Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby Jikan » Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:21 pm

Thich Nhat Hanh has published a lot of material. I'm trying to get a handle on it. Specifically, I want to understand the scope of his teachings in English, so I'm trying to put together a reading plan that hits the high spots and represents the breadth of his project, so to speak.

It would be particularly helpful to know what TNH's students are asked to read as part of their training.

Where ought I to start? That is, if you could recommend maybe five or six books that really represent the breadth of TNH's teaching, which would they be? I'm assuming Miracle of Mindfulness already.

Thank you!
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby Astus » Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:03 pm

I'm not TNH expert, but in his "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching" he teaches on many basic Buddhist concepts and shows his way of looking at them.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby kirtu » Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:14 pm

"Old Path, White Clouds", not a teaching of his but a presentation of the life of Shakyamuni Buddha taken from multiple sutras and primarily from Pali sources.

His Diamond Sutra, "The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Diamond Sutra ", probably "Walking Meditation", and " Interbeing: Fourteen Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism" - Interbeing is crucial to understanding Thich Nhat Hanh's approach in my opinion. Then there are his numerous other text's on mindfulness (covered by "Walking Meditation" but offering an apple by apple view), and his presentations on ecology and reconciliation (covered by Interbeing but also offering another angle).

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby Astus » Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:03 pm

He also has a commentary on the teachings of Linji Yixuan: "Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go", if you want to look at his way of interpreting Zen.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby Jikan » Thu Feb 23, 2012 1:26 am

Great, thanks guys!
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby rory » Thu Feb 23, 2012 10:11 am

I read his "Living Buddha, Living Christ" ages ago & some of his other material. I have to say I rather loathed all of them, he's way to sugary for my taste. I just checked out his work on the Lotus Sutra arg...
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby Seishin » Thu Feb 23, 2012 10:50 am

His number one book still stands at "Miracle of Mindfulness". I really enjoyed it and it was this book that cemented by Buddhist practice and I even joined a local TNH lay sangha. I also really liked the "Diamond that Cuts Through Illusion" and "No death, no fear". IMHO these books are a good starting point (especially MoM) as they really get to the heart of TNH understanding and interpretation of his traditional zen upbringing but also with a view of westernizing it.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby SamBodhi » Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:37 pm

The two that have been mentioned already, but that I always recommend both to people looking for an introduction to Buddhism, those who just like to read, and those looking to get into TNH's books, are Old Path, White Clouds and The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching.

Astus wrote:He also has a commentary on the teachings of Linji Yixuan: "Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go", if you want to look at his way of interpreting Zen.

Astus, have you read this? Would you say that this is not only TNH's interpretation of Zen, but also a good look at Vietnamese Zen in general?

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby Astus » Thu Feb 23, 2012 6:22 pm

pung S wrote:Astus, have you read this? Would you say that this is not only TNH's interpretation of Zen, but also a good look at Vietnamese Zen in general?


I have read chapters, but never grasped my attention enough to finish it, so it stays on the shelf. But others may like it very much.

I wouldn't call a single man a good source of looking at a whole country's Buddhism, not to mention that TNH is a very creative and innovative teacher (this is not criticism).
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby SamBodhi » Fri Feb 24, 2012 1:04 am

Astus wrote:I wouldn't call a single man a good source of looking at a whole country's Buddhism, not to mention that TNH is a very creative and innovative teacher (this is not criticism).

Of course, I reflected on this later and thought about how silly the question may have been. I have always had the assumption that Thien could be considered a different school of Zen almost. When I saw your description of the book, I was thinking it would be along the lines of Shunryu Suzuki writing a commentary about the teachings of Lin Chi or something- a sort of cross-schools study. I suppose it may not be so. I will just have to pick it up for myself. :)

To get back on topic, I have read a lot of TNH's books. I would say that if you are already interested in his teachings, you probably won't go wrong with picking up almost any book. Obviously, you might not get what you are looking for if you get Chanting from the Heart, Touching the Earth, or any of the other books that are not really collections of teachings or explanations per se, are more oriented towards the actual "rituals" of practice. Those are still interesting, if you have time to explore.

