Thích Nhất Hạnh Quotes
Most popular Thích Nhất Hạnh Quotes
Habit energy is pushing us; it pushes us to do things without our being aware. Sometimes we do something without knowing we're doing it. Even when we don't want to do something, we still do it. Sometimes we say, "I didn't want to do it, but it's stronger than me, it pushed me." So that is a seed, a habit energy, which may have come from many generations in the past. We have inherited a lot. With mindfulness, we can become aware of the habit energy that has been passed down to us. We might see that our parents or grandparents were also very weak in ways similar to us. We can be aware without judgment that our negative habits come from these ancestral roots. We can smile at our shortcomings, at our habit energy. With awareness, we have a choice; we can act another way. We can end the cycle of suffering right now.
Life is available only in the present moment.
Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.
To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.
Every object of the mind is itself mind.
No one has ever lived in the past or the future, only the now.
My actions are my only true belongings.
For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.
In true love, you attain freedom.
We are all the leaves of one tree. We are all the waves of one sea.
When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings.
Understanding is the essence of love , If you can not understand you cannot love.
Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.
Every one of us already has the seed of mindfulness. The practice is to cultivate it.
Our mother is the person who first teaches us love, the most important subject in life.
There are thousands of channels in our consciousness; it is up to us to choose the channel.
The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.
Sitting in meditation is nourishment for your spirit and nourishment for your body, as well.
If you love someone but rarely make yourself available to him or her, that is not true love.
Preventing war is much better than protesting against the war. Protesting the war is too late.
Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile is the source of your joy.
Patience is the mark of true love. If you truly love someone, you will be more patient with that person.
All you have to do is learn how to transform your garbage [sorrow, fear, depression, hate] into flowers.
While you are walking, smile and be in the here and now, and you will transform that place into paradise.
Handling the present moment with all your attention, all your intelligence, is already building a future.
The teaching of impermanence and nonself were offered by the Buddha as keys to unlock the door of reality.
If the human species has been able to make any progress, it is because of our heart of love and compassion.
Real happiness cannot exist when we are not free. Burdened by so many ambitions, we are not able to be free.
When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?
There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way. There is no way to enlightenment; enlightenment is the way.
If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it.
To think in terms of either pessimism or optimism oversimplifies the truth. The problem is to see reality as it is.
The address of the buddhas and the bodhisattvas is "here and now." That is the address of happiness, the address of life.
Do not turn yourself into a battlefield, with good fighting against evil. Both sides belong to you, the good and the evil.
Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.
We need to be aware of the suffering, but retain our clarity, calmness and strength so we can help transform the situation.
People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.
Anger is like a storm rising up from the bottom of your consciousness. When you feel it coming, turn your focus to your breath.
If you are unable to take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else? How can you take care of the person you love?
The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don't wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.
Bodhisattvas are those who have penetrated into the reality of no birth and no death. That is why they are fearless, day and night.
True love always brings joy to ourselves and to the one we love. If our love does not bring joy to both of us, it is not true love.
Look at flowers, butterflies, trees, and children with the eyes of compassion. Compassion will change your life and make it wonderful.
Yesterday is already gone. Tomorrow is not yet here. Today is the only day available to us; it is the most important day of our lives.
We have to nourish our insight into impermanence every day. If we do, we will live more deeply, suffer less, and enjoy life much more.
Everytime we smile, all the generations of our ancestors, our children, and the generations to come—all of whom are within us—smile too.
The Buddha advises us to create the feeling of joy and happiness in order to nourish ourselves before we deal with the painful feelings.
Awareness brings us back to ourselves, and when we are fully mindful of our body, and living in the here and now, we are in our true home.
Mindfulness helps us to not be angry at our loved ones, because when we are mindful, we understand that our loved ones are suffering as well.
People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?
We have to learn to live our life as a human being deeply. We need to live each breath deeply so that we have peace, joy and freedom as we breathe.
Words and thoughts concerning compassionate action that are not put into practice are like beautiful flowers that are colorful but have no fragrance.
If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof.
The conditions for our happiness are already sufficient. We only need to allow ourselves to be in the present moment, and we will be able to touch them.
We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality.
Everyone we cherish will, someday, get sick and die. If we do not practice the meditation on emptiness, when those things happen, we will be overwhelmed.
Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.
Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.
Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.
There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes.
Freedom is the basis of all happiness. Without freedom, there is no happiness. This means freedom from despair, freedom from resentment, freedom from jealousy and fear.
If we do not know how to take care of ourselves and to love ourselves, we cannot take care of the people we love. Loving oneself is the foundation for loving another person.
We have to train ourselves to look in a way so that we know when we touch one thing, we touch everything. We have to see that the one is in the all, and the all is in the one.
Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything - anger, anxiety, or possessions - we cannot be free.
We may feel that we are incapable of touching the ultimate dimension, but that is not correct. We have done so already. The problem is how to do it more deeply and more frequently.
Buddhist practice is based on nonviolence and nondualism. You don't have to struggle with your breath. You don't have to struggle with your body, or with your hate, or with your anger.
It is our idea of birth and death that takes away our peace and happiness in everyday life. And it is meditation that will rid us of the fear that is born from the idea of birth and death.
The energies of mindfulness, concentration and insight can liberate us from our anxiety and worries. We let go of the past and the future, and come in touch with the wonders of the present.
The insight of nonduality will put a stop to the war in you. You have struggled in the past, and perhaps you are still struggling — but is it necessary? No. Struggle is useless. Stop struggling.
Not talking, by itself, already can bring a significant degree of peace. If we can also offer ourselves the deeper silence of not thinking, we can find, in that quiet, a wonderful lightness and freedom.
It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don't have to run into the future in order to get more.
