Be More Creative Guest. This week… Thich Nhat Hanh on Understanding Death in Life

Regular readers will know how influential the work of Vietnamese Buddhist monk, author, lecturer and peace advocate, Thich Nhat Hanh, has been on my own thinking, especially for the Go Creative! books.

Now the 88-year-old “Thay” (as his followers call him, pronounced “Tie”) is very ill, having experienced a severe brain haemorrhage two weeks ago.

Thay's key teaching is that understanding and developing what he calls mindfulness, what a creative might call “creative presence”, the embrace of the present moment, is the only way to create true peace and happiness — both in oneself, and in the world.

As he endures this physical challenge, I thought the best way to send metta would be to reproduce some of his thoughts on the ultimate creation and destruction: life and death:

“Our greatest fear is that when we die we will become nothing. Many of us believe that our entire existence is only a life span beginning the moment we are born or conceived and ending the moment we die.

We believe that we are born from nothing and when we die we become nothing. And so we are filled with fear of annihilation.

The Buddha has a very different understanding of our existence. It is the understanding that birth and death are notions. They are not real.

The fact that we think they are true makes a powerful illusion that causes our suffering. The Buddha taught that there is no birth; there is no death; there is no coming; there is no going; there is no same; there is no different; there is no permanent self; there is no annihilation.

We only think there is.

When we understand that we cannot be destroyed, we are liberated from fear. It is a great relief.

We can enjoy life and appreciate it in a new way.”

In getting beyond our notions and ideas, we create each moment anew and death becomes the ultimate open moment.

The ten monasteries founded by Thay have organized special chanting sessions to generate and send mindfulness energy to their ailing master, an effort you can join here. I wish him, at this time, all the peace he has helped create in so many others.

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