Get Well Soon, Thầy

Thich Nhat HanhVia @thichnhathanh and plumvillage.org, comes news that Thich Nhat Hanh is recovering from a lung infection in the hospital.  All seems OK, but he’ll be in the hospital for a couple of weeks being treated with antibiotics.  For more, please see this .pdf of Thầy’s letter to all retreatants in YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado.

Update:  Via a comment by Kenley Neufeld on Shambhala Sun Space‘s article  “Thich Nhat Hanh in hospital“:

You may also read the latest statement from the sangha regarding the remainder of the tour. Please visit http://tnhtour.org/2009/2009-08-24-Public-Stateme…

Quotes

Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself – if you are not capable of taking care of yourself, of nourishing yourself, of protecting yourself – it is very difficult to take care of another person.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

All my life I have tended to gravitate towards the hardest, most difficult road I can take. I’ve been that way since I was little. When I was 5 or 6, it was decided that I was too forceful a person – too full of myself is how I once had it explained to me by my parents. So in the first grade (I started school a bit young), a concerted effort was undertaken by my parents and teacher to “take me down a peg.” That was a hard year for me. I love my parents and know that they did not mean me real harm, but their efforts with my teacher that year were very successful. I have long since struggled with issued of self-worth and self-confidence. This is part of my Origin.

So I do what I do, and I am what I am. I sit, I practice. I try to practice mindfulness. I dissect, dissolve and attempt to release what I grasp after.

The great practitioners of nonviolence have never turned their heads or shrunk away from their own or others’ suffering. Knowing the downfalls of aggression, they have been able to respond with wisdom and broad-mindedness. This type of wisdom and courage grows from our commitment to understanding our own mind and reactions and the causes and results of our actions. We develop the ability to accurately read and respond to the world around us without rejecting it. This is the practice of nonviolence. Of course this takes some maturity. We really need to cultivate this kind of maturity.

Wonderful Failure

There is a wonderful aspect to the mindfulness trainings: they are actually impossible to keep! To refrain from harming others? What a profound practice! We receive the Five Mindfulness Trainings knowing that by doing so we are opening up to our own failure. We cannot fix the world, we cannot even fix our own life. By accepting failure we express our willingness to begin again, time after time. By recognizing failure, we change, renew, adapt, listen, and grow. It is only by practicing without expectation of success that we can ever truly open to the world, to suffering and to joy. What extraordinary courage there is in risking losing what you know for the sake of the unknown; risking what you think you are capable of for the sake of your true capability! What profound freedom — not having to get it right all the time, not having to live for the sake of appearance! By opening to our own failure, we open to the magnificence of the unknown, participating unconditionally, renewing our life.

— Caitriona Reed
pp. 15-16, For a Future to Be Possible

I read this book (by Venerable Hanh) a while back, and found it to be a concise and useful read. However, it is this passage by Ms. Reed, quoted at the beginning of a discussion of the Second Precept, that I’ve really been thinking about lately. I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve got a huge amount of perfectionist “habit energy.” This quote really spoke to me, and has had such a relevant impact on my practice of mindfulness, but also on the texture of my emotional and intellectual landscape. Reflecting on the great gift of failure, it is easier for me not to dwell when I inevitably break a precept. (Right Listening and Speech, most recently and most notably.) Ms. Reed is totally right – what profound freedom there is in moving beyond the need to always be “correct” in our practice.

Finished

About a week ago, I finally finished Thây Hanh’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. This is a tremendously useful read – I really think that this is definitely one time that the book lives up to the title.

When I was a kid I taught myself how to speed read – a tremendously useful skill, if you can keep your retention level up (I’m still at about 98%, thank goodness.). However, this is not a book that can be read trivially. I read this one SOOO slowly and carefully, going back over passages frequently.

I don’t know that this is the first book I’d give someone who expresses an interest in Buddhism to me, but it would be the first one I’d recommend to someone I knew to be *seriously* interested.

Chapter 25

So I’ve been taking my time with Chapter 25 of Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, “The Twelve Links of Interdependent Co-Arising.” Dense stuff. I absolutely savour this book – it’s definitely one to read with great care and love. Undoubtedly it’s one to repeatedly reread, as opportunity arrives. But for right now, it’s slow, slow going. Lots to think about. For the most part I find Venerable Hanh’s writing very accessible. Of course, some of the topics he broaches in this book are incredibly deep, serious philosophical discussions, and the writing becomes appropriately dense at these points. Very humbling.

Thây says …

“Enlightenment is growing all the time.”

Best Mindfulness Book by Hanh?

In keeping with my current explorations of mindfulness in the everyday, does anyone have a favorite book on mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh? Or another book/source of Dharma that springs to mind as a favorite/something really useful? If anyone has a suggestion, I’m all (very grateful) ears!

(Oh – I should add – two I’ve contemplated are The Miracle of Mindfulness and Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.)