Here are some memorable quotes from the book “The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching” by Thich Nhat Nahn
The book is terrific and I highly recommend it. I am on a goal to read one book a month on self improvement, philosophy and spirituality. If this summary is helpful, drop me a line on twitter.
When one tree in the garden is sick, you have to care for it. But don’t overlook all the healthy trees. Even while you have pain in your heart, you can enjoy the many wonders of life.
To me this is about being grateful and appreciating things even during the depths of despair. Don’t ignore your suffering, but don’t forget to enjoy the wonders of life, for your sake and for the benefit of many beings.
You cannot choose to be austere alone. You cannot choose to be indulgent alone. The middle way of moderation gives you the balance.
The four noble truths and eight fold path
The First Noble Truth is suffering (dukkha).
We all suffer to some extent. We have to recognize and acknowledge the presence of this suffering and touch it. To do so, we may need the help of a teacher and a Sangha, friends in the practice.
The Second Noble Truth is the origin, roots, nature, creation, or arising (samudaya) of suffering.
After we touch our suffering, we need to look deeply into it to see how it came to be.
The Third Noble Truth is the cessation (nirodha) of creating suffering by refraining from doing the things that make us suffer.
The Third Truth teaches us that healing is possible.
The Fourth Noble Truth is the path (marga) that leads to refraining from doing the things that cause us to suffer.
The 8 fold path
Right Mindfulness, and
Habits to cultivate:
We have to learn the art of stopping the suffering.
We can stop by practicing mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful smiling, and deep looking in order to understand.
We have to learn the art of breathing in and out, stopping our activities, and calming our emotions.
To calm our body and mind we can adopt the 5 stages.
(1) Recognition — If we are angry, we say, “I know that anger is in me.”
(2) Acceptance — When we are angry, we do not deny it. We accept what is present.
(3) Embracing — We hold our anger in our two arms like a mother holding her crying baby. Our mindfulness embraces our emotion, and this alone can calm our anger and ourselves.
(4) Looking deeply — When we are calm enough, we can look deeply to understand what has brought this anger to be, what is causing it.
(5) Insight — The fruit of looking deeply is understanding the many causes and conditions primary and secondary that are causing it.
We have to learn the art of resting, allowing our body and mind to
rest. If we have wounds in our body or our mind, we have to rest so they can heal themselves.
Calming allows us to rest, and resting is a precondition for healing.
Meditation does not have to be hard labor. Just allow your body and mind to rest like an animal in the forest. Don’t struggle. There is no need to attain anything.
If we are mindful, we will know whether we are “ingesting” the toxins of fear, hatred, and violence, or eating foods that encourage understanding, compassion, and the determination to help others.
Practicing mindfulness helps us learn to appreciate the well-being that is already there. With mindfulness, we treasure our happiness and can make it last longer.
The greatest miracle is to be alive. We can put an end to our
suffering just by realizing that our suffering is not worth suffering for.
I will explore the 8 fold path in the next post.