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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Negarakuku - Malaysian National Anthem Rapped!

Negarakuku - - 我爱我的国家 - 2007 大马观光年主题曲. NOTICE: This Negarakuku music video is created by Namewee.
Original creator version:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Simple Knowledge: Why should the wedding ring be worn on the fourth finger?

simple knowledge, but we have to know
for daily talking with families n friends

Why should the wedding ring be worn on the fourth finger?

There is a beautiful and convincing explanation given by the Chinese Legend...

Thumb represents your Parents
Second (Index) finger represents your Siblings
Middle finger represents your-Self
Fourth (Ring) finger represents your Life Partner
& the Last (Little) finger represents your children

Firstly, open your palms (face to face), bend the middle fingers and hold them together - back to back
Secondly, open and hold the remaining three fingers and the thumb - tip to tip
(As shown in the figure above):

Now, try to separate your thumbs (representing the parents)..., they will open, because your parents are not destined to live with you lifelong, and have to leave you sooner or later.
Please join your thumbs as before and separate your Index fingers (representing siblings)... ., they will also open, because your brothers and sisters will have their own families and will have to lead their own separate lives.

Now join the Index fingers and separate your Little fingers (representing your children)... ., they will open too, because the children also will get married and settle down on their own some day.

Finally, join your Little fingers, and try to separate your Ring fingers (representing your spouse).
You will be surprised to see that you just CANNOT....., because Husband & Wife have to remain together all their lives - through thick and thin!!

Please try this out......... ....


French Wine Magic

Britains Got Talent - A Star Is Born

See how gobsmacked Simon Cowell and the other judges are when this guy starts to sing.
Paul Potts finale performance on Britains got talent

paul potts actual winning moment!!!

Paul Potts Live In Copenhagen

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Watch this & you will be a vegetarian for life!

Eating live octopi at an asian restaurant

Fish being eaten while its still twitching

Paul Merton China eating dog

Friday, July 20, 2007

Paul Anka - Papa

Everyday my papa would work
To try to make ends meet
To see that we would eat
Keep those shoes upon my feet
Every night my papa would take me
And tuck me in my bed
Kiss me on my head
After all my prayers were said
And there were years
Of sadness and of tears
Through it all
Together we were strong
We were strong
Times were rough
But Papa he was tough
Mama stood beside him all along

Growing up with them was easy
The time had flew on by
The years began to fly
They aged and so did I
And I could tell
That mama she wasn't well
Papa knew and deep down so did she
So did she
When she died
Papa broke down and he cried
And all he could say was, "God, why her? Take me!"
Everyday he sat there sleeping in a rocking chair
He never went upstais
Because she wasn't there

Then one day my Papa said,
"Son, I'm proud of how you've grown"
He said, "Go out and make it on your own.
Don't worry. I'm O.K. alone."
He said, "There are things that you must do"
He said, "There's places you must see"
And his eyes were sad as he
As he said goodbye to me

Every time I kess my children
Papa's words ring true
He said, "Children live through you.
Let them grow! They'll leave you, too"
I remember every word Papa used to say
I kiss my kids and pray
That they'll think of me
Oh how I pray
They will think of me
That way

Big Fun - Hey There Lonely Girl (and by Eddie Holman)

Originally by Eddie Holman

The last video from Big Fun featuring all three boys

hey there lonely girl, lonely girl
let me make your broken heart like new
hey there lonely girl, lonely girl
don't you know this lonely boy loves you?

ever since he broke your heart
you seem so lost
each time you pass my way
oh how i long to take your hand
and say "don't cry i'll kiss your tears away"
heyy heyyyy heyyyy

lonely girl, my lonely girl
let me make your broken heart like new

hey there lonely girl, lonely girl
don't you know this lonely boy loves you?

you think that only his two lips
can kiss your lips
and make your heart stand still

but once you're in my arms you'll see
no one can kiss
your lips the way i will
the way i will

hey there lonely girl, lonely girl
let me make your broken heart like new

hey there lonely girl, lonely girl
don't you know this lonely boy loves you?
don't you know this lonely boy loves you?

Stylistics - You Are Everything

Stylistics - You Are Everything

You're A big girl now/You are everything Stylistics Live

Stylistics - Stone In Love With You

If I could I'd like to be, a great big movie star
An overnight sensation, drive a big expensive car
I would buy you everything your little heart desires
These things I do, cause I'm stone in love with you
(Stone in love with you)

If I were a business man, I'd sit behind a desk
I'd be so successful, I would scare Wall Street to death
I would hold a meeting for the press to let them know
I did it all, cause I'm stone in love with you
(Stone in love with you)

I'm just a man, an average man
Doing everything the best I can
But if I could, I'd give the world to you
I'd like to someday be the owner of the first house on the Moon
There would be no neighbors, and no population boom
You might say that all I do is dream my life away
I guess it's true, cause I'm stone in love with you

I guess it's true, cause I'm stone in love with you
I guess it's true, cause I'm stone in love with you

Stylistics - Betcha By Golly Wow

There's a spark of magic in your eyes.
Candyland appears each time you smile.
Never thought that fairy tales came true.
But they come true, when I'm near you.
You're a genie i disguise.
Full of wonder and surprise, and,

Betcha by golly wow
You're the one that I've been waiting for forever
And ever will my love for you
Keep growing strong, keep growing strong

If I could I'd catch a falling star
To shine on you so I'd know where you are
Order rainbows in your favorite shade
To show I love you, thinking of you
Write your name across the sky
Anything you ask I'll try, cause,

Betcha by golly wow
You're the one that I've been waiting for forever
And ever will my love for you
Keep growing strong, keep growing strong

(repeat chorus until fade

The Stylistics - Make Up To Break Up

Stylistics - You Make Me Feel Brand New

ECGMA says: The one and only...STYLISTICS!

My love, I'll never find the words, my love
To tell you how I feel, my love
Mere words, could not, explain
Precious love, you held my life within your hands
Created everything I am
Taught me how to live again

Only you, cared when I needed a friend
Believed in me through thick and thin
This song is for you, filled with gratitude and love. . .

God bless you, you make me feel brand new
For God blessed me with you
You make me feel brand new
I sing this song cause you. . . . . . . make me feel brand new

My love, whever I was insecure
You filled me up and made me sure
You gave, my pride, back to me
Precious friend, with you I'll always have a friend
You're someone who I can depend
To walk a path that sometimes bend

Without you, life has no meaning or rhyme
Like notes to a song out of time
How can I repay, you for having faith in me. . . . .

God bless you, you make me feel brand new
For God blessed me with you
You make me feel brand new
I sing this song for you. . . .

You. . ... . (fade

Fool's Garden - Lemon Tree

ECGMA says: this not to be mistaken for the "Lemon Tree" song by Trini Lopez. This "yellow Lemon Tree" is by the group Fool's Garden.

Lemon Tree Animation (with Subtitles)

Fool's Garden - Lemon Tree

I'm sitting here in the boring room
It's just another rainy Sunday afternoon
I'm wasting my time
I got nothing to do
I'm hanging around
I'm waiting for you
But nothing ever happens and I wonder

I'm driving around in my car
I'm driving too fast
I'm driving too far
I'd like to change my point of view
I feel so lonely
I'm waiting for you
But nothing ever happens and I wonder

I wonder how
I wonder why
Yesterday you told me 'bout the blue blue sky
And all that I can see is just a yellow lemon-tree
I'm turning my head up and down
I'm turning turning turning turning turning around
And all that I can see is just another lemon-tree

I'm sitting here
I miss the power
I'd like to go out taking a shower
But there's a heavy cloud inside my head
I feel so tired
Put myself into bed
Well, nothing ever happens and I wonder

Isolation is not good for me
Isolation I don't want to sit on the lemon-tree

I'm steppin' around in the desert of joy
Baby anyhow I'll get another toy
And everything will happen and you wonder

I wonder how
I wonder why
Yesterday you told me 'bout the blue blue sky
And all that I can see is just another lemon-tree
I'm turning my head up and down
I'm turning turning turning turning turning around
And all that I can see is just a yellow lemon-tree
And I wonder, wonder

I wonder how
I wonder why
Yesterday you told me 'bout the blue blue sky
And all that I can see, and all that I can see, and all that I can see
Is just a yellow lemon-tree

Trini Lopez - If I Had A Hammer




















Lobo - Stoney

I've known her since we both were kids
I recall the silly things we did
She would want to ride upon my back
To keep from stepping on a crack

I didn't think of it back then
But even when she did not win
She was happy just to play
Stoney liked to live out every day

Stoney, happy all the time
Stoney, life is summertime
The joy you find in living every day
Stoney, how I love your simple ways

The times when no one understood
Seems that Stoney always would
We'd walk for hours in the sand
She would always try and hold my hand

Stoney, happy all the time
Stoney, liked the summertime
The joy you find in living every day
Stoney, how I love your simple ways

Now, I don't recollect the time
I fell in love with this old friend of mine
Or when I first saw in her eyes
What she tried so not to hide

Stoney, happy all the time
Stoney, liked the summertime
The joy you find in living every day
Stoney, how I love your simple ways

Stoney, happy all the time
Stoney, liked the summertime
The joy you find in living every day
Stoney, how I love your simple ways

Stoney, happy all the time
Stoney, liked the summertime
The joy you find in living every day
Stoney, how I love your simple ways

Lobo - A Simple Man

Where do butterflies go when it rains?
Who goes around & tucks in the trains?
What makes a teddy bear like to sleep?
Why do we all make promises that we can't keep?