Thich Nhat Hanh has a commentary on the Heart Sutra that is easy to read, so if you know anything about that particular Sutra, you can probably get a good idea concerning his teaching by comparison.

Like I said, I have read a lot of his books. However, the one I had trouble with was The Sun My Heart. It took me a little longer to get into it. There are a few chapters at least that talk about some rather tough (for me) physics theory. I loaned it to a friend who was a physics major in College and he never got around to reading it. Eventually I read it and liked it.

I hope this is clear.

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby SamBodhi » Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:47 am

This one is really good!

Stepping Into Freedom
http://www.parallax.org/cgi-bin/shopper.cgi?preadd=action&key=BOOKSIF


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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby Jikan » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:50 pm

pung S wrote:
Astus wrote:I wouldn't call a single man a good source of looking at a whole country's Buddhism, not to mention that TNH is a very creative and innovative teacher (this is not criticism).

Of course, I reflected on this later and thought about how silly the question may have been. I have always had the assumption that Thien could be considered a different school of Zen almost. When I saw your description of the book, I was thinking it would be along the lines of Shunryu Suzuki writing a commentary about the teachings of Lin Chi or something- a sort of cross-schools study. I suppose it may not be so. I will just have to pick it up for myself. :)

To get back on topic, I have read a lot of TNH's books. I would say that if you are already interested in his teachings, you probably won't go wrong with picking up almost any book. Obviously, you might not get what you are looking for if you get Chanting from the Heart, Touching the Earth, or any of the other books that are not really collections of teachings or explanations per se, are more oriented towards the actual "rituals" of practice. Those are still interesting, if you have time to explore.

Thich Nhat Hanh has a commentary on the Heart Sutra that is easy to read, so if you know anything about that particular Sutra, you can probably get a good idea concerning his teaching by comparison.

Like I said, I have read a lot of his books. However, the one I had trouble with was The Sun My Heart. It took me a little longer to get into it. There are a few chapters at least that talk about some rather tough (for me) physics theory. I loaned it to a friend who was a physics major in College and he never got around to reading it. Eventually I read it and liked it.

I hope this is clear.

with Metta,
pung S


Thanks for this.

The reason I'm making a study of TNH's books has to do with a research project I'm involved with on the history of "mindfulness" as a distinct, secularized practice in the English-speaking world. TNH is a bridge between the Buddhist world and the mindfulness therapeutic or management model: some of his books are recommended to participants in dialectical behavior therapy, for instance.

I'm interested in his work for its own sake, of course, but this is the reason I'm trying to be systematic about it. I want to understand how his writings are used outside a Buddhist context, and to do that, I need a better handle on his writings as a whole.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby SamBodhi » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:24 pm

Jikan wrote:The reason I'm making a study of TNH's books has to do with a research project I'm involved with on the history of "mindfulness" as a distinct, secularized practice in the English-speaking world. TNH is a bridge between the Buddhist world and the mindfulness therapeutic or management model: some of his books are recommended to participants in dialectical behavior therapy, for instance.

I'm interested in his work for its own sake, of course, but this is the reason I'm trying to be systematic about it. I want to understand how his writings are used outside a Buddhist context, and to do that, I need a better handle on his writings as a whole.


In that case, I would say that you are on the right track with Miracle of Mindfulness. And The Sun My Heart is described as a "sequel" to that book. http://books.google.com/books/about/The_sun_my_heart.html?id=e2ocJlMM04IC
It might give you something of a theoretical background for answering "why" in a secularized context.

It has been a long time since I have read his books, but after looking at the titles again, I can remember what I read and the two I mentioned right above plus Peace is Every Step, Present Moment Wonderful Moment, and You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment should be all you need for your project.

