Thich Nhat Hanh

I have been catching a bit of Thich Nhat Hanh on Buddhist TV lately. Last night he really left an impression on me, like never before, or, perhaps I have been “away” too long.

He talked about nourishing positivity in us, and steering away from the negative.

He also said something that surprised me just a little; ‘when you have a positive feeling, or are around a positive person, ask it/her to stay. Maintain it in your mind.’ It sounded a little like attachment, but I know that isn’t what he meant.

Finally, He said what we already know from the Buddha; that we nourish our depression, our anger, our negativity, and so it is a choice.

When he spoke about the negative outcome of our nourishment, thoughts, actions, and finally our states of mind, he talked of course about suffering. But he said that suffering is necessary. He even said that suffering is a part of the kingdom of God; it’s necessary for the understanding of pain, and thus the growth of compassion. I really appreciate Thich Nhat Hanh making Zen inclusive, rather than exclusive.

In the end, he sounded like Dae Heng Sunim, the Buddha, and all Zennists; we are all part of one another, just as the clouds are part of the flowers we see, meaning no one thing happens or exists without everything else; a lesson to not see ourselves as separate, which leads to self-righteousness and blame.

12 thoughts on “Thich Nhat Hanh”

  1. Wonderful! Thank you Carl!

    I remember seeing TNH in Bangkok in 2007 – and he’s back again later this year giving a Dharma talk on the 18th of October. Something to look forward to.

    I think his teachings mesh really well with Kun Sunim’s, where he talks about mindfulness, Kun Sunim would add letting go/entrusting too, right?

    I love his emphasis on smiling! If only I could just remember more often! But I’m smiling now, and breathing, feeling peaceful and letting go of all my worries.

    Thank you Carl! Thank you! _/\_

  2. positive thinking is nice, it is actually the first thing they teach when dealing with clinical depression. Dr. David Burns, a well known psychiatrist, teach positive thinking. It is also shown in research that changing thought changes chemistry in a brain.
    I always liked Thich Nhat Hanh, always felt deep respect, but I kind of considered him more Christian, than Buddhist, which often can be similar.
    I find that search for and findings of your own core, your own foundation can be more realisting and somewhat scientific in dealing with everything and seeing everything as one; sometimes positive people can miss the truth of things, so I think negative view sometimes might have a point too. When you concentrate on your foundation and have faith in it and let just guide you, then positive feeling comes naturally, because things might not be positive at all, but in its more deeper reality, it all is on the right track.
    I remember how Buddha answered “I would not touch this sh… even with my foot” when someone offered his beautiful daughter for marriage; it was awefully rude, (isn’t it?). Buddha spoke like that quite often, because just positive would not uncover the truth of this world.
    And “suffering is part of Kingdom of God”? The last time I checked Jesus said that Kingdom of God is within you, and you see it with inner eyes; and it is a place with no suffering at all. I don’t know about that suffering is necessary, it is like giving a go for all of the abuse and ill and cruel treatment of people, animals and nature; or maybe he ment on an individual personal level of suffering, that you become more sensitive to feelings of others, then again, you become more sensitive when you connect through your foundation, then you just feel pain of others as your own, so I think there is one direction and it is inward towards your foundation.

  3. {He also said something that surprised me just a little; ‘when you have a positive feeling, or are around a positive person, ask it/her to stay. Maintain it in your mind.’ It sounded a little like attachment, but I know that isn’t what he meant.}

    I too agree that’s not what he meant. The more I read and study, the more I realize what Buddhists mean when they say, simply __pay attention__

    1. children learn by copying: they ‘store’ and reproduce what they think is worth to be stored . as we know that all our actions will definitely produce results we should be quite careful about what we ‘store’. so if there’s somebody or something around giving us a good feeling, we can try to get the essence of it to get get an idea how to reproduce this positive feeling and bring it into the world ourselves. if we want to be happy we have to learn to be happy, and once ‘programmed’ with the essence of happiness we can reproduce and share it.
      to me it seems to be more a question of sustainabilitiy in accumulating positive actions than attachment.

