Monday, December 14, 2009

The Zen of Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh: 'Don't just do something; sit there.'

Thich Nhat Hanh: 'You are, therefore I am.' Another of his sayings is, 'Don't just do something; sit there.'

One of Thich Nhat Hanh’s most important ideas is ‘interbeing’, which concerns the mutual interconnectedness of all living things. As he describes it in his book Being Peace: ‘I am, therefore you are. You are, therefore I am. That is the meaning of the word “interbeing”’.

Interbeing contains a very clear empathetic element, which is that we become more compassionate when we imagine ourselves in someone else’s place and understand their suffering. The challenge he raises is that we need to empathise with everybody – not just people we know and care about, but strangers and those who we might despise. This is nowhere better illustrated than in his extraordinary prayer-poem ‘Please Call Me By My True Names’.

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