Where do puppy dogs go when their sad?
And what do elephants say when their mad?
Who do you tell if you don't have a friend?
Why do we open our mouths and stick our foot in?

These are the things that bother me,
Not a lot of things across some sea,
I don't even have a master plan,
I guess that I am just a simple man.

Where do robins sleep on the road?
And how can a little ant carry that load?
Why write words that we have to erase?
Why does everyone have more than one face?

Lobo - Don't Expect Me To Be Your Friend

ECGMA says: Another favourite...

I stopped sending flowers to your apartment
You said you aren't at home much anymore
I stopped dropping by without an appointment
Cause I'd hear laughter coming through your door

Sometimes late at night you'll still call me
Just before you close your eyes to sleep
You make me vow to try and stop by sometime
But Baby that's a promise I can't keep

I love you too much to ever start liking you
So lets just let the story kinda end
I love you too much to ever start liking you
So don't expect for me to be your friend

I don't walk down through the village or other places
That we used to go to all the time
I'm trying to erase you from my memory
Cause thinking of you jumbles up my mind

You always act so happy when I see you
You smile that way you take my hand and then
Introduce me to your latest lover
That's when I feel the walls start crashing in

I love you too much to ever start liking you
So lets just let the story kinda end
I love you too much to ever start liking you
So don't expect for me to be your friend

Lobo - Love Me For What I Am

I wore the clothes you like
You said they gave me that look
I even tried to like the food
I know you like to cook
I parted my hair on the left
I carried your arm on the right
I slept late in the morning
And stayed out late at night.

I can't give anymore of my soul away
And still look myself in the mirror everyday
I can't change anymore of what makes me be myself
And still have enough left not to be somebody else
I'm not demanding as a man
Just asking you love me for what I am.

I tried hard not to say the things you don't like to hear
And when to you it was apricot I nibbled on your ear
I open the door up for you, I keep my big mouth shut
But I've been moving down while you been going up.

Lobo - Me and you and a dog named boo 2006 remix

ECGMA says: The good ol'days!

1. I remember to this day the bright red Georgia clay,
How it stuck to the tires after the summer rain.
Will power made that old car go; a woman's mind told me that it's so.
Oh, how I wish we were back on the road again.

Me and you and a dog named Boo,
Travellin' and livin' off the land.
Me and you and a dog named Boo,
How I love bein' a free man.

2. I can still recall the wheat fields of Saint Paul,
And the mornin' we got caught robbin' from an old hen.
Old MacDonald made us work, but then he paid us for what it was worth,
Another tank of gas and back on the road again.

I'll never forget that day we motored stately into big L.A.
The lights of the city put settlin' down in my brain.
Though it's only been a month or so, that old car's buggin' us to go.
You gotta get away and get back on the road again.

Lobo - How Can I Tell Her

ECGMA says: Another one of Lobo's top hit...down memory lane

She knows when I am lonesome
She cries when i am sad
She's up in the good times
She's down in the bad
Whenever I am discouraged
She knows what to do
But girl...
She doesn't know about you

I can tell her my troubles
She makes them all seem right
I can make up excuses
Not to hold her at night
We can talk about tomorrow
I'll her things i wanna do
But girl...
How can I tell her about you

How can I tell her about you
Girl, please tell me what to do
Everythings seems right whenever I'm with you
So girl, won't you tell, how to tell her about you

How can I tell her I don't miss her
Whenever I am away
How can I say it's you I think of
Every single night and day
But when is it easy
Telling someone the truth
Oh girl, help me tell her about you

How can I tell her about you
Girl, please tell me what to do
Everything seems right whenever I'm with
So girl, won't you tell, how to tell her about you

Lobo - I'd Love You To Want Me

ECGMA says: Sure brings back OLD memories!!

When I saw you standing there
You sat down in your chair
And when you moved your mouth to speak
I felt the blood go to my feet

No wipped up time for me to know
What you tried so not to show
But something in my soul just cry
I see the want in your blue eyes

G Am
Oh baby, I'd love you to want me
No way that I want you
No way that I should be
G Am
Oh baby, I'd love you to want me
No way that I want to
If you only let it be

No wipped up time for me to know
What you tried so not to show
But something in my soul just cry
I see the want in your blue eyes

Oh baby, I'd love you ...

You told yourself years ago
It never let your feelings show
The obligation that you made
For the title that they gave

Oh baby, I'd love you ...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Poems written by husband to wife

I wrote your name on sand it got washed.
I wrote your name in air, it was blown away. Then
I wrote your name on my heart & I got Heart Attack.
God saw me hungry, he created pizza .
He saw me thirsty, he created Pepsi .
He saw me in dark, he created light .
He saw me without problems, he created YOU.
Twinkle Twinkle little star
You should know what you are
And once you know what you are
Mental hospital is not so far.
The rain makes all things beautiful.
The grass and flowers too.
If rain makes all things beautiful
Why doesn't it rain on you?
Roses are red, Violets are blue
Monkeys like u should be kept in zoo.
Don't feel so angry you will find me there too
Not in cage but laughing at you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sho-do-ka – Song of Realization

On The Way

Sho-do-ka – Song of Realization

Yoka-daishi (d.713)

Commentary by Nyogen Senzaki 1953

An ideal Zen student neither seeks the true

Nor avoids the untrue.

They know that these are merely dualistic ideas

That have no form.

Non-form is neither empty nor not empty.

It is the true form of Buddha's wisdom.

To assist you in the interpretation of this stanza I shall paraphrase a portion of Shin-jin-mei, a poem written by the Third Patriarch in China.

"Truth is like vast space without entrance or exit. There is nothing more, nor nothing less. Foolish people limit themselves, covering their eyes, but truth is never hidden. Some attend lectures trying to grasp truth in the words of others. Some accumulate books trying to dig truth from the pile of trash. They are both wrong. A few of the wiser ones may learn meditation in their effort to reach an inner void. They chose the void rather than outer entanglements, but it is still the same old dualistic trick. Just think non-thinking if you are a true Zen student.

"There you do not know anything, but you are with everything. There is no choice nor preference, and dualism will vanish by itself. But if you stop moving and hold quietness, that quietness is ever in motion. If children make a noise, you will scold them loudly so that the situation is worse than before. Just forget and ignore the noise, and you will attain peace of mind. When you forget your liking and disliking, you will get a glimpse of oneness. The serenity of this middle way is quite different from the inner void."

The mind mirror illuminates all ingenuously.

Its penetrating, limitless rays reach everywhere

In the universe.

Without exception everything is reflected

In this mirror.

The whole universe is a gem of light

Beyond the terms of in and out.

Here is another portion of the Shin-jin-mei to interpret the preceding stanza:

"Zen transcends time and space. Ten thousand years are nothing but a thought after all. What you have seen is what you had in the whole world. If your thought transcends time and space, you will know that the smallest thing is large and the largest thing is small; that being is non-being and non-being is being. Without such experience you will hesitate to do anything. If you can realize that one is many, and many are one, your Zen will be completed.

"Faith and mind-essence are not separate from each other. You will see only the 'not two.' The 'not two' is the faith. The 'not two' is the mind essence. There is no other way but silence to express it properly. This silence is not the past. This silence is not the present. This silence is not the future."

When a Zen student sees emptiness one-sidedly,

They are likely to ignore the law of causation,

Then live aimlessly with impure thoughts and wrong actions.