  4. It’s a very interesting thing that Jesus’ central message was ‘The Kingdom of God/Heaven’. He mentions it almost constantly through his teachings and even sent out his disciples to preach it long before his death and the theology around that:

    “When Jesus had called the Twelve together….. he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:1-2)

    Of course TNH equates the Kingdom of God with the Pure Land, especially in ‘Finding Our True Home’ but also throughout his writings – and that makes perfect sense to me.

    On three levels: (1) on the level of a destination after death, (2) as an aim for the reality of this world, something to work towards building, and (3) and as the deepest reality of life when seen through the eyes of love and wisdom.

    TNH talks about the Pure Land/KofGod as containing suffering in the sense that when we arrive there we will still have elements of the three poisons left in our store (nice one Evelyn) that will still need to be worked on. The Pure Land is a place where there are great teachers and a loving community to help us do that.

    Which brings me back to you guys!

    _/\_

  5. Thank you Everyone for the Wonderful and Thoughful Responses!

    Marcus:

    “I think his teachings mesh really well with Kun Sunim’s, where he talks about mindfulness, Kun Sunim would add letting go/entrusting too, right? ”

    Yes, I agree.

    “I love his emphasis on smiling! If only I could just remember more often! But I’m smiling now, and breathing, feeling peaceful and letting go of all my worries.”

    Well, I do, too. Try this. It gets me smiling every day, before my zany mind can make me laugh or someone esle can:

    Breathing in, I calm my body.
    Breathing out, I smile.
    Breathing in, I dwell in this moment.
    Breathing out, I know it is a wonderful moment.

    Peace, Marcus.

    ~Carl

    T:

    How are you? Please pardon me if I have misunderstood you in any way…

    “…sometimes positive people can miss the truth of things, so I think negative view sometimes might have a point too. ”

    This is tricky. Don’t get me wrong. As an Israeli friend told me over the weekned, “Words are not reality”, so I will try not to be semantic;

    1) Positive and negative are often delusions, T. I can tell a group of friends from my culture and a group of friends from another, more “harmonious”, that is, “non-debating” culture that we have to do something about the current military policy, and after lecturing my friends in both groups on my views for a while, the ones from my culture (not always) will say “bravo” for my concern, even if they don’t agree, while the ones from the more “harmonious culture” will more inclined to say I am being ‘negative.” It is a matter of perspective. I could easily turn around and tell my friends who are so concerned about harmony that their judgement of my concern is negative in itself, if not careless and undemocratic, but this too is a perspective, for they might say, ‘I didn’t say I lack concern over the issue, I just don’t talk about it in polite company’.

    2) Rest assured, I think perhaps I DO know what you mean. We have to look at things clearly, call them as we see them, and from this, make changes, or entrust, or do/not do whatever thing may bring positive results. Am I right?

    “…“suffering is part of Kingdom of God”? The last time I checked Jesus said that Kingdom of God is within you, and you see it with inner eyes; and it is a place with no suffering at all. I don’t know about that suffering is necessary, it is like giving a go for all of the abuse and ill and cruel treatment of people, animals and nature; or maybe he ment on an individual personal level of suffering, that you become more sensitive to feelings of others, then again, you become more sensitive when you connect through your foundation, then you just feel pain of others as your own, so I think there is one direction and it is inward towards your foundation.”

    First, I love personally that you mentioned “Jesus said that Kingdom of God is within you…”, because this argument has relevance in my personal life.

    Second, I don’t think Thich Nhat Hanh meant that suffering was a part of heaven, or that we should seek out suffering (perhaps you didn’t either?), but that it is a necessary aspect of life if we are to truly appreciate it for how it feels.

    He didn’t mean we should approve of it. He meant, ( probably acknowledging within as Siddhartha Gautama did without, that life is full of “non-satisfactoriness”, or what we have come to call “suffering”), and that it actually has a benefit, or a place; showing us what suffering is-not in vain-as it teaches us to appreciate the pain of others, thus deepening our capacity for empathy.