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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby Jikan » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:02 pm

Fantastic! thank you kindly.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby Jikan » Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:28 pm

rory wrote:I read his "Living Buddha, Living Christ" ages ago & some of his other material. I have to say I rather loathed all of them, he's way to sugary for my taste. I just checked out his work on the Lotus Sutra arg...
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Hi rory,

I'd like to know more on what you think of TNH's take on the Lotus Sutra. Whaddya think?
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby Jikan » Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:15 pm

So far I have read Interbeing, Being Peace, The Miracle of Mindfulness, The Sun My Heart, and Zen Keys. On my desk waiting for me are Transformation at the Base (which I have begun), Nowhere to Go, and Opening the Heart of the Cosmos (the last one on the Lotus Sutra).

These books are often brilliant, occasionally repetitive, short, and (when discussing contemporary science and philosophy) a bit soft (who cites The Tao of Physics as an authoritative source? Thich Nhat Hanh does in The Sun My Heart.) But that is my only substantive criticism*. These books are intended mostly for beginners and everyday people on the street. What is unusual about them, however, is that they bear repeated readings (some more than others). Not all introductory texts do. I particularly appreciate the approach taken in the discussion of the fourteen precepts. Of the books I have read so far, I found Zen Keys to be the most interesting by far. The little bit of Transformation of the Base I have read around in has also been striking and insightful.


*Some of these books are badly designed. The 1995 edition of Zen Keys is really hard on the eyes because of the typeface used, and is marred by typographical errors and truly abrasive cover art. Who is responsible for that? I don't think TNH is.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby omnifriend » Thu Mar 29, 2012 1:33 pm

if you want to understand the depth of thich nhat hanhs education in buddhism, you have to read understanding our mind. its buddhist psychology. its not really meant to be read as a book as it is is incredibly in depth. its more of a sutta reading, where you absord it into your heart let it resonate with you, and read it very slowly. i have a lot of respect for him as a teacher after reading some of that book.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby Jikan » Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:27 pm

omnifriend wrote:if you want to understand the depth of thich nhat hanhs education in buddhism, you have to read understanding our mind. its buddhist psychology. its not really meant to be read as a book as it is is incredibly in depth. its more of a sutta reading, where you absord it into your heart let it resonate with you, and read it very slowly. i have a lot of respect for him as a teacher after reading some of that book.


This appears to be the paperback version of Transformation at the Base, which is (so far) my favorite Thich Nhat Hanh book. I agree with you, it presents a counterargument to the impression that TNH is all softness and little precision or substance.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby rory » Tue Apr 03, 2012 5:33 am

Hi Jikan;
I was able to look over his Lotus Sutra book a bit and finally put my finger on the things that bother me. (for everyone else, this is just my opinion as a Nichiren Buddist)

1. we're all bodhisattvas - that's Original Enlightenment thought, which I really reject. We all have buddhanature and the potential to be bodhisattvas but it takes lots of hard work to make it grow and develop. Some people don't try at all. This kind of thing can turn into a 'you're perfect as you are' I try daily to think about my behavior and control it and do good things. It's hard, it's not easy.

2. In his conclusion, he omits any emphasis on faith or the fact that the Sutra contains the merit of the Buddha and the Buddha will help you. It's a very Zen reading which is what he is - a Zen practitioner. But I've found faith to be very powerful & it has certainly helped me in many hard situations (like being ill)

3. Taking the 'mindful step' that's not what the Sutra is about at all; it's recognizing this radical equality - we all have buddhanature. That make me think a lot about killing insects, taking life, the treatment of animals, it fills me with wonder. I don't feel apart from anything, quite the opposite, radically connected. It's the opposite of modern alienation.

As you can see I'm not a Ch'an person, also in a purely literary sense I find his writing overly saccharine and sentimental: he talks of 'love' way too much and even the title 'Opening the Heart of the Cosmos' gosh so overblown, ghastly He has the great symbol of the lotus to work with: with its roots in the mud of samsara, growing to perfection. Why not use that?
anyway I hope I've given you some understanding.
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Re: Thich Nhat Hanh: Reading Suggestions?

Postby Jikan » Sat Apr 14, 2012 5:04 pm

Thank you for your insights on this, rory. I've found a copy of the _Cosmos_ text at a library and have started reading it. I'll keep an eye on the issues you raise as I move forward.
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