Mindfulness practice should be enjoyable, not work or effort. ... Allow your breath to take place. Become aware of it and enjoy it. Effortlessness. Enjoyment. The same thing is true with walking mindfully.
Breath is the bridge that connects life to consciousness, the bridge that unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.
Concepts and ideas are incapable of expressing reality as it is... Most of our suffering arises from our ideas and concepts. If you are able to free yourself from these concepts, anxiety and fear will disappear.
In the spring time, thousands of different kinds of flowers bloom. Your heart can also bloom. You can let your heart open up to the world. Love is possible— do not be afraid of it. Love is indispensable to life.
People kill and are killed because they cling too tightly to their own beliefs and ideologies. When we believe that ours is the only faith that contains the truth, violence and suffering will surely be the result.
We come to the practice of meditation seeking relief from our suffering, and meditation can teach us how to transform our suffering and obtain basic relief. But the deepest kind of relief is the realization of nirvana.
The flower is aware of the fact that it contains everything within it, the whole cosmos, and it does not try to become something else. It is the same for you. You have God within you, so you do not have to look for God.
Brushing our teeth, cooking our breakfast, walking to the meditation hall — everything we do, every step, every breath should bring joy and happiness to us. Life is already full of suffering; we don't need to create more.
Spiritual practice is not just sitting and meditating. Practice is looking, thinking, touching, drinking, eating, and talking. Every act, every breath, and every step can be practice and can help us to become more ourselves.
In most cases, our perceptions are inaccurate, and we suffer because we are too sure of them. Look at your perceptions and smile to them. Breathe, look deeply into their nature, and you will see that there are many errors in them.
If you struggle during your sitting meditation or walking meditation, you are not doing it right. The Buddha said, "My practice is the practice of nonpractice." That means a lot. Give up all struggle. Allow yourself to be, to rest.
Your mindful breath and your smile will bring happiness to you and to those around you. Even if you spend a lot of money on gifts for everyone in your family, nothing you could buy them can give as much true happiness as your gift of awareness.
Contemplation on interdependence is a deep looking into all phenomena in order to pierce through to their real nature, in order to see them as part of the great body of reality, and in order to see that the great body of reality is indivisible.
Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go. Please sit down and take an inventory of your life. There are things you've been hanging on to that really are not useful and deprive you of your freedom. Find the courage to let them go.
Do not fight against pain; do not fight against irritation or jealousy. Embrace them with great tenderness, as though you were embracing a little baby. Your anger is yourself, and you should not be violent toward it. The same thing goes for all of your emotions.
There are many ways to come back to the here and the now, and to touch life deeply. But they all involve mindful breathing. If we're anchored in our mindful breathing, we can practice anytime. Otherwise we risk missing our lives, our lives that are lived in the here and now.
When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept. We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.
People normally cut reality into compartments, and so are unable to see the interdependence of all phenomena. To see one in all and all in one is to break through the great barrier that narrows one's perception of reality, a barrier that Buddhism calls "the attachment to the false view of the self."
When you are looking at a sunset and are in contact with the beauty of nature, practice mindful breathing.... Getting in touch with the beauty of nature makes life much more beautiful, much more real, and the more mindful and concentrated you are, the more deeply the sunset will reveal itself to you.
If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we can't share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.
We are children of the earth. We rely on the earth, and the earth relies on us. Whether the earth is beautiful, fresh, and green, or arid and parched, depends on our way of walking. Please touch the earth in mindfulness, with joy and concentration. The earth will heal you, and you will heal the earth.
This is your own time. This spot where you sit is your own spot. It is on this very spot and in this very moment that you can become enlightened. You don't have to sit beneath a special tree in a distant land. Practice like this for a few months, and you will begin to know a profound and renewing delight.
We have a lamp inside us, the lamp of mindfulness, which we can light anytime. The oil of that lamp is our breathing, our steps, and our peaceful smile. We have to light up that lamp of mindfulness so the light will shine out and the darkness will dissipate and cease. Our practice is to light up the lamp.
Sometimes you encounter people who are so pure, beautiful, and content. They give you the impression that they are divine, that they actually are saints or holy beings. What you perceive in them is their awakened self, their Buddha nature, and what they reflect back to you is your own capacity for being awake.
Through the practice of deep looking, we can identify the positive seeds that we want to water every day, and train ourselves not to water the negative ones. This is called "selective watering." The Buddha recommended methods for doing this, and even a few days of this practice can bring about a transformation.
The goodness of suffering is something real. Without suffering there cannot be happiness. Without mud there cannot be any lotus flowers. So if you know how to suffer, suffering is OK. And the moment you have that attitude, you don't suffer much anymore. And out of suffering, a lotus flower of happiness can open.
Impermanence and selflessness are not negative aspects of life, but the very foundations on which life is built. Impermanence is the constant transformation of things. Without impermanence, there can be no life. Selflessness is the interdependent nature of all things. Without interdependence, nothing could exist.
When we're hurt, there are two ways to think. We can think in a way that makes us angrier and want to retaliate. Or we can try to calm ourselves, touch our compassion and understanding, and give ourselves a peaceful mind. This way helps us see that the other person also suffers, and then our anger will dissipate.
Breathing mindfully takes our mind back to our breath and, if we continue, to our whole body. We go back to our body and reconcile with it. We get to know what's going on in our body, the wrongs we have done, the conflicts we're having, and we'll know what to do and what not to do in order to be on good terms with our body.
I have heard some people predict that the twenty-first century will be a century of spirituality. Personally, I think it must be a century of spirituality if we are to survive at all. In our society, there is so much suffering, violence, despair, and confusion. There is so much fear. How can we survive without spirituality.
Becoming a Buddha is not so difficult. A buddha is someone who is enlightened, capable of loving, and forgiving. You know that at times you're like that. So enjoy being a buddha. When you sit, allow the Buddha in you to sit. When you walk, allow the Buddha in you to walk. Enjoy your practice. If you don't become a buddha, who will.