    Evelyn,

    I agree with Chong Go Sunim; great point!

    Carl

    Marcus:

    What do you think of gnosticim? Have you explored this much, and if so, do you have any references. I want to read more about what the gnostics thought and what they wrote about Jesus’ life.

    Thanks again, Brother,
    Carl

  6. Hi Carl,

    I’m afraid I don’t know too much about this, but I did read “The Gnostic Gospels” by Elaine Pagels a few years ago – and that’s probably the best starting place.

    Thanks again for you posts Carl and all the very best,

    Marcus _/\_

  7. I disagree that depression is a choice. I think it is the result of many factors. Not just mind but also modern world, and trying to be strong for too long. Sometimes trying is not a choice. And also what about how TNH talked about seeds being planted from our ancestors..ie. seeds planted during childhood can manifest into depression when added to other factors and life. I think once one trys to heal depression tho–and makes choice to try to think of breath and meditation as TNH suggests, one can get through this bad storm of depression. Saying it is choice feels like saying it is blame of one. There is no blame I think. Maybe in some cases, but every path is different and every seed is different. also every moment. Sometimes I think TNH and other Sunims compare thinking too much to christianity and jesus. I do not believe in these things. the stories can offer similar examples for western people not familiar with Eastern teachings…but I think it is better to use examples in nature. Also, many indiginous tribes throughout the world, such as the Navajo have similar wise teachings that overlap with many Eastern thoughts on mindfulness and old traditions.
    I think it is too easy to use christian model or one could even use Islamic model to make some overlapping examples. But I think Buddhism should be more talking about the self, mindfulness, nature, community….rather than dogma, comparisons to Western faiths….etc.
    But this is only my opinion. I am not an expert and any 1 way.
    I find iconography of many faiths very interesting and can see, obviously, overlap. However, for healing and pure thing, I prefer to think of nature, mind, inspiring prose, kindness, “ways of seeing” etc.

    L

    1. Hi, “L”,

      Love, Peace, Joy & Imagination to You!

      I think TNH and others (including myeslf) have used comparrisons with Western religions and traditions to include people, rather than exclude them, which talking about one faith, religion, or philosophy tends to do.

      In my own life I have suffered an unfiar amount due to the rigid religious traditions of others and like TNH, I want to bring people together and reduce that. Of course, this is hard, since–for example–Buddhism traditionally teaches not to trust in any omipotent entity, and Christianity depends rigidly on it the way it is practiced today (though to the shock of many Christians, I bet if Jesus came back today, he would speak much differently than he had in the time of his ministry–about God. Who knows, maybe he did speak very differently than we think. Anyone serious about the bible knows it is frought with hundreds of thousands of errors).

      Now, to the heart of the matter–about which you wrote: I agree. I do not even remember writing that depression is a choice, and I think you are correct; seeds of our childhood are part of it–or can be. Hiowever, I do not believe our ancestors have anything to do with our depression–unless you are talking about historical transferrence of issues, from one generation to the next–down through the ages. I don’t think The Buddha would have believed this, either.

      Finally, Depression can be thought of as a choice–in a manner of speaking that is quite well-doccumented and fits in perfectly with Buddhist teachings. The Buddha taught that everything is a result of our thoughts. Aside from chemical imbalances (which can be brought on or exascerbated by thought paradigms, too), depression is about how we choose to see things.

      If I worry too much, this is an issue of choice. We are either wise enough to know that worry is not the same as concern–and largley about attachment–or we are not. Ths means worry is usually fear, ego, ignorance, and pride-based. That is a result of education, surroundings, and individual will.

      Change your thoughts–about what you focus on–and you can reduce, even eliminate depression, unless–of course–your issue is your health, as I said before, and even then, you can reduce your depression with altered thinking.

      Sincerely,

      Carl Atteniese Jr.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s