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Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh

Being Peace (original 1987; edition 1987)

by Thich Nhat Hanh, Arnold Kotler (Editor), Mayumi Oda (Illustrator)

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727512,906 (4.26)10
Title:Being Peace
Authors:Thich Nhat Hanh
Other authors:Arnold Kotler (Editor), Mayumi Oda (Illustrator)
Info:Parallax Press (1987), Paperback, 115 pages
Collections:Your library

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Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh (1987)


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Thich Nhat Hanh’s message of creating peace and a better world by starting with oneself. It’s a simple message which seems obvious and the book is a quick read, but it’s much harder to put into practice and live.

Nhat Hahn says to practice breathing and smiling – meditate - and you can be calm, peaceful, and happy. Take care of and be compassionate to oneself first, in order to then take care of and be compassionate to others. Change your views on what is pleasant and unpleasant, and live in this moment. Be open-minded to all perspectives, including those of your perceived enemy. (Written in 1987, this last one includes references to understanding the USSR perspective in addition to America’s, and both the white and black ‘sides’ in South Africa, but of course examples abound in any age).

It’s interesting to compare these 14 precepts outlined in the chapter on “Interbeing”, which I trim down for brevity’s sake, to the Ten Commandments; you tell me which ones are better words to live by:

1. Do not be bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology; they are just guide, not absolute truths.
2. Avoid being narrow-minded; be ready to learn throughout your entire life.
3. Do not force others to take your views.
4. Confront suffering in the world; do not avoid it.
5. Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry; live simply and share with others.
6. Learn to look at others with deep compassion, including those who cause anger and hatred.
7. Practice breathing and mindfulness.
8. Do not utter words that create discord; make efforts to resolve conflicts.
9. Always speak truthfully and constructively.
10. Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit.
11. Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature.
12. Do not kill, and do not let others kill.
13. Do not steal; respect the property of others.
14. Handle your body with respect, and do not use it as an instrument.

There are portions of the text that are a little on the simple side, and at times it’s a bit ‘too much’, e.g. “Even if I just clap my hands, the effect is everywhere, even in far away galaxies.”

I’m also of mixed mind in the example of forgiveness to sea pirates who raped a 12-year old girl, a boat person, which was followed by her jumping into the ocean to drown herself. Perhaps this is true enlightenment, to conceive of the life of the sea pirate in a meditation, to imagine growing up in his world and to be him, and to therefore to not condemn him; on the other hand, perhaps it’s lunacy. Is there any limit to forgiveness? Torture, sadism, cruelty, genocide? Hitler? But Nhat Hahn’s point is well put in his poem Please Call Me By My True Names; he believes himself to be a part of all things, and to be one with all people, including the girl and the pirate. Rather than condemn and hate in response, it’s more helpful to understand how it came about, and to forgive.

On meditation, this is a good one while doing MBSR-based breathing exercises:
“Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment.”

On knowledge, reminding me of the Zen saying, ‘cease to cherish your opinions’:
“In Buddhism, knowledge is regarded as an obstacle to understanding, like a block of ice that obstructs water from flowing. It is said that if we take one thing to be the truth and cling to it, even if truth itself comes in person and knocks at our door, we won’t open it. For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”

On peace, though to me they seem different types of peace, and both valid:
“It is not by going out for a demonstration against nuclear missiles that we can bring about peace. It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace.”

On sex:
“Sexual expression should not happen without love and commitment. In sexual relationships be aware of future suffering that may be caused.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Dec 2, 2012 |
Thich Nhat Hahn is a treasure to this planet. He is a true conduit for the holy wisdom of the Buddha. His style is plain and easy to understand, but the concepts are deep and ground-shaking. ( )
  faithful_scientist | Aug 14, 2008 |
Anything by Thic Nhat Hanh is well worth reading, particularly if you are interested in the contemplative life. This book is no exception. ( )
  johnthefireman | Mar 26, 2007 |
Excellent book - used by Dr. Miller in Philosophy of Death course at Millersville U ( )
  lmmayo | Mar 2, 2007 |
Thich Nhat Hanh has written a lovely little book on some of the basic precepts of Zen Buddhism. He writes beautifully and uses vivid analogies to bring these ideas to life.

