Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, meditation master and beloved teacher. He had some horrific experiences during the Vietnam War and went on to play his part in the peace talks to end that war. He was nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize. Exiled from his native country, he established a retreat in France called Plum Village. He has written many books and travelled widely. One of his best known books is The Miracle of Mindfulness, from which the passage below comes. His teachings are simple yet profound, often inspired by the suffering he has encountered in Western society. Mindfulness is associated with meditiation and is about unconditional engagement with the present moment, with conscious breathing a central practice of everyday life:
Recall the most significant achievements in your life and examine each of them. Examine your talent, your virtue, your capacity, the convergence of favourable conditions that have led to success. Examine the complacency and the arrogance that have arisen from the feeling that you are the main cause for such success. Shed the light of interdependence on the whole matter to see that the achievement is not really yours but the convergence of conditions beyond your reach. See to it that you will not be bound by these achievements. Only when you relinquish them can you really be free and no longer assailed by them.
Recall the bitterest failures in your life and examine each of them. Examine your talent, your virtue, your capacity, and the absence of favourable conditions that led to the failures. Examine to see all the complexes that have arisen within you from the feeling that you are not capable of realising success. Shed the light of interdependence on the whole matter to see that failures cannot be accounted for by your inabilities but rather by the lack of favourable conditions. See that you have no strength to shoulder these failures, that these failures are not your own self. See to it that you are free from them. Only when you relinquish them can you really be free and no longer assailed by them."