The Sun My Heart, first published in 1988, is a timeless book by our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, about the power of the mindfulness practice in daily life. Please enjoy some excerpts from the book and listening to Br Phap Hai, an elder monastic in the Plum Village tradition, explaining why this is his favourite book..
From the Introduction
Meditators since the beginning of time have known that they must use their own eyes and the language of their own times to express their insight. Wisdom is a living stream, not an icon to be preserved in a museum. Only when a practitioner finds the spring of wisdom in his or her own life can it flow to future generations. Keeping the torch of wisdom glowing is the work of all of us who know how to clear a path through the forest in order to walk on ahead.
On Conceptual Thinking…
As soon as the sun of awareness shines, at that very moment a great change takes place. Meditation lets the sun of awareness rise easily, so we can see more clearly. When we meditate, we seem to have two selves. One is the flowing river of thoughts and feelings, and the other is the sun of awareness that shines on them. Which is our own self? Which is true? Which false? Which is good? Which bad? Please calm down, my friend. Lay down your sharp sword of conceptual thinking. Don’t be in such a hurry to cut your “self” in two. Both are self. Neither is true. Neither is false. They are both true and both false.
The Sun My Heart
Let us go another step and meditate on the presence of the entire universe in ourselves. We know that if our heart stops beating, the flow of our life will stop, and so we cherish our heart very much. Yet we do not often take the time to notice that there are other things, outside of our bodies, that are also essential for our survival. Look at the immense light we call the sun. If it stops shining, the flow of our life will also stop, and so the sun is our second heart, our heart outside of our body. This immense “heart” gives all life on Earth the warmth necessary for existence. Plants live thanks to the sun…… Thanks to plants, we and other animals can live. All of us—people, animals, and plants—“consume” the sun, directly and indirectly. We cannot begin to describe all the effects of the sun, that great heart outside of our body.
On How to Look Deeply…
In the meditation on “interbeing” or on “the miraculousness of existence,” a practitioner can take any phenomenon as the object of meditation, but she must be able to maintain this for some time, in mindfulness. She may choose the sun, a leaf, a caterpillar. Such meditation is not so enigmatic as kung-an meditation, kung-an or koan meditation involves deep contemplation of a question offered by a teacher as a means of looking deeplybut if the practitioner is determined to keep the sunlight of their awareness on it hour after hour, they will succeed. This kind of meditation keeps the practitioner from wasting a lot of time straining their intellect looking for solutions to questions that cannot be solved through the intellect. The sun, a leaf, or a caterpillar can take the practitioner directly into the world of non-conceptual reality—a living, direct experience.
Curious to read more? The Sun My Heart is available with our publisher Parallax Press. A new hardcover edition will be published in October 2020.