Thich Nhat Hanh shares secrets to peaceful mind


Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, right, talks with Ven. Hyemin, a Korean Buddhist monk and bestselling author, during a televised show at the BTN studio in Seoul, Tuesday. / Yonhap

By Yun Suh-young
Most of the sufferings people experience in relationships are not really caused by others but themselves, says Vietnam’s celebrated Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. His visit garnered rapt attention in a country where “healing” has become a buzzword as people look for ways to make their overstressed lives healthier.

“Listening to and understanding our inner sufferings will resolve most of the problems we encounter,” said Nhat Hanh during a three-hour talk held at the Jamsil Indoor Stadium in Seoul, Monday evening, under the theme “Stop and Heal.”

Nhat Hanh, who arrived in Seoul on May 1 as part of a global trip to celebrate Buddha’s birthday which falls on May 17, will be finishing off his official schedule in Korea today.

“In order to heal others, we first need to heal ourselves. And to heal ourselves, we need to know how to deal with ourselves,” said Nhat Hanh, who is also an influential poet and human rights activist.

“If we know how to go back to ourselves, listen and heal, we can change. But most of us don’t know how to listen to ourselves and understand the sufferings.”

In fast-paced contemporary society, people tend to be reluctant to confront the roots of their sufferings and try to conceal their distress with material consumption, Nhat Hanh observed.

“Our thoughts, speech and action are what cause anger, fear, and suspicion of the other side. So we can’t blame others. We should use language that can help the other side understand better. We should not condemn, accuse or blame while listening to them,” he said.

Addressing the strained relations between the two Koreas, Nhat Hanh claimed Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons was not the root cause of diplomatic difficulty, but fear, anger and suspicion between the two countries.

“Nuclear weapons are an obstacle for a good relationship between the South and the North. It reflects the fear, anger, and suspicion in us. If we don’t have anger or fear, we wouldn’t be building nuclear weapons,” he said.

“For peace, the basic thing to do is not to remove nuclear weapons but to remove the fear, anger and suspicion in us. If we reduce them, reconciliation is easy.”

He recalled the three-week reconciliation program he ran for Israelis and Palestinians at the Plum Village, a monastery he runs, in southern France.

“When they arrived, they wouldn’t talk to each other, let alone look at each other. It took three weeks to transform and heal themselves,” he said.

The key to reconciliation is “compassionate listening” according to Nhat Hanh.

“Compassionate listening is to help the other side suffer less. If we realize that other people are the same people as we are, we are no longer angry at them.”

He advised politicians, especially, to learn the Buddhist way.

“If you’re a politician, you might want to learn the Buddhist way of negotiation. Restoring communication and bringing back reconciliation is clear and concrete in Buddhism.”

ysy@koreatimes.co.kr

courtesy of Korean Times

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