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The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology

Image of The World We Have A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology by Nhat Hanh, Thich [Parallax Press,2008] (Paperback)
Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
October 2016
Fred's Rating: 
Thich Nhat Hanh
Total Pages: 
Parallax Press

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, poet, scholar, and human rights activist. He lives at Plum Village, his meditation center in France, and travels widely, leading retreats on ‘the art of mindful thinking.’ (For his books I’ve read, click on his name.)

The Amazon website for the paperback edition I was given is

The home page has a brief summary (click on Read more). Using the ‘Look inside” option, I recommend skipping over the 8-pp Introduction by Alan Weisman (since the Amazon preview omits four these pages) and read instead the 5-pp Ch. 1 – The Bells of Mindfulness – since it gives you a compact but very well written summary about the Buddhist version of “Mindfulness” which first drew my attention to the depth of Mindfulness in Buddhism, which is much deeper that the recent western versions of mindfulness that have become popular is recent years.

Unfortunately, Ch. 2 – A Global Ethic – is not included in Amazon’s preview. This chapter contains in fell depth the Five Mindfulness Trainings in Thich Nhat Hanh’s expression of them. So I give them here:

“THE FIRST MINDFULNESS TRAINING: Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

“THE SECOND MINDFULNESS TRAINING: Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I will practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

“THE THIRD MINDFULNESS TRAINING: Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

“THE FOURTH MINDFULNESS TRAINING: Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that cause the family or the community to break. I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

“THE FIFTH MINDFULNESS TRAINING: Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for transformation of society.”

One can easily see that the five mindfulness trainings that Thich Nhat Hanh has spelled out above form specific situations that are in the spirit of the Buddha’s generality as contained in his Four Noble Truths: 1. Knowledge of Suffering; 2. Knowledge of the Cause of Suffering; 3. Knowledge of the Cessation of Suffering; 4. Knowledge of the Way (the Eight-Fold Way) that leads to the Cessation of Suffering. Various words have been used to spell out the Eight-Fold Way. Each of the eight words is preceded by the emphatic word Right. Briefly the eight are View, Intention, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration. Note that the middle four (SALE) are right things to do, whereas the first two (VI) and the last two (MC) are right ways to think.

The fact that only the word ‘mindfulness’ is specifically emphasized by Thich Nhat Hanh does not mean that the other “right” things are not part of his mindset. Rather, it means that his focus in this book is on ‘practices’ that lead one toward ‘right’ thoughts and actions and his practices keep one’s mind focused on the main points he emphasizes in this book, which I rate at five stars.

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