The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching
Thich Nhat Hanh
What it says on the back cover
“If there is a candidate for Living Buddha’ on earth today, it is Thich Nhat Handh” ~ Richard Baker-roshi
In the heart of Buddha’s Teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh introduces us to the core teachings of Buddhism and shows us that the Buddha’s teachings are accessible and applicable to our daily lives. With poetry and clarity. Nhat Hanh imparts comforting wisdom about the nature of suffering and its role in creating compassion, love and joy- all qualities of enlightenment. Covering such significant teachings as the Four Nobel Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Three Doors of Liberation, the Three Dharma Seals, and the Seven Factors of Awakening. The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching is a radiant beacon on Buddhist thought for the initiated and uninitiated alike.
“Thich Nhat Hanh shows us the connection between personal inner peace and peace on earth”. ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama
“Thich Nhat Hanh is a real poet” ~ Robert Lowell
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, and peacemaker who was nominated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Author of many books, including Living Buddha, Living Christ, he lives in France in the monastic community known as Plum Village and lectures and gives retreats regularly in North America.
What made me pick up this book?
Having visited a few temples whilst in Bali, Indonesia and in Thailand. I have often felt rather peaceful and relaxed when I enter one. I know that sounds a bit like a cliché but I confess, it is a feeling that can only be described as just that peaceful. When I did return from overseas I wanted to read more about Buddhism, what it all meant and what Buddhists believe in. Since obtaining a copy of this book, I have picked up a couple more which have been written by the Dalai Lama and follow Nhat Hanh as well. I have never really considered Buddhism to be a religion as such and I may get into trouble for saying it. But to me, I feel as if they are a set of good deeds, morals to educate and teach us how to live our lives, feeling for others with more compassion and love in our hearts. Maybe it is a religion after all when I type it like that. But the point I am trying to make is that having a peaceful heart makes us stop a bit and take stock of everything and everyone around us. It makes us slow down and remember the days before the internet and other forms of media which have become a part of our everyday lifestyles.
About the book
Nhat Hanh reminds us on the first page that Buddha was not a god and that he was a human being like you or me. Buddha used the word suffering to illustrate how it plays an important part in Buddhist philosophies. Without giving too much away this book educates us on many issues that are a part of our lives each day and that if you feel that you are suffering due to hardship, you may look beyond that and see beauty that surrounds you from day to day things such as a flower that grows in a garden, a child’s laughter. And while that may sound all mushy to some, this book is about re educating the mind helping you seek positive experiences from something that may otherwise be negative. Take for example the Five Remembrances that Buddhists chant every day.
- I an of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old
- I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape having ill health
- I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death
- All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated by them
- My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand
These are, whichever way we look at it, all true that will happen to us all at some point in our lifetime. It reminds us to take a step back and remind ourselves of who we are, why are we here and to reconnect with things that are apparent and recognised in our day to day lives. We are of the nature to growing old, have ill health, die, and act in ways in which we do. Our actions are our windows to the way we act and how others see and interpret us. I always remember an oldie but a goodie that my father used to say “Every action has a reaction” and that still rings true which is a perfect example of what Nhat Hanh is saying in his fifth sentence. It also helps us to put things in perspective and not take our lives for granted, remember the basic rules of life and what to expect. Suffering is not something in which we should fear and Nhat Hanh is simply giving us guidelines of what we may already know but how to remember it and build from it by seeing life for what it really is and putting that into practice. This is nice. “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That is the message he is sending. If you are able to see that, offer him what he needs- relief. Happiness and safety are crucial for your happiness and safety. Wholeheartedly wish him happiness and safety, and you will be happy and safe also” (Nhat Hanh, 1998).
Is this book worth buying?
This book has a lot of advice and wisdom which is essential for most of us regardless of what denomination we choose to follow. I believe that this book has a lot of common sense scattered through it and I can feel the love radiate from the way that Nhat Hanh writes. It is a warm and compassionate book that has basic techniques which everyone can read and follow. You do not need to be Buddhist to follow these but it helps a person to grow more spiritually minded and to understand why we behave in the way we do. I look at this book and read a bit at a time and can turn to any section knowing I do not need to read it from front to back. This is a book that I can pick up and put down again and is very unique in the way it applies itself to our every day lives. Read it, enjoy and above all enjoy your life. Life can be a b##!h at times and I know that I have had my own share of bad luck. But remind yourself of what is good in your life, what is truly important to you and what it is that makes you well… You 😀
“Words and minds can kill. We cannot support acts of killing in our thinking or in our speech. If you have a job in which telling the truth is impossible, you may have to change jobs. If you have a job that allows you to speak the truth, please be grateful. To practice social justice and non-exploitation, we have to use Right Speech” (Nhat Hanh, 1998).