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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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843910,689 (4.25)12
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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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I didn’t find this book to be as easy-to-read as ”Peace is every step”, which I previously reviewed. I feel that it goes more deeply into things and thus is more challenging.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist from Vietnam who now lives in exile in France. He recently had a stroke at the age of about 90 and was seriously ill, but survived.

This book is a collection of talks he gave to peacemakers and meditation students in 1985.

He tells us of the importance of walking meditation and smiling, and offers a short poem we can recite from time to time, while breathing and smiling.

“Breathing in, I calm my body
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment.”

“When we sit down peacefully, breathing and smiling, with awareness, we are our true selves, we have sovereignty over ourselves.”

Meditation helps us to return to our true self. “Practicing meditation is to be aware, to smile, to breathe --- We go back to ourselves in order to see what is going on, because to meditate means to be aware of what is going on.”

The capacity of waking up, of being aware of what is going on “in your feelings, in your body, in your perceptions, in the world” is called Buddha nature.

“Someone who is awake, who knows, who understands, is called a Buddha. Buddha is in every one of us.”

Dharma is what the Buddha taught. “It is the way of understanding and love – how to understand, how to love, how to make understanding and love into real things.”

Dharmakaya means the teaching of the Buddha, the way to realize understanding and love. Sometimes if we don’t do anything, we help more than if we do a lot. We call this non-action. That is also an aspect of Dharmakaya – not talking, not teaching, just being.

Every day we have many feelings. “Practising meditation is to be aware of each feeling.” “Practising Buddhism is to be alive in each moment. When we practice sitting or walking, we have the means to do it perfectly. During the rest of the day, we also practice. --- The sitting and the walking must be extended to the non-walking, non-sitting moments of the day. That is the basic principle of meditation.”

In order to understand, you have to be one with what you want to understand. You do not stand outside of something to contemplate it. “Non-duality is the key word for Buddhist meditation.”

To sit is not enough. We have to be at the same time. When you breathe and smile, you are the breathing and the smiling. If I am angry I do not fight that. “I know that anger is me, and I am anger.” Since I am anger, if I annihilate anger, I annihilate myself. If I cannot be compassionate to myself, I will not be able to be compassionate to others.

The first thing to do when we get angry is to produce awareness. “I am angry. Anger is in me. I am anger.”

In Buddhism, knowledge is regarded as a block to understanding. Understanding means to throw away your knowledge.

We cannot bring about peace by demonstrating against nuclear missiles but by our capacity of smiling, breathing and being peace.

Meditation is not to escape from society, but to prepare for a re-entry into society. This is called “engaged Buddhism”. If we leave society, we cannot help change it.

“ --- a meditation center is where you get back to yourself. You get a clearer understanding of reality, you get more strength in understanding and love, and you prepare for your re-entry into society.”

We need to bring the practice from the meditation hall into our daily lives. We need to practice breathing between phone calls, or practice smiling while cutting carrots.

A gatha is a short verse. Thich gives us one to be recited before phoning anyone:

“Words can travel across thousands of miles.
They are intended to build up understanding and love.
Each word should be a jewel,
A beautiful tapestry.”

The author is peaceful and wise and this little book helps us to assimilate some of this peace and wisdom. Therefore, I strongly advise that you read both this book and his others. Then we can contribute to the spread of peace and wisdom in the world, even more than we already do. ( )
  IonaS | Apr 15, 2017 |
I read Being Peace about 20 years ago, and then again a couple of years ago. It was the first book by the Buddhist teacher and writer for me, and it is, I think, a seminal work, capturing in one short volume the essence of what he would go on to explicate in his many books since this one. The first time I read this book, I had never heard of Thich Nhat Hanh and was attracted to the title. I read it in a couple of sittings. The second time through, I read the book in short bursts, one per week, in the company of other people who also follow Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings. It took several months, and it was a more profound experience because each short segment has layers of meaning and feeling that take time to settle into the soul. Highly recommended as a first place to meet this wise teacher's work. ( )
  dbookbinder | Dec 31, 2016 |
Reading Thich Nhat Hanh is like being in a slow moving meditation in the warm sun. He has so much wisdom, which he is able to share with the reader so gently that it seems to float into your brain. I know I will come back to this book again. Lovely, lovely, lovely. ( )
  krazy4katz | Jan 18, 2015 |
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 |
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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."
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:20 -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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