Spiritual Thinkers: Thich Nhat Hahn

Thich Nhat Hahn is one of those rare spiritual masters who has been able to not only manifest the compassion of the most sacred Buddhist teachings, but also (mostly through his books and lectures) to offer us ways to apply Buddhist writings, teachings and practices into our daily lives – no matter how complicated or technologically driven they are. Thus, allowing us to ultimately have a more fulfilling, happy life – if we chose to embrace this universal knowledge.

Who is Thich Nhat Hahn?
Of all the current living spiritual teachers writing books and doing world tours, he is considered the most important Buddhist teacher next to the Dalai Lama. He has been writing for almost five decades now and is widely known for his ability to apply his teaching about unconditional love, compassion and enlightenment to all walks of life – from India to Hollywood.

The revered monk is an expatriate Vietnamese Zen Buddhist teacher, author, poet and peace activist who joined a Zen monastery at the age of 16. He studied Buddhism as a novice, and was fully ordained as a monk in 1949. In the early 1960s, he founded a grassroots relief organization that rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools and medical centers, and resettled families left homeless during the Vietnam War. In 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated Hahn for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the Vietnam War. Hahn left Vietnam after the war to establish his own spiritual ideas without the interference of the government. His main spiritual center is called “Plum Village,” which is located in France. It is a wonderful, open community to visit or do a spiritual retreat at when you are in France.

However, the best way to access the wisdom of Thich Nhat Hahn is through his books. As a teacher, he is the author of more than 100 books (60 in English) and is best known for these titles: Being Peace, Present Moment Wonderful Moment, Anger, Calming the Fearful Mind, No Death and No Fear – with his most recent one being Understanding Our Mind. In all of his writings, he offers a practice of “mindfulness” that is easily adapted to Western sensibilities. His writings are so easily understood, that even one book has the potential to change your life for the better.

In all his books, he describes specific breathing techniques to help you deal with stress. In this way, his books offer a path out of suffering that you can try at home. What’s particularly wonderful about the books is that you can start with his latest (Understanding Our Mind) and get a good overview of all this knowledge.

Hahn often compares the teachings of Buddha to that of Jesus, making connections to each faith to show that we are all on a similar path towards love. In his book, Going Home – Jesus & Buddha as Brothers, he writes, “In the Gospels we are taught that if you don’t know how to love your neighbor, you are not loving God at all.” He correlates this view to the Buddhist practice of compassion and the importance of seeing that your neighbor is also a reflection of your own self.

There are so many of us who may feel like the world is out to “get us” and this Spiritual Thinker knows that. Thich Nhat Hahn offers us an encouraging view of the human experience that makes life more rewarding and exciting every time we open our minds to new ideas. As a man who has suffered from political upheaval and terrible living conditions, his lessons teach us that happiness may not exist without suffering, and that’s okay. Hahn puts a positive and therapeutic spin on this assumption – one that will work towards our own ultimate happiness in our daily lives.

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