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Hope for a Troubled World from Thich Nhat Hanh

A beautiful soul has left us.  Thich Nhat Hanh was a Buddhist monk and a revered teacher.  I just learned of his passing at age 95 on January 22 of this year in the place of his birth … Hue, Vietnam.  He wouldn’t have referred to himself this way, but I like to think of him as the ultimate life coach, and so I was very drawn to him.

His wisdom, his kindness, his compassion, his calm appreciation of the world around him in every moment presents us all with a wonderful example of what it means to be truly mindful and connected to what really matters during our time here on earth.

He was an extraordinary human being.  And what I mean by that is not that he was born special.  He was a human being like the rest of us, who felt the whole range of emotions.  He felt sadness. He got angry.  He suffered plenty of disappointments and pain.  He possessed the same kinds of weaknesses as you and I, and was subject to the very same human foibles as anyone else.

What made him extraordinary was not what he was born with, but who he chose to be in this world … a light in the darkness, a voice for the voiceless, a soothing presence for those in distress, an ambassador for peace.

On the surface, he and I shared nothing in common … he a male Buddhist monk from Vietnam and I a Catholic school girl from Syracuse NY.  Different generation.  Different skin color.  Different facial features.  Different language.  Different culture.

But I felt so related to him … a shared spirit with shared values and the same commitment to the people we connect with and serve.

And I think I know what he would say to us in these troubled times.  We are not separated from each other in any meaningful way.  The differences we see in one another are superficial … and often completely artificial.

Be present.  Listen with compassion.  Comfort the suffering.  Find peace.  Understand that we’re all doing this human thing together.  Love life and make the most of every moment.  I think that’s what he would tell us.

What are the marks of a good person and a life well lived?

There are probably many, but there are two that stand out for me.  How much you’ll be missed when you’re gone … and how much better place the world would be if there were more people like you living in it?  By these measures, Thich Nhat Hanh led a very good life. 

I don’t mean to presume, but maybe we should ask ourselves … How would my life measure up?  It’s probably worth pondering.

I said above that he left us, but someone like that leaves such an indelible legacy that they’re always here with us, in spirit if no longer in body … in their teachings that live on and the number of lives they touched.

Oh, and the man wrote over 100 books.  If you’re not familiar with him or if you just want a great compilation of some of his most popular work, I’d recommend a little 3 x 4 ½ inch classic, appropriately titled, The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh.

It’s a life-affirming gem, giving you a way to access some light in the darkness anytime you want.



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