This idea is morbid as they deny the existence of anything,

But admit an entity of emptiness.

To escape drowning, they have thrown themselves into the fire.

To "see emptiness onesidedly" is to give another name to relativity, phenomenality or nothingness. When Buddhism denies the existence of anything, this of course includes the existence of emptiness. There is order; there is the law of causation. The use of the word "emptiness" implies that which cannot be spoken.

One who rejects delusions to search for truth,

May achieve skill in discrimination,

But such a student will never reach enlightenment

Because they mistake the enemy for their own child.

Some Christians admire an angel but hate a devil. Some Confucians pine for the ancient kingdom but complain of the present government. All of them attempt to take hold of the true by abandoning the false. They struggle endlessly, but never attain true peacefulness. Zen students who try to reach truth by rejecting delusions are making the same mistake. Learn silence and work on constantly in silence, to see clearly what the mind is.

People miss the spiritual treasure and lose merit

Because they depend on dualistic thinking

And neglect the essence of mind.

To pass through the gate of Zen,

One must correct this error.

Then one can attain the wisdom

To enter the palace of Nivana.

Buddhists often refer to the 'seven treasures' (paramitas), which are faith, perseverance, listening, humility, precepts, self surrender, and meditation and wisdom. Meditation and wisdom are considered as one, inner cultivation and outer illumination. To acquire these seven treasures one must first of all see Mind-Essence clearly, just as Aladdin had first to find the lamp before he could produce other wonders.

Wobaku, a Chinese Zen master, once said, "Buddhas and sentient beings both grow out of One Mind, and there is no reality other than this Mind…Only because we seek it outwardly in a world of form, the more we seek, the farther away it moves from us. To make Buddha seek after himself, or to make Mind take hold of itself, this is impossible to the end of eternity. We do not realize that as soon as our thoughts cease and all attempts at forming ideas are forgotten, the Buddha is revealed before us."

Yoka-daishi (d.713)

Commentary by Nyogen Senzaki

Excerpted from Buddhism and Zen

Compiled, edited and translated by Nyogen Senzaki and Ruth Stout McCandless 1953


The stanzas italicized above were translated from a copy of the original by Nyogen Senzaki, and the commentary following the stanzas was from Senzaki's own instructions to his students.

I realize some of these readings are a bit challenging for us. In some ways we have much in common with students of the past; there are qualities we all share in the journey. However, we live in times of rapid change; a planet that is beginning to feel our impact much more intensely; and often we find ourselves in cultures that seem to be going in the opposite direction to a life of sincere practice. This only gives our search a kind of intensity that students of old found in other ways.

We are the embodiment, each day, of the code and values of a different vision of life here on this planet. Even if everything around us seems to be spinning out of control, each day, we sit, we give our best to each situation that we encounter, and realize we are the thread of seekers that continues down through the ages since the time of Buddha and way before that.

So, even if the readings at times seems to be too heady or difficult even to comprehend, let them wash through you and rest confidant that you, too, are a student of the Way. The impact of each teaching is like a seed that will put down roots and spring to life all in its own time.

Encouraging the Journey ahead,


The Life of a "Lazy Monk"


During the Han dynasty, at about the beginning of the Christian era, many Indian and central Asian Buddhist monks traveled to China to share the dharma. Many of those who went by sea landed first in Vietnam, and there they started the prominent Luy Lau Center of Buddhist Studies, where traveling monks could rest, teach meditation and study Chinese before going on to China. The first treatise on Buddhism in Chinese ("Dissipating Doubts about Buddhism") was written in Vietnam in the first century C.E. by the Chinese expatriate Mou Tzu.
The dhyana (meditation) school of Buddhism (Thien in Vietnamese, Chan in Chinese, Zen in Japanese) was introduced to Vietnam in the third century by Tang Hoi, a Buddhist monk of central Asian descent who taught meditation and translated many sutras into Chinese before going on to southern China in 255 C.E. According to the Kao Seng Chuan, the first Buddhist temple in the Kingdom of Wu was built for Tang Hoi, and the first monastic ordination in Wu was conducted by him. The text concludes, "After the arrival of Tang Hoi, the dharma began to prosper south of the Yangtse River."
Two hundred years later, before Bodhidharma arrived in China, an Indian monk named Dharmadeva came to Vietnam to teach dhyana Buddhism. Beginning in the sixth century, six important schools of dhyana Buddhism were founded in Vietnam. Today the dhyana and pure land schools are the most important in Vietnam; in addition, because of contact with Laos and Cambodia, there are also Theravadin Buddhists.
Dhyana master Thich Nhat Hanh was born in central Vietnam in the mid-1920's during the period of French colonialism. He became a monk at the beautiful Tu Hieu pagoda in Hue at the age of 16. As a young monk, he wrote many books, including a collection of poems, The Autumn Flute (1949); The Family in the Practice (1952); How to Practice Buddhism (1952); and Buddhist Logic (1952). He also wrote many newspaper articles, edited two journals, coined the term "engaged Buddhism," and helped found what was to become the foremost center of Buddhist studies in South Vietnam, the An Quang Buddhist Institute, all before he reached the age of 30.
In 1960, Thich Nhat Hanh came to the U.S. to study comparative religion at Princeton University, and he was subsequently appointed lecturer in Buddhism at Columbia. In 1963, he returned to Vietnam to join his fellow monks in their nonviolent efforts to stop the war. That year, all mahayana and Theravadin Buddhists in the country came together to form the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.
In 1964-65, Thich Nhat Hanh founded the School of Youth for Social Service, teaching young monks, nuns, and lay students to go into the countryside to set up schools and health clinics, and later to rebuild bombed villages; La Boi Press, a prestigious Buddhist publishing house; Van Hanh Buddhist University; and the Order of Interbeing, guided by fourteen mindfulness trainings (precepts) of engaged Buddhism. He continued his prolific writing and served as editor-in-chief of the official journal of the Unified Buddhist Church.
In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh was invited to the U.S. to lead a symposium on Vietnamese Buddhism at Cornell University and also to convey to Americans the suffering of the Vietnamese peasants caused by the war. When he called for a unilateral ceasefire and withdrawal of U.S. troops, he was denounced by the South Vietnamese government and was unable to return home.
In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize, saying, "I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of [this prize] than this gentle monk from Vietnam. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity." Thich Nhat Hanh was granted asylum in France, and during the Paris Peace Talks he served as chair of the Buddhist Peace Delegation.
In 1982, Thich Nhat Hanh and his long-time colleague, Sister Chan Khong, founded Plum Village, a monastic retreat in southwestern France. When asked to describe himself, Thich Nhat Hanh usually says, "I am a lazy monk."
Today hundreds of communities and small groups worldwide follow the way of mindful living taught by Thich Nhat Hanh. In November, 1997, Thich Nhat Hanh founded Maple Forest Monastery in Vermont, and his students are looking for land to begin other retreat and practice centers in the U.S. His books have sold more than 1.5 million copies and his retreats and lectures attract thousands of followers. His presence, many feel, conveys the essence of Buddhadharma, and his words, simple and direct, communicate the teachings of the Buddha in ways anyone can understand.

Arnie Kotler is a dharma teacher and the founding editor of Parallax Press. To receive a complete catalog of books and tapes by Thich Nhat Hanh, a list of groups practicing in his tradition, and a schedule of mindfulness retreats led by him and his students, you can write to Parallax Press/Community of Mindful Living, P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707. Email: Website:

The Life of A "Lazy Monk", Arnie Kotler, Shambhala Sun, May 1998

Building a Community of Love: bell hooks and Thich Nhat Hanh

meets with Thich Nhat Hanh to ask: how do we build a community of love?

As teacher and guide Thich Nhat Hanh has been a presence in my life for more than twenty years. In the last few years I began to doubt the heart connection I felt with him because we had never met or spoken to one another, yet his work was ever-present in my work. I began to feel the need to meet him face to face, even as my intuitive self kept saying that it would happen when the time was right. My work in love has been to trust that intuitive self kept saying that it would happen when the time was right. My work in love has been to trust that intuition knowledge.

Those who know me intimately know that I have been contemplating the place and meaning of love in our lives and culture for years. They know that when a subject attracts my intellectual and emotional imagination, I am long to observe it from all angles, to know it inside and out.

