Our True Heritage, a poem by Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh…

Thích Nhất Hạnh during a ceremony in Da Nang on his 2007 trip to Vietnam

“We often think of peace as the absence of war, that if powerful countries would reduce their weapon arsenals, we could have peace. But if we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds- our own prejudices, fears and ignorance. Even if we transport all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the roots of bombs are still there, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we will make new bombs. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves and from the hearts of men and women. To prepare for war, to give millions of men and women the opportunity to practice killing day and night in their hearts, is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come. ” Thích Nhất Hạnh , Living Buddha, Living Christ



Thầy is 92 years old now. He returned to Vietnam in November 2018 to live his remaining days after turning down medication for a stroke. Thầy is not the only voice of sanity in an insane world, but he is a strong, gentle and consistently devoted voice. He has many lessons to teach and is an exemplar of the ideals he espouses. Thầy is considered the father of Engaged Buddhism, applying the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to situations of social, political, environmental and economic suffering and injustice. Thầy’s poetry is always salve for the weary spirit.

The cosmos is filled with precious gems.
I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning.
Each moment you are alive is a gem,
shining through and containing earth and sky,
water and clouds.

It needs you to breathe gently
for the miracles to be displayed.
Suddenly you hear the birds singing,
the pines chanting,
see the flowers blooming,
the blue sky,
the white clouds,
the smile and the marvelous look
of your beloved.

You, the richest person on Earth,
who have been going around begging for a living,
stop being the destitute child.
Come back and claim your heritage.
We should enjoy our happiness
and offer it to everyone.
Cherish this very moment.
Let go of the stream of distress
and embrace life fully in your arms.

© Thích Nhất Hạnh from Call Me by My True Names, The Collected Poems of Thích Nhất Hạnh

Photo credit: mettabebe under CC BY-SA 2.0


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PLEASE CALL ME BY MY TRUE NAMES, Thích Nhất Hạnh’s most famous poem

Nhất Hạnh at Phu Bai International Airport on his 2007 trip to Vietnam (aged 80) Public domain photograph courtesy of Lưu Ly

 I have arrived

I am home

in the here

in the now

I am solid

I am free

in the ultimate

I dwell

Thích Nhất Hạnh , excerpt from The Long Road Turns to Joy, A Guide to Walking Meditation



Thích Nhất Hạnh is a world renown poet, peace activist and Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Monk. He is one of our heroes and this is a favorite poem. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1967, and is the author of many books , including the best-selling The Miracle of Mindfulness, An Introduction to the Practice of Mindfulness. His Amazon page is HERE.

PLEASE CALL ME BY MY TRUE NAMES

May all sentient beings find peace.

Link here to Plum Village International Sanga, France.

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Link here to Deer Park Monastery, Escondido, CA


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Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”


The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others

“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton

“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