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Martin Luther King Jr. nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Join me for a rare and enlightening conversation with the legendary author, peace activist and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. I wanted a place for people to go every Sunday to wake up - Thought provoking, eye opening, and inspiring. This will lift you right up. It's food for your soul! Every single Sunday, this is Super Soul Sunday. (Guitar music) At 85, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most influential spiritual leaders of our time. Thich Nhat Hanh, or "Thay" as his students call him - "Thay" means teacher - is author of more than 100 books. A copy of his book "Living Buddha, Living Christ" never leaves my bedside. His spiritual journey began at the early age of 7, when he felt the calling to become a monk. But this monastic has always been active on the world stage. In the early 60s, horrified by the escalating civil war in Vietnam, Thay spearheaded one of the great non-violent resistance movements of the 20th century. Martin Luther King Jr. took notice and spoke out against the Vietnam war for the first time at Nhat Hanh's urging, and later nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1982, Thay established a monastery and retreat center in France where thousands of followers still flock every year. He lives there today, devoting his life to mindful meditation, helping people to be passionately present in the here and now. What a treat it was to finally meet Thich Nhat Hanh on one of his trips to New York City. Thank you for the honor of talking to me today. Thank you for that. Already just being in your presence for a short time, I feel less stressed than I did when I started out the day - less stressed because you have such a peaceful aura that follows you, that you carry with yourself. Are you always this content and peaceful? This is my training. This is my practice. And we try to live every moment like that, relaxed, dwelling peacefully in the present moment and respond to events with compassion. So, in a moment where you are perhaps going to miss a plane, or be late for an appointment, or something is causing you be stressed. You do what? Go back to my breathing and try to be in that moment deeply. Because there is a possibility to handle any kind of event and the essential is to keep the peace in yourself. Let's start with 1926, born in Vietnam. Any wonderful memory that you can share of your childhood? Your favorite childhood memory? One day, I saw the picture of the Buddha on a Buddhist magazine. He was sitting on the grass. How old were you? 7, 8. He was sitting on the grass very peaceful, smiling, and I was impressed. Around me people were not like that. So I had the desire to be someone like him. And I nourished that kind of desire until the age of 16, when I had the permission of my parents to go and ordain as a novice monk. Did your parents encourage you or were they reluctant for this to happen? In the beginning they were reluctant because they thought that the life of a monk is hard, difficult. This desire to become a monk started when you were 7 years old? (Thay) Yes. And what did they feel like, what did those urgings, that sense of 'This is what I must do or must become', what does that feel like? I would not be happy if I had not become a monk. That is the feeling. We call it 'the beginner's mind'. - (O.Winfrey) Beginner's mind. - (Thay) Yes. The deep intention, the deepest desire that one person may have. And I can say that since that time until this day, this beginner's mind is still alive in me. (O. Winfrey) Let's go back to 1966, when you are invited to speak in Cornell. Shortly after that, you aren't allowed back into your country and were exiled for 39 years. How did you deal with those feelings? First of all, what did you feel at the time? I had left my community at home. I was like a bee taken out of the beehive. If I don't practice, then I would dry up. Did you feel sadness? Yes. Did you allow yourself to feel this sadness? In my first year of my being exiled, I dreamt almost every night of going home. Can you explain to us, for the people who don't understand, you were not allowed back in the country because you were, in essence, a peaceful warrior? You were practicing peace, they didn't appreciate your Buddhism, what was the reason you weren't allowed back in the country? During the war, the warring parties all declared that they wanted to fight until the end. And those of us who tried to speak out against the war, to speak about reconciliation between brothers and brothers... they did not want us to raise our voice. (O. Winfrey) When you were a man without a country, you made another country, made a home in other countries. - And the United States was one of them. - (Thay) Yes. (O. Winfrey) How did you met Martin Luther King? On June 1st, 1965, I wrote him a letter explaining to him why the monks in Vietnam immolated themselves by fire. I said that this is not a suicide, because in a difficult situation like in Vietnam, to make your voice heard is difficult. So sometimes we had to burn ourselves alive in order for our voice to be heard around. So that is out of compassion that you do that. That is an act of love and not of despair.