In keeping with the way my mind works, when I began to think deeply about the metaphysics of love I talked with everyone around me about it. I talked to large audiences and even had wee one-on-one conversations with children about the way they think about love. I talked about love in every state. Indeed, I encouraged the publishers of my new book all about love: new visions to launch it with postcards, t-shirts, and maybe even a calendar with the logo "Love in every state." I talked about love everywhere I traveled.

To me, all the work I do is built on a foundation of loving-kindness. Love illuminates matters. And when I write provocative social and cultural criticism that causes readers to stretch their minds, to think beyond set paradigms, I think of that work as love in action. While it may challenge, disturb and at times even frighten or enrage readers, love is always the place where I begin and end.

A central theme of all about love is that from childhood into adulthood we are often taught misguided and false assumptions about the nature of love. Perhaps the most common false assumption about love is that love means we will not be challenged or changed. No doubt this is why people who read writing about racism, sexism, homophobia, religion, etc. that challenges their set assumptions tend to see that work as harsh rather than loving.

Of all the definitions of love that abound in our universe, a special favorite of mine is the one offered in The Road Less Traveled by psychoanalyst M. Scott Peck. Defining love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth," he draws on the work of Erich Fromm to emphasize again and again that love is first and foremost exemplified by action—by practice—not solely by feeling.

Fromm's The Art of Loving was published when I was four years old. It was the book I turned to in my late teens when I felt confused about the nature of love. His insistence that "love is the active concern for the life and growth of that which we love" made sense to me then and it still does. Peck expands this definition. Knowing that the world would be a paradise of peace and justice if global citizens shared a common definition of love which would guide our thoughts and action, I call for the embrace of such a common understanding in all about love: new visions. That common understanding might be articulated in different words carrying a shared meaning for diverse experiences and cultures.

Throughout the more than twenty years that I have written on the subject of ending domination in whatever form it appears (racism, sexism, homophobia, classism), I have continually sought those paths that would lead to the end of violence and injustice. Since so much of my thinking about love in my late teens revolved around familial and romantic love, it was not until I was in my early twenties writing feminist theory that I began to think deeply about love in relation to domination.

During my first years in college Martin Luther King's message of love as the path to ending racism and healing the wounds of racial domination had been replaced by a black power movement stressing militant resistance. While King had called for non-violence and compassion, this new movement called on us to harden our hearts, to wage war against our enemies. Loving our enemies, militant leaders told us, made us weak and easy to subjugate, and many turned their backs on King's message.

Just as the energy of a racially-based civil rights liberation struggle was moving away from a call for love, the women's movement also launched a critique of love, calling on females to forget about love so that we might seize power. When I was nineteen participating in feminist consciousness-raising groups, love was dismissed as irrelevant. It was our "addiction to love" that kept us sleeping with the enemy (men). To be free, our militant feminist leaders told us, we needed to stop making love the center of our imaginations and yearnings. Love could be a good woman's downfall.

These two movements for social justice that had captured the hearts and imagination of our nation—movements that began with a love ethic—were changed by leaders who were much more interested in questions of power. By the late seventies it was no longer necessary to silence discussions of love; the topic was no longer on any progressive agenda.

Those of us who still longed to hold on to love looked to religions as the site of redemption. We searched everywhere, all around the world, for the spiritual teachers who could help us return to love. My seeking led me to Buddhism, guided there by the Beat poets, by personal interaction with Gary Snyder. At his mountain home I would meet my first Buddhist nun and walk mindfully with her, all the while wondering if my heart could ever know the sweet peace emanating from her like a perfume mist.

My seeking led me to the work of a Buddhist monk Martin Luther King had met and been touched by—Thich Nhat Hanh. The first work I read by this new teacher in my life was a conversation book between him and Daniel Berrigan, The Raft Is Not the Shore.

At last I had found a world where spirituality and politics could meet, where there was no separation. Indeed, in this world all efforts to end domination, to bring peace and justice, were spiritual practice. I was no longer torn between political struggle and spiritual practice. And here was the radical teacher—a Vietnamese monk living in exile—courageously declaring that "if you have to choose between Buddhism and peace, then you must choose peace."

Unlike white friends and comrades who were often contemptuous of me because I had not traveled to the East or studied with important teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh was calmly stating: "Buddhism is in your heart. Even if you don't have any temple or any monks, you can still be a Buddhist in your heart and life." Reading his words I felt an inner rapture and could only repeat, "Be still my heart." Like one wandering in the desert overcome by thirst. I had found water. My thirst was quenched and my spiritual hunger intensified.

For a period of more than ten years since leaving home for college I had felt pulled in all directions by anti-racist struggle, by the feminist movement, sexual liberation, by the fundamentalist Christianity of my upbringing. I wanted to embrace radical politics and still know god. I wanted to resist and be redeemed. The Raft Is Not the Shore helped strengthen my spiritual journey. Even though I had not met with Thich Nhat Hanh he was the teacher, along with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who were my chosen guides. Mixing the two was a fiery combination.

As all became well with my soul, I began to talk about the work of Thich Nhat Hanh in my books, quoting from his work. He helped me bring together theories of political recovery and spiritual recovery. For years I did not want to meet him face to face for fear I would be disappointed. Time and time again I planned to be where he was and the plan would be disrupted. Our paths were crossing but we were never meeting face to face.

Then suddenly, in a marvelous serendipitous way, we were meeting. In his presence at last, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude that not only was I given the blessing of meeting him, but that a pure spirit of love connected us. I felt ecstatic. My heart jumped for joy—such union and reunion to be in the presence of one who has tutored your heart, who has been with you in spirit on your journey.

The journey is also to the teacher and beyond. It is always a path to the heart. And the heart of the matter is always our oneness with divine spirit—our union with all life. As early as 1975, Thich Nhat Hanh was sharing: "The way must be in you; the destination also must be in you and not somewhere else in space or time. If that kind of self-transformation is being realized in you, you will arrive."

Walking on love's path on a sunny day on my way to meet my teacher, I meet Sister Chan Khong. She too has taught me. She felt my heart's readiness. Together we remembered the teacher who is everywhere awakening the heart. As she writes at the end of Learning True Love, "I am with you just as you have been with me, and we encourage each other to realize our deepest love, caring and generosity . . . together on the path of love."

* * *

bell hooks: I began writing a book on love because I felt that the United States is moving away from love. The civil rights movement was such a wonderful movement for social justice because the heart of it was love—loving everyone. It was believing, as you taught us yesterday, that we can always start anew; we can always practice forgiveness. I don't have to hate any person because I can always start anew, I can always reconcile. What I'm trying to understand is why are we moving away from this idea of a community of love. What is your thinking about why people are moving away from love, and how we can be part of moving our society towards love.

Thich Nhat Hanh: In our own Buddhist sangha, community is the core of everything. The sangha is a community where there should be harmony and peace and understanding. That is something created by our daily life together. If love is there in the community, if we've been nourished by the harmony in the community, then we will never move away from love.

The reason we might lose this is because we are always looking outside of us, thinking that the object or action of love is out there. That is why we allow the love, the harmony, the mature understanding, to slip away from ourselves. This is, I think, the basic thing. That is why we have to go back to our community and renew it. Then love will grow back. Understanding and harmony will grow back. That's the first thing.

The second thing is that we ourselves need love; it's not only society, the world outside, that needs love. But we can't expect that love to come from outside of us. We should ask the question whether we are capable of loving ourselves as well as others. Are we treating our body kindly—by the way we eat, by the way we drink, by the way we work? Are we treating ourselves with enough joy and tenderness and peace? Or are we feeding ourselves with toxins that we get from the market—the spiritual, intellectual, entertainment market?

So the question is whether we are practicing loving ourselves? Because loving ourselves means loving our community. When we are capable of loving ourselves, nourishing ourselves properly, not intoxicating ourselves, we are already protecting and nourishing society. Because in the moment when we are able to smile, to look at ourselves with compassion, our world begins to change. We may not have done anything but when we are relaxed, when we are peaceful, when we are able to smile and not to be violent in the way we look at the system, at that moment there is a change already in the world.

So the second help, the second insight, is that between self or no-self there is no real separation. Anything you do for yourself you do for the society at the same time. And anything you do for society you do for yourself also. That insight is very powerfully made in the practice of no-self.

bell hooks: I think one of the most wonderful books that Martin Luther King wrote was Strength to Love. I always liked it because of the word "strength," which counters the Western notion of love as easy. Instead, Martin Luther King said that you must have courage to love, that you have to have a profound will to do what is right to love, that it does not come easy.

