No-Coming, No-Going

Contemplation on No-Coming and No-Going by Thich Nhat Hanh

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.

Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
manifestations from my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek.

So laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say goodbye,
say goodbye to meet again soon.

We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.


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Only love will get us out of this circle of suffering.

by Alexis from Wake Up Montréal

Dear friends from around the world,

I am writing to you from Montréal. On Friday, I lost my cousin during the attacks in France. Faced with this terrible news, I cried. Eric was the father of a little girl and his partner is due to give birth in two months. So many things are jostling in my mind.

I breathe in, I breathe out.

Eric, you were (and you are in my heart) a being filled with joy. I will pay homage to you by being joyful and mindful to offer joy to others. Today, I wish to carry that joy into this violence, this nameless suffering. You are an example and I will follow your lead on this path of joy and openness of spirit.

I breathe in, I breathe out.

I have not given into the anger or the desire for revenge. Because it is anger and revenge that brought on these odious acts. Today, I wish only to hold those dear to me, and those whom I don’t know, in my arms and tell them that I love them. Only love will get us out of this circle of suffering.

I breathe in, I breathe out.

In losing a loved one, I am aware of what people go through daily, whether they are from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, but also the United States. Every day, people around the world are killed by gunfires. Today, I have the opportunity to join them, their loved ones, and send them my compassion.

I breathe in, I breathe out.

To hate, to Mara and to all those who fall into it, I see you. You are nothing but an illusion and I will not identify with you. On my path of peace, there are no exceptions. Facing suffering, I observe and I let go. I do not oppose. I do not identify. I also offer love to these men who kill. Even if I completely condemn their actions, I cannot forget that they are a portion of our collective suffering. I vow to work on my own personal sufferings, in order to lessen, in my humble way, our collective suffering.

I breathe in, I breathe out.

Today, people are speaking with one another, opening doors that were once shut, and are in solidarity. Even if this wave is only for now, I do want to see this presence, this support, this love for one another. I am sad that this only occurs in moments of despair, but I am happy to tell myself that it is always present. I vow to maintain this spirit of openness within myself and to accompany others to open themselves.

I breathe in, I breathe out.

I breathe in, I breathe out.

I breathe in, I breathe out.

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The Mystery of Being Here

May you awaken to the mystery of being here
And enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.
May the flame of anger free you from falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and
Anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.
May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift
Woven around the heart of wonder.
~ John O’Donohue

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In Praise of Small Kindnesses


Today’s is a soft meditation
in praise of the enormity
of small kindnesses.

Like the café worker who waved enthusiastically
to my father as he walked in the door of the coffee shop
like she was expecting him,
like he was a regular in this hipster enclave
instead of a septuagenarian
in khaki shorts and white tennis shoes.

He met me here on my workday
so I could help him format a document —
something he couldn’t figure out how to do at home
no matter how many buttons he tried,
something my mother always did for him
in the decades after he gave up his trusty typewriter.
So he arrived at the coffee shop
             vulnerable and exasperated in that way
             that only technology can make us feel:
             like slow, dependent children — and
sorely missing my mother.

Like the barista who didn’t blink
when he ordered his coffee the wrong way,
when he said la-TAY instead of LAH-tey,
who took his order from our table
as if we were in a sit-down restaurant
and she was our waiter,
who smiled the whole time like a halo of warm light,
softening the space everywhere,
who made him feel like he belonged.

You cannot know how those small gestures matter,
unless you are him,
unless you are me, watching,
unless you see his shoulders relax,
             in that way that we can do only
             when we feel safe and seen enough to let go,
and his eyes dampen, the tiny liquid pools held in at the rims,
barely noticeable, as he smiles and says,
She always knew how to do this for me. For years she did this.
She would have been 69 today. How I miss her.
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Origins of Engaged Buddhism

Excerpt from “In Engaged Buddhism, Peace Begins with You” BY JOHN MALKIN| JULY 1, 2003

John Malkin: Will you describe the origins of Engaged Buddhism and how you became involved in compassion-based social change?

Thich Nhat Hanh: Engaged Buddhism is just Buddhism. When bombs begin to fall on people, you cannot stay in the meditation hall all of the time. Meditation is about the awareness of what is going on-not only in your body and in your feelings, but all around you.

When I was a novice in Vietnam, we young monks witnessed the suffering caused by the war. So we were very eager to practice Buddhism in such a way that we could bring it into society. That was not easy because the tradition does not directly offer Engaged Buddhism. So we had to do it by ourselves. That was the birth of Engaged Buddhism.

Buddhism has to do with your daily life, with your suffering and with the suffering of the people around you. You have to learn how to help a wounded child while still practicing mindful breathing. You should not allow yourself to get lost in action. Action should be meditation at the same time.

John Malkin: Why did you come to the United States for the first time in 1966, and what happened while you were here?

Thich Nhat Hanh: I was invited by Cornell University to deliver a series of talks. I took the opportunity to speak about the suffering that was going on in Vietnam. After that I learned that the Vietnamese government didn’t want me to come home. So I had to stay on and continue the work over here. It was not my intention to come to the West and share Buddhism at all. But because I was forced into exile, I did. An opportunity for sharing just presented itself.

