I used to know for certain there was a living buddha in the world. Then Thich Nhat Hanh passed away.
But in his writing, he was clear that he would not die. He told a story of how a student had prepared a place for his remains. He laughed and said he would not be in this place. He would be with us in our mindful breaths, in the peace of the cloud.
I used to think I had a peculiar relationship with Thich Nhat Hanh, that I was especially touched by him. When he passed away, I discovered that very many people love him just as I do. When they speak about him, I know their love is the same as mine. It’s very beautiful, finding the same love that’s in your heart in someone else’s.
In Buddhism there’s talk about taking refuge in the Buddha, but Thich Nhat Hanh the buddha pointed to this current-breath-right-now as the place of refuge.
He said something I’ll never forget. He said that if he found meditation to be arduous, he wouldn’t do it. He meditates because he finds it enjoyable. He likes to sit with his breath.
From that, I meditated in a new way. I gave up the self-bludgeoning trying. I breathed and listened for peace.
Ah, there it is.
Last night his words taught me something else. He said we can be free while living our lives, doing good in the world, and tending to what needs to be done. We can be free if we are breathing mindfully in the present moment. We don’t have to be captives of our circumstance, always waiting for some outer situation to change. If we are present with the breath, we are free. ☁️