"Chapter 1: Suffering is Not Enough" is a reminder that we must recognize the beauty that is all around us at all times and not be blinded by the suffering that we face throughout the day. Simple things like a smile, the blue sky, your breathing, or your wellness are as important to recognize as the bad day that you're having.

"Chapter 2: The Three Gems" gives a high level overview of the three gems of buddhism - Buddha, the awakened one; Dharma, the way of understanding and loving; and Sangha, the community that lives in harmony and awareness.

"Chapter 3: Feelings and Perceptions" discusses that our feelings are indeed ourselves. We must have our perceptions aligned so that we recognize that we are not separate from our anger, hatred, or greed. As it says, "I am angry. Anger is in me. I am anger." We cannot displace the anger onto someone or something else. We allow the anger to arise, grow, and overwhelm. This is true of all feelings. We must align our perceptions appropriately.

"Chapter 4: The Heart of Practice" discusses two primary topics that are interrelated. First, It says that meditation is not to escape from society but rather to prepare us for reentry into society. Meditation (the heart of buddhist practice) is used to train the mind in kindness and love for the whole of society. By training ourselves, we are helping society. After all, we are society and society is us.

Second, it says that we must work towards quality in our meditative training, not quantity. We must bring breathing techniques and walking meditation into all parts of our day - not just during our sitting meditation.

"Chapter 5: Working for Peace" talks about conflict resolution and how it is done in a monestary. It is comprised of the following steps - (1) "Face to Face Sitting" and discussion with the entire community of monks. (2) "Rememberance" is a discussion by all parties of the history of the conflict so that all parties understand all sides of the story. (3) "Non-stubbornness" is the expectation that all parties will work to resolve the issue and not be stubborn. (4) "Covering Mud with Straw" is a practice of covering the conflict (the "mud") with loving kindness ("straw"). This is accomplished through having a senior monk represent each party to the dispute and discuss the situation in kind words. (5) "Voluntary Confession" is as it sounds. Each party to the dispute is expected to point out their own shortcomings without prompting from others. (6) "Decision by Consensus" and "Accepting the Verdict" are also self-explanatory, the whole assembly passes a verdict and the monks must accept that verdict or leave the community.

"Chapter 6: Interbeing" is Thich Nhat Hanh's proposed structure for American Buddhism. As he states, each new country has its own variation(s) of buddhism which fit with the culture. He suggests that the concept of "Interbeing" and its 14 precepts would work nicely with the American culture.

"Chapter 7: Meditation in Daily Life" reminds the reader that meditation is the key to buddhist practice. The chapter makes some suggestions as to how it can be more incorporated into family and personal time. He also makes some suggestions on technique, choosing a Buddha statue or painting, and time of practice.

Overall, it's a lovely book. Thich Nhat Hanh definitely has an eloquent way of presenting his message. I had read several reviews of this book and Thich Nhat Hanh's other writings before purchasing this book. They were overwhelmingly positive. Now I see why. ( )
  adamallen | Dec 31, 2006 |
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Thich Nhat Hanhprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kornfield, JackIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"If we are peaceful, if we are happy,
we can blossom like a flower,
and everyone in our family,
our entire society,
will benefit from our peace."
First words
Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are written all around us, everywhere, any time.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0938077007, Paperback)

Since its publication in 1987, Being Peace has become a classic of contemporary religious literature. In his simple and readable style, Thich Nhat Hanh shows how our state of mind and body can make the world a peaceful place. We learn to transform the very situations that pressure and antagonize us into opportunities for practicing mindfulness.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:37 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Collection of talks given during visit to U.S. in fall of 1985.

(summary from another edition)

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