Monday, July 23, 2007

Thich Nhat Hanh: Creating True Peace

As usual, I am a bit behind the times. For lent, our church chose to read Creating True Peace: Ending Violence in Yourself, Your Family, Your Community, and the World by Zen Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh. Well that was during March and April, and while I did read *most* of the book back then, I am finally finishing the last chapter now.

Believe me, it was an interesting process reading and discussing a book by a Zen Buddhist with a group of very Maine Congregationalists. When we first picked up this book, I have to admit I groaned a little. Great. This is going to be another of those books that tells you about how you have to fix yourself before you can fix anything else in the world. Which it was. But I found it helpful in a number of ways. Two in particular:

1. Cultivating Seeds
This is an analogy my mother used all the time when we were young. "What kind of seeds are you planting? Hitting seeds or sharing seeds?" Thich Nhat Hanh opens his book with a discussion of how we can choose which "seeds" we water in ourselves. (Once again proving that my mother's homespun wisdom is often right up there with the top philosophers and thinkers of our time.)
...our mind is like a garden that contains all kinds of seeds: seeds of understanding, seeds of forgiveness, seeds of mindfulness, and also seeds of ignorance, fear, and hatred. We realize that, at any given moment, we can behave with either violence or compassion, depending on the strength of these seeds within us.
Thich Nhat Hanh spends the rest of the book discussing how to cultivate the seeds of compassion. The more we practice compassion, the more it will become a habit, a natural state. Likewise, the more we practice anger, our anger will become stronger and more frequent. It's simple, but very useful and worth being reminded of from time to time.

2. Community
One of the last things Thich Nhat Hanh talks about in Creating True Peace is sangha, or community.
If we are a drop of water and we try to get to the ocean as only an individual drop, we will surely evaporate along the way. To arrive at the ocean, you must go as a river...We have to train ourselves to see the happiness of our community as our own happiness and to see the difficulties of our community as our own difficulties.
Again, simple, but very wise and true. And I believe the author when he says we can "train" ourselves to think this way. Again, like anything, the more we do it, the more it will become a habit.



wendy said...

May 2, 2011 - I was looking for some peaceful inspiration today after finding out about Bin Laden's death, and came across your post (although it was more than three years ago)
Thank you for your insightful synopsis of Thich Nhat Hahn's "Creating True Peace" I most liked that analogy about what your mom told you (also appropriate for upcoming Mother's Day )
In gratitude

Anonymous said...

Carson shooting yesterday. I needed a Thich Nat Hahn quote. Thank you