How To See by Thich Nhat Hanh
I recently found out that he passed away. What an inspiring and impactful human being.
These were my favorite passages from the Mindfulness Essentials Book series by Thich Nhat Hanh
“WATER REFLECTING The clear still water of a mountain lake reflects the mountain and the sky with pristine clarity. You can do the same. If you are calm and still enough, you can reflect the mountain, the blue sky, and the moon exactly as they are. You reflect whatever you see just as it is, without distorting anything.”
“THE SNAKE Imagine you are walking in the twilight and you see a snake. You scream and run into the house to get your friends, and all of you rush outside with a flashlight. But when you shine your light on the snake, you discover it isn’t a snake at all, it’s just a piece of rope. Mistaking the rope for a snake is a wrong perception. Mindfulness helps us avoid being caught by our wrong perceptions.”
“THE SOURCE OF OUR PERCEPTIONS The source of perception, our way of seeing, lies in our unconscious mind. Most of our perceptions are erroneous. They carry with them all the errors of subjectivity. We praise or blame, are happy or complain depending on our perceptions. Our perceptions are made of many things, including our afflictions, such as craving, anger, and ignorance, as well as our habit energies and past experiences. Whether we are happy or whether we suffer depends largely on our perceptions. It is important to look deeply into our perceptions and recognize their source.”
“When we think of a table, we see an image of that table in our mind. But we must remember that our concept is not the thing itself. It’s just our perception, which might in fact be very different from the table. A termite may perceive a table as a feast, and a physicist may perceive it as a mass of rapidly moving particles. The more we practice looking deeply, the more accurate our perceptions can be. But they are still perceptions.”
“Nagarjuna, the second century Buddhist teacher, said, “Thanks to emptiness, everything is possible.” Emptiness is another term for nonself; when we say things are empty, it means they are without a separate self. Nonself and impermanence are two sides of reality; impermanence is looking at reality in terms of time, and nonself is looking at reality in terms of space. When we look deeply into our fears, we can see our desire for permanence and our fear of change. But impermanence and nonself are not something negative. Impermanence means transformation at every moment. Therefore we can say, “Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.”
“IT’S ALL IN THE MIND All phenomena are objects of mind, they’re not objective realities. When we perceive something, that thing is the object of our consciousness. There needs to be both a perceiver and an object of mind for a perception to be obtained. The world is just an object of mind. When you see a mountain, that mountain is the object of your mind, the object of your perception; it’s not something separate from your consciousness. Usually we think that there’s a subjective consciousness inside us that’s reaching out to the world of reality outside. But this is a wrong view. We have to see that both subject and object of perception rely on each other and manifest at the same time. The object can never be separated from the mind that observes or meditates upon it.”
“INTERCONNECTION One day, when I was doing Qi Gong exercises in front of a tree, it occurred to me that the tree had a lot to offer me, and I had a lot to offer the tree. The tree offers me beauty, shade, and oxygen. I offer the tree my breath, my appreciation, and my joy. The tree and I are interconnected. When we look at a human being, we can look in exactly the same way, without exaggerating what is there or imagining what is not there. Sometimes we expect too much, we want to idealize what we see. If we can acknowledge reality as it is without exaggerating or imagining, we will suffer less.”
“I AM FROM THE CENTER At a peace rally in Philadelphia in 1966, a reporter asked me, “Are you from North or South Vietnam?” If I had said I was from the North, he would have seen me as pro-communist, and if I had said I was from the South, he would have seen me as pro-American. So I told him, “I am from the Center.” I wanted to help him let go of his notions, his perceptions, and encounter the reality that was right in front of him. This is the language of Zen.”
“APPLE JUICE MEDITATION One day four children were playing outside at my Sweet Potato hermitage in France. Thanh Thuy, a four-year-old girl I was looking after, was among them. The children were thirsty so I offered them each a glass of homemade apple juice which contained some pulp. Thanh Thuy did not like the look of the cloudy juice and refused to drink it. She ran off to play but came back after a while and asked for water. I showed her the apple juice and urged her to drink it. She saw the pulp had settled, and the juice now looked clear and delicious. “Is this the same glass or a different one?” she asked. “Was it meditating like you?” I laughed, “Let’s say I am imitating the apple juice when I sit; that is closer to the truth.” If you know how to sit stably and follow your in- and out-breath, then after some time you become peaceful and clear, like the apple juice. When we focus our mind on our breathing, our mind can settle. Our habitual thinking and worrying subside, and we can see people and situations more clearly. When we are still, it gives insight a chance to arise.”
