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The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh

There are many books that manage to capture the essence of the Buddha’s teachings. While some explore the basics of the Buddhist philosophy, others dive deeply into the religious concept. The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh is a simple, yet structured guide to the philosophy that takes us on a transformational journey from suffering to joy.

In his book, Thich Nhat Hanh, a poet, and a Vietnamese Zen master, introduces readers to the concept of suffering and explains how it is also the catalyst that liberates us. He writes: When we direct our attention toward our suffering, we see our potential for happiness. We see the nature of suffering and the way out. That is why the Buddha called suffering a Holy Truth. When we use the word “suffering” in Buddhism, we mean the kind of suffering that can show us the way outThis quote captures the essence of the book that delineates the Buddha not as a God but as “a human being like you and me, and he suffered just as we do.” But, instead of running away from that suffering, the Buddha embraced it whole-heartedly. He called suffering a Holy Truth because it has the capacity to show us the path to liberation, a way to find inner peace.

The book enlists practices for mindfulness that can help us deal with our sufferings and eventually liberate us from it as well. They include mindful walking, mindful breathing, mindful sitting, mindful eating, mindful looking, and mindful listening. One mindful step can help us realise that beauty and joy are all around us. Once we realise this, we should mindfully vow to stop ingesting everything that brings us suffering, says the author.

In fact, only when you are done with the book, will you realise that the repetition is a way of initiation into the meditative practice of Buddhism—another basic principle to attain enlightenment


The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching is, in a sense, a manual of numbered lists on core Buddhist tenets such as Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, Three Doors of Liberation, The Seven Factors of Awakening. The chapters combine to provide a comprehensive overview of the philosophy to those initiated and uninitiated to Buddhism. They spur us to apply Buddhist concepts such as suffering, birth, death, and mindfulness to our daily lives and follow the author’s practical guidelines to lead a compassionate, joyful and enlightened life. The application requires encouragement to practice whatever brings us joy and peace. And this practice makes us realise what a miracle it is to be alive and that’s a good enough reason to end our suffering.

What makes The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching unique is that Nhat Hanh, despite being a devout Buddhist himself, doesn’t propagate Buddhism as a religion, in this book. Instead, he encourages readers to remain in their own faiths and use the Buddha’s teachings as a means to lead a happier and peaceful life.

Nhat Hanh writes about the profound Buddhist principles with such simplicity that it makes reading this book a breeze. He explains the layers of mindfulness, the Noble Eightfold path with such gentility of prose and poetic expression that even the tedium of endless lists and the repetitive metaphors become bearable, and even inspiring. In fact, only when you are done with the book, will you realise that the repetition is a way of initiation into the meditative practice of Buddhism—another basic principle to attain enlightenment.

The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching encourages us to lead a disciplined life of practice. It builds on the adage: Practice maketh a man perfect to propagate that practicing embracing and dealing with our sufferings eventually helps us transform our sufferings to joy and leads to our overall wellbeing.

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