Powerful Compassion with Thich Nhat Hanh

Last week, Thich Nhat Hahn spoke to a sold out crowd at Stanford University as a part of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education’s (CCARE) Conversations on Compassion series.

Thich Nhat Hanh

I once heard Thich Nhat Hanh described as “a cloud, a butterfly, and a bulldozer.” Hearing him speak I couldn’t agree more. He is so soft, gentle, and egoless, yet surprisingly powerful. Here are some highlights:

  • “You don’t have to run into the future to find happiness.”
  • “Mindfulness holds suffering like a mother holding a baby without knowing what is causing the suffering.”
  • “Holding our suffering is like holding our own baby.”
  • “You cannot be; you can only inter-be.”
  • “The art of suffering goes together with the art of happiness.”
  • Tell your loved ones, “I know you are there, and I am so happy.”
  • The person who makes you suffer has a lot of suffering in him.

When they opened up the mics for Q&A, I happened to be sitting right next to one of the mic stands, so I got to ask the first question. I told Thay that being a man in Western culture I had been taught not to cry, to take advantage of others weaknesses in sports, and to never show weakness in business. My specific question was “how can we make compassion more attractive to men?”

Thay started his reply by saying that there must be a misunderstanding of what compassion is. “Compassion is not weakness. Compassion is powerful.” He then listed all the ways that compassion benefits the person being compassionate. “Compassion heals our bodies.” It makes us live happier lives. It is good for business. (I apologize for not having direct quotes, but Thay was staring at me while he answered the question, so I didn’t want to be rude and start taking notes.)

Then he said something that resonated with me, “Compassion protects us more than guns, bombs, or money.” He said that we often try to accumulate lots of money to protect ourselves from suffering, but money cannot protect us from suffering. Money can disappear in an instant. What I realized is that compassion is the true refuge from suffering in life.

I have been struggling to make money since losing my job in 2012, but now I realize that all the work I have been doing to cultivate compassion has brought me more than money can buy. I feel confident that compassion will protect me and my family from suffering in a way that money, guns, or insurance can never protect us. I am grateful for the present moment of taking in so much wisdom from amazing teachers. One day, I hope to spread these teachings with others.

Thank you for reading, smiling, and/or sharing.

Where do you seek refuge? Please share.


24 comments on “Powerful Compassion with Thich Nhat Hanh

  1. Thanks for sharing his words and your feelings. Powerful, indeed.

  2. lauriesnotes says:

    Wonderful. Amen.
    I am trying to convince my husband to start s mindfulness program at the school where my daughter attends and he works..or maybe I will take some kind of step..if you have any helpful links or anything to support this approach. They want to start a kindness program but I think it needs to go a bit deeper.
    Great post –

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Hey Laurie,
      Have you checked out Mindful Schools at http://www.mindfulschools.org? They are a great organization. I completely agree that we need to go beyond kindness. Compassion is key. And compassion requires mindfulness. Keep me informed on what comes out of this intention. {{{Hugs]}} Kozo

      • lauriesnotes says:

        I think that’s the one..I know a lady here who is trained in that and I am meeting her in s couple weeks. Interesting twist with my husband and compassion..I just don’t know how to convince the school. We’ll see. Letting go until I talk with my friend. It’s frustrating they don’t want to go that deeo. Your response was helpful. Thanks!

  3. csroth3 says:

    I could not agree more!

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Yay, Cheryl. I can’t see too many people disagreeing with Thich Nhat Hanh. He is so simplistic and lucid. Besides how can you disagree with a cloud, a butterfly, and a bulldozer? haha. {{{Hugs]}} kozo

  4. Alison says:

    Gratitude. I seek refuge in gratitude. I think gratitude and compassion are the two things that keep us safe, and happy.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Yes, indeed, Alison. Your comment reminds me that I need to start up my gratitude practice. I let it drop off during the 10 day retreat. Ooops. Grateful for your comment and friendship, my compassionate friend. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  5. I am learning to seek refuge in gratitude, mindfulness, prayer, and the beauty of nature.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      What a great list of refuges, UEiCH. Nature is indeed a refuge. Being grateful to be able to practice mindfulness in nature is like a refuge trifecta. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  6. Indeed you are spreading compassion, with every tap of the letters on your computer when you write for us and share these awesome experiences. Very Profound interaction with Thay. For some reason this quote came to me and I wanted to share with you, in case you have not heard it before. “Money can buy you a bed but, it can not buy you sleep”.

    • Kozo Hattori says:

      Love the quotation, M. I never heard it before, so it made me laugh. I’m learning that compassion gives us peace of mind which in turn leads to peaceful sleep. Thanks for the great quotation. {{{hugs}}} kozo

  7. Wonderful post Kozo, and what a blessing to address Thay and have his answer directly 🙂 xx

  8. PPL4 says:

    Reblogged this on PPL4 and commented:
    Wonderful inspiration from Thich Nhat Hanh via Everyday Gurus… Thank you so much for sharing this insight, Kozo.

  9. I seek refuge in my Spirit.

  10. […] Powerful Compassion with Thich Nhat Hanh (everydaygurus.com) […]

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