Jesus Christ died in the same spirit, out of love. (O. Winfrey) Being hung on the cross. (Thay) And exactly one year after, June 1st, 1966, Jesus Christ died in the same spirit, out of love. (O. Winfrey) Being hung on the cross. (Thay) And exactly one year after, June 1st, 1966, I met him in Chicago. We had that discussion about peace, freedom and community. We agreed that without a community, we cannot go very far. How long was the discussion with him? 45 minutes or so. After that, there was a press conference and he came out very strongly against the war in Vietnam. Do you think that that was the result of your conversation with him? I believe so. After that, we continued our work. And the last time I met him was in Geneva, during a Peace Conference called Pacem in Terris. There's an interesting story I've heard that you were running late... Can you tell me that story? Martin Luther King invited me up for breakfast, to talk over these issues again and I was caught in a press conference downstairs. I came late, he kept the breakfast warm for me. And during the conversation I was able to tell him that the people in Vietnam called him a Bodhisattva, enlightened being, because of what he was doing for his people, his country, for the world. (O. Winfrey) And the fact that he was doing it non violently. (Thay) Yes, that is the work of a Bodhisattva, of a Buddha, of an enlightened person, always with compassion and non-violence. When I heard of his assassination I could not believe it. I thought that the American people have produced King, but are not capable of preserving him. I was a little bit angry at that time. I did not eat, I did not sleep. But my determination to continue the work building the beloved community continues always. -(O. Winfrey) Always. -(Thay) Yes. (Voice over) Coming up, solving world problems with compassion. (Thay) That is the best way, the only way to remove terrorism. (O. Winfrey) Terrorism or even difficulties between yourself and family members or friends. (Thay) Yes. (Voice over) Supersoul Sunday will return in a moment. [Supersoul Sunday. A conversation with Thich Nhat Hanh] (O. Winfrey) What makes you laugh? (Thay) Anything that can help us laugh. If you talk to our young monastics, you will find out. (O. Winfrey) Do you laugh a lot? (Thay) Yes, we laugh, we smile a lot in our community. You refer to... I can't remember in which book, but you talk about Deep Listening also. Deep Listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of the other person. We can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: help him or her to empty his heart. If you remember that you are helping him or her to suffer less, then, even if he says things full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable to continue to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, with compassion, you give him or her a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him or her to correct his perceptions, then you wait for another time. But for the time being, you just listen with compassion and help him or her to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing. I love this idea of Deep Listening, because often times, when someone comes to you, and they want to really vent, they want to purge whatever is going on inside them, people start talking and giving advise. If you allow the person just to let whatever those feelings are to come out, and then at another time come back to them with your advise or your comments. you will experience a deeper healing. Is that what you are saying? Yes. The fear, the anger and the despair is born on the ground of wrong perceptions. We have wrong perceptions concerning ourselves and the other person. And that is the foundation for conflict, war and violence. You've said, the only way we can begin to end wars is due to communication between people. (Thay) Yes. We should be able to say like this: "Dear friends, dear people, I know that you suffer a lot. I have not understood enough of your difficulties and suffering. It is not our intention to make you suffer more. It is the opposite. So, please, tell us about your suffering, your difficulties. I am eager to learn, to understand." It has to start like that loving speech. If we are honest, if we are true, they will open their heart and tell us. And then we practice compassionate, deep listening. And during the process of deep listening, we can learn so much about our own perceptions and their perceptions. That is the best way, the only way to remove terrorism. Terrorism or even difficulties between yourself and family members. - (Thay) Yes. - (O. Winfrey) The principle is the same, - no matter the conflict. - Yes. - Terrorist-anti terrorist, - Yes - father and son, - Right. yourself and your boss, your children, your best friend. (Thay) Yes. Is there ever a place for anger? Anger is the energy which people use in order to act. But when you are angry, you are not lucid. And you may do wrong things. That is why, compassion is a better energy.
The energy of compassion is very strong. In our country and in others parts of the world, we are experiencing an economic downturn. The energy of compassion is very strong. In our country and in others parts of the world, we are experiencing an economic downturn. A lot of people have loss their jobs, and because the loss of their jobs they feel a sense of suffering. There are other people who said that these economic downturn, particularly in the USA, was needed to bring a sense of awareness to the materialism and the overspending, the excessiveness of our culture. How do you view the economic downturn? I think we can always learn from our suffering. In the ash of suffering, a phoenix can be born. And that is why mindfulness helps us to look deeply into the difficulty, the suffering we have. And many positive will come out of that. (Thay) It depends on our way of responding to the event. There are ways that can bring more suffering. There are ways that can bring relief right away and hope. It depends on our mind. That is why mindfulness and concentration can help tremendously in bringing insight. You've said, in one of your most popular books, 'Living Buddha, Living Christ'... Where do you see the similarities between Buddha and Christ? Jesus Christ is a Buddha of the West. His teaching is also about understanding and compassion. In the Gospel there is also the teaching of living happily in the present moment. In the Gospel according to Matthew, he said, "Don't worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself." It is very clear. And "Give us the bread of today." We care about today, we live today. If we know how to handle the present moment, we don't have to worry much about the future. If the present moment has peace, joy and happiness, then the future will have also. [Coming up] (Voice over) When we return, mindful living and relationships. The four little mantras that can make a big difference. (Thay) The first mantra is, "Darling, I am here for you." That is a lovely mantra, "Darling, I am here for you." [Later] (Voice over) And get ready to say cheese, Soul pancake proves joy is contagious. [Snap your joy] (Voice over) Would you like that? [Supersoul Sunday] [Supersoul Sunday. A conversation with Thich Nhat Hanh] The nature of Buddhism as I understand, is to believe that we are all pure and radiant at our core. Yet we see around us so much evidence that people are not acting out of a sense of purity and radiance. How do we reconcile that? Happiness and suffering they support each other, they inter-are. - (O. Winfrey) They inter-are. - (Thay) Inter-are. To be is to inter-be. It is like the left and the right. If the left is not there, the right cannot be there. So the same thing is true with suffering and happiness. Good and evil, they inter-are, also. In everyone of us there are good seeds and bad seeds. That is just the nature of being human. Yes. There is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus. You cannot grow lotus on marble. You have to grow it on the mud. So suffering is the kind of mud that we must be able to use in order to grow the flower of understanding and love. Do you meditate every single day? Not only every day but every moment. While drinking, while talking, while writing, while watering our garden. It is always possible to practice living in the here and the now. That is what we call meditation. (O. Winfrey) But do you ever sit silently and recite, or not, a mantra? (Thay) Yes. We sit alone, we sit together. (O. Winfrey) The more people you sit with the better. (Thay) The collective energy is very helpful. I'd like to talk about the mantras that you just mentioned. The first mantra is, "Darling, I am here for you." When you love someone, the best thing you can offer him or her is your presence. How can you love if you are not there? (O. Winfrey) That is a lovely mantra, "Darling, I am here for you." You look into his eyes and you say, "Darling, do you know something? I am here for you." You offer him or her your presence. Your true presence. You are not preoccupied with the past or the future, your projects. You are for your beloved one. The second mantra is, "Darling, I know you are there, and I am so happy." Because you are truly there you recognize the presence of your beloved one as something very precious. You use your mindfulness to recognize that, embrace your beloved one with mindfulness. and she will bloom like a flower. To be loved means to be recognized as existent. These two mantras can bring happiness right away. Even if your beloved one is not there, you can use your telephone and practice the mantra. Darling, I am here for you and darling I know you are there. The third mantra is what you practice when your beloved one suffers. "Darling, I know that you suffer. That is why I am here for you." Before you do something to help her, to help him, your presence can already bring some relief. (O. Winfrey) And the acknowledgment of the suffering, of the hurting. (Thay) The fourth mantra is a little bit more difficult. That is when you suffer. And you believe that your suffering has been caused by your beloved one. So you suffer so deeply. You prefer to go to your room, close the door and suffer alone. You get hurt. You want to punish him or her for having made you suffer. The mantra is to overcome that. The mantra is: "Darling, I suffer. I am trying my best to practice. Please, help me." You go to him, you go to her and practice that. If you can bring yourself to say that mantra, you suffer less right away. -Darling, I suffer. Please help me. -Please, help me.