Thich Nhat Hanh’s Message to the Next Generation

Thich Nhat HanhQ: Based on your life experience, what is the core message you would like to share with the next generation?

Thay’s Answer: My generation has done many wrong things. We have borrowed this planet from the young people, and we have done a lot of harm to this planet. Now we want to give it to you, but the planet isn’t what we desire to be. We’re ashamed of that. We destroyed this planet to a very great extent. You’re going to receive it with lots of wounds, damage, and we’re sorry. We have borrowed too much from the planet. And the planet is now not capable to continue… It cannot take it anymore.

We have borrowed too much from our children and grandchildren because this planet belongs to them. We don’t know whether we can give it or pay it back to you. What I wish to say is that if the young people realise or aware what’s going on, they should wake up as soon as possible and take the responsibility in their hands. This cannot be done individually. We have to wake up together. There will be a chance if we wake up together. I have said in the last few years that one Buddha is not enough. There should be a collecting awakening, and the young people have to wake up. They cannot count on the older generation anymore.

We need love and understanding. Some peace inside. If you don’t have peace inside, you can’t do anything to help other people or love yourself.

So what do we really need? Many of us do not have a job. Some of us have jobs, but we don’t like them. We want a better job with a better salary. The need is always there, even if we get what we want, because we still have needs. I have seen around myself many people who have many things they need: they have meals, a house to live, a car to drive. They have a partner, a lover, and yet, they continue to suffer very deeply. It looks like even if we get what we need, we suffer.

There are those of us who are wealthy, but they suffer very deeply. Those who are very famous, but they still suffer deeply. Those who are very powerful and yet, they suffer deeply. Everyone of us needs something more than these things. We need love and understanding. Some peace inside. If you don’t have peace inside, you can’t do anything to help other people or love yourself.

You need understanding, but it seems peace, understanding, and love are rarer and you can’t get them from the supermarket. They don’t sell these things, so we’re hungry. All of us are hungry. We are hungry for peace, understanding, and love. In the teaching of Buddha, to love means to be able to offer these things. To offer some peace, understanding, and compassion because all of us need of that. If we want to be a true lover, you need to train yourself in order to listen. You listen to the suffering in yourself. Don’t be afraid.

Go home to yourself and breathe in and out deeply. Get in touch with your suffering and ask yourself, “Why am I suffering? Where is it coming from?” Because your suffering may reflect the suffering of your mother and father. It might reflect the suffering of your ancestors or your planet. And your suffering contains the suffering of the other people and of your time. Understanding your suffering is somehow to understand his or her suffering. It’s very important to have the courage to go back and recognise the suffering inside and not to cover up with consumption, music, electronic games, and things like that. If you need a brother or a sister in the practice, they can sit with you and help you with energy so you can recognise the suffering inside and hold it dearly like you hold a wounded cat or a wounded dog. That is what they need, and that is the first thing we have to do. To have the courage to go home to recognise, hold inside, and have a deep look.

Ask yourself, “Why am I suffering? Where is it coming from?”

Understanding your suffering will bring you relief, and you’ll bring liberation. After you have understood your suffering, you feel light and you can help him or her to do the same. That is the miracle in a relationship, and that is true love.

Transcribed from a Q&A session with Thich Nhat Hanh during the Wake Up International retreat in Plum Village on August 24, 2010

Click here to register for the upcoming Wake Up International Earth Retreat in Plum Village on 5-12 August 2016 🙂

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