‘Our notion of happiness responsible for our suffering’

September 27th, 2008 - 12:11 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 27 (IANS) “If we practise looking deeply, we will see that our notion of happiness may be responsible for our suffering. That is why Buddha advises us to look again deeply into the nature of our desires. We suffer because of them,” says Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, Nobel prize nominee and peace-maker, in his new book “Under the Banyan Tree: Overcoming Fear and Sorrow”. The insightful book, divided into 10 chapters, transcribes his visit to India in 1996, shows the way to be free, happy and to live in the present.

Based on discourses by the master Zen monk, who specialises in mindfulness meditative techniques, it offers practical ways to overcome fear and sorrow.

The book, along with another one of his volume, “The Sun In My Heart”, published by Delhi-based publisher Full Circle, was launched at a function in Alliance Francaise here.

Senior journalist Arun Shourie and actress Nandita Das interacted with Nhat Hanh to elicit his world views on an array of topics from meditation, neuro-science, spirituality and terrorism.

“The core of Buddhist teaching is non-attachment of views. One has to strive for the truth. If you think that anyone who disagrees with you is wrong, you tend to become fanatical. That’s the obstacle.

“If you continue looking deeply into the heart of truth and if you want to obtain a higher form of truth, you have to bend. That is non-attachment. You have to put a leash on all kinds of whims to climb to the seat of truth,” the 82-year-old monk, known for his peace activism in Vietnam, said at the launch.

“Buddha said my teachings are not the truth, they are like fingers pointing to the moon,” the monk said, summing up Buddha’s way of interpreting his “dhamma (doctrine)” for the seekers of enlightenment.

The monk will return to India for a march, “Walk in Mindfulness”, Oct 2 to commemorate the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Of Vietnamese origin, the monk affectionately known as “Thay” or teacher by his followers, heads the Ahimsa Trust, a non-profit organisation promoting peace.

He has been living in exile in France for the last 30 years. In 1982, he founded the Plum Village, a retreat near Paris, where he works as a peace activist.

The monk, who fielded several queries from the media, said neuro-science was not opposed to mindful meditation techniques.

“We held a retreat for neuro-scientists where they practised peaceful sitting and peaceful walking. Neuro-science can help a person practise meditation,” Nhat Hanh told Shourie to a query on how neuro-scientists looked at the meditative state.

Terrorism, said the monk, had its roots in wrong perceptions. “There are many ways for us to be together and terrorism cannot be tolerated. Our politicians will have to wake to the truth,” the monk said.

Enunciating his views on `tantra’ (occulticism), central to the Buddhist rituals, he told IANS: “Tantra is the truth in man. If you look inside the self and concentrate and get insight into the mysteries of the mind, body, space and soul, you are in touch with the truth. And you cannot harm anyone. That is the essence of tantra.”

The Zen master’s recipe for happiness was simple: “Once you are free of despair, you are free. Once you accept one civilisation, then one can live in peace. One Buddha is not enough, we need collective awakening.”

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