Thich Nhat Hanh

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, the cinematic journey into the world of mindfulness and the Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. Filmed over three years and with unprecedented access, this visceral film is a meditation on a community who have given up all their possessions for a monastic life in rural France. As the seasons come and go, the monastics’ pursuit for a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them is amplified by insights from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Becoming a buddha

is not so difficult. ==== A buddha is someone who is enlightened, capable of loving and forgiving. You know that at times you’re like that. So enjoy being a buddha. When you sit, allow the buddha in you to sit. When you walk, allow the buddha in you to walk. Enjoy your practice. If you don’t become a buddha, who will? - Thich Nhat Hanh

You only need to sit

is an exhortation of Tao Dong (Soto) meditation. It means that you should sit without waiting for a miracle—and that includes the miracle of enlightenment. If you sit always in expectation you cannot be in contact with or enjoy the present moment, which always contains the whole of life. Sit in this context means to sit in an awakened way, in a relaxed way, with your mind awake, calm, and clear. Only this can be called sitting, and it takes training and practice. - Thich Nhat Hanh

The Buddha said this:

"The object of your practice should first of all be yourself. Your love for the other, your ability to love another person, depends on your ability to love yourself." If you are not able to take care of yourself, if you are not able to accept yourself, how could you accept another person and how could you love him or her?” ― Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart

Call Me By My True Names

In the early years of my exile in France, I learned of an eleven-year-old girl escaping from Vietnam with her family and other boat people. She was raped by a pirate, right there on her boat. Her father tried to intervene, but the pirate threw her father into the sea. After the child was raped she jumped into the ocean to commit suicide. We received the news of this tragedy one day while we were working in our Buddhist Peace Delegation office in Paris. I was so upset I could not sleep. I felt anger, blame, and despair.

That evening in sitting meditation, I visualized myself being born as a baby boy into a very poor fishing family on the coast of Thailand. My father was a fisherman. He couldn’t read; he had never gone to school or to the temple; he had never received any Buddhist teaching or any kind of education. The politicians, educators, and social workers in Thailand had never helped my father. My mother also couldn’t read or write, and she didn’t know how to raise her children. My father’s family had been poor fishermen for many generations—my grandfather and my great-grandfather had been fishermen, too. When I turned thirteen, I also became a fisherman. I had never gone to school, I had never felt loved or understood, and I lived in chronic poverty that persisted from one generation to the next. Then one day another young fisherman says to me: “Let’s go out onto the ocean. There are boatpeople who pass near here and they often carry gold and jewelry, sometimes even money. Just one trip and we can be free from this poverty.” I accept the invitation, thinking, “We only need to take away a little bit of their jewelry; it won’t do any harm, and then we can be free from this poverty.” So I become a pirate. The first time I go out, I’m not even aware that I have become a pirate. Once out on the ocean, I start to see the other pirates raping young women on the boats. I had never touched a young woman; I had never even thought about holding hands or going out with a young woman. But then on one boat there is a very beautiful young woman, and no policeman there to stop me. I had seen other people doing it, and I asked myself: “Why don’t I try it, too? This is my chance to try the body of a young woman.” And so I did. If you were there on the boat and had a gun, you might have shot me. But shooting me wouldn’t help me. Nobody had ever taught me how to love, how to understand, how to see the suffering of others. My father and mother were not taught this either. I didn’t know what was wholesome and what was unwholesome, I didn’t understand cause and effect. I was living in the dark. If you had a gun, you could shoot me, and I would die. But you wouldn’t be able to help me at all. As I continued sitting, I saw hundreds of babies being born that night along the coast of Thailand in similar circumstances, many of them baby boys. If the politicians and cultural ministers could look deeply, they would see that within twenty years those babies would become pirates. When I was able to see that, I understood the actions of the pirate. When I put myself in the situation of being born into a family that was uneducated and poor from one generation to the next, I saw that I would not be able to avoid becoming a pirate. When I saw that, my hatred vanished, and I could feel compassion for that pirate. When I saw those babies being born and growing up with no help, I knew that I had to do something so that they would not become pirates. The energy of a bodhisattva, a compassionate being with limitless love, grew inside me. I didn’t suffer anymore. I could embrace not only the suffering of the eleven-year-old child who was raped, but also the suffering of the pirate. When you address me as “Venerable Nhat Hanh,” I answer, “Yes.” When you call the name of the child who was raped, I also answer, “Yes.” If you call the name of the pirate, I will also say, “Yes.” Depending on where I was born, and under which circumstances I grew up, I might have been the girl or I might have been the pirate. I am the child in Uganda or the Congo, all skin and bones, my two legs as thin as bamboo sticks. And I am also the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to the Congo. Those poor children in the Congo do not need bombs; they need food to eat. But here in the US, we live by producing bombs and guns. And if we want others to buy guns and bombs, then we have to create wars. If you call the name of the child in the Congo, I answer, “Yes.” If you call the name of those who produce the bombs and guns, I also answer, “Yes.” When I’m able to see that I am all those people, my hatred disappears, and I am determined to live in such a way that I can help the victims, and also help those who create and perpetrate wars and destruction. - Thich Nhat Hanh, in “At Home in the World”.