When we agonize over questions like, "Who am I? Where do I come from? Was I wanted? What is the meaning of my life?" we suffer because we're caught in the idea of a separate self. But if we look deeply, we can practice no-self. This is the realization that we're not a separate self; we're connected to our ancestors and to all beings.
In our face there are dozens of muscles, and when we're angry or afraid, those muscles hold a lot of tension. But if we know to breathe in and be aware of them, and breathe out and smile to them, we can help them release the tension. Our face can be completely different after one in-breath and out-breath. A smile can bring a miracle.
Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am." In light of the Buddha's teaching, you might say, "I think, therefore I am . . . not here." You are lost in your thinking, so you are really not here. For you to truly be here, thinking has to stop. As you are practicing mindfulness of the breath, the object of your attention is simply the breath.
When you know how to generate your own presence, you can make a gift of it to the one you love. This is something very practical. It is easy to do, it costs nothing, and it can be done very quickly. You do not have to practice for years to see the results. One minute will do. So you should put what you have learned into practice right away.
There are two dimensions to life, and we should be able to touch both. One is like a wave, and we call it the "historical dimension." The other is like the water, and we call it the "ultimate dimension," or "nirvana." We usually touch just the wave, but when we discover how to touch the water, we receive the highest fruit that meditation can offer.
When body and mind are together, you are fully present. You are fully alive and you can touch the wonders of life that are available in the here and the now. So you practice not only with your mind but with your body. Body and mind should be experienced as one thing, not two. On that ground, you see that everything you are looking for is already there.
Your true home is in the here and the now. It is not limited by time, space, nationality, or race. Your true home is not an abstract idea; it is something you can touch and live in every moment. With mindfulness and concentration, the energies of the Buddha, you can find your true home in the full relaxation of your mind and body in the present moment.
If we can hold our anger, our sorrow, and our fear with the energy of mindfulness, we will be able to recognize the roots of our suffering. We will be able to recognize the suffering in the people we love as well. Mindfulness helps us to not be angry at our loved ones, because when we are mindful, we understand that our loved ones are suffering as well.
When you get into an argument with someone you love, please close your eyes and visualize yourself three hundred years from now. When you open your eyes, you will only want to take each other in your arms and acknowledge how precious each of you is. The teaching of impermanence helps us appreciate fully what is there, without attachment or forgetfulness.
We all have the ability to walk in the Kingdom of God, to walk in the Pure Land of Buddha, every day. You have all you need — legs, lungs, eyes, and mind — and with a little bit of practice, you can generate the energy of mindfulness within you, just like lighting a lamp. Once you have become truly alive, take a step and you will enter the Kingdom of God.
Often it is our own knowledge that is the biggest obstacle to us touching suchness [reality]. That is why it's very important to learn how to release our own views. Knowledge is the obstacle to knowledge. If you are dogmatic in your way of thinking, it is very difficult to receive new insights, to conceive of new theories and understandings about the world.
If you look into Buddhist meditation, you will find that it has two aspects : first, stopping, and then, deep looking. When you achieve stopping, you become solid and concentrated. That allows you to practice looking deeply into what's here, and looking deeply into the nature of things brings insight. This understanding will liberate you from your suffering.
We usually try to hold on to life and run away from death. But, according to the teaching, everything has been nirvana from the nonbeginning. So why do we have to grasp one thing and avoid another? In the ultimate dimension, there is no beginning and no end. We think there is something to attain, something outside of ourselves, but everything is already here.
The heart of Buddhist practice is to generate our own presence in such a way that we can touch deeply the life that is here and available in every moment. We have to be here for ourselves; we have to be here for the people we love; we have to be here for life with all its wonders. The message of our Buddhist practice is simple and clear: "I am here for you.".
Be there truly. Be there with 100 percent of yourself. In every moment of your daily life. That is the essence of true Buddhist meditation. Each of us knows that we can do that, so let us train to live each moment of our daily life deeply. That is why I like to define mindfulness as the energy that helps us to be there 100 percent. It is the energy of your true presence.
When we transcend notions of inside and outside, we know that the object we wish to attain is already within us. We don't have to search for it in space or time. It is already available in the present moment. The contemplation on nonattainment is very important. The object we wish to attain is already attained. We don't need to attain anything. We already have it. We already are it.
The teaching of the Buddha tells you clearly and plainly to make this the most magnificent and wonderful moment of your life. This present moment must become the most wonderful moment in your life. All you need to transform this present moment into a wonderful one is freedom. All you need to do is free yourself from your worries and preoccupations about the past, the future, and so on.
Your breathing should flow gracefully, like a river, like a water snake crossing the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse. To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds. Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used.
Each one of us is sovereign over the territory of our own being and the five elements (Sanskrit : skandhas) we are made of. These elements are form (body), feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. Our practice is to look deeply into these five elements and discover the true nature of our being — the true nature of our suffering, our happiness, our peace, our fearlessness.
Peace and compassion go hand in hand with understanding and nondiscrimination. We choose one thing over another when we discriminate. With the eyes of compassion, we can look at all of living reality at once. A compassionate person sees himself or herself in every being. With the ability to view reality from many viewpoints, we can overcome all viewpoints and act compassionately in each situation.
Mindfulness is something we can believe in. To believe in mindfulness is safe, and not at all abstract. When we drink a glass of water and know that we are drinking a glass of water, mindfulness is there. When we sit, walk, stand, or breathe, and know that we are sitting, walking, standing, or breathing, we touch the seed of mindfulness in us, and after a few days, our mindfulness will grow quite strong.
