“My Joy Is Like Spring” … The poetry of Thich Nhat Hanh

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ZEN MASTER THICH NHAT HANH (his students call him Thãy) is a revered spiritual leader, a poet and a peace activist.  Martin Luther King called him an apostle of peace and nonviolence and suggested Thãy for a Nobel Prize, which Thāy never received.

Thāy is sometimes called the other Dalai Lama.  His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live peacefully in the present moment.

The featured poem (below), Please Call Me by My True Names, moves us to compassion. It reflects the Buddhist concept of interdependent coexistence for which Thāy coined the term “interbeing.”  In it he seeks to remind us that we are one with each other and with nature. His poetry is gentle and his word-pictures and pacing tend to sooth and heal. His many published works include several poetry collections.

Thãy lives in Plum Village in France, where he is recuperating from a stroke.

Thích Nhất Hạnh (Nguyen Xuan Bao) b. October 11, 1926). Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist. He coined the term "Engaged Buddhism"

Thích Nhất Hạnh (Nguyen Xuan Bao) b. October 11, 1926. Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist.

Please Call Me by My True Names

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow—
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am a mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am a frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Poem from Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh

Thāy’s photo courtesy of Duc (pixiduc) under CC BY SA 2.0

8 thoughts on ““My Joy Is Like Spring” … The poetry of Thich Nhat Hanh

  1. Thay is such an inspiration and I hope he lives a long and healthy life for a long time to come. Both he and the Dalai Lama are getting to be so old. I honor them.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

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