The light of Thich Nhat Hanh

The great teacher Thich Nhat Hanh passed away yesterday at the ripe age of 95 at the Từ Hiếu Temple in Huế, Vietnam.

Although I am a student of Vedanta, I have learnt a lot from this great master. Today, I am especially reminded of his book ‘The Art of Living’, which came to me as grace when I needed it the most. It was a time when I had strayed from all things spiritual, turned into a sceptic, saw purposelessness everywhere and the pangs of existential angst bit me each day.

One day when I was drifting aimlessly among Amazon’s audible library, for some reason, this book caught my attention and without knowing I started already listening to it. And there he has, Thich Nhat Hanh in all his magnanimity just pouring and pouring his rich life wisdom onto this parched desert of my mind desperately looking for a single dark cloud. He wasted no time and started addressing my pain right from the first chapter called ‘Introduction’. He straight away diagnosed what was bothering me most and articulated it beautifully as the three most fundamentally wrong views that lie at the base of our suffering. In this post, I am going to quote these three wrong views straight from his book as I cannot explain them any better.

‘The first wrong view we need to liberate ourselves from is the idea that we are a separate self cut off from the rest of the world. We have a tendency to think we have a separate self that is born at one moment and must die at another, and that is permanent during the time we are alive.
As long as we have this wrong view, we will suffer; we will create suffering for those around us, and we will cause harm to other species and to our precious planet.’

‘The second wrong view that many of us hold is the view that we are only this body, and that when we die we cease to exist. This wrong view blinds us to all the ways in which we are interconnected with the world around us and the ways in which we continue after death.’

‘The third wrong view that many of us have is the idea that what we are looking for–whether it be happiness, heaven, or love–can be found only outside us in a distant future. We may spend our lives chasing after and waiting for these things, not realizing that they can be found within us, right in the present moment.’

These three views lay at the foundation of my existential angst. He immediately prescribes three great practices to allay this suffering, which is discussed at length in the rest of the book. By the end of the book I was cured of this suffering, and I could see hope again. This launched me onto my spiritual path again and from then I have never looked back. The light of wisdom that he lit in me, burns brightly to this day. If you too can relate to these three views, I strongly recommend this audiobook or the book to you, whichever you prefer best. There are many more books where he has poured his compassion and wisdom, which I recommend you

If I have come across a Buddha, an enlightened one, it is this great teacher. Teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh never die. He lived by example; his message is his life itself. His message is his teaching, and his teaching is what will always live on in his students; he lives on in me.

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