We believe that happiness is possible only in the future. That is why the practice "I have arrived" is very important. The realization that we have already arrived, that we don't have to travel any further, that we are already here, can give us peace and joy. The conditions for our happiness are already sufficient. We only need to allow ourselves to be in the present moment, and we will be able to touch them..
We live in a time when everyone is too caught up in the preoccupations of everyday life, and we do not have enough time to live in suchness, with mindfulness. We do not take the time to touch things in depth, to discover the true nature of life. You are invited to use your intelligence, your time, and your resources to taste this timeless meditation that was handed down to us by our original teacher, the Buddha.
Two thousand six hundred years ago, Shakyamuni Buddha proclaimed that the next Buddha will be named Maitreya, the "Buddha of Love." I think Maitreya Buddha may be a community, and not just an individual. A good community is needed to help us resist the unwholesome ways of our time. Mindful living protects us and helps us go in the direction of peace. With the support of friends in the practice, peace has a chance.
You can naturally stop your thoughts if you focus your attention fully on your in-breath and your out-breath. After one or two minutes of practice, the quality of your in-breath and out-breath will improve. Your breath will become deeper, slower, and more harmonious and peaceful, whether you are lying down, sitting, or walking. By practicing mindful breathing, we bring the elements of harmony and peace into our body.
It only takes a few seconds of mindful breathing for your body and mind to begin to come back together again. It is very easy. A child can do it. You just concentrate on your in-breath and on your out-breath. You don't think about anything else. The past, the future, your worries, your anger, and your despair are not there anymore. Only one thing is there: your in-breath and your out- breath. Go ahead and enjoy breathing.
If you can find a moment to sit, wherever you are, stay there and enjoy doing nothing. Just enjoy your in-breath and out-breath. Don't allow yourself to be carried away by your thinking, worries, or projects. Just sit there and enjoy doing nothing; enjoy your breathing and the fact that you are alive and that you have twenty minutes or half an hour to enjoy doing nothing. This is very healing, transforming, and nourishing.
You can make a step and touch the earth in such a way that you establish yourself in the present moment, and you will arrive in the here and the now. You don't need to make any effort at all. Your foot touches the earth mindfully, and you arrive firmly in the here and the now. And suddenly you are free — free from all projects, all worries, all expectations. You are fully present, fully alive, and you are touching the earth.
The heart says that there is "nothing to attain." We meditate not to attain enlightenment, because enlightenment is already in us. We don't have to search anywhere. We don't need a purpose or a goal. We don't practice in order to obtain some high position. In aimlessness, we see that we do not lack anything, that we already are what we want to become, and our striving just comes to a halt. We are at peace in the present moment.
This is the great insight of Mahayana Buddhism: everyone can become a buddha. What Siddhartha achieved, all of us can also achieve, whether we are a man or a woman, no matter what social class or ethnic group we were born into, or whether we practice as a monastic or as a layperson. We all have the capacity to become a fully enlightened buddha. And while on the path to becoming a fully enlightened buddha, we are all bodhisattvas.
When we first learn about the teachings on awakening, we think these teachings are new to us. But we already have the seed of awakening within us. Our teacher and our friends on the path only provide the opportunity for us to touch that seed and help it grow. There are many healthy and wholesome seeds already within our consciousness. With the help of a teacher and a community of practitioners, we can come back to ourselves and touch them.
All kinds of desires are the continuation of our original desire to be safe. The little child in us continues to worry and be fearful. In the present moment there's no problem, no threat. If we don't have a problem in the present moment, it means we don't have a problem. Why continue to worry and be fearful? We have to transmit that wisdom to the inner child. We need to let the child within us know that he or she no longer has to be afraid.
Don't underestimate yourself. You have the ability to wake up. You have the ability to be compassionate. You just need a little bit of practice to be able to touch the best that is in you. Enlightenment, mindfulness, understanding, and compassion are in you. Very simple practices — such as meditative walking, mindful breathing, or washing dishes mindfully — make it possible for you to leave hell and touch the positive seeds that are within you.
Have we wasted our hours and our days? Are we wasting our lives? These are important questions. Practicing Buddhism is to be alive in each moment. When we practice sitting or walking, we have the means to do it perfectly. During the rest of the day, we also practice. It is more difficult, but it is possible. The sitting and the walking must be extended to the non-walking, non-sitting moments of our day. That is the basic principle of meditation.
When we can envision the death of one we love, we are able to let go of anger and reproachfulness toward that person. We learn to live in a sweeter way with those we love, to look after them and to make them happy. Our awareness of impermanence keeps thoughtless words and actions about those we love from invading our daily lives. We learn how to avoid hurting the ones most important to us, and avoid sowing seeds of suffering in ourselves and in them.
With mindful walking, our steps are no longer a means to arrive at an end. When we walk to the kitchen to serve our meal, we don't need to think, "I have to walk to the kitchen to get the food." With mindfulness, we can say, "I am enjoying walking to the kitchen," and each step is an end in itself. There is no distinction between means and ends. There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way. There is no way to enlightenment; enlightenment is the way.
To reconcile means to bring peace and happiness to members of our family, society, and other nations. To promote the work of reconciliation, we have to refrain from aligning ourselves with one party or another so that we understand both. This work takes courage; we may be suppressed or even killed by those we wish to help. After listening to both sides, we can tell each side about the suffering of the other. This alone will bring about greater understanding.
Suppose a friend who has come a long way to visit is having a cup of tea with us. Mindfulness helps the time we spend with her to be a time we won't forget. We're not thinking of anything. We're not thinking of our business, our projects. We just focus our attention on this moment when we're with our friend. We're fully aware that she is there and that we can sit with her and enjoy a cup of tea. Mindfulness helps us to taste the joy of each moment very deeply.
