 And we agree, action does begin with knowledge. May you continue to find the knowledge you seek in order to live life fully and lovingly.

      Blessings,
      Team UPLIFT

  6. Way to go Rose Anna!! I know the date I did that and celebrate my saner life on that date every year!! Know you are not alone!

  7. Satan’s original lie was that we (humans) can make it without God:

    “We need people like that in order to save us”

    It says that we can fix the world ourselves. The Bible says exactly the opposite. Jesus said do not be deceived…

  8. These words are full of inspiration , I love to be that person, I want so much to be the person who brings peace in the midst of a war… I am a mother, and sometimes it is difficult to be calm and peaceful!
    I believe to that One needs in order to be peace begin what is being eaten, to have a peaceful mind, but yes it is very hard to let go of the food you are addicted to.This morning I was reading Dr. Gabriel Cousens book Rainbow Live Cuisine, Then I tossed all white flours and sugars.

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