Last Updated on April 14, 2021
Whether you believe in the teachings of mindfulness or not, you will have heard of Thich Nhat Hanh. Sometimes called Thay, his books, teachings, and sayings have been widely popular in the West. Followed by presidents, diplomats, top executives, and celebrities, Thich Nhat Hanh has made the practices of mindfulness accessible to everyone, from almost any level of society.
Who is Thich Nhat Hanh
Born as Nguy?n Xuân B?o on October 11, 1926 in Central Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh entered the monastery at age 16. When he graduated from Báo Qu?c Buddhist Academy, he began training in Mahayana Buddhism, as well as Vietnamese Thi?n. He was ordained as a Bhikkhu, or monk, in 1951 at the age of 25.
Thich Nhat Hanh was a man who loved to learn as much as he loved to teach. Aside from studying science at Saigon University, he was able to attend the Princeton Theological Seminary and also became a lecturer at Columbia University. He was fluent in five other languages (including English, French, and Sanskrit) aside from Vietnamese.
This he used to his full advantage as he helped translate his books. With over 100 titles, some of the most recommended include: The Miracle of Mindfulness, Peace is Every Step, You Are Here, Making Space, The Blooming of a Lotus, Happiness, and The Art of Living.
Behind the Father of Modern Mindfulness
Considered to be ‘one of the most significant spiritual leaders of our times’, Thich Nhat Hanh was more than Buddhist monk. He was a peace activist, an author, and founder of the Plum Village Tradition.
The Plum Village Tradition was one of the first monastic communities founded by Thay in the southwest of France. As a school for Buddhism, the approach is somewhat modern in that it combines elements from Zen and Theravada. Here, people can learn mindfulness through daily practices, such as: breathing, sitting meditation, listening to a bell, etc.
One of the reasons why Thay’s concept of mindfulness quickly spread worldwide was because it was simple. Unlike other teachings, there are no rigorous trainings involved, and one is not required to believe in a particular organization or deity. It also still follows the core philosophy of Buddhism, which is compassion.
While Thich Nhat Hanh and his teachings grew in popularity outside of his home country, back in Vietnam, his ways started to court controversy. When the Vietnam War escalated in 1966, he left to talk to other nations about peace. In 2005, he was allowed to go back to teach and publish his books. This drew critics who considered his stand on ‘not taking sides’ an insult to those who were fighting against the abuses of the government.
Thich Nhat Hanh Legacy
Now at 92 years old, Thich Nhat Hanh rests inside a 19th century Tu Hieu pagoda, just outside the province of Hue in Vietnam. He has traveled to many countries and talked with many world leaders about peace. Today, he awaits the last cycle of existence with his closest followers.
A lot of people were thankful for his teachings. His ‘contemporary Buddhism’ was perhaps what the world needed, so we could grapple with modern-day challenges and demons. Even those who didn’t want to be affiliated with any religion, started to believe again.
You don’t need to be a monk in order to practice mindfulness. Find compassion, inner peace, and purpose through these thought-provoking Thich Nhat Hanh quotes and sayings.
Profound Thich Nhat Hanh Quotes
- “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “We ruminate on suffering, regret, and sorrow. We chew on them, swallow them, bring them back up, and eat them again and again. If we’re feeding our suffering while we’re walking, working, eating, or talking, we are making ourselves victims of the ghosts of the past, of the future, or our worries in the present. We’re not living our lives.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “I promise myself that I will enjoy every minute of the day that is given me to live.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Peace can exist only in the present moment. It is ridiculous to say ‘Wait until I finish this, then I will be free to live in peace.’ What is ‘this’? A diploma, a job, a house, the payment of a debt? If you think that way, peace will never come. There is always another “this” that will follow the present one. If you are not living in peace at this moment, you will never be able to. If you truly want to be at peace, you must be at peace right now. Otherwise, there is only ‘the hope of peace some day.’” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Each time you look at a tangerine, you can see deeply into it. You can see everything in the universe in one tangerine. When you peel it and smell it, it’s wonderful. You can take your time eating a tangerine and be very happy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “I will practice coming back to the present moment…not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past or letting anxieties, fears, or cravings pull me out…” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “The present moment is the substance with which the future is made. Therefore, the best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment. What else can you do?” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful…How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow? It is natural – you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Take my hand. We will walk. We will only walk. We will enjoy our walk without thinking of arriving anywhere.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “The raft is used to cross the river. It isn’t to be carried around on your shoulders. The finger which points at the moon isn’t the moon itself.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Because you are alive, everything is possible.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Life is a miracle, and being aware of simply this can already make us very happy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Birth is okay and death is okay, if we know that they are only concepts in our mind. Reality transcends both birth and death.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Everyday we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Many people think excitement is happiness…But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Without suffering, there’s no happiness. So we shouldn’t discriminate against the mud. We have to learn how to embrace and cradle our own suffering and the suffering of the world, with a lot of tenderness.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Through my love for you, I want to express my love for the whole cosmos, the whole of humanity, and all beings. By living with you, I want to learn to love everyone and all species. If I succeed in loving you, I will be able to love everyone and all species on Earth… This is the real message of love.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “If you love someone but rarely make yourself available to him or her, that is not true love.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Love needs to be nurtured and fed to survive; and our suffering also survives because we enable and feed it.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “A true partner or friend is one who encourages you to look deep inside yourself for the beauty and love you’ve been seeking.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “In true love, there is no pride.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos – the trees, the clouds, everything.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “The secret of Buddhism is to remove all ideas, all concepts, in order for the truth to have a chance to penetrate, to reveal itself.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Usually when we hear or read something new, we just compare it to our own ideas. If it is the same, we accept it and say that it is correct. If it is not, we say it is incorrect. In either case, we learn nothing.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “You have to learn how to help a wounded child while still practicing mindful breathing. You should not allow yourself to get lost in action. Action should be meditation at the same time.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Nonviolent action, born of the awareness of suffering and nurtured by love, is the most effective way to confront adversity.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “What you are looking for is already in you…You already are everything you are seeking.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Be yourself. Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just be.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Your purpose is to be yourself. You don’t have to run anywhere to become someone else. You are wonderful just as you are.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “?The earth is so beautiful. We are beautiful also. We can allow ourselves to walk mindfully, touching the earth, our wonderful mother, with each step. We don’t need to wish our friends, ‘peace be with you.’ Peace is already with them. We only need to help them cultivate the habit of touching peace in each moment.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Don’t do any task in order to get it over with. Resolve to do each job in a relaxed way, with all your attention. Enjoy and be one with your work.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “You do not need to waste your time doing those things that are unnecessary and trifling. You do not have to be rich. You do not need to seek fame or power. What you need is freedom, solidity, peace and joy. You need the time and energy to be able to share these things with others.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “… And you can write a letter to the little child in you, of two or three pages, to that you recognize his or her presence, and will do everything you can to heal his or her wounds.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “If you do not know how to take care of yourself, and the violence in you, then you will not be able to take care of others. You must have love and patience before you can truly listen to your partner or child. If you are irritated you cannot listen. You have to know how to breathe mindfully, embrace your irritation and transform it. This is the true practice of love.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “When you look deeply into your anger, you will see that the person you call your enemy is also suffering. As soon as you see that, the capacity of accepting and having compassion for them is there.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “When a person’s speech is full of anger, it is because he or she suffers deeply.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
- “Impermanence is the constant transformation of things. Without impermanence, there can be no life. Selflessness is the interdependent nature of all things. Without interdependence, nothing could exist.” – Thich Nhat Hanh