Humankind has become a very dangerous species. We need people who can sit still and be able to smile, who can walk peacefully. We need people like that in order to save us.
Recently I was sitting with a group of children, and a boy named Tim was smiling beautifully. I said, “Tim, you have a very beautiful smile,” and he said, “Thank you.” I told him, “You don’t have to thank me, I have to thank you. Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful. Instead of saying, “Thank you,” you should say, “You’re welcome.”
If a child smiles, if an adult smiles, that is very important. If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace. When I see Tim smiling, I am so happy. If he is aware that he is making other people happy, he can say, “You are welcome.”
Many of us worry about the situation of the world. We don’t know when the bombs will explode. We feel that we are on the edge of time. As individuals, we feel helpless, despairing. The situation is so dangerous, injustice is so widespread, the danger is close.
In this kind of a situation, if we panic, things will only become worse. We need to remain calm, to see clearly. Meditation is to be aware and to try to help.
Calm in the Storm
I like to use the example of a small boat crossing the Gulf of Siam. In Vietnam, there are many people, called boat people, who leave the country in small boats. Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats may sink.
But if even one person aboard can remain calm, lucid, knowing what to do and what not to do, he or she can help the boat survive. His or her expression – face, voice – communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will listen to what he or she says.
One such person can save the lives of many.
You are That Person
Our world is something like a small boat. Compared with the cosmos, our planet is a very small boat. We are about to panic because our situation is no better than the situation of the small boat in the sea. You know that we have more than 50,000 nuclear weapons.
Mahayana Buddhism says that you are that person, that each of you is that person.
Humankind has become a very dangerous species. We need people who can sit still and be able to smile, who can walk peacefully. We need people like that in order to save us. Mahayana Buddhism says that you are that person, that each of you is that person.
The Wonders of Life
Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby.
To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. They are within us and all around us, everywhere, all the time.
If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.
The wonders of life are all around you if you take the time to look. Image: Yoel Kamara
Enjoy Every Minute
Do we need to make a special effort to enjoy the beauty of the blue sky? Do we have to practice to be able to enjoy it? No, we just enjoy it. Each second, each minute of our lives can be like this.
Wherever we are, any time, we have the capacity to enjoy the sunshine, the presence of each other, even the sensation of our breathing.
Wherever we are, any time, we have the capacity to enjoy the sunshine, the presence of each other, even the sensation of our breathing. We don’t need to go to China to enjoy the blue sky. We don’t have to travel into the future to enjoy our breathing. We can be in touch with these things right now. It would be a pity if we are only aware of suffering.
Making the Most of Our Precious Time
We are so busy we hardly have time to look at the people we love, even in our own household, and to look at ourselves.
Society is organized in a way that even when we have some leisure time, we don’t know how to use it to get back in touch with ourselves.
We have millions of ways to lose this precious time – we turn on the TV or pick up the telephone, or start the car and go somewhere. We are not used to being with ourselves, and we act as if we don’t like ourselves and are trying to escape from ourselves.
The Beauty Beneath
Meditation is to be aware of what is going on – in our bodies, in our feelings, in our minds, and in the world. Each day 40,000 children die of hunger. The superpowers now have more than 50,000 nuclear warheads, enough to destroy our planet many times.
Yet the sunrise is beautiful, and the rose that bloomed this morning along the wall is a miracle.
Life is both dreadful and wonderful. To practice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects. Please do not think we must be solemn in order to meditate. In fact, to meditate well, we have to smile a lot.
Excerpts from Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh.