Anybody interested in Buddhism today knows about Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. His lectures, books and videos are wildly popular because he manages to translate the practice of Vietnamese style Buddhism into something that is relevant to our everyday lives.
For this occasion I checked out the top most popular of Thay’s books and downloaded them on my Kindle. I was looking for two things:
- What book by Thich Nhat Hanh would I most recommend to someone just starting out in Buddhism, Meditation or Zen.
- How much actual Buddhism is there in each of these books.
I already had two books by Thich Nhat Hanh in my library so I will review those as well. Unlike his more popular books, which are written for the lay reader, these are intimate looks into the literature of Vietnam and East-Asian Buddhism. As with my previous list of the best books by H.H. the Dalai Lama, I organized them by popularity: the ones with the most amazon reviews first. I have included meditation quotes to give a flavor of each book.
I hope you enjoy my list. The first three are best sellers. The others are more specialized.
I wonder, as I read the introduction paragraphs of this book, how anyone can stand the cheerfulness of it:
Of course, planning for the future is a part of life. But even planning can only take place in the present moment. This book is an invitation to come back to the present moment and find peace and joy. I offer some of my experience and a number of techniques that may be of help. But please do not wait until finishing this book to find peace. Peace and happiness are available in every moment. Peace is every step. We shall walk hand in hand. Bon voyage.
I am sure that is just me. My own teacher is often quite grumpy and I tend to see that as a sign that I can trust him. In fact, it makes me smile just thinking of it. I am sure that for most people Thich Nhat Hanh’s cheerfulness is just what they need: a reminder that smiling is an option. A reminder to be in the moment and relax and enjoy what is.
However, it is also a reminder that however accessible this book is, it is not for everybody. As the most popular of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, it is however a great introduction to his work.
Another quote – one that doesn’t rub me the wrong way (p. 72):
When we look at our parents with compassion, often we see that our parents are only victims who never had the chance to practice mindfulness. The could not transform the suffering in themselves. But if we see them with compassionate eyes, we can offer them joy, peace and forgiveness. In fact, when we look deeply, we discover that it is impossible to drop all identity with our parents.
In summary: Peace Is Every Step is a great Thich Nhat Hanh book to start with. It is not too Buddhist – in fact, I don’t think there is anything specifically Buddhist about it – but it is a great introduction to mindfulness. [click to continue…]