Thich Nhat Hanh: Martin Luther King was among us as a brother, as a friend, as a leader. He was able to maintain that love alive. When you touch him, you touch a bodhisattva, for his understanding and love was enough to hold everything to him. He tried to transmit his insight and his love to the community, but maybe we have not received it enough. He was trying to transmit the best things to us—his goodness, his love, his nonduality. But because we had clung so much to him as a person, we did not bring the essence of what he was teaching into our community. So now that he's no longer here, we are at a loss. We have to be aware that crucial transmission he was making was not the transmission of power, of authority, of position, but the transmission of the dharma. It means love.

bell hooks: Exactly. It was not a transmission of personality. Part of why I have started writing about love is feeling, as you say, that our culture is forgetting what he taught. We name more and more streets and schools after him but that's almost irrelevant, because what is to be remembered is that strength to love.

That's what we have to draw courage from—the spirit of love, not the image of Martin Luther King. This is so hard in the West because we are such an image and personality driven culture. For instance, because I have learned so much from you for so many years of my life, people kept asking me whether I had met you in person.

Thich Nhat Hanh: (laughs) Yes, I understand.

bell hooks: And I said yes, I have met him, because he has given his love to me through his teachings, through mindfulness practice. I kept trying to share with people that, yes, I would like to meet you some day, but the point is that I am living and learning from his teaching.

Thich Nhat Hanh: Yes, that's right. And that is the essence of interbeing. We had met already in the very non-beginning (laughs). Beginning with longing, beginning with blessings.

bell hooks: Except that you have also taught that to be in the presence of your teacher can also be a moment of transformation. So people say, is it enough that you've learned from books by him, or must you meet him, must there be an encounter?

Thich Nhat Hanh: In fact, the true teacher is within us. A good teacher is someone who can help you to go back and touch the true teacher within, because you already have the insight within you. In Buddhism we call it buddhanature. You don't need someone to transfer buddhanature to you, but maybe you need a friend who can help you touch that nature of awakening and understanding working in you.

So a good teacher is someone who can help you to get back to a teacher within. The teacher can do that in many different ways; she or he does not have to meet you physically. I feel that I have many real students whom I have not met. Many are in cloisters and they never get out. Others are in prison. But in many cases they practice the teachings much better than those who meet me every day. That is true. When they read a book by me or hear a tape and they touch the insight within them, then they have met me in a real way. That is the real meeting.

bell hooks: I want to know your thoughts on how we learn to love a world full of justice, more than coming together with someone just because they share the same skin or the same language as we do. I ask this question of you because I first learned about you through Martin Luther King's homage to your compassion towards those who had hurt your country.

Thich Nhat Hanh: This is a very interesting topic. It was a very important issue for the Buddha. How we view justice depends on our practice of looking deeply. We may think that justice is everyone being equal, having the same rights, sharing the same kind of advantages, but maybe we have not had the chance to look at the nature of justice in terms of no-self. That kind of justice is based on the idea of self, but it may be very interesting to explore justice in terms of no-self.

bell hooks: I think that's exactly the kind of justice Martin Luther King spoke about—a justice that was for everyone whether they're equal or not. Sometimes in life all things are not equal, so what does it mean to have justice when there is no equality? A parent can be just towards a child, even though they're not equal. I think this is often misunderstood in the West, where people feel that there can be no justice unless everything is the same. This is part of why I feel we have to relearn how we think about love, because we think about love so much in terms of the self.

Thich Nhat Hanh: Is justice possible without equality?

bell hooks: Justice is possible without equality, I believe, because of compassion and understanding. If I have compassion, then if I have more than you, which is unequal, I will still do the just thing by you.

Thich Nhat Hanh: Right. And who has created inequality?

bell hooks: Well, I think inequality is in our minds. I think this is what we learn through practice. One of the concepts that you and Daniel Berrigan spoke about in The Raft Is Not the Shore is that the bridge of illusion must be shattered in order for a real bridge to be constructed. One of the things we learn is that inequality is an illusion.

Thich Nhat Hanh: Makes sense (laughs).

bell hooks: Before I came here I had been struggling with the question of anger toward my ex-boyfriend. I have taken my vows as a bodhisattva, and so I always feel very depressed when I have anger. I had come to a point of despair because I had so much difficulty with my anger in relation to this man. So yesterday's dharma talk about embracing our anger, and using it, and letting it go, was very essential for me at this moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh: You want to be human. Be angry, it's okay. But not to practice is not okay. To be angry, that is very human. And to learn how to smile at your anger and make peace with your anger is very nice. That is the whole thing—the meaning of the practice, of the learning. By taking a look at your anger it can be transformed into the kind of energy that you need—understanding and compassion. It is with negative energy that you can make the positive energy. A flower, although beautiful, will become compost someday, but if you know how to transform the compost back into the flower, then you don't have to worry. You don't have to worry about your anger because you know how to handle it—to embrace, to recognize, and to transform it. So this is what is possible.

bell hooks: I think this is what people misunderstand about Martin Luther King saying to love your enemies. They think he was just using this silly little phrase, but what he meant was that as Black Americans we need to let our anger go, because holding on to it we hold ourselves down. We oppress ourselves by holding on to anger. My students tell me, we don't want to love! We're tired of being loving! And I say to them, if you're tired of being loving, then you haven't really been loving, because when you are loving you have more strength. As you were telling us yesterday, we grow stronger in the act of loving. This has been, I think, a very hurting thing for Black Americans—to feel that we can't love our enemies. People forget what a great tradition we have as African-Americans in the practice of forgiveness and compassion. And if we neglect that tradition, we suffer.

Thich Nhat Hanh: When we have anger in us, we suffer. When we have discrimination in us, we suffer. When we have the complex of superiority, we suffer. When we have the complex of inferiority, we suffer also. So when we are capable of transforming these negative things in us, we are free and happiness is possible.

If the people who hurt us have that kind of energy within them, like anger or desperation, then they suffer. When you see that someone suffers, you might be motivated by a desire to help him not to suffer anymore. That is love also, and love doesn't have any color. Other people may discriminate against us, but what is more important is whether we discriminate against them. If we don't do that, we are a happier person, and as a happier person, we are in a position to help. And anger, this is not a help.

bell hooks: And lastly, what about fear? Because I think that many white people approach black people or Asian people not with hatred or anger but with fear. What can love do for that fear?

Thich Nhat Hanh: Fear is born from ignorance. We think that the other person is trying to take away something from us. But if we look deeply, we see that the desire of the other person is exactly our own desire—to have peace, to be able to have a chance to live. So if you realize that the other person is a human being too, and you have exactly the same kind of spiritual path, and then the two can become good practitioners. This appears to be practical for both.

The only answer to fear is more understanding. And there is no understanding if there is no effort to look more deeply to see what is there in our heart and in the heart of the other person. The Buddha always reminds us that our afflictions, including our fear and our desiring, are born from our ignorance. That is why in order to dissipate fear, we have to remove wrong perception.

bell hooks: And what if people perceive rightly and still act unjustly?

Thich Nhat Hanh: They are not able yet to apply their insight in their daily life. They need community to remind them. Sometimes you have a flash of insight, but it's not strong enough to survive. Therefore in the practice of Buddhism, samadhi is the power to maintain insight alive in every moment, so that every speech, every word, every act will bear the nature of that insight. It is a question of cleaning. And you clean better if you are surrounded by sangha—those who are practicing exactly the same.

bell hooks: I think that we best realize love in community. This is something I have had to work with myself, because the intellectual tradition of the West is very individualistic. It's not community-based. The intellectual is often thought of as a person who is alone and cut off from the world. So I have had to practice being willing to leave the space of my study to be in community, to work in community, and to be changed by community.

Thich Nhat Hanh: Right, and then we learn to operate as a community and not as individuals. In Plum Village, that is exactly what we try to do. We are brothers and sisters living together. We try to operate like cells in one body.

bell hooks: I think this is the love that we seek in the new millennium, which is the love experienced in community, beyond self.

Thich Nhat Hanh: So please, live that truth and disseminate that truth with your writing, with your speaking. It will be helpful to maintain that kind of view and action.

bell hooks: Thank you for your open-hearted example.

Thich Nhat Hanh: You're welcome. Thank you.

bell hooks and Thich Nhat Hanh On Building a Community of Love, bell hooks, Shambhala Sun, January 2000.

