Editor’s note: what follows is a personal tribute to the late Zen Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh, whom I briefly mentioned in a previous post.
So where shall I start?
I heard about Thích Nhất Hạnh over a decade ago, and it was through him that I got introduced to the concept of mindfulness. It was a relatively new concept to me, but I found myself drawn to it nevertheless. I do not quite remember the reason(s), but there’s something about mindfulness that resonated deep within me.
The first Thích Nhất Hạnh books I bought were No Death, No Fear, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, The Miracle of Mindfulness, and Peace Is Every Step. I also later added to my book collection True Love, Taming the Tiger Within, and The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion, in addition to The Present Moment audiobook. Feel free to check out his other works that were not mentioned.
To say Thích Nhất Hạnh’s teachings have greatly influenced my life is, as you can guess, an understatement. So you can imagine how saddened I was to learn of Thầy’s (i.e. teacher in Vietnamese) recent passing.
Yes, I knew this day will come as it had for so many people and will for many still. It wasn’t easy to accept, but I have never forgotten Thầy’s message about impermanence. This alone allowed me to feel a sense of calm and even happiness upon hearing the news.
Impermanence, you see, is the true nature of the world. Nothing stays the same no matter how much you wish it were otherwise. This includes your body, your feelings, your perceptions, and even your ‘self’. It even extends to whatever object(s) you own or do not own. You will, as will I and every other living being, encounter the “end of life” as we know it. It’s just a matter of when and how, not if.
You may be asking why am I being so grim and serious with this post. But I disagree. What I’m doing is helping to shed light on how you can live your life to the fullest irrespective of whatever hardships you currently face or privileges you currently enjoy. This, my friend, is impermanence at work.
Thích Nhất Hạnh was exiled from his native Vietnam for advocating peace some decades ago. Despite this, he wasn’t discouraged him from living a wonderful life during his time as a human being. He wasn’t the wealthiest, the loudest, or even the smartest. What he had, however, was a clear and true understanding of the various Buddhist concepts that are universally applicable. His teachings transcend cultures and generations, influencing countless people on how to integrate mindfulness into their daily life.
I’ll honestly admit that incorporating mindfulness wasn’t easy at first, and I still struggle with it at times. This is because some of his teachings are paradoxical e.g. the concepts of being and non-being. Yet, it is these paradoxes that I have found to be most useful and relevant in my everyday life.
Please don’t be misled into thinking that I’m asking you to convert to Buddhism because I am not. What I’m recommending is that you learn and understand the various Buddhist concepts that have been around for more than 2000 years, no matter your belief or non-belief.
It’s only fitting that I conclude this tribute post by showing my gratitude for someone who has profoundly shaped my thoughts. To this end, I’m deeply grateful for having come across Thích Nhất Hạnh’s work despite having never met him. I am also committed to doing my best in helping to spread his message to as many people as possible.
May you live your life of impermanence with mindfulness.
Links to Useful Resources
P.S. I would also like to thank you for reading and hope that you will take the time to find out more about Thầy’s teachings aside from impermanence. Always know that you have the choice of choosing who and what your influences are, so please choose wisely.