Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. He joined a Zen monastery at the age of 16 where he studied Buddhism as a novice, and was fully ordained as a monk in 1949. His teachings and practices aim to appeal to people from various religious, spiritual, and political backgrounds, intending to offer mindfulness practices for more Western sensibilities.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s approach has been to combine a variety of traditional Zen teachings with methods from Theravada Buddhism, insights from Mahayana Buddhism, and ideas from Western psychology – to offer a modern light on meditation practice.
One of his most inspiring poems “Please Call Me by My True Names” has become a liturgy in Western Buddhism. Aimed at division, the root cause of wars and differentiation; Thich Nhat Nanh brings to our awareness how it’s all to easy to separate ourselves from everybody else. To see yourself in others can bring a sense of understanding of them and their situation.
Please Call Me by My True Names
Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, whose wings are still fragile,
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, in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as 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.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills up the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.
By Thich Nhat Hanh