May 5, 2008

"Fragrant Palm Leaves"

Journals 1962-1966
Thich Nhat Hanh

Synopsis: A rare combination of mystic, scholar, poet, and activist, Thich Nhat Hanh has lived in exile from his native Vietnam since 1966. Though he is best known for his ever popular Buddhist teachings, Fragrant Palm Leaves shows not only an exquisite portrait of the Zen master as a young man, but the emergence of a great poet and literary voice of Vietnam. From his years as a student and teaching assistant at Princeton and Columbia to his efforts to negotiate peace and a better life for the Vietnamese, Fragrant Palm Leaves offers an elegant and profound window into the formation of the heart and mind of one of the world's most beloved spiritual teachers.

Meaningful Quotes:

I still respond to the call of the cosmos, although the way I do has changed. The call is as clear and compelling as it was those many years ago. When I hear it now; I pause; and with all my body, with every atom of my being, every vein, gland, and nerve, I listen with awe and passion.

...we respect Christ as a great teacher but don't look on him as a God. The same is true of Buddha. We respect him as a great teacher, but we don't worship him as a god.

It's funny how much our surroundings influence our emotions. Our joys and sorrows, likes and dislikes are colored by our environment so much that often we just let our surroundings dictate our course. We go along with 'public' feelings until we no longer even know our own true aspirations. We become a stranger to ourselves, molded entirely by society.

Some life dilemmas cannot be solved by study or rational thought. We just live with them, struggle with them, and become one with them. Such dilemmas are not in the realm of the intellect. They come from our feelings and our will; and they penetrate our subconscious and our body, down to the marrow of our bones. I became a battlefield. I couldn't know until the storm was over if I would survive, not in the sense of my physical life, but in the deeper sense of my core self.

How could we continue to live if we were changeless? To live, we must die every instant. We must perish again and again in the storms that make life possible.

History teaches that we die if we oppose the system. Yet many individuals continue to challenge the darkness, despite the danger in doing so.

When we attain a new understanding of reality, it is impossible to accept things as we know to be false. Our actions will be based on our own understanding, and we will follow only those rules we have tested through our own direct experience. We will discard false rules and conventions of the current social order.

Most important is knowing how to ride the waves of impermanence, smiling as one who knows he has never been born and will never die.

Every success contains some difficulties, and every failure contributes to increased wisdom or future success.

For someone who has seen into the nature of things, knowledge gives rise to action. For those who have truly seen, there is no philosophy of action needed.

Life waits patiently for true heroes.

Buddhahood doesn't come from long hours of sitting.

...all places on earth are, more or less, the same. It is our state of mind that ultimately determines things.

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown; they prefer suffering that is familiar.

Freedom without responsibility is destructable to oneself and others.

"Fragrant Palm Leaves" is available at Powells and Amazon

Other Books by Thich Nhat Hanh:
The Miracle of Mindfulness
Living Buddha, Living Christ
Teachings on Love
True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart
Being Peace
No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life
Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames
Taming the Tiger Within
A Taste of Earth
Be Free Where You Are
Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers
The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching
Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha
The Stone Boy and Other Stories
The Sun My Heart: From Mindfulness to Insight Contemplation
Love in Action: Writings on Nonviolent Social Change
Peace is Every Step
Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living