Mindfulness Bell: A Profile of Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh's ringing call to practice mindfulness and interconnection has inspired a worldwide movement of politically engaged Buddhists. "Where there is suffering," says the Vietnamese zen master, "mindfulness responds with the energy of compassion."

Somewhere during most experiences there occurs a climactic moment in which all that has gone before, and will come after, becomes fixed in the mind. For whatever reason, this defining moment thrives in the psyche as a kind of touchstone, and again and again we return to it in search of magic.
I am reminded of this during a recent gathering in San Francisco, where a global brain trust had been convened by the Mikhail Gorbachev Foundation USA for a "State of the World Forum."
The colloquium's luminaries were many and mixed: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchu, South African Vice-President Thabo Mbeki, Jane Goodall, Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers, Fritjof Capra, Ted Turner, Sam Keen, Shirley MacLaine, Joan Halifax, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica and the remarkable Mr. Gorbachev himself.
It was an obvious case of beatnik genius at the controls, the breakthrough pow-wow linking up the Esalen Institute, the Pentagon, the Fortune 500, and a grab-bag of stray cosmic tracers. Their purpose was to search for and articulate answers to certain fundamental challenges as humanity prepares to enter its next historic phase of development on this precious planet.
On the third day of this Forum heaviosity, though, a little man appeared as magically as Rumpelstiltskin. He arrived late at a mid-morning dialogue addressing the topic "Expanding the Boundaries of Humanness." The guest panel was Rupert Sheldrake, Deepak Chopra, Esalen Institute founder Michael Murphy and Episcopalian Dean Alan Jones. The late arrival was a Vietnamese Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh.
Discussion was free-ranging and abstract: how Descartes' three hundred year old notions of mechanistic science still impact on the Western world view of self, place and spiritual relevance; how pilgrimage became tourism; how telepathic communication with other star worlds is worth a shot. Michael Murphy discoursed on golf and Sri Aurobindo; Deepak Chopra thought the rational mind was inadequate to comprehend non-linear intelligence. Whew.
Somewhere between Dr. Chopra's scientific mysticism (or was it mystical science?) and someone else's view of Celtic pre-Christian pagan consciousness, I became aware of an increasing buzzy muddification of my frontal lobes. Then Dean Alan Jones introduced the final presenter.
A small man garbed in the drab brown robes of his Order, Thich Nhat Hanh spoke quietly, plaintively, in good English with occasional French inflections. His words and speech were restful, like a balm to the ears and conscience. Most everything about Thich Nhat Hanh was marked by calmness, a soft yin-ness that goes beyond simple stillness. When he spoke, it was with great mindfulness-a word, an action to which he is especially devoted.
Thich Nhat Hanh began with a story. "One day I was practicing mindful movement in a wood with the people of our community," he said softly. "Everyday we practice this, walking slowly, mindfully, to enjoy every step; then we sit down.
"One day, I suddenly realized that the tree standing in front of me allowed my movement to be possible. I saw very clearly that I was able to breathe in because of its presence in front of me. It was standing there for me, and I was breathing in and out for the tree. I saw this connection very profoundly.
"In my tradition we speak of 'interbeing.' We cannot 'be' by ourself alone; we must be with everything else," he continued. "So, for example, we 'inter-are' with a tree: if it is not there, we are not there either.
"In the Diamond Sutra the Buddha advises us to consider four notions: the notions of self, of humanity, of living beings, and of life span. He also advises that the practice of removing these notions from mind is not difficult; anyone can do it."
After the previous discussion, what Thich Nhat Hanh had to say, and how he said it-without pyrotechnics or bombast; without jewelled elephants or eight-nectared realms; without pseudoscience or systems-was like a glass of hot tea on a raw day.
"If we observe things mindfully and profoundly," he explained, "we find out that self is made up only of non-self elements. If we look deeply into a flower, what do we see? We also see sunshine, a cloud, the earth, minerals, the gardener, the complete cosmos. Why? Because the flower is composed of these non-flower elements: that's what we find out. And, like this flower, our body too is made up of everything else-except for one element: a separate self or existence. This is the teaching of 'non-self' in Buddhism.
"In order to just be ourself, we must also take care of the non-self elements. We all know this, that we cannot be without other people, other species, but very often we forget that being is really inter-being; that living beings are made only of non-living elements.
"This is why we have to practice meditation-to keep alive this vision. The shamatha practice in my tradition is to nourish and keep alive this kind of insight twenty-four hours a day with the whole of our being."
About then, a radio correspondent leaned over to whisper inquiringly. "What exactly is his tradition anyway? Is it zen he's talking about, or is all of Buddhism like this?" The hard-boiled Capitol Hill reporter had been told that to understand what the environmental lobby was fuelled by these days, she ought to check out what the Buddhist monk from Vietnam had to say. I had queries of my own, however, since to rework a line from Andrei Codrescu, as a teacher Thich Nhat Hanh appears to cultivate anonymity with the kind of passion with which others cultivate publicity.
His students call him "Thay," Vietnamese for "Teacher." Born in l926, Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Not-Hawn) has been a monk for fifty-three years, dedicating himself to the practice and transmission of "Engaged Buddhism," a root insight tradition melding meditation, awareness of the moment, and compassionate action as a means of taking care of our lives and society. In l967, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King for his peace work in Vietnam.
Arnie Kotler seemed like a good source of answers to my questions about Thich Nhat Hanh. Kotler is the publisher of many of Thich Nhat Hanh's seventy-five books and a board member of the Community of Mindful Living, a loose-knit umbrella organization of more than one hundred groups of students around the world practicing in Thich Nhat Hanh's tradition of living mindfully, daily, in the moment.
"Thay is a zen teacher," Kotler related. "He's lived in Plum Village, a contemplative community near Bordeaux, France, since l966. Originally he's from Vietnam-Indochina-so there may be an assumption that he's from a Theravada tradition. Thay likes to remind people that Indochina was influenced by both India and China, and that Indian Buddhism especially means a lot to him. Vietnam's Unified Buddhist Church, which is suppressed there by the government, is a combination of mahayana and Theravada traditions."
Placing Thich Nhat Hanh's background in context is useful, Kotler says, "because we tend to think of zen mostly as Japanese; yet that's only one manifestation, the one best known in the West. Thay practices in the forty-second generation of Lin-Chi's (in Japanese, Rinzai) chan/zen Buddhism. The particular Vietnamese offshoot of this original Tang Chinese lineage is known as the Bamboo Forest School.
"Thay is in its eighth or ninth generation and he's very much embedded in the fullness of these traditions. During the l960's, when his Vietnam Peace activism was at its height, he also founded a lay order called Tiep Hien, or 'Interbeing.' It's in this mindfulness tradition that he's empowered fifty of his students to teach."
This helps explain the formidable group of teachers, writers and activists who in various capacities are affiliated with the growing "engaged Buddhism" movement Thich Nhat Hanh has inspired-Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Deena Metzger, bell hooks, Wendy Johnson, Maxine Hong Kingston and others. The San Francisco leg of Thich Nhat Hanh's recent U.S. visit brought out distinguished teachers such as Jack Kornfield, Sylvia Boorstein and Ram Dass.
At Spirit Rock, the Marin County dharma centre inspired by Jack Kornfeld and other teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh led a "Day of Mindfulness" that drew more than two thousand people to the former nature conservancy's natural amphitheater.
Happily, a mindful carpool shuttle introduced me to new friends en route, so I was not alone in the large crowd. The landscape was beautiful-flowing ridges, woodland and moor. The event was an example of North American Buddhism par excellence. The day-long outdoor program included meditation, mindful walking, music and song, silent eating, an offbeat organic "apple" meditation by Ed Brown, and a lengthy, absorbing dharma talk by Master Hanh that became a Sermon in the Vale.
"Today, communication has expanded greatly throughout the world," Master Hanh remarked. "E-mail, fax, voice pager-you can contact New York from Tokyo in half a minute so easily. Yet in families and in neighborhoods, between husbands and wives, between friends and each other, real communication is still difficult. Suffering continues, pain increases.
"In our time, many young people also do not feel connected with anything, so they look for something to get relief-alcohol, drugs, money-or they turn on the TV set, absorbing violence and insecurity. How then can the dharma help dysfunctional, emotionally hurt individuals?" he asked.
"Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is a very good listener, a compassionate listener," he offered. "We need to rediscover a way to talk and listen to each other as in a loving family. But what technology can help with this? I feel the need is for practice, for mindful listening. A heart free to listen is a flower that blooms on the tree of practice."
Listening to Thich Nhat Hanh one gradually attunes to the meditation bell which is much a part of his practice path. The mindfulness bell is the voice of our spiritual ancestors, he instructs: "Its sounds call us back to our true home in the present moment-to emptiness. When we inter-are, we find peace, stability, freedom-the root of our happiness. With non-self we discover the nature of emptiness."
Thich Nhat Hanh recommends study and chanting of the Heart Sutra as a means of understanding how everything can be empty of separate self, while at the same time being full of everything else in the cosmos. In this dharma realm, he says, "Birth, death, being and non-being do not truly exist." They are simply notions, he observes, and the practice of the Heart Sutra is the practice of removing all ideas.
What becomes clear is that what Thich Nhat Hanh teaches is not so much "Buddhism" as steady perseverance in meditative practice. "Deep listening," "deep touching," "deep seeing"-his interpretations of Vipashyana meditation are as applicable to Christian, Jewish, Taoist or other spiritual traditions as they are to Buddhism, whatever sect you fancy. In looking at my notes on the nine days in which I had opportunity to follow, listen and sit in his presence, I realized how seldom he discourses on Buddhist theology-a point known to raise eyebrows among purists.
"That's correct; Thay doesn't talk about Buddhism much," agrees Arnie Kotler. "He talks about practice. As Trungpa Rinpoche informed us in his first book, Meditation In Action, meditation is Buddhism's core practice. That's very much what Thich Nhat Hanh is offering: meditation in activity."
"Is he charismatic?" an old friend grown wise, but in weakened health, inquired one afternoon in Golden Gate park.
"No," I answered her, surprised a little by my response. "Not in the usual sense. But he's the real thing. And he's a poet. My Vietnamese friends call him a Living Buddha."
As a martial artist of long years I share a taste for masters like Diogenes the Dog and Chuang-tzu, who on meeting emperors brought notice to the world in their own unique fashion. So it was when Thich Nhat Hanh spoke again at the State of the World Forum, this time to Mr. Gorbachev and the eminences arrayed.
"Intellect alone is not enough to guide us," Master Hanh declared to them humbly. "To shape the future of the twenty-first century we need something else. Without peace and happiness we cannot take care of ourselves; we cannot take care of other species and we cannot take care of the world.
"That is why it is important for us to live in such a way that every moment we are there deeply with our true presence, always alive and nourishing the insight of Interbeing."
Interspersed in his talk were observations from Living Buddha, Living Christ. A brilliant articulation of his belief in a Living Holiness shared by both East and West, this new book establishes a basis for the "New World Dharma" pointed to in such landmark texts of recent years as William Irwin Thompson's Pacific Shift, Gary Snyder's Practice of the Wild, and Alan Hunt Badiner's eco-Buddhist compendium Dharma Gaia.
To me, mindfulness is very much like the Holy Spirit," he explained to the assembly of the powerful. "All of us have the seed of the Holy Spirit in us; the capacity of healing, transforming and loving. Where there is suffering, mindfulness responds with the energy of compassion and understanding. Compassion is where the rivers of Christianity and Buddhism meet.
"In the Christian and Jewish traditions, we learn to live in the presence of God," he affirmed. "Our Buddhist equivalent is the practice of cultivating mindfulness, of living deeply every moment with the energy of the Holy Spirit. If we change our daily lives-the way we think, speak and act-we begin to change the world.
"This is what I discussed with Dr. Martin Luther King many years ago; that the practice of mindfulness is not just for hours of silent meditation, but for every moment of the day. Other teachers, like St. Basil, have said it is possible to pray as we work, and in Vietnam, we invented 'Engaged Buddhism' so we could continue our contemplative life in the midst of helping the victims of war. We worked to relieve the suffering while trying to maintain our own mindfulness.
"So to conclude, the practice of looking deeply does not mean being inactive. We become very active with our understanding. Non-violence does not mean non-action. It means we act with love and compassion, living in such a way that a future will be possible for our children and their children. Thank you."
It happened then. The temporality of language and power was reduced for a prolonged still moment to reverberant silence, to presentness. There was nothing left to say. The monk gathered himself, rose and departed as anonymously as he'd arrived. I'd remember this.
Sometime during the visit I'd asked him about the mystery of death: what happens when we die? Thich Nhat Hanh knows how to laugh. "Nothing is born. Nothing dies. That is a statement made by Lavoisier-not a Buddhist," he responded with something like a smile. "But as we know, Buddhists too are made up only of non-Buddhist elements"
At the Forum, the sound of women singing, nuns in his Order, drifted up from a place nearby. "Breathing-in Breathing out," they sang, "Breathing in... Breathing out." Then an echo up the halls of the noble old hotel: "I am free, I am free, I am free"
I thought for a moment of St. Francis of Assisi, then looking about the room at my speechless companions, I could have sworn I saw the universe smile.

