At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk's Life

At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk's Life


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This collection of autobiographical and teaching stories from peace activist and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is thought provoking, inspiring, and enjoyable to read. Collected here for the first time, these stories span the author’s life. There are stories from Thich Nhat Hanh’s childhood and the traditions of rural Vietnam. There are stories from his years as a teenaged novice, as a young teacher and writer in war torn Vietnam, and of his travels around the world to teach mindfulness, make pilgrimages to sacred sites, and influence world leaders.

The tradition of Zen teaching stories goes back at least to the time of the Buddha. Like the Buddha, Thich Nhat Hanh uses story–telling to engage people’s interest so he can share important teachings, insights, and life lessons.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781941529423
Publisher: Parallax Press
Publication date: 11/01/2016
Sales rank: 622,859
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the most revered Zen teachers in the world today. His best–selling books include Be Free Where You Are and Peace of Mind. He lives in Plum Village in southwest France. Nhat Hanh has been teaching the art of mindful living for more than 70 years.

Read an Excerpt

The Leaf

One day when I was a child, I looked into the water container in the front yard and I saw a very beautiful leaf at the bottom. It had so many colors. I wanted to take the leaf out and play with it. But my arm was too short to reach the bottom of the water container. So I used a stick to try to take it out. It was difficult and I became impatient. I stirred and stirred twenty or thirty times, and yet the leaf didn’t come to the surface. So I gave up and I threw away the stick. When I came back a few minutes later the leaf had come to the surface of the water, and I picked it up easily. In the few moments I had been away, the water had continued to swirl and had brought the leaf up to the surface.

This is how our unconscious mind works. When we have a problem or difficulty to solve or when we want to have more insight into a situation, our conscious mind has to entrust to the unconscious mind the task of finding the insight. The unconsciousness mind knows how to listen and collaborate with us and with our intentions. Sometimes before going to sleep you might tell your store consciousness: "Tomorrow I want to wake up at 4:30"; and tomorrow you will wake up at 4:30. To meditate you don’t only use your conscious mind, what we call in Buddhism "mind consciousness"; you also need to know how to use and trust your unconscious mind, called "store consciousness" in Buddhism. When we plant a seed in the soil, we trust the soil. Mind consciousness should plant the object of meditation into the soil of store consciousness and not wrestle with it superficially on the level of mind consciousness.

When a peace conference takes place, it must be organized in that spirit. We have to rely on the collective insight offered by the collective store consciousness of all those who are in the conference. We should know the techniques of taking care of our collective store consciousness in order to have the greatest insight possible. If we can become more civilized, our legislature will operate like that. Every member will know how to practice so that store consciousness can offer the best insight.

During the day, mind consciousness creates all the conditions for store consciousness to be able to do it; it’s by the practice of deep breathing, calming, looking deeply, and allowing ourselves to be, that we can help our store consciousness to offer the best. Not only psychotherapists, but also members of government should learn how to make good use of our unconscious mind to serve our people in our country and our world. We should all know how to practice to have more insight and to have the best kind of insight. When you offer this way to others, it needs to be based on your own experience of practice.


When I was a child I used to enjoy playing with a kaleidoscope that I made from a tube and a few pieces of ground glass. Whenever I turned it a little bit, I saw many wonderful sights. Every time I made a small movement of my fingers, one sight would disappear and another would appear. I didn’t cry at all when the first spectacle disappeared, because I knew that nothing was lost; another beautiful sight always followed.

When we look into a kaleidoscope, we see a beautiful symmetrical image; and whenever we turn the kaleidoscope, the image disappears. Can we describe this as a birth or a death? Or is the image only a manifestation? After this manifestation there’s another manifestation that’s equally beautiful—nothing is lost at all. I have seen people die very peacefully, with a smile, because they see that birth and death are only waves on the surface of the ocean, just like the spectacle in the kaleidoscope.

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