Thay

Thích Nhất Hạnh (Thay), the Buddhist sage, passed on yesterday.

He begins “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching” with, if one thinks about it, an incredible line: “Buddha was not a god. He was a human being like you and me.”

What Thay taught all his life is this: the freedom that the Buddha attained, is something all of us can too.

What Thay also taught (“Growing Together”) is that the kind of life we have is not a matter of Fate or ordained destiny– each of us has the power to shape our lives as we desire.

“In each one of us there are flowers and there is also garbage. The garbage is the anger, fear, discrimination, and jealousy within us. If you water the garbage, you will strengthen the negative seeds. If you water the flowers of compassion, understanding, and love, you will strengthen the positive seeds. What you grow is up to you.”

He taught (“Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames”) that each of us has the power to shape each relationship by practicing “compassionate listening and using loving speech.”

The second of his “The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism” is:

“Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice nonattachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.”

He tells us that this applies to his tradition too — indeed, to all traditions. “Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.”

In “How to Love”, he tells us that “We have to make the effort to heal words by using them properly.”

He goes on to observe that “Love is a beautiful word and we have to restore its meaning. When we say, “I love hamburgers,” we spoil the word.”

“True love includes a sense of responsibility and accepting the other person as she is, with all.her strengths and weaknesses. If you only like the best things in a person, that is not love.” Love does not imprison — it does not seek “to possess the other person or to consume all their attention and love”, it does not “foster suffering or attachment….True love is like the sun, shining with its own light, and offering that light to everyone.”

In an address to the US Congress on 10th September 2003, he beseeched the world to “wake up to the fact that everything is connected to everything else,” and that we must see the well-being of others as our own.

“My right hand has written all the poems that I have composed. My left hand has not written a single poem. But my right hand does not think, “Left Hand, you are good for nothing.” My right hand does not have a superiority complex. That is why it is very happy. My left hand does not have any complex at all….One day I was hammering a nail and my right hand was not very accurate and instead of pounding on the nail it pounded on my finger. It put the hammer down and took care of the left hand in a very tender way, as if it were taking care of itself. It did not say, “Left Hand, you have to remember that I have taken good care of you and you have to pay me back in the future.” There was no such thinking. And my left hand did not say, “Right Hand, you have done me a lot of harm — give me that hammer, I want justice.” My two hands know that they are members of one body; they are in each other.”

Thay would not want flags to be at half-mast today.

“When you lose a loved one, you suffer. But if you know how to look deeply, you have a chance to realize that his or her nature is truly the nature of no birth, no death. There is manifestation and there is the cessation of manifestation in order to have another manifestation. You have to be very keen and very alert in order to recognize the new manifestations of just one person. But with the practice and with effort you can do it….

Pay attention to all the leaves, the flowers, the birds and the dewdrops. If you can stop and look deeply, you will be able to recognize your beloved one manifesting again and again in many forms. You will again embrace the joy of life.” (“no death, no fear: comforting wisdom for life”)

Peace 😊

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