I’m sure many of you know of Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and revered spiritual teacher whose name goes on the same page as Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and the Dalai Lama in my book.
His teachings are deceptively simple. In practice, they are demanding but always life-giving:
» “We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.”
» “When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence.”
» “Our own life is the instrument with which we experiment with the truth.”
Perhaps not everyone knows that Nhat Hanh is also a long-time political activist. He first inspired me years ago, during the Vietnam War. He helped lead a peace movement called the “Third Way” — a way that did not side with either the South or the North, but was “on the side of all people and the side of peace.”
Today we Americans need to find a Third Way. That does not mean making cheap compromises, as in, “I’ll stop caring about the poor if you’ll stop caring about more money for the military.” Instead it means holding our differences in ways that open us to possibilities we never would have imagined if we had failed to hang in with each other.
Thich Nhat Hanh believes that ordinary people like you and me have the power to create political change. As he says:
“The way we live our daily lives is what most effects the situation of the world. If we can change our daily lives, then we can change our governments and… the world. Our president and governments are us. They reflect our lifestyle and our way of thinking.”
Convictions like these — inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh and his kin — lie behind my latest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy. If you care about “a politics worthy of the human spirit,” please pass the word along!
P.S. Want to see a spiritual master deal with American mass media and celebrity as he promotes his ideas? Here’s Thich Nhat Hanh’s brilliant interview with Oprah: