[FOUNTAIN]Finding peace in forest of life“The past is gone and the future has not arrived yet. What exists now is the present . . . . You are now walking through a beautiful garden. But it is just a few moments that you enjoy the beauty there. As you walk step by step, you begin to be a slave to the thoughts or work that occupied you before. You, whose heart is taken away, are like a husband who is unfaithful. You are not different from the husband who disregards his wife and children and only cares about his lover . . . .”
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen master who visited Seoul recently, preaches in his new book that people do not see the happiness that lies before them.
Thich Nhat Hanh further says that the power that returns the lost heart to the present is “Mindfulness,” or a state of awareness.
His thoughts are not new. The reason we praise him highly is that he makes the difficult philosophy of Buddha easy for the public to understand. He introduces practices that people can include in their everyday life. The practice of Mindfulness that he promotes includes a discussion of how to work with anger; he recommends breathing and walking meditation as more beneficial in many situations than directly expressing our anger.
An ancient Buddhist scripture introduces the “eight right roads” that monks have to practice to be free of agony. They are Right View, Action, Speech, Thoughts, Understanding, Livelihood, Concentration and Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the road that demands that people remember and think rightly.
Another old scripture says the “fourfold setting up of the application of mindfulness” is necessary to reach the state of right awareness. They are applications of mindfulness in regard to the body, to the feeling of sensations, to the activities of the mind and mental content. Thich Nhat Hanh’s method of breathing and walking practice mindfulness in regard to the body, which permits the heart to reside in the present.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s book became a best-seller in Korea. Indeed, the public’s interest in Thich Nhat Hanh is very high now. This is because, I think, his teachings soothe the harsh realities we face in everyday life. We see a lot of conflict and experience anger. Let’s walk through the forest like Thich Nhat Hanh and recite the poem “the flag of mindfulness,” by Kim Nam-jo: A heart that is like a white sandy plain/ on which deep sorrow/ lightly settled down.
by Lee Kyu-youn
The writer is the deputy editor of JoongAng Ilbo's National Affairs Desk.