Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Whatcha Reading?

See my friend here? He's looking over your shoulder, asking you what you've been reading. Why? Because he knows of a book that you might find worthwhile. A little book, small like my friend, that you can read in less than two hours -- and he guarantees it.

My wife gave this book to me for my anniversay (along with many others -- she is very thoughtful -- much more so than me I'm afraid to say ;-). Anyways, the book is Being Peace, by Thich Nhat Hanh. He covers many different subjects, all geared at what would help each of us become more peaceful, as the necessary step to creating a more peaceful world.

For those that have never read Thich Nhat Hanh, I commend you to pick up any of his books; this one is now 20 years old. If you have read this book, I encourage you to dust it off and read it again. Thay (meaning teacher, as he is often called) writes with a very simple style, and also avoids all of the complicated Buddhist philosophy that might lead more to confusion than insight.

He is very direct in applying his insights to daily life -- no worries about what is 'real', and what is not. Practical, common sense, but clearly wisdom-filled advice, meant to be applied right here, right now, in every day life.

Here is a poem to whet your appetite. The nature of compassion is complicated, and in this poem, Thich Nhat Hanh identifies with what we would tend to call the victim, as well as the perpetrator, making the point that they both deserve our compassion, for we are all interconnected, and hence the title of the poem illustrates that we all share the responsibility for the health and welfare of each other:

Please Call Me By My True Names

A Poem By Thich Nhat Hanh

Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow --
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope,
the rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird which, when Spring comes,
arrives in time to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am also the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay his
"debt of blood" to my people
dying slowing in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast if fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

This poem illustrates a concept Thay teaches about "interbeing". It reflects the notion not that "I think, therefore, I am", but rather, "I am, therefore you are; You are, therefore I am". Indeed, Thich Naht Hahn has created an Order of Interbeing with a set of Mindfulness Trainings that well embody this profound concept.

Again, I hope you take the time to read this book. It's simple, easy, and may just have a profound affect on your life, and by extension, on the world.

Namaste. And my tiny frog friend says "ribbit", which means the same thing ;-)


Honeybee said...

After reading your blog I will have to put the book on my "must read" list. LOVE the picture. 8)

Steven Crisp said...


Thanks -- these frogs are coming out of our pond, and are only about 3/4" long. Still have a bit of their tadpole tail. So they are not quite fully differentiated -- and quite cute I agree.

You really can't go wrong with Thich Naht Hanh I don't think. He speaks right to you from the page. This book is simple and small. Grab anything, and wait until you are calm and reflective -- he will touch your heart.