John Malkin: What did you learn from being in the United States during that time?

Thich Nhat Hanh: The first thing I learned was that even if you have a lot of money and power and fame, you can still suffer very deeply. If you don’t have enough peace and compassion within you, there is no way you can be happy. Many people in Asia would like to consume as much as Europeans and Americans. So when I teach in China and Thailand and in other Asian countries, I always tell them that people suffer very deeply in the West, believing that consuming a lot will bring them happiness. You have to go back to the traditional values and deepen your practice.

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Peace work means, first of all, being peace.

Excerpt from “Being Peace” by Thich Nhat Hanh

Meditation is to see deeply into things, to see how we can change, how we can transform our situation. To transform our situation is also to transform our minds. To transform our minds is also to transform our situation, because the situation is mind, and mind is situation. Awakening is important. The nature of the bombs, the nature of injustice, the nature of the weapons, and the nature of our own being are the same. This is the real meaning of engaged Buddhism.

A system of seven practices of reconciliation:

The first practice is Face-to-Face Sitting.

The two conflicting monks are present, and they know that everyhone in the community expects them to make peace.

The second practice is Remembrance.

… trying to mend the things of the past.

The third principle is Non-stubbornness.

The outcome is not important. The fact that each monk is doing his best to show his willingness for reconciliation and understanding is most important.

You do your best, and that is enough.

The fourth practice is Covering Mud with Straw.

… the mud is the dispute, and the straw is the loving kindness of the Dharma.

The fifth stage is Voluntary Confession. Each monk reveals his own shortcomings, without waiting for others to say them.

… de-escalation …

… the capacity of mutual understanding and acceptance will be born.

… you are part of the community. The well-being of the community is most important. Don’t think only of your own feelings.

… sacrifice …

The sixth and seventh practices are Decision by Consensus and Accepting the Verdict. It is agreed in advance that the two monks will accept whatever verdict is pronounced by the whole assembly, or they will have to leave the community.

Peace work means, first of all, being peace.

There is a lot of anger, frustration, and misunderstanding in the peace movement. The peace movement can write very good protest letters, but they are not yet able to write a love letter. We need to learn to write a letter to the Congress or to the president of the United States that they will want to read, and not just throw away. The way you speak, the kind of understanding, the kind of language you use should not turn people off. The president is a person like any of us.

Can the peace movement talk in loving speech, showing the way for peace? I think that will depend on whether the people in the peace movement can be peace. Because without being peace, we cannot do anything for peace. If we cannot smile, we cannot help other people to smile. If we are not peaceful, then we cannot contribute to the peace movement.

I hope we can bring a new dimension to the peace movement. The peace movement is filled with anger and hatred. It cannot fulfill the path we expect from them. A fresh way of being peace, of doing peace is needed. That is why it is so important for us to practice meditation, to acquire the capacity to look, to see, and to understand. It would be wonderful if we could bring to the peace movement our contribution, our way of looking at things, that will diminish aggression and hatred. Peace work means, first of all, being peace. Meditation is meditation for all of us. We rely on each other. Our children are relying on us in order to have a future.

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Can there be peace without war?

Excerpt from Spiritual Reflections on War and Peace: A Talk by Thich Nhat Hanh,
Peace Forum, March 19, 2003

Q: You have mentioned that there is no happiness without suffering. When I change these words we might consider that there is no peace without war. Does this mean that we cannot avoid war; we should just accept it as unavoidable karma? Should we just keep silent and breathe in and out mindfully? What would you do when there is war?

Thay: This is an excellent question. War is not just the bombs falling on us. Every
time you have a thought that is full of anger and misunderstanding—that is war. War
can be manifested through our way of thinking, our way of speaking, and our
way of acting. We may be living in war, not knowing that we are fighting with ourselves
and the people around us. With the war in yourself and the war that you inflict
on other people, there is suffering within you and there is suffering around you.
Maybe in your daily life there are a few moments of ceasefire. But most are moments
of war.

Suppose there is a couple who quarrels all the time except when they are very tired;
these moments of not quarreling are not exactly peace, they are a ceasefire. Then suppose
a friend comes to visit and asks, “Why are you living in war twenty-four hours a
day? Why don’t you try living in peace?”  And the couple says, “We don’t know. Tell
us, what is peace? What can we do in order to have peace?” And the friend tells the
couple how to practice in order to bring back harmony into their bodies and into
their emotions and feelings and they begin to have a taste of peace. Supported by the
friend, the couple’s peace grows every day until one day they say, “It is wonderful, we
know what peace is now.”

But if there had been no experience of living at war, then how could they experience peace?

Thanks to the mud, the lotus flower is able to grow. The feeling of well-being and peace is possible only when you have experienced the feeling of war. As someone who has lived many decades in the midst of war, I know what war is. And elements of suffering in war have helped me to arrive at the state of being in peace today. If I did not know some practice of peace I would have died in the war of suffering.

We know that we are co-responsible for the situation of our society. By the way we
live our daily life we contribute to peace or to war. It is mindfulness that can tell me
that I am going in the direction of war and it is the energy of mindfulness that can help
me to make a turn and to go in the direction of peace. That is why I have translated
mindfulness and concentration as the Holy Spirit; it can transform your life.

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