Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thích Nhất Hạnh: Being Peace

“There is no enlightenment outside of daily life.” - Thích Nhất Hạnh
One of my heroes was born in Vietnam and it's not Yvon Petra. It's Thích Nhất Hạnh (Thay), a Zen Buddhist who lives the creed. He spins expectations upside down in such a way that it seems as though the world was always thus. Rather than the stereotype of detachment associated with Buddhists, Thay has spent the better part of his life espousing "engaged Buddhism." For me, this has meant simply being able to see what's at the end of my nose.


He caught my attention about thirteen years ago when I was living in Japan and working with a Zen priest, Sakurai Sensei. Sakurai was an English teacher, a father of four daughters with his own patch of paradise and a small modest temple on Mount Higashi.


It was just up the hill from where I was living and I would attend sittings periodically. I had developed an interest through my readings of the Beats, especially the poetry of Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. We'd pass the time sipping tea, discussing Zen, satori, the shape of a mudra and enjoying the odd beer once in a while. There wasn't anything mysterious to his practice, nothing ornate or pretentious. It was life lived in the moment - engaged being.


When I read Thay's Being Peace it had a profound effect and confirmed certain truths I was already in possession of, but wasn't really aware. That's what they say - the truth presents itself in ways that make you feel you've known it all your life. Inhale. Exhale. Be.

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