The highly respected Thich Nhat Hanh was a Vietnamese monk, teacher and peace activist who passed away in January 2022 aged 95. He was the founder of the Engaged Buddhism movement, an Engaged Buddhist being someone who uses the insights from their personal practice and the teachings to become actively engaged in addressing social injustices, political and environmental issues on a day-to-day basis.
There were five main Mindfulness Trainings the Nhat Hahn promoted.
- Reverence for Life
- True Happiness
- True Love
- Loving Speech and Deep listening
- Nourishment and Healing
Reverence for Life
“Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.” (https://thichnhathanhfoundation.org/the-path-of-happiness)
“Many people think excitement is happiness…. But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.”
The second teaching seeks to counteract suffering caused by societal ills through engaged generosity of speaking, acting and our thinking. We are reminded that true happiness emanates from our internal landscape, all that we have is here and now.
In his teaching Thich outlined five points that could help us move towards a state of true happiness
1. LETTING GO – of our attachment to career, diploma, salary, house, or partner in the sense that we are not defined by them,
2. INVITING POSITIVE SEEDS- allowing the opposite of the negative sensations that we are experiencing to arise, compassion instead of arrogance, understanding instead of judgement for instance. “We each have many kinds of “seeds” lying deep in our consciousness. Those we water are the ones that sprout, come up into our awareness, and manifest outwardly.”
3. MINDFULNESS-BASED JOY- mindful breathing, mindful walking, loving and compassionate practice, cook, work, play and love with mindfulness
4. CONCENTRATION – on the now moment, detach ourselves from the past and future
5. INSIGHT – Insight to recognise and release tension, the clarity that can liberate us from afflictions such as jealousy or anger and allow true happiness to come.
The third teaching concerns four basic elements of true love according to Thich: loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness. We are reminded that sexual desire is not love, inappropriate sexual behavior or intention causes suffering; the invitation is to be cognizant of our sexual energy and only engage in sexual relationships when true love is present. The aim is to move towards a situation where we collectively renounce sexual misconduct and do all we can to protect all from sexual abuse.
“Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.” (https://thichnhathanhfoundation.org/the-path-of-happiness)
Loving Speech and Deep Listening (the fourth mindfulness training)
“Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.”
Thich’s fourth mindfulness teach evokes the Buddhist concept of Right Speech, one of the aspects of the buddhas Eight-fold path. This includes the practice of mindful Deep listening which is the foundation of Right Speech. Compassionate listening brings about healing. When someone listens to us this way, we feel some relief right away.
The other component is that of Loving speech, crucial to restoring peaceful and loving relationships. Calming and loving speech has the capacity to relieve others of their suffering. The Fourth Mindfulness Training means that we have the right to tell another everything in our heart with the condition that we only use only loving speech.
The emphasis is on the ‘power of our words and communication as a whole’. Mindful use of words, and silence when necessary, underscored by deep compassionate listening.
Nourishment and Healing
“Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.” (https://thichnhathanhfoundation.org/the-path-of-happiness)
COE Mindfulness Teacher Diploma Course Notes