Thich Nhat Hanh, the influential Zen master, died at 95 on Saturday in the Vietnamese city of Hue, at the temple where he lived. A prolific author, poet and teacher, he believed in what he called “engaged Buddhism,” applying Buddhist principles to social issues as well as to daily life. Here is a modest selection of his thoughts, drawn from books, speeches and published interviews.
On slowing down
“There is no need to run, strive, search or struggle. Just be. Just being in the moment in this place is the deepest practice of meditation. Most people cannot believe that just walking as if you have nowhere to go is enough.”
“The Buddha said, ‘My practice is the practice of nonpractice.’ That means a lot. Give up all struggle. Allow yourself to be, to rest.”
“People talk about entering nirvana, but we are already there. Aimlessness and nirvana are one.”
“Many of us have been running all our lives. Practice stopping.”
“Our greatest fear is that when we die we will become nothing. Many of us believe that our entire existence is only a life span beginning the moment we are born or conceived and ending the moment we die. We believe that we are born from nothing and when we die we become nothing. And so we are filled with fear of annihilation.
“The Buddha has a very different understanding of our existence. It is the understanding that birth and death are notions. They are not real. The fact that we think they are true makes a powerful illusion that causes our suffering. The Buddha taught that there is no birth; there is no death; there is no coming; there is no going; there is no same; there is no different; there is no permanent self; there is no annihilation. We only think there is. When we understand that we cannot be destroyed, we are liberated from fear. It is a great relief. We can enjoy life and appreciate it in a new way.”
This body is not me. I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
And I have never died.
“Breathing in, repeat, ‘in the here, in the here.’ Breathing out, ‘in the now, in the now.’ Although these are different words, they mean exactly the same thing. I have arrived in the here, I have arrived in the now. I am home in the here. I am home in the now.”
“So please, when you practice meditation or walking meditation, don’t make any effort. Allow yourself to be like that pebble at rest. The pebble is resting at the bottom of the river and the pebble does not have to do anything. While you are walking, you are resting. While you are sitting, you are resting.”
“To meditate means to go home to yourself. Then you know how to take care of the things that are happening inside you, and you know how to take care of the things that happen around you.”
“Just be. Just being in the moment in this place is the deepest practice of meditation.”
“We know very well that airplanes, guns and bombs cannot remove wrong perceptions. Only loving speech and compassionate listening can help people correct wrong perceptions. But our leaders are not trained in that discipline, and they only rely on the armed forces to remove terrorism.”
“To prepare for war, to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts, is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration and fear that will be passed on for generations to come.”
“The practice of peace and reconciliation is one of the most vital and artistic of human actions.”
“With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment.”
“Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.”
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the whole earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.”
“We have the tendency to run away from suffering and to look for happiness. But, in fact, if you have not suffered, you have no chance to experience real happiness.”
“Buddhism teaches us not to try to run away from suffering. You have to confront suffering. You have to look deeply into the nature of suffering in order to recognize its cause, the making of the suffering.”
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”
“Most of us experience a life full of wonderful moments and difficult moments. But for many of us, even when we are most joyful, there is fear behind our joy.”
“Fearlessness is not only possible, it is the ultimate joy. When you touch nonfear, you are free.”
“There is no way to happiness — happiness is the way.”