“TOUCHING IMPERMANENCE We have all had the experience at some time of reading something and fooling ourselves into believing we have understood what we have read. But upon rereading or referring back to it, we see that we haven’t really absorbed or understood it at all. The same is true of looking deeply. We may think it’s easy to see that a flower is impermanent, that its beauty will soon fade, and its flowers wither and die. Intellectually, we accept the flower’s impermanence. But it’s not by using our intellect that we truly touch impermanence. We have to touch the nature of impermanence deeply in order to go beyond our notion of impermanence. Mindfulness and concentration are the powers that allow us to go deeply into the true nature of things and bring forth insight.”
“OBSERVING TRANSFORMATION A child may believe she is a totally different person from her mother, but in fact she is the continuation of her mother, she is her mother. We can train ourselves to recognize reality beyond the forms we’re used to perceiving. Looking at a young cornstalk, at first you cannot see the seed of corn that gave life to the plant. But looking closer, you can see the seed in her new form: the cornstalk. Transcending the notions of sameness and otherness we see the truth. Observing in this way is a deep practice.”
“LETTING GO Most of our feelings and emotions arise from narrow perceptions and incomplete understanding. Our ways of looking, listening, reacting, and judging make us and our loved ones suffer. We have ideas about happiness and suffering that we can’t let go of, though we know that by letting go of them we’ll be happier and more peaceful in body and mind, and the painful feelings and emotions would no longer have a basis to arise. We tend to think that if we let go, we’ll lose the things that make us happy. But the opposite is true. The more we let go, the happier we become. Letting go doesn’t mean we let go of everything. We don’t let go of reality. But we let go of our wrong ideas and perceptions about reality.”
“WATERING WHOLESOME SEEDS Sometimes we see our children doing things that we know will cause them to suffer in the future, but when we try to tell them, they won’t listen. All we can do is to water the seeds of Right View in them, and then later, in a difficult moment, they may benefit from our guidance. We cannot explain a mango to someone who has never tasted one. No matter how well we describe it, we cannot give someone else the direct experience. They have to taste it for themselves.”
“BELIEF IN OUR PERCEPTIONS A young widower returned home one day to find his house burned down and his five-year-old son missing. Nearby was the charred corpse of a child he believed to be his son; he wept bitterly. After the child’s cremation, he kept the ashes in a bag around his neck and carried them with him day and night. But his son hadn’t perished; he’d been taken off by bandits. One day he escaped and returned to his father’s new house. Arriving late at night, he knocked at the door. Who’s there?” asked the father. “It’s me, your son.” “That’s impossible. My son is dead.” The father persisted in his belief and would not open the door. In the end the boy had to leave, and the father lost his son forever.”
“MAKING PEACE When we’re angry with someone, it’s because we feel hurt. We’re unable to see the many elements that make up that person. We don’t realize they may be acting out of habit energy transmitted to them from their ancestors. Once we see this, we can accept the person more easily. This is true concerning ourselves as well. When we can see within us all the elements that have been handed down to us from our parents, ancestors, and our environment, we can let go of much of our self-judgment and criticism, and also stop judging and criticizing others. We see, “Ah, that is my father in me who is judging my friend.” Our ancestors continue in us each day. With this understanding, we can find a way to undo the difficulties we have with others and make peace.”
“OUR IDEA OF HAPPINESS We have an idea of happiness. We may believe that only certain conditions will make us happy. But it is often our very idea of happiness that prevents us from being happy. The conditions for happiness are already there, available inside and around us. We have eyes that can see, legs that can walk, lungs that can breathe. All the wonders of life are available in the present moment—the sunshine, the fresh air, the trees, the multitude of colors and forms all around us. The essential thing is to be aware. If we open our eyes, we will see.”
Gratitude Learning Linkedin Mindfulness How to See Favorite Passages Mindfulness Thich Nhat Hanh
davidsonhang View All →
Davidson Hang is currently in Sales at Cheetah Digital which is a Marketing technology company located in NYC.
Davidson is an avid networker, personal growth- life and business coach.
He loves spreading the love and regularly helps people create and design the life they want for themselves.
Leave a Reply