Mindfulness Bell: A Profile of Thich Nhat Hanh, Trevor Carolan, Shambhala Sun, January 1996.

There is no path to peace. The path is peace.

Thich Nhat Hanh says that only deep listening, mindfulness and gentle communication can remove the wrong perceptions that are the foundation of violence.

When you sit in your car on the way to work, you might like to use that time to come home to yourself and touch the wonders of life. Instead of allowing yourself to think of the future, you might like to pay attention to your breath and come home to the present moment. We breathe in and out all day, but we are not aware that we are breathing in and breathing out. The practice of bringing our attention to our breath is called mindful breathing: Breathing in, I know I am alive. Breathing out, I smile to life. This is a very simple practice. If we go home to our in-breath and out-breath and breathe mindfully, we become fully alive in the here and now.

In our daily lives, our bodies are present, but our minds might be elsewhere, caught in our projects, our worries and our anxieties. Life is only available in the present moment. The past is already gone; the future is not yet here. When we establish ourselves in the present moment we are able to live our moments deeply and to get in touch with the healing, refreshing and nourishing elements that are always within us and around us.

With this energy of mindfulness, we can recognize our pain and embrace it tenderly like a mother whose baby is crying. When a baby cries, the mother stops everything she is doing and holds the baby tenderly in her arms. The energy of the mother will penetrate into the baby and the baby will feel relief. The same thing happens when we recognize and embrace our own pain and sorrow. If we can hold our anger, our sorrow and our fear with the energy of mindfulness, we will be able to recognize the roots of our suffering. We will be able to recognize the suffering in the people we love as well.

Mindfulness helps us to not be angry at our loved ones, because when we are mindful, we understand that our loved ones are suffering as well. The person you love has a lot suffering and has not had a chance to be listened to. It is very important to take the time to sit down and listen with compassion. We call this practice "deep listening." Deep listening can be used with the practice of loving speech to help restore communication with the people you care about. To listen like this is to give the other person a chance to empty his or her heart. If you can keep your compassion alive during that time—even if what the other person says is full of accusations and bitterness—it will not touch off irritation and anger in you. Listen in order to help the other person to suffer less.

When you communicate with compassion, you are using language that does not have the elements of anger and irritation in it. In this way we can help each other remove wrong perceptions. All the energies of anger, hatred, fear and violence come from wrong perceptions. Wrong perceptions result in a lot of anger, mistrust, suspicion, hate and terrorism. You cannot remove wrong perceptions through punishment. You have to do it with the tools of deep and compassionate listening and loving speech. With deep, compassionate listening and loving speech, we can bring harmony to our families, and our communities can become communities of understanding, peace and happiness.

When I was in India a number of years ago, I spoke to Mr. R. K. Narayan, a member of the Indian parliament, about the practice of deep listening and compassionate dialogue in legislative bodies. When you represent the people, you are expected to offer the people the best of your understanding and compassion. I said that a legislative assembly could become a community with a lot of mutual understanding and compassion. It could have strong collective insight to support the decision-making process and the people of the nation. Here in Washington, before a session of Congress, one person could read a short meditation: "Dear colleagues, we are elected by our people and our people expect us to listen to each other deeply and to use the kind of language that can convey our wisdom and insight. Let us bring together our individual experiences and wisdom so that we can offer our collective insight and make the best decisions for the country and the people."

When a member of Congress is speaking from her insight with this kind of language, she is offering the best of herself. If we only act and speak the party line, then we are not offering the best compassion and understanding we have.