We all know that understanding and compassion

can relieve suffering. This is not just a platitude; where there is understanding and compassion, there’s relief and help for ourselves and others. Our practice is to keep that understanding and compassion alive. As busy as we are, when we take the time to look a little bit more deeply, we can always find more understanding and compassion to offer. - Thich Nhat Hanh

There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts, "Where are you going?" and the first man replies, "I don't know! Ask the horse!" This is also our story. We are riding a horse, we don't know where we are going, and we can't stop. The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We are always running, and it has become a habit. We struggle all the time, even during our sleep. We are at war within ourselves, and we can easily start a war with others. - Thich Nhat Hanh

When you sit alone quietly, it’s something beautiful, even if nobody sees it. When a little flower appears in a crack between two rocks, it’s a beautiful sight. People may never see it, but that’s okay. - Thich Nhat Hanh, in “How to Sit.”

"You are a Buddha, and so is everyone else. I didn't make that up. It was the Buddha himself who said so. He said that all beings had the potential to become awakened. To practice walking meditation is to practice living in mindfulness. Mindfulness and enlightenment are one. Enlightenment leads to mindfulness and mindfulness leads to enlightenment." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

For forty-five years, the Buddha said, over and over again, "I teach only suffering and the transformation of suffering." When we recognize and acknowledge our own suffering, the Buddha — which means the Buddha in us — will look at it, discover what has brought it about, and prescribe a course of action that can transform it into peace, joy, and liberation. Suffering is the means the Buddha used to liberate himself, and it is also the means by which we can become free. - Thich Nhat Hanh

At the moment of his awakening

at the foot of the bodhi tree, the Buddha declared, “How strange—all beings possess the capacity to be awakened, to understand, to love, to be free—yet they allow themselves to be carried away on the ocean of suffering.” He saw that, day and night, we’re seeking what is already there within us. We can call it buddhanature, awakened nature, the true freedom that is the foundation for all peace and happiness. The capacity to be enlightened isn’t something that someone else can offer to you. A teacher can only help you to remove the non-enlightened elements in you so that enlightenment can be revealed. If you have confidence that beauty, goodness, and the true teacher are in you, and if you take refuge in them, you will practice in a way that reveals these qualities more clearly each day. - Thich Nhat Hanh

We can breathe

with the Earth and we can breathe for the Earth. Many of us are so caught up in our plans, fears, agitations, and dreams that we are not living in our bodies any more and we’re not in touch with our real mother, the Earth either. We can’t see all the miraculous beauty and magnificence that Mother Earth ceaselessly offers to us. We live in a world of imagination and we become increasingly alienated. Returning to our breathing brings body and mind back together and reminds us of the miracle of the present moment. Mother Earth is right here at every moment, all around us - so powerful, generous, and supportive; so patient, accepting and compassionate, and with an immense capacity to transform. Once we recognize these qualities in Mother Earth, we can take refuge in her in difficult moments, making it easier for us to embrace our fear and suffering and to transform it. - Thich Nhat Hanh, in ”Love Letter to the Earth”.

Someone asked me,

“Aren’t you worried about the state of the world?” I allowed myself to breathe and then I said, “What is most important is not to allow your anxiety about what happens in the world to fill your heart. If your heart is filled with anxiety, you will get sick, and you will not be able to help.” Yes, there is tremendous suffering all over the world, but knowing this needs not paralyze us. If we practice mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful sitting, and working in mindfulness, we can try our best to help. - Thich Nhat Hanh

If you can accept your body

, then you have a chance to see your body as your home. You can rest in your body, settle in, relax, and feel joy and ease. If you don’t accept your body and your mind, you can’t be at home with yourself. You have to accept yourself as you are. This is a very important practice. As you practice building a home in yourself, you become more and more beautiful.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

When you plant lettuce

, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

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