Chopping wood is meditation. Carrying water is meditation. Be mindful twenty-four hours a day, not just during the one hour you may allot for formal meditation, or reading scripture and reciting prayers. Each act must be carried out in mindfulness. Each act is a rite, a ceremony. Raising your cup of tea to your mouth is a rite. Does the word rite seem too solemn? I use that word in order to jolt you into the realization of the life-and-death matter of awareness.
For forty-five years, the Buddha said, over and over again, "I teach only suffering and the transformation of suffering." When we recognize and acknowledge our own suffering, the Buddha — which means the Buddha in us — will look at it, discover what has brought it about, and prescribe a course of action that can transform it into peace, joy, and liberation. Suffering is the means the Buddha used to liberate himself, and it is also the means by which we can become free.
Concentration helps us focus on just one thing. With concentration, the energy of looking becomes more powerful, and insight is possible. Insight always has the power of liberating us. If mindfulness is there, and we know how to keep mindfulness alive, concentration will be there, too. And if we know how to keep concentration alive, insight will also come. The energy of mindfulness enables us to look deeply and gain the insight we need so that transformation is possible.
It's the energy of mindfulness in us that allows us to write a real love letter and reconcile with another person. A real love letter is made of insight, understanding, and compassion. Otherwise it's not a love letter. A true love letter can produce a transformation in the other person, and therefore in the world. But before it produces a transformation in the other person, it has to produce a transformation within us. Some letters may take the whole of our lifetime to write.
Mindfulness is the kind of light that shows us the way. It is the living Buddha inside of each of us. Mindfulness gives birth to insight, awakening, compassion, and love. Not only Buddhists, but also Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Marxists can accept that each of us has the capacity of being mindful, that everyone has the seed of mindfulness in himself or herself. If we know how to water this seed, it will grow, and we will become alive again, capable of enjoying all the wonders of life.
When we speak of listening with compassion, we usually think of listening to someone else. But we must also listen to the wounded child inside of us. Sometimes the wounded child in us needs all our attention. That little child might emerge from the depths of your consciousness and ask for your attention. If you are mindful, you will hear his or her voice calling for help. At that moment, instead of paying attention to whatever is in front of you, go back and tenderly embrace the wounded child.
Do you have a problem right now, in this moment? Look at yourself in your physical form, your feelings, your perceptions. Do you have a problem? If we see that we don't have any problem at all in the present moment, we shouldn't let the ghosts of the past dominate us. We should not let the projections of the past or the future break us down. They're just ghosts. That's why we train ourselves to always be in the present moment. That's our practice. That's our path. It's the way to reconciliation.
The word "suchness" describes reality as it is. Concepts and ideas are incapable of expressing reality as it is. Nirvana, the ultimate reality, cannot be described, because it is free of all concepts and ideas. Nirvana is the extinction of all concepts. Most of our suffering arises from our ideas and concepts. If you are able to free yourself from these concepts, anxiety and fear will disappear. Nirvana, the ultimate reality, or God, is of the nature of no-birth and no-death. It is total freedom.
Silence is something that comes from your heart, not from outside. Silence doesn't mean not talking and not doing things; it means that you are not disturbed inside, there is no talking inside. If you're truly silent, then no matter what situation you find yourself in, you can enjoy the silence. There are moments when you think you're silent and all around is silent, but talking is going on all the time inside your head. That's not silence. The practice is to find silence in all the activities you do.
Bodhisattvas dwell on the same ground as the rest of us — the world of birth and death, permanence, and self. But thanks to the practice of looking deeply into impermanence and nonself, they are in touch with the ultimate dimension, free from the fears associated with ideas of existence and nonexistence, one and many, coming and going, birth and death. In this freedom, they ride the waves of birth and death in perfect peace. They are able to remain in the world of waves while abiding in the nature of water.
In sitting meditation, the first thing is to be aware that you are in a sitting position. Then, you can sit in a way that brings you calm, solidity, and well-being. We can notice the position of our body in each moment, whether we are sitting, walking, standing, or lying down. We can be aware of our actions, whether we are getting up, bending down, or putting on a jacket. Awareness brings us back to ourselves, and when we are fully mindful of our body, and living in the here and now, we are in our true home.
When I hold a piece of bread, I look at it, and sometimes I smile at it. The piece of bread is an ambassador of the cosmos offering nourishment and support. Looking deeply into the piece of bread, I see the sunshine, the clouds, the great earth. Without the sunshine, no wheat can grow. Without the clouds, there is no rain for the wheat to grow. Without the great earth, nothing can grow. That is why the piece of bread that I hold in my hand is a wonder of life. It is there for all of us. We have to be there for it.
If we make a sincere effort to practice alleviating our inner suffering and the suffering of others, we too become bodhisattvas, awakened beings. We support our family, friends, and coworkers, and help them to manifest as bodhisattvas; we do this for the entire world and for the happiness of all beings. If through your practice you become a bodhisattva, those around you will see that beauty, genuine spirituality, and true love are possible. Living like this, you are happy and will become an inspiration for others.
Suppose we are looking at the ocean. On the surface we see waves rising and falling. From the point of view of the waves, there is birth and death, high and low, rising and falling. There are distinctions between waves. But each wave is made of a substance called "water." It is a wave, but at the same time, it is water. Concepts such as birth and death, higher and lower, rising and falling apply only to the waves, which represent the historical dimension, and do not apply to the water itself, the ultimate dimension.
Real happiness cannot exist when we are not free. Burdened by so many ambitions, we are not able to be free. We are always grasping at something; there are so many things we want to do at the same time, and that is why we do not have the time to live. We think that the burdens we carry are necessary for our happiness, that if they are taken from us we will suffer. However, if we look more closely, we shall see that the things at which we grasp, the things that keep us constantly busy, are in fact obstacles to our being happy.
In our society, we're inclined to see doing nothing as something negative, even evil. But when we lose ourselves in activities, we diminish our quality of being. We do ourselves a disservice. It's important to preserve ourselves, to maintain our freshness and good humor, our joy and compassion. In Buddhism we cultivate aimlessness, and in fact in Buddhist tradition the ideal person, an arhat or a bodhisattva, is a businessless person—someone with nowhere to go and nothing to do. People should learn how to just be there, doing nothing.
Deep listening and loving speech are wonderful instruments to help us arrive at the kind of understanding we all need as a basis for appropriate action. You listen deeply for only one purpose — to allow the other person to empty his or her heart. This is already an act of relieving suffering. To stop any suffering, no matter how small, is a great action of peace. The path to end suffering depends on your understanding and your capacity to act without causing harm or further suffering. This is acting with compassion, your best protection.
The Buddha spoke about the practice of samtusta, recognizing that we have enough conditions to be happy right here and right now. We don't need to obtain any more. Samtusta has been translated as realizing that one is satisfied with little. When we go home to the present moment, we view all the conditions of happiness that we have, and we may find that they are more than enough for us to be happy right now. We need to stop running after things, because even if we get the object of our desire, we won't be happy and we'll want to run after another one.
We have to awaken ourselves to the truth that we are here, alive. We are here making steps on this beautiful planet. This is already performing a miracle. But we have to be here in order for the miracle to be possible. We have to bring ourselves back to the here and the now. Therefore, each step we take becomes a miracle. If you are able to walk like that, each step will be very nourishing and healing. You walk as if you kiss the earth with your feet, as if you massage the earth with your feet. There is a lot of love in that practice of walking meditation.
Our body and mind are sustained by the cosmos. The clouds in the sky nourish us; the light of the sun nourishes us. The cosmos offers us vitality and love in every moment. Despite this fact, some people feel isolated and alienated from the world. As a bodhisattva, you can approach such a person, and with this mantra you can open the door of his or her heart to the world and to the love that is always happening: "Dear one, I know that you are suffering a lot. I know this, and I am here for you, just as the trees are here for you and the flowers are here for you."
Have you ever played with a kaleidoscope? Just a small movement is enough to make something miraculous appear. A tableau of colors and forms is presented to you, a manifestation. You keep this view for a few seconds, then you turn the kaleidoscope and another manifestation appears. Should we cry every time one of these manifestations comes to an end? A flower manifests, then disappears, then manifests, then disappears — thousands upon thousands of times. If you look deeply at things, you will see this reality. We manifest, then disappear. It is a game of hide and seek.
The practice of meditation is to look at reality in such a way that the boundary between subject and object will no longer be there. We have to remove the boundary between the inquirer and the object of inquiry. If we want to understand someone, we put ourselves into his skin. In order for friends or families to really understand each other, they need to become each other. The only way to understand fully is to become the object of our understanding. True understanding happens when we dismantle the barrier between the object of understanding and the subject of understanding.
When you contemplate the big, full sunrise, the more mindful and concentrated you are, the more the beauty of the sunrise is revealed to you. Suppose you are offered a cup of tea, very fragrant, very good tea. If your mind is distracted, you cannot really enjoy the tea. You have to be mindful of the tea, you have to be concentrated on it, so the tea can reveal its fragrance and wonder to you. That is why mindfulness and concentration are such sources of happiness. That's why a good practitioner knows how to create a moment of joy, a feeling of happiness, at any time of the day.
Western psychotherapy aims at helping create a self that is stable and wholesome. But because psychotherapy in the West is still caught in the idea of self, it can bring about only a little transformation and a little healing; it can't go very far. As long as we are caught in the idea of a separate self, ignorance is still in us. When we see the intimate relationship between what is self and what is not self, ignorance is healed and suffering, anger, jealousy, and fear disappear. If we can practice no-self, we'll be able to go beyond the questions that make people suffer so much.
In the beginning, we may believe that there must be someone in order for the breathing to be possible; there must be someone in order for the walking to be possible. But in fact the walking, the breathing, is enough; we don't need a walker, we don't need a breather. We can just notice that there is walking going on. There is breathing going on. What I consider to be the Buddha walking is just the walking, but it's a high quality of walking. Because that walking is enjoyable, it's mindful walking — there's a lot of peace and joy. The Buddha is that breathing. The Buddha is that walking.
I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on the earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle that we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
Bodhichitta is the mind of enlightenment, beginner's mind. When we're inspired by the desire to practice and transform our suffering so we can help the many people around us who suffer, the mind of that moment is very beautiful. It's the mind of a bodhisattva, one who attains his or her own liberation in order to help all beings. Sometimes we call it the "mind of love." It's because of love that we practice. We're not just trying to run away from suffering. We want more than that. We want to transform our own suffering and be free in order to help many other people to transform their suffering.
Around us, life bursts forth with miracles — a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life's daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.
Suppose I hold a leaf in my hand. What do you see? A leaf is a leaf; it is not a flower. But in fact, when we look deeply into the leaf, we can see many things. We can see the plant, we can see the sunshine, we can see the clouds, we can see the earth. When we utter the word leaf, we have to be aware that a leaf is made of non-leaf elements. If we remove the non-leaf elements, such as the sunshine, the clouds, and the soil, there will be no leaf left. So it is with our bodies and ourselves. We're not the same as, nor are we separate from, other beings. We're connected to everything, and everything is alive.
Take the time to eat an orange in mindfulness. If you eat an orange in forgetfulness, caught in your anxiety and sorrow, the orange is not really there. But if you bring your mind and body together to produce true presence, you can see that the orange is a miracle. Peel the orange. Smell the fruit. See the orange blossoms in the orange, and the rain and the sun that have gone through the orange blossoms. The orange tree has taken several months to bring this wonder to you. Put a section in your mouth, close your mouth mindfully, and with mindfulness feel the juice coming out of the orange. Taste the sweetness.