Members of Congress are very concerned about the levels of violence in our families, in our schools and in our society. Each concerned person may have his or her own ideas and insights about how to bring down that level of violence. If we can combine all our insights and experiences we will have the collective insight that will help to decrease the amount of violence in our society. If we are not able to listen to our colleagues with a free heart, though—if we only consider and support ideas from our own party—we are harming the foundation of our democracy. That is why we need to transform our community—in this case the Congress—into a compassionate community. Everyone would be considered a brother or sister to everyone else. Congress would be a place where we learn to listen to everyone with equal interest and concern. The practice of deep and compassionate listening and loving speech can help to build brotherhood, can remove discrimination and can bring about the kind of insight that will be liberating to our country and to our people.

Two days after the events of September 11th, I spoke to 4,000 people in Berkeley, California. I said that our emotions are very strong right now, and we should calm ourselves down. With lucidity and calm we would know what to do and what not to do in order not to make the situation worse. I said that the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center must have been very angry. They must have hated America a lot. They must have thought of America as having tried to destroy them as individual people, as a religion, as a nation, and as a culture. I said that we had to find out why they did such a thing to America.

America's political leaders can ask the question, calmly and with clarity: "What have we done that has made you suffer so much?" America's political leaders can say, "We want to know about your suffering and why you hate us. We may have said something or done something that gave you the impression that we wanted to destroy you. But that is not the case. We are confused, and that is why we want you to help us understand why you have done such a thing to us."

We call this loving or gentle speech. If we are honest and sincere, they will tell us how they feel. Then we will recognize the wrong perceptions they have about themselves and about us. We can try to help them to remove their wrong perceptions. All these acts of terrorism and violence come from wrong perceptions. Wrong perceptions are the ground for anger, violence and hate. You cannot remove wrong perceptions with a gun.

When we listen deeply to another person, we not only recognize their wrong perceptions, but we also identify our own wrong perceptions about ourselves and about the other person. That is why mindful dialogue and mindful communication is crucial to removing anger and violence.

It is my deepest hope that our political leaders can make use of such instruments to bring peace to the world. I believe that using force and violence can only make the situation worse. Since September 11th, America has not been able to decrease the level of hate and violence on the part of the terrorists. In fact, the level of hate and violence has increased. It is time for us to go back to the situation, to look deeply and to find another less costly way to bring peace to us and to them. Violence cannot remove violence—everyone knows that. Only with the practice of deep listening and gentle communication can we help remove wrong perceptions that are at the foundation of violence.

America has a lot of difficulty in Iraq. I think that America is caught in Iraq in the same way that America was caught in Vietnam. We have the idea that we have to go and destroy the enemy. That idea will never give us a chance to do the right thing to end violence. During the Vietnam War, America thought that it had to go to North Vietnam to bomb. The more America bombed, the more communists they created. I am afraid that the same thing is happening in Iraq. I think that it is very difficult for America to withdraw now from Iraq. Even if they want to leave, it is very difficult.
The only way for America to free itself from this situation is to help build the United Nations into a real body of peace so that the United Nations will take over the problem of Iraq and of the Middle East. America is powerful enough to make this happen. America should allow other nations to contribute positively to building the United Nations into a true organization for peace with enough authority to do its job. To me, that is the only way out of our current situation.

We have to wake up to the fact that everything is connected to everything else. Our safety and wellbeing cannot be individual matters anymore. If they are not safe, there is no way that we can be safe. Taking care of other people's safety is taking care of our own safety. To take care of their well-being is to take care of our own well-being. It is the mind of discrimination and separation that is at the foundation of all violence and hate.

My right hand has written all the poems that I have composed. My left hand has not written a single poem. But my right hand does not think, "Left Hand, you are good for nothing." My right hand does not have a superiority complex. That is why it is very happy. My left hand does not have any complex at all. In my two hands there is the kind of wisdom called the wisdom of nondiscrimination. One day I was hammering a nail and my right hand was not very accurate and instead of pounding on the nail it pounded on my finger. It put the hammer down and took care of the left hand in a very tender way, as if it were taking care of itself. It did not say, "Left Hand, you have to remember that I have taken good care of you and you have to pay me back in the future." There was no such thinking. And my left hand did not say, "Right Hand, you have done me a lot of harm—give me that hammer, I want justice." My two hands know that they are members of one body; they are in each other.

I think that if Israelis and Palestinians knew that they were brothers and sisters—that they are like my two hands—they would not try to punish each other anymore. The world community has not helped them to see that. If Israelis and Palestinians—and Muslims and Hindus—knew that discrimination was at the base of our suffering, they would know how to touch the seed of nondiscrimination in themselves. That kind of awakening—that kind of deep understanding—brings about reconciliation and well-being.

I believe that in America there are many people who are awakened to the fact that violence cannot remove violence. They realize there is no way to peace: peace itself is the way. Those people must come together and voice their concern strongly and offer their collective wisdom to the nation so the nation can get out of this current situation. Every one of us has the duty to bring together that collective insight. With that insight, compassion will make us strong and courageous enough to bring about a solution for the world.

Every time we breathe in, go home to ourselves and bring the element of harmony and peace into ourselves, that is an act of peace. Every time we know how to look at another living being and recognize the suffering in him that has made him speak or act like that, we are able to see that he is the victim of his own suffering. When that understanding is in us, we can look at this other person with the eyes of understanding and compassion. When we can look with the eyes of compassion, we don't suffer and we don't make the other person suffer. These are the actions of peace that can be shared with other people.

At Plum Village, there are several hundred people living together like a family in a very simple way. At Plum Village, we have had the opportunity to practice together as a community. We are able to build up brotherhood and sisterhood. Although we live simply, we have a lot of joy because of the amount of understanding and compassion that we can generate. We are able to go to many countries to offer mindfulness retreats so that people may have a chance to heal, transform and to reconcile. Healing, transformation and reconciliation always happen during our retreats. That can be very nourishing.

We have invited Israelis and Palestinians to Plum Village to practice with us. When they come they bring anger, suspicion, fear and hate. But after a week or two of the practices of mindful walking, mindful breathing, mindful eating and mindful sitting, they are able to recognize their pain, embrace it and find relief. When they are initiated to the practice of deep listening, they are able to listen to others and realize that people from the other groups suffer as they do. When you know that they also suffer from violence, from hate, from fear and despair, you begin to look at them with the eyes of compassion. At that moment you suffer less and you make them suffer less. Communication becomes possible with the use of loving speech and deep listening.

The Israelis and Palestinians always come together as a group at the end of their stay in Plum Village. They always report the success of their practice. They always go back to the Middle East intending to continue the practice and invite others to join them, so that those others might suffer less and help others to suffer less too.

I believe that if this practice could be done on the national level, it would bring about the same kind of effect. Unfortunately, our political leaders have not been trained in these practices of mindful breathing, mindful walking and embracing pain and sorrow to transform their suffering. They have been trained only in political science.

So I think we should all bring a spiritual dimension into our daily lives. We should be awakened to the fact that happiness cannot be found in the direction of power, fame, wealth and sex. If we look deeply around us, we see many people with plenty of these things, but they suffer very deeply. When you have understanding and compassion in you, you don't suffer. You can relate very well to other people around you and to other living beings also. That is why a collective awakening about that reality is crucial.

One of the concrete things that Congress could do is to look deeply into the matter of consumption. We think that happiness is possible when we have the power to consume, but by consuming we bring into us a lot of toxins and poisons. The way we eat, the way we watch television and the way we entertain ourselves brings us a lot of destruction. Because we consume so much, the environment suffers. Learning to consume only the things that can bring peace and health into our body and into our consciousness is a very important practice. Mindful consumption is the practice that can bring us out of much of our unhappiness.

By consuming unmindfully, we continue to bring the elements of craving, fear and violence into ourselves. There is so much suffering in people. They consume because they do not know how to handle their suffering. Something should be done to help people go home to themselves and take care of their suffering. Congress could find ways to encourage people to consume mindfully and produce mindfully, instead of creating products that can bring toxins and craving into the hearts and bodies of people. Producing with responsibility should be our practice.
My strongest desire is that the members of Congress will have time to look into these matters and look deeply into the roots of their own suffering, the suffering of this nation, and the suffering around the world. This suffering does not have to continue. We already have the compassion and understanding necessary to heal the world. ©

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen teacher, poet and leader of the engaged Buddhist movement. A well-known antiwar activist in his native Vietnam, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. He is the author of more than forty books. This article is adapted from his talk to members of the United States Congress on September 10, 2003.

There is no path to peace. The path is peace., Thich Nhat Hanh, Shambhala Sun, July 2004.