Thich Nhat Hanh: When You Have Difficulty with Someone, Both of You Suffer

Thich Nhat Hanh is a true peacemaker, he wrote many books, one that is memorable True Peace. He lives it and when you hear his voice, you can see he lives it. When in Vietnam I tried to go to his conference as a World Peace Clown. I had no money to pay to see him so asked if I could entertain people as a way to being present. Unfortunately his people didn’t allow me. I am sure he would have loved the clowning. Not meant to be I guess.

This is a bio of him briefly and his wonderful advice below of how what you do to another affects you. So we are indeed not separate.

Wikipedia: Thích Nhất Hạnh (pronounced [tʰǐk ɲə̌t hâːˀɲ] ( listen)) (born October 11, 1926) is a Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist now based in France.

He joined a Zen (Vietnamese: Thiền) monastery at the age of 16, studied Buddhism as a novice, and was fully ordained as a monk in 1949. The name Thích is used by all Vietnamese monks and nuns, meaning that they are part of the Shakya (Shakyamuni Buddha) clan.[1] In the early 1960s, he founded the School of Youth for Social Services (SYSS) in Saigon. This grassroots relief organization rebuilt bombed villages, set up schools, established medical centers, and resettled families left homeless during the Vietnam War.[2] He traveled to the U.S. to study at Princeton University, and later to lecture at Cornell University and Columbia University. His focus at the time was to urge the U.S. government to withdraw from Vietnam. He urged Martin Luther King, Jr. to publicly oppose the Vietnam War; King nominated Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in January 1967. He created the (non-Zen) Order of Interbeing in 1966, establishing monastic and practice centers around the world. In 1973, the Vietnamese government denied Nhat Hanh permission to return to Vietnam and he went into exile in France. From 1976 to 1977 he led efforts to rescue Vietnamese boat people in the Gulf of Siam.


When you suffer, you must practice to find the cause of the suffering within yourself and the other person. You must reflect on your emotions, transform them, and then be willing to listen to the other person. Then you must take Right Action to eliminate the causes. If you can help the other person remove the roots of suffering within herself, then she will no longer suffer, and she will stop making you suffer.

Perhaps a friend has been making you suffer by what she has said and done. Her speech is full of bitterness, wrong perceptions, blame etc. because of this you suffer. You also suffer because of her way of thinking. You have to remember that you are not the only one who is suffering. Keep in mind that this person may have suffered very deeply in order to speak that way, to do things like that. If this person was not suffering she would not say and do such things. This is a simple insight, but perhaps you do not see it because of your own pain. If you understand this, then you will try your best to help her not to suffer. When she no longer suffers, she will leave you in peace, you will no longer suffer. Helping her is helping yourself. This is very clear and simple. You have to recognise that the other person is suffering, that you are not the only one. Looking deeply you recognise that if the other person continues to suffer, you will continue to suffer as well.

You may try going to the other person and saying ‘my dear friend, I know that you have suffered quite a lot in the past. I’m sorry I did not understand your suffering, and I have contributed to it by my way of reacting to what you have said and done. I don’t want you to suffer. I don’t want to destroy you. I really want you to be happy, because I know that if you are happy, I’ll have a chance to be happy too. I know that you have a lot of perceptions and ideas about me. You must have thought of me as evil, as a monster. I am sorry. Because I didn’t understand your suffering. I wasn’t able to help you, and I have made the situation worse. I’m very sorry. I don’t want this to continue. If you care to talk to me, if you care to tell me what is in your heart, what were the unskilful things that I have done to you, then I promise that I will do my best…

Just imagine if people cared about your happiness. The world would be a different place.

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Mohandas Gandhi

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”