When we look deeply at the nature of things, we see that in fact everything is impermanent. Nothing exists as a permanent entity; everything changes. It is said that we cannot step into the same river twice. If we look for a single, permanent entity in a river, we will not find it. The same is true of our physical body. There is no such thing as a self, no absolute, permanent entity to be found in the element we call "body." In our ignorance we believe that there is a permanent entity in us, and our pain and suffering manifest on the basis of that ignorance. If we touch deeply the nonself nature in us, we can get out of that suffering.
The practice of mindfulness doesn't forbid us to plan for the future. It's best not to lose ourselves in uncertainty and fear over the future, but if we're truly established in the present moment, we can bring the future to the here and the now, and make plans. We're not losing the present moment when we think about the future. In fact, the present moment contains both past and future. The only material that the future is made of is the present. If you know how to handle the present in the best way you can, that's all you can do for the future. Handling the present moment with all your attention, all your intelligence, is already building a future.
There is a Buddhist teaching that might seem strange to you. This is the teaching of aimlessness (apranihita in Sanskrit ). Aimlessness means not setting an object or goal in front of you and running after it. That is exactly what everybody does. We want this, we want that, and as long as we haven't got it, we think happiness will be impossible. We must bring about a revolution in our thinking: we must stop. We must do as the flower does. The flower is aware of the fact that it contains everything within it, the whole cosmos, and it does not try to become something else. It is the same for you. You have God within you, so you do not have to look for God.
If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not "washing the dishes to wash the dishes." What's more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can't wash the dishes, the chances are we won't be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future -and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.
The tendency to run away from suffering is there in every one of us. We think that by seeking pleasure we'll avoid suffering. But this doesn't work. It stunts our growth and our happiness. Happiness isn't possible without understanding, compassion, and love. And love is not possible if we don't understand our suffering and the other person's suffering. Getting in touch with suffering will help us cultivate compassion and love. Without understanding and love we can't be happy, and we can't make other people happy. We all have the seeds of compassion, forgiveness, joy, and nonfear in us. If we're constantly trying to avoid suffering, there is no way for these seeds to grow.
We have to live in a way that liberates the ancestors and future generations who are inside of us. Joy, peace, freedom, and harmony are not individual matters. If we do not liberate our ancestors, we will be in bondage all our life, and we will transmit that to our children and grandchildren. Now is the time to do it. To liberate them means to liberate ourselves. This is the teaching of interbeing. As long as the ancestors in us are still suffering, we cannot really be happy. If we take one step mindfully, freely, happily touching the earth, we do it for all previous and future generations. They all arrive with us at the same moment, and all of us find peace at the same time.
We have to practice peace in our corporations, our cities, and our schools. Schoolteachers have to practice peace, and teach their students how to practice peace. The presidents of countries or the heads of political parties must practice peace, must pray for peace in their body and mind, before they can be effective in asking other prime ministers and heads of state to join them in making peace. Ideally each peace conference would begin with walking meditation and sitting meditation. And someone would be there to guide the total relaxation in order to remove tension, anger, and fear in body and mind. That is bringing the spiritual dimension into our political and social life.
We should be free to experience the happiness that just comes to us without our having to seek it. If you are a free person, happiness can come over you just like that! Look at the moon. It travels in the sky completely free, and this freedom produces beauty and happiness. I am convinced that happiness is not possible unless it is based on freedom. If you are a free woman, if you are a free man, you will enjoy happiness. But if you are a slave, even if only the slave of an idea, happiness will be very difficult for you to achieve. That is why you should cultivate freedom, including freedom from your own concepts and ideas. Let go of your ideas, even if abandoning them is not easy.
All of us are only human, and we have wrong perceptions every day. Our spouse or partner is also subject to wrong perceptions, so we must help each other to see more clearly and more deeply. We should not trust our perceptions too much — that is something the Buddha taught. "Are you sure of your perceptions?" he asked us. I urge you to write this phrase down on a card and put it up on the wall of your room : "Are you sure of your perceptions?" There is a river of perceptions in you. You should sit down on the bank of this river and contemplate your perceptions. Most of our perceptions, the Buddha said, are false. Are you sure of your perceptions? This question is addressed to you. It is a bell of mindfulness.
When we look deeply at our own nature, we can get in touch with its ultimate reality. This ultimate nature is free of birth, free of death, free from any notion such as high, low, this, that, and so forth. In Buddhism, we call this "nirvana," or "suchness." Nirvana is the extinction of all concepts, such as existence, nonexistence, death, and birth. You have this dimension called the "ultimate" within you. In fact, you are free from birth and from death, free from existence and from nonexistence. Your true nature is the nature of nirvana. If you are from the Christian tradition, you could say that this ultimate dimension is God. The Kingdom of God is free from birth and death, free from high and low, free from existence and nonexistence.
Deepening our practice means having a genuine practice, practicing not in form only. When your practice is genuine, it will bring joy, peace, and stability to yourself and to the people around you. Actually I prefer the phrase true practice. To me, the practice should be pleasant. True practice can bring life to us right away. As you practice mindful breathing, you become alive, you become real, not only when you sit or walk, but when you're making breakfast or performing any activity. If you know how to breathe in and out mindfully while making breakfast with a smile, you will cultivate freedom — freedom from thinking about the past or worrying about the future — aliveness, joy, and compassion. That is true practice, and its effect can be seen right away.
