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Lions Roar : January 2016
“How can we get people to read a book on suffering?” he’d ask another time, chuckling. “How can we get them to know it’s really a book about happiness?” I will deeply miss the spontaneity and trickster humor that came from talking about books with Thich Nhat Hanh in person. His curiosity and interest led him to study and speak on everything from sutras to psychology and neuroscience, from nurturing longtime relationships to healing childhood trauma, and from history to current events, including ter- rorism and violence, refugees and immigration, racism, and climate change. In these last years, he has focused on the teachings he most wants to leave behind, including the inextricable connection between suffering and joy. The last full set of talks he gave were entitled “What Happens When You Die?” But instead of focus- ing on death, he talked about using discomfort and difficulty to make the most of the time we have. Staying engaged and open- hearted to the world is challenging, he teaches, but keep with it—that’s where the joy is. Along with a treasury of audio and video recordings still to be unearthed, translated, and transcribed, a team of monastic and lay students is working to continue Thich Nhat Hanh’s written work. Over and over he has reminded me that the best support for getting through something is to remember that there is nothing we have to get through alone. Once, I sent him hundreds of pages of a complex manuscript, only to get the manuscript back with every instance of “I” painstakingly crossed out and replaced with the word “we.” One Buddha Is Not Enough If Thich Nhat Hanh is guilty of anything, it is of idealizing community, as if the very nature of us being together makes us more mindful. Whether as a monastic for life or a retreatant for a week, being with others is the root of Plum Village practice. Anyone who has lived with messy roommates, chore wheels, Below: Young people gather to discuss the dharma. Mindful speech and deep listening are important practices at Plum Village.