My wife and I gave Thich Nhat Hanh's modest (183 pages) book to the guests at our wedding. As a party favor, it's an oddity --- a celibate Buddhist monk writing about romantic love. Well, so be it. This is perhaps a wise man's wisest book.
Love is key to Thich Nhat Hanh because, he says, everything else flows from it. The first sentence of the book: “Happiness is only possible with true love.” And what is true love? You'll be surprised.
It starts with loving yourself. Loving yourself first. Loving yourself most.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a lovely, graceful writer. Mostly, he speaks from the heart, avoiding the technical language of Buddhist practice. But he has a gift for getting the reader's attention with stories. Like this:
One day King Prasenajit of Koshala asked Queen Mallika, “My dear wife, is there anyone who loves you as much as yourself?”
The Queen laughed and responded, “My dear husband, is there anyone who loves you more than you love yourself?”
The next day they told the Buddha of their conversation. He said, “You are correct. There is no one in the universe more dear to us than ourselves. The mind may travel in a thousand directions, but it will find no one else more beloved. The moment you see how important it is to love yourself, you will stop making others suffer.”
Thich Nhat Hanh offers some easy exercises to help you love yourself --- or, in his words, to “stop treating yourself like an enemy.” From there, he moves on to your romantic partner. His advice is almost too simple: Be present. Listen. Respect. Encourage. This is not always pleasant: “The other person, like us, has both flowers and garbage inside.” But because we are intimate with our lover --- because he/she takes us into the emotional and sexual equivalent of the Forbidden City --- we have a special opportunity to live each moment fully and deeply. [To buy the paperback from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle edition, click here.]
It's work. But not odious work. In Thich Nhat Hanh's practice, you walk slowly and acknowledge your feelings and thoughts as you walk. You breathe in, you breathe out. Mostly, you try to live in the here and now. And in that space, you can, he says, convert the energy of anger to the energy of love and reduce the hatred in the world.
It's not enough? I hear you. But I think Thich Nhat Hanh holds the only key that opens the door --- and he offers it to you for cheap. I buy the message. And I work at living it. And I tell you, I don't find it easy.
To read about Thich Nhat Hanh's “Essential Writings” on HeadButler.com, click here.
To read about Thich Nhat Hanh's “Fragrant Palm Leaves” on HeadButler.com, click here.