A poem by Thich Nhat Hanh

Promise me,
promise me this day,

promise me now,
while the sun is overhead
exactly at the zenith,

promise me:
Even as they

strike you down
with a mountain of hatred and violence;
even as they step on you and crush you
like a worm,
even as they dismember and disembowel you,
remember brother, remember:
man is not our enemy.

The only thing worthy of you is compassion -
invincible, limitless, unconditional.

Hatred will never let you face
the beast in man.

One day, when you face this beast alone
with your courage intact, your eyes kind,

(even as no one sees them),
out of your smile
will bloom a flower.

And those who love you
will behold you

across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.

Alone again,
I will go on with bent head,
knowing that love has become eternal.
On the long, rough road
the sun and moon will continue to shine.

Man is not the enemy. Our enemy is hatred, anger, ignorance and fear.

I wrote this poem in 1965 especially for the young people in the School of Youth for Social Service who risked their lives every day during the war, recommending them to die without hatred. Some had already been killed violently, and I cautioned the others against hating. Our enemy is our anger, hatred, greed, fanaticism, and discrimination against men. If you die because of violence, you must meditate on compassion in order to forgive those who kill you. When you die realizing this state of compassion, you are truly a child of the Awakened One. Even if you are dying in oppression, shame, and violence, if you can smile with forgiveness, you have great power.

Rereading this lines of this poem, I suddenly understood the passage in the Diamond Sutra that speaks about kshanti, endurance  or tolerance : “Your courage intact, your eyes kind, untroubled (even as no one sees them), out of your smile will bloom a flower. And those who love you will behold you across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.”

If you die with compassion in mind, you are a torch lighting our path. Before burning herself, Nhat Chi Mai one of the earliest Tiep Hien members, read this poem into a tape and left it for her parents.

Alone again I will go on with bent head” in order to see you, know you, remember you. Your love has become eternal. “On the long rough road, the sun and the moon will continue to shine.” When there is a mature relationship between people, there is always compassion and forgiveness.  In our life we need others to see and recognize us so that we feel supported. How much more do we need the Buddha to see us! On our path of service, there are moments of pain and loneliness, but when we know that the Buddha sees and knows us, we feel a great surge of energy and a firm determination to carry on.


Thich Nhat Hanh 


Just a simple monk!

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5 comments on “Recommendation
  1. Marta says:

    I have a problem with the word love I prefer compassion.

  2. David Bakotich says:

    Thank U That for writing that. It transforms how I feel and the world needs to hear it

  3. Erick McEnaney says:

    Dear, sweet Thai,
    The love in my heart for you, I am sure is similar to that of thousands of others whom have also followed you, your teachings, your compassion. However, it is during the most difficult and painful times I continually realize that it is exactly those things, you, your teachings, and your deep unwavering compassion that has helped me more than any other I have ever, embraced! My gratitude, love, and compassion for others, our global family are continual reminders, triggers that are always with me, and it is you that has instilled this undying love within my ❤…

  4. Medini Richardson says:

    This is beautiful. May I share it on Fasce book?

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