One day the Buddha was sitting in the forest with a number of monks when a peasant came by. He had just lost his cows; they had run away. He asked the monks whether they had seen his cows passing by. The Buddha said, "No, we haven't seen your cows passing through here; you may want to look for them in another direction." When the farmer had gone, the Buddha turned to his monks, smiled, and said, "Dear friends, you should be very happy. You don't have any cows to lose." One practice we can do is to take a piece of paper and write down the names of our cows. Then we can look deeply to see whether we're capable of releasing some of them. We may have thought these things were crucial to our well-being, but if we look deeply, we may realize that they are the obstacles to our true joy and happiness.
Mindful living is an art. You do not have to be a monk or live in a monastery to practice mindfulness. You can practice it anytime, while driving your car or doing housework. Driving in mindfulness will make the time in your car joyful, and it will also help you avoid accidents. You can use the red traffic light as a signal of mindfulness, reminding you to stop and enjoy your breathing. Similarly, when you do the dishes after dinner, you can practice mindful breathing so the time of dish washing is pleasant and meaningful. Do not feel you have to rush. If you hurry, you waste the time of dish washing. The time you spend washing dishes and doing all your other everyday tasks is precious. It is a time for being alive. When you practice mindful living, peace will bloom during your daily activities.
As children, we were very vulnerable. We got hurt very easily. A stern look from our father could make us unhappy. A strong word from our mother could cause a wound in our heart. As young children, we have a lot of feelings but it's difficult to express ourselves. We try and try. Sometimes, even if we can find the words, the adults around us can't hear us, don't listen, or won't allow us to talk. We can go home to ourselves and talk to our little child, listen to our child, and respond directly to him. I myself have done this, even though I received love and care from my parents. This practice has helped me tremendously. The child is still there and may be deeply wounded. We have neglected the child in us for a long time. We have to come back, and comfort, love, and care for the child within us.
Whether we have happiness or not depends on the seeds in our consciousness. If our seeds of compassion, understanding, and love are strong, those qualities will be able to manifest in us. If the seeds of anger, hostility, and sadness in us are strong, then we will experience much suffering. To understand someone, we have to be aware of the quality of the seeds in his store consciousness. And we need to remember that he is not solely responsible for those seeds. His ancestors, parents, and society are co-responsible for the quality of the seeds in his consciousness. When we understand this, we are able to feel compassion for that person. With understanding and love, we will know how to water our own beautiful seeds and those of others, and we will recognize seeds of suffering and find ways to transform them.
Breathing and knowing that we are breathing is a basic practice. No one can be truly successful in the art of meditating without going through the door of breathing. To practice conscious breathing is to open the door to stopping and looking deeply in order to enter the domain of concentration and insight. The meditation master Tang Hoi said that Anapanasati [being aware of breathing] is the great vehicle offered by the Buddha to living beings. Conscious breathing is the way into any sort of meditative concentration. Conscious breathing also leads us to the basic realization of the impermanence, emptiness, interdependent origination, selflessness, and nonduality of all that is. It is true that we can practice stopping and looking deeply without using conscious breathing, but conscious breathing is the safest and surest path we can follow.
When you grow up, you might believe that you and your mother are two different people. But it's not really so. We're extensions of our mother. We mistakenly believe that we're a different person than our mother. We are a continuation of our mother and father, and our ancestors as well. Imagine a grain of corn we plant in the soil. Seven days later it sprouts and begins to take the form of a cornstalk. When the stalk has grown high, we won't see the kernel anymore. But the kernel hasn't died. It's still there. Looking deeply, we can still see the kernel in the stalk. The kernel and the stalk are not two different entities; one is the continuation of the other. The stalk is the continuation of the kernel in the direction of the future, and the kernel is the continuation of the stalk in the direction of the past. They are neither the same thing nor two different things.
Flowers and garbage are both organic in nature. So looking deeply into the nature of a flower, you can see the presence of the compost and the garbage. The flower is also going to turn into garbage, but don't be afraid! You are a gardener, and you have in your hands the power to transform garbage into flowers, into fruit, into vegetables. You don't throw anything away, because you are not afraid of garbage. Your hands are capable of transforming it into flowers, or lettuce, or cucumbers. The same thing is true of your happiness and your sorrow. Sorrow, fear, and depression are all a kind of garbage. These bits of garbage are part of real life, and we must look deeply into their nature. You can practice in order to turn these bits of garbage into flowers. It is not only your love that is organic; your hate is, too. So you should not throw anything out. All you have to do is learn how to transform your garbage into flowers.
A Zen master observes the student in silence, while the student tries to bring the practice into every moment of life. The student may feel that she is not receiving enough attention, but her ways and acts cannot escape the observation of the master. The master can see if the student is or is not "awake." If, for example, the student shuts the door noisily or carelessly, she is demonstrating a lack of mindfulness. Closing the door gently is not in itself a virtuous act, but awareness of the fact that you are closing the door is an expression of real practice. In this case, the master simply reminds the student to close the door gently, to be mindful. The master does this not only to respect the quiet of the monastery, but to point out to the student that she was not practicing mindfulness, that her acts were not majestic or subtle. It is said in Buddhism that there are ninety thousand "subtle gestures" to practice. These gestures and acts are expressions of the presence of mindfulness.
The work of acknowledging everything in mindfulness leads us to a deeper view of what life is. It is very important to understand that impermanence is not a negative aspect of life. Impermanence is the very basis of life. If what exists were not impermanent, no life could continue. If a grain of corn were not impermanent, it could not become a corn plant. If a tiny child were not impermanent, she could not grow into an adult. Life is impermanent, but that does not mean that it is not worth living. It is precisely because of its impermanence that we value life so dearly. Therefore we must know how to live each moment deeply and use it in a responsible way. If we are able to live the present moment completely, we will not feel regret later. We will know how to care for those who are close to us and how to bring them happiness. When we accept that all things are impermanent, we will not be incapacitated by suffering when things decay and die. We can remain peaceful and content in the face of continuity and change